It can sometimes be difficult to know what foods are right for you in relation to food as running fuel. Everyone has different nutritional requirements, and factors such as the time one should leave between eating and running can be confusing at times.
However, there are some basic, universal findings on which foods are proven to be beneficial for endurance exercise, and also when it is best for your body to absorb the nutrients within them.
Protein and carbohydrates work well post run, and work well as a combination, as your body converts the sugars from the carbohydrates into energy for the muscles to use in readily absorbing the protein for muscle repair after exercise. Therefore, this combination helps with recovery.
I enjoy creating different meals and snacks for my training, and one I often go back to is a healthy banana bread recipe that contains several nutrients necessary for endurance exercise. The basic ingredients for the banana bread are as follows, but you can of course include your own add-ins such as nuts or other natural sweeteners than the ones I use.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
2 cups porridge oats
3 medium extra ripe bananas
½ cup chia seeds
½ cup plant-based milk e.g. almond or soya
5 medjool dates
2 tbsp goji berries
1 tsp baking powder
- Put the oats in a blender and blend until it becomes a more flour-like consistency. Then place in a mixing bowl.
- Put the chia seeds in a small bowl with 1 to 1½ cups water to soak whilst you carry on with the other ingredients.
- In another bowl add the dates with a little hot water, let them soak for a minute or two. Then mash the dates with the water into a paste.
- Break the bananas into pieces and put into the bowl with the oat flour. Using a fork, mash the bananas into the oats and mix evenly.
- Now add the milk, soaked chia seeds, goji berries, date paste and baking powder to the bowl and stir all ingredients together.
- Line a rectangular tin with foil and add the mixture together. Cook at 190°C for about 30-40 minutes, depending on how powerful your oven is!
Just the bananas alone in this recipe provide many nutrients that are beneficial for runners. One of them being potassium, which is an electrolyte that aids in fluid balance and nerve impulses. A lack of potassium can lead to muscle cramps. Bananas are also high in vitamin B6 and magnesium.
The oats provide magnesium also, as well as calcium and zinc. Zinc is particularly important among young athletes because it aids in proper growth, and the body cannot really store zinc so it is beneficial to regularly consume oats.
Chia seeds provide the protein that will aid in muscle repair post-exercise. In fact, chia seeds actually contain all 8 amino acids, as well as being a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. They are also high in iron, which many athletes are deficient in.
Goji berries provide an incredible amount of antioxidants, as well as being another plant-based source of a full set of protein. The sugars in goji berries are complex carbohydrates, so the energy is slow releasing and you won't get a sugar crash afterwards!
All of these nutrients combined make a PERFECT post-run snack. It tastes really good, too.