Heart Smart Fuel for Runners

By: Jan Dowell, MS, RD, CSSD

Running is a great way to keep the heart strong, but are you doing all you can to fuel a healthy heart?

Sports drinks and other processed carbs are great for quick fuel before and during a long run or event, but lack everyday heart healthy fiber and nutrients. During the week include barley (in soup or as side dish), oats (for breakfast or a snack) and beans (in bean dip, soups, or as an alternative to meat) for cholesterol lowering fiber. Whole fruits and veggies provide nutrients and color-based plant compounds that support heart health, including blood pressure control. All that and carb fuel, too!

Runners need protein for muscle recovery. Beans and egg whites are nearly fat free and soy proteins (soy milk, tofu, soy nuts, and soy protein powders) are a plus for heart health. If “meat” is your preference, choose fish and light poultry more often, and select “loin” or “round” cuts when opting for beef or pork. To meet heart health guidelines, try some meatless meals during the week or try smaller portions of meat.

Choose oils over solid fats when possible for heart health. Solid fats (butter, margarine, cheese, meat fat and hydrogenated fats in packaged food) promote cholesterol production and should be minimized in a runner’s diet. Vegetable oils are a better choice for your heart, but still watch your portions as all fats are high in calories which can add unwanted pounds (adding to the risk of heart disease)

Eat your way to a healthy heart and a great running season!

Jan Dowell, MS, RD, CSSD is a Board Certified Sports Dietitian and a runner. Get more nutrition and hydration training tips from Jan at www.everyday-sports-nutrition-for-women.com.