Found on Competitor.com and written by Lindsay Kunkel
Whether you’re an elite athlete or a penguin plodder, a runner’s body has special nutritional needs. You just can’t do your best on a terrible diet.
The following healthy foods not only contribute to overall health but also pack an extra punch for running-related requirements, including increased energy, improved performance and quickened recovery. Read on to learn how they can help you and how you can incorporate them into your diet.
I know, I know, you’ve heard for ages all about how great oatmeal is for your body. But the benefits are plenty and proven. It lowers cholesterol, eases constipation, helps control blood sugar, reduces the risk of colon cancer and improves heart health. In addition, it is a great source of high-quality carbohydrates to fuel your workouts. And colloidal oatmeal applied topically helps many skin conditions such as eczema and allergic reactions.
Take note that packaged single-serving packets can be highly processed and high in sugar. Try making your oatmeal at home using minimal sugar or natural sweeteners such as stevia or honey. Don’t like good ole oatmeal? Add oats to healthy baked goods.
This creamy delight contains calcium for bone health and protein for muscle recovery, as well as other body-boosting nutrients. It also has good-for-your-gut probiotics that ease gastrointestinal discomfort and boost immunity. Greek yogurt has extra protein that is perfect for a post-run snack to replenish and rebuild those fatigued muscles.
Flavored yogurt tastes great on its own, but keep an eye out for excessive added sugar. You can get plain yogurt and sweeten at home with healthier alternatives and vanilla extract. Plain yogurt also makes a great substitute for sour cream. Try adding yogurt to your oatmeal for some heavenly creaminess, or use it in smoothies and shakes.
These tiny little super seeds are loaded with body-loving nutrition. They contain omega-3 fatty acids, phosphorus, fiber, calcium, protein and quality carbs. Consequently these super specks can do wonders for your energy levels, helping you power through your day, as well as your sweat session.
But how exactly do you eat them? One popular method is to put them in water and drink them. They’re pretty much tasteless, but they “gel up” in liquid, which can make for an unpleasant slimy sensation. Fortunately, there are more palatable ways! You can make chia pudding, add to baked goods, mix into your oatmeal, sprinkle on a salad, add to smoothies or stir into yogurt.
If there were ever a mascot food for runners, the banana would be it. These golden grails are packed with everything a runner needs. They are a prime source of easily digestible carbohydrates to power your run. Bananas are also rich in potassium for optimal muscle function and cramp prevention. They even contain probiotics for enhanced nutrient absorption. Plus they’re inexpensive, portable and delicious!
Don’t like bananas on their own? Try using in smoothies, spreading slices with peanut butter, slicing onto oatmeal or cereal, or making banana bread.
There is so much green goodness packed into this powerhouse! You may know that avocados provide a good dose of healthy monounsaturated fats. They are also chock full of 20 vitamins and minerals that are beneficial for skin and eye health, immune function, cancer prevention and more. They even have more potassium than bananas for an electrolyte boost and cramp prevention. But did you know they can also reduce muscle and joint soreness? Avocados pack powerful anti-inflammatory properties strong enough to ease arthritis symptoms. These same effects can help your body recover after a hard workout.
Whether you put slices on a sandwich, smash into guacamole or top a salad with them, avocados are a smart choice. They are great in desserts!
It’s a shame people think coffee a bad habit they should kick, because it is loaded with antioxidants. It is also proven to have protective effects against diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, stroke, various cancers and more. Of course there are the obvious energy effects. A fresh cup of joe in the morning is how most of America gets anything done. For runners, a jolt of java is the perfect pre-workout boost that allows you to go harder, faster and longer. The dose of caffeine is clinically proven to improve athletic performance — especially helpful for particularly tough workouts or on race day. Additionally, coffee helps reduce post-workout muscle soreness.
It’s really the additions we dump in that do the damage — the refined sugar, the fat-packed creamers and the chemical additives. But if you don’t like plain black coffee, there is no need to give up all the sweet creaminess! Just be smart about it. Use stevia, pure unrefined cane sugar or coconut sugar. Choose from a variety of milks to replace creamer. Buy an organic brand of coffee to ensure you are getting the best beans. All of this may mean you should give up your daily Starbucks visit, but at least you’ll save some money in the process.
Before you start downing a cup an hour throughout the day, though, note that experts recommend up to four cups per day for maximum disease-fighting and performance-boosting benefits. Moderation is key. Pick a level that is right for your unique body and doesn’t turn you into a shaky, nervous hummingbird!
You have probably heard of all the benefits of coconut lately. This trend is probably not going away, and for good reason. Although there has been controversy over coconut fat, which is mostly saturated, it’s a different kind of saturated (medium-chain fatty acids) that is metabolized differently by the body. It actually can help you burn fat more efficiently and increase your metabolism. Coconut oil also helps fight infection, boost brain function, improve cholesterol levels and even treat neurological disorders. Of particular interest to runners, it has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties to soothe those sore muscles and joints. Bonus: Topically it works well as a moisturizer and natural sunscreen. Take note that these benefits have been found with pure organic virgin coconut oil, not the refined and processed kind, so read the label before you buy.
Obviously you probably won’t be eating coconut oil by the spoonful (yuck!), but you can add it to baked goods or use it as a cooking oil. My favorite way to consume it is to add a tablespoon to my coffee in the morning. Just don’t jump off the deep end and add it to everything — 1 to 2 tablespoons a day is plenty.
Try to increase your intake of these foods and see how you feel — in general and in your running life. It’s easier than you think, too. Start with some coffee with coconut oil in the morning, have oatmeal with chia seeds for breakfast, enjoy a banana before your run and refuel with a green avocado shake afterward. Boom! You’re covered for the day!