If you are an athlete or a marathon runner or just love running around your block, you need the power and energy for sustenance. And to build endurance for running, you need calories, carbs and protein. In no way are just peanut butter sandwiches, pasta meals or neon-colored energy drinks a part of a balanced diet. Paying more attention to what you eat and consuming whole and real foods can take you a long way, without having to rely on energy bars, drinks and gels to sustain you.
So, what really constitutes a runner’s diet? Well, there are plenty of wholesome foods out there that can provide the nutrition and energy you require for your running. Here, we have discussed a list of foods that are ideal for you if you are a runner.
Whole Grain Bread
As a runner, carbs are a very critical component of your diet. You can get plenty of carb-rich foods, but the focus must be on getting high-quality carbohydrates. Instead of packing in pasta and bread made of refined flour, focus on healthier alternatives like whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, etc.
The best thing about 100% whole-grain bread is that instead of just sticking with whole-wheat bread or whole-wheat pasta, you can opt for other whole grains like rye, oats, barley, buckwheat, etc, which are just as delicious and healthy.
As a runner, you need at least 3-6 one oz. servings of whole grains in a day. Eating 100% whole-grain bread is the best way by which this requirement can be met, as one slice of whole-grain bread is equal to 1 serving.
How to Add Whole Grain Bread to Your Diet?
Bread is extremely versatile food and you can eat it when you’re “on the run” (we got a little cheeky there). You can make a whole-grain peanut butter sandwich, stuff it with your favorite fillings and plenty of sliced vegetables for a fantastic recovery meal. You can coat the whole-grain bread with egg and make delicious French toast or crumble it into a casserole.
The only thing that you must ensure is that you must choose only 100% whole-grain bread and all the flours and grains listed in the ingredients should be “whole” and not refined or milled.
Before a run, especially a long distance one, you need high-carb foods that will boost your energy. And, a banana is just the right kind of food for you. The fruit contains the essential mineral potassium, which is required especially when you are running long distances.
Also, if the temperature is very high and you’re sweating a lot and losing precious minerals, the potassium in the banana helps to compensate for the loss and eating bananas also help to reduce blood pressure.
How to Add Bananas to Your Diet?
You can eat a banana by itself or you can add it to a fruit salad. You can blend bananas with milk and other fruits to make a delicious milkshake or with yogurt to make a refreshing smoothie. You can slice bananas over your breakfast cereal, porridge or yogurt.
Eggs are wonderful food that is extremely nutrient-dense. Eggs contain protein, which is considered a complete food protein. The protein in eggs contains all the essential amino acids required by your muscles for recovery after running. Just one egg meets around 10% of your daily protein requirement and 30% of your daily vitamin K requirements.
How to Add Eggs to Your Diet?
You can eat eggs in any form you like – boiled, poached, omelet, scrambled or fried. You can use eggs to make delicious frittatas or add them to your burritos, sandwiches and wraps. You can also add eggs to your soups and casseroles.
If you want to go out for a vigorous run in the morning, have a bowl of oatmeal before setting off. A bowl of oats is the perfect breakfast to start your active day, as it provides you plenty of carbs (1 serving has around 25 grams) and it is also very high in fiber. As a healthy adult, you must get around 50% of your energy from carbs.
Oats also have a low GI or glycemic index, which causes your blood pressure to rise slowly. Consuming oats before a run helps you feel full for a longer time and it also provides energy over a longer period of time.
How to Add Oats to Your Diet?
A great way to start your day is with a bowl of warm and creamy oatmeal to which you can also add a handful of nuts and some chopped fresh fruits. You can make oatmeal porridge or eat it in the form of muesli. Oats can make a great addition to your granola bars. Blend oatmeal with fruits to make a healthy smoothie or add it to your veggie soups.
Peanut butter is fantastic food for runners. When we speak about peanut butter, it is the pure form of peanut butter without any additives such as salt, oil or sugar. Peanut butter is a wonderful source of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. Peanut butter is rich in protein, which helps in the growth and maintenance of muscles.
It is true that peanuts are high in fat and also high in calories; nevertheless, the fats are of the good kind i.e. monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can help to lower cholesterol levels, strengthen the immune system and these fatty acids are heart healthy too. The “good” fats in peanut butter also help to speed up the post-run recovery and prevent injuries.
How to Add Peanut Butter to Your Diet?
Nothing can be more delicious than a yummy peanut butter sandwich or you can add peanut butter to your whole-grain toast too. Add it to your soups, salad dressings and sauces as a thickener and also for an interesting flavor. The best way to eat peanut butter is to of course to just lick it off the spoon!
A perfect blend of carbs and proteins, yogurt is very high in the essential amino acids that cannot be synthesized by the body and must be obtained from dietary sources. When yogurt is consumed just after a run, it can aid in speeding up the recovery process and protecting your muscles.
The calcium in the yogurt helps to strengthen your bones. Yogurt also contains beneficial probiotics (live lactic acid bacteria) that stimulates the “friendly” bacteria in the gut and boosts your immune system. This is very advantageous not only to runners but to everyone in general.
How to Add Yogurt to Your Diet?
