Here are our top 10 foods to help sustain energy levels and boost the immune system to keep you in tip top health for your general training.
1. Wholegrain carbohydrates
Of the three macronutrients we need to eat to function at our best (carbs, protein and fat), carbohydrate is the one we rely on to fuel energy most efficiently. Once digested, carbohydrate is converted into blood glucose and used for energy, or stored in the liver and muscle, in the form of ‘glycogen’.
We rely on this stored carbohydrate, or glycogen, to drip-feed energy to keep us going when we run. Base main meals on wholegrains such as wholewheat pasta, bulgur wheat, couscous and brown basmati rice. These release their sugars more gradually than refined carbohydrates and will sustain our energy to help eke out those extra miles.
Top tip: PORRIDGE OATS release energy into the bloodstream gradually. Find ways to power up your porridge here.
2. Sweet potatoes, pumpkin and butternut squash
Yellow or orange starchy vegetables are brimming with sustaining carbohydrates, immune-supportive and anti-inflammatory beta-carotene, vitamin C, magnesium, potassium and fibre; add to soups, curries and risottos.
Top tip: Prepare soups in advance and freeze.
Sometimes the simplest things are the best! Cheap and convenient, eggs are an excellent source of protein, essential vitamins and minerals such as iron. A fabulous fast food for busy athletes!
Top tip: Scrambled or poached eggs on wholemeal toast makes a really quick and nutritious post run recovery meal.
The runner’s best friend, bananas are easily digested, easy to transport, instant fast food, packed with potassium to prevent muscle cramps plus fibre, vitamin C and vitamin B6. Ripe bananas have a higher G.I. for rapid post-run recovery.
Top tip: Blend a banana with milk and honey for the ultimate post-run recovery shake.
5. Salmon and Sardines
Packed with omega-3s for a healthy heart and protein for muscle recovery and repair; oily fish contains the full spectrum of amino acids necessary for the growth and maintenance of lean muscle tissue. It also acts as an anti-inflammatory.
Top tip: Tinned fish is packed with nutrients and is kinder on the purse strings. Place a couple of tinned sardines on a slice of sourdough toast, sprinkle with a little dried thyme, salt and pepper and grill for a couple of minutes. Squeeze a little lemon over to serve and enjoy
Avocados will always be towards the top of my top foods list. A rich source of unsaturated fat, avocados pack a nutritional punch with nearly 20 vitamins and minerals, and contain even more potassium than bananas.
Top Tip: Spread ripe avocado on some delicious fresh bread and sprinkle with a little salt and a squeeze of lime, make a yummy Guacamole, or try avocado as a butter substitute.
7. Love your Greens
Spinach, watercress, broccoli, kale, cavolo nero contain a massive array of vitamins, riboflavin, folate, iron, calcium and other minerals to promote optimum health.
Top tip: Do you like vegetable crisps? Crunchy Kale crisps are really easy to make at home (and much cheaper!).
8. Nuts and seeds
Just a small handful provides a power pack of omega-3 and -6, vitamin E and minerals to promote a healthy immune system, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and even improve mood and brain power.
Top tip: Roast almonds or walnuts and sprinkle on cereal, salads and couscous.
Love it or hate it, beetroot has pretty astonishing qualities for athletes. Said to help your body exercise more efficiently, it contains nitrates, which, once converted to nitrite and nitric oxide in the body, enables muscles to work more efficiently and demand less oxygen.
Top tip: Whizz up a nutri-blast shake with Beetroot, Apple and Carrot to give your immune system a helping hand.
Milk contains calcium, protein, vitamins A and B12 and riboflavin (which helps release energy from carbohydrates,) to promote the health of bones, muscles, skin and blood.
Top tip: Drink milk within the first 15 minutes of returning from a run – it’s a cheap and effective sports drink.
Good luck with your training!