Monday, January 7, 2013

Top 5 Super Foods For Runners

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.

1. Eggs

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).

eggs2.jpg

Make this!

Spinach and Potato Frittata
Poached Eggs with Buttery Whole Grain Toast

2. Kale

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.

Make this!:

Kale Salad with Oranges, Almonds and Avocado
Bean Soup with Kale

3. Bananas

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).

hypertension-foods-that-lower-blood-pressure-gallery-banana-bunch-320[1]

Make this!

Banana, Blueberry and Spinach Smoothie

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.

Make this!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Empanadas
Sweet Potato, Leek and Ham Soup

5. Quinoa

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.

Make this!

Mini Ham and Cheese Quinoa Cups
Cinnamon Quinoa Porridge

 

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.

SUAR

Sources for this post:
10 Best Foods for Runners (Competitor)
Best Foods for Female Runners (Active.com)
Best Foods for Runners (About.com)

64 comments:

  1. I am so intrigued by kale, but have no clue where to find it. I'm glad I have a taste for these other super foods...maybe they balance out the 5lbs of chocolate I consume a week :o)

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    1. You should be able to find Kale in most grocery stores in the produce section. It's usually next to the leafy greens. It comes in purple too. Also very easy to grow.

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  2. I eat only 2 items on the list. I have bought some quinoa but haven't found the right recipe yet. I need to get out of my "food box" and try some new things. I am such a chicken. Yep, eat lots of chicken.

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    1. I had a bit of delay in my love for quinoa too. I believe “textured air” was my initial opinion. But my ex-girlfriend was a huge fan and eventually showed me how awesome it is. Now I love to sneak it into work potlucks where there is almost nothing healthy EVER. At thanksgiving I doubled this recipe. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/quinoa-and-black-beans/Detail.aspx and made some small changes. I added two diced red bell peppers to the onion/garlic sauté. I rinsed the quinoa before using it to reduce any bitterness. I used about half as much black beans and cayenne pepper (though if I was making this for myself, I probably would’ve added pureed chipotle pepper). And I added two cans of fire roasted tomatoes at the end with the beans and cilantro, but drained them at the beginning and used that juice together with broth to make up the liquid required to cook the quinoa. Oh, and I mixed in the juice of two limes at the very end as well. I know it might sound kind of involved, but it wasn’t that tough and it was pretty tasty.

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  3. All of those are foods I eat on at least a weekly basis.

    Kale chips are a HUGE favorite! When I took my 4 year old daughter to her last wellness appointment, the pediatrician asked her "what's your favorite green food?". She yelled "KALE CHIPS!" I scored MAD points with Doc for that. lol She said "never in my years as a pediatrician have I ever gotten that answer."

    Almonds are another favorite fast-snack. I keep a container in my purse.

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  4. You can make a great tasting quinoa porridge with all of those ingredients. Or even a quinoa pancakes.....oh the mind is racing now.

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  5. I've been interested in trying quinoa, but haven't found a recipe until now that caught my interest. Thanks!!!

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  6. Kale all the time. In fact, I crave it and feel lousy when I don't eat it at least a few times week. Usually just microwave it with some sea salt and olive oil, but it's great with pasta and especially good mixed in with mashed (sweet) potatoes!

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  7. I stuffed portobello mushrooms once with quinoa (and some veggies) and it actually turned out really good! I eat at least one banana per day, they are like candy to me.

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  8. Eat tons of Kale either steamed or in a green smoothie. If you are unsure of the kale, then try a smoothie with orange juice, banana, kale, berries, and water. I have some great smoothie recipes on my page that include dark leafy green. I typically add hemp seeds and ground flax as well. I'll have to disagree with eating a lot of eggs, especially non-organic. Tons of cholesterol and much healthier protein sources out there. Quinoa is extremely versatile and I even make chocolate protein bars with it: http://takemetothetrail.blogspot.com/2013/01/chocolate-quinoa-protein-bars-with.html

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  9. I eat scrambled eggs and kale for breakfast all of the time! Sweet potatoes and quinoa are also a staple at our house. Bananas, not so much. Those don't agree with my stomach unless they are in a bread!

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  10. Definitely agree on this list. Oddly enough, kale is harder for me to find around here, but I am a major spinach eater so I'm thinking I've got my "greens" covered. :) I've also dedicated myself to get bananas back in my regimen.

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  11. I eat all of those except bananas since I'm allergic :) my favorite quinoa recipe is one I invented myself- stuffed poblano peppers. Prepare quinoa as usual. Sauté onion and garlic, add canned corn and quinoa and sauté briefly, stuff in roasted and seeded poblano pepper (can use regular Anaheim chilies and I've done it in bell peppers too), top with a bit of cheese if you want and bake for a bit.

