The 8 Best Essential Foods for Runners

An effective training plan does not only consist of running timetable alone but rather about how you plan your meals to power you through any run, be it easy or highly intensive level you are up to. A reasonable diet will provide you with needed energy for better stamina, improved fitness and solid recovery after each run, particularly long paths. Whether you are a sporadic runner preparing for some annual competitions once in a while or a regular health enthusiast who runs weekly and is looking for a right way to fuel your stomach, this article will serve up to your purposes.

By eating the right foods at the right time during your running journey, you can control your body better at performing what you want it to do. Therefore, I will first list down the foods that you should include in your grocery cart and the reasons why. Then, most importantly, as per each food item, I will discuss extensively about simple recipes as well as other side notes on how to apply it on your running timetable appropriately and among some other useful tips.

8 Best Foods for Runners

1. Almonds

Why they are good for runners?

Sport nutritionists recommend runners to keep the habit of eating nuts at least three times a week as an additional meal aside from the main one. It is the antioxidant- vitamin E abundantly found in nuts, especially almonds that keep your cholesterol level down and therefore, lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Runners who get exhausted during and after running can be easily short on vitamin E if they do not eat enough prior to training sessions. Important as it is for health and stamina, there is not much source of vitamin E, much less highly concentrated ones. And almond is such an excellent reservoir of a type of vitamin E, called gamma- tocopherol, a form that is not typically found in supplements and is believed to help prevent cancer cells from developing. Not to mention that almonds have tons of other benefits for runners because they are loaded with magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium that strengthen your muscles and bones, therefore enhance your energy needed for a top-performance run.

Best Foods for Runners Almonds

When to eat them?

You can eat a handful of almonds as a quick snack anytime, whether it is 30 minutes before running time, during your run or post-run recovery. With 24 almonds per serving, you have the nutrition needed for a run without having to worry about having a heavy tummy and nausea or discomfort on the go.

Read more info: What to Eat Before a Run

How to apply them to your diet?

Almonds taste well alone or in combination with other elements, thus making it a perfect choice for many healthy recipes that runners love. They are also easy to prepare as well. For example, you can add almonds and other favorite nuts to salads or pasta dishes or make an extra crunch with your cereal. Almonds also go well with chocolate and soybeans or even fresh fruit mix. If you are a fan of butters of different types, then almond butter deserves a try because it is not only yummy but also enhances the flavor of your whole-grain breads or sandwiches and make healthy breakfast or running meals more enjoyable than ever before.

2. Black beans

Why they are good for runners?

Besides nuts, beans are other indispensable warriors in boosting energy for your run. Black beans are one of the best food for runners among its legume family. One cup of these shinny black beans provides you with protein, folate- a vitamin that plays a key role in maintaining a healthy heart and blood circulation. Importantly, black bean is home to the fiber type that is cholesterol-lowering soluble and therefore, is extremely healthy, especially they work well to help control blood glucose levels.

When to eat them?

Best Foods for Runners black beans

Because black beans belong to the group of low glycaemic index (GI) foods, which means that carbohydrate in them takes longer time to fully release into blood stream, it is best to put black bean in your post-run diet. A post-run meal with black bean keeps you full longer and regulates a better balance of sugar level, enhances muscle recovery and therefore, good for overall health of runners. Eating black beans before run is also good, as long as it is not less than two hours before running time to avoid discomfort while on the run.

How to apply them to your diet?

You can have a quick soup made of canned black beans and chicken, along with mashed potato and other frozen mixed veggies. A handful of black beans in your cooked pasta or rice can give you extra fiber and protein that every runner needs for top performance.

3. Eggs

Why they are good for runners?

If you eat one egg a day, you can supply your body with 10 percent of your daily protein needs. Eggs are very good for runners because its protein contain all the amino acids that your muscles need to promote stamina and recovery after run. Your bony parts will also be tremendously benefited from a diet with eggs because up to 30 percent of vitamin K daily intake comes from one egg.

When to eat ?

Best Foods for Runners eggs

Eggs, with high concentration of protein, are better eaten two to four hours before or after run. This will aid the process of muscle repair and body recovery; therefore, eggs are considered a good component of your main meal for long-term energy rather than an energy boost shortly before or during a run.

How to apply?

Eggs can be easily made into a variety range of recipes yet remain full in nutrition. Whether you like them scrambled, poached, fried or simply boiled, eggs can be easily fit into your meals during a training day. Mix eggs into your routine by having a breakfast omelette or salad dressings for lunch to achieve your next-performing goal in running.

4. Yogurt

How to apply?

Yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium and carbs. They are necessary for runners, especially those at risk of stress fractures. While carbs in yogurt provide energy your body needs, calcium helps boost healthy burning of long-standing fat portions and protein increases energy level required for running activities of different intensity. Therefore, yogurt is a suitable energy supplement for sprinting, running, jogging or even walking.

