5 Superfoods for Runners

Are superfoods like super heroes? Image from breakupwithsugar.com

What questions pop into your mind when you hear the term “Superfood?”

1. “Is this like food on steroids? I thought hormones in chicken were out of style.”

b. “Did she mean to type super hero? Green Lantern is pretty speedy.”

III.  “Is this going to be another list of foods I don’t like to eat? If I have to read about how great salmon is one more time…”

Well, you’re in luck. The answers to the above questions are no, no and no. Superfood, according to Oxford English Dictionary, is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being.” Hmmm.. if that’s all a superfood is, I suppose it could be argued that ice cream is good for my well-being because it makes me smile and therefore is a superfood. Right?

I wonder what Green Lantern eats to fuel his superhero lifestyle? Image from movie.ign.com.

I prefer to think of a superfood as something you eat/drink that gives you the most bang for your buck. Something with a lot nutrition packed into it without a lot of extra junk. An efficient way to fuel pre and post-run. Superfoods are like DVR. Extract all the good stuff and leave the junky commercials.

Today, Salty Running brings  you five unique foods to try as you gear up for your fall race. The final five were a tough call. I wanted to tell you all about probiotics, but they aren’t really a food. So, we’ll save that talk for another day. Without further ado, here are your top five superfoods for summer.

1. Protein powder

My favorite protein powder!

I’ll admit, I didn’t try protein powder until a few months ago. I thought the market for protein powder was just body builders and vegans. But, in a chat with a mom who was also a dietician I learned about the importance of protein in recovery. I told her I usually ate some nuts in a trail mix on my way home from speedwork. She told me I needed to try protein powder for a quick and easy packed protein punch. Now, I throw protein powder into post-run smoothies, pancakes, energy bars, even brownies! But what do I love most about protein powder? I can mix a scoop into a water bottle filled with almond milk, grab a piece of fruit and dash out the door in less than 60 seconds with a well-balanced breakfast.My favorite? Life’s Basics Plant Protein in Unsweetened Vanilla.  This protein powder tastes like cake batter. The regular vanilla is even more delicious and only has 3 g of sugar per 1/3 cup serving (compared to a 1 tsp serving of table sugar which has 9 g of sugar).

I usually stick with the plant-based powders. Since I don’t tolerate dairy, I can’t do Whey or Casein. I am always looking for new smoothie mix ins.  What is your favorite protein powder?

2. Cacao

Cacao is raw chocolate with powerful punch of iron and magnesium. Image from nouveauraw.com.

No, I didn’t misspell “cocoa.” But, cacao is simply raw chocolate. You’ve probably heard the buzz that dark chocolate is full of antioxidants to support immunity and heart health. Well, cacao has all that, plus, a mega dose of iron. What? I will admit, I successfully dodged the cacao hype until I learned that 1 serving of 2-3 TBSP has about 10% of your daily value of iron. That’s right! Iron, the albatross of nutrients for lady runners, and it’s found in CHOCOLATE! Cacao is also a great source of Magnesium which is helpful for bone health, immunity, energy, and building protein. Sub cacao powder in for Nesquick, chocolate syrup, or cocoa powder in everything from smoothies to brownies! You can even make homemade chocolate chips out of this stuff! Look for the finely ground cacao powder such as Nativas Naturals or check out your local Whole Foods for a more economical but equally superfooderific brand of cacao.

YAY! Are you as excited as I am that I am telling you to eat chocolate?

3. Coconut water

Refreshing, rehydrating coconut water. Image from aspireactachieve.wordpress.com.

Coconut water holds a special place in my heart. I first learned of this delicious drink on a bus tour in the Caribbean on my honeymoon. Our tour guide hacked open a young, green coconut with a machete, took a sip, and described the tonic inside as an “instant cure for a hangover.” Our bus stopped at a roadside stand, tourists bought young coconuts for $1, and the vendor hacked off the top so we could drink from the vessel during the remainder of our bus ride. What was inside was a salty, sweet, refreshing liquid with a faint note of coconut.Well, our tour guide was right about the hang-over cure. Coconut water is loaded with electrolytes, just like a sports drink, making it a natural rehydration choice for the morning after a big night out or a long training run. And if you’re keeping a list of smoothie ingredients, add coconut water. It is a perfect base for a light fruit smoothie when you aren’t in the mood for something creamy.

When it comes to coconut water, I don’t have a favorite brand. Just check the ingredients. To get the most for your money and your health, pick a brand that reads “100% coconut water” and little to nothing else.

4. Avocado

Creamy, satisfying and green! What more could you want in a superfood? Image from authenticselfwellness.com

I know I promised you new superfood ideas and avocado is on a lot of superfood lists. I tried to leave this delightful fruit out of the Friday Five, but I just couldn’t. Avocados are a great source of healthy unsaturated fats as well as fiber, potassium, Vitamin E, the Vitamin B’s and folic acid. Not to mention, avocado can really fill you up during those high mileage weeks where you feel like a garbage disposal. Plus, I just had to let you in on the versatility of the avocado. Avocados are for more than just guacamole and club sandwiches. Add half an avocado to a salad and you’re too-light lunch is suddenly satisfying. Toss with some scrambled eggs for a post-run breakfast. Substitute avocado for the cheese or sour cream as a topping to tacos (or your burrito bowl).

