What you eat before, during and after each run significantly impacts your running performance and overall health, so you should think of diet as a major piece of your training arsenal. Failing to address your nutritional needs will lead to mediocre performance, injury, and burnout.
To ensure your diet is up to the task, today I’m going to share a list of the most nutrient-dense foods in the world. They’re high in quality carbohydrates, proteins, and fats as well as antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins.
I never used to eat beans growing up, but fortunately I started eating beans in my mid 20’s and I developed a taste for it.
One cup of beans has about 15 grams of fiber, which is 60 percent of the recommended daily minimum, 20 grams of protein, which can help tame hunger pangs and prevent overeating.
Not only that, beans are also full choke with vitamins, antioxidants, slow-burning carbs, and minerals, and they can make you feel satisfied without feeling sluggish.
Eating bean , and other legumes such lentils and chickpeas, can improve blood sugar control and reduce the risks of heart diseases for patients with type 2 diabetes, according to a study publish in the Archive of Interval Medicine.
Plus, beans are really inexpensive, making them a perfect meal if your budget is limited.
Lentils are truly a metabolic powerhouse.
They’re jam-packed with iron, which is an essential nutrient. If you’re iron-deficient, you get tired easily, and may even get dizzy. You’ll also have pale skin and a weaker immune system.
These tiny vegetables also score high in Vitamin B, potassium, and other valuable nutrients.
What’s more? Lentils are convenient and easy to prepare. They can be taken out of their bag and ready to serve in less than half an hour.
Avocado is a powerful fruit. First, it’s rich in monounsaturated fat, which is both good for your heart and satiating too
According to studies, avocados can help lower your levels of artery-clogging LDL, which the bad cholesterol. They can also boost your levels of HDL—the good cholesterol.
An avocado also contains more than 20 vital nutrients, including choline, Vitamin E, and Vitamin B. They’re also a great source of potassium, which is a runner-friendly nutrient that helps regulate heart and muscle contractions. Adequate potassium is essential for athletes of all ages and levels.
Though avocado is delicious and nutritious, remember that it delivers a big caloric punch. One avocado packs roughly 220 calories and 20 grams of monounsaturated fats.
Here is my full guide to avocados for runners.
This is, by far, my favorite source of protein. I eat eggs all the time, and you shouldn’t shy away from them.
However, if you are shunning eggs because you believe they are bad for your cholesterol, then think again. Recent studies have shown that eggs don’t negatively affect blood cholesterol and don’t lead to heart attacks.
Not only that, eggs are also some of the best foods you can eat if you need to shed the extra pounds. Eggs score high in protein, healthy fats, and can fill you up for longer with a very low amount of calories.
Eggs are loaded with essential amino acids—the protein building blocks your body uses to make everything from brain chemicals to muscle fiber. Protein keeps satiated for longer, helping eat less.
In fact, eating eggs in the morning can help you feel less hungry throughout the day than when your breakfast consists of complex carbs, like bagel, according to a study by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center.
Eggs, after all, are an eggcellent option.
So start your day with one egg. I usually have two or three eggs, and I like them scrambled with greens and olive oil.
5. Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes are packed with the antioxidant beta-carotene, which is a vital nutrient for athletes. They’re also loaded with Vitamin A, critical for keeping your eyes healthy, preventing sun damage, and boosting your immunity, and they’re chock full of Vitamin C, which can help you fight running-induced free radicals.
If you’re looking for a convenient pre-run meal, look no further than sweet potatoes. A cup of mashed sweet potato packs about 55 grams of carbohydrates, enough to provide you with all the energy you need for a solid hour of running.
As a runner, you need lots of antioxidants to fight against the free radicals that your body produces through its metabolic processes. According to a 2008 study conducted at Cornell University, blueberries are at the top of the list for antioxidant capabilities, highest among 25 fruits and berries.
Blueberries are also rich in manganese, a mineral involved in converting carbs, protein, and fats into energy.
