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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

August 20, 2014 at 7:00 AM

Top 10 foods for runners: Expert offers tips to fuel your body

BY CHRISTINE BLANCHETTE

To eat or not to eat used to be my dilemma during summer, especially being a runner.

It was a challenge because often it was too hot to eat anything. I’d have to carefully analyze what I was about to consume and how long to wait before running. With my sensitive stomach threatening dire consequences should I make the wrong decision, I learned that a light meal combined with a two-hour wait was appropriate. Even better was simply to eat after the run instead.

Basically, I had to change my eating habits. I learned when it was too hot to eat or choosing the wrong foods made me feel sluggish during the run. Instead I wanted to lay low and avoid any exercise. If I decided to run, the trails felt like quicksand for lack of energy. I felt heavy on my feet, struggling to stay motivated. Balancing my running with sensible eating was a constant issue until I learned about the best summer foods to eat.

Now with summer temperatures upon us, making good food choices before or after a run can help you cool off while improving your running performance. It can be the difference in your energy level and perhaps give you that endorphin rush that makes you feel as if you could run all day without getting tired.

Choosing the right foods and drinking enough water is the key to your overall health and to a more enjoyable run. Now add the warmth of a summer sun with a light breeze and you are in runner heaven. Don’t forget to apply sun screen.

According to “Runner’s World Complete Guide to Running,” seafood is a good choice because it’s an excellent source of protein. Runners need about 50 percent more protein than non-runners. As a seasoned runner, I’ve gravitated to certain foods that help with my training, like boiled eggs. Eggs contain amino acids, which muscles need to promote recovery. Also, a good summer soup is something to consider but try to avoid the creamy ones that contain more fat.

Vancouver’s Crystal Higgins, a registered dietician and marathoner, offered her expert advice on which foods are best to eat during the summer.

“The top 10 foods for summer runners overall is to have high nutrient density including more omega-3s and antioxidants (which help fight inflammation and may improve recovery time). Hydration is very important, especially during the hot summer months. Have one to two cups minimum of water 30 to 45 minutes before running and a few sips every 15 to 20 minutes while running. Lots after! Urine should be pale to almost clear.”

Here are Higgins’ top 10 summer foods:

1. Watermelon: hydrating, cooling, has lycopene (anti-oxidant)
2. Fresh strawberries/raspberries: vitamin C, antioxidants and fiber – delicious and local with little sugar
3. Oatmeal with banana or blueberries: Pre-run balanced meal that tends to be easily digested. This is my go-to meal
4. Unsweetened cocoa powder (non-alkali): flavonoids, which may reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and reduce sun-damage/inflammation without sugar and an easy addition to smoothie or home-made cocoa. Rich in iron and magnesium
5. Salmon: omega-3 rich protein source. Substitute salmon burgers for beef burgers
6. Chia seeds: Crsystal’s favorite seed.  Rich in omega 3′s, calcium and soluble fiber. Great added to smoothies, yogurt or oatmeal
7. Pistachios: salty snack after a workout, great lower carb replacement for chips. There are only 160 calories in 49 pistachios.
8. Avocados:  vitamin E, heart-healthy fats and a good replacement for cream, mayo or cheese for BBQ season
9. Collard greens:  the highest “green” source of calcium. Important for muscle contraction
10. Clams:  extremely high in iron, low in fat and an easy addition to soups, curry and casseroles

Be cool and keep running!

Christine Blanchette is an avid runner and freelance writer who lives in Burnaby, B.C. Follow her blog at christineruns.com.

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