With hydrating water, muscle-healing protein, refuelling sugar and bone-healthy calcium in every glass, milk is great for those upping their activity levels. A warm glass around bedtime may also help you drift off and get the rest you need, thanks to its slow-digesting casein proteins and ability to boost sleep-inducing serotonin and melatonin.
Chocolate milk is an age-old favourite for endurance athletes. It might sound unhealthy, but it works because it contains the two essential ingredients you need after a workout: carbs to give energy and protein to repair muscles. A homemade fruit milkshake or fruit smoothie does the same job.
2. Dried fruit
High in natural sugars, dried fruits (such as apricots, raisins and mango) give a concentrated source of carbohydrate, making them agreat energy booster. You’ll also get a dose of fibre, potassium, phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals with every mouthful.
If you can’t stomach energy gels during long races, dried fruits are a great natural substitute as they pack in plenty of high GI carbs to give you energy. Aim for one or two servings before a race and two to three servings for every hour of running (one serving is roughly three dried figs). As with all foods, if competing, experiment with dried fruit during training runs rather than on competition day to avoid the dangers of a washing-machine stomach mid-race!
3. Broccoli (and other green veg)
With free-radical-busting antioxidants, digestion-promoting fibre, plus a whole army of vitamins and minerals, broccoli along with kale, spinach and green cabbage are some of the most nutrient-dense foods you’ll find in the supermarket. They are also a great source of folate (a natural-occuring folic acid), which is thought to be good for heart health and for women hoping to conceive.
When it comes to bone-building calcium, plant based foods such as broccoli and kale offer a healthy dose and can be a good alternative to dairy products. Low calcium levels make you more vulnerable to stress fractures, particularly if you do endurance sports, so make sure you get enough calcium in your diet – the NHS recommends 700mg for adults a day.
4. Sweet potatoes
Mash, bake or make into pâté – sweet potatoes are ultra versatile and are a healthier choice than regular potatoes, with disease-fighting beta-carotene, iron, fibre and vitamin C.
Sweet potatoes are a good addition to a carb-loading diet before a long race, such as a half marathon. They are also high in the electrolyte potassium, which can help ward off muscle cramping during exercise.
As well as being loaded with vitamin C, tomatoes contain a powerful antioxidant called lycopene, which gives the fruit their lovelyletterbox-red colour. Lycopene has been making headlines for a few years now as a powerful nutrient to help prevent prostate cancer in men.
Tomatoes may also help with a weight-loss programme: the fruit has been linked with natural weight loss hormones in the body such as leptin, a type of protein which helps to regulate metabolic rate and appetite.