What’s not to love about Trader Joes? Free samples, quirky vibes, Hawaiian t-shirts....we can’t deny that it’s one of the most fun places to shop for groceries. What really helps Trader Joe’s stand out, though, is the tasty, sometimes unique, and often budget-friendly products available. This blog is the first post of a two-part series that showcases foods runners can purchase from Trader Joe’s to help fuel their performance. Today’s focus is “performance boosters,” or food runners can enjoy before or during their run to help boost energy and stamina for a successful run.
Let's start with some performance-boosting beverages...
Caffeine is one of the most widely accepted performance boosters in the sports nutrition world. When consumed in appropriate amounts, it can enhance endurance, exercise performance, concentration, reaction time, while also reducing feelings of fatigue, perceived exertion, and pain (click HERE and HERE to read more). If runners tolerate caffeine well, enjoying a cup of coffee about 1 hour before their run might help improve performance. Tip: we love Trader Joe’s cold brew because it’s easy to prepare and has a slightly sweeter, less acidic taste (keep in mind that it can contain more caffeine than other types of coffee).
Is coffee necessary for optimal performance? Nope. Everyone responds to caffeine differently, and some may be more sensitive to it, noting side effects of anxiety, “jitters,” digestive issues, and insomnia. If the cons outweigh the pros, it’s best to skip the joe.
100% Tart Cherry Juice & Dried Tart Cherries
Tart cherries are rich in many nutrients, including anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that helps reduce inflammation. There is a growing body of research that shows that tart cherries can help reduce muscle inflammation and soreness post-exercise, which is desirable for runners looking to improve their recovery time. Tart cherries are also a good source of melatonin, which can help improve sleep quality and quantity. Tip: Enjoy a glass of tart cherry juice or a handful of dried tart cherries post-workout.
Beets & Beet Juice
These root vegetables are naturally high in nitrates, which are converted to nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator. In other words, it expands the blood vessels and allows for improved blood flow and cardiovascular function (visualize a small straw vs a big one- which one will allow fluid to flow through easier?) Optimized blood flow means that oxygen is transported more efficiently throughout the body, and in turn can lead to improved endurance and strength and running performance.
Tip: Runners can enjoy roasted beets or a glass of beet juice before their next run. We’ll be honest, beet juice on its own isn’t very pleasant, so we recommend adding a splash of fruit juice or lemonade to make it more palatable. Other foods that are also naturally high in nitrates include leafy greens like kale, spinach, and arugula, which can also be added to the diet. Those with kidney issues should talk to their doctor before incorporating beets and high-nitrate foods.
Coconut water contains both carbohydrates and electrolytes, making it a natural sports drink. Keep in mind, however, that it does contain fewer carbohydrates and sodium than traditional sports drinks, so runners may need to supplement them with other drinks and snacks.
How about some performance-boosting snacks to enjoy before or on the run?
Dates & Date-Based Snacks
Dates are a natural (and totally tasty!) source of carbohydrates to snack on before or during a run. We love that the bites and bars come individually wrapped to easily throw in a running belt or pocket.
Can’t stomach energy gels? Applesauce packets are a squeeze-able alternative source of energy.
A tasty source of energy and electrolytes. Click HERE to read more about replenishing electrolytes on the run
A more affordable, bite-sized version of Honey Stinger Waffles or Stroopwafels. These cookies are a tasty source of carbohydrates to enjoy before or during a run. We also love that they’re smaller and easier to enjoy mid-stride.
For those who prefer gummy candies as mid-run fuel, these treats are the "perfect catch."
Another natural, non-perishable, and portable source of carbohydrates.
Bananas are usually a safe bet for fuel that sits easily in the stomach. Plus, they’re a great price at Trader Joe's for only 19 cents/banana!
For runners engaging in prolonged exercise (think long trail runs), fueling with small amounts of protein and fat can help provide satiety and variety. Trail mix with salted nuts and dried fruit is a tasty way to fuel up and get some added electrolytes.
Which Trader Joe's performance booster will you try on your next run? Share your experiences on social media and tag us @clubheldie + use the hashtags #clubheldie and #fuelheldie. Also, stay tuned for our next post about Trader Joe's pantry staples!
Keep running strong with the Club Heldie app! Created with the help of registered dietitians, running coaches, and personal trainers, this app exists to help female runners of all capabilities and backgrounds achieve their biggest goals. Click HERE to learn more.