Make sure your training and race performance packs a punch by adding these foods to your shopping list.
Hilary McGee, MPH, is a leading nutrition coach with a masters degree in Public Health and advanced diploma in Nutrition and Health coaching. In Running, McGee is part of the Irish Endurance Coaches Network and in association with Athletics Ireland and The Irish Sports Council she established a Fit4Life running league.
Here, she shares 28 essential foods, ranging from anti-inflammatory to immune boosting foods that runners and everyone should stock up on.
1. Extra Virgin Coconut Oil
Extra virgin coconut oil can be used for cooking in place of vegetable oil or as a spread on toast. In the past coconut has been poorly thought off becasuse of its high fat content, however the medium chain fatty acids (MCFA), most notably in the form of lauric acid, found in coconut oil are rare and highly beneficial to your health. MCFA are less likely to be stored in the body as fat and more readily used as a source of energy.
Add a tiny bit to your herbal tea or coffee to bullet proof it. Try adding a spoon to homemade smoothies before blitzing in a blender.
2. Buckwheat Groats
Use as an alternative to oats at breakfast. Soak overnight with lemon juice. Drain in a sieve and rinse through with water before cooking for 10-15 mins. Add your own toppings. Naturally gluten free.
Full of protein, iron, essential amino acids and minerals. Add one teaspoon to water and drink or mix into smoothies. Best to have at a separate time from meals for increased absorption. Add a teaspoon of turmeric for additional anti-inflammatory benefits.
The only fruit that is a fat and often referred to as nature’s butter. Loaded with beneficial monounsaturated fats and full of energy. Try making your own guacamole or have with baked eggs or salmon.
5. Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has so many benefits including aiding digestion, preventing colds and flu and alkalizing too. A great addition to a runners diet to fight the cold weather.
Light or dark. Made from sesame seeds and full of calcium. Most supermarkets keep in their health food aisle. Can be added to smoothies, curries or used as a spread.
Beetroot can be enjoyed cooked or uncooked. Make your own beetroot slaw by mixing with sliced raw red cabbage and avoid the pickled kind if possible. A highly recommended for runners to improve endurance, but go easy on consuming too close to competition time.
Buy organic carrots in bulk and use in smoothies and juices. Great for your skin’s elasticity. Full of antioxidants and high in vitamin C.
A probiotic, more easily digested than dairy on its own. Widely available in non-dairy varieties. Make your own by combining kefir grains with the milk of your choice e.g. goats or coconut milk.
11. Sesame seeds
Sprinkle sesame seeds on salads or breakfast to add a nice crunch and nutty taste: a source of magnesium, which helps reduce muscle soreness.
12. Pumpkin seeds
Keep in your fridge due to high-fat content. Blend for longer life and store in your used tahini jars. Rich in magnesium and zinc also. Zinc helps prevent colds.
Linseeds can be used as a topping on granola etc or salads, again adds extra texture.
All kinds of lentils exist and can be added to practically anything. Use in soups to thicken, or a good alternative to grains and a comfort food.
Chickpeas are a great plant source of protein. Buy the high quality dried version rather than a tin. Soak overnight before cooking.
16. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes have a low score on the glycaemic index, meaning they release energy steadily over time which helps to keep blood sugar levels even. They can even help your body metabolise fat more efficiently and can be used in a wide variety of sweet and savoury dishes. A tasty sweet potato and quinoa recipe can be found here.
A good addition to soups, chilli, stews or salads for all round anti-inflammatory benefits. Also great for dips and can easily fit in a lunchbox for the on the go runner.
Bananas are a convenient source of potassium, which helps to balance the fluids and electrolyte levels in your body. Like Sweet potatoes, they are also low on the glycaemic index helping to keep blood sugar levels steady.
Pineapple is rich in vitamin C, vitamin B1, potassium and because of a digestive enzyme called bromelain, it’s also a natural anti-inflammatory. Always buy fresh instead of canned.
21. Gluten free oatcakes
A healthy snack that you can top with tahini, hummus or avocado to help keep blood sugars even by combining low glycemic grains with a protein source.
22. Dark chocolate
When choosing dark chocolate as a tasty snack (2 squares) go for 70-85% cacao content. With a lot less sugar than milk chocolate, the dark variety is also an excellent alternative in baking.
Eggs are an inexpensive and convenient source of protein, full of nutrients. Experiment by poaching, baking or scrambling or enjoy cold in salads.
Full of protein and heart healthy omega 3’s. A good choice for lunch and try adding to salads.
When it comes to cinnamon, choose good quality, and try sprinkling it on your porridge in the morning. It helps to evens out blood sugars and helps prevent cravings.
Turmeric is an all round anti-inflammatory and it can be used in curries or as a replacement for chilli in recipes.
Another great natural anti-inflammatory. It is great mixed with cinnamon or honey during flu season. To prepare, peel skin using the back of a spoon, slice and chop finely. Add to hot water and make a tea, use in stir fries, curries and smoothies.
A very cheap form of vitamin C and alkalizing too.