I’m sure you’ve heard the term a dozen times before, but what exactly is a superfood? It’s difficult to define since there are no real criteria needed to label something a “superfood”!
Typically, the term is used when discussing food that’s particularly nutrient-dense, may benefit your health, or may help with a medical condition. With such a definition, the term has been widely used (and overused!). But, with years of running experience, I can personally attest that the following foods have undoubtedly helped my running performance.
Tart Cherry Juice
While training for my first marathon I bought a new pair of shoes (in the same styles as those I had been training in for months) and happened to purchase the one-in-a-million defective pair. There was a teeny tiny piece of plastic protruding from the side that ended up tearing up the tendon in my foot after running only a few miles. I was devastated! I researched every possible anti-inflammatory food or drink possible, and I started reading a lot about tart cherry Juice.
Tart cherries contain concentrated amounts of anthocyanins, which are associated with reducing muscle damage, inflammation, and oxidative stress. Marathon runners who drank tart cherry juice 5 days before, the day of, and two days after running, experienced faster recovery than those who drank a placebo drink. Tart cherry juice is sold in most health food stores and, as the name suggests, can be very tart! I liked to add ¼ cup to my usual smoothie.
The true powerhouse on this list is ginger. It’s widely used for its anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to aid with nausea and GI distress (all issues plaguing many runners!). I’ve taken dried ginger to help with an upset stomach and will be carrying some with me as I run my next marathon. New research is also finding that ginger can help reduce muscle soreness. If you’re going into a period of intense training, taking 2 grams a day of ginger for a week has been shown to reduce delayed onset muscle soreness. Ginger tea is a great source of the superfood, as are delicious ginger chews you can find at most health food stores.
Beets are a great source of inorganic nitrates, which the body can convert to nitric oxide to improve blood flow and muscle contractions. A study found that consuming beetroot juice for six days before endurance activities and high intensity exercising, like running, improved performance by bout 15%. The subjects in the study were able to go from running 7.6 minutes at high intensity to 8.7 minutes at the end of the week. That’s a significant gain in endurance for doing nothing more than drinking beetroot juice! The study was placebo-controlled, so it wasn’t just a case of wishful thinking. However, be warned: beetroot juice will stain everything!