We chatted with some pavement-pounding nutritionists to find out the best bets when it comes to staying fueled with everyday foods.
Olives and Pickles1 of 9
Katie Casto Hynes, a Louisville, Kentucky-based Registered Dietician with a 2:51 marathon PR, knows how to keep her sodium levels steady. During summer's steamy temperatures, she recommends olives and pickles. "These foods are low in calories, but high in sodium and can replace lost electrolytes," Casto Hynes says. These foods also keep well in the fridge—perfect for when you're low on groceries.
Nut Butter2 of 9
When it comes to choosing a quick pre- or post-run snack, Casto Hynes says nut butters (peanut, almond, cashew, etc.) are a great choice because they provide healthy plant fats, protein and a small amount of carbohydrates. If you pair a spoonful of nut butter with a piece of fruit, you'll have the right mix of carbs, fat and protein. However, Casto Hynes cautions against eating too much Skippy before that next run; "Nut butters are calorie-dense, and too much fat pre-run could cause GI distress."
Dried Fruit3 of 9
When you need a quick hit of energy, dried fruit might be just the answer. "For a natural source of sugar and a variety of vitamins and minerals, dried fruits [dates, figs, apricots, mulberries, raisins, etc.] are a solid choice," Casto Hynes says. Some runners even prefer fueling mid-run with dried fruit versus the usual gels and chews. Just make sure your GI tract can handle the fiber before you stray too far from a bathroom.
Beets4 of 9
Kelly Hogan, a Boston Marathon-qualifier and Senior Dietitian at The Mount Sinai Hospital, encourages runners to look in their fridge's produce bin. In particular, she says, "Beets are a proven ergogenic aid for endurance activities, such as running and cycling, due to their nitrate content. When nitrates are ingested, they are converted to nitric oxide, which may help reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise." Whether you blend one into a smoothie or try them roasted, consuming beets on a regular basis might help you run faster for longer.
Oats5 of 9
Hogan is also a fan of oats. Inexpensive and available at all grocery stores, oats are easy to keep on your shelf. "Because oats are a complex carbohydrate, they take longer to digest than simple sugars and provide a more long-lasting, sustainable energy source," Hogan says. If you've got a long run or race in a few hours, Hogan says cooked oats are a good pre-run meal choice.
Plain Yogurt or Greek Yogurt6 of 9
Whether you're vegetarian or just looking for some easily accessible protein, plain yogurt has got you covered. "Yogurt is a great high biological value protein source," Hogan says, "which means it is more efficiently absorbed and used by the body." When it comes to a post-workout snack, this protein will do wonders in rebuilding broken-down muscle fibers. Hogan explains that a 6-ounce serving of plain yogurt typically contains 9 grams of protein, while Greek yogurt offers even more; typically 15 to 20 grams per 6 ounces.
Beans7 of 9
While we wouldn't recommend loading up on beans the morning of a race, they definitely have earned their place in a runners diet. According to Dani Sturtz, a competitive marathoner and Nutrition Counselor certified by the American Association of Drugless Practitioners, "beans are a great source of protein and iron for vegetarians and vegans." She adds, "Lentils and garbanzo beans/chickpeas are two great options as they are easy to make and can be added to many dishes." Whether you buy them canned or dried, beans are another shelf-stable and inexpensive item that deserve a spot in your pantry.
Quinoa8 of 9
If gluten gives you issues, you may be at a loss for good carbohydrate sources. Instead of the usual runner favorites, like pasta and bread, Sturtz recommends quinoa. She explains that quinoa is a grain that's chock-full of carbohydrates, is very high in protein, and most importantly, is easy to digest. So if bagels aren't an option, try mixing cooked quinoa with milk and fruit for a quick pre-run breakfast. Sturtz says quinoa offers the perfect combination of nutrients for runners: carbohydrates to give them energy and protein to help accelerate muscle growth and rebuild muscle fibers.