From repairing muscle to maintaining energy, runners' bodies have special nutritional needs. Enter: seven foods that make you faster.

By Elizabeth Bacharach
January 16, 2020

By now you (hopefully!) know that food can do much more than simply squelch hunger. It can prevent skin cancer, lower anxiety. strengthen hair, boost your immune system...and, oh yeah, improve your speed. That's right, runners: not only can they fuel your muscles, but certain foods can also make you run faster.

"Runners need quality foods that provide a 'spark plug' for their energy," says Nancy Clark, R.D., M.S., and author of The Food Guide for Marathoners.

These seven picks will help you feel your best—and keep you up and running.

1. Small Bagel with Peanut Butter

Morning running can be great—the sunrise! the empty paths!—but hitting the road on an empty stomach? That can be tough—after all, it's been several hours since your last meal the night before, and your energy stores are low. Eating a 100- to 300-calorie snack before your morning run can give you energy and staying power, says Clark. This quick-and-easy combo of foods that make you faster offers carbs and protein, plus it's easy to digest. (Score more ideas of what to nosh on before and after a.m. exercise.)

2. Bananas

If you need a carb-packed energy-booster before a run, it's hard to go wrong with a banana. Pairing a banana with a cup of water prior to your workout can boost your speed, energy, focus, and recovery time, according to research. A bonus: Bananas contain loads of potassium—nearly 400 mg, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)—which regulates blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke.

3. Berries

Your legs can take a pounding from high-impact activities like running. The soreness you feel after a hard run may be caused by micro-tears in the exercised muscles. Help speed up recovery by going for a handful of berries, which contains antioxidants that are anti-inflammatory and have the potential to aid any post-workout aches. The result? You're able to train stronger and harder. This food that makes you faster is rich in vitamin C and potassium, which help the body repair itself. (Related: Why Post-Workout Muscle Soreness Hits People at Different Times)

4. Broccoli

This nutritional powerhouse has potassium, fiber, and phytochemicals, all key for peak performance and health, says Clark. Broccoli also wins points for being loaded with recovery-helper vitamin c. Plus, vitamin c also contributes to the formation of collagen, an essential protein that can help strengthen bones and muscles and, in turn, amp up your speed. Get your dose of broccoli—and pack your plate full of foods that make you faster—by trying this Stir-Fried Ginger Beef with Broccoli and Mushrooms.

5. Low-Fat Yogurt

Running and other weight-bearing exercises can help you improve your bone density. But calcium is an essential part of the equation, and many women don't get enough. One cup of low-fat yogurt contains a third of your recommended daily intake of calcium, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It also delivers a great ratio of protein—whose amino acids help your muscles repair themselves—to carbohydrates—which refills your muscles' energy stores, making for an A+ post-workout snack that'll fuel you to run faster during the next training session.  (Related: 12 Yogurt Health Benefits That Show Off Its Nutritional Power)

6. Lean Beef

In addition to being a quality protein source, beef is high in iron, an especially important element for runners. (Iron deficiency can lead to fatigue.) But since you shouldn't eat too much red meat, it's also a good idea to incorporate other iron-rich foods into your diet such as beans, peas, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified cereals. (But don't overdo it! Check out these mineral recommendations before loading up on these foods that make you run faster.)

7. Wild Salmon

Seafood is also a strong protein source and, ICYMI, getting enough protein is essential to keep your body running smoothly and, of course, keep you from getting hangry AF. Protein is also responsible for repairing damaged muscle fibers and building them back up to be even stronger. And this is exactly why wild salmon, at 22 grams of protein according to the USDA, is one of the foods that makes you run faster. It also contains loads of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, which can counteract inflammation, fend off disease, and help you avoid injuries—all of which can make it easier to nail that PR.

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