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  12. Love bananas! I also really like quinoa and Runner's World published a really great chicken and quiona soup in a recent issue.

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  13. Great list! I try to eat those five at least twice a week. There is not a better egg than the ones that come from your own free-range chickens, though. I love my feathered ladies...and boy. Scrambled eggs with spinach or kale is yum! Or, my favorite egg breakfast, Eggs Florentine. I love poached eggs with the spinach, whole wheat English Muffin and creamy Hollandaise sauce.

    Okay...some other superfoods I love, are: blueberries, mushrooms, peppers (hot and sweet), nuts (especially pecans and pistachios), and Tea. The list goes on, really. I LOVE FOOD!

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  14. I love all those foods. Staples in my diet. I used to be vegan but I found that it wasn't working for my training. I wasn't bouncing back from workouts as quickly as I wanted. Added eggs and fish and whabam! I am bouncing back so fast.

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    1. I've experienced just the opposite. Recovering quicker than ever. Gotta do it right though!

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  15. www.patriciaandcarolyn.com

    these cookbooks have yummy recipes for quinoa

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  16. Haha. I just got done eating a sweet potato before reading this. I was so glad when I started running a few months ago that so many of my favorite foods were always included on “runners’ food” lists. I’m still not sure that I’m eating enough, but my weight loss has slowed and my strength is improving so I guess that’s a good sign.
    I eat a spinach omelet every morning, put banana and berries in my vitamin smoothie every morning, have a garden salad w/ some kind of beans, sunflower seeds, and cranberries for lunch 5 days a week, and eat sweet potatoes as part of my dinner at least twice a week. LOVE me some veggies…but a good ribeye aint a bad treat from time to time either. Great post!

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  17. I go in and out of eating eggs. I like them, but burn out on them pretty quickly as I don't like a lot of other breakfast foods. Bananas are God's gift. Quinoa is new to me, but I found this mediterranean flavored kind and made it with some feta, fresh tomato and cucumber that was delish. Haven't braved kale yet, but lots of friends sing its praises. Sweet potatoes are "ok" - I like them sliced thin and baked as "chips" the best. Will check out these recipes though. Thanks!

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  18. Great list. My running super food... Clif Shotbloks.

    But, seriously, oatmeal with raisins and ground flax seeds. It's the breakfast of champion runners (I hope.).

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  19. Organic peanut butter and honey. Perfect.
    Bananas and sweet potatoes all the time. We just learned a recipe for Kale chips, but it's tricky in an oven as opposed to a food dehydrator. Sometimes as a filler in smoothies. Quinoa is a sometimes thing, often as an addition to oatmeal, sometimes by itself.

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  20. Eggs, Sweet Potatoes and Bananas! Plus Almond Butter:-)

    These are definite staples in my kitchen.

    I've used Quinoa before and I really like it (especially that it only takes 20 minutes compared to 45 for brown rice) but I haven't been able to find it recently! :-\

    I've never had Kale. I think I'm about the only one. haha.

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  21. I definitely run so that I can eat. All of these foods are on my weekly diet and just discovered I really like kale. I love quinoa but hubby is not a fan. I will try some of these suggested recipes but I really love the skinnytaste recipes.

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  22. I eat them all. Quinoa probably least as tho it's gluten-free as I must be, I've reduced intake of grain-like carbs - quinoa, rice, etc. There are also quinoa flakes, for hot cereal and such kinda like rolled oats - I can't eat oats either. I eat more egg whites than eggs (DH watching cholesterol) but I do love making greens 'n eggs - often with kale! (DH will eat kale chips but that's about it, or maybe if there's bacon) Using cast iron skillet, I cook kale (washed and ripped into pieces) and then crack some eggs on top and let them cook till roughly poached. Let it go a bit more and it's almost fritatta like - can put segments on top of toast. Or poached eggs, just got a microwave poacher. Love bananas, usually eat at least 1/day and keep a stash in the freezer for a treat, had one tonight. But the winner has to be sweet potatoes, which I love and eat every day (except Sunday) for breakfast - nuked till reasonably soft, then split in half and spread with almond butter. (on the weekend, I add honey and coconut manna for a real roll-your-eyes-back treat) I prefer to eat them warm, but cold works too. Ooh, now I want a sweet potato!

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  23. I'm married to a rocket scientist who eats a banana every day!

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  24. Pizza! By super, you mean delicious, right? If we're being serious, kale. But actually pizza.

