If you are a runner, your body will have special nutritional requirements. The food that you eat should not only satisfy your hunger, but should also be able to provide you with the energy and fuel that you need and keep you healthy at the same time. Choosing the right kinds of foods is therefore essential to fuel your muscles, which in turn allows you to perform at your best and also to help your muscles recover and regenerate.
Table of Contents
Food for runners
The perfect diet for runners should include healthy carbohydrates, whole foods, and adequate protein to rebuild your muscles after intense training, and absolutely no processed food. Seeking the help of a dietician or nutritionist can help you find the right kinds of foods to eat, together with information on when and how much to eat. Given below are some of the common and healthiest foods for runners recommended by dieticians.
Almonds are power packed with vitamin E, magnesium, iron, potassium and other vitamins. They help in reducing damage to muscles, strengthen your bones and provide body with energy.
Bananas, being a rich source of carbohydrates are considered in the fitness world to be nature’s power bar. Runners need to be supplemented with potassium to make up for its loss through sweating. Potassium is an essential mineral that helps in preventing cramping and in regulating the contraction of muscles. Bananas are a rich source of potassium and they also contain fiber and vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin B6. They can be eaten as a snack or blended into a smoothie or added in your cereal.
Eggs are excellent sources of protein and energy. The protein in eggs not only provides energy, but is also helpful in muscle recovery and tissue repair. Eating an egg daily will supply 10% of your daily requirements of protein. Eggs are also rich in vitamin K that plays a key role in improving the health of your bones. Eggs also contain choline, which is a nutrient belonging to the B complex vitamins that improves memory, and leutin, a carotenoid that is essential for the health of your eyes. Many people are concerned that the regular intake of eggs can increase the cholesterol levels. In fact studies suggest that people who eat eggs have a lower risk for heart disease when compared to those who don’t.
Sweet potatoes are also a rich source of carbohydrates that provided nonstop energy. They also have high amounts of potassium, manganese, copper, and iron, along with vitamins like vitamin C and vitamin A, both of which are powerful antioxidants. Manganese and copper are two trace minerals that are vital for the health and proper functioning of the muscles. Several runners fail to meet their daily requirements of these minerals, which can seriously affect their performance. Including sweet potatoes in the diet can help provide the essential nutrients. Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in the baked, boiled, or oven fried form.
Oranges are ideal food for runners because they are an excellent source of vitamin C. This vitamin is a potent antioxidant that offers several benefits like relieving muscle pain and healing effects. Vitamin C also helps in the better absorption of minerals like iron that prevents low energy and exhaustion and calcium that promotes the growth and development of bones. Hesperidin is a flavonoid found in the zest of oranges. This compound has antioxidants effects that are found to help in lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. You can include oranges to your diet by adding them to salads or drinking their juice. By adding orange zest in your dishes, you can reap the benefits of hesperidin.
Salmon is also a wonderful source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It also provides protein, vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin D and many other nutrients essential for a nutritious and balanced diet. The omega-3 fats in salmon helps in improving the development and functioning of your brain and also in preventing high blood pressure and heart diseases. Salmon is a very versatile fish that can be grilled, baked or poached. Canned salmon is widely available that can be added to salads, soups or pasta.
Leafy greens are the storehouse of all nutrients that are essential for a runner. They are packed with plenty of fiber vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that promote good health and also prevent diseases. The antioxidant carotenes such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin in these leaves can prevent the occurrence of age-related disorders, including macular degeneration. Most of the leafy greens are good sources of fiber, which is a blend of both soluble and insoluble fibers. While soluble fibers are helpful in lowering cholesterol and reducing appetite, insoluble fiber promotes digestion. Greens contain good amounts of folic acid that helps in preventing heart diseases. Leafy vegetables are rich in phytonutrients that have potential anti-cancer properties. The magnesium in these greens helps in boosting your metabolism and energy. A standard serving of greens provides you with 10 to 15 % of your daily requirements of iron, a mineral which is very important for a runner.
Quinoa is a glutten-free tasty substitute for pasta. It is rich in protein and contains eight amino acids that help in repairing your muscles. It is a low calorie food that is packed with carbohydrates. Quinoa is also high in fiber, minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium, and vitamins like folate, vitamin B6, niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin. Since quinoa is rich in fiber, it helps in controlling your appetite by making you feel fuller for a longer period of time. Quinoa is prepared just like you prepare rice. Boil it and have it along with chicken or fish.
