7 Essential Foods For Runners

If you want to be a strong runner, you most likely know how important it is to train consistently. While training is great, you won’t reach your full potential as a runner unless you also eat healthy. The challenge for most of us is that we’re not quite sure what “healthy” actually looks like. We want to eat foods that fuel our body, but are confused because of all the conflicting information.

Michelle and produceI’m Michelle, the founder of Faithful Workouts and I’m passionate about  helping people reach their health and fitness goals. Today I want to share with you 7 foods every runner needs in their kitchen and how to use these foods to make quick, healthy meals.

1. Quinoa

Sometimes mistaken for a grain, quinoa is actually a seed and is naturally gluten free. It is one of the best foods for lasting energy. It’s a complete protein which means it contains an adequate amount of all nine essential amino acids and it is loaded with antioxidants. This superfood also has anti-inflammatory properties and is actually a member of the spinach, Swiss chard and beet family!

When I cook quinoa I always make extra. It is great to have on hand so you can mix it with eggs for breakfast, sprinkle it over a salad or into a soup. It’s also a great replacement for rice when making your favorite stir-fry. One of my favorite recipes is our Quinoa & Black Bean Salas with Lemon Dressing. (recipe available at www.faithfulworkoutsplan.com/run)

2. Dark Leafy Greens

Spinach, kale and chard are high in folate and contain nitrites that convert fat-storing cells into fat burning brown cells which promote weight loss. Leafy greens also decrease the risk of cognitive decline thus keeping our minds healthy. Their anti-inflammatory properties promote heart health and decrease the risk of diabetes. Plus, they are a great source of non-dairy calcium.

I buy a bag of organic, pre-washed “power greens” almost every time I go to the store. One of my “go to” breakfasts includes putting 2 handfuls of greens into a pan. I cook them over medium heat stirring often. Once their wilted I crack an egg right on top of the greens. I cover my pan and cook over medium heat until my egg is set.

I also add handfuls of these awesome greens into my smoothies, soups, open faced sandwiches, and salads. At dinner, I put a little oil in a pan and heat it over medium heat with a large clove of minced garlic. I add several handfuls of greens and cover. Once they’re wilted, I stir in vinegar and a little salt and they make a nutrient packed side dish.


3. Avocado

Because who doesn’t love avocado… and for good reason! Not only is it awesome tasting, it also offers many health benefits. It’s high in mono-unsaturated fat which is good for you! When you eat an avocado with other nutrient rich foods it improves absorption of the nutrients. If you eat a salad with an avocado, you absorb up to 25% more of the nutrients from your salad!

Avocados also lower the risk of heart disease and improve blood levels of LDL cholesterol. Avocados are nutrient dense with high amounts of pantothenic acid (one of 8 B vitamins that helps the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which the body uses to produce energy), fiber and Vitamin K.

One of my favorite ways to start my day is with a slice of organic toast with 1/2 an avocado sliced thin on top. I’ve also been making amazing desserts using avocados. (Yes, you read that correctly!) For a yummy, yet healthy, Chocolate Cream Pie recipe (recipe available at www.faithfulworkoutsplan.com/run)

4. Wild Caught Salmon (or Cod, Flounder, Sole, Trout)

Salmon is a great source of protein and Omega-3 fat that helps to decrease the risk of heart disease, cancer anddepression while keeping the mind strong and improving joint health. I highly recommend wild caught salmon over farm raised.

We have many great salmon recipes included in our online cookbook, but here’s one of my favorites. Stir together 1 tblsp orange juice concentrate. 1 tsp minced fresh ginger and 1/4 cup soy sauce. Put one 4 oz salmon filet in a ziplock bag and pour the liquid over it. Marinate for at least an hour. Remove salmon and cook on a grill or in a hot pan. Such great flavor!

5. Organic Pasture Raised Eggs 

Eggs are an excellent source of protein, contain all the B vitamins your body needs and are high in Omega-3. It’s important to buy organic pasture raised eggs. They are worth the extra cost because eggs that come from pasture raised chickens means they are free to roam on open grassland, eat an organic diet, enjoy bugs and worms, see daylight, are not given hormones or antibiotics, have darker/richer yolks, have been known to taste better, and have better nutritional profiles in vitamins A, E, betacarotine and Omega-3’s.

I typically take my leftover vegetables from dinner and warm them for breakfast and eat them with a poached egg on top. I love starting my day with all the nutritional benefits from my veggies plus the protein from the egg. I also like to make hard boiled eggs at the beginning of the week so I can grab one when I need some quick protein.

6. Almond Butter 

Almond butter has high amounts of magnesium and monounsaturated fats for heart health. It also has high amounts of Vitamin E and is a great source of manganese, copper, Vitamin B and riboflavin needed for energy. Be sure to be a diligent consumer and check the ingredients to make sure there are only almonds and salt with no added sugar or oil.

When I am feeling low on energy I grab a spoon and scoop out some almond butter which gives me an energy boost. I also make great tasting cookies and smoothies that include almond butter. Check out this recipe that is loaded with flavor but not the sugar. (recipe available at www.faithfulworkoutsplan.com/run

7. Plain Organic Free Yogurt (with live active cultures) 

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, improves digestive health and high in calcium for stronger bones. When I buy plain, Greek yogurt I look for more than 20 grams of protein and less than 10 grams of sugar (the sugar should only come from the naturally occurring lactose, no added sugar). I also check to see that it includes high amounts of live active cultures. Digestive issues are on the rise because the bacteria in our gut is out of whack. We eat processed foods that contain preservatives which disrupts our gut bacteria. The live active cultures in yogurt help to reset the good bacteria in our system.

One of my favorite ways to eat yogurt is it to put 1 cup of berries into a small pan. I cook them over low heat until they are soft and juices are released. Once they are cooled I stir the berries, and juices, into 1 cup of yogurt. I then squeeze fresh lemon or orange juice into the yogurt and top with cinnamon and chopped pecans.

I also make a great sauce by simply mixing together equal parts of plain yogurt and salsa. I put that on top of a grilled chicken breast and top it with fresh cilantro.

I hope I’ve taken some of the guess work out of healthy eating and shown you ways to incorporate these nutrient dense foods into your daily diet. If you’re interested in learning more about how to properly fuel your body, sign up for our Free Faithful & fit Plan. It includes 100s or recipes, cooking video and daily menu plans PLUS workout videos for all fitness levels that are proven to improve your running time and your overall health. **Bonus ll our exercise videos include upbeat, Christian music because we truly put God at the center of all we do!

I’m praying for you!

Michelle Spadafora