Avocados are a great way to kick up the nutritional value at any meal, including dessert! Blend with your favorite milk and some cacao powder, a bit of sweetener (like stevia or honey), and ice for an at-home treat that rivals Wendy’s “frosty.” You can even substitute mashed avocado for the butter in baking (such as this cake) or make cake frosting out of this stuff! Yep, I said cake frosting. Creamy, sweet, green cake frosting. I think you’ve got some green, on your lip. Yep, right… there. You got it.

5. Nut butter

Mid-afternoon snack? Justin’s nut butter to the rescue! Image from welcometomykitchen.net.

I love nut butter. I probably go through about a 1/2 a jar of peanut butter a week. It used to be a full jar a week, until I discovered other nut butters. Sometimes, I feel like I am cheating on peanut butter. But with so many other varieties of nuts, why limit myself ?Maybe you’re in the same boat and don’t know about the virtues of almond butter, cashew butter, sunbutter, and even chocolate hazelnut butter. Not to mention, homemade nut butter from cashews, brazil nuts, macadamia nuts, pistachios, coconut and more! With add-ins like cacao, cinnamon, maple syrup, cayenne, coffee! Ahhh my brain is spinning with possibilities! If you can crack it, you can make it into nut butter.

Ok, now that we have established that I clearly have a nut butter obsession, let me tell you why. Similar to avocados, nut butters pack a punch with health fats to fill you up. I love to eat a spoonful of nut butter during those “I’m starving!” moments when a meal is too far away to ignore the hunger.  I keep nut butter packets at my desk at work and in my purse for the mid afternoon hunger rampage that beckons me to eat the cake in the break room or drive through for french fries while running errands. You can squirt it onto pretzels or celery, but I literally suck the stuff down like a Gu. My non-runner friends think I’m crazy. I don’t mind. I’m getting a tasty dose of health fats and shutting my stomach up at the same time. All without ruining my afternoon run or my appetite for dinner. Win-win, win-win-win.

So there you have it Salty Runners! Take this list to the grocery store with you this weekend and try something new! One last tip for stocking up on superfoods. Check out Amazon.com for Subscribe and Save. You can subscribe to have your favorite products delivered to your door, at one to six month intervals, without shipping charges. You save about 15% off the regular price and can cancel  any time! I use this for protein powder, coconut oil, nut butter and more! Check it out and get your superfoods cheap and easy!

Which new superfood will you try this week? What other superfoods do you keep on hand? 

I'm a pediatric physical therapist by day. Running mostly early am miles as I balance life as the mom of a toddler. With PR days in the past, my primary running goal is to be a lifelong runner. With 20+ years behind me, I still love the sport and I am truly grateful for every day I get to run.

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  1. I would like to try the nut butters. I received some packets at a race, but my boys ate them. 🙂 I am a huge fan of avocados these days – which is funny because I used to hate them. Another running superfood (IMO) is hard boiled eggs. They make for an easy shot of protein post-run. The other thing I’d add to the list is some sort of dairy. Particularly for women runners – we need to keep our bones healthy and strong. I tend to lean toward cottage cheese (and extra sharp cheddar – yummy!), but yogurt and chocolate milk are also great options.

    1. I definitely go through phase of egg-love and hard-boiled is one of my fav ways to eat them. I’m dairy intolerant which is why this list doesn’t have any dairy on it. Despite not eating dairy, it’s suprisingly not that hard to get in adequate calcium! I tracked my intake on MyFitnessPal.com for a few weeks and was at 80-100% or mroe of the RDA most days. I still take a Vitamin D/Calcium supplement a couple times a week just to be sure.

  2. I love this list!! I just recently discovered hemp protein powder via No Meat Athlete (and I too was intimidated, I felt like I needed to tell everyone in Whole Foods “Don’t worry, I don’t think I’m a body builder or anything!!” haha) because they had a great protein bar recipe that called for it, but I have been wondering about other ways to use it, so it’s great to hear some ideas. Also been thinking about trying alternative nut butters and coconut water for a while, so maybe this will be the inspiration I need to check them out! Thanks Rosemary!!

    1. I love No Meat Athlete! Are you a vegetarian/vegan? Let me know what you think of the Hemp powder? I got really lucky with my first protein powder purchase (Life’s basics) and I haven’t tried any other varieties! Glad to hear you’ll be trying some new foods soon! XOXO

      1. I have the TJ’s vanilla hemp protein powder and find it totally gross. I choke it down after my long runs because it cost $10 and I’m cheap like that 🙂 I’ll try Life Basics next time!