When it comes to nutrition for runners and athletes, and all humans for that matter, our philosophy is pretty simple: Avoid fads and extremes, eat real food and a balanced diet.
That means healthy fats (and sometimes less-than-healthy treats when the moment calls), complex carbs and well-timed simple sugars, and protein but not like RAAWWRR PROTEINNNN. All of these macronutrients serve a purpose in our diets, and there’s a smart way to pull them all together to ensure your body’s performing at its peak potential. Even if you have food allergies, dietary restrictions, or morally chosen principles around your diet.
Luckily we have New York Times Best-selling author (Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.) Elyse Kopecky around to help us out with that. We asked the chef and nutrition coach what she keeps in her pantry to ensure she’s got the staples to build a wholesome, well-balanced meal, no matter how time-crunched or tired from training or mom’ing.
With all nine amino acids, eggs are an easily assimilated, complete protein and a source of B12 and vitamin D. Skip highly processed protein powders and opt for real food protein for optimal absorption and better digestion.
Every Sunday I roast two trays of chopped sweet potatoes for tossing into rice bowls and egg scrambles or to make sweet potato fries. Yams are our top pick for dinner before an endurance endeavor (Marathon Eve, anyone?) since they provide easy-to-digest complex carbs.
Avocados are rich in one of the healthiest fats out there: monounsaturated fatty acids, which are superb for long-lasting energy and for fighting inflammation. Their rich fat content makes it easier for the body to absorb fat-soluble nutrients, which is reason enough to add them to any veggie-loaded meal.
My weekday quick breakfast fix is whole milk yogurt topped with granola and chopped apple or fresh berries. High quality granola loaded with nuts and seeds is high in minerals that are essential for endurance athletes. I also keep yogurt on hand to add to smoothies for a natural protein and fat boost.
I always have a stash of fruit in my freezer for my daily smoothie fix. My go-to smoothie is made with banana, blueberries, beets, ginger, whole milk yogurt and virgin coconut oil or nut butter. They’re also a great way to sneak an extra serving of veggies into your day!
These are great to have on hand for easy dinners. At least once a week I make rice bowls with whatever veggies I have on hand, a fried egg or other leftover protein, and guacamole or sliced avocado. I use quinoa in hearty grain salads for work lunches like Shalane Flanagan’s favorite while training for the NYC Marathon. We are also a pasta loving family, so spaghetti and penne are essential pantry staples for quick weeknight meals.
When I’m in training mode I find myself craving burgers. That’s because beef and bison are rich in iron, a mineral your red blood cells need to carry oxygen to your hardworking muscles. Grass-fed red meat is also rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and CLA.
Sorta cheating by grouping these three together as one, but they’re inseparable. With carrots, onions, and celery on hand you can make a variety of flavorful and nourishing soups and sauces. Every week I make a big pot of soup and a simple Bolognese or marinara sauce with these ingredients as the base.
Oats are an incredible food for athletes since they’re easy to digest (ideal for breakfast before a long run) and provide long-lasting energy. They’re also high in antioxidants and blood sugar balancing fiber, and are a super flexible ingredient to keep on hand since they can be used for hot cereal, yogurt bowls, and wholesome baked treats.
Fat is a crucial macronutrient for athletes for long lasting energy and satiation. Real food fats like butter and olive oil are essential for balanced hormones, better digestion, nutrient absorption, fighting inflammation, cardiovascular health, and bone strength. Studies show one tablespoon of olive oil has more anti-inflammatory powers than ibuprofen!
All in all, food should be seen as a fuel and nourishment, rather than an enemy or quick fix. Keep these items on hand to set yourself up for success and reduce your likelihood of making poor choices in a pinch.
For more quick + nutritious recipe ideas, grab a copy of Elyse and Shalane's newest cookbook, Run Fast. Cook Fast. Eat Slow.
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