"Too little calorie and anti-inflammatory omega-3 intake to support training, along with reduced absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, may weaken muscles and joints, says Florida-based sports dietitian Tara Gidus. According to Gidus, female runners should obtain at least 20 percent of their daily calories from fat, with an emphasis on healthy sources such as almonds, olive oil and avocado.
As for those worries about bulging bellies, Harvard researchers found that women who regularly consumed nuts were less likely to pack on the pounds over an eight-year period than those who abstained. The synergy between the healthy fat, fiber, vitamins and minerals could prevent weight gain.
Try this: Spicy Toasted Almonds
For a satisfying snack, heat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine 1 tbsp. chili powder, 1 tbsp. olive or canola oil, 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt, 1/2 tsp. cumin, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. black pepper. Add 2 cups almonds and toss to coat. Transfer mixture to a baking pan and bake for about 10 minutes or until almonds are toasted, stirring a couple times. For portion control, limit your intake to only 1-2 ounces.
The Flab Buster: Lentils
Secret Weapon: Fiber
A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which tracked more than 89,000 subjects over a period of 6.5 years, discovered that women who consumed the most fiber were more likely to have trimmer waistlines. "Fiber helps in the battle of the bulge because it keeps you full and prevents overeating," says Gidus. Women are encouraged to shoot for 25 grams of fiber daily. And with a whopping 16 grams per cooked cup, lentils can help you get there. Lentils are also jam-packed with protein, iron and B vitamins. "The body uses B vitamins to generate energy to sustain running," notes Gidus. As a bonus, lowbrow lentils are ridiculously cheap and much faster to cook than beans. To cut down on sodium intake, use dried lentils more often.
Try this: Vegetarian Lentil Burgers
In a food processor, combine 1 cup cooked lentils, 1 cup diced mushrooms, 1 sliced onion, 1/2 cup rolled oats, 2 chopped garlic cloves, 1 tbsp. cumin, 1/2 tsp. cayenne powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Form into patties and cook over medium-high heat for three to four minutes per side. Serve these super-nutritious burgers on whole-grain buns with desired toppings.
The Bone Builder: Canned Salmon
Secret Weapon: calcium and vitamin D
A female runner's bone density can be 10 to 15 percent lower than normal. Whether pink or sockeye, canned salmon is brimming with the calcium and vitamin D necessary for strengthening bones. According to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal, women who supplemented with both were up to 16 percent less likely to suffer bone fractures.
"Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption and maintaining optimal blood levels of calcium to minimize bone breakdown," says Kimball. Less pricey than fresh salmon, the canned version contains just as much omega-3 fats. "The anti-inflammatory properties of salmon's omega-3s are useful to runners not to mention the many other health benefits, including reduced risk of heart disease and depression," Kimball says.
What's more, Australian researchers found that higher blood levels of this fat du jour are associated with healthier body weights. For the eco-savvy, most canned salmon comes from sustainable wild stocks.
Try this: Salmon Loaf
In a large bowl, mix 15 ounces of canned salmon with 1 cup bread crumbs, 3/4 cup milk, 1 beaten egg, 1 chopped onion, 2 shredded carrots, 1 shredded zucchini, 1 tbsp. curry powder, juice from 1/2 lemon, and pepper to taste. Add mixture to a greased loaf pan and bake for 40 minutes or until loaf is set in the center. Serve with salsa.
The Cold Fighter: Low-Fat Yogurt
Secret Weapon: Friendly Bacteria
Daily training takes a toll on the immune system--runners are prone to colds and upper respiratory tract infections. But recent research suggests that friendly critters like those in yogurt can keep you out of the Kleenex box.