The Top 7 Foods for Runners

For runners, food does more than just squelch hunger. It also fuels your muscles and keeps you healthy.

"Runners need quality foods that provide a 'spark plug' for their energy," says Nancy Clark, RD, MS, and author of the Food Guide for Marathoners. These seven "elite" foods for runners will help you feel your best -- and keep you up and running.


Bananas

If you need a carb-packed energy-booster before an afternoon run, it's hard to go wrong with a banana. A bonus: Bananas contain loads of potassium, which regulates blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.

Try these healthy recipes:



Small Bagel with Peanut Butter


If you're a morning runner, you know it can be tough to hit the road on an empty stomach. It's been several hours since your last meal the night before, and your energy stores are low. Eating a 100- to 300-calorie snack before your morning run can give you energy and staying power, says Clark. This quick-and-easy snack has carbs and protein, plus it's easy to digest.





Berries

Your legs can take a pounding from high-impact activities like running; soreness you feel after a hard run may be caused by micro-tears in the exercised muscles. That's why, in addition to their high fiber content, berries are a good option for runners: the vitamin C and potassium they contain help the body repair itself.



Try these healthy recipes:



Broccoli
This nutritional powerhouse has vitamin C, potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals, all key for peak performance and health, says Clark.

Try these healthy recipes:




Low-Fat Yogurt

Running and other weight-bearing exercise can help you improve your bone density. But calcium is essential part of the equation, and many runners don't get enough. One cup of yogurt contains a third of your recommended daily intake of calcium. Plus, yogurt has protein -- important for building muscle and recovering from tough workouts.



Try these healthy recipes:



Lean Beef

In addition to being a quality protein source, beef is high in iron, an especially important element for runners. (Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue.) For vegetarians, beans, peas, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals are good sources of iron.

Try these healthy recipes:





Wild Salmon

In addition to being a good protein source, salmon contains loads of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which can counteract inflammation and fend off disease.





Try these healthy recipes:


More from FITNESS Magazine: