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The best way to fuel your runs might surprise you

Photo: Alan Weiner

Pre-race pasta party? While it might sound great, fueling training runs or getting morning-of energy for a major race is about a lot more than a bowl of bolognese. And while scarfing down a banana at the start line is a standard go-to, there are far more effective ways to power your miles.

One of the key secrets to speedy splits? Fat. “Fat is a primary source of energy that can fuel your body for endurance endeavors,” write Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan and chef and nutrition coach Elyse Kopecky, the duo behind the new cookbook Run Fast. Eat Slow“In our recipes, we make no apologies for the amount of fat.”  It’s no surprise, then, that pre-run breakfasts are full of coconut, nut butters, and full-fat dairy. “Runners often obsess over carbohydrates and protein and forget that fat is also an important building block,” the running experts add.

From there, it’s important to consider what you’re hoping to get out of your workout—and that’s where an attention to ingredients comes in.

Looking for speed? A nutritious powerhouse like beets will provide the antioxidants and minerals that support cardiovascular health, which will come in handy during some heart-pounding intervals. (“We’re red-tuber crazy around here,” Flanagan and Kopecky rave.) Need to digest your breakfast quickly before a race? A bowl of oats won’t weigh down your stomach, and will provide all the power you need to make it across the finish line.

And if your training schedule calls for a long run, superfoods save the day. Electrolyte-rich coconut water, greens filled to the brim with nutrients, and energizing nut butters will keep you—and your feet—moving. Sure, a nutrition bar comes in handy every now and again for convenient fuel, but filling up on whole food ingredients will prove beneficial during your run—and beyond.

Ready to lace up your sneakers? Keep reading for three world-class runner approved recipes to power you through any distance.

Get Started

coconut kale smoothie
Photo: Alan Weiner

For long run fuel: Coconut Kale Smoothie

Serves 2

One sip of this refreshing, mean-green smoothie and you’ll be ready to go that extra mile.

4 kale leaves, stems removed
2 cups coconut water
1/2 cup whole milk yogurt
2 Tbsp almond butter
3-4 dates, pitted, or 1-2 Tbsp honey
1 cup ice

1. In a blender, place the kale, coconut water, yogurt, almond butter, dates or honey, and ice. Blend on high speed for several minutes until smooth.


beet smoothie
Photo: Alan Weiner

For speed run energy: Can’t Beet Me Smoothie

Serves 2

This recipe makes enough for two, so your running buddy (if you have one) can fuel up, too. Or you can store leftovers in the fridge for up to three days. For rushed mornings, this smoothie can be made the night before and simply stirred in the a.m. and sipped while you lace up.

1 cooked beet, peeled and quartered
1 cup frozen blueberries
1 small frozen banana
1 cup unsweetened almond milk or other milk of choice
1 cup coconut water
1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled (use edge of spoon)
1 Tbsp almond butter

1. In a blender, place the beet, blueberries, banana, milk, coconut water, ginger, and almond butter. Blend on high speed for several minutes until smooth.


Photo: FoodiesFeed/Jakub Kapusnak

For easily digested energy: Race Day Oatmeal

When you’re on the road for a race, simply use boiling water from an electric tea kettle to make this breakfast in less than five minutes.

Serves 1

1/2 cup instant oats
1 banana, sliced
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup almond milk or other milk of choice
Walnuts or almond butter
Raisins or fresh berries
Ground cinnamon
Honey (optional)

1. Combine the oats, banana, salt, and three-fourths cup water in a microwaveable bowl.

2. Microwave on high power for one to two minutes, or until thickened.

3. Mash the banana slightly and stir in the milk. Stir in the walnuts or almond butter and raisins or berries to taste. Top with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a drizzle of honey if desired.

Excerpted from Run Fast Eat Slow by Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky, by permission of Rodale Books. Available wherever books are sold.

Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is heating up! Check out our Fall Fitness Preview, your guide to having your healthiest fall yet. And make sure to mark your calendars: Well+Good’s annual Fitness Biathlon in NYC is back this October 22.