Runners are aware that the food they consume before, during, and after a run has a huge effect not just on their running performance, but also on their health. As a matter of fact, most runners create a nutrition plan months before their run to help them prepare before the run, and recover after the run. Aside from having quality running shoes, a well-equipped nutrition plan is also part of a runner’s training arsenal. Without proper nutrition, there’s a high possibility that the runner will experience injury and poor running performance.
A runner’s diet should include nutrient-dense foods that contain quality carbohydrates that serve as your fuel during runs. Foods that contain proteins, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants are also important to help you perform well.
Let’s play a game: pretend that you’re only allowed to have eleven foods in your kitchen. As a runner who knows what should and should not be eaten, what foods will you pick? Just in case you don’t know yet, we came up with a list to help you out:
Need a quick energy boost? Munch on some walnuts. They are loaded with omega-3 fatty acid ALA whose anti-inflammatory properties protect the bones and arteries from breaking down. Do not be afraid of walnuts’ high fat content because those are mono-and polyunsaturated fats that’s actually good for your heart. Studies show that walnuts can actually bring down the bad cholesterol (LDL) levels which is highly essential in keeping your heart healthy. Walnuts also contain vitamin B, vitamin E, and fiber.
According to the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention, watercress is the number one nutrient-dense food that’s perfect for runners. It is loaded with vitamin K, antioxidants, and calories so you can load up on these leafy greens without having to watch your weight.
- Wild Salmon
Wild samon is an excellent protein source for runners. As a matter of fact, a four-ounce serving of the king of fish contains a whopping thirty grams of protein, which is exactly what you need when you’re preparing for a marathon. It also contains selenium, an antioxidant, that helps keep your heart healthy. Wild salmon has high levels of Omega-3 which is important in helping you recover after a run because it reduces inflammation. Omega-3 also boosts cardiovascular health since it stimulates the functions of your nervous system and it improves the elasticity of your blood cells.
Aside from improving your running performance, wild salmon can also improve heat stroke volume and cardiac output according to the European Journal of Applied Psychology.
More popular for its consistent appearance in the cartoon series as Popeye’s favorite vegetable, spinach also improves running performance because it has nitrates that boost the circulation of oxygen and nutrients in the body. Research shows spinach has high levels of vitamin K which helps keep bones healthy, and peptides which help lower blood pressure. Vitamin C, magnesium, iron, and calcium can also be sourced from spinach.
Running causes muscle damage which eventually leads to low-grade inflammation. This is a major concern for runners. You can avoid this by adding kale to your diet since it lessens the risk of inflammation. Furthermore, it is an excellent source of vitamin K which is essential in keeping your bones and muscles healthy. A serving of kale contains 700% of the daily recommended intake.
Kale also contains vitamin C which boosts your immune system, prevents colds, and speeds up the recovery process of your muscles after a long distance run. Kale also contains calcium, iron, vitamin B6, and vitamin A.
- Sweet Potato
Beta carotene, an antioxidant found in sweet potatoes, is essential for all athletes. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin A that boosts our immune system, keeps our eyes healthy, and protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun. It’s an excellent pre-run meal that has 55 grams of carbohydrates, just enough to give you the energy that you need while running. You can also eat it as a mid-long-run meal but be sure that you drink water after. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C that helps you combat free radicals and oxidative stress.
In a study conducted by Cornell University back in 2008, it was discovered that blueberries are packed with antioxidant capabilities. Delicious and tasty blueberries contain high levels of manganese, which is a mineral that magically converts fats, proteins, and carbs into energy. Suffice to say, these berries help improve your running performance.
Eggs, an excellent breakfast companion, contain protein which helps speed up your body’s recovery process after a long run. It also helps fix the damaged muscles. An egg contains about 10% of the protein and 30% of the vitamin K that your body needs, depending on how fit you are and how rigorous your training is. Eggs also contain the brain nutrient, choline, which boosts brain functions.
Don’t worry about the cholesterol. Research has shown that people who eat eggs have lesser chances of suffering from heart-related problems compared to those who have blood sugar and keep it from spiking which often causes hunger and cravings. Eating eggs can help you control your weight and get rid of those extra pounds. More than the awesome health benefits, eggs are affordable and easy to prepare.
Choline, vitamin B, and vitamin E are just some of the nutrients that you can get from avocados. They are also packed with copper, zinc, and antioxidants that reduce inflammation, which are essential while you’re recovering after a run. While studies have shown that avocados are high on fat, it can actually lower bad cholesterol and boost the levels of good cholesterol.
Monounsaturated fats that manage hunger, aid in weight loss, and boost cardiovascular functions are also found in avocados. Runners need potassium since it controls muscle and heart contractions – something that runners need. One avocado contains 20 grams of monounsaturated fats and 220 calories.
With high levels of starch and the ability to stimulate digestive thermogenesis, lentils are indeed essential in improving your metabolism. Runners need iron which is one of the many nutrients that you can source from lentils. Not having enough iron in the body will weaken your immune system, make you nauseous, pale, plus you easily get exhausted.
Lentils also contain Potassium, vitamin B, and zero cholesterol or saturated fat. This green leafy vegetable is easy tasty and easy to prepare.
Beans contain fiber that’s essential in controlling hunger and protein that tones your muscles and helps your body recover after running. Eating one cup of beans is equivalent to drinking two cups or one glass of milk.
Beans are also a good source of energy. In fact, a cup of cooked is loaded with about thirty to forty grams of slow release carbohydrates which is an important source of energy for runners. You need to have this in your kitchen if you want to have strong muscles and an energy tank that doesn’t run out of fuel.