Are you eating the foods you should be for energy, recovery, and fitness?
Written by: Matt Fitzgerald
Suppose you could only stock your kitchen with 10 foods. As an runner, which foods should you choose? If you asked a dozen sports nutritionists to answer this question, you would almost certainly get a dozen different lists. But they would have some overlap, and share general similarities despite their specific differences. All of them would contain vegetables and fruits rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, as well as lean protein sources, good sources of healthy fats, and of course foods packed with the quality carbohydrates your muscles need to fuel workouts.
Here’s my list of the 10 best foods for runners.
Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are sorely deficient in the average American’s diet. Omega-3 fats boost heart health by creating more elastic blood vessels and improve nervous system functioning. These benefits go beyond general health to affect exercise performance. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that fish oil supplementation increased heart stroke volume (or the amount of blood the heart pumps with each contraction) and cardiac output (or the total amount of blood pumped by the heart) during low- to moderate-intensity exercise.
You can get the same benefits as fish oil supplementation by eating wild salmon or other omega-3-rich seafood two to three times per week.
Cherries are the most antioxidant-rich fruit on earth. They contain particularly large concentrations of a type of antioxidants called anthocyanins. Antioxidants provide a host of health benefits ranging from maintaining healthy blood vessels to prevention of cancerous tumor growth. They’re also good for athletic performance. In one study, the addition of cherry juice to the diet of competitive rowers significantly reduced the amount of strength loss and muscle soreness they experienced after a strength test designed to cause muscle damage compared to a group of fellow rowers who received a placebo instead.
Kale is a member of the cabbage family. It contains high levels of vitamins A, B6, C and K, as well as iron and calcium, and is one of the most antioxidant-rich vegetables. NutritionData.com gives kale a maximum five-star rating in the category of optimum health. Kale also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Low-grade inflammation resulting from exercise-induced muscle damage is a daily nuisance for many runners and can become a chronic issue in some cases. Maintaining a diet that’s high in anti-inflammatory foods reduces the risk of this problem.
With its balance of fast-acting carbohydrates and proteins, skim milk is the ideal post-exercise muscle recovery “food” for runners. Research has shown that muscle glycogen stores are replenished and muscle tissues are repaired fastest when carbs and proteins are consumed together after the completion of a workout. A study by researchers at Indiana University found that chocolate-flavor skim milk outperformed a popular recovery supplement when consumed after exercise.
Bananas are among the best pre-workout and pre-race foods for runners. Bananas are almost all carbohydrate. A large banana contains more than 30 grams of carbohydrate, just 1 gram of protein, and no fat whatsoever. Bananas are also extremely high in potassium (400 mg), which is lost in sweat during exercise. Their softness and light taste make them easy to consume even with pre-race nerves, and their natural “wrapper” makes them handy for eating on the road.Pages: 1 2