For many runners, bulking up on carbs before a long run is part of a traditional routine. However, new research suggests that runners need to bulk up on more than bread in order to absorb the right nutrients. Active individuals need approximately 1.0 to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight to maintain their lifestyle.
Why should runners care about protein when carbs give them staying power? In essence, protein rebuilds muscles quickly and stimulates the production of white blood cells. In other words, runners who consume more protein have a better chance of healing faster and preventing illness. Carbs may provide sufficient energy to get you through a run, but protein is the nutrient that will keep you healthy long after you cross the finish line.
In some cases, plant-based proteins actually provide even better nutritional value than many animal-based proteins provide. However, some protein sources are incomplete, which means they lack the right ratio of amino acids to support your biological functions. You can transform an incomplete protein source into a complete one by pairing it with whole grains or other sources that contain balanced amino acids. Now that you know a bit more about the benefits of proteins, let’s take a look at some of the most popular vegetables eaten today and how these plant-based proteins can enhance your running food.
1 medium baked potato contains approximately 160 calories and 4 grams of protein. Potatoes are an excellent source of potassium as well, which helps you balance out sodium and improve heart health. While a starchy food at 37 grams of carbohydrates, potatoes provide a natural source of energy while on the run.
Simple Baked Potato
Set your oven to 205 degrees Celsius. Wash and scrub a medium russet potato thoroughly. With a fork, poke holes in the potato for steam to escape. Rub olive oil and salt to taste on the potato. Place the potato in the pre-heated oven directly on the centre rack. Bake for 1 hour or until the skin gets crispy. Top your finished potato with Greek-style yoghurt, steamed broccoli or fresh salsa.
A serving of broccoli is only 50 calories and contains around 4 grams of protein. With very little fat and 15 percent of your daily fibre allotment, broccoli is a delicious and healthy vegetable to incorporate into your running food. 1 single serving of broccoli also contains more than twice your recommended daily total for Vitamin C.
Festive Broccoli Salad
Broccoli comes from the cabbage family, and as such this green powerhouse can be a perfect accompaniment to any meal. Wash several bunches of fresh broccoli thoroughly and pat dry. Once dry, run the broccoli through a food processor or grater to shred into thin strips. Mix the shredded broccoli with carrot shreds, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and seasoning. Sprinkle on top of fish tacos or grilled steak.
Humans don’t really digest corn properly, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this sweet-tasting vegetable packed with protein. 1 cup of corn contains 16 grams of protein, but it also contains a high amount of calories and carbohydrates. Enjoy corn sparingly as part of a balanced meal to offset its sugary contents.
Fresh Corn Salsa
Combining corn with legumes like black beans can help boost its protein power while enhancing the flavour. To make salsa, use fresh corn from the stalk. Drain and rinse a can of black beans. Toss the beans and corn together. Add several millilitres of freshly squeezed lime juice, diced onions, cilantro and diced tomatoes to the corn mixture. Allow to chill for several hours before serving on toasted pita chips.
Everyone loves a hearty dish of boiled peas, and there’s good reason to enjoy them even more: Peas contain 8 grams of protein and only 118 calories per cup. Peas also provide plenty of fibre, potassium and magnesium. Plus, they meet nearly all of your daily Vitamin C requirements in a single serving.
Hearty Pea Soup
Pea soup makes a perfect meal for lunch or dinner. To make a delicious dinner without the fuss of standing over a stove, combine the following ingredients into a slow-cooker: approximately 1.5 litres of fresh peas, 1 litre of vegetable or low-sodium chicken broth, 1 medium diced onion, 1 stalk of diced celery and seasoning to taste. Allow to boil on “High” for 5 to 6 hours or on “Low” all day.
Spinach is one of the most beneficial foods on the planet. Each cup contains about 1 gram of protein, more than half of your daily Vitamin A allotment and just 7 calories. Plus, eating spinach could boost your mood and increase your running capabilities thanks to the B-vitamins, potassium and fibre content.
Basic Green Smoothie
Incorporate spinach into your breakfast routine with a power-packed green smoothie. Combine several handfuls of spinach, 1 medium banana, half of an orange and enough coconut water to cover the contents in a blender. You can also add a scoop of flax seeds or protein powder to enhance the protein content and stave off mid-morning snacking.