Eating yogurt by itself can be quite refreshing or if you want it sweet, then you can add a natural sweetener like fruit, raw honey or maple syrup. Top up your yogurt with nuts, fruits, muesli or granola.
Mix some yogurt with chopped cucumber and herbs and spread over grilled fish, chicken, meat or tofu. Use yogurt as a salad dressing or dip. Use yogurt instead of butter, oil or sour cream in your baked dishes. Make a refreshing healthy “froyo” or smoothie using yogurt.
This nutritious “super veggie” is loaded with vitamin C. Consuming broccoli after an intense workout can help to reduce the risk of and even help to prevent sore muscles. This green veggie is a rich source of folic acid, vitamin K and calcium that helps to strengthen your bones.
How to Add Broccoli to Your Diet?
You can eat broccoli raw or in the steamed, boiled or stir-fried form. You can add raw or cooked broccoli to your salads and to other dishes like pasta, pizza, etc. Puree broccoli and make a healthy soup or add it to your pasta sauce or pesto.
As a runner, you must eat a handful of almonds around 3-5 times a week at least. Almonds are a wonderful source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that is essential for you as a runner. Studies reveal that eating nuts such as almonds can help to reduce “LDL or bad” artery-clogging cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease.
How to Add Almonds to Your Diet?
You can add almonds along with other nuts to your pasta dishes or salads. Add some almonds to your hot cereal or as a topping to your casseroles. Add almonds to your trail mixes with other dried fruits and raisins or to your energy bars. Use almond butter instead of regular butter or mayonnaise on your whole-grain toast, sandwiches or tortillas.
As an industrious runner, once in a while, you can treat yourself without giving in to the guilt. Dark chocolate with around 70% cacao or more is the perfect treat after a hard day’s run.
Dark chocolate can be really good for you. It can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants known as flavanols that help to reduce inflammation. And, the best thing about dark chocolate is that it can put you in a good mood.
But at the end of it, moderation is key and you must watch your portion size. You must restrict your chocolate intake to around 2-3 pieces. Nevertheless, a couple of pieces of dark chocolate can make you happy anytime!
How to Add Dark Chocolate to Your Diet?
You can eat dark chocolate by itself or you can make your own chocolate treat by adding natural sweeteners to it. Use dark chocolate to make sauces and toppings or use it in your post-recovery smoothies and milk shakes. Combine some dark chocolate with some fruit or dip it into peanut butter for that extra antioxidant punch.
It is not very surprising that pasta parties are held on the eve of a marathon. The high-carb pasta meal not only puts you in the right frame of mind before your “big run”, but also tops up your glycogen reserves.
The glycogen that is stored provides the energy you require during the marathon. However, a point to keep in mind is that when you’re buying pasta, opt for the whole grain variety as this helps to fill you up and keep you full for a longer period of time. It also contains B vitamins, which are important for building muscle and also improves your performance and endurance.
How to Add Whole-Grain Pasta to Your Diet?
You can make a complete meal with whole-grain pasta by just tossing in veggies, seafood, lean meat or tofu. You can also add cheese to cooked whole-grain pasta with your favorite sauce and make it into a delicious casserole.
Just like bananas, potatoes are a wonderful source of potassium and carbohydrates, which makes it an essential staple in a runner’s diet. Also, 100 grams of potatoes have less than 2/3rd of the calories as 100 grams of rice. Potatoes when combined with salmon, lean chicken or eggs can comprise a delicious and healthy post-run recovery meal.
How to Add Potatoes to Your Diet?
Potatoes can be cooked and eaten in a variety of ways such as grilled, baked, steamed, boiled, roasted, mashed or stir-fried. You can eat mashed potatoes with green peas or as a side dish with any meal. Add cooked potatoes to your salads. Baked potatoes taste delicious when eaten cold too.
As a runner, you need around 50-75% more protein than non-runners to help in recovery after strenuous workouts and to rebuild muscles. Just ¼ oz. serving of chicken provides half a runner’s protein requirements.
Chicken also contains selenium that helps to protect the muscles from damage caused by free radicals during exercise. It also contains B vitamins, niacin that helps to regulate the burning of fat while you are running.
How to Add Chicken to Your Diet?
Chicken is extremely versatile, which makes it very easy to cook, especially if you don’t have much time for cooking. You can grill, bake, broil or poach chicken. Add shredded chicken to your salads, sandwiches or burritos.
You can boost your high-intensity interval training by drinking a cup of coffee before your workout. The caffeine in the coffee helps you run faster and you can cover your running distance in a much lesser time.
However, the important thing to remember is to have your coffee black i.e. without any sugar and milk. It is a common misconception that drinking coffee causes dehydration. However, that’s not really true.
How to Add Coffee to Your Diet?
You can drink black coffee or you could add some milk to it. You can add coffee to make a refreshing smoothie or milk shake.
Your performance during a race depends on more than just your training. In order to improve your performance, speed and endurance, you must deliberate on what you are eating. Eating the right kind of foods at the right time can enhance your performance tremendously and also reduce the risks of illness and injury.
So, as a runner, your meals should not only be balanced, they should be varied too including all essential foods and food groups that boost your running power and performance. What, when and how often you eat should be in sync with your personal running goals.