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Best Foods for Runners

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Updated April 07, 2014

A runner's diet is important not for only maintaining good health, but also to promote peak performance. Here are some of the best foods to help runners achieve a healthy diet.

1. Whole Grain Pasta and Bread

Pasta dish
Annabelle Breakey
Why It's Good for Runners: Runners need plenty of carbohydrates to fuel workouts, and breads and pasta are obvious choices. But, let's face it, not all breads and pasta are created equal. Whole grain foods are less processed and therefore contain more of the natural nutrition found in the grain, including more fiber. So, as compared to white pasta and bread, you'll get more nutrients from whole grains and the increased fiber will help you feel fuller longer.

 

How to Add it to Your Diet: Stock-up on whole-grain breads, pasta, rolls, crackers, and cereal. Try to avoid white bread or any baked products made with white flour.

2. Eggs

Spinach salad with eggs
John E. Kelly
Why They're Good for Runners: One egg satisfies about 10 percent of your daily protein needs, and the amino acids in eggs will help with muscle repair and recovery. You'll also get about 30 percent of your recommended amount of vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.

 

How to Add Them to Your Diet: Whether you like them boiled, scrambled, poached, or fried, eggs can be eaten anytime of the day. Mix up your routine by having an omelet or frittata for dinner.

Dinner Omelet Recipe

3. Beans

Bean salad
Rob MacDougall
Why They're Good for Runners: Cooked dry beans like pinto, lentil, garbanzo, and split pea are high in protein and fiber, a plant source of iron and low in fat.

 

How to Add Them to Your Diet: Beans are a great accompaniment to soups and stews. Rice and beans makes an easy meal that contains both carbs and protein.

Black Bean Recipes

4. Salmon

Salmon
James And James
Why It's Good for Runners: Salmon is an excellent protein source, but it's also one of the best food sources of omega-3 fats, essential for brain development and function. Omega-3s also assist in the prevention of heart disease and high blood pressure. Salmon also has protein, vitamins A, B and D as well as a range of minerals vital to a balanced and healthy diet.

How to Add it to Your Diet: Salmon is a very versatile fish -– just add some fresh herbs and bake, grill, or poach it. Even canned salmon is good for you and can be used in salads, sandwiches and chowder.

Recipes Using Canned Salmon

5. Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potato fries
Joseph De Leo
Why They're Good for Runners: Sweet potatoes contain the always-important carbs and are an excellent source vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant. They're also a good source of vitamin C, potassium, iron.

How to Add Them to Your Diet: As the name says, these potatoes are sweet, so you don't need to do much to make them taste good. Cook them in the microwave, add a pinch of margarine or butter, and you've got a great side for dinner. Or, slice them up into wedges and bake some tasty oven fries.

6. Low-Fat Yogurt

fruit and yogurt
Gregor Schuster
Why It's Good for Runners: Low-fat yogurt is a great source protein and carbs. It also contains calcium, which is important for runners, especially those at risk for stress fractures.

 

How to Add it to Your Diet: Eat a container of low-fat yogurt as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack or make tasty smoothies with yogurt, ice, and your favorite fresh or frozen fruits.

Strawberry Smoothie Recipe

7. Bananas

Banana
Stuart Minzey
Why They're Good for Runners: A good source of carbs, bananas also contain potassium, which runners lose through sweating and help regulate muscle contraction and prevent cramping. Bananas are also considered a "safe" pre-run food because they're unlikely to cause gastrointestinal issues.

 

How to Add it to Your Diet: Bananas are convenient to eat as snacks or as part of a meal. Add them to your cereal or make a smoothie with frozen bananas and skim milk.

Banana Smoothie Recipe

8. Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter on Toast
Stockbyte
Why It's Good for Runners: Peanut butter is tasty and satisfying, which makes it a great food for runners who are trying to lose weight. The protein and fiber in peanut butter helps you feel full and it's not fattening, unless you overeat total calories that day. For example, eating a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter will make you feel fuller than if you ate a plain white bagel. Peanut butter is also a source of protein, needed to build and repair muscles damaged during training.

How to Add it to Your Diet: Get the natural kind with oil on the top and no added ingredients. Though high in fat, it's the good fat and there's no cholesterol. Peanut butter on whole grain or multi-grain bread makes a great breakfast.

9. Carrots

Baby carrots
Jenny Acheson
Why They're Good for Runners: Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A, which helps promote a strong immune system. They fill you up but are low in calories, making them a great snack for runners who are watching their weight.

 

How to Add it to Your Diet: Snack on baby carrots when you're hungry before dinner, so you can satisfy your hunger pangs and avoid overeating during dinner.

10. Quinoa

Quinoa salad
Photo by Thomas Barwick
Why It's Good for Runners: For those runners who are bored with pasta, quinoa is a tasty alternative. Quinoa is not only packed with carbs, it's also very rich in protein. A 6-ounce serving of quinoa contains 132 calories, 23 grams of carbohydrate, 4 grams of protein, and 2 grams of unsaturated fat.

How to Add it to Your Diet: Cooking quinoa is very similar to boiling rice. It's an excellent side dish to have with fish or chicken. You can also eat it cold to go along with a salad.

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