The Best Foods for Female Runners

As a female runner, you need to eat differently than your male running buddy or your less active girlfriends. Why? Your food choices can make or break a workout or race. But there's much more to sound running nutrition than pasta and energy drinks. You need foods that will boost performance, stimulate muscle repair, meet your specific XX chromosome needs and keep you healthy. We've scoured the latest research to come up with these kitchen must-haves.

Oatmeal

There's nothing old-fashioned about starting race day with a hearty bowl of oatmeal. A study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism determined that people eating a low-glycemic (a measure of how fast a food raises blood glucose levels) meal like whole-grain oatmeal three hours prior to a run had an increased time to exhaustion compared to those who consumed a high-glycemic meal such as sugary cereal or white bread.

Chew on this: Choose plain rolled or steel-cut oats, not the sugar-loaded packets.

What to try: Nature's Path Organic Original Rolled Oats (naturespath.com)

Quick dish: Flavor oats by adding walnuts, cocoa powder, cinnamon or berries.
 

Edamame

Edamame is brimming with protein, fiber, folate, magnesium, potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C. Plus, in just one cup there's 20 percent of the daily requirement for iron. Because of menstrual blood loss and insufficient intake, many pre-menopausal women have depleted iron stores.

Chew on this: Organic edamame comes from non-genetically modified soybean crops. Find it in the supermarket frozen-food section.

What to try: Seapoint Farms Shelled Frozen Edamame (seapointfarms.com)

Quick dish: Toss cooked, shelled edamame with sea salt, lemon juice and cayenne pepper for a spicy snack.

Dried Fruit

San Diego State University researchers found that runners who consumed raisins 45 minutes prior to endurance exercise got performance benefits similar to those who consumed energy gels. Dried fruits are smart fuel during a run, as they are easy to digest and provide working muscles a quick influx of carbohydrate energy.

Chew on this: Dried fruits are more calorie dense than fresh. A cup of grapes has 62 calories vs. 434 calories in a cup of raisins.

What to try: Sun-Maid Raisins (sun-maid.com)

Quick dish: Add dried fruit to everything from oatmeal and salads to stews.

Green Tea

Green tea has become a beverage superstar thanks to headlines trumpeting its health- boosting antioxidant, epigallocatechin- 3-gallate (EGCG). Emerging research suggests EGCG may improve endurance performance, reduce exercise muscle damage and increase fat burning during workouts.  

Chew on this: Gleaned from whole tea leaves that are ground into powder form, matcha green tea may contain the most EGCG.

What to try: After a run, reach for a bottle of Honest Tea's Just Green Tea (honesttea.com). Find matcha powder at  matchasource.com or domatcha.com.

Quick dish: Add matcha powder to smoothies, baked goods, yogurt or cottage cheese.

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