Low-grade inflammation caused by running can be a source of worry for many runners, however, making kale part of your diet can drastically reduce the impact of inflammation.
Kale is one of the best sources of Vitamin K, an essential nutrient for bone development, which is especially important if you’re doing a lot of you high-intensity running. One serving of kale delivers about 700% of your daily recommended intake.
As if all of that wasn’t already enough, one serving of kale provides about 200% of the daily recommended dosage of Vitamin C. It boosts immunity and can help you ward off infections, viruses, and colds. Kale also scores high in vitamins A and B6, as well as iron and calcium.
Next time somebody rolls their eyes at you as if kale is just another trendy food, make sure you let them know the real story.
When Popeye’s creator made spinach his favorite meal, it wasn’t some figment of his imagination – it was based on real science about how this vegetable provides both strength and power.
According to research, spinach contains nitrates, which are compounds that can boost your running performance by maximizing oxygen and nutrient delivery to your circulatory system and muscles.
Spinach also scores high on its levels of Vitamin K, which is essential for keeping your bones healthy, and peptides which lower blood pressure.
Spinach contains an impressive list of other important nutrients, including Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, and iron.
9. Wild Salmon
Wild salmon is another delicious, nutrient-packed protein. In fact, A four-ounce serving of wild salmon packs about 30 grams of protein, which is one reason why it’s known as the king of fish.
Wild salmon is high in selenium, an antioxidant that promotes cardiovascular health. It’s rich in Omega-3s, which reduce post-workout inflammation. Its benefits go beyond health, and extend to actual athletic performance.
A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that fish oil supplementation can boost heart stroke volume, which is the amount of blood that the heart pumps on every contraction. It also boosts cardiac output, which is the total amount of blood that the heart pumps out.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, watercress tops its list of nutrient-dense foods. It is so high in nutrients that it makes kale and blueberries look like ordinary food!
Watercress is packed with antioxidants, Vitamin K, and so much more, and making it even more valuable; it is low in calories.
Walnuts are one of the best energizing on-the-go snacks you can eat. They’re jam-packed with the Omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which can reduce the type of inflammation that wreaks havoc on arteries. ALA can also reduce the breakdown of bones.
Walnuts contain heart-healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Studies show that walnuts can reduce LDL cholesterol levels, which are the bad cholesterol. This makes them a vital part of a heart-healthy diet.
These plant-based nuts are also high in fiber, Vitamin B, and antioxidants such as vitamin E.
Salmon has a lot to offer and fits nicely into a healthy diet plan. A 3-ounce serving of Salmon has roughly 150 calories, 20 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat.
This fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help you lower blood pressure, prevent heart diseases and a myriad of health trouble. Plus, omega-3s are also great for reducing inflammation in your body, which can help you bounce back faster following a hard workout and build stronger muscles in the long run.
In addition, Salmon, and seafood in general, scores high on iodine, which is a key nutrient for proper thyroid functioning, which is vital for keeping your metabolism running optimally.
Make sure to broil salmon and use spices, lemon juice, herbs and garlic for calorie-free flavor. And never cook them using butter or oil because doing so can significantly the calorie and fat count.
Other fish with similar benefits includes, and not limited, to sardines mackerel, trout, herring and other types of oily fish.
I love broccoli (well, I learned to love it to be honest) because it’s a great source dietary fiber, minerals, vitamins and most importantly, the stuff is in low in calories and fat.
But how can it help you lose weight?
Since this green vegetables is high in fiber, it keeps you fill and helps you control your hunger.
Broccoli is very filling and is low in calories. A cup of cooked of the stuff weights 6 ounces and has roughly 50 calories. Keep in mind that cooked broccoli is roughly 90 percent water by weight.
This awesome green is also high on calcium , and Vitamins A, C and K—powerful ingredient in fighting against all sorts of cancer, blood pressure, heart diseases and other health ailments.
In fact, one cup of cooked broccoli has twice the amount of the daily required of Vitamin K and C.
