September 17, 2012

Superfoods for Runners

Eating a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and fluids is necessary for top running performance and to help prevent injury. Without adequate nutrition, performance may be compromised. Specific nutrient needs are based on age, sex, size and activity level, so consult your physician or registered dietitian for individualized nutrition advice.

Bananas are digested quickly and provide fuel for the muscles. They make a perfect pre-run snack and should be eaten 1 to 4 hours before a run for adequate blood glucose levels. They are full of carbohydrates which provides 40 to 50 percent of the energy requirement during moderate exercise. Bananas contain potassium which helps to prevent muscle cramps when running. They are also beneficial for after exercise to help refuel.

Whole Grains
The body breaks down carbohydrates into glucose, which is used by the muscles for energy. Choosing whole grains is a smart choice for runners since they are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber which are essential for endurance exercise. They contain B-vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin and thiamin which produce energy from fuel sources in food. Runners often have low riboflavin stores so eating whole-grains are beneficial. Excellent options for runners include whole-grain bagels, oatmeal, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons,12 to 15 percent of athletes calories should come from protein. Proteins give your body the energy to build new tissues and muscle. Eggs contain all of the essential amino acids and one egg has 10 percent of your daily protein needs for muscle repair. Eggs contain iron which is necessary for runners because it carries oxygen to cells in the body and many runners have inadequate levels due to strenuous exercise.

Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are excellent for runners because they are packed with vitamins A and C, potassium and carbohydrates. During running, potassium is lost from sweat and muscle contraction and extra potassium is required. Sweet potatoes help contribute to a high carbohydrate diet which assists runners in exercising for longer according to the Colorado State University Extension. These potatoes not only fuel the body during a run but also help to replace vitamins and minerals lost through exercise.

Colorado State University Extension: Potassium and Health

Colorado State University Extension: Nutrition for the Athlete

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: Sports Nutrition

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Bananas

U.S. Department of Agriculture: Nutrient Data for Sweet Potato

What are some of your favorite "superfoods"? Do you have any foods that you love to have before or after exercise?

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