If you’re a runner, being mindful of the right food choices and your overall nutrition are major keys to your success. It’s essential to provide your body with the right amount of energy to complete your run and recover. But what should you be eating, when should you be eating it, and why is all of this so important? We received expert feedback and have come up with the absolute best foods for running stamina, so check them out before you hit the pavement!
Eat This, Not That! chatted with Lauren Manaker MS, RDN, LD, CLEC, an award-winning registered dietitian, book author, and recipe developer to learn everything runners need to know about eating in order to support their stamina in the best way. Manaker explains, “Not eating the right nutrients can result in a person feeling sluggish, heavy, or even queasy when they are running. Eating the right foods can help people perform at their best and support their body’s needs in a natural way.”
So if you’re a runner, read on to learn more about the best foods for running stamina. And next up, don’t miss The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.
There are many facts runners should know when making food choices. For example, carbs are the perfect food to eat before heading out for a long run. “Quick carbs can give people a burst of energy and help their stamina throughout their run,” Manaker tells us. She adds, “Avoiding high-fiber foods like beans is suggested to avoid gastrointestinal distress. Calorie and carbohydrate needs can vary based on a slew of factors, including a person’s training regimen.” Typically, Manaker explains that individuals perform well eating between six to 12 grams of carbs per kilogram of their body weight, 24 hours prior to exercising.
When it comes to shorter distances, the time you eat doesn’t impact you as much. An hour prior to your shorter run is good for consuming food. If you’re running for more than 60 minutes, you should have a meal 45 minutes before your jaunt, having a mini carb-packed snack closer to your run time. For runs that will exceed an hour, plan on eating a meal between three to four hours prior to when your run begins, with a small carb-filled snack eaten just before.
Manaker recommends that your meals consist of protein, carbs, and maybe some fat to curb your hunger. She also suggests some easy meals that will support a runner’s stamina, including a good old-fashioned PBJ sandwich, enjoyed with a glass of milk. A grilled chicken breast with a side of steamed veggies and sweet potato is another smart choice, in addition to oatmeal with berries and walnuts.
Snacks are a runner’s best friend for quick fuel. Having a snack about a half hour prior to a run is great for stamina, considering you’ve had the right solid meal. Here are some solid snack choices Manaker recommends.
The first of the best foods for running stamina is That’s it. bars. These tasty snacks include just two ingredients, and both of them are 100% fruit. They contain no added sugars, are filled with healthy carbs, and are a super-simple snack for runners to enjoy. A full bar provides 26 grams of carbohydrates and has none of the top 12 allergens. They don’t need to be refrigerated, so they’re a truly ideal option.
Joolie’s Organic Medjool Dates are a perfect light meal before a run. Manaker recommends enjoying this treat a few hours prior to your run along with natural nut butter, or a quick snack before you hit the pavement.
Dates provide a natural source of carbs and potassium, which can help with muscle cramping. They have no added sugar and are a perfect easy-to-pack carb. Filled with natural antioxidants, this snack can help fight oxidative stress which can come about when running.
Manaker tells us CLIF BAR® Energy Bars contain plant protein, fat, and carbohydrates, which will provide sustained energy. This snack will help you go strong throughout a long, moderately-intense run for more than an hour. Filled with rolled oats, these bars are chock-full of yummy goodness. This is a great energy booster to consume one to two hours before you head out for your run.
Hydration is essential for your stamina when running—especially in the heat. If you will be sweating, be diligent when it comes to staying hydrated. Shoot for around 2 cups of fluid prior to your run. Manaker points out, “This value can vary based on a slew of factors. Vitapod Hydra+ is a sugar-free solution for hydration support that contains sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium—key electrolytes that our bodies need for proper fluid balance.” She adds, “This hydrating drink also contains flavonoids. Data shows that consumption of certain flavonoids may support an athlete’s performance.”
If you plan to run for a long period of time, protein is beneficial to support stamina. Wonderful Pistachios, No Shells, Roasted & Salted Nuts will give you six grams of protein in each serving, which will help fill your body up with essential amino acids. The protein and healthy fats in these nuts (around 90% of fats in pistachios are unsaturated) can provide a fuller feeling for a longer stretch of time.
Manaker tells us, “Protein and healthy fats can help hit that hunger wall when running for a long stretch,” adding, “Pairing these pistachios with a carb source, like a piece of fruit, can be a winning combo for a pre-run nosh.”
Watermelon is an excellent pre-workout choice. Two full cups of watermelon provide your body with 23 grams of carbohydrates. Plus, watermelon is actually 92% water, so it’s also the perfect hydrating snack. “And the shining star of this fruit when it comes to stamina support is the amino acid l-citrulline. L-citrulline is converted to L-arginine in the body, which is further converted to nitric oxide—a vasodilator that helps allow more blood to get to the muscles,” Manaker explains.
Another “quick carb” that naturally provides your body with fuel is applesauce, rounding out the best foods for running stamina. Brainiac Applesauce contains applesauce in addition to omega-3 fatty acids that help fight inflammation, so you’re getting lots of benefits with this snack.