The Runner's Cupboard
It is hard to be good and back up your training with a suitably virtuous diet when your cupboards are bare. The key to success is a well stocked larder - with a few essentials on hand, there really is no excuse for giving in to that take-away...
Whether it's a spring marathon or an aim to get fitter and faster, many of us are embarking on healthier lifestyles. I say 'embarking' as unfortunately, many of our well-intentioned plans can get lost in our busy lifestyles. The secret of success when it comes to changing lifelong habits for the better, is planning and that includes being prepared.
Having nothing prepared at home when you get in from work starving, is a recipe for disaster (reaching for the take-a-way menu!). Coming in from a long run, only to get caught up with household chores instead of having a recovery snack is a small step away from snacking on biscuits later on in the day. You get the picture. Here are some runner friendly staples to put on your weekly shopping list, so that your cupboards, freezers and fridges are ready prepared for every runner's fuel need.
This low glycaemic index carbohydrate is ideal as a pre-run fuel, providing you with long lasting energy. Have it either for breakfast or mid afternoon if you are running after work. Make it either with milk or water as porridge, or soak in a little apple juice overnight and add some yogurt, honey and fruit the next morning. For those of you who are watching your weight, you can have halve the amount that you would use for cereal as it will fill you up much more, on less calories. A 30g portion for example, is usually ample for most of us.
UHT skimmed milk
Milk is a great recovery drink, containing carbohydrate and protein. It is also an excellent source of calcium, helping to protect your bones. Having some long life milk in the cupboard is helpful for that extra bowl of cereal or smoothie if you run out of the fresh stuff. You can also add milk to food such as tomato soup, to increase the calcium and protein of the meal.
High in soluble fibre for a healthy heart and digestion and a great source of protein, these are a great, quick snack (and now even quicker thanks to the microwave pots that you can buy which heat up in less than a minute). If you have beans on toast, you will be getting all the amino acids that you require for health, in one small meal. A great recovery snack or small snack to tie you over to your next meal, if you are a hungry runner.
Boil for 10 minutes, stir in some tinned tomatoes, sweetcorn and tuna or kidney beans and you have a high carbohydrate, high protein meal with some fibrous vegetables too. Replace the tuna with tinned salmon and you also get omega 3 fats, essential for heart health and healthy cholesterol.
Bored of the same old loaf? Find that bread goes stale before you can finish it? Freeze bread and take out a few slices at a time to toast or microwave, straight from frozen. This way you can have a variety of breads such as pitta, bagels or multigrain to hand to go with egg, baked beans, sardines or soup. Bread receives a lot of ill informed, bad press but rest assured that it is a low fat, quickly prepared convenient carbohydrate to have as a snack or accompany a meal. Choose the granary versions and you are giving yourself more fibre and good fats from the added seeds and grains, plus prolonging the energy release. Just watch what you add to it as every tablespoon of spread of butter is 100 calories!
Ready meals (bought/home cooked & frozen)
Now, it would be great if we could make a meal from scratch every night but as busy working runners, time is often short. Most supermarkets have their own healthy ranges of ready meals that you can buy and freeze for emergencies. I like to think of them as a better option than a take-a-way or bag of chips if you are ever stuck. Many are cookable from frozen which also helps. To up the runner friendly factor, add a baked potato, some chunky granary bread with vegetables or salad to a ready meal to increase the nutrients, fibre and feeling of fullness. Or why not cook a large chilli, stew or bolognaise and freeze in batches as your own, home made 'ready meals'.
Dried and tinned fruit
Great for immediate energy (e.g. in a 'no time for breakfast', before a 30 minute morning run situation). You can either grab a handful of dried fruit on the go or add dried or tinned varieties to yogurt or cereal to increase the vitamins and fibre.