Second only to walking, running is indeed the most popular form of exercise worldwide. But, it’s also among the most intense. This holds especially true for outdoor running. Due to its intense nature, if you regularly run outdoors it’s important that you’re properly fueling your body with the right foods. Ideally, any foods you consume prior to and after running should contain vital nutrients that bolster your efforts by supporting maximum energy output, enhancing oxygen delivery to your muscles, and reducing overall fatigue within your muscles.
So, leaving aside the obvious like oatmeal and bananas, here I’ve compiled a quick list of six interesting foodstuffs that are among the most beneficial for outdoor runners.
1. Coffee and Tea
Whether you regularly engage in high-speed sprinting or long-distance running, you can greatly improve the effectiveness of your runs by enjoying a cup of coffee or green tea an hour or so in advance. Believe it or not it’s true! In fact, due to their rich content of caffeine, phenols, and other micronutrients, sipping these drinks prior to running can temporarily improve your cardiovascular and muscular endurance in ways that substantially boost your energy levels and delay the onset of fatigue allowing you to run more intensely and for longer periods of time.
2. Leafy Green Vegetables
Leafy green veggies are remarkably potent sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants are especially critical for suppressing excess production of free radicals during running, particularly when long distances are covered. Free-radical build up in the body can impair healthy blood flow, reduce subsequent running performance, and, over time, weaken overall immune function. Upping your daily intake of leafy green veggies is one of your best lines of defense against such potentially adverse effects.
3. Strained Yogurt
Strained (Greek-style) yogurt is an excellent source of calcium, which helps to regulate both the contraction and relaxation of muscles during outdoor running. Sufficient intake of calcium is also necessary for preventing overuse injuries to bones, muscles and joints, which all-too commonly occur after countless miles and hours of running. In addition to calcium, strained yogurt is remarkably rich in high-quality protein making it that much more beneficial for maintaining bone, muscle and joint integrity in runners.
4. Fruit-Infused Water
I’m sure you’re already aware of the importance of drinking lots of water before, during and after your outdoor runs. Ideally, you should drink an extra 2-3 cups to replace water lost in sweat. But, you don’t have to stop with just plain-ole water! Infuse it with fresh fruits and add some essential vitamins to the mix. Fruits like berries and citrus assortments (oranges, lemons and limes) are packed full of runner-friendly nutrients including th e potent antioxidant vitamin C. Running intensifies the need for vitamin C, especially when carried out for prolonged periods of time.
5. Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are convenient and incredibly versatile sources of countless beneficial nutrients needed by runners, including protein, B vitamins and electrolyte minerals. Many varieties like almonds, peanuts and sunflower seeds are especially high in the powerful antioxidant vitamin E. Interestingly, vitamin E has been shown to improve the body’s ability to transport and deliver oxygen through the blood to the exercising muscles that continuously need it. I should also mention that nut and seed butters are as nutritious as their whole counterparts, the healthiest of which are minimally processed and low in sugar.
6. Whole Eggs
It’s important for runners to consume adequate amounts of B vitamins for optimal performance. Whole eggs are a valuable source of many including choline, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin B12. Together, these vitamins function in optimizing oxygen delivery to muscles in ways that enhance energy production, alleviate fatigue, and expedite recovery. Egg yolks also contain large amounts of high-quality protein, antioxidants and vitamin D, which is necessary for proper absorption of the bone-building mineral calcium. While you can generally eat a couple of eggs prior to or after a run, engaging in ultra-distance outdoor running might require you to carry them on hand.
And there you have it—Six quick and convenient foods for fueling your outdoor runs. The foods highlighted here collectively house a variety of nutrients that are highly beneficial for runners. In addition to eating the right foods, it’s also important to approach any running program in a safe, strategic manner, as habitually doing so can place excessive stress and strain on the joints leading to overuse injuries and other musculoskeletal problems.