Eating the right foods is essential to runners’ performance, recovery, and overall health. So it’s important for runners to make smart, nutritious choices when it comes to pre-run and post-run eating.
It’s always more convenient to get lots of nutritional benefits from single foods, so you don’t end up with a grocery list that’s a mile long. Here are some nutrient-dense superfoods that will you give a lot of bang for your buck and help keep you running strong.
Kale: This popular leafy green contains lots of fiber and nutrients to lower blood cholesterol levels and vitamin K to help support bone strength. Rich in quercetin, kaempferol and lutein, kale is one of the most antioxidant rich foods you can eat.
Bananas: Bananas contain fast-digesting carbohydrates, so they’re a great option for a pre-run snack. They’re also chock-full of potassium, which aids in muscle contraction and keeps muscle cramping at bay. Bananas also contain magnesium, antioxidants and vitamins C and B6 which are all important for runners. Although they’re perfect on their own, I also love bananas as a smoothie ingredient or sliced up with some Greek yogurt.
Cherries: Cherries are packed with antioxidants to help protect against post-run inflammation. Some runners swear by cherry juice as an antidote for muscle cramping.
Chia Seeds: Chia seeds are one of the world’s most nutrient-rich foods, making them a perfect choice for endurance athletes. Chia seeds contain plenty of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, which are great for lubricating joints and cells. They’re also high in protein and calcium, which is essential for muscle growth and repair, and bone strength.
Quinoa: This whole grain is rich in complex carbohydrates, fiber, iron, magnesium, and antioxidants. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is one of just a few plant-based sources of complete protein, which means that it contains all nine essential amino acids. The carbohydrate and protein combination makes quinoa a perfect post-run recovery food, as the carbohydrates will replenish glycogen used during your run and the protein aids in muscle repair. Quinoa has a fluffy, creamy, almost crunchy texture and a nutty flavor when cooked, so you can use it in place of rice in many dishes.
Sweet Potatoes. Delicious and versatile, sweet potatoes are chock-full of vitamin A, an antioxidant, and carbs. They’re also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron. They’re perfect in a salad or soup after a long marathon training run when they’re in season in the fall.
Steel Cut Oatmeal: This complex carb has the highest levels of protein and fat of all cereal grains, so you’ll get much more than just a sugar fix if you eat it for breakfast. The slow release of energy from the oats helps keep your blood sugar levels stable. It’s common for runners to always feel like they’re hungry, especially when training for an endurance event, but the complex carbs and fiber in steel cut oatmeal will help you feel fuller longer.