Nutrition has always been a tricky subject. With numerous diet crazes making their way through the nutrition and fitness worlds, who but professional athletes with highly educated nutritionists can make sense of everything? There’s vegetarian, vegan, paleo, atkins (yes that’s still around), and a whole slew of other options out there.
As runners, we want to know what the best foods are – the ones that will help us do what we love. We want to perform well, recover quickly, and keep our energy levels high before, during and after our runs. While everyone should pursue their own diet based on their unique needs, here are a few ideas for individual foods that have positive benefits specifically for runners. Read up, eat up and enjoy!
Runners often don’t get enough vitamin E. Nuts in general are a great source of this essential nutrient, but almonds pack the biggest punch. Eat a handful a day to be sure you’re getting a good source of both protein and vitamin E.
Did you know that just one egg equals about 10% of your recommended daily protein? And it’s high quality protein at that! The protein in eggs contains all of the amino acids your body requires for proper recovery. It’s also a great source of vitamin K, which helps keep your bones strong and healthy.
Antioxidants are important for runners because our bodies are constantly healing from the last workout. The bodily stress from running is healthy, but can cause the immune system to be temporarily weakened. By eating plenty of antioxidants you’re helping your body stay strong and fight off illness. One sweet potato packs enough of the antioxidant beta-carotene to supply more than 250% of your daily vitamin A requirements. Sweet potatoes also have plenty of vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese and copper. Manganese and copper improve performance by helping support proper muscle function.
Everyone knows oranges for their vitamin C. What some may not know is that vitamin C does far more than boost the immune system. It has also been shown to help alleviate muscle soreness after tough workouts.
More protein! Black beans are a great source of protein and an even greater source of fiber. Black beans also have plenty of those useful antioxidants we talked about earlier. Finally, black beans are what’s called a “low glycemic index” food. This means that the carbohydrates in black beans are processed slowly by the body. By releasing their energy slowly, black beans avoid spiking your blood sugar and offer a longer, more sustainable source of energy than simple carbohydrates or sugary foods.
Another great antioxidant source, mixed greens (the more colors the better) provide many more antioxidants and nutrients than can be found by eating just one type of lettuce.
Of course we had to include this one. The darker the chocolate, the better the source of flavonols. Flavonols help the body reduce inflammation and reduce the risk of blood clots. As an added bonus, dark chocolate has also been shown to help lower cholesterol and blood pressure while improving overall heart health.