Fruits and vegetables are an essential part of every runner’s diet. The natural antioxidants found in produce are absolutely essential in protecting against chronic conditions, such as heart disease and hypertension, boosting immunity and reducing inflammation caused by training.
Most nutritionists agree that the best way to consume antioxidants is to eat fruits and vegetables in their whole form. But nearly 75 percent of Americans fail to meet the recommended servings (two fruit, three veggie). Drinking your greens, reds and oranges can be a great way to fit in your servings without a fuss.
Juicing is also an easy way to expand your produce repertoire, explains Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RD. “For the athlete who doesn’t love spinach, marrying naturally sweet banana with the spinach is a viable way to get more of this green powerhouse into her everyday eating,” she says.
Need more motivation to drink up? Some juices may even enhance running performance. Recent studies found that certain fruit extracts, including beet and cherry, helped athletes go farther and recover more quickly due to high levels of nitrates and antioxidants. Homemade juice is a refreshing treat for runners, perfect when temperatures soar.
WHEN TO JUICE?
Freshly squeezed juice is a nutritious way to fuel up before, during and after your run. However, finding what works best for you may take some tweaking. Here’s how to choose the perfect time to sip. . .
Juicing prior to hitting the streets is a great option for most runners. A pre-run liquid snack aids in hydration, and provides a number of nutrients without the fiber that upsets many runners’ stomachs. “If they juice, some runners are less likely to experience GI problems, particularly before workouts where nausea or pre-performance jitters can be a factor,” says Enette Larson- Meyer, Ph.D., RD. She recommends fueling with juice one to two hours before a run—not immediately before you lace up. Fructose, the main source of sugar in fruits, may still cause tummy troubles, so it’s best to allow some time to digest.
Go natural and swap out processed sports drinks for fresh juice on the run. The key to enjoying juice mid-workout is dilution. Fresh juice has a high percentage of carbohydrates per ounce—more than you need or want during a run. When your muscles are working hard, high-carb drinks are difficult for your body to process. An easy fix? Larson-Meyer recommends mixing water into your juice—2 cups H20 for every 1 cup of juice. She also recommends adding a pinch (¼ tsp.) of salt for each cup of liquid in order to supply sodium, an important electrolyte that helps replace the salt lost during exercise.
After a long run (any workout lasting longer than one hour), your tired body needs carbohydrates, fluid and protein to bounce back into shape. Juice is a great option for post-run recovery, especially for runners who balk at the idea of a solid meal when they’re still sweaty. But fruits and vegetables alone won’t provide the protein your muscles need to rebuild. To fuel properly after a run, stir 1/2 cup of yogurt or a scoop of protein powder into your juice. Feeling brave? Pasteurized egg whites can also serve as a solid protein-packed mix in—just make sure they’re fully incorporated before you lift the glass to your lips.
The BCB Blast
6-8 medium carrots
1 small beet
Juice carrots and beets in an electric juicer and set aside. Place banana in a blender and mix in reserved juice.
2 large apples
8 large fresh, clean carrots
Using an electric juicer, press carrots, apples and lime. Whisk to combine.
1 medium green apple
4 stalks kale
3 ribs celery
Juice apple, kale, celery and cucumber in an electric juicer. Squeeze in lemon and stir to combine.
Avid runner and swimmer Elizabeth Kelsey is a New Hampshire-based writer who covers food and fitness.