Pantry Staples for Runners

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Every person’s food preferences are different, and the typical athlete’s diet can vary drastically person to person. After years of running and training, you probably know yourself and your body quite well. You know what foods work with you and your stomach, what foods (and food routines) you stick to religiously the night before and morning of a race, and you know what foods to load up on after a run that best serve your recovery. Some people respond better to carbs while others need far more protein in their diets; and still others know that if they do not include a heaping pile of nuts on their oatmeal or smashed avocado on their toast in the mornings for a good source of healthy fats, their running performance (and all around demeanor) suffers greatly. Yet, our list of food staples for runners is compiled of those tried and true pantry staples. These are the foods that, regardless of who you are (unless you have a food allergy), it is a good idea to have these on hand at all times – especially if you are a runner!

Oatmeal

Breakfast does not have to just be for breakfast any more, and that includes oatmeal! Before you roll your eyes at what has typically been dubbed a humdrum morning meal, hear us out. Oatmeal – especially instant oatmeal and packets of oatmeal – are excellent options for runners for plenty of reasons. It is easy to make, it travels and packs well, it can be topped or mixed basically any way you want to fit your tastes, and it is an excellent source of carbohydrates to fuel your training. Topped or mixed with protein sources like milk, yogurt, peanut butter, or protein powder and throw in some healthy fats, and oatmeal is the perfect, well-rounded meal.

Peanut Butter

Unless you or someone you live with has a nut allergy, peanut butter in your pantry is a must. It is the perfect addition to any meal, pairs well with salty and sweet foods, pumps up the protein and healthy fats in your meals, and is even darn-near perfect by itself, licked straight off a spoon. It travels well too – just throw the jar in your bag and you can mix it up throughout the day any way you want. Paired with bread or good source of carbs, peanut butter is an excellent snack because it has “staying power” to satisfy hunger, provide energy, and aid in muscle recovery. (Just watch out for the brands that are loaded with sugar and stick to lower sugar varieties.)

Apple Cider Vinegar

You have probably heard of the “Apple Cider Vinegar Detox” in which participants drink a mixture of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, and ginger to cleanse the body after a heavy holiday season or to lose weight to get ready for an event. While everyone has their preferences, we are not here to condone crash dieting. However, apple cider vinegar, when used in other ways, can offer runners a variety of benefits. ACV has been touted for its gastrointestinal and digestive benefits, which a lot of runners suffer with. Getting tummy issues worked out can really benefit your training, and make racing a lot less painful.

When consumed regularly, apple cider vinegar also helps stabilize blood sugar levels (which tend to dip viciously when we go too long without food and get hangry) and detox our bodies of toxins that build up over time. The result is feeling more energized and more invigorated which will help put a pep in your step (or in your run!). Plus, it’s incredibly versatile when used as a meal ingredient. From soups to slow cooked meats to dressing up pasta salads, veggies, and beans, it is an easy and flavorful way to add a health boost to your regularly schedule meal plan!

Protein Bars

Now we are certainly not advocating for replacing wholesome, natural, animal and plant sources of protein with synthetic protein sources all of the time, but there is certainly something to be said for the convenience of a protein bar. This is especially important for runners who are already busy as it is, aside from a packed training schedule. Protein bars are great to have on hand and rip into right after a tough workout because they can get a quick and hearty supply of protein to your muscles to help speed up and assist in the recovery process (to synthesize muscles and help you come back stronger and faster). They are also something runners need to keep in their bags, purses, backpacks, cars, and even jacket pockets if they know it’ll be a while between meals.

Runners get HUNGRY. Running burns hundreds to thousands of calories, which means you can get really hungry, really quickly. And this most often leads to being “hangry.” Avoid the “runger” by keeping protein bars on hand at all times to tie you over when hunger strikes and you can’t get a substantial meal in.

Turmeric

This one might seem a little odd, but hear us out. Your pantry probably already has the “usual suspects” when it comes to spices, but turmeric is one that might not already be there, as it is usually used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Turmeric has long been used as an at-home remedy for helping fight off illness, strengthening the immune system, and adding in a hearty dose of antioxidants to your diet. So for runners, it is an excellent spice to have on hand particularly in the winter months to avoid a sickness that could potentially derail your training. It has also been noted for its ability to fight inflammation, which can be beneficial in helping tired running bodies properly recover after an intense workout. All the rage right now is Turmeric Milk – much like hot chocolate except swapping turmeric for the chocolate and adding some honey. It’s a great way to unwind after a long day.

Coffee Beans

This is probably a no brainer. Running often requires some early mornings, and coffee is an excellent pre-run choice for your caffeine needs. Most erroneously believe that coffee dehydrates you, which is totally false, so don’t worry about that. And if you stick to regular old black coffee, you have a virtually calorie-free energy source.

The key here, though, is buying the whole beans (i.e. not pre-ground beans) because grinding your own cup of joe in the morning is way more satisfying and fresh. And as an added bonus, coffee has been linked to a variety of long-term health benefits, including heart health, protection against early-onset diabetes, and liver health. Plus… it’ll keep ya regular!

Sources

  1. Julia Denner, OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE: 9 ESSENTIAL FOODS FOR RUNNERS, Blog Article, Oct 05, 2017
  2. Dr. Josh Axe, 5 APPLE CIDER VINEGAR BENEFITS FOR RUNNERS, Runtastic article, May 17, 2017
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