5 Foods and Drinks That Help (and Hurt) Your Running


1 Chocolate, please.
In happy news, researchers from London’s Kingston University found that dark chocolate may boost performance. Cyclists who ate two ounces daily for two weeks rode farther and tolerated more intense exercise compared with baseline tests. Researchers think epicatechins (a type of polyphenol in chocolate) may indirectly increase nitric oxide availability, which improves oxygen delivery to muscles by enhancing bloodflow. Studies show that beet juice improves performance in a similar way.

You can make dark chocolate a part of your daily diet, but cut back on calories elsewhere since 50 grams pack around 1255 kilojoules.

2 Hold the beers.
Better pass on those postrace brewskis, at least initially. In a study by the University of Costa Rica, athletes drank 1.4 litres of beer or water within an hour of finishing a workout. Predictably, the beer drinkers had poor balance, slowed reaction time, and greatly increased urine production, leading to subpar fluid balance.

3 Packing in Protein?
In a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s Annual Meeting, cyclists completed a 100-minute ride and then drank a shake with either 85 grams or 28 grams of whey protein. The shakes also contained leucine–an amino acid that stimulates muscle protein rebuilding. The smaller dose worked as effectively as the larger at rebuilding the athletes’ muscle protein.

Eat a postrun meal with 25 to 30 grams of protein. Choose foods with leucine (milk, eggs, meat, fish).

4 Good Bugs
Gut bacteria are essential for overall health, and the more the better. Researchers from Ireland found that compared with healthy but unfit overweight men, professional rugby players had much greater bug diversity–and more of a strain called akkermansiaceae, which is linked to lower obesity risk and lower levels of inflammatory markers that signal disease progression.

More research needs to be done, but another reason to keep running!

5 A Bitter (Better) End
Rinsing your mouth with a sweet, carb-containing sports drink seems to activate brain centers, stimulating you to run harder. But what about other tastes? Australian scientists gave cyclists a bitter, calorie-free quinine drink (similar to diet tonic) to swish for 10 seconds and then swallow before sprinting. The bitter flavor boosted effort by about three percent.

Try a sweet or bitter rinse near the end of a training run to see if it helps you.

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