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  25. Honestly i hate half the crap om this list especially kale (even though i've never tried it). Not a seed fan, a kale fan, a spinach fan or even a black bean fan. I stick to grilled chicken, grilled salmon, pastas, breads, cheese, eggs, tortillas, bananas and sugar. :-) Fuckin A! Apples and peanut butter are awesome, too. Peanut butter sammiches, too. With or without jelly...peanut butter and chocolate zone bars rock or peanut butter pn toast and /or oatmeal and toast. Recenrly discovered G4 chocolate protein drinks that have a buttload of protein. So recapping for me: chocolate, peanut butter amd mexican food. :-)

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  26. Eggs! I am a huge egg fan. And KALE! I'm also a huge kale fan. Actually, I eat all of those things with regularity. And fish! I am the hugest fish fan!

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  27. I like eggs and bananas. I've never had kale or KEEN-wah, but it's on my list of things to try. Sweet potatoes are a no-go because my youngest son has an allergy.

    Honestly, I just got diagnosed yesterday as pre-diabetic (that's right, the very same day I signed up for my first half-marathon; the diagnosis came AFTER the registration). Now I'm sorta freaking out about my diet. Information to reduce the chance of becoming diabetic includes "lose weight" (I'm currently exactly in the middle for my height) and "exercise 5-6 times a week" (Um, see "half marathon training"). Did I mention I'm freaking out?

    Thanks for linking to some great recipes!

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    1. You asked if you could email me if you were freaking out. YES! beth@shutupandrun.net

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  28. I keep meaning to try kale - maybe this weekend I will pick some up!
    Do Hershey's chocolate bars count? Way back in high school every track meet I ate Hershey bars and oranges (nice, huh?) - crazy since I ran the 2 mile at the beginning of the meet and the mile at the end. I guess I've come a long way on the food scale!! (I do still like my chocolate bars though!!!)

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  29. I usually eat a banana every day and it's a running/race staple for me. I just started eating an egg in the morning (today actually) and want to do that daily as well.

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  30. Eggs have Vitamin D, too - great for fast twitch, muscle strength & preventing sports injuries! I like to dry my Kale in the oven @175*F, misted with olive oil & sprinkled with garlic powder - Makes a great sandwich topper.

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  31. WOOHOO! I already eat most of that list! I should add in more sweet potato and Quinoa because I do love them both, I just forget about them!

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  32. Kale and sweet potato are two ingredients in my fridge.

    Kale - I sautee with lemon juice, olive oil, and sesame seeds. Delish. If I want a kick, I will add crushed red pepper.

    SP-I cut up in to cubes and mix with olive oil, salt, pepper, a touch of agave syrup (instead of brown sugar), and rosemary.

    Mashed Sweet Potatoes-Mix the boiled sweet potatoes with orange juice (the same amount as if you would mix regular potatoes with milk...no more than a 1/4 cup), cumin, salt, pepper, and paprika. It's spicy goodness.
    Quinoe-Mix with Olive oil, grated ginger, salt and pepper. Very good.

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    1. I forgot to say that I bake the Sweet Potatoes in the oven for 20-30 minutes at 350. But I think my oven is off compared to others.

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  33. I eat em all. My other superfood I can't do without: red cabbage. crunchy deliciousness in my salad, and good cooked too. Vitamins A, C, K, B6 and a little iron, calcium, potassium.

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  34. Spinach in my morning smoothies make me happy, as do chia seeds for regularity. Nothing beats a good steel cut oatmeal before a run with butter, a bit of salt, and some brown sugar. I also love Quinoa, and the kids ask for that and Kale chips on a regular basis. Kale chips are our favorite way to prepare the bitter green (try them with garlic YUM!). I recently found a recipe for kale pesto for pasta that I want to try. Mmm! Also? Try coconut water in smoothies, or added to fruit juice, or on its own. Awesome electrolyte properties!

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  35. Gonna keep this post, and the comments, to motivate me to go back and try Quinoa and kale! I already love eggs, bananas, and almonds. I do spinach every day in my breakfast protein smoothie - maybe I should change that to kale?? yummy.

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  36. Peanut butter is a staple for me!

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  37. I am allergic to eggs, corn, and wheat/almost all grains except rice, and corn. Breakfast kind of blows, and i can't use any of the traditional endurance foods/drink mixes as all have some sort of ingredient made with corn. So I'm working on my nutrition plan as I'm training for an Ironman, so it gets very interesting on some days. But one of my favorites that keep me going for a long time, is banana dipped in chia seeds. I love the little crunch of the chia seeds, and they really do seem to keep me going strong for those really long workouts while being easy on the stomach, and preventing that banana from wearing out too soon.

