These are the real whole foods you can get anywhere to help with training, racing and recovery.
Are you putting the right fuel in your body to get the best performance from your body? We’ve picked the 8 real, whole foods that will power your training, racing and recovery.
Whole Foods: a travel-ready plan
Two quick notes about the foods we’ve selected.
1 – We are not dieticians/nutritionists nor do we play them on the internet. This is for general information and entertainment purposes only. None of this is meant to be prescriptive or a “silver bullet” to fix your problems. Please consult with a certified medical professional to asses your personal needs and issues.
2 -We’re traveling more and more for races and are looking for foods that we can eat all year long, anywhere. So, every food on this list is:
- Available year-round (not seasonal produce)
- Available almost anywhere (regardless of the hemisphere)
- Not packaged
When you select these foods to fuel your running, you can stick to a consistent diet, no matter the time of year or where you live. Winning.
If you want to step up your game even more, check out our podcast episode about science-backed supplements for run recovery.
However, we’re big believers in using supplements as exactly that – supplements to your diet – and not as food replacements. Shop around the edges of the supermarket, skip the processed food and eat all those great whole foods full of nutrients around the edges!
The 80/20 plan
Do you have to be perfect all the time for optimum performance? Heck no!
Eat healthy food 80% of the time. Then have some tortilla chips and Chinese takeaway for 2 out of 10 meals. Totally fine.
It’s a balance that will satisfy your cravings, but still keep your training on track. And on that note, a healthy diet isn’t just about getting fish oil or brown rice… it’s about all of it, in balance. Have a variety of healthy foods, as often as possible.
Now, let’s get started.
The best 8 foods for run-recovery
There are lots of types of fish – ranging from the white, oily fishes to tuna and salmon – and they’re all pretty healthy for you.
Fish contain protein, which is great for muscle recovery.
They also contain fish oils (obviously!) – Omega 3s. Fish oils help with inflammation caused by exercise and aid with quicker recovery. That means less soreness and might even help you get back to training faster and result in improved running times.
Fish oils also help improve blood flow, delivering more oxygen to the muscles at peak performance. Omega 3s are great for heart health, overall – helping prevent cardiovascular disease as you age.
As if that wasn’t enough, Omega 3s also help with joint health – easing stiffness and combating the chemicals that may cause cartilage damage.
It may even help with more fat loss.
If you’re vegan, you can get your protein from beans and tofu and Omega 3s from flax seeds and walnuts.
2. Protein shakes/smoothies
Smoothies are fantastic because you can add in whatever you’d like, including a nice scoop of protein powder, and have a complete meal. However, it’s important to be aware of your calorie intake, as it’s pretty easy to overindulge on a smoothie.
Here are some smoothie tips:
- Stick to naturally occurring sugars (fruits), don’t add in additional sugar
- Make smoothies yourself, as purchased ones tend to have too many added sugars
- Make milk or yogurt your base for even more added protein
- Add an avocado for some great essential fats
Smoothies make a great post-run recovery drink.
We’re big fans of white rice after a hard workout day, or if we’re fueling up for a big workout the next day. It’s a simple carbohydrate that gets absorbed really quickly.
For daily eating and the most fiber and nutrients, brown rice is the way to go – it even includes about 6% protein! White rice is brown rice that’s had the husk (and a lot of nutrients) stripped off of it, so brown rice is much healthier.
Fun fact: black rice isn’t actually rice.
We love potatoes! Sweet potatoes and plain potatoes, both. Although just like rice, we eat them at different points in our recovery for the ideal benefit.
Sweet potatoes are a daily go-to. They taste great with just a bit of salt and there’s no need for added sugar. They’re full of Vitamin A and fiber, and are low on the glycemic index, meaning your body takes time to break them down and they don’t lead to sugar spikes.
Check what types of potatoes you have locally (there are dozens of kinds!) – each variety has its own benefits. Some are higher in fiber, others are waxier and hold their shape in cooking. It’s worth doing a little experimenting.
