Are you training for a long distance run this summer? Check out natural tips (and recipes!) for those aches and pains

June 12, 2013

Food Fixes For Running Woes

By Betsy Noxon, health writer, blogger and author

As a runner, food is the most important weapon in your arsenal. It fuels your workout, restores muscle, lends energy and combats fatigue. The secret to running strong is choosing your nutrition options wisely. Consuming certain foods and fluids at the right time will power your runs while keeping discomfort at bay.

Whether it’s tummy troubles, sheer exhaustion or uncomfortable cramps, you can cure what ails you through simple food fixes. Try these edible Rx’s to feel better in a flash.

Sore Muscles

Food Fix: All runners experience occasional muscle soreness. The trick to preventing achy arms and legs? Make your post-run meal a top priority. Nancy Clark, dietitian and author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook recommends eating both protein and carbs within one hour after a long run or difficult workout. “Eat cereal with milk, yogurt or a fruit smoothie for a good protein-carb combination,” she says.

Throughout the day, look for foods containing high levels of antioxidants, which have been proven to reduce inflammation. Heather Mangieri, a certified sports dietitian, recommends cherries, blueberries, figs, eggplants and sweet potatoes.

Stomach Cramps

Food Fix: A sudden sharp stomach cramp can put a halt to your run. “Running jostles the gut, and intense runs can result in abdominal pains since blood is drawn away from the stomach to your working muscles,” says Deb Ognar, a sports dietitian at Northwestern University. The most common cause of cramping is eating too much too close to your workout. Ognar recommends eating two to four hours before your run, choosing low fiber foods and staying hydrated throughout the day. Ognar’s top pre-run nutrition picks include cereal, crackers, applesauce and melon.

Runner’s Trots

Food Fix: Mid-run bathroom emergencies are embarrassing, but they’re probably more common than you think. One UK study found that 68 percent of women marathoners had experienced diarrhea during or immediately after running. To stop loose stool and gas, avoid high fiber foods and fatty meal items. Ognar also suggests staying away from sweeteners, such as sorbitol, found in sugar-free gums and candies.

Choose easy-to-digest foods like pasta, bagels or rice. Keep a food diary to help determine what works and what doesn’t for your system. If you suspect an underlying GI issue, see a gastroenterologist.

Fatigue

Food Fix: Feeling extremely tired is common for runners, especially during periods of increased mileage. As calories are a form of energy, one of the most basic ways to decrease fatigue is to be sure you’re eating enough. Avoiding calories during intense training sessions can lead to tiredness, decreased immunity and injury.

Women are more susceptible to anemia due to menstrual blood loss, and one of its most common systems is fatigue. “Include iron-rich foods in your diet, such as raisins, cereals, and meat sources which will help fight fatigue,” says Dubost.

Charlie Horses

Food Fix: When a sudden leg cramp creeps up on you during a run, the culprit is almost certainly low sodium. Prior to heading out on a long run, crunch on some salty snacks, such as pickles, soup, crackers or pretzels, recommends Mangieri. Also be sure to take an electrolyte drink with you to replenish sodium lost through sweat during runs or races that last longer than an hour. Low sodium can also cause heart palpitations, nausea and headaches—all telltale signs of a serious depletion.

Get Pumped!

An iron-rich diet wards off anemia, which can lead to fatigue. These super-easy burgers mix beef and mushrooms will fill you with energy.

  • Serves 6
  • 1 tsp. olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 pound shitake mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 3 Tbsp. prepared pesto
  • 2 cups baby spinach
  • 6 whole-wheat buns

Salt & pepper

Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Saute garlic for 30 seconds, or until fragrant, then add mushrooms to the pan. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until mushrooms darken and lose their liquid. Remove from heat and cool.

Mix beef and cooled mushrooms together in bowl. Shape into 6 patties and season each side with salt and pepper. On a hot grill or grill pan, cook patties for 4 to 6 minutes per side, or until the burger reaches a desired doneness.

While burgers are cooking, mix together yogurt and pesto in a small bowl with a pinch of salt and pepper. Divide mixture on bottom of each bun, top with burger, then finish with a handful of spinach. Cover burgers with top bun, and enjoy!

  • Sore-No-More Smoothie
  • Enjoy this antioxidant-rich shake for breakfast or dessert to prevent lactic acid buildup.
  • ½ cup mixed berries
  • ½ cup frozen cherries
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

This material is provided for informational use only and should not be construed as medical advice or used in place of consulting a licensed medical professional. You should consult with your doctor to determine what is right for you.