The 8 Best Foods For Running: A Comprehensive Guide

People only tend to look at one side of the coin when it comes to running. They think it’s all about clocking in the miles.

However…

They’re overlooking a super-important element that guides their performance daily.

And that element is nutrition.

Consistently running without paying attention to your nutrition is only going to end badly. You’ll end up with more injuries and take longer to recover.

Also, your running performance is going to suffer and it’s going to be much harder to make any progress.

To make it as easy as possible, I have put together a well-researched article that goes in-depth on the best foods for runners.

Hint: The best food for running is bananas.

I Ran A Survey And Here’s The Results…

Rather than researching the best foods for running, I wanted to provide you guys with an extensive report from people within the running community.

I asked 50 runners what their favorite performance-enhancing food is for running.

Here were the responses…

best foods for running chart

Bananas = 28.00%

Oats = 10.00%

Dark Chocolate = 8.00%

Pasta = 14.00%

Meat = 16.00%

Fruit And Vegetables = 22.00%

Potatoes = 0.0%

Yogurt = 2.00%

As you can see, bananas are considered to be the best performance-enhancing food for running. When I saw these results, I was not at all surprised.

In my personal experience, bananas are nothing short of a miracle food. On most days I’ll eat one before my run and feel a major boost in energy.

But just because bananas are superior, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include some of the other foods in your diet. I recommend it!

Here Are The Top Foods for Running: From Best To Worst

best foods for running and their benefits infographic

1. Bananas

bananas

Bananas come packed full of carbs, giving you that extra boost you need when tackling a difficult run. Some of the carbs in bananas come in the form of fiber.

Fiber prevents sugar from being absorbed too fast into the bloodstream, giving you a steady flow of glucose, pushing you through your run when it gets tough.

We all know how difficult it can be to push yourself through that last mile…

A banana a day may be the answer!

Fiber and carbs aren’t the only nutrients bananas contain though. They also carry about 400g of potassium. The primary purpose of potassium is to replenish your body with vital minerals.

During a run, you’re constantly sweating and losing these essential minerals, so a dose of potassium compensates for this, keeping you fit, healthy, and running for longer.

2. Fruit And Vegetables

fruit and vegetables

Where do I start with fruit and vegetables? Not only are they super-healthy, but they also provide a huge range of benefits to help you become the best runner possible.

If you’re the type of person who can’t stand the taste of fruit and vegetables — you’re not alone — I know a lot of people who prefer to get their nutrients from other foods.

However…

I’ve got a solution for you.

The great thing about fruits and vegetables is they can be used to make a delicious smoothie that will leave your mouth watering…

And who doesn’t want that after a long run? 

They are also full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals — three of the most important nutrients for any athlete.

That’s probably why they were preferred by most runners in the survey.

Anyhow, let’s break the nutrients found in fruit and veg…

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is found in fruits and vegetables that are orange and yellow in color, such as mangos and apricots. It has been shown to improve your eyesight and support a healthy immune system.

If you like to run at night, ensuring you’re consuming enough vitamin A will improve your eyesight, allowing you to see better at night.

The immune-boosting benefits also come in handy as they help prevent the flu and other viruses, which is the last thing you need when you’re training for a marathon.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is super-important for running. Not only does it promote the healthy functioning of the immune system, but it also plays a major role in repairing body tissue.

If you’re running regularly, there’s going to be some tissues that need repairing. Neglecting your vitamin C could lead to more strained muscles and injuries.

So where can you find this super vitamin?

It’s typically found in strawberries, blackcurrants, and orange juice.

Vitamin D

If you’re deficient in vitamin D, it can lead to serious injury for runners. People who lack vitamin D tend to have weaker bones, which can cause stress fractures, especially if you’re running marathons or ultra marathons. 

Luckily, you can get vitamin D directly from the sun! Try to plan your runs for when the sun’s out and you’ll get the best of both worlds.

If you don’t get much sunshine in your state, you can also supplement with a vitamin D product.

Alternatively, it can be found in mushrooms. 

3. Meat

meat

When I received the results of the survey, I have to say I was rather surprised when meat showed up as the third-best food for enhanced running performance. 

I was expecting something that would be packed full of carbs such as potatoes; needless to say, I’ve been proven wrong on this one.

After putting my Sherlock Holmes hat on and digging in, I’ve found a ton of information that backs up this theory.

It’s not necessarily the meat that provides all the benefits, it’s the nutrients that it contains.

The most prominent nutrient found in meat is iron. This is great for runners as it provides your body with more energy, allowing you to run faster, harder, and conquer more difficult trails.

However…

I wanted to put it to the test myself, so I’ve started eating steak a few times a week.

So far, I’ve had a noticeable increase in energy when running. It hasn’t turned me into a super-woman, but it has allowed me to dig deeper and push beyond what I thought was possible.

Could it be the meat?

I can’t be entirely sure, although I’m pretty certain at this point.

4. Pasta

pasta

When I first carried out this survey, I was expecting pasta to be near the top of the list as it contains a lot of carbs…

Nope! I’ve been proven wrong this time, too!

The reason pasta enhances running performance is that the carbs are stored as glycogen, providing you with the extra energy you need to make it through those long and grueling runs.

