Burgers for runners

Burgers on the barbecue needn’t mean inches on your waistline. These tasty alternatives are lower in calories and packed with nutrition.


by Matthew Kadey

The sound of sizzling burgers is the soundtrack to a tantalising post-run treat. Unfortunately, fatty lumps of beef are far from the ideal recovery fuel and are unlikely to tip the bathroom scales in the desired direction. But you can create nutritious burgers using healthier ingredients such as sweet potato or salmon. ‘Burgers made from fish offer high amounts of omega-3 fats and fibre, which are beneficial to runners,’ says marathoner and sports dietitian Dr Pamela Nisevich Bede. These five flavour-packed burgers will satisfy your taste buds and replenish your muscles without troubling your waistline.  

Sweet potato bean burgers 

Combine sweet potato and haricot beans for a veggie burger that’s packed with carbohydrates, protein, vitamin A and fibre. ‘Vitamin A improves vision and the health of your immune system,’ says sports dietitian Katie Jeffrey. Meanwhile, the fibre slows digestion and keeps you feeling full. Mix in nutrient-dense walnuts for some crunch and replace mayonnaise with a spread of olive oil and parsley. Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fats and also contain the amino acid arginine, which improves blood flow when converted to nitric oxide in the body. Parsley offers plenty of vitamin K, which bolsters bone health. 

1. Steam or boil 2 medium peeled and chopped sweet potatoes until tender. Let cool, then mash with 400g haricot beans. Stir in 160g wheatgerm, 80g chopped red onion, 60g chopped walnuts, 1 tbsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp ground cumin and ¼ tsp each of salt and black pepper. 

2. Form into 6 burgers and barbecue for 4 minutes per side, until the crust is crispy. 

3. In a blender, combine a handful of parsley, 80ml olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, 1 chopped garlic clove, and ¼ tsp salt. Blend and spoon over the burgers. 

Chipotle cocoa bison burgers

Bison tastes similar to beef, but contains less fat and is slightly sweeter. Plus, research published in Nutrition Research found that, compared with beef, bison produces less of a spike in blood triglycerides and less inflammation – both heart-disease risk factors. Just like it’s bovine cousin, though, bison packs plenty of iron. This is good news
for runners, as ‘iron is part of the protein haemoglobin that transports oxygen from the lungs to the working muscles’, says Jeffrey. Add cocoa powder for both the flavour and an extra shot of antioxidants to help fend off cell-damaging free radicals.  

1In a large bowl, gently mix 450g minced bison (osgrow.com, bisonfarm.co.uk, keziefoods.co.uk), 3 tbsp barbecue sauce, 2 tbsp cocoa powder, 2 chopped canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (£2.45 for 210g, mexgrocer.co.uk), 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 chopped shallot, 2 tsp fresh thyme, 1 tsp cumin and ¼ tsp each of salt and black pepper. 

2. Form the mixture into 4 burgers and barbecue for 5 minutes per side or until cooked through. Top each burger with a slice of your preferred cheese and let it melt.

Curry crab burgers with guacamole

Nutrient-dense crabmeat provides boatloads of vitamin B12. ‘Vitamin B12 plays a role in red blood cell production, which, in turn, helps carry oxygen to muscles, and runners who don’t get enough of it will fatigue easier,’ says Nisevich Bede. Crab is also rich in selenium, an antioxidant that may reduce levels of oxidative stress following exercise, which could help both speed recovery and reduce heart-disease risk. Mixing in sweetcorn adds a sugary hit while delivering lutein and zeaxanthin, which can improve eye health. Replace fatty bacon with creamy guacamole. Made with avocado, it’s a great source of monounsaturated fat. ‘This fat is considered heart-healthy since it can help improve cholesterol levels,’ says Nisevich Bede. 

1Mix together 240g crabmeat, 165g sweetcorn, 60g wholewheat panko breadcrumbs, 1 large egg, 3 tbsp low-fat mayonnaise, 2 tbsp chopped chives, 2 tsp Dijon mustard, 1½ tsp curry powder and ¼ tsp black pepper. 

2. Form into 4 burgers and barbecue for 5 minutes per side. 

3. Serve burgers topped with guacamole (Yarden Guacamole, £2.60 for 195g, ocado.com)

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