You’ve heard the old adage, “You are what you eat.” When it comes to training for upcoming runs, this is 100% true. Your diet is just as important as your daily runs when you’re in training mode. So, you should put as much thought into your meal plans as you put into your workout plans. Especially, if you knew about these energy boosting foods!
It should come as no surprise that different foods have different health benefits. Something a little sugary can give you an energy boost during your runs if you plan it right. Similarly, something with some carbs and fiber than burn off slowly can give you more sustained energy.
In any situation, you shouldn’t binge on donuts and sodas if you’re looking to improve your run times and overall health. It’s important to find healthy options that will increase your energy both immediately and over time.
Fruits have a good amount of sugar in them naturally. Eating fruit like apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas can give you the same energy boost that you would get from a candy bar. However, they don’t give you the sugar crash that you would get from processed sugar.
To get the most nutritional value out of your fruit, eat the whole fruit as opposed to juicing it. The pulp and fiber that you get from the fruit are also beneficial to your system, and you lose most of that if you just juice it.
Tree nuts like cashews, almonds, and pecans contain protein and fiber that can help you recover from a workout. Even legumes like peanuts (which are often found in store-bought nut mixes) can be beneficial for workout recovery. The faster you recover from your workouts, the better you’ll be in your next workout. Quicker recovery times mean more energy in the long run.
Eating nuts can also benefit your heart. Nuts contain unsaturated fats that are linked to heart health and lowered cholesterol. Since you’re participating in a high-cardio sport, you definitely want a healthy heart!
You don’t want to pound a whole bunch of oatmeal right before a run, but a cup of this energy boosting food can be a great pre-run breakfast. Oatmeal is filling, and it doesn’t slosh around in your stomach like a bowl of cereal would. If you make plain oatmeal, it won’t contain much sugar. Then you can add your own sugar, honey, or fruit to sweeten it up a bit for an added energy boost.
Oats also have numerous health benefits. Because they are so fibrous, they digest slowly so you don’t get hungry quickly after eating them. You maintain energy for longer after eating oatmeal than you would from eating a quick-burning food like fruit or sugary cereal.
Much like eating nuts, eating oatmeal is also linked to heart health. If you eat a quick breakfast like an apple and walnut oatmeal, you get twice the bang for your buck!
As you read more about how to eat before races, you’ll see “carb loading” mentioned a lot. Carb loading refers to eating more carbohydrate-rich foods in the days leading up to a race than you normally would. When your body processes carbs, it turns them into sugar, which gives you energy.
However, you don’t want to go crazy on high-carb food that’s also super greasy, heavy, or sugary right before a run. The negative side effects of eating a bunch of junk food outweigh the benefits of carbs. When you’re trying to carb load in the days leading up to a race, plan to eat a lot of foods with natural sugars (like fruits and vegetables) and some light pasta dishes.
When possible, try to combine some healthy food options so that you get a good mix of energy-boosting food. If you eat the same thing every day, you’re going to get bored and eventually stop eating well. Plan your meals and snacks in advance and look for recipes that are healthy and that taste good.
When you enjoy what you eat, you’re more likely to keep eating it. Likewise, when you eat energy boosting foods, you’ll feel better and run longer. A lot of runners start their training regimen with aspirations to eat well but fall off when it gets too hard or they get tired of it. With a little planning, you can eat well throughout your whole training regimen.