Carb Up, Run Stronger: Top 11 Carbohydrates Sources For Runners

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

In the world of running and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, carbohydrates are like a runner’s best friend.

These macronutrients are the body’s preferred source of energy, providing the fuel needed to keep you going strong.

In this article, we’ll explore some of the best carb-rich foods that can sustain your energy levels and keep your body running on premium fuel.

1. Brown Rice

When it comes to healthy sources of carbohydrates, brown rice takes the spotlight.

One cup of brown rice contains approximately 45 grams of carbs. This whole grain is not only a carb powerhouse but also packs a punch in terms of nutrients.

In fact, brown rice is often considered a healthier choice than refined grains like white rice, thanks to its higher protein and fiber content, as well as its abundance of vitamins.

What’s more?

Brown rice has a low glycemic index, meaning it’s digested slowly, providing sustained energy and potentially reducing fat storage.

2. Bananas

A single large banana contains approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates, making it a fantastic natural energy source for runners.

If you’ve ever experienced fatigue towards the end of your run, incorporating a banana into your pre-run or mid-run nutrition can make a significant difference.

Bananas are notably rich in potassium, a critical electrolyte that runners lose through sweat. This essential electrolyte plays a vital role in facilitating the movement of nutrients and fluids within your body, which can help prevent muscle spasms and delay the onset of fatigue.

For an optimal post-run snack, pair a banana with a protein source like peanut butter. This combination not only aids in muscle repair and recovery but also keeps you feeling satisfied. So, the next time you lace up your running shoes, consider grabbing a banana to fuel your journey.

3. Dried Fruits

If you’re preparing for a run lasting longer than 90 minutes, dried fruits should be your go-to snack.

Options like dates, dried apples, or raisins provide a convenient and energy-packed alternative to gels or sports drinks. Be sure to choose varieties that are not crispy or fried for the best results.

Dried fruits are an excellent on-the-go source of energy because they are rapidly absorbed by your body, helping to replenish your depleted fuel stores efficiently.

Their natural sugars provide a quick energy boost, making them a valuable choice for sustained endurance during longer runs. Just remember to stay hydrated while consuming dried fruits to optimize their benefits during your run.

4. Chocolate Milk

If you’re in search of the perfect post-run recovery drink, consider chocolate milk. This beverage might not be what you’d expect, but it has some excellent benefits for runners.

Despite scoring low on the glycemic index, chocolate milk is a fantastic choice for replenishing your energy and refueling your muscles after a challenging run. It offers a nearly perfect balance of carbohydrates and protein, making it an ideal choice for post-run recovery.

The carbohydrates in chocolate milk help restore your depleted glycogen stores, while the protein aids in muscle repair and growth. Additionally, the delicious taste of chocolate milk can make your post-run recovery even more enjoyable. So, don’t hesitate to reach for a glass of chocolate milk after your training sessions to maximize your recovery benefits. Pieces of healthy vegan chocolate brownie on slate board. Healthy vegetarian dessert concept.

calcium for runners
Glass of refreshing raspberry milkshake for breakfast

5. Sweet Potato

When you need a rapid source of carbohydrates, turn to sweet potatoes. These versatile tubers are not only easy to prepare but also packed with healthy carbs to fuel your runs.

Sweet potatoes offer more than just carbohydrates; they are also rich in essential minerals and vitamins, including beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E.

These nutrients play a crucial role in supporting your immune system, keeping you healthy and ready for your runs.

For a quick and fuel-dense snack, simply microwave a sweet potato and add a pinch of salt, and you have a nutritious option to power your workouts.

You can also incorporate sweet potatoes into various snacks like cookies or muffins, transforming them into healthier treats that will keep your energy levels up during your runs.

6. Whole Wheat Pasta

If you’re a pasta lover, opt for whole wheat pasta to fuel your runs effectively. One cup of whole wheat spaghetti contains approximately 37 grams of carbohydrates, making it an excellent source of sustained energy.

Compared to white pasta, whole wheat pasta offers a healthier option due to its unbleached, natural nutritional profile. It provides more nutrients, delivers longer-lasting energy, and promotes reduced fat storage.

To enhance the nutritional value of your pasta meal, pair it with lean protein sources like chicken and incorporate a variety of vegetables of your choice. This combination not only boosts the nutrient content but also supports your running performance.

Additional Resource – Superfoods for runners

7. Low-Fat Yogurt

Low-fat yogurt is a carbohydrate-rich option with approximately 12 grams of carbs. Yogurt stands out as an excellent source of carbs due to its natural sugar content, mainly lactose found in dairy products.

For post-run recovery, yogurt is a top choice because of its high glycemic index, which means it gets into your system quickly to replenish your energy stores.

However, it’s crucial to exercise caution when selecting yogurt from the market.

Many yogurts, even those with added fruits, contain significant amounts of added sugars, which can be detrimental to your health. To make the healthiest choice, carefully read the ingredient list and opt for brands with little to no added sugar. Unsweetened plain Greek yogurt and Skyr are among the best options for a healthier carb source.

8. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a beloved choice for a pre-run breakfast, offering approximately 30 grams of carbohydrates per one cup serving. It’s not only convenient to prepare but also delivers a substantial amount of easily digestible carbs.

Oatmeal is an excellent source of carbohydrates for runners, and it comes with the added benefit of being high in fiber. This fiber content can help you maintain a feeling of fullness for an extended period.

Moreover, oatmeal predominantly contains complex carbohydrates, and the presence of fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugars, making it a wise choice to sustain your energy levels during a run.

9. Whole Grains Bread

If bread is a fundamental component of your diet, opt for whole-grain bread. It stands out as a superior choice due to its higher fiber content, increased mineral and vitamin content, and lower glycemic index compared to white bread. These factors contribute to longer-lasting energy, making it an ideal choice for runners.

However, be cautious when selecting whole-grain bread. Similar to yogurt, many whole-grain bread varieties contain added sugar. To make a healthier choice, pick brands that have minimal or no added sugar in their ingredient list.

10. Apples

Apples hold a special place in my heart, and it’s not just because of their sweet flavor and satisfying crunch. These fruits offer a treasure trove of vitamins and minerals, including the beloved vitamin C, powerful antioxidants, and an array of healthy plant compounds.

But the goodness of apples doesn’t stop there. They have another trick up their sleeve – longevity. Unlike some fruits that quickly succumb to spoilage, like bananas, apples are hardy fellows. You can stock up on a substantial pile and simply tuck them away in the fridge for later enjoyment. So, feel free to indulge in this nature’s delight!

11. Watermelon

Watermelon is a runner’s dream fruit, boasting an excellent combination of carbs, potassium, and hydration. With minimal calories, watermelon offers a bounty of essential plant compounds like lycopene and citrulline.

The best part? Enjoying watermelon couldn’t be easier. You can savor its refreshing goodness on its own or get creative by adding it to salads, smoothies, or freshly squeezed juice. With so many guilt-free options, watermelon is a must-have for your running diet.

Adding Carb-Rich Foods to Your Diet

When it comes to adding carb-rich foods to your daily intake, I recommend mixing and matching these wholesome choices.

The more variety you embrace, the better, as it helps ensure you get a wide range of nutrients without worrying about calorie overload or nutrient deficiencies.

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