Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Oh, you're a runner... you can eat whatever you want." Is that really true? While runners may burn a lot of calories doing what we love, we still need to be conscious eaters. There are many super foods that you can choose from to properly fuel your body. Let's take a closer look at six of these “power” foods.
Blueberries, raspberries and strawberries provide your body with nutrients called anthocyanins that protect your heart. They are responsible for giving these berries their red, blue or purple hues. Berries can easily be incorporated into your breakfast routine. Just toss a variety of berries into your morning cereal or take them to work for a snack.
Adding berries to oatmeal can provide you with the energy you need to start your day with a bang. Oatmeal can be used before a morning run or after for recovery, depending on your gastrointestinal tolerance. Oatmeal has four grams of fiber and 27 grams of carbohydrates per half-cup serving (dry). Carbohydrates are needed for energy prior to your training runs and also are important for recovery. A small amount of protein may help your training session, so you can always add peanut butter or almond butter to your oatmeal before you lace up your shoes.
Not fond of nut butters in your oatmeal? Try adding walnuts to your morning cereal. According to a recent article from Runner’s World, walnuts are packed full of protective antioxidant phenols that can markedly improve blood vessel function just hours after eating a few ounces. Other nuts, such as almonds, are also heart-healthy.
Walnuts can also be used in trail mixes or in salads in place of croutons or bacon bits. They not only provide a "crunch" to your salad, but are also nutrition powerhouses.
Speaking of salads, kale and other dark leafy greens should be a daily part of your training routine. Loaded with vital antioxidants and flavonoids, such as quercetin and kaempferol, kale is definitely one of the healthiest and most nutritious plant foods in existence. Just check out all of the vitamins one cup of kale provides:
- Vitamin A: 206% of the RDA (from beta-carotene)
- Vitamin K: 684% of the RDA
- Vitamin C: 134% of the RDA
- Vitamin B6: 9% of the RDA
- Manganese: 26% of the RDA
- Calcium: 9% of the RDA
- Copper: 10% of the RDA
- Potassium: 9% of the RDA
- Magnesium: 6% of the RDA
RDA: Recommended Daily Allowance
It also contains 3% or more of the RDA for Vitamin B1 (Thiamin), Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Iron and Phosphorus. Perhaps this list will convince you to drop some kale into your smoothie.
These gems are loaded with vitamins too. One baked, medium-sized sweet potato contains 438% of your daily value of vitamin A and 37% of your vitamin C, in addition to some calcium, potassium and iron. A white potato contains 1 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C. There are numerous ways to prepare sweet potatoes, so try multiple ways before you decide they aren’t for you.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, herring and sardines supply omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fats help lower circulating levels of dangerous fats called triglycerides. Omega-3's also fight inflammation, which damages blood vessels and sets the stage for heart disease. Try to incorporate salmon and other fatty fish into your diet two to three times per week. Salmon, sweet potatoes and a large garden salad topped with walnuts is a fantastic way to replenish nutrients after a long run.
When choosing foods before and after your training runs, experiment with these power foods. Remember to practice your pre-race meal in your training sessions. Choose nutrient-dense foods whenever possible to help fuel your body. You will be glad you did!