You’ve got a solid training plan and maybe even a coach. The summer heat and humidity are no match for your all-season motivation, and somehow you’re finding time to get enough rest and recovery time. Good for you! (And do you mind sharing your secret?)
Even if you’re that “together,” there’s one place most all of us can find room for improvement: the kitchen. As your runs get longer, or you’re putting more of them on the calendar each week, getting enough to eat – and the right stuff – helps your hard work pay off.
So what can runners add to our grocery lists to get the most from our training and racing? We checked in with Ashley Muschiatti, Performance Specialist and Dietitian with Joe Gibbs Racing and Novant Health Sports Performance. She recommends runners try these staples for pre- and post-run success.
Fruit Gels: While these may seem like a treat that’s just for your kids, fruit snacks and sport gels or chews are a great carbohydrate-based snack that contain readily-accessible sugars to provide your body with glucose for your long runs. These quick, easy-to-carry and easy-to-eat snacks are great for quick energy during a run. They’re pretty tasty, too.
Dark Leafy Greens, Red Meat, and/or Iron Fortified Cereals: Iron deficiency is one of the highest-occurring deficiencies in runners due to many reasons including loss of iron in sweat, increased iron needs of athletes, altitude training, and blood loss through exercise’s effects on the digestive tract. Due to those reasons, and more, iron-rich foods should be a staple in the runner’s diet. Red meats and animal proteins like egg, poultry, beef, and fish are high in heme iron, which is the most bioavailable. If you are vegetarian or vegan, plant sources like spinach, kidney beans, and iron-fortified cereals are also great sources of iron. These are non-heme iron sources, so add a source of vitamin C to boost non-heme iron absorption.
High Water Content Fruit: The longer the run, the warmer the weather, need for hydration increases. While hydration is important year-round, during the summer you’ll sweat even more. Along with making sure you get plenty of water, you can also lean on fruits with high water content for additional hydration. Peaches, berries, watermelon, and cantaloupe, are all easy to find during the summer months and can help keep fluid intake high.
Pickles or Pickle Juice: We know that we lose electrolytes in sweat, and we hear all the time about the importance of replenishing sodium. One of the most common ways to do so is through sports drinks with electrolytes and carbohydrates. If all that sugar isn’t your game, consider this: a pickle spear surprisingly has the same or slightly more sodium than a single serving of most sports drinks. Try 1-2 pickles or a shot of pickle juice as a great electrolyte replacement food that also contains other electrolytes to help prevent cramping.
Bananas: Bananas are high in potassium. Along with sodium, potassium plays a big role in muscle contraction and fluid movement in and out of the body’s cells. Potassium usually is intracellular, while sodium is extracellular, but post-exercise (especially running) more potassium is outside of the cell wall wanting to get back in. That’s the science behind the fluid (water) and bananas you find post-race. Consuming both helps return electrolyte balance and get potassium back into the cell to prevent cramping. Nectarines, baked potatoes, and yogurt are also high potassium food sources.