Make the most of it by adding it to your salads, or as a side with your main meal. You can also have it for breakfast because it starting off the day with a filling meal will definitely curb your calorie intake later on and help you ward off unhealthy snacking.
I love apples because they are easy to carry around, making them an excellent choice for a snack on the go. But not that’s not all, apples are also an excellent source of fiber, and other valuable nutrients.
But the question is, could an apple a day keep the extra pounds away?
The answer is a resounding yes!
In fact, according to a study published in the journal Nutrition, overweight women who had three apples (or pears) a day for a period of three months shed more weight than those who opted for a similar diet with oat cookies instead of fruits.
So why apples are awesome for weight loss?
For starters, a large apple has about five grams of fiber, and it’s roughly 85 percent water, which, as you may have already guessed it, ideal for helping you feel full for longer.
Not only that, apples have also quercetin, which is a compound that can help you fight cancer, promote healthy lungs and reduce the risks of cholesterol damage. Plus, apple are also high in pectin, a soluble fiber that helps you feel sated for longer.
In addition, apples also offer a bit of potassium, vitamin C, and other valuable nutrients.
Hello chicken lovers! I got some great news for you.
Grilled, skinless chicken breast is awesome for weight loss because of its protein and calorie content. Having chicken breast for lunch or dinner, without skin or breading, can help you consume fewer calories and help feel fuller for longer as well.
In fact, a 3-ounce portion of boneless, skinless chicken breast or one-half of a chicken breast contains roughly 140 calories, 25 grams of high quality protein.
Nevertheless, make sure to steer clear of fried chicken, chicken strips, and chicken nuggets because these are full-choke with calories and unhealthy fats, and will definitely compromise your weight loss efforts.
Plus, do your best to only consume free-roaming, organic chicken because this is a better option than those cooped up in factory farms. I also prefer the taste of the organic kind. But that’s up to you and your personal preference.
If you’re looking for a tasty source for Vitamin D, then tuna is exactly what you need. Just a 100g can of tuna packs in roughly half of the recommended dose of this vital vitamin.
It’s also great for your sex life. The vitamin limits your levels of sex hormone-binding globulin—a chemical that suppresses libido, according to the study by the Medical University of Graz.
Chocolate has a bad rap in the health-conscious circles. But, in moderation, the dark type can improve your health and overall well-being.
Don’t take my word for it.
According to research, dark chocolate that’s at least 70 percent cacao can increase the elasticity of blood vessels, resulting in better circulation and reducing the risks of stroke.
Dark chocolate also has a wide range of stimulatory compounds such as caffeine and theobromine, which have been shown to improve energy and performance.
Raw milk tops the best food list for many reasons.
The drink contains muscle healing protein, hydrating water, bone-healthy calcium, and refueling sugar in every glass —the building blocks for speeding up recovery.
A glass around bedtime may also help you get the most out of your rest time due to the slow-digesting casein proteins and ability to increase the release of sleep promoting metalonin and serotonin.
It’s up to you and your personal preferences, but at the very least, drink one cup of the stuff a day.
Add Some Spice
Adding red chili pepper to your menu cannot only add some flavor to your meals, but it can also speed up fat loss.
Chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, a compound that’s been shown to reduce appetite and boost fat burning in some studies. This substance is even sold in form and it’s a regular component in many commercial weight loss supplements.
Piperine, which is a powerful thermogenic compound found in black pepper, has been shown in recent studies that it can reduce inflammation and hinder the formation of new fat cells. This occurs in a form of a reaction known as adipogenesis, leading to a reduction in body fat, cholesterol levels and waist size.
Foods To Avoid
These foods offer little nutritional value and can actually cause real damage, therefore, you would rather not eat them at all.
This is the first thing that has to go if you are serious about losing weight and slimming down in the shortest time possible.
Processed foods contain a lot of artificial ingredients that are in no way real food. These include sugars, corn syrup, artificial colors, preservatives, artificial flavors, texturants and other harmful ingredients.
