Carbohydrates for Runners: What Are the Ideal Ones to Eat?

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Carbohydrates are a basic requirement for all types of runners not simply because the human muscles are fueled on them during vigorous exercise but also because carbs help supply energy during recuperation as well. This is why most sports nutrition experts have specific recommendations regarding the best carbohydrates for runners, as it is suggested that regular runners consume almost 60% of their daily calories from carbohydrates.

However, not all carbohydrates are created equal. In fact the best carbohydrates for runners vary based on timing; whether they are taken before, during or after the workout will determine what type of carb to opt for. Typically, it is recommended that professional runners should use fast acting, high glycemic carbohydrates immediately before, during and after running. While during other times these carbohydrates should come from low glycemic options that are packed with a lot of nutrients and at the same time provide the runner with a much longer lasting effect of energy.

Mentioned below are some of the best carbohydrates for runners. While some of these options are best consumed before exercising, others are good for use after exercising. In addition, there are also those which are a good option to use as regular meals and snacks.

  • Bananas

Bananas are one of the best types of carbohydrates for runners as they are not only easy to eat but equally easy to digest.  A medium sized banana has about 31 grams of carbs making it an ideal snack that can be used before or after a solid run. But do keep in mind that when having a banana as a post workout snack, it is a good idea to pair it with some kind of protein to enhance muscle repair and recovery.

  • Brown Rice

One of the richest sources of carbohydrates is known to be brown rice. A single cup of brown rice contains up to 45 grams of carbs. Like other whole grains, brown rice is much healthier than the refined variety, as it contains a higher quantity of vitamins, fiber and minerals. Brown rice also has a low glycemic index and is capable of catering a much longer lasting energy effect while at the same time promoting less fat storage.

  • Energy Bars

Energy bars which are especially designed to be used before, during or after a workout, are one of the best options to fuel and refuel a runner as they are known to provide an extremely high level of speedy energy. Ideally these energy bars have more carbs, moderate protein content and very few fats and fibre. Make it a point to choose bars which are made up of real food such as nuts, fruits and brown rice grains with nominal levels of sugar.

  • Low Fat Milk Based Food

Another option that makes it on the list of the best carbohydrates for runners is low fat milk based foods. Novice and professional runners should include these foods to fulfil their daily needs of carbohydrates. Products like low fat yogurt can contain up to 26 grams of carbohydrates, which are high glycemic.  This makes it one of the most helpful options to use right before or after a workout as the carbs can fuel instant energy.

  • Energy drinks

Energy drinks are also known to provide runners with all the required carbohydrates that are needed to fuel up the muscles during exercise. But it should always be kept in mind that as these drinks also include a high level of sugar they should always be used immediately before or after a workout or a race.

  • Oatmeal

An ideal breakfast that every runner should consider is oatmeal. It is an easy to digest food that includes a high concentrated level of carbohydrates i.e. a half cup of oatmeal gives up to 54 grams of carbohydrates. Instant energy never tasted so good!

  • Tomatoes

Tomatoes also are known to be extremely high in carbohydrates. A cup of tomato sauce includes up to 21 grams of carbohydrates incorporating different kinds of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.

  • Berries

All kinds of berries such as blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and others are known to include carbohydrates in them. Additionally, they also include minerals, phytonutrients and vitamins that all enhance health as well as the performance of individuals. While berries can meet a host of other nutritional requirements, their carb content is not the highest, so they should not be relied on too heavily to meet a runner’s entire daily carb requirements.

  • Whole Grain Bread

Who doesn’t like to eat different types of sandwiches, but sadly we typically use the wrong type of breads that mainly includes refined grains.  On the other hand, whole grain bread can have up to 12 grams of carbohydrates per slice along with more fiber, minerals and vitamins. Whole grain bread also has a much lower glycemic index therefore providing runners with a longer lasting energy effect when they are not working out.

What do you prefer to eat before and after exercise? Share your tips with the community!

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