The Top Ten Power Foods for Runners

By Rick Morris

There’s a lot of talk out there about avoiding worthless foods and concentrating on eating nutrient dense super foods. But, are there any truly worthless foods? Not really! Let’s take what is probably known at the most worthless and nutrient lacking food out there – plain sugar. Is plain white table sugar a poor food choice? – Yep it is. Is it high in calories and low in nutrition? – Of course it is. If you were starving to death in the middle of the desert with no supplies, would you gladly suck it down no matter how poor a food choice it is? No doubt about it.

Even the poorest food choices have some benefits. They provide some sort of energy. As a runner you need energy and lots of it. Does that mean sugar should be the staple of your diet since it provides a lot of quick, blood sugar elevating energy. Of course not. Your foods need to provide more than energy. They also need to give you high quality nutrition, vitamins, minerals and fiber. You should choose foods that give you the most bang for your buck. You want to consume power foods that provide the highest amount of nutrition to keep your body operation at peak efficiency.

Here is our list of the top ten power foods for runners.


Our top power food is one that you may have never heard of. Acai (ah-sigh-ee) is a tiny berry that is found in the Brazilian rainforests. This berry may be small in size but it is huge in nutrition. Recent studies have found that the Acai is one of the most powerful foods in the world. The acai berry has 10 times more anti-oxidants than red grapes, fatty acid benefits similar to olive oil and has a nearly perfect amino acid complex to support muscle contraction; a nearly perfect food to support your running.


This is another one that you may not have heard of. Quinoa is ancient food that originated in South America. Quinoa is commonly considered a grain but is actually more closely related to leafy green vegetables. Quinoa has very high protein content and has a balanced amino acid profile making it an unusually complete food for runners. It is high in fiber, iron and magnesium.

Green Foods

Your mother told you to eat your greens and you should have listened. Green super foods are nutritional powerhouses that supply you with vitamins, minerals, fiber, anti-oxidants and have even been shown to improve your oxygen uptake. So green up and run better.


Have you ever been to a race that didn’t include bananas with their pre or post race goodies? There may be some but not many. There’s a good reason for that. Bananas are easy to digest, packed with energy producing carbohydrates and are a great source of potassium, which helps prevent muscle cramps. They are also great tasting and easy to toss down.

Sweet Potatoes

This tasty and colorful vegetable is high in carbohydrates, beta carotene, magnesium and potassium. It supplies energy, anti-oxidants, helps prevent muscle cramps and replaces minerals lost through sweating.


Here is another food that you will often see at marathon aid stations. The high vitamin C content of oranges help repair damaged muscles, increases your absorption of iron and is a great anti-oxidant.


Researchers at Tufts University found that this tiny, but powerful fruit contained more anti-oxidants than any of the other 40 fruits and vegetables they tested.  Blueberries are also high in potassium and vitamin C. An additional benefit of blueberries that are very important for active runners is their anti-inflammatory properties.

Cold Water Fish

Cold water fish and seafood are excellent sources of protein and critical minerals that are often lost through sweating. Cold water fish such as salmon are a super storehouse of omega-3 fatty acids which decrease your risk of cancer, heart disease and also help decrease depression and regulate your mood.

Dairy Products

You already know this, but the calcium from milk and other dairy products are critical for maintaining the health of your bones. Dairy products are also a great source of high quality, muscle building protein to help you recover from workouts and races. Try chocolate milk for an even more effective and tasty recovery drink. A study from Indiana University suggested that chocolate milk provided better post run recovery than a standard carbohydrate replacement drink.

Dark Chocolate

This one is my favorite super food. It’s always been one of my favorite snacks, but now, thanks to some recent research, it’s my top super food. Recent research has shown that dark chocolate is an anti-oxidant powerhouse. Stay away from the light or milk chocolate. The darker the chocolate, the more anti-oxidants and the less fat and sugar it contains. Most nutritionists recommend looking for dark chocolate with 60% or more cocoa content.