So please, you are better off eating real and natural foods, such as vegetables, lean meats, fruits, seeds and whole grains.
“Drinking soda is bad for health” should be no surprise.
In fact, these sugar-sweetened drinks are the biggest source of calories for Americans. The average American drinks roughly two cans of sugary drinks every day, according to survey.
And I hate to break it to you, but diet soda is not the solution. In fact, consuming diet soda comes with its own set of side effects that can take a toll on your health. According to a study conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center, the more diet sodas you drink, the greater your risk of becoming overweight. And it’s not just obesity.
Consuming diet soda on a daily basis is linked to a 30 percent higher risk for belly fat and high cholesterol, increasing the risks of heart disease and other health trouble, according to a study from the University of Iowa.
Aa result, avoid drinking sodas at all costs. Opt for healthier options such as tea, organic milk, or even water.
If you think about a healthy alternative for the soda at the convenience store or the vending machine, then bottle juice drinks may be the first thing that pops in mind. But truth be told, bottle juice is as bad, even worse, than soda.
Bottle juice is made with high fructose corn syrup, colors, artificial sweeteners and a myriad of unhealthy chemicals and additives. And consuming the stuff increases your blood sugar levels, leading to mood swings, unhealthy snacking, weight gain and a host of other health troubles.
So just say no to bottle juice. Opt for healthy choices such as organic milk or homemade juice. At the least, you will get to control (mostly) what gets into that glass of juice.
Or just drink water. It’s good for you.
You don’t need to be a certified nutritionist to know that regular consumption of sausages and hot dogs can lead to serious health troubles. In fact, if you eat one serving of the stuff a day, then you are running a 29 percent higher risk for diabetes, according to Harvard researchers. And for the record, one serving amounts to just two slices of a hot dog.
Other studies have also linked processed meats with obesity, high cholesterol, heart diseases, liver failure, and cancer. The list goes on.
Therefore, if you’re serious about making the right eating choices, then the hot dogs, bacons, sausages, salami, pastrami, canned meats or any other meat that has added ingredients to make it last longer, has to go.
If you can’t do it at the moment, then take a gradual approach by having ‘processed meats-free’ days.
Plus, you can also substitute heavily processed meats such as sausage or hot dogs with healthier alternatives like fresh poultry, and fish.
Fat Free Salad Dressing
Most people opting for fat-free salad dressings do it because they think that these dressings are low in calories and can oomph the nutritional firepower they get from eating greens. But that thinking might be erroneous. In fact, fat-free dressings may hinder the amount of nutrients your body absorbs from eating veggies, according to Molecular Nutrition & Food Research study.
Therefore, you are better off eating your salads without filling them up with all the fat and calories.
If you cannot have your salads without some kind of dressing, then make your own olive-oil based dressing or throw in a few slices of avocado. At least, you will boost the nutritional value of your salads without adding any chemicals or artificial additives.
The Complete List
Here is a bigger list of foods not to eat when you are trying to lose weight and get into a better shape.
- Fried food
- Fast foods
- Potato chips
- Hot chips
- Muesli bars
- Corn chips
- Table sugar
- Mint Sweets
- Regular salami
- Sweet Pickles
- Soda pop
- Diet soda
- Alcoholic drinks
- Coconut cream
- Condensed milk
- Corn syrup
- Breads & Pastas made with white flour
- Fruit tinned in syrup
- Chocolate Fudge
- Fruit juice
- Ice cream
- Frozen yoghurt
- High fat crackers
- Potato chips
- Ice cream
- Sour cream
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As I’ve previously stated, few things have a huge impact on your running performance more than nutrition. So, please add some the above foods to your daily eating menu, and you’ll see, sooner than later, a drastic improvement in your athletic performance and overall health. What’s not to like!
Thank you for reading my list of the foods every runner should eat.
Please leave your suggestions, comments, and questions in the section below.
Have an awesome day!