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A Runner’s Diet and Nutrition
Written By | Mark Healey
Maintaining a balanced, rich diet can be challenging for anybody. It’s hard to know how much of certain foods your body needs to take in, and when you abide by a vegetarian diet those complications grow. Being vegetarian is fantastic for the environment and fellow sentient beings, and more people than ever are switching to a vegetarian lifestyle, or at least cutting down on meat consumption. But for new vegetarians, the lack of “easy” protein and iron can harm your body if you don’t take in enough of each. This task gets even more challenging when you’re an athlete or consistently do a strenuous exercise, such as long distance running. The trick for runners is to pursue a balanced diet complete with quality carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. And part of that entails indulging yourself with a pre-workout food routine. So what foods do those prerequisites leave on the table for vegetarian runners to include for pre-workout energy?
Bananas are an excellent food that are easy to carry and super easy to eat. The yellow fruit contains quick-digesting carbs and potassium, which helps to replenish the glycogen storage and potassium that we lose through sweat. Take a banana with you during the run, too, as it can help you feel a bit more energized after a run.
Berries are the perfect standby option for nutrition shakes right before a run. You’ll hydrate from the water or milk in the shake itself, and then blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are all plastered with antioxidants and fibre. They’ll help you run further and make the after-run bathroom break smoother.
Steel-cut oats are a fantastic source of protein and carbs. You can easily grind them up into a fine powder with a coffee grinder and add them to shakes with fruits, walnuts and a smidgen of honey or agave nectar. Or cook them like any other type of oatmeal. Cooked steel-cut oats come with the benefit of lower sugar quantities than basic flavoured oats that you can buy in the cereal aisle, and they are less processed than instant or rolled oats, which means you’ll feel fuller for longer. Plus, steel-cut oats are high in soluble fibre, and that means they can lower cholesterol and improve how well your gastro-intestinal tract functions.
Vegetarians who are in need of quick, quality sources of protein learn to love eggs. It’s the easiest form of meat-like protein and they’ll become a vital in a vegetarian runner’s diet. The lean protein from eggs replaces the protein that gets broken down from exercise to build muscle and create energy. Plus, eggs contain all of the essential amino acids to keep your stomach operating and happy as they are gentle on the stomach.
Hummus is a wonderful food that is chalk full of protein, fibre, vitamin B6, manganese, zinc, magnesium, copper and iron. If you’re looking for an extra push, use sour-dough crackers, apple slices, celery or carrots as alternatives to dip.
Mozzarella cheese has fewer calories and fat than most other varieties and can be used in numerous ways. Incorporate it in foods from a healthy pizza with a whole-grain crust, low sodium tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese and a variety of herbs, to a caprese salad by using sliced mozzarella, lycopene-rich tomatoes and fresh basil.
Besides eggs, nuts become a vegetarian runner’s best friend. It’s true that nuts are often high in calories and fat, but they also serve as a great source of protein, fibre and vitamins. As a bonus tip, if you find your joints hurting while running, try a couple servings of walnuts. They’re a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help combat inflammation.
Spinach, like its super-food cousin kale, is packed with vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene, all of which helps boost immune function. If you’re out running in the winter or early morning, toss some spinach into your pre-workout shake. It doesn’t add any flavour, but you get all the benefits.
Like protein, vegetarian runners burn through a lot of carbs, and if you don’t want to slip into a caloric deficiency then it’s important that you consume adequate carbohydrates in order to replenish your glycogen storage and keep your energy levels up. Whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta, bread, quinoa, and brown rice, are all superb options to keep you operating at tip-top shape.