Following on from our recent articles on nutrition and, particularly, the benefits of dark chocolate. Here we discuss other types of superfoods that can improve your performance in your toughest training sessions and on race day. Which superfoods should be in a runners diet?

What are superfoods in a runners diet?

Maybe it’s my overactive imagination but when I think of ‘superfoods’, I think of a stick of celery in a cape with its underpants over its leggings. Alas, and frankly unfortunately, that is not a superfood. Yet celery on the other hand can have it’s benefits within a runners diet.

Superfoods are types of foods which are jam-packed with the maximum amount of nutrients. The reality is though, the term ‘superfood’ is just a canny marketing trick because there are no specific categories or requirements for an item of food to earn the much-coveted super food title.

They also do different things; there are superfoods which contain healthy fats and vital oils like salmon, important for healthy cognitive development and joints and, the most famous of all superfoods, blueberries which contribute to overall health. If you were in a blueberry you would be amazed by the sheer number of vitamins, soluble fibre and phytochemicals crammed into that tiny little pea size fruit. You literally couldn’t move for all the goodness – admittedly, it would be quite hard to move anyway, I mean they’re pretty small. I digress.

superfoods in a runners diet - beetroot

Superfoods that can help a runners diet

As a runner, the most important foods are those that are rich in vitamins. To help weary bodies fight off infections. And foods that are full of proteins and carbohydrates to help tired muscles recover. Here are some of our favourite superfoods for runners:

The foods

  1. Beetroot – The benefits of beetroot are vast. This underestimated root vegetable raises nitric oxide levels in the blood which can improve blood flow, expand cardiovascular capacity and increase muscle power.
  • Sweet potatoes – Sweet potatoes are the perfect carbohydrate of choice to encourage slow release energy. Exactly what is required for long distance runners. Avoiding carbs which cause blood sugar to rise quickly and then crash is paramount. After all we’re in the distance game, not the sprint game.
  • Porridge – Oh yes, porridge is a superfood too! A warm bowl of wholegrain porridge is the perfect mix of fibre and high-energy carbohydrates to sustain your performance over a longer period. You can incorporate other superfoods such as blueberries and bananas within your porridge. Which forms a final form super food.
  • Beans – Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart, the more you eat them, the more, you’ll be able to run faster for longer. Okay, so it’s not as catchy as the other version of the rhyme but it’s nonetheless true. Beans contain calcium and phosphorous, vital for strengthening bones for high impact exercise and, not only that, they’re also full of essential minerals, fibre and protein which contributes to improving overall health as well as athletic performance – oh, and of course, your heart.
  • Blueberries – These small little fruits have already received a lot of praise in this article. But recent studies have shown that regularly eating blueberries can help reduce muscle soreness and fatigue. What better accompaniment to that morning bowl of whole-grain porridge.

Moment of silence for everyone allergic to nuts ( me 🙁 )

  • Nuts – Although they’re high in calories, nuts contain high levels of minerals and healthy fats. Which can help support your body’s natural function, particularly if worn down by lots of high intensity activity. A perfect healthy snack to keep you going throughout the day.
  • Chia seeds – If there was a King of the Seeds, it would, unquestionably, be the Chia Seed. Packed with double the amount of protein to other seeds, and 5 times more calcium than milk. They’re really perfect for people with an active lifestyle and are perfect addition to your post-workout meal or shake.
  • Bananas – Okay, so not the most original. But there is a reason the banana has enjoyed more Wimbledon finals than Roger Federer himself. They are full of vital vitamins and minerals. But most importantly, the potassium in bananas are necessary for stimulating vital electrical impulses in the body to fire up your muscles and facilitate proper hydration. Best eaten 30-40 minutes prior to exercise or mid-way through a longer workout.
  • Salmon – In addition to the essential fats and oils, which improve joint health and reduce inflammation to allow you to get back training quicker. Salmon is also packed full of protein to facilitate muscle growth and recovery. It is also a brain food – guaranteed to make that spongy grey matter between your ears healthier.
  • Carrots – Yes, there’s more to this orange root vegetable than just helping you see in the dark. Although that might be beneficial as we enter into winter. Crucially, they contain disproportionately large amounts of vitamin A, a powerful anti-oxidant. Vitamin C, which helps support the immune-system. And, most interestingly, selenium a mineral which has powerful effects on your immune system and cognitive development.

Let us know your favourite superfoods in the comments and check out articles on the benefits of dark chocolate as well as other key nutritional tips.

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