Low fat yogurt
Low-fat yogurt is an ideal food option for runners because it is an excellent source of protein and carbohydrates. It is loaded with calcium, a mineral that important for bone health. It is also a good source of potassium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. The nutrients in yogurt are helpful in maintaining the health of your bones and muscles, and also for improving your immune system. Yogurt with live bacteria helps in improving your digestive system by providing the healthy bacteria that helps in promoting digestion and in preventing digestive disorders like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease, and other issues.
Dark chocolate is high in antioxidants called flavonols, which according to studies can reduce inflammation, lower high blood pressure and boost your heart health. It has also been found that eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate can boost your performance and may also help in promoting speedy recovery. A study conducted on rats, where rats were given water or liquid extract of epicatechin, the flavonoid found in dark chocolate found that the rats that were given the extract ran 50 % farther than rats that were given water. According to studies, Epicatechin, binds to the receptors in your muscles helping them to resist tiredness and exhaustion. Only moderate amounts of dark chocolate is required to obtain these energy boosting effects. Eating too much of chocolate may actually overload the muscle receptors and may not produce the desired effects.
Healthy, versatile and cheap, chicken is the perfect source of protein for runners. The meat of chicken is packed with high quality protein and essential amino acids that is required for rebuilding your muscles and promoting recovery. Chicken also contains the trace mineral selenium that helps in improving immunity and in protecting your muscles from the damages caused by free radicals. The B – vitamins in chicken helps in regulating the burning of body fat to obtain energy. Chicken also provides you with 10% of your daily iron requirements and 20% of daily zinc needs. While iron is helpful in reducing fatigue, zinc helps in healing and fast recovery from wounds and injuries. Another advantage of eating chicken is that it is low in unhealthy saturated fat, which can clog your arteries and high in monounsaturated fats that is actually healthy for your heart.
Ancient Aztec warriors consumed chia seeds to boost their energy, and interestingly they were one of the fiercest warriors. Christopher McDougall, an ultra-marathoner is fan of chia seeds, as he writes in his book “Born to Run”. Chia seeds contain rich source of fibers, carbohydrates and omega 3 fatty acids helpful for runners. They offer body dose for endurance. They form gel in stomach and offer energy for long distance runs. Marathon runners can consider this endurance food. Read more about Health benefits of Chia seeds.
Krill oil is becoming popular as runners oil. Consuming krill oil helps relieve pain in feet and knee from running. However scientific evidence for its benefits for runners is limited. But it also contains omega 3 fatty acids which is essential for healthy function of heart and protects heart from inflammation and arrhythmic symptoms as found in runners. Read more about health benefits of krill oil
Almost all berries are considered good for running. They offer vital energy needed for running and are refreshing with their dose of vitamins and minerals. Acai berries contain the perfect combination of different nutrients that helps to increase your energy levels. It makes you feel energetic and increases your stamina. Read about health benefits of Acai Berry
Whole Grain Pasta and Bread
Apart from rich carbohydrates in whole grain foods, they offer body with magnesium and other minerals which are essential to maintain mineral balance in body. Fibers in whole grain foods like pasta or bread provide sustained energy source which increases endurance as needed in long distance runs or marathons.
As a runner, the food that you eat plays a major role in determining your performance. It is highly essential that you eat a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet that will provide you with the right amounts of nutrients so that your body gets the power and fuel needed to perform at your best. Instead of trying to increase your intake of nutrients and calories with energy bars and nutrient enhanced packaged foods, it is always best to opt for real and natural foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, eggs and whole grains. These foods not only help to enhance your performance, but they also help in improving your overall health and in preventing many kinds of diseases and health conditions.
Remember this – stronger bones, stronger muscles and stronger running.
- Power foods for strong bones: milk foods, spinach
- Power foods to boost endurance: Whole grain foods, chia seeds, sweet basil seeds, potatoes, sweet potato,
- Power foods for strong muscles: Protein rich food, eggs, fish, beans, tofu,
- Power foods for training recovery: Fruits, bananas, watermelon, water