Taking in proper types and amounts of food is paramount to any athlete’s success, especially cardio-intensive exercise, like running. However, there is a lot more to the process than simply avoiding gorging on empty-calorie meals.
“I recommend a balanced diet complete with quality carbs, lean protein and healthy fats for runners,” says Brooke Schohl, a sports nutritionist and owner of the triathlon preparedness store Destination Kona.
Schohl recommends trying to eat clean, by avoiding processed, preservative-filled foods, and being aware of ingredients when dining out.
Here are her top 10 suggested foods paramount for any runner’s diet:
Bananas are an easy-to-carry and easy-to-eat food that contain quick-digesting carbs and potassium, which helps to replenish glycogen stores as well as potassium lost through sweat.
2. Cooked steel cut oats
Cooked steel cut oats have lower sugar quantities than flavored oats, and are less processed than instant or rolled oats. They are also high in soluble fiber, which can lower cholesterol, increase satiety and improve gastro-intestinal function. Schohl recommends adding fruit, walnuts and a touch of brown sugar to steel oats to make a quality pre-training or pre-race meal.
Spinach is packed with Vitamin C, Vitamin E and beta-carotene, and it helps boost immune function.
“Runners need to consume adequate carbohydrates in order to replenish storage glycogen stores and keep energy levels up,” Schohl says. “Whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta and bread, quinoa, and brown rice, are great options.”
“Quality sources of protein are vital in a runner’s diet in order to replace protein breakdown that is initiated by exercise,” Schohl says, “and eggs contain all of the essential amino acids.”
Hummus is full of protein, fiber, Vitamin B6, manganese, zinc, magnesium, copper and iron. Pair it alongside multi-grain crackers or carrot sticks.
Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are all antioxidant-rich fruits that have the added digestive benefit of fiber.
8. Plain Greek yogurt
“In addition to beneficial probiotic properties, Greek yogurt is two times as high in protein as regular yogurt,” Schohl says.
Although nuts are high in calories and fat, in proper servings they serve as a great source of protein, fiber and vitamins. “Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help combat inflammation incurred during running,” Schohl says.
10. Mozzarella cheese
Mozzarella cheese has less calories and fat than most other varieties and can be used in numerous ways. Schohl recommends incorporating it in foods from a healthy pizza with a whole-grain crust, low sodium tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and a variety of herbs, to a caprese salad by using sliced mozzarella, lycopene-rich tomatoes and fresh basil.