Peanut Butter: The Ultimate Runner’s Food
Peanut butter is the best runner’s food on the planet: here’s how to eat the sticky stuff.
When it comes to food choices runners, you can’t do much better than peanut butter.
What is peanut butter anyway? It does not contain butter, but it does have lots of peanuts. To be labelled peanut butter, a jar must consist of at least 90 percent peanuts.
That doesn’t leave room for much else, but what peanut butter makers put in that extra 10 percent is what gives us the different kinds of peanut butter on the grocery store shelf. Commercial brands contain a little something to make the peanuts spread better (partially hydrogenated vegetable oil) plus some extra salt and sugar.
“All-natural” brands don’t have anything mixed with the peanuts, and so the natural oil in the peanuts separates and pools on top of the jar: stir the peanuts and oil together when you want to make it spreadable.
But when you talk about the different kinds of peanut butter, a myth sometimes comes into play: the all-natural brands have nothing added to them, so they are more nutritious and “better for you” than the commercial brands.
This simply is not true.
There is the same amount of protein, carbohydrate, fibre and unsaturated fat in the commercial brands as in the all-natural brands. The amount of saturated fat that is added to make the commercial brands easier to spread is negligible. In fact, it’s less than 0.0001 of a gram in a 2 tablespoon serving.
So make taste your guide when deciding which peanut butter to buy.
Why it’s So Good for Runners
Peanut butter provides a feeling of fullness much longer after you’ve eaten than if you’d munched on carbohydrates in the form of, say, pretzels, a sports bar or even a banana. And that feeling of fullness can help you through that last kay or up that monster hill.
Straight sugar or any simple sugar found in carbohydrates shoots your insulin levels high soon after you eat, but then drops them to the floor halfway through your workout. Peanut butter, on the other hand, is full of fat, protein and fibre, and it gives you a slow, sustained release of energy.
It does contain fat, but it is overwhelmingly the preferred unsaturated fat, which makes peanut butter good for your heart. Studies show that diets high in unsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol and generally make the heart a much healthier machine. And as a good source of protein, it’s a primary building block in muscle growth and helps speed muscle recovery.
Peanut butter also is a good source of niacin and folic acid (they help convert food to energy) and vitamin E. In addition, the dense kilojoules in peanut butter keep your energy level on an even keel and your hunger down throughout the day. And that, in turn, will prevent you from overeating and keep you eating healthfully all day.
How to Eat the Sticky Stuff
Peanut butter is a flexible food. You can eat it at most times of the day (dinner may be stretching it, but bear with us). The following are some quick and easy ways to devour peanut butter all day long.
Peanut butter on toast, bagels, muffins, pancakes or smoothies. Breakfast is perhaps the best time to eat peanut butter because its filling effects will carry you through the day. A glass of cold milk is the perfect companion to peanut butter any time. Not only does milk help keep the peanut butter off the roof of your mouth, but it also adds calcium and more protein to your diet.
Peanut butter and jam sandwiches. Though it might seem a little too “primary school” for you, it’s a perfect runner’s lunch. It will control your appetite and you won’t eat too much at lunch or during your pre-training run snack later in the day. Consequently, you won’t be weighed down in training, unlike your peers who had pizza and chips.
Jam, by the way, is a great accompaniment to peanut butter. It strikes the right balance between sticky and sweet, and it tends to negate the roof-of-the-mouth syndrome. If jam’s not your taste, try honey. Also try adding granola or sunflower seeds to the peanut butter and then making a sandwich.
Peanut butter on crackers, an apple or banana. The great thing about peanut butter is that it doesn’t spoil. You can pack a snack of peanut butter on crackers in the morning and not worry about it going bad all day, and then eat it an hour before training to get ready to run. Or you could carry a jar of peanut butter in your bag. That, and an apple or banana and a knife, and you have the makings of a healthful runner’s snack.
Peanut butter on ice cream. No kidding! Just dab a couple of spoonfuls on top and zap it in the microwave. This will turn ice cream into a “healthier” dessert.