By Georgia Danielson, MUIR Editor
Whether you’re transitioning to real foods, just starting to eat on your runs, or are looking for new foods to mix up your current run nutrition, these 21 foods provide lots of energy and nutrients without upsetting your G.I. system.
Some are heavier than others, and better suited for either long or more intense efforts. Look for foods that are higher on the “quick energy” end of the spectrum for intense efforts, are just starting to introduce food into your running, or need a quick mental and physical boost. Look for foods that are higher on the “sustained energy” end of the spectrum for longer efforts, when you need to feel satiated, and when you’re training to your GI system for multi-hour adventure runs, efforts, and races.
Note: Both fresh and dried fruits can be great, but not all are ideal for running. Many fruits have a high fiber content that can make your bowels more active than what’s ideal on a run. Apricots, melons, plums, and prunes are examples of fruits that may taste great on a run, but usually aren’t worth the fiber and trips to the bathroom that follow. Generally, steer clear of high fiber fruits.
Like many fruits, most veggies are also high in fiber but lower in calories, making them less than ideal for running.
1. Potato Chips
With a little salt, potato chips are easy to digest and offer a satisfying crunch different from other running foods. They offer sustained energy from complex carbs and a little fat from the frying oil. Make sure to check the ingredients to make sure only healthy oils were used for frying, like avocado and olive oil. Don’t be disappointed when your chips get crushed in your running pack – they’ll be no less satisfying.
You can peel beforehand and carry with you a food pouch, or if you’re out for a long, scenic run, take the full orange with and peel while you’re taking in the views. Oranges provide quick energy from fruit sugars as well as some hydration from the juice. This makes them an ideal real food choice for hot days. There’s really nothing more satisfying than a sweet, juicy orange of a hot run.
Nature’s candy. They’re sweet and not just packed with quick energy, but unlike actual candy, they’re packed with nutrients, too. Dates are very easy to digest, carry in a running vest or shorts pocket, and devour whenever you need an energy boost. These are great for intense runs, before workouts, and when you need a mental or physical boost during a long day.
4. Almond Banana Sandwich Bites
Spread almond butter on a piece of whole-wheat or sourdough bread and place sliced bananas on top before folding in half. These little sandwiches are great because they’re easy to digest and offer a ton of flavor, complexity, and texture to your usual run food roster. They’re also jam packed with nutrients and sustainable energy from fruit sugars, complex carbs, healthy fats, and protein.
5. Cashew Cherry Trail Mix
Love cashews? Mix up a ½ cup of cashews and a ½ cup dried cherries, place in a pouch, and test out this tasty snack on your next run. Experience quick energy from the fruit sugars in the cherries and sustained energy from the healthy fats and proteins from the cashews.
6. Coconut Crisps
You can either buy these read-to-eat in the specialty snack section in most groceries, or you can make at home with coconuts and an air fryer. The latter can be very time consuming, so if you’re crunched for time, we’d recommend sampling on your run with a pre-made version first.
Coconut crisps are a satisfying texture and especially great because they can be either sweet, salty or exotically flavored. They’re also high in healthy fats for a satiating, sustainable energy source while you run.
This is the most convenient way to eat real food on your run. Easy on the stomach and super easy to stash in your shorts pocket, running vest, or belt. With just red raspberries, raw coconut palm nectar, pink himalayan sea salt, and just a touch of blackstrap molasses, these gel packs are very high nutrients and quick-burning energy. Get yours here.
8. Granola Bites
You can either make these ahead of time or purchase from most groceries in the cereal aisle, snack aisle, or the bulk food sections.
Make sure to check the ingredients to see if there are any ingredients that you’re sensitive to.
These typically offer a ton of nutrients in an easy-to-eat, bite-sized format, making them super easy to run with. They typically get energy from simple sugar, complex carbs, fat, and protein, so you get a very sustained energy boost while you’re running.
9. Mango Juice & Chia Seed Drink
Mango juice is easy on the stomach and palate, while chia seeds don’t have any flavor, so they’re great to mix with any drink you like. Chia seeds absorb the liquid around them into a gel, which slows the absorption of water, sugars, and electrolytes into your gut. Regulating the speed at which water and nutrients enter your bloodstream makes chia seeds ideal for use in sport. Chia seeds are also very high in nutrients like manganese, iron, magnesium, etc. They’re so nutrient dense, in fact, that they’re considered a superfood.
