When you take part into endurance sports and especially running long distances, you need to give your body enough fuel that will last and provide your muscles with constant flow and release of energy throughout the effort, for consistency, performance and achievement. As I said before, it is like comparing it to a car journey. If you don’t put enough petrol in, you will not reach your destination. If you don’t put the right petrol in, you will not reach your destination either. It is exactly the same for your body, except its machinery is even more complex than the one of a car. Give it the wrong foods and you will crash before finish what you want to achieve.
So what do you need to fuel your body with?! Endurance and long distance sports such as running, mean that the body is required to produce an effort for a prolonged period of time, sometimes for hours and it is highly important that the energy provided to fuel the effort is constant and steady.
So what to have? Easy! Foods that are natural, whole foods, and packed with vitamins and slow release sources of energy! Low GI (glycemic index) foods are the ones you want to get in your diet as they help control blood sugar levels. But you need to remember as well that during endurance, the body does not only rely on carbohydrates for energy, but it also burns fats.
Almonds – They are packed in antioxidants and vitamin E which means that they are great for the immune system. Their calorific value is very high and mostly coming from fats, which means you get a lot of energy through small servings. You can also try almond butter and other nuts butter, but almond is the best because of its content in vitamins and nutrients.
Oranges – They are a great natural supply of energy during exercise and packed with vitamins and minerals too so great to keep you healthy. But as well as boosting your immune system, Vitamin C helps soothe muscle soreness.
Sweet Potatoes – As well as being a slow release source of energy, they also contain vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and copper, which are crucial for healthy muscle function.
Blueberries – because they contain carbohydrates, fiber and vitamin C. They also have the highest level of antioxidants to fight off radical damage on cells in the body. In other words, they are super great for you. Frozen are as good as fresh.
Figs – they have to be fresh figs. They contain good slow release carbs, B vitamins, calcium and potassium for peak muscle function and optimum bone health.
Black beans – Low GI index so they are slow release of energy, plus they contain a lot of fiber and and B vitamins for blood circulation.
Whole grains – such as quinoa, brown rice, barley, rye and wheat berries – they have a high fiber content and low glycemic index, which means slow release energy.
Rolled oats – because they are natural, and slow glucose absorption in the blood streams as well as a great source of B vitamins.
Lentils – because they have a low GI index and high fiber content. They are also one of the main sources of iron, which is responsible for the transport of oxygen in the blood.
Seeds are a great source of natural energy too. You can add them to your dishes for extra goodness. They all contain plenty of vitamins and minerals we need for top health, protein, fiber and fats.
Sesame seeds – because they contain calcium, copper, iron and magnesium.
Pumpkin seeds – because they contain magnesium and help muscle weakness during periods of high training.
Chia seeds – because they are great for energy levels and to boost the metabolism. They help power through long workout.
Sunflower seeds – because they contain copper and selenium to protect muscles and vitamin E for a healthy heart and antioxidant.
Flax seeds – because they contain plenty of omega 3s and fatty acids.
Now, what about energy bars, drinks and sweets?! As we know, because I have explained it so many times, they mostly contain sugar. Sugar which has a quick absorption in the blood stream and causes sugar spikes in the blood and unbalanced levels of energy. For every sugar spike, you get a sugar low afterwards. Those products have a purpose and they have been designed for people who need them, athletes. The problem is that they are available to everyone and anyone, and the truth is, the vast majority of people don’t need them. You need to treat them as a supplement to your diet. If you go for a run that will last an hour max, you don’t need them. Your diet provides enough energy to last you the whole duration of the effort. But if you run a marathon or over, your body needs supply of energy, as your body natural stores start running low, so that you keep constantly fueled. In that case, and in that case only, should you use such products, because they have been designed to provide your body with quick energy release, meant to be used and burnt as energy straight away.