In addition, yogurt is renown for being home to some good bacteria that your digestive system needs to function optimally. Such bacteria also have the inflammatory abilities that can be extremely beneficial to those with arthritis suffers.​

When to eat them?

You can either eat yogurt as an energy snack before run or as a recovery intake after run with the main meal. Many people opt for yogurt as an early morning quick meal prior to running time because it is light, easy to make and quick to digest.

How to apply them to your diet?

You should also look at the labels to make sure that you buy low-fat yogurt. Otherwise, you will end up feeding your stomach sugar instead of good carbs and bacteria you are aiming to. Low-fat yogurt can make good salad dressing with vinegar and other herbs. You can also top one container of yogurt with fruit, nuts or use it as a base for your smoothie in morning breakfasts or mid-evening energy boost if you are a twilight runner.

5. Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with important carbs and an excellent source of beta carotene- a precursor of vitamin A, a potent antioxidant that is good for eyes and healthy skin. In addition, they are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron and the two minerals, manganese and copper. All of those play crucial role in maintaining healthy and resilient functioning of muscle. Runners who are lack of copper and manganese can reduce in performance as well as running time.

When to eat?​

As sweet potatoes are generally low to moderate in GI level, it is often advised that you should include it in your main meal that is scheduled distantly from your running time for smooth digestion; thus, thorough generation of energy.

How to apply them to your diet?

You can change sweet potatoes’ GI level by cooking them differently. For example, instead of boiling for 30 minutes as usual, you can opt for a 45-minute baking, which increases its GI level to nearly double. This way, you do not only create a flavourful dish with sweet potatoes but also make it possible to include them into your pre-running diet without worrying about feeling too full. You should not store cooked sweet potatoes in the fridge because they will quickly lose their nutrition as well as taste in cold temperature. Instead, if you keep them in dark and cool corners, they can still taste good for about up to two weeks.

6. Chicken

Frequent runners need a larger amount of protein than non-runners or sporadic ones. And chicken is a good source of healthy and lean protein, especially chicken breast. Along with protein, chicken contains selenium, a mineral that helps protect your muscle from free-radical damages that can occur during tough workouts and long distance runs.

When to eat?

Chicken needs some time to prepare into meals; hence you probably like to make it into main meals after run as a recovery charge for your muscle. If you are an evening runner who prefers to run when the sun goes down, then a lunch with chicken breast could be best to get yourself ready.

How to apply?

Chicken is one of the best sources of protein that happens to go well in diverse gastronomical styles and recipes across different cuisine. You can bake, grill or poach chicken or put it in your salads, pasta or pizza if you are up to Western cuisine. Yet if you are a fan of Asian taste, then poaching your chicken in a noodle soup can be an excellent alternative that runners can enjoy and get their muscle recovered at the same time.

7. Salmon

Similar to chicken, salmon is such a powerhouse of high-quality protein that nutrition enthusiast and sport athletes cannot miss in their dietary plans. Importantly, wild salmons provide human with a wonderful reservoir of omega-3 fats, which help tremendously in keeping balance of body’s inflammatory response which in turn reduces risk of incurring many diseases including asthma. Recent studies suggested that people who have asthma-related symptoms when exercising noticed a decrease in numbers of repeated symptoms after several weeks of taking fish oil with omega-3 content.

When to eat them?

Salmon is best served in the main meal of runners to boost energy recovery and slow digestion for long-term muscle strengthening.

How to apply them to your diet?

You can bake, grill or poach salmons with fresh herbs. Precooked or canned salmons can be used for quick meal preparation of salads, soups or pizza. Salmon can be stored up to two days in the fridge and four to five months in tightly sealed container at freezing temperature.

8. Fruits

Berries, bananas, carrots and tomatoes are some good representatives in this group because of their high concentration in antioxidants that is essential for muscle repair and body recovery from heavy exercises. Sugar content in fruits can quickly help boost the energy during and after run. Vitamin C in oranges or berries can help to mitigate muscle soreness, regulate cholesterol level and balance blood pressure incurred by running activities.

When to eat them?

While fruit juices can be your best energy boosters shortly before and during your run, smoothie can serve better at keeping you full and energized two to four hours prior to running time.

How to apply them to your diet?

Besides juice and smoothie, you can make salads or cereals with fruits or use them as base fluid in baking and many other favourite desserts. Frozen berries can still hold a significant nutrition values as their fresh counterparts, thus making it easier to have them in your daily meal even if you cannot manage to buy them fresh on a more regular basis.

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In conclusion

Running foods can be found easily in supermarkets or grocery shops. However, organic shops, farmer or local markets are some of the best-trusted places where you are more likely to find fresh and high-quality produces for top performance in running exercises. The best foods for runners are proven to be even more beneficial to runners when they are scheduled rightly before, during and after run.

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