White potatoes are higher in the glycemic index, simple sugars that are absorbed quickly. You can lower that glycemic index by leaving the skin on – and getting Vitamins B and C. Just like white rice, we reserve these little bundles of carbohydrates for a workout-heavy day or race prep.
Who doesn’t love berries? They taste great and they’re packed with antioxidants. They’re low in calories and they’re not too high in sugar. They’re a great source of Vitamin C and they’re important for cardiovascular health.
Berries are a great daily addition to your diet, try eating them on top of your porridge or oatmeal, which is also great for keeping your cholesterol down.
Have them every day!
6. Nut butters
Nut butters are an easy snack and are full of protein and essential fats. They’re a great source of unsaturated fats and also calcium, magnesium and potassium. The main lookout (besides people with nut allergies) are that they’re high in calories, so it can be easy to consume too much.
When you purchase a nut butter, make sure to go for a natural one without added sugar or palm oil.
Add nut butter on top of bananas or a slice of toast and you have a perfect morning breakfast. There’s even some evidence that a bit of peanut butter before a race helps to spare your carbohydrate stores for longer when you’re running a marathon!
Nuts, in their actual nut form, have all the same benefits as nut butters – high in protein, good fats and vitamins. They can be even more portable for snacking on the go, so that’s a great bonus.
We recommend measuring them out. A typical serving is just a handful, and that will give you about 200 calories. Pop that amount into a little container when you’re on the go – otherwise, it can be too easy to overeat!
The salt on salted nuts is great for replacing your electrolytes when you’re training hard. But, keep in mind that too much salt can increase blood pressure, so if you’re not dripping with sweat after you come back from your run, opt for unsalted nuts.
Seeds are just as snackable as nuts, but packed with even more goodness. Nuts and seeds are high in oils and protein, so they help support the growth of the blood cells, strengthen the bones – promoting healthy oxygen transmission around the body and a strong structure. This combo helps reduce the risk of injury.
You can even mix them in with nuts (and maybe some raisins or cocoa nibs) to make your own trail mix. Don’t forget our tip about pre-measuring (#7).
In a race build, when you’re really training hard, it’s a good idea to snack on carbohydrates. However, if you’re in the off-season, you don’t need as many carbs, and so snacking on nuts and seeds is a nice snack to have.
How easy is that? We’ve basically just told you that you can eat delicious, whole foods, cheat 20% of the time, throw in some really delicious treats and you’re optimally prepared for racing! That’s a win.
We’re all about breaking down science into easily-digestible and practical information. Because we know you don’t have the time to mess around with gimmicks that don’t work.
If you like real, honest information that improves your running, then you’re in the right place. Listen or watch the podcast episode, above/below for even more details. And be sure to subscribe to our newsletter to keep on top of what we discover next.
Timestamps of What You Will Learn In The Episode
- How Mike’s 80/20 training transfers over to nutrition also
- Fun facts about colored rice and white potatoes
- New science around the benefits of peanut butter before marathons helps with performance
- 3:03 | Fish
- 7:24 | Protein Shake/Smoothie
- 9:59 | Rice
- 13:57 | Potatoes
- 17:13 | Berries
- 19:21 | Nut Butters
- 22:00 | Salted Nuts
- and more!
- “To perform better through life it’s not about 5 foods a day. It’s about 30 different unprocessed, natural whole foods”
- “It’s not just about eating one food. It’s about eating a balanced and varied diet for health and fitness gains.”
- “New studies show that peanut butter before racing a marathon might help store carbohydrates”
- “Warning: Your stomach isn’t a bottomless pit. You can eat too many calories with shakes”
Links & Learnings
- 30 food choices to help boost recovery
- Should you eat after a run even if you’re not hungry?
- 12 foods every runner should avoid
- DLake/Daren Instagram – instagram.com/dlakecreates – Mike Trees – https://instagram.com/run.nrg
- Podcast Concept, Production and Marketing BY POD PASTE
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