The good news: Nutrition isn't as complicated as it seems. Depending on your target distance, you may need larger portions of certain macronutrients, but you will still benefit from the same dietary recommendations made for all Americans. That means loading up your plate with fruits and vegetables, complex carbohydrates and lean protein sources.
Check out some of the top foods you should put in your cart next time you head to the grocery store.
Bananas1 of 16
You'd be hard-pressed to find a runner's grocery list that doesn't include bananas. Bananas replace a number of nutrients in the body that you lose when you run—specifically potassium. Bananas are also high in magnesium and Vitamin B6 and pack a large number of carbohydrates in a few calories. They're also a top choice for runners with sensitive stomachs.
Potatoes2 of 16
Potatoes are a fantastic produce option for runners due to their high carbohydrate content. But unlike pasta, potatoes are a vegetable, therefore containing numerous vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin C, potassium, iron and fiber. Whatever type of potato you prefer, stay away from frying them. Instead, eat white or sweet potatoes baked, roasted, boiled or mashed.
Mixed Greens3 of 16
Every runner needs their greens, and one of the best ways to get them is by buying a mixed bag in the produce section. Most bags will contain spinach, kale and lettuce, though some will also add collard greens, red leaf lettuce and radicchio. Use these bags for a salad or throw its contents into your daily smoothie. By buying mixed, you'll further diversify your diet and benefit from the nutrients found in each type of green.
Cherries4 of 16
You've probably already heard the news about cherries—they're a running superfood. They're especially beneficial in recovery since their high antioxidant content (specifically anthocyanins, a type of flavonoid) can help the body recover from stress and inflammation. Buy tart cherries or tart cherry juice to see the most significant benefit.
Frozen Fruit Mix5 of 16
Depending on the season, it's difficult to find some fruit, which is why a frozen mixed bag is your best bet. This produce is flash frozen in peak season and is just as healthy as buying fresh. Look for a frozen berry mix with raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries. These dark-colored fruits pack antioxidants, Vitamin C, potassium and more.
Brown Rice6 of 16
Brown rice is a type of whole grain, meaning it's full of the fiber and nutrients stripped from white rice, keeping you well-fueled as you focus on training. Brown rice is also a food that's low on the glycemic index, supplying plenty of carbohydrates without the energy crash and providing nutrients like folate and iron.
Rolled Oats7 of 16
Rolled oats are a staple in most runners' diets. They're gluten-free, higher in protein than many other carbohydrate sources and can be constantly reimagined for variety. Oats are especially high in manganese, an essential nutrient for the body, as well as Vitamin B1, phosphorus and magnesium. Looked for rolled or steel-cut oats and stay away from instant varieties when you can—though they cook the quickest, they're usually the most processed.
Quinoa8 of 16
Though technically a seed, quinoa is prepared like and tastes similarly to a grain. Quinoa also provides a surprising amount of plant-based protein. Each cup contains about 8 grams total, so adding it to your meals can make a big difference in meeting your protein quota. Quinoa is also high in fiber with 5 grams per cup.
Eggs9 of 16
A single egg provides 6 grams of protein for under 80 calories, but that's just the starting point for why runners love them. Eggs are also very inexpensive compared to other sources of protein, like meat, and they contain all the essential amino acids. If you can find eggs from pasture-raised hens—ones typically fed a diet of flaxseed—they will also contain higher amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, a good type of fat that is essential for the body's functioning.
Yogurt10 of 16
Gut health is a serious concern for many runners since long miles and hard efforts can stress the body's GI system. Among its many health benefits, including high amounts of protein and calcium, yogurt also contains probiotics. Probiotics are a type of live microorganism that aids the body's digestive system and keeps your gut health in-check by replenishing the body's natural supply of good bacteria.
Black Beans11 of 16
If you're looking for more plant-based sources of protein, black beans are a great option to add to your diet. Though rich in many nutrients, they're especially known for their "one-two-punch" of protein and fiber, providing equal amounts of both. A cup of cooked black beans contains 15 grams of protein and 15 grams of fiber.
Salmon12 of 16
Salmon is another good protein choice for runners because it's especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help tame the body's inflammation response. There's a lot of debate about whether you should buy wild or farmed, though either will supply good-for-you fats. Most recently, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week.
Chicken Breast13 of 16
Another runner's staple, it's hard to go wrong with chicken breast. A simple five-ounce serving contains a whopping 35 grams of protein. The breast is usually affordable and quite versatile, so you can switch up your recipes. Chicken breast is also high in B vitamins and selenium, an essential mineral and antioxidant.
Nut Butter14 of 16
Whether you prefer peanut, almond or even cashew, nut butter is worth adding to your cart. Not only do nut butters contain a satisfying mix of protein and healthy fats to keep you full for longer, most are also salted, which is especially important for runners who deplete their body's sodium levels during strenuous runs. Look for varieties without added sugar for the healthiest options.
Dark Chocolate15 of 16
Runners need something sweet too. Dark chocolate is known for its antioxidant content, specifically flavonols, which address inflammation in the body and can even improve heart health. Typically, the darker the chocolate the higher the antioxidants. Look for brands that advertise at least 70 percent cocoa.