The Christmas food that will improve your run

We have good news. Some of your favourite Christmas foods are good for you and can actually improve your running performance. That Boxing Day run might be less painful than you think. Read up on Nutritionist and personal trainer Sarah O’Neill’s advice on how to upgrade all of the most delicious Christmas dinner classics to make sure they keep you running strong through the season.


Runner benefits

Good news all round; turkey is an excellent source of protein, which will help repair your muscles post-Christmas morning run. It is also one of the leanest meats you can choose and contains zinc for a healthy immune system and iron to help your body oxygenate the blood. With the extra bonus of vitamin B6, which helps the body produce energy, we can’t say a bad word about this bird.

Upgrade it

By roasting on a wire rack, you will allow excess fat to drain away and keep you feeling trim. Sarah also advises that: “Breast is best, the leg is a tad more fatty, save eating extra fat by avoiding the skin”.

Roast potatoes

Runner benefits

Often the most loved part of Christmas dinner; the humble potato can also offer some great benefits for runners. They are packed with carbohydrates to help you prepare your glycogen stores for that Boxing Day run and they also contain vitamin C to help boost your immunity.

Upgrade them

Whilst potatoes have some great benefits for runners, roasting them can add a fair amount of fat. Try roasting in coconut oil for heart-healthy fat properties and why not throw some sweet potatoes into the mix as these contain anti-inflammatory properties and are a slow releasing energy source.

Christmas pudding

Runner benefits

The high quantity of dried fruit means that Christmas pudding is full of fibre to keep you in good digestive health. Plus, the warming spices that go into one of these contain a number of additional benefits. For example, cinnamon will fire up your metabolism so you burn off the dinner more quickly.

Upgrade it

Reduce the amount of sugar that goes in and replace with a healthier substitute such as agave nectar. Natural spices and flavourings like cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla will also make it taste sweeter. Clever.

Christmas vegetables

Runner benefits

The Christmas classic vegetable sides dishes should take up a considerable portion of your dinner plate for a healthy roast. Make sure you include brussels sprouts. “They are a great source of vitamin C and, along with all cruciferous vegetables, contain fibre and phytochemicals which can help protect against bowel and other cancers. They are also rich in glucosinates which help the liver deal with toxic substances,” says Sarah. Red cabbage is also a tasty addition and promotes good health for your digestive system and lower cholesterol.

Upgrade it

Adding lightly toasted nuts to your vegetable dishes will make more festive and good for your run. “High in omega-3 fatty acids, nuts provide these vital 'good' fats whilst helping to lower harmful cholesterol. However beware, nuts are calorifically dense and eating own body weight in brazils is not recommended,” advises Sarah. Walnuts are a great choice.

Cranberry sauce

Runner benefits

This may be the healthiest part of your Christmas dinner, so don’t be shy when serving. Cranberries are packed with nutrients and contain antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which are really important for your recovery post-run. They also have a positive impact on the cardiovascular system as they reduce oxidative stress to blood vessels.

Upgrade it

Try adding more natural sweeteners to your cranberry sauce to avoid over-doing the sugar. Honey or maple syrup are good choices for runners.

Last minute tips from Sarah for surviving the big day:

Take a long run on Christmas Eve

It’s much better than trying to offset the calories on boxing day. Then a short fast run on Christmas morning will peak your metabolism so you can also reward your efforts with a hearty meal on Christmas Day.

Drink heaps of water over the festive period

This will both fill you up a little more and ward off dehydration that could sabotage your later running efforts.

Remember ‘waste disposal’ not ‘waist disposal

It’s common to end up with endless boxes of chocolates/sweets/snacks after Christmas – better to either dispose of them or give them away to a homeless shelter or foodbank than to mindlessly plough through them. A couple of days of over-indulgence won’t sabotage a strong year of training, but extending this for several weeks to ‘finish up’ all the junk in the house will see you wobbling your way to a slow January....