If you’re a professional runner, you’ve probably heard of carb-loading before. It involves filling up your glycogen tanks by eating a lot of carbs before a marathon or endurance event lasting longer than two hours.

When athletes load up on carbs, pasta is one of the main foods used to fill up the glycogen tanks.

I wouldn’t recommend this for your average runner! But… if you’re planning to run a marathon, it may be worth considering.

5. Oats

oats

Excuse the tongue twister but…

Getting 10% of the votes were oats.

Similar to pasta, they are loaded with carbs but don’t contain as much sugar. This can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your fitness goals. 

As we all know, sugar has been shown to drastically increase body weight, so it’s important to avoid it as much as possible. On the flip side, a little here and there won’t hurt.

A few grams of sugar before a workout has been shown to increase your performance.

Anyhow…

Another reason oats are considered a runner enhancement food is because they contain a lot of fiber.

I don’t recommend eating fiber before your run as it can slow you down dramatically; however, it’s important to include it in your diet if you want to live a healthy life and prevent future illnesses.

6. Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

Even though dark chocolate has been proven to increase running performance, that doesn’t mean you should be going through packs of it every day…

Only eat dark chocolate in moderation, otherwise, you may end up doing more harm than good!

Anyway, onto the benefits…

I was surprised to hear that dark chocolate contains caffeine. After discovering this, I can see why it’s used by runners around the world to put some extra power into your runs.

It also contains carbs, which further boosts your performance and helps with muscle recovery after a workout.

If you want to incorporate dark chocolate into your diet, I recommend sticking with between one and two squares right before your run. 

Also, make sure it contains at least 70% cacao, otherwise, you’re eating normal chocolate.

7. Yogurt

yogurt

Yogurt scored a mere 2% when it comes to performance-enhancing foods for runners; although, it still provides you with several benefits — both for running and in your everyday life.

While it may not be the best for increasing your performance, it does a great job at repairing your muscles after a hard workout, as it contains a lot of protein.

It’s also full of calcium, which strengthens your bones over time, preventing you from getting shin splints and stress fractures when running marathons.

8. Potatoes

potatoes

While potatoes didn’t get any votes of confidence in this survey, we haven’t excluded them from the list as they are known to have a ton of health benefits.

To start with, they don’t contain as many calories per 100g as rice does, so if you’re trying to lose weight, they’re a great low-cost carb booster!

Also, they contain a substantial amount of vitamin A, which helps improve your eyesight, immune system, and strengthens your bones — three important benefits for any runner.

Should You Eat Before Or After A Run?

After running for years, I was still in two minds about whether or not to eat before or after a run.

So I decided to reach out to the running community and ask them what they thought.

I gathered 50 qualified runners in the U.S. and asked them for their preference.

Here are the results…

running before or after food chart

As you can see, most people prefer running after eating a small snack/meal. The key here is to not overdo it. You don’t want to eat a three-course meal before setting out for a run…

Unless you want to experience a bad stitch…or worse!

I recommend trying to run on an empty stomach one day, and then after eating a banana the following day. Compare your results and proceed with what works best for you.

Does A Good Diet Even Improve Your Running? I Asked The Running Community…

I also reached out to fellow runners asking if their running had improved as a result of a healthy diet.

Here’s what they had to say…

has your running improved from a good diet chart

Following up on this information, I recommend taking a look at your diet if you’re suffering from increased fatigue when running.

Let me tell you a story…

I used to run six miles a day. Every day I would be up at the crack of dawn for my morning run along the beach. The sun was rising and you could see the reflection in the sea. 

It was beautiful, to say the least!

Everything was working out fine for me at the start. I was running faster and faster every week.

For a while, I felt unstoppable…

Until one day I woke up and could barely get myself out of bed — let alone go for my typical morning run.

This continued to happen for a few days…

At first, I thought I was coming down with the flu; however, after doing some research, I discovered how important a healthy diet is for running.

When I looked back on the previous few weeks, I’d been consuming everything from ice cream to takeaways.

Once I started incorporating healthy foods into my diet, my running performance increased tenfold and I began beating my personal bests once again.

What Foods Should Runners Avoid?

When it comes to improving your running, there are some foods you’re going to have to give up — no matter how much you love them.

The most important thing you can do for yourself as a runner is to stop eating processed foods.

This includes, but is not limited to the following…

  • Soda
  • Cookies
  • Ice Cream
  • Chocolate
  • Candy
  • Fried Foods
  • Burgers

Not only will these foods decrease your athletic ability, but they will also lead to health problems later on down the road.

I’m not saying you can’t enjoy a burger every so often, just don’t let it consume you, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

In Summary

Being picky with your diet may be annoying at first, but once you get used to eating healthy, it starts to become a habit and makes you feel great.

If you incorporate the foods mentioned in this article, you will see an increase in your running performance over time and feel a whole lot better in yourself, too!

Combine this with incredible music when running and you’ve got a recipe for success.

I would love to hear from anybody who has improved their running as a result of a healthy diet. Drop a comment below and I will get in touch with you as soon as possible.

Read Also: Best Running Shoes For Older Runners

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