Nutrition advice for runners: The Wheel of Food Happiness

A picture of a pie chart split equally with the headings: Delicious, nutritious, cheap and easy. The centre of the wheel states " The wheel of food happiness"

Running is going to make you hungry. This is great because a) food is delicious and b) if you take a little care over the ingredients you use, you can get some powerful nutrients in your body which will add to the benefits you’re already getting from training.

Just like with any other aspect of your regime, the most important factor determining the effectiveness of your nutrition plan is whether you actually stick to it. If you don’t get that part right then none of the rest really matters. There is no point concocting the perfect blend of spirulina, raw biltong and ground flax seeds for your post-run snack, if realistically you’re going to find that way too difficult to stomach after you’ve got out of bed earlier than usual to do interval training first thing on your Wednesday morning.

The best running food will ideally be nutritious enough that it actively helps your body adapt to your training. It will be easy to prepare and store so that it doesn’t become an inconvenience. It will be cheap enough that you can eat plenty of it without it any negative financial impact. And finally, it will be so delicious that it actually increases your motivation for training.

 

The Wheel of Food Happiness

How do we achieve this? At the centre of your running nutrition should be the Wheel of Food Happiness:

Running is simple: it doesn’t need a lot of kit and it makes you feel good. The same should go for your running food, which is why some of the best running food you can get is the trusty banana. It’s delicious, it’s cheap, it’s extremely easy and safe to prepare, even on the go (as long as you don’t slip on the skin!) . It’s nutrition-superpower is the mixture of slow and fast release carbohydrates, it’s high fibre content and it’s source of red blood cell boosting vitamin B6.

Bananas fit right in our Wheel of Food Happiness:

A picture of a pie chart split equally with the headings: Delicious, nutritious, cheap and easy. The centre of the wheel has an image of a hand holding a banana

However, I know you came to this blog for nutritional secrets, and there’s a very real risk you’re going to leave feeling short-changed if I just tell you to eat a banana. So, I want to introduce you to my top-secret, game-changing, performance-enhancing upgrade that is as simple and cheap, yet makes our trusty banana approximately 50% more nutritious and easily twice as delicious!

The benefits of Peanut Butter

Running life hack: SMEAR PEANUT BUTTER ON YOUR BANANAS!

A picture of a pie chart split equally with the headings: Delicious, nutritious, cheap and easy. The centre of the wheel has a picture of a hand holding a banana covered in peanut butter

The best kind of peanut butter is simply blended, roasted peanuts, with no added oil or sugar. You can get a 1-kilo tub of the stuff for as little as £5. As sources of organic protein go, it’s hard to beat – providing about 10g for a typical banana-serving worth (40g on the banana pictured, weighed using my normal kitchen scales).

It’s also very energy-dense because it’s very high in mono- and poly-unsaturated fat, so it can be a useful snack-food to eat if you need a boost – perhaps transferring from the library to your evening training session – but don’t want anything too heavy sat in your stomach. There is more and more evidence that fatty foods have an important part to play in nutrition, so high-fat foods like peanut butter are not anything to be afraid of, particularly if you choose the right ones. Avoids excessive consumption of saturated fat is still recommended, and will make you feel more sluggish, rather than energised.

Next time…

So there it is. Don’t overthink it – don’t overlook the psychological side of your nutrition. You want your running fuel to be something you look forward to that enhances, rather than impedes, your training.

In the next instalment of this nutrition blog-series we’ll look at ways in which nutrition can help you settle into a good training regime; from energy to recovery and aiding your sleep. There are lots of different things our food can do for us that will help keep us going.

Until next time!

Tim Hinson
Resident Chef at The Pavilion, Coombe Dingle Sports Complex

 

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