When it comes to cooking, runners-constantly pressed for time-often choose convenience over flavor: We pour a bowl of cereal, zap a frozen veggie burrito, or toss pasta with jarred sauce. But our mandate for fast food doesn't have to mean losing out on taste. These four mouthwatering meals, made with nearly ready-to-use ingredients, will satisfy your calorie needs and your desire for delicious food-in less time than it takes to run a really fast 5-K.
Prerun Meal: Blueberry-Walnut Pancakes with Maple Yogurt
How To: Microwave ¾ cup frozen blueberries for one minute, rinse, and then drain them. Stir together four tablespoons plain yogurt and two tablespoons maple syrup. Prepare a part-whole-grain pancake batter according to the package directions. Gently stir in the blueberries. Cook pancakes. Drizzle with maple yogurt and sprinkle with two tablespoons chopped walnuts. Serves two.
How Come: The part-whole-grain mix makes sense, says sports nutritionist Colleen Cooke, M.S., R.D., because it provides both slow- and quick-release carbs; white-flour pancakes with syrup would cause a blood-sugar spike, while all whole grains would be hard to digest prerun. Fat and protein in the walnuts and yogurt also keep blood sugar steady. Eating antioxidant-rich blueberries with carbs and protein can "reduce the amount of muscle soreness that occurs after a high-mileage training run," says Jackie Dikos, R.D., a nutritionist and competitive runner.
Prerun Snack: Coconut-Almond Bars
How To: Combine two cups rolled oats, one cup unsweetened coconut, and ½ cup each: dates (or raisins), raw almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and cashews. Mix 1 ½ cups tahini (or natural peanut butter) with one cup honey and one teaspoon vanilla. Microwave for one minute. Combine wet and dry ingredients. On a greased baking sheet, spread mixture into a one-inch-high rectangle. Cut into 12 bars. Or, if time allows, bake at 350° F for 15 minutes.
How Come: This recipe for energy bars, adapted from The Bakery in New Paltz, New York, has powered runners, bikers, and climbers for nearly 30 years. The dates and honey provide quick carbs, while the nuts are high in healthy fats, which help sustain energy levels. "People doing the fat-free thing often find they're hungry all the time," says Cooke. The oats keep cholesterol in check, and research shows "the fiber in oats may offset the risk of upper-respiratory infections, which are common in runners," says Dikos.