To all of you out there preparing for your first, or next 5K, be sure you fuel your runs properly with some of the best foods that help you prepare for a 5K. I’ve never been a runner myself, but I’ve always admired the diligence of runners, along with how most of them properly fuel their bodies. As a fitness enthusiast, I always love learning what foods are best for fueling my body and giving it the best nutrition possible. That being said, I’d like to share with you certain foods that help you prepare for a 5K, or any athletic event of high endurance for that matter. The best part is, most of these are probably ones you already eat, and are some of the healthiest ones to choose.
Oats are a true super grain, and one of the top foods that help you prepare for a 5K. Oats are very high in protein, slow to digest, have little fat, and are full of easy to digest fiber. Oats are also high in B vitamins and selenium that help provide energy to the body. They contain potassium and iron to keep you fueled as well. Oats for breakfast is a fantastic way to start your day and fuel your runs properly. Do be sure you avoid instant varieties however, and opt for either rolled oats, or steel cut. They are digested slowly and are therefore much friendlier to your energy levels and blood sugar levels.
2. Brown Rice
Another top grain for runners is brown rice. Brown rice is not only rich in B vitamins, but also selenium, potassium, magnesium and manganese. These vitamins and minerals are all important for fueling your runs, and they support thyroid health, along with muscle repair. Brown rice is also rich in slow digesting carbs for long sustainable energy, and they help in proper blood sugar regulation for runners.
Pre-run, dates are a great quick source of glucose. You definitely shouldn’t be snacking on them all day since they’re high in sugar, but right before a run, or midway, popping 2 dates is a great way to get in tons of potassium, pure glucose, and a little fiber. Dates are one of the best foods for runners, and they contain multitudes of vitamins and minerals. Just watch your serving size, they’re so easy to eat too many of! You can also find many natural energy bars, mainly vegan varieties, that contain dates, and these are great options too to have about an hour before a run.
4. Leafy Greens
While these won’t energize your runs directly before a race, leafy greens are essential for runners. They’re highly alkaline to prevent inflammation in the body, and they also help promote heart health, and healthy blood levels, which is important for everyone, especially for runners. They’re some of the top sources of magnesium, iron and B vitamins found in fruits and vegetables as well. Cook leafy greens, throw them in salads, or use them in your smoothies. Romaine, spinach, chard, kale, arugula, and collards are all your best options. If you can bear the bitter tastes, mustard and turnip greens also count too!
5. Sweet Potatoes
Everyone loves sweet potatoes, right? I know I do, and I’m not preparing for a 5K, but if I was, I’d be eating more of them! Sweet potatoes are one of the best carbs you can eat for your weight, blood sugar, heart, and energy levels. They’re incredibly easy to digest, and actually lower your glycemic index, despite being high in carbs. They also provide a large amount of Vitamin B6 and magnesium for energy and muscle recovery. The best part about sweet potatoes is their Vitamin A content though. They contain beta-carotene, the plant form of Vitamin A. Beta-carotene is one of the best nutrients to consume to beat inflammation and aid in heart health. Sweet potatoes’ carb content can also help fuel a run for hours, making them an excellent pre-workout snack, or even a post-workout side to aid in glycogen replenishment.
6. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt is another fantastic food for someone preparing for a 5K, so long as you tolerate it, of course. I actually find I have more energy with Greek yogurt, than without it. Be sure you choose a low sugar kind, such as plain and unsweetened, and preferably non-fat or low-fat for the healthiest options. I also recommend buying organic to avoid pesticides and hormones in conventional dairy, and organic yogurt tastes much better too. Greek yogurt is low in lactose, but high in protein. This makes it fabulous for runners since its easy to digest proteins can easily be used to repair muscle tissue and help build lean muscle in the body. The carbs in yogurt aren’t heavy, but are just enough to sustain your energy levels, or to have right after a run to refuel with. Top your yogurt with berries, and perhaps have it with a small serving of oatmeal. It makes for a delicious meal that will keep you full for hours.
7. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is another fantastic food to eat pre-run if you tolerate peanuts. If not, opt for almonds, which are your next best bet. Both are rich in protein, potassium, B vitamins, fiber and their fats are heart healthy. They’re very energizing, but choose natural sources. The fats will help sustain you for a longer period of time than trying to eat fat-free before a run. Just one or two tablespoons is all you need!
8. Coconut Oil or Butter
I’m a personal fan of coconut oil and butter instead of nut butters when I want a quick energy boost. I always turn to coconut butter since it contains fiber and in my opinion, is tastier, but the oil is fantastic too. Coconut oil is a well known source of energy for runners, and it is also known to fight weight. The fats in coconut are not something you need to worry about. For starters, coconut oil and butter have no cholesterol, and they actually help clear the liver of harmful toxins. Another benefit of coconut is the fats are used immediately for energy, which you’ll feel almost right away after you eat it. Have one or two tablespoons either pre-run on an empty stomach, or post-run in a smoothie.
I adore oranges, especially in winter. I usually avoid fruit for the sugar content, but when I go on one of my occasional runs, oranges are one of my favorite foods to eat afterwards. Their sugar content is mostly glucose, not fructose, and is easier to digest. Plus, oranges contain Vitamin C that helps prevent inflammation in muscles, and it prevents aging and degeneration. Oranges contain a good amount of B vitamins. These boost your mood and also aid in brain and muscle health. Lastly, the fiber in whole oranges is great for your blood sugar levels, as well as your digestive health. I like to have a small orange with about 10 almonds or pumpkin seeds right after a long workout, and I always feel so much better afterwards, with plenty of energy left for the day!
Bananas are another top fruit to eat if you’re a runner, which you probably already know. Bananas are well known for their potassium and B6 content, which help prevent muscle pain, fatigue, and reduce inflammation and cramping. Bananas also contain trytophan, an amino acid that boosts your mood and produces serotonin in the body to help you feel good. Lastly, they’re a natural source of sugar, which make them great to eat before a run with either a yogurt and teaspoon of nut butter, or post run in a recovery smoothie.
11. Hemp Protein
Lastly, using easy to digest protein in meal formation is so important for runners. Many people are fans of whey and brown rice, which are fine, but I always turn to hemp before any other single source. Hemp protein is easy to digest, and it’s alkaline so it actually reverses inflammation in the body and muscles. It also contains 45% of your magnesium RDV and 10% of your daily iron RDV. Not only is it rich in nutrients, but it is also complete protein. Hemp protein is a top food to deliver easy to digest protein to your muscles right when they need it the most. As a bonus, it also helps you sleep and rest, but has plenty of energizing benefits to get you through your day.
Fueling your runs is more than about eating high sugar foods right before a race, or “carb fueling”. It’s also important to eat nutritious foods that work for your body all day long, not just right before a race. If you’re preparing for a 5K, be sure you consider some of these foods to fuel your runs with. What’s your favorite 5K friendly food?