Eating for Energy: The Best Performance-Boosting Foods for Runners

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Logging miles isn't the only trick to becoming a better runner. The food that you put in your body greatly impacts how you perform.

In order for your muscles to work efficiently and last throughout your entire run, no matter the distance, you need to feed them oxygen. Health studies show that certain nutrients trigger your body to deliver oxygen to your muscles, which helps you avoid hitting the wall and, in turn, boosts your performance.

Luckily, there are a wide variety of foods with a few key nutrients that can make you a stronger runner. Consider how you can add these recommendations from running experts to your diet for a better performance come race day.

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The Star Nutrient for Your Daily Diet

While a variety of nutrients are important for runners, one stands out as a star for boosting performance: iron. Naturally present in many foods, this mineral helps carry oxygen to your muscles, says Mike Sayenko, a Seattle running coach.

Oxygen is food for the muscles that help you run, and without the proper fueling, their ability to work won't last very long. Thus, a diet rich in iron is necessary to reach the next level of performance.

Iron-rich foods to add to your shopping cart include:

  • Red meat
  • Pork
  • Beans
  • Spinach
  • Chicken Liver

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Simply eating iron-rich foods isn't enough to reap the performance-enhancing benefits, however. What you eat with these foods can have an impact on how effective they are.

"I like to eat iron-rich food typically for dinner without any dairy products, as it inhibits the absorption of iron," Sayenko says. "I supplement with orange juice or any sort of juice that has vitamin C, as this helps with iron absorption."

It's also important that you work these high-iron foods into your regular diet instead of relying on them the day before a race. Intense activities like long runs or tough training sessions deplete your stores of this essential nutrient.

Without a regular intake of iron-rich foods you risk getting iron deficiency anemia. When this happens, your body becomes less efficient at delivering oxygen, negatively impacting your performance.

More: 10 Vitamin-Rich Foods to Add to Your Diet