The Best Foods For Runners
The 12 foods runners need every week for good health and top performance.
Most supermarkets stock more than 30,000 items, yet every time we race up and down the aisles of the grocery store, we toss into our carts the same 10 to 15 foods. Which isn't such a bad thing, as long as you're taking home the right foods—ones that will keep you healthy, fuel peak performance, and easily cook up into lots of delicious meals. So before your next trip to the grocery store, add the following 15 foods to your must-buy list. Then, when you get home, use our tips and recipes to easily get them into your diet and onto your menu.
1. Add to your cart: Almonds
Runners should eat a small handful of almonds at least three to five times per week. Nuts, especially almonds, are an excellent source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that many runners fall short on because there are so few good food sources of it. Studies have shown that eating nuts several times per week lowers circulating cholesterol levels, particularly the artery-clogging LDL type, decreasing your risk for heart disease. And the form of vitamin E found in nuts, called gamma-tocopherol (a form not typically found in supplements), may also help protect against cancer.
2. Add to your cart: Eggs
One egg fulfills about 10 percent of your daily protein needs. Egg protein is the most complete food protein short of human breast milk, which means the protein in eggs contains all the crucial amino acids your hard-working muscles need to promote recovery. Eat just one of these nutritional powerhouses and you'll also get about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is vital for healthy bones. And eggs contain choline, a brain nutrient that aids memory, and leutin, a pigment needed for healthy eyes. Choose omega-3 enhanced eggs and you can also increase your intake of healthy fats. Don't worry too much about the cholesterol: Studies have shown that egg eaters have a lower risk for heart disease than those who avoid eggs.
3. Add to your cart: Sweet potatoes
This Thanksgiving Day standard should be on the plates of runners year-round. Just a single 100-calorie sweet potato supplies more than 250 percent of the DV for vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, the powerful antioxidant. Sweet potatoes are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron, and the two trace minerals manganese and copper. Many runners fail to meet their manganese and copper needs, which can have an impact on performance since these minerals are crucial for healthy muscle function. There are even new sweet-potato varieties that have purple skin and flesh and contain anthocyanidins, the same potent antioxidant found in berries.
4. Add to your cart: Whole-Grain Cereal with Protein
Look for whole-grain cereals that offer at least five grams of fiber and at least eight grams of protein.
5. Add to your cart: Oranges
Eat enough oranges and you may experience less muscle soreness after hard workouts such as downhill running. Why? Oranges supply over 100 percent of the DV for the antioxidant vitamin C, and a recent study from the University of North Carolina Greensboro showed that taking vitamin C supplements for two weeks prior to challenging arm exercises helped alleviate muscle soreness. This fruit's antioxidant powers also come from the compound herperidin found in the thin orange-colored layer of the fruit's skin (the zest). Herperidin has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels and high blood pressure as well.
6. Add to your cart: Canned Black Beans
One cup of these beauties provides 30 percent of the DV for protein, almost 60 percent of the DV for fiber (much of it as the cholesterol-lowering soluble type), and 60 percent of the DV for folate, a B vitamin that plays a key role in heart health and circulation. Black beans also contain antioxidants, and researchers theorize that this fiber-folate-antioxidant trio is why a daily serving of beans appears to lower cholesterol levels and heart-disease risk. In addition, black beans and other legumes are low glycemic index (GI) foods, meaning the carbohydrate in them is released slowly into the body. Low GI foods can help control blood sugar levels and may enhance performance because of their steady release of energy.
7. Add to your cart: Mixed Salad Greens
Rather than selecting one type of lettuce for your salad, choose mixed greens, which typically offer five or more colorful delicate greens such as radicchio, butter leaf, curly endive, and mache. Each variety offers a unique blend of phytonutrients that research suggests may fend off age-related diseases, such as Alzheimer's, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. These phytonutrients also act as antioxidants, warding off muscle damage brought on by tough workouts. You can usually buy mixed greens in bulk or prewashed in bags.
8. Add to you cart: Salmon
Nutrition-wise, salmon is the king of fish. Besides being an excellent source of high-quality protein (you get about 30 grams in a four-ounce serving), salmon is one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats. These essential fats help balance the body's inflammation response, a bodily function that when disturbed appears to be linked to many diseases including asthma. A recent study showed that people with exercise-induced asthma saw an improvement in symptoms after three weeks of eating more fish oil. If you've been limiting seafood due to possible mercury or PCB contamination, simply aim for a variety of farm-raised and wild salmon for maximum health benefits.
9. Add to your cart: Whole-Grain Bread
Runners need at least three to six one-ounce servings of whole grains per day, and eating 100 percent whole-grain bread (as opposed to just whole-grain bread, which may contain some refined grains and flours) is an easy way to meet this requirement since one slice equals one serving. Whole-grain bread may also help weight-conscious runners. One study showed that women who eat whole-grain bread weigh less than those who eat refined white bread and other grains. Whole-grain eaters also have a 38 percent lower risk of suffering from metabolic syndrome, which is characterized by belly fat, low levels of the good cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. All this raises the risk for heart disease and cancer.
10. Add to your cart: Chicken
Runners need about 50 to 75 percent more protein than nonrunners to help rebuild muscles and promote recovery after tough workouts. And just one four-ounce serving of chicken can supply about half a runner's daily protein needs. Along with protein, chicken contains selenium, a trace element that helps protect muscles from the free-radical damage that can occur during exercise, and niacin, a B vitamin that helps regulate fat burning during a run. Studies also suggest that people who get ample niacin in their diet have a 70 percent lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.
11. Add to your cart: Dark Chocolate
As a runner you deserve at least one indulgence—especially one you can feel so good about. Chocolate contains potent antioxidants called flavonols that can boost heart health. In one study, a group of soccer players had lower blood pressure and total cholesterol levels, and less artery-clogging LDL cholesterol after just two weeks of eating chocolate daily. Other research suggests that the chocolate flavonols ease inflammation and help prevent blood substances from becoming sticky, which lowers the risk of potential blood clots. But not just any chocolate will do. First off, dark chocolate (the darker the better) generally contains more flavonols than milk chocolate. Also, the way the cocoa beans are processed can influence the potency of the flavonols. Chocolate manufacturer Mars has developed a procedure that apparently retains much of the antioxidant powers of the flavonols, and their research shows just a little over an ounce (200 calories worth) of Dove dark chocolate per day has heart-healthy benefits.
12. Add to your cart: Low-fat Yogurt
Besides being a good source of protein and calcium (one cup provides 13 grams of protein and 40 percent of the DV for calcium), low-fat yogurt with live cultures provides the healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally. This good bacteria may also have anti-inflammatory powers that can offer some relief to arthritis suffers. Just look for the live-culture symbol on the yogurt carton.
Story : Runnersworld.com