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Do you ever look in the fridge and realize you have nothing to sustain you for your run? Or maybe you’ve decided to take up jogging during the quarantine, and your usual diet of cereal and takeout food isn’t cutting it. We know that meal prep, eating the right snacks, and taking the right supplements are hard habits to form, but they are an essential part of a complete workout. Because running demands a lot from your body, it’s important to get this right.
In the same way that people eat high-protein snacks when trying to lose weight or pack on muscle, runners need to eat high-carb foods with plenty of vitamins to support muscle function. In addition to healthy eating, the best supplements for running help fill any gaps in your diet.
Why is this so important, even for casual joggers? If you aren’t eating enough before you run, you won’t be able to perform your best. And when you’ve finished, if you don’t have a post-workout snack, you’ll likely be more fatigued rather than energized. The most basic rules of nutrition are utilizing all the food groups, but when it comes to the best nutrition for runners, fiber and grains are especially useful fuel for your body.
To help athletes find the best nutritious foods and supplements for running, we’ve put together a list of our favorites. We’ve also included protein powders and supplements as well.
What Are the Best Foods for Running?
If you have questions about what to eat before, after, and in between running, we’ve got answers. Everything on this list has been chosen with care for your performance. When it comes to the best foods for running, our go-to’s are:
- Oats and oatmeal
- Whole grain pasta
- Plain yogurt
- GU Energy Gels
- Peanut butter or almond butter
- Spinach and kale
- Nuts and seeds
And, of course, if you’re craving something sweet, dark chocolate is a great dessert for runners. When it comes to the best supplements for runners, we’ve included various options based on your particular needs.
Keep reading for our guide to nutrition for runners. Soon, you’ll be reaching your next PR after you’ve prepped your kitchen with items from this list.
Before you head out for your run, peel a banana for an optimal energy boost. This high carb fruit is the perfect fuel base for a long run. Because they’re high in potassium, bananas also help your body after losing water through sweat on a hot day. Potassium is essential to muscle function. This fruit is also great for post-exercise recovery smoothies. (Try two whole bananas for a really thick shake.)
2. First Endurance Ultragen Protein
Your post-workout recovery shake is an essential step in adding nutrients back into your body. Ultragen makes a few flavors and vanilla is a great choice for mixing with fruit, but if you prefer chocolate, go right ahead. Two scoops of this in a blender with a banana, plain yogurt, almond milk or water is the ideal shake for recovery. Add more fruit or peanut butter for variety.
3. McCann’s Irish Oatmeal
Ideal for breakfast or a quick mid-afternoon snack, oats are the fuel you need for a long run and will give you enough energy so you won’t be caught with hunger pains halfway through your workout. Add a banana and honey for more healthy calories.
4. Spread the Love Naked Peanut Butter
Great as a snack or added with anything else, peanut butter is a must for an essential runner’s nutrition plan. But make sure you aren’t buying one with tons of added sugars, because those will add the wrong kinds of fat to your diet. If you aren’t into peanuts, try almond butter, or if neither of those sounds enticing, get your fats from dry nuts and beans, which can also be made into quick snacks. Always try to work in healthy fats, no matter what you’re eating.
5. Whole Grain Pasta
Maybe the most obvious of choices, pasta has been a runner’s staple since forever. But did you know about whole grain pasta? It may sound strange, but it’s delicious and adds so many more nutrients like complex carbs, fibers, iron, protein and zinc than refined white pasta, which is stripped of its nutrients during processing. Test it out with your favorite sauce and see what you think. It may be the best pasta dinner you’ve ever had.
6. GU Energy Gels
A must-have for all runners, GU running gel provides caffeine, energy, electrolytes, and a variety of flavors like salted caramel, watermelon, and tutti frutti. A go-to item for that tiny back pocket of your shorts you never knew exactly what to put in aside from a single key, these Gu gels will perk you right up. They also come in non-caffeine versions. They have 100 calories and are best taken 5 minutes before a workout and every 45 minutes during.
7. Turmeric Curcumin Supplement
Best for anti-inflammatory, joint support, and anti-aging, this supplement can be taken post-workout. Part tumeric, part black pepper extract and Bioperine, this combination will help if you have any injuries or to help heal existing ones. They promote muscle health and help to maintain your endurance levels.
8. Nature’s Bounty Fish Oil Supplements
As one of the best supplements for runners, fish oil helps with inflammation by reducing lactic acid buildup in the muscles, which leads to longer runs, less soreness, and a quicker recovery. This powerful effect comes from the omega-3 fatty acids within the oil.
9. Nature Made Calcium Supplements
Calcium is an important part of any person’s diet because it adds strength to our bones. Using a supplement can be an easy way to add this to your diet, especially if you’re not into dairy products for health reasons or lifestyle preferences. While yogurt can be a great source of calcium, these supplements work just as well.
10. Doctor’s Best High Absorption Magnesium
When it comes to the best nutrition for running, we’ve covered calcium, magnesium, healthy fats, protein and more. However, there’s one important vitamin your body still needs — magnesium.
While it’s better to get your intake of magnesium through foods — avocados, spinach, kale, nuts and seeds — it can be depleted quickly during a long run, and like the best supplements for running, this high absorption magnesium gives you the extra boost your body needs. Magnesium helps transport energy to your muscles and helps assist in muscle contraction, so if you didn’t eat enough before a workout or didn’t eat the right things, a quick fix by a supplement will do the trick.