Fuel Part 1

While adding protein shakes, Gatorade and GU to your diet has its benefits, the foundation of your food intake must first be stable. If you're not consuming the proper amount of nutrients via fruits, vegetables, meats, and grains, chances are supplementary products won't do you much good. At the core, all-natural foods are vital for amplifying workouts and maximizing energy exertion. 

When wandering through a supermarket, athletes routinely put on metaphorical blinders, ignoring thousands and thousands of items and robotically heading straight to a handful of go-to items. Cliff bars, Gatorade, frozen pizzas and maybe a few apples are the norm. Yet, unfortunately, when we load our carts with processed grub and avoid the healthy aisle, we're diminishing our own athletic ability. 

Fleet Feet Sports Chattanooga is so looking forward to our first fuel event this Thursday evening, August 11. This event will be part of a fueling series, in which we will go through various ways to properly hydrate and boost energy while training. This week, Holistic Wellness Consultant, Ashley McAdoo, will speak about the ways to kickstart metabolism and fight off fatigue with plant-based, all natural foods.

To honor the kick off of this series, we've made a list of all-natural, advantageous foods that everyone—especially runners—should think about adding into their diet.

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Nuts: 

Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E, essential oils and healthy fats. Eating a handful of nuts several times throughout the week can help lower cholesterol, decrease your risk of heart disease, and even protect you against cancer. Consider eating them raw, or adding them into cereals, salads or hot dishes. You can even puree nuts into butters (ex. peanut butter) and spread the gooey mixture atop breakfast bagels and toasts. 

Eggs:

One egg is equal to approximately 10 percent of your needed daily protein. Packed with amino acids that aid muscle recovery, eggs not only boost energy prior to a workout, but they help your body to heal afterwards. Considered a nutritional powerhouse, eggs are also packed with vitamin K—great for your bones—as well as choline, a stimulating brain nutrient. Add them into burritos or sandwiches; mix them with vegetables for an epic scramble; or fry them up to for an obscure burger topping.

Acidic Fruits (Ex. Grapefruit, Oranges):

Incredibly high in the antioxidant vitamin C, oranges remarkably lessen muscle soreness and boost overall immunity. If you enjoy participating in butt-kicking workouts and/or strenuous downhill running, oranges may be your saving grace! Consider zesting the skin of oranges into smoothies or salads for the nutrient herperidin, which helps lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels. 

Grapefruit is another extremely beneficial acidic fruit, also high in vitamin C. The rich pinkish-red color of the fruit is the result of lycopene, a phytonutrient that is known to help lower the risk of cancer. (Other lycopene-rich fruits and vegetables include tomatoes, watermelon, guava, and apricots. Green tea is also high in lycopene.) Grapefruit juice is ranked among fruit juices highest in antioxidant activity, with protective phenol compounds that can ward off chances of Alzheimer's disease. Additionally, grapefruit helps prevent kidney stones and repair DNA. 

Chicken: 

Runners generally require about 50 to 75 percent more protein that non-runners, in order to rebuild muscles and initiate quick recovery. One small serving of chicken can supply half of that daily need, meaning that a large poultry serving can fulfill the whole day's protein demand! Additionally, chicken contains selenium, which helps prohibit muscle damage that can occur during intense exercise.

Beans: 

Black beans provide 30 percent of your daily protein needs, as well as about 60 percent of your daily fiber. Their vitamin B supports circulation, fat burning and heart health, while antioxidants lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease. Because beans are low glycemic foods, carbs are released slowly and steadily into the body, allowing for enhanced long-term performance, preferred during endurance workouts. 
Sweet potatoes:
While they may be low in calories, sweet potatoes are astoundingly high in vitamin C and A, potassium, iron, manganese and copper. Many runners fail to intake enough manganese and copper—minerals that influence muscle function and overall performance. For this reason alone, chopping sweet potatoes into a casserole, baking them with a meat platter, or loading them with cinnamon and marshmallows for dessert is never a bad idea!
Greens:
Salads may seem overrated, but trust us—they're not! Mixed greens offer phytonutrients that aid muscle recovery during tough workouts and can help fend off age-related diseases, including Alzheimer's, cancer, diabetes and heart disease. If you're not a fan of raw leafy greens, try cooking some chard or spinach into a platter with chicken or fish.  
Fish: 
While all fish are beneficial, salmon is undoubtedly the best of the best. An excellent source of proteins, salmon is also among the greatest food sources for omega-3 fats, which help regulate inflammation and exercise-induced asthma. 
Whole grains:
Runners need a minimum of three ounces of whole grains a day. 100 percent whole-grain breads, pastas and cereals are a good way to increase your intake, while also boosting metabolism and lessening your risk of heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol. Barley, rye, and buckwheat breads are wonderful on sandwiches; and whole grain nutty cereals are phenomenal when mixed with fruit and yogurt for breakfast. 
It's no secret that pasta has always been considered a runner's best friend. It's not uncommon for a group of runners to drive an extra mile to find an Olive Garden or wait an extra hour in line for a seat at a local pasta shop the night before a big race. Not only are whole grain pastas easily digestible, but they help restock glycogen, and they're packed with fiber and vitamins. The trick, however, is eating the proper amount. Many runners habitually load up three or more plates of cheese-y, buttery spaghetti, when in reality a half-cup will do the trick! 
Dark chocolate:
Wait, chocolate is good for me? Yep, that's right. Alleluia! We all deserve to indulge every now and then, and chocolate is thankfully a guilt-free treat for runners. Because chocolate contains antioxidants called flavanols, it can actually boost heart health if consumed in moderation. Chocolate has shown to ease inflammation, prevent blood clots, and lower cholesterol. To lighten the calorie load, consider adding chocolate into a nutty trail mix,  or combining it with a mixed berry fruit salad.   
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There are all kinds of ways to combine these vital food products into your diet. Don't be afraid to try new things and mix up your meal plan! Implementing plenty of fruits, veggies, nuts, whole grains, meats and fish into your diet will help aid performance and overall health, leading to optimal results crossing the finish line!

 

By Olivia Harlow

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