Eat and Run

Fuel your running with the right supermarket staples and you’ll prevent injury, maintain muscle, boost your immunity and become faster.

Whether you’re looking to inject some speed into your running, drop a few pounds or reduce your injury-risk, we’ve picked out the best foods to deliver the results you’re looking for. Follow the simple steps below to refresh your diet today.

How to eat well now

  1. Use the category headings to identify the body benefits you’re looking for.
  2. Select the various foods from within that category that best suit your needs.
  3. Add the selected foods together to assemble your weekly supermarket shopping list – secure in the knowledge that you’ll be supplying your body with the most potent sources of the nutrients it needs to make you a better runner.

Boost Cardio

Champagne: Raise a glass to your heart, say Reading University scientists. Their studies found that the polyphenols in bubbly reduce the loss of nitric oxide from the blood, improving circulation. Per week: 3 glasses

Marmite: Even if you hate it, try to love it for your heart’s sake: Bristol University scientists say the benfotiamine in the spread has a beneficial effect on your cardiovascular function. Per week: on toast x 3

Steak: Each footstrike damages red blood cells, lowering your levels of iron – key to getting oxygen to the working muscles. Heme iron in steak is easily absorbed, says sports dietician Karen Reid. Per week: 150g fillet x 2

Apple: It’s crunch time. The quercetin found in an apple a day will improve lung capacity and protect against pollution, say scientists at St George’s Hospital Medical School in London. Per week: 5

Avocado: The sodium, potassium and magnesium found in the creamy fruit improved lung volume and oxygen flow in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Per week: half x 3

Tofu: Bean curd is a source of unsaturated fats. A study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that eating these fats post-exercise boosts blood flow by up to 45 per cent. Per week: 150g x 2

Maintain Muscle

Pork fillet: A tasty way to get lean, mean, high-quality protein, says performance nutritionist Drew Price. It also contains thiamine, which is key to efficient metabolism of carbs into energy, and the repair of muscle fibres. Per week: 150g x 2

Chocolate milk: Researchers at the University of Connecticut found runners who drank fat-free chocolate milk before a 45-minute run had markers of increased protein synthesis (rebuilding) three hours afterwards. Per week: 330ml x 2

Spinach: The nitric oxide in Popeye’s favourite was found to reduce the amount of oxygen needed to power working muscles by five per cent in studies at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. Per week: 300g x 2

Eggs: Egg protein is the most balanced food protein after human breast milk, which means it contains all the crucial amino acids your muscles need for recovery, says Price. One egg delivers 10 per cent of your daily protein needs. Per week: 3

Pomegranate juice: Ellagitannin, a phytonutrient found in pomegranates, reduces inflammation and post-workout soreness, according to physiologists at the University of Texas. Per week: 200ml x 3

Sweet potato: It has a low GI (Glycaemic Index) for sustained energy, and contains the trace minerals manganese and copper – both crucial for healthy muscle function. Many runners fail to get enough, says Price. Per week: 3

Almonds: These nuts are one of the best sources of alpha-tocopherol vitamin E, which helps prevent free-radical damage to muscles after hard efforts. Per week: handful x 7

Run faster

Coffee: Runners who had caffeine one hour before an eight-mile run improved their times by an average of 23.8 seconds, according to a study in the Journal of Sports Science. For maximum benefit, says Price, lower your intake by one cup a day, take 10 days off, then reintroduce before a race. Per week: 6 cups

Bran flakes: Betaine in bran helps cell function and prevents dehydration, found US research at The College of New Jersey. The result? You can train harder, for longer. Per week: 30g x 3

Watermelon: Citrulline – an amino acid in watermelon – buffers muscle fatigue, which allows you to push harder in training, say Spanish researchers at the University of Córdoba. Per week: 300g x 3

Beetroot: In a study at St Louis University in the US, subjects ran a 5K five per cent faster after eating beetroot than after scoffing cranberries. The root’s nitrate levels are credited with boosting blood flow. Per week: 3

Prevent injury

Blueberries: The polyphenols found in blueberries improve your bone strength, according to research published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. Per week: handful x 3

Honey: The amino acids found in the sticky sweet stuff help your body absorb bone-boosting calcium effectively, say scientists at Purdue University in the US. Per week: 1 tbsp x 3

Edamame: These beans contain soy protein, which is rich in isoflavones, plant hormones with anti-inflammatory properties. In a study at Oklahoma State University, eating soy protein daily for three months lessened knee pain in sufferers. Per week: 100g x 3

Smoked mackerel: The fish’s omega-3 fatty acids significantly reduce joint pain and shorten the duration of morning joint stiffness – so say researchers at Harvard Medical School in the US. Per week: fillet x 2

Red pepper: This packs a more powerful punch of vitamin C – crucial for repairing connective tissue and cartilage – than any citrus fruit, says Price. Per week: 3

Pumpkin seeds: These are packed full of magnesium, which fights the ageing of cells that create collagen in your tendons and ligaments, according to research in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences. Per week: 20g x 3

Olive oil margarine: Spread it around: this is a great source of bone-building vitamin D, says Reid – especially important as research in the Archives of Internal Medicine found more than three-quarters of adults are D-deficient. Per week: on toast x 3

Get Lean

Green tea: EGCG – a compound found in most green teas – speeds up your metabolism so that you burn more calories, says Price. Jasmine tea has the same properties, he adds. Per week: 4 cups

Pine nuts: Korean researchers found consumption of pine kernels prompts your body’s release of cholecystokinin – a gastrointestinal hormone that helps suppress your appetite. Per week: 3 x 20g

Grapefruit: Eating grapefruit before their meals helped dieters lose up to 4.5kg in 12 weeks in research at Scripps Clinic, San Diego. A compound in the fruit lowers insulin, controlling your hunger. Per week: half x 9

Cayenne pepper: The capsaicin in chilli peppers can help manage appetite and burn more calories after your meal, say researchers at Purdue University in the US. Per week: ½ tsp x 3

Coconut oil: A study in the Journal of Nutrition found regular consumption resulted in a rise in metabolism, a higher rate of calorie-burning, plus reduced fat mass and overall bodyweight. Per week: 1 tbsp x 3

Lamb: Have that Sunday roast. Lamb packs carnitine – a mix of amino acids that shuttles fat into the mitochondria (the cells’ power-producers), where it’s metabolised, explains Price. Per week: 150g x 2

Stay Healthy

White button mushrooms: The humble button protects your immune system from invaders, say Arizona State University researchers. Per week: 100g x 3

Capers: US scientists from Appalachian State University found daily doses of quercetin, present in capers, reduced viral infections. Per week: handful x2

Kale: The prebiotics in this green are a type of beneficial fibre that actually helps feed ‘good’ probiotic gut bacteria, says Reid. Per week: 150g x2

Walnuts: Omega-3 in walnuts helps reduce your cholesterol, found a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. Per week: handful x3