Thursday, October 15, 2009

Top Ten Healthiest Foods for Runners

If you have been following us this month you know some of us are training for our first half marathon in Miami. This got us to wondering - What foods should our bodies be chomping on in order to keep our body from breaking down and keep running? Well as you might guess we now have our answer. Matt Fitzgerald a journalist and author specializing in endurance sports training has recommended the following 10 food items:

1. Wild salmon

Wild salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which boost heart health by creating more elastic blood vessels and improve nervous system functioning. These benefits go beyond general health to affect exercise performance. A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology showed that fish oil supplementation increased heart stroke volume and cardiac output during low- to moderate-intensity exercise. Eating wild salmon two or three times per week will net you these same benefits.

2. Red Cherries

Red cherries are one of the most antioxidant-rich fruits on earth. Antioxidants boost health in lots of ways, ranging from maintaining healthy blood vessels to preventing the growth of cancerous tumors. They also enhance athletic performance. In a study done at the University of Vermont, competitive rowers who added cherry juice to their diets experienced significantly less muscle soreness and strength loss after taking a test designed to cause muscle damage than did a group of fellow rowers who received a placebo.

3. Kale

Kale is a member of the cabbage family and contains high levels of vitamins A, B6, C and K, iron, calcium, and antioxidants. It also has strong anti-inflammatory properties. Low-grade inflammation resulting from exercise-induced muscle damage is a daily nuisance for many endurance athletes and can become a chronic issue. Maintaining a diet that’s high in anti-inflammatory foods, such as kale, reduces the risk of this problem.

4. Low-fat milk

With its balance of fast-acting carbohydrates and proteins, low-fat milk is the ideal post-exercise muscle recovery “food” for endurance athletes. Research has shown that muscle glycogen stores are replenished and muscle tissues are repaired fastest when carbs and proteins are consumed together after a workout. A study by researchers at Indiana University found that chocolate-flavored low-fat milk outperformed certain popular recovery supplements when consumed after exercise.

5. Bananas
Bananas are among the best pre-workout and pre-race foods for endurance athletes because they are almost all carbohydrate. A large banana contains more than 30 grams of carbohydrate, just 1 gram of protein, and no fat whatsoever. Bananas are also extremely high in potassium (400 mg), which is lost in sweat during exercise. Their softness and light taste make them easy to consume even with pre-race nerves, and their natural “wrapper” makes them handy for eating on the road.

6. Soy

Soy is a bona fide superfood clinically proven to lower cholesterol, reduce negative symptoms of menopause, and help prevent osteoporosis. It is also an excellent source of a type of antioxidants called phytoestrogens. On top of all that, soy is a great source of post-exercise protein to promote muscle recovery. Researchers at Ohio State University recently published a study showing that soy protein is as effective as whey protein in promoting muscle growth in response to training.

7. Old-fashioned oatmeal

Experts in sports nutrition recommend that endurance athletes get approximately 60 percent of their daily calories from carbohydrate to maximize workout performance. Old-fashioned oatmeal provides a whopping 27 grams of carbohydrate per ½-cup serving. What’s more, old-fashioned oatmeal is a high-fiber, low-glycemic index food, so the energy it provides is long-lasting. A Penn State study found that men were able to exercise significantly longer after a breakfast of old-fashioned oatmeal than after a high-glycemic index breakfast of puffed rice.

8. Green Tea

Green tea, which contains a high concentration of a class of antioxidants called catechins, is well on its way to becoming the beverage of choice among endurance athletes. In a recent study from the University of Birmingham, England, acute supplementation with green tea extract increased fat burning during moderate-intensity exercise by 17 percent. These results suggest a strong possibility that green tea extract could delay fatigue during prolonged moderate-intensity efforts.
Other studies have shown that green tea reduces free radical damage to muscle tissue during exercise. And green tea also contains caffeine, which has been shown to boost performance in races of every distance by stimulating the nervous system and reducing perceived exertion.

9. Tomatoes

We all know that tomatoes are a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is thought to help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and certain types of cancer. But tomatoes are also a great source of many vitamins and minerals that are helpful to endurance athletes, including vitamin B6. A recent study published in the International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research found that laboratory animals fed a vitamin B6-deficient diet were not able to store as much muscle glycogen as those who ate enough of the vitamin.

10. Whole-wheat pasta

Pasta is one of the most carbohydrate-dense foods, making it great to eat before big workouts and races, when you want to maximize muscle glycogen stores, and after big workouts, when you want to replenish muscle glycogen stores. But whole-wheat pasta provides longer-lasting energy than pasta made with refined wheat flour due to its higher fiber content. So choose the whole-wheat version when you fill up at your next pre-race pasta party.

Stay Hungry Friends!

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