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  38. Wow! What a great list! Love all of it but haven't had kale in a long time. Are the kale chips easy to prepare? I don't have a microwave.....I love my 'girls' and the awesome eggs they let me keep. My best nutrition rule of thumb is (generally) the faster a food can go bad, the better it is for you. (Think of the opposite end of that spectrum:Twinkies!).

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  39. Bananas and peanut butter (choc pb from whole foods to be exact) are my go-to before a run :-) After wards is a smoothie was protein powder.

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  40. I have been drinking alot of Kale shakes this week. (Kale, almond milk, ice, scoop of PB, and choc protein powder).

    I found a YUMMY roasted recipe for kale that is SO good. I just kind of throw mine together, so amounts vary depending on taste, but basically:

    Spread a bunch of kale leaves on a large baking pan
    in a small bowl, combine a little olive oil, salt, chili pepper (this is the red Asian sauce that has a rooster on it, I can't remember what it's called!), and some red wine vinegar.

    Pour mixture over leaves (or you can put the leaves in a bowl, pour the mixture over and "toss" so as to better coat them.) Then spread back out in a pan.

    Sprinkle coconut and sliced almonds over the top, and roast on high temp until leaves are a little crisp on the outside.

    This is a DELISH side dish!!

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  41. I eat all of these things except eggs. Weird!

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  42. Thanks! What a great list. I eat all these foods. In fact, I made quinoa for the first time this weekend. Thanks for the info on how good it us for us. It was really good.
    I like kale, but I'm really enjoying swiss chard right now. You can even roast the stems of it with some onions and olive oil, and they're good to eat.
    I also eat eggs on a regular basis.
    On eating carbs, I know I have to get enough for the long runs, but they just stick to this 50 plus year old body. Any suggestions would be helpful.

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  43. Melissa Mauro HinemanJanuary 8, 2013 at 9:53 AM

    Steel cut oats -- before any run 8 miles and over -- with a tiny dash of cinnamon, a few slices bananna and a drizzle of real maple syrup, perfect way to kick start the body before a long run. IMO helps calm unpredicatble runner stomach too.

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  44. I eat all except the Kale (but I want to try it in some soup). My running staple is probably a handful of nuts (either almonds or walnuts) about 30 minutes or so before I go. Spicy black bean and qunioa empanadas are really yummy. I think I use this recipe and just substitute the pork for some quinoa http://allrecipes.com/recipe/spicy-black-bean-empanadas/ Quinoa is also pretty delicious when cooked with tomatoes, garlic, peppers, onions and ...... crumbled Itl. sausage. ~ Rene / SC

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  45. Well I suppose you have succeeded in inspiring me to finally use that box of quinoa that I have had sitting in my cupboard for...forever.
    Thanks for the runners food list. Handy.

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  46. Thank you SO much for Quinoa recipes, they look so good!!! I have had a bag in my pantry for a year and have had no idea how or what to cook with it!!

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  47. Great! all foods I love! Thanks for the recipes and the super food ideas.

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  48. Sweet potatoes! I could eat them daily! Favorite recipe is actually a side dish and is Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes. Take however many potatoes you need, peel, cut into cubes and then boil or steam them until they are soft enough for mashing. Add butter (however much you like, I usually do 2 Tbs for 4 medium to large sweet potatoes), 1-2 chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (seeded unless you like it fiery hot) chopped, and then 1-2 tbs of adobo sauce. DELISH!
    I pretty much eat all of the above regularly, some more than others.

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  49. Score! All in my kitchen! What about nut (almond) milk? I love me some nut milk (TWSS). Also, oatmeal, spinach, granny smith apples, and PB!

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  50. I eat all 5 on a regular basis. And kale chips are tha bomb! I just lost the remaining few stalks of kale in my garden when the temps dropped to consistently below zero. I have some pre-chopped in my freezer to add to soups over the winter.

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  51. LOVE your tips they are so true for how we all need to look at food!! I was eating all of what you listed until surprise i found out I'm allergic to eggs, total bummer!

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  52. Over here kale is almsot impossible to find. Sweet potatoes cost 10 times as much as regular ootatoes. I cant stand eggs but I love bananas and finnaly getting to like quinoa, as well.

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  53. I really like these foods.You have written a awesome interesting blog.Thanks for making aware by this post.

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  54. Great Food List. Keep up the good works.

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  55. This is an awesome post. Wonderful article, well balanced. Just awesome work.

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  56. Thanks for sharing .Keep posting articles like this. A good example of content presentation. A piece of information from you every now and then is really great.

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  57. Hey that’s great! Very good example here. Thanks for sharing this unique topic blog with us. I enjoyed alot at the time of reading your blog.

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