As a runner, do you ever read so much about nutrition and what to eat that you want to pull your hair out? What’s right, what’s wrong? What will boost performance, what might hinder it? What are the best recovery foods? In my mind, the best food choices are those that:
- Agree with your system – This is important because what someone else finds easily digestible and palatable might not be the best for your body. For example, many people swear by yogurt as a wonderful dairy and protein source that also provides natural probiotics. My body, however, finds it hard to digest, so I don’t eat it.
- Are in their simplest, least processed form – I think it was Michael Pollan who said to not eat any foods that have ingredients you cannot pronounce. The simpler, the better.
- Taste good – A no brainer. Eating well does not mean you have to sacrifice taste.
- Are easy to find at any grocery store – There should be no need to visit specialty stores in order to eat well. Whether you live in Intercourse, Pennsylvania or Boulder, Colorado there should be healthy food options available.
- Are affordable – Eating well should not have to break the bank.
There is a lot of detailed and well-researched information out there regarding which foods are the best foods to keep runners healthy and properly fueled. The ideal diet for a runner is compromised of about 60% carbohydrates, 25% fat and 15% protein. These percentages, of course, can vary from person to person, but this seems to be a standard guideline (source).
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or a millionaire to eat well. You just have to be sensible and to be willing to put a bit of thought into your shopping list. After doing lots of research, I’ve boiled it down for you. Here are some foods that are simple, tasty, affordable and easily found. They are also considered to be some of the top super foods for runners.
Why it made the list: Eggs are high in protein and essential amino acids to help with recovery. They also contain vitamin K, which promotes bone health. Add in the fact that they are inexpensive, easily found in any grocery store, quick to prepare and you’ve got a winner. Egg-cellent! (Bet you never heard that one before).
Why it make the list: Kale has gotten a reputation for being one of the most antioxidant rich foods you can eat. It also has anti inflammatory properties and is chock full of vitamins A, B6, C and K. While some find this vegetable bitter or tough, there are many ways to prepare it that cut down on those potentially negative qualities. Don’t be afraid. This leafy vegetable needs you. Bad.
Why it make the list: Duh! Bananas have long been known for their easily digestible nature as well as the fact that they contain high levels of potassium, a mineral lost when you sweat. Bananas are also high in carbohydrates (about 30 mg per banana) and are therefore a standard and easy pre-run snack. I’ve also found that bananas cut down on the runner’s trots (as long as you don’t fry them in hot oil).
4. Sweet Potatoes
Why it made the list: Packed with vitamin A, antioxidants, vitamin C, iron and potassium, you can’t go wrong with this carb-rich food. Best of all, sweet potatoes make a quick, easy and affordable lunch or snack. Simply microwave a sweet potato for 5 minutes and add a touch of butter and some salt. Or, bake several sweet potatoes at the beginning of the week, wrap them in foil, and eat as you please.
Why it made the list: This item is new enough to me that I still can’t pronounce it right (should be KEEN-wah). All the cool people now it KEEN-wah and this grain has soared in popularity as many have come to realize that it is high in both carbohydrates and proteins (it has 9 essential amino acids making it a complete protein), yet low in fat. Some believe quinoa to be a whole grain, but it is actually a seed. It is cooked however, similar to how one would cook rice or barley.
Of course there are many other foods that one could add to the list: oatmeal, berries, edamame, almonds, wild salmon, beans and whole grain pasta to name a few. And, certainly, you don’t have to be a runner to get the health benefits from these foods.
What’s one running super food you can’t do without?
Do you eat any of the above foods on a regular basis? Feel free to share a favorite recipe. Last night my mom made kale chips as an appetizer. REALLY good and addicting.