You can make this at home by adding mango juice or nectar to a water bottle and add 1 tablespoon or more. Give it a shake to make sure the seeds disperse and allow about 3 minutes for the seeds to absorb the juice. If the mango juice is too thick for your preference, just add a little water until you get a consistency that you’d like to drink on your run.
10. Air Fried Potatoes with Sea Salt
Potatoes are a beginner friendly real food loved by running veterans alike. You can avoid the oil used in potato chips by using an air fryer, and add a pinch of sea salt to replenish electrolytes lost during exercise and enhance the savory flavor of the crispy potatoes. Stash in a pouch in your vest or your belt for long or short runs. Enjoy the sustained and easy-to-digest energy of complex carbs.
A blend of very high nutrient dense foods: raw cashew butter, raw coconut palm nectar, vanilla extract, pink himalayan sea salt, and a touch of blackstrap molasses, these are great for sustained efforts. They offer sustained energy from healthy fats and proteins, as well as quick energy from simple and complex carbs, and electrolytes. Get yours here.
12. Air Fried Sweet Potatoes with Ginger
Just like regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are super easy to digest but they’re more nutrient dense. They offer complex carbs for sustained, easy-to-digest energy.
You can add a pinch of sea salt to enhance the flavor and replenish electrolytes lost through sweat, and a little ginger to aid digestion and calm an uneasy stomach.
These are more runner-friendly than oranges because they’re smaller and typically easier to peel. They offer simple sugars and a little hydration from the juice. They’re a treat on hot days and offer a little boost before workouts.
14. Mango Rice Sushi Balls
Mix things up with these easy-to-make, easy-to-digest rice balls. Cook and chill sushi rice, then add chopped mango and form into balls with your hands. You can add a pinch of sea salt, raw sugar, or even ginger powder if you like.
Pack into pouches and pop into your running vest or belt. These offer a complex array of energy from simple carbs from the mango and complex carbs from the rice.
15. Avocado Rice Sushi Balls
Similar to their mango counterpart, these are the savory version. Cook and chill sushi rice, then add one teaspoon of tamari to each cup of rice. You can either add blended avocado for a smooth experience, or you can add chopped avocado and carefully mix before forming into bite-size balls with your hands.
These offer energy from complex carbs from the rice, healthy fats from the avocado, and electrolytes from the tamari.
Make sure you pack shelled pistachios.
These are nutrient and energy dense, and will quickly satiate and sustain you with healthy fats, protein, and carbs through your run. Nuts and seeds are heavier on the stomach, so make sure to test with lower-intensity runs first.
17. Sunflower Seeds
These are a great healthy, high energy real food option for people allergic to other nuts and seeds. They offer sustained energy through healthy fats and protein.
Full of healthy fats and generally an easy-on-the-stomach nut. They provide sustained energy through primarily healthy fats and protein.
These real foods aren’t great fuel sources, but they serve an invaluable purpose to runners and are worth experimenting with.
19. Electrolytes: Pickles
Nothing quite beats a crunchy pickle on a hot day. They offer a boost in electrolytes to ward off cramping and are easy on the stomach. They don’t off many, if any, calories, so make sure you eat other foods to power you through your run.
20. Settle an Upset Stomach: Crystalized Ginger
The best crystalized ginger is found in the bulk section at specialized grocery stores. These offer quick energy from simple sugars and can calm any upset stomach. Ginger is well known and revered by athletes for its power to calm queasy stomachs. Some athletes keep ginger in one form or another on them during every run in case of emergency.
Consume when you need a little energy boost or you need to calm your stomach.
21. Caffeine: Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans
You can find these most easily in the bulk section in natural food stores. When you need a little caffeine boost, just pop one of these during a run! They offer negligible calories, so make sure to get calories from other food! Note: Start by trying just one at a time. 1 chocolate covered coffee bean = 12mg caffeine
MUIR Energy makes it easy to consume energy and nutrient dense real foods on your run. Check out our all natural products!