Healthy eating is not just for those looking to lose weight or ward off lifestyle related diseases and illnesses. Runners often neglect their nutrition which can lead to poor performance, poor recovery, fatigue and in some cases even injury. Running does put your body under enormous amounts of stress. A high impact activity that burns loads of energy, it is imperative that a runner fuels appropriately, both prior and post activity. There are dozens of different foods that are recommended for runners, and for various reasons. Below is a list of 11 of my favourites. Listed for different reasons, I would recommend including all of these in your diet if you are pounding the pavement on a weekly basis.
ALMONDS- Great as a snack on their own, in a salad or mixed in with your favourite wholegrain cereals (which are also on my list), Almonds are packing high levels of antioxidant Vitamin E, which can improve muscular strength and endurance, along with protein and monounsaturated fats.
BANANAS- Packed full of carbohydrates, Bananas are a real energy food. Bananas also boast large amounts of Potassium, a crucial Vitamin for runners as it can help maintain a correct fluid and electrolyte balance in the body, as well as reduce fatigue.
WHOLEGRAIN CEREALS - Another great source of carbohydrate, which is crucial to fuel runners. By choosing wholegrain you get a high fibre, lower GI carb. The result is a slower release fuel that can assist in endurance and help balance energy levels. One of my favourites is Rolled Oats, themselves a great source of Iron. A symptom of Iron deficiency is fatigue and weakness...certainly not ideal for a runner.
SPINACH - High in Vitamin A equivalent carotenes, this power food can help protect your muscles from damage. Its high calcium content helps with bone strength, which can in turn reduce chances of stress fractures (a very common running injury). Spinach also has relatively high levels of iron which can boost energy levels.
BROCCOLI - 100g of Broccoli will see you hitting your daily requirements for Vitamin C and Vitamin K. Vitamin C can reduce exercise induced muscle damage and help the body with the formation of scar tissue. Where Vitamin K's assistance with bone strengthening is important for preventing stress fractures.
BROWN RICE - A powerful wholegrain carbohydrate hit that is packed with antioxidants. Another low GI option, Brown Rice is great for runners to fulfil their high, daily carbohydrate needs. This whole grain also boasts a high concentration of B Vitamins, which assists the body with the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose (the main energy source for the human body), so is a must in every runners shopping basket.
KIWI FRUIT - This flavoursome fruit is rich in Vitamin C, with just one comfortably meeting your daily needs. Aside from its muscular benefits, Vitamin C is one of the best immune system enhancers in the world and is often recommended to help ward off the common cold.
SALMON - Nutrition wise, it's pretty hard to beat Salmon. Not only does Salmon provide a high quality protein hit, it is one of the best food sources of Omega- 3 fatty acids. Runners require more protein than non runners to help rebuild muscles and promote recovery after tough workouts. Omega 3 fats help balance the body's inflammation response. If inflammation remains elevated after exercise, this can negatively impact muscle soreness, tissue repair and other aspects of recovery.
PEANUT BUTTER - Peanuts are rich in essential nutrients. Loaded with B Vitamins, Vitamin E and several dietary minerals, such as magnesium, Peanut Butter should have a permanent place in every runner's pantry. Yes, peanuts are high in fat. They are near enough 50% fat. But the fats in Peanut Butter are primarily monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, the heart-healthy kinds. So a key tip here is to exercise portion control, and go for a natural variant that is 100% peanuts.
SWEET POTATO - Packed with carbohydrates, fibre and Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, Sweet Potato had to make the list. Far more nutritious than your standard white potato. Sweet Potato is richer in fibre, vitamins and essential minerals when compared to its less exciting relative. Aside from being a great source of energy thanks to its carb content, Sweet Potato is loaded with antioxidants that can contribute to a better functioning immune system.
YOGHURT - A terrific source of muscle fuelling carbohydrates, protein and calcium. Yoghurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally. Look for Yoghurts labelled "live and active cultures". Aim for a yoghurt that is as natural as possible, one that has no added sugar.
So there you have it, 11 of the best for Runners. The best foods for runners are not limited to these 11 beauties, but it is a great place to start. Carbohydrate, Protein, good Fats, essential Vitamins and Minerals are all covered. The fuelling process is a big part of a runners journey, don't neglect it.....
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