Eating a balanced and varied diet is vital for energy and good health. "While the most important thing is to get enough energy through complex carbohydrates, without a range of other nutrients you risk injury and infection," says Laura Wyness of the British Nutrition Foundation. Here's how to add some nutritional punch to your menu, inspired by cuisines from around the world.
Great for: Soothing inflamed muscles
Hearty and rustic, Polish meals often feature beetroots, either raw in salads or cooked in soups and stews. They are a great source of vitamin B, potassium, calcium and iron. But, most importantly for runners, they contain off-the-chart doses of betaine. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that this compound reduces post-exercise muscle inflammation, allowing the body to recover faster.
Try this: For traditional Polish barszcz - or beetroot soup - fry a chopped onion and garlic until golden. Add four sliced beets, some mushrooms, one litre of stock, one teaspoon of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and seasoning. Leave to simmer for an hour. Serve with sour cream and croutons.
Sweden: Deer meat
Great for: Muscular repair
Last year, the International Association for the Study of Obesity reported that a Nordic diet could be better for you than a Mediterranean one. One reason for this is the Swedes' love of reindeer meat: one of the leanest protein sources, meat from Santa's sleigh-pullers and other wild deer is a great source of the iron needed to boost muscle endurance. A 100g fillet contains up to 6.7mg of iron - twice as much as beef. You can get deer meat (venison) in supermarkets, while reindeer meat is available from specialist butchers (try keziefoods.co.uk).
Try this: Fry 500g of diced reindeer steak with one chopped white onion, a garlic clove and a handful of wild mushrooms. Stir in a dollop of fresh cream and reduce the heat. Season, leave to simmer for a while, then serve with boiled potatoes and fresh green vegetables.
Brazil: Acai berry
Great for: Fighting infection and easing stiff joints
Eaten in Brazil, the acai berry (pronounced ah-SIGH-ee) is often used in medicines to ease joint pain, increase energy levels and speed up metabolism. Its high antioxidant and anthocyanins levels protect the immune system and fight infection. The berry also contains potassium, which helps to oxygenate the body. You can buy cartons of acai juice or dried acai berries at health food shops.
Try this: Add chilled acai juice to blueberries, strawberries, chopped banana and kiwi. Whizz in the blender for a nutritious post-run smoothie.
Great for: Dosing up on omega-3s and zinc
A Japanese culinary tradition is to 'eat until only 80 per cent full'. That self-restraint has paid off for British Olympic marathoner Mara Yamauchi: having lived in Japan, she credits her success to a diet abundant in omega-3-rich oily fish and carb-loaded steamed rice. The wafer-thin rolled-out squares of seaweed known as nori are high in immune-boosting zinc - you can get them, along with sushi rice, in the world foods section of most large supermarkets.
Try this: To make temakizushi (sushi cones), cut a sheet of nori in half and spread some cooked sushi rice in one corner. Add a filling of tuna or crabmeat with strips of cucumber and wasabi, before rolling into a cone shape.