The 6 Best Foods for Runners

By , Erik V., SparkPeople Contributor

Running is a fantastic activity to help maintain a healthy heart and weight. But the real magic happens when you refuel after your run! To get the most out of running, it's crucial that you eat healthy foods filled with vitamins, healthy fats, plus carbs and proteins that aid in muscle repair and development. Incorporate the following foods into your diet to reap maximum running rewards. 

Salmon and Omega-3's
Fresh salmon is not only rich in protein, but also in much-needed Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3's help increase the elasticity of blood vessels to help the heart and cardiovascular system work more efficiently. When running, you'll need all the help you can get to keep your body performing at optimum levels. While eating salmon the night before a race may not affect much, you can improve your overall health and fitness in the long term by eating salmon two to three times a week.

Kale's health benefits make it a great addition to any meal, salad, or even as lightly-baked chips for a snack. Kale is full of essential vitamins and minerals that will keep you healthy while training. Most importantly, it is highly anti-inflammatory, which means that you'll lower your risk of joint pain and sore knees if you eat it often. While all vegetables are beneficial in their own right, nothing packs a more nutritional punch than kale!

Forget a pre-workout shake; instead, have a banana! Bananas contain a high amount of healthy carbs to keep you full--but not too full--before a race. After running, have another banana to replenish your magnesium while also getting more protein and carbs. A few bananas go a long way, and they are a healthier alternative to the overfilling pre-workout supplements commonly available.

Green Tea
Sometimes, we need more than a banana to get ready for a long run. While caffeine can be a great boost for those lazy days, many people find coffee to be too discomforting and its caffeine content too high. Luckily, green tea has a relatively low caffeine content that likely won't result in jitters; plus, it's full of antioxidants that help to boost your metabolism and overall health. Have a cup of tea 30 minutes before running for a boost!

Pasta is a common choice the night before races since it provides the muscles with plenty of glycogen for fuel. Whole-wheat pasta is also a great alternative for those wishing to lose weight, as it has fewer carbs and more fiber than flour pasta. Have a bowl with some natural tomato sauce for a healthy and energy-packed pre-race meal!

Bagels with Cream Cheese or Peanut Butter
A bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter is a great snack full of healthy fats, filling carbs, and slow-release protein. It's satisfying, tasty and quick, which makes it perfect for breakfast or as a snack after training. For a healthier bagel, choose a whole-wheat bagel over a plain white flour bagel—and avoid the jumbo sizes often found at delis and bakeries.