High in sugar and sweeteners, these disrupt blood sugar levels, increase cravings for sugary foods and add excess calories without any nutritional value. Fizzy drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which can be damaging for bone health. Sports drinks may have their place on long runs, but for shorter runs under an hour, all you need is water.
Red meat is an excellent source of protein, but certain cuts are very fatty and high in calories. Too much saturated fat can promote inflammation – not great for runners, especially if prone to injuries. Instead, increase your intake of lean poultry, such as chicken breast and turkey mince, and look for extra-lean cuts of meat to provide valuable protein without excess fat.
Clear your cupboards of white refined foods – white bread, white rice, cakes and biscuits – which are low in nutrients and packed with sugar. Instead, focus on including more wholegrains, such as wholegrain rice, oats and quinoa. These can help stabilise your blood sugar throughout the day, fuel longer runs and avoid energy dips, which can lead to cravings and over eating. Eating slow-releasing carbohydrates a couple of hours before running will also increase glycogen stores within the liver and muscles, enabling improved performance.
Probiotic-rich foods, such as natural yogurt, sauerkraut and kefir, provide a source of healthy bacteria your digestive tract needs to function optimally as well as supporting immune health. Many runners suffer with digestive upsets or poor immune health, so try and include these in your diet daily.
To improve recovery and keep your immune system healthy over the winter months, you need plenty of antioxidants. Berries and cherries are an excellent source of flavonoids and vitamin C, and have been shown to help reduce post-exercise muscle soreness and improve recovery. Being naturally sweet they can help satisfy those cravings too. Include a handful of these daily before any race or after intense training session where oxidative stress may induce muscle soreness.