You know fish is good for you. ‘It’s a rich source of protein and healthy fats,’ says sports dietitian and running coach Cassie Dimmick (achievingyourbest.net). But actually eating it is another matter, with one survey* finding that one in four of us has no idea how to cook it. But if fresh fish seems inconvenient, expensive and often hard to prepare, there is a handy alternative: tinned swimmers. This kind of fish is a good choice for runners, being faster and less expensive, and more likely to be low in toxins and contaminants. It’s also harvested in an environmentally sustainable way. Shelf-stable and already cooked, tinned fish is ideal as a protein-rich recovery meal.
CAN DO Anchovies
This tiny fish has a big flavour. The tinned or jarred fillets are a good source of healthy omega-3 fats and rich in selenium. ‘Research suggests that selenium helps with joint health, and omega-3 fats help fight inflammation,’ says sports dietitian Molly Kimball. Anchovies are also an excellent source of niacin, used by the body to convert food into energy. Quick to reproduce, wild anchovy populations are healthy and there is little contamination risk. The fish is often salt-cured and packed in olive oil, making them ideal after a sweaty run when you need electrolytes. (Or, to eliminate some of the salt, soak them in water for 30 minutes and dry with paper towels.)
Anchovy and olive pizza Brush wholewheat pittas with oil and grill for two minutes, until golden. Spread pizza sauce on top and sprinkle with chopped anchovies (four fillets per pitta), sliced kalamata olives, sliced artichoke hearts, chilli flakes, and shredded mozzarella. Grill for one minute, or until the cheese melts. Garnish with basil.
CAN DO Crab
Canned crab meat is a great way to reel in muscle-friendly protein, bone-building phosphorus and the mineral zinc. In fact, just 85g (about half a can) provides nearly a quarter of your daily need. ‘Zinc is necessary for many functions that are essential to runners, including protein metabolism and immune function,’ says Dimmick. The best brands of lump or white crab meat will have a firm texture and a clean, light flavour – and no fishy scent. Jumbo lump crab meat comes from the large muscles that drive the crab’s swimming legs, giving it a meatier texture and making it more pricey but worthy of the occasional splurge.
Crab and black bean tacos Mix half a cup of natural yoghurt with one teaspoon of curry powder and half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. In another bowl, stir two 170g tins of crab, one 400g tin of rinsed black beans and one cubed mango. Spread over tortillas. Top with baby leaf spinach and the curried yoghurt, and eat taco-style.
CAN DO Sardines
Sardines provide a dose of omega-3, vitamin B12 and vitamin D. ‘Studies show vitamin D may enhance athletic performance and help prevent diabetes,’ says Kimball. If eating the calcium-rich bones isn’t your thing, you can buy boneless. Stick to fish packed in heart-healthy olive oil (avoid vegetable oils), or choose those in water or tomato sauce for less calories.
Sardine penne with prosciutto Combine 450g of cooked wholewheat penne, three 120g tins of sardines (chopped), 50g of diced prosciutto, 25 to 30 sliced cherry tomatoes, 50g of toasted walnuts and a tablespoon of fresh thyme. In a small bowl, whisk together 50ml of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, three chopped garlic cloves, and quarter of a teaspoon each of black pepper and dried chilli flakes. Toss the dressing with pasta and garnish with parmesan.
CAN DO Salmon
Tinned salmon is one of the richest sources of the omega-3 fats, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). ‘These fats decrease heart-disease risk and improve bone strength, helping runners avoid stress fractures,’ says Dimmick. They’re also a great source of protein and vitamin D. Some tinned salmon comes with the bones, which are soft and edible and provide calcium – but there are boneless varieties, too.
Avocado and salmon cakes Mix two 170g tins of salmon, two eggs, 75g of breadcrumbs, 80ml of milk, one shredded courgette and two teaspoons of curry powder. Stuff into eight greased muffin cups and bake at 180C for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, in a food processor, blend one avocado, 120g of yoghurt, the juice of one lime, a teaspoon of wasabi and a pinch of salt. Serve the salmon cakes with the avocado sauce.
CAN DO Tuna
Tuna has hit the headlines in recent times due to questions over its sustainability and the impact of industrial fishing on other marine life. In general, the most sustainable tuna is pole-and-line caught skipjack from the Maldives or albacore tuna from the Pacific. While tinned skipjack tuna has always been a low-mercury option, meatier-tasting albacore contains four times more omega-3. A 115g serving of tuna also packs 32g of protein – as much as a similarly sized chicken breast.
Tuna salad with parsley dressing Mix 170g of baby leaf spinach, two 200g cans of drained albacore tuna, a can of rinsed cannellini beans, a diced avocado, a sliced red pepper, a diced cucumber, a chopped orange and half a sliced red onion. In a food processor, pulse a handful of parsley leaves, 80ml of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon, a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, a garlic clove and a pinch of salt. Serve the tuna salad with parsley dressing.