We often think of the new year as a clean slate and blank canvas of opportunity. That opportunity is often disguised in things we shouldn’t be doing or eating, making us feel that we “should” know better and therefore do better. But this negative outlook could be setting us up for failure before we even begin. What if we took a more positive approach to the new year, and instead exclusively focused on things we could add to our diet and lifestyle?
Bring On The Fiber
While we could all probably stand to eat less added sugars, what if we focused on adding more fiber-rich fruits, vegetables and whole grains into our diets? By eating more fiber-rich foods and complex carbohydrates, we will likely be naturally displacing some simple carbohydrates and added sugar sources.
While meats can certainly be an important part of a runner’s diet (for protein, iron, B vitamins and other nutrients), most of us could stand to eat more plant-based foods and fiber. In fact, fiber is one nutrient that most Americans don’t consume enough. Fiber helps with satiety, stabilizing blood sugar, digestion and regularity, and can even boost heart health by lowering cholesterol. Eating more plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains and legumes) can reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases. Increasing the amount of fiber in your diet can be as easy as swapping the white bread you use to make your post-run sandwich for wheat bread.
Antioxidants are substances that can delay or prevent cell damage and are naturally found in fruits, vegetables, coffee and tea. By neutralizing the free radicals that our bodies are exposed to, antioxidants can help decrease inflammation, enhance recovery and enhance performance. Tart cherries, for example, are rich in polyphenols and antioxidants and have been studied for their ability to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation. In a study of elite male athletes competing in intermittent sprint activity, the group supplementing with tart cherry juice experienced less muscle soreness and inflammation, as well as faster performances, compared to the control group.
Optimize Post-Run Nutrition
With the hectic lives we lead, it’s common to occasionally skip that post-run meal or snack—or at least to not optimize its nutritional potential. Eating a proper combination of protein and carbohydrates after a workout can help repair muscle and synthesize new muscle, stabilize blood sugar, improve recovery and prevent an overactive appetite later. Some great options include a turkey or egg sandwich, yogurt with fruit, chocolate milk or a smoothie made with whey or soy protein. While warm soup can be a great option for hydration and electrolytes, it often lacks protein. However, opting for bone broth instead can add some necessary vitamins and protein, and may have an anti-inflammatory effect.