As a runner, your diet is key when it comes to ensuring your body is receiving all the nutrients it needs to stay in tip-top condition.
Runners need healthy joints, muscles that can recover quickly and strong bones. Ensure your body is getting all the right stuff by eating a balanced, varied diet containing the following key foods.
For healthy joints
If you’ve ever suffered from knee problems, ankle aches or hip pain, every runner knows just how important it is to take good care of your joints. Give them all the help you can by eating these joint-friendly foods.
Most berries contain anthocyanins and ellagic acid, both of which help protect joints against inflammation, so sprinkle them liberally on your breakfast bowl or snack on a handful throughout the day.
A great snack for eating on the move, nuts contain healthy fats and antioxidants which help repair damage to your joints. They're also a great energy boost for weary runners.
Rich in joint healthy omega-3 fatty acids, eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines can help with joint pain and stiffness. The essential fatty acids found in oily fish can help prevent the body from producing the enzymes that erode cartilage.
A great source of essential fatty acids, chia seeds have the highest levels of omega-3 of all seeds and are therefore a great vegetarian alternative to oily fish. Sprinkle on your muesli or add a handful to smoothies.
This yellow spice contains the powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, curcumin. This helps reduce joint pain and swelling by countering the enzymes that cause joints to become inflamed. What more excuses do you need to order a curry tonight?
For healthy muscles
It’s important to get enough protein to build stronger muscles and repair damage sustained during a workout.
Eggs are a fantastic source of protein and, along with milk, they contain leucine, the most important amino acid for building muscle. Dairy is a great source of protein, particularly milk, yoghurt, and cottage cheese, which is low in fat yet has a high protein content.
Other excellent sources of protein include lean chicken, fish, soy, but also the Peruvian grain, quinoa. The protein in quinoa is ‘complete’ protein, meaning it contains all 9 amino acids necessary for the body to function properly and repair muscle tissue. For more info on protein, click here
Essential for reducing muscle soreness and repairing tissue damage, antioxidants can be found at high concentrations in green tea and in red fruits, blueberries and the amazing runner’s superfood: tart cherries.
In fact, tart cherries are so good for our muscles they could wear a cape and fly. They contain high levels of anthocyanins which help reduce muscle damage, inflammation and oxidative stress. Drink tart cherry juice in the days before as well as after a race for maximum effect.
For healthy bones
As runners, our bones take a pounding; it’s vital to ensure that our skeleton is as strong as possible. Strong bones can help guard against shin splints, stress fractures and other conditions.
Although running itself encourages your body to actively strengthen your bones, you need to be taking on enough calcium to enable this to happen. Be aware that your body needs Vitamin D to enable it to absorb calcium properly.
Top sources of calcium include:
- Milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products
- Broccoli, cabbage, kale and other green vegetables
- Tofu, nuts
- Small fish that are eaten bones and all, such as sardines, anchovies and whitebait.
Oily fish and eggs both contain vitamin D. The average UK diet does not include enough Vitamin D. However, eating it is not the only way to get Vitamin D. Our skin makes Vitamin D from sunlight – from UVB rays in particular.
For most of the year (March to September) just spending some time outside in the sunlight is the best way to ensure your Vitamin D levels are replenished.
It’s worth noting that UVB rays cannot travel through glass, so sitting by the window isn’t enough... Get outside and go for a run – it’s the perfect answer!