5 food must-haves for runners

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Oct 02, 2015 06:25 AM EDT

Whether you're gearing up for a marathon or simply opting to take up running as exercise, you should know what to eat to optimally build muscle and have sustained energy throughout your run. Here are some foods to help you start.

1. Eggs. Liz Applegate, Ph.D. wrote in Runner's World that eggs contain all the crucial amino acids your muscles need to recover after a run. It also contains 30 percent of the Daily Value for vitamin K, which is required to build healthy bones. Eggs are also a great breakfast staple, as they contain choline for brain development and leutin for healthy eyes.

2. Bananas. This easy to bring, easy to eat, sweet, delightful, mood-enhancing fruit is an exercise staple because according to Livestrong, it fuels your muscle glycogen stores.

"What you're looking to do is replenish your glycogen stores so you can be ready for your next workout," Cindy Sherwin, a registered dietitian and personal trainer, told Fitness Magazine. "The maximal uptake of glucose is in those first 30 minutes after your run."

Bananas contain 487 milligrams of potassium, which is great for preventing cramping during or after your exercise routine. Additionally, it's a good carb that helps fuel you before a run. Bananas, unlike protein and fats, are easy to break down and helps keep your glucose levels up while you exercise.

3. Beans. You'll need all the protein you'll get if you're a runner who takes on several miles on a regular basis. POPSugar reports that beans are a great source of saturated-fat-free protein, as half a cup of black beans already contains 7 grams of protein. It also contains fiber, which is great for your digestive system. POPSugar recommends consuming beans a few hours before your run, as the fiber in it slows down digestion and keeps you fuller for longer.

4. Sweet potato. Complex carbs such as sweet potato, quinoa, and oats can keep you fueled with energy before hitting the track. In fact, POPSugar reports that these foods provide a steady energy supply. Additionally, sweet potato contains the antioxidant beta carotene, and manganese and copper, which are essential for muscle function. Runner's World also reports that sweet potato is also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and iron.

5. Dark chocolate. If you want to reward yourself following a great run, go for dark chocolate with at least 70% cacao, because it contains healthy antioxidants to fight free radicals and to act as anti-inflammatories that help you recover, Men's Fitness reports. These antioxidants called flavanoids, which studies say helps lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol, Runner's World reports.

Fitness Magazine reports that according to Kathleen Porter, MS, a registered dietitian and longtime runner from New York City, "[Good] nutrition should be part of your ongoing training, not something you start to do only in the weeks leading up to the race."

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