Power Foods for Runners

Mercy Health Tip of the Week

Runners often wonder how diet impacts their performance, endurance and recovery. While there are thousands of options in the grocery store, many of us tend to stick to familiar foods and brands. If you’re looking to fuel up for your next run, here are a few more healthy food options to add to your shopping cart.

  • Almonds are rich in protein and vitamin E, an antioxidant that is rare in food sources. These nutrients help runners recover, lower their cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease. Runners are recommended to eat three-to-five handfuls of almonds each week.
  • Eggs contain approximately 10 percent of the daily recommended value (DV) for protein and 30 percent of the DV for vitamin K, two important nutrient sources for healthy muscles and bones.
  • Sweet Potatoes add healthy carbs and various wholesome nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, copper, iron and potassium. They promote powerful muscle movement.
  • Oranges contain high levels of antioxidant vitamin C, which reduces muscle soreness and fatigue.
  • Whole Grain Bread, Pasta and Cereal are good sources for carbohydrates and fiber. Runners who eat these carbs feel full for a longer amount of time and they release higher amounts of energy during workouts.
  • Canned Black Beans provide 30 percent of the DV for protein, 60 percent of the DV for fiber and 60 percent of the DV for folate in a single cup. Black beans also have naturally timed releases of carbohydrates that control blood sugar levels and preserve energy.
  • Chicken is a powerful source for protein, selenium, niacin. Working in synchrony, these three nutrients regulate fat burning and protect muscles throughout intense workouts.
  • Dark Chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants that reduce inflammation and lower runners’ risks for blood clots.

Best Supplements for Runners
Even health-conscious eaters have gaps in their food pyramids. For the strongest performance results, enhance your well-balanced diet by adding vitamins. Our recommendations include whey protein, glutamine and fish oil.

  • Whey Protein, a byproduct of the cheese-making process, is an easily digestible source for amino acids. It breaks down quickly in the body for muscle repair and recovery. The amino acids prevent loss of lean body mass and strength. Though whey protein contains less than one percent lactose, check with your physician before consumption if your body is sensitive to lactose.

Mix two tablespoons of whey protein with water or add the powder to smoothies, oatmeal, yogurt or pancake batter.

  • Glutamine is an amino acid naturally found in skeletal muscle tissue. The muscles distribute glutamine to vital organs through blood vessels, and its levels are prone to decrease during high endurance activities, such as long-distance running. Adding glutamine supplements to your diet support muscle growth, the nervous system and the immune system.

Glutamine comes in the forms of powder or pills. The DV is 30 grams divided into three dosages throughout the day. Glutamine can only be combined with cold or room temperate foods and beverages, because heat can change the amino acids’ structure. Mix the powder with water or low-acidic juices.

  • Omega-3 Fish Oil contains EPA and DHA fatty acids, and it works as a natural anti-inflammatory remedy that relieves joint pains related to exercise and arthritis. As an extra bonus, many researchers suggest that omega-3 helps reduce the risks of heart disease.

Fish oil comes in the form of a capsule. Various brands come in different EPA and DHA concentrations and purity levels. Physicians recommend searching for supplements with 400 milligrams of EPA and 200 milligrams of DHA.

Ready to gear up for your next race? We hope these foods can help fuel you for this race and beyond!

And remember, if you need to seek out a physician, the team at Mercy Health—Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine is available 24/7 on our sports medicine hotline at (419) 754-PLAY.

For more information, visit mercy.org.

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* This content is not intended to replace any formal training plans directed by licensed coaches. You should always get your doctors go-ahead prior to embarking on any fitness regime. Mercy Health, Glass City Marathon and the Toledo Roadrunners Club are not offering this content to replace a monitored training plan. — Use this content as conversation starters with your doctors, nutritionists, coaches, etc.