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.
Beans score high on protein, which is essential for speeding up recovery and building muscle. A cup of beans has about as much protein as two cups of milk.
Beans are also a significant source of energy. One cup of cooked beans gives you an energy dose of 30 to 40 grams of complex, slow-release carbohydrates.
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.
Eggs are one of the best sources of protein, and one of my favorites too. They contain all the essential amino acids, which means they can help speed your recovery as well as support other vital bodily functions. Depending on your fitness level and training goals, one egg can pack about 10 percent of your daily protein needs.
One egg also packs about 30 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin K, which is crucial for promoting good bone health. Eggs are also rich in choline, a nutrient that’s key for maximum brain functioning.
Contrary to popular belief, eggs do not increase cholesterol. Studies have shown that egg eaters are actually at a lower risk for heart-related problems than those who avoid them.
Eggs are an excellent addition to a weight loss diet. Research has linked eating eggs for breakfast with sustained weight loss, as well as other health benefits.
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.
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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!