“Food is fuel.”
Training for any race, whether a 5k, half marathon, 10 mile or 10k, requires dedication, good sleep, logging miles, and food – lots of food. The question is: what are the best foods to eat for runners?
Fueling is important in everyday life and especially important for runners. One of my biggest challenges is finding new, good ideas for marathon fueling. Especially right now, as I’m in my middle phase, soon approaching my peak weeks, the appetite increases and so, too does the need for good fuel ideas.
Additionally, I’ve had to experiment with my food choices throughout the years. Certain foods fuel my runs better than others, while some foods don’t sit well in my stomach on long run days. I think every runner goes through this to a degree and it’s all about finding what foods work best for you. Another great reason to track food (but without counting calories).
In the spirit of always being on the search for the best marathon training foods, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite marathon training foods and, in my case, all of these are vegetarian so a little bump for those looking to eat more veg-friendly foods and still feel well-fueled.
My go-to breakfast before a run is a whole wheat waffle with peanut butter and half a banana sliced on top. If I need a little extra energy, I’ll top the other half of the banana in peanut butter and enjoy that, too.
On non-race days, another breakfast I love is oatmeal with a spoonful of a plant protein powder like pumpkin seed or hemp.
On run days, lunch is usually lighter for me. I’m one of those people who’s not hungry after running – my runger usually sets in the day after a long run.
One of my favorites, especially because I usually train for marathons in the winter, is two slices of avocado toast topped with fried eggs and a little cheese, along with a side of veggie or bean-rich soup. If you want to add an extra punch of good to avocado toast, include mixed greens, cucumbers, or tomatoes.
Other days, I love a good salad with a hardboiled egg and cottage cheese, along with a side of tater tots. Yep, that’s right, tater tots. They’ve proven time and time again to be great fuel for an evening run plus they’re tasty and a great starchy compliment to a protein and veggie-heavy salad.
Finally, a Jimmy John’s veggie sub is probably my favorite lunch – often, I eat JJs the day before a long run, sometimes, I’ll eat it after a long run. Other days, I’ll just eat it because it’s tasty and always makes my stomach happy.
Carbs are good, they’re not evil. And especially a dinner the night before a run or after one, carbs are good fuel and replenishment.
It’s so runner cliché to eat pasta but it’s true for a reason. What I like to do is mix up traditional pasta like noodles or spinach tortellini with zucchini noodles (I’ve also tried carrot, squash, and other veggie noodle varieties), plus add a ton of veggies like artichokes, spinach, and olives, then top with a light, garlicky tomato sauce.
On lazy days, I’ll take a frozen meal (Amy’s bowls are my favorite) like mac and cheese with broccoli or pesto tortellini, then add a bunch of my own veggies to it.
Other days, tacos are one of my favorite dinners and, best of all, you can mix up the ingredients based on what you’re feeling or what you need to clean out of the fridge (the latter if often me).
Some combos I enjoy are typical, others have a unique twist – here are three:
A black bean burger crumbled up with some tomatoes, spinach and ranch dressing.
Eggs, Spanish rice, tomatoes, spinach, and salsa.
Quinoa, black beans, zucchini, squash, spinach, and salsa.
Finally, breakfast food is my favorite food – so breakfast for dinner is a frequent occurrence. A couple eggs on toast with a sweet potato or scrambled eggs with a waffle topped with berries. Even if it’s just straight up pancakes for dinner. The possibilities of breakfast know no limits.
Oh, snacks. I love snacks. Whether a small snack or one much larger, I’m not a three-meals-a-day kind of gal. I need the snacks.
Speaking of breakfast foods being the best, a bowl of cereal with skim milk is often the best snack, any time of day. I tend to go with either a mix of fiber and sweet like Frosted Mini Wheats or Raisin Bran, or simple like Rice Chex or Special K.
When it comes to smaller snacks, Belvita protein bars have become one of my favorites.
Berries, grapes, mangos, oranges, really any fruit is also high on the list.
Hardboiled eggs are another good snack if I don’t have eggs planned for one of my other meals; I usually eat three, one with the yolk, the others just the whites.
And, of course, Reese’s. Can’t go wrong with Reese’s, all day, every day.
Fellow runners, please share your favorite training staple, whether a meal or a snack. I’m always looking for new ideas.
The comments are yours so please share.