Nutrition: The Runner's guide to Pizza

Prepped the right way and consumed in reasonable quantities, the slice is definitely right. Choose pizza for fuelling, recovery...and, yes, reward



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Of all the foods we runners order up to satisfy our cravings and recharge our muscles, it’s hard to top the cheese-and-tomato-topped magic of pizza. Carby, easy and versatile enough to satisfy the whims of our unique taste buds, the slice is manna from heaven for the ravenous runner. Even ultra runner Dean Karnazes has been known to call ahead, mid-run, to order an extra-large Hawaiian pizza, which he folds up and eats like a burrito after clocking his insane daily mileage.

While frozen or takeaway pizza is a go-to meal for many time-poor runners, homemade versions are fresher, tastier and pack more nutritional punch. ‘DIY-ing pizza lets you stud it with wholegrains, lean meats and vegetables that deliver the nutrients runners need,’ says sports dietitian and marathon runner Tara Gidus. The step-by-step guide on the following pages gives you a complete dough-to-plate plan for prepping your perfect pizza. So, as they say in Naples, mangia!

An upper-class crust

You can’t hit the road without a trustworthy pair of shoes; likewise, every good pizza must begin with a solid base. As a minimum, a crust needs to support all of your favourite toppings while supplying energising carbs. For runners, however, it can do so much more. A typical pizzeria crust is made with white flour, but you can health it up by going wholewheat or multigrain. Also, opting for thin crust will save you roughly 50kcal a slice compared with the deeper-pan variety. Going DIY also allows you to sneak in nutritional boosts, such as spelt flour (which is high in fibre and manganese) or wheatgerm (which is high in folic acid).

 Make it yourself

Runner and pizza chef Rob Phillip offers up a crispy thin-crust recipe for two dough balls that can be stretched into 12-14-inch pizzas. Any extra dough can be wrapped in plastic and kept in the fridge for two days, or frozen for up to three months. Just make sure you bring the dough back to room temperature before rolling it out.

 Ingredients

• 300g strong white bread flour, plus a little extra for dusting

• 30g toasted wheatgerm

• 1 tsp sea salt

• ½ tsp fast-action yeast

• 240ml water at room temperature

• 1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for greasing

• 2 tsp honey

Method

1 In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, wheatgerm and sea salt.

2 In a separate large bowl, whisk together the water, olive oil and honey.

3 Add most of the dry mixture to the wet mixture, and stir together until smooth. Then add the remaining dry mixture and stir until the dough comes away from the bowl and is slightly sticky. Some loose flour is normal – don’t panic, it’ll all come together during the kneading. 

4 Place the dough on a lightly floured work surface and knead with floured hands until it’s smooth, elastic and soft. This should take around eight to 10 minutes.

5 Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly oiled bowl; turn to coat it in the oil. Cover with clingfilm and leave in a warm place until it doubles in size. This should take 1.5-2.5 hours.

6 Scrape the dough out of the bowl and divide it into two equal-size pieces for two pizzas. Cover the dough piece you’re planning to use first with a clean kitchen towel and let it rest for 30-45 minutes before making the pizza.


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