I’ve been running most of my life, but with more sincerity about the sport since age 20. At 44 years old, I have noticed a definite decline in my stamina and, therefore, a decline in my desire to keep running as a part of my exercise regimen. It was once possible for me to run a marathon with only six months of training under my belt.
Now, if I decided to run one, I’d have to start training about two years out. Getting old sucks. However, at different periods throughout life, runners have to adjust their nutritional intake to match their body’s needs to keep up endurance and speed. Everybody is different, of course, but here are the food fundamentals of keeping up with the runners in your pack. Adjust accordingly, and run on.
Gatorade and salted nuts (pretzels are OK if you’re allergic to nuts)
Why? You sweat, and you sweat out sodium that must be replaced. You need a certain amount of sodium in your blood and when this concentration is too low cramps set in. In worse cases, death can even occur, so don’t mess around. There have been all kinds of bad hype about sports drinks, but unless you want to carry some salt packs in your fanny pack, they’re a good and readily available alternative—especially on the marathon route.
Tuna, avocados, sweet potatoes, bananas
Why? If you’ve read it once you’ve read it a million times: Bananas help with muscle cramps. It’s a no-brainer, potassium-packed fruit for runners. But if bananas aren’t your thing, substitute with sliced avocados, a chunk of tuna or a few sweet potatoes (boiled, not fried). Since it balances your fluids to make muscles work properly, have one of these on hand after a good hard run.
Eggs, broccoli, spinach, beef
Why? Yes, beef, it’s what’s for dinner, again—at least if you’re a long-distance runner. Oxygen doesn’t just show up in your muscles. It has to get there somehow, and it does so by way of red blood cells. If you don’t get enough iron from one of these foods, you’ll feel tired and run out of energy way before you should. Beets tend to help with this, too!
Milk, yogurt, greens (like kale) and beans
Why? Calcium. The older you get, the more brittle the bones become. Runners risk stress fractures from the constant road pounding, and you can seriously decrease the chances of weak bones by upping the calcium in your diet. If you’re a middle-aged runner, like me, it wouldn’t hurt to take a calcium supplement as directed by your doctor.
Quinoa, almonds, halibut, leafy greens, oh and did I say quinoa?
Why? Put the pasta down. Quinoa has tons of carbs, but it’s rich in protein making this a healthier alternative. Halibut, salmon, and almonds are also good sources of protein, antioxidants, other vitamins, like B and C, and magnesium, which aids in energy metabolism and improved bone density.
Chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, oysters and red meat
Why? Carb-loading without incorporating fat and protein into your diet reduces levels of zinc and can actually limit oxygen intake. This important mineral helps with tissue repair after running and can boost energy levels as well as endurance. And there’s that quinoa again!
*Remember to always check with your doctor before taking any supplements or making major changes to your diet.
Check out our blog on healthy holiday meal alternatives before you go diving into your fridge. Alternatively, you can check out our blog on what to eat to build muscle, too! Remember: the balance between a solid diet, regular exercise, and a positive mindset are what makes up the path to Your Best Self!