Running food 1: Beetroot
It might not be the most obvious pre-run meal, however researchers at St Louis University have found that eating baked beetroot before a race could help you to run faster. The study recorded the running speed of 11 fit and healthy participants as they ran 5km on a treadmill. The participants were asked to run once after consuming a portion of baked beetroot an hour before, and once after consuming a similar sized portion of cranberry relish, which had a similar amount of calories.
The results showed that after eating beetroot the average speed of the runners was 12.3km per hour (or 7.6mph), while after the cranberry relish it was just 11.9km per hour (or 7.3mph). It is believed that this is due to the chemicals called nitrates which are contained in beetroot and which have been shown to also improve stamina when exercising.
Running food 2: Oatmeal
To beat your personal best, it is important that your energy levels are high before your run, and eating oatmeal is the perfect way to get the energy boost you need. Oats are a low GI food, meaning that they will help to keep your blood sugar stable and release a slow, steady stream of energy, helping you to maintain your speed throughout your run.
Oats are also a good source of B vitamins, which help the body to break down carbohydrates into glucose to fuel the body, and are rich in many other essential nutrients including magnesium, selenium and manganese. Try having a bowl of porridge or oat-based muesli, a few oatcakes or an oatmeal smoothie an hour or two before your run for a nutritious energy boost to help you run faster.
Running food 3: Fresh fruit
Many runners rely on sugary drinks, foods and gels for energy; however, fruit is a great way to give your body a natural and healthy sugar hit. Make sure you opt for easily digestible fruit as those that are hard to digest – such as those from the citrus family – could hinder your exercise by causing stomach cramps. Bananas are a good choice as they are high in carbs and are also less acidic than apples and citrus fruits so are unlikely to lead to cramps.
As well as being a good source of energy to help you run faster, fruit contains a high proportion of water, which can help you to stay hydrated for your run. Fruit also contains a variety of energy-boosting vitamins and minerals including vitamin C (found in berries), and B vitamins (found in bananas and avocado).
Running food 4: Dark leafy greens
Dark leafy green vegetables are another good source of nitrates, which are believed to help increase running speed and endurance. Leafy green vegetables are also rich in many essential nutrients including iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin K, which will help to keep you in optimum health, thereby helping to improve your energy levels and enhance your run.
Around two hours before your run, opt for a meal incorporating leafy green veg to help enhance your run. You could try pasta with salmon and broccoli or spinach for a good mix of protein and carbs, or try supplementing your usual choice of protein and carbohydrates with some kale, swiss chard, cabbage or a romaine lettuce salad.
Running food 5: Green tea
While green tea is not technically a food, it could make the perfect addition to your pre-run snack. Not only is drinking green tea great for keeping your fluid levels up, the health-boosting drink can also help to regulate blood sugar levels, thereby preventing energy crashes which can slow you down. Green tea also contains caffeine, which can help to give your energy levels a boost, and is less acidic than many other sources of caffeine, lowering the risk of stomach aches during your run.
A research study in Japan found that green tea extract could boost exercise endurance by up to 24 per cent, making it a great energy drink to sip before a run. You could even try taking iced green tea with you for a refreshing alternative to energy drinks, to help you keep your energy levels up and achieve your personal best.
Want more tips to improve your speed? Check out how to improve your speed through interval training.
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