While I talk a lot about food and easy recipes, I’ve never created an athletes grocery list, and after talking with many clients, it seems that these recommendations are needed and would be helpful.
I always recommend to have a variety of pantry staples for running, but in terms of a runners grocery list, let’s list some nutrient-dense options out for each category.
Scroll down for a printable grocery list for athletes.
This grocery list for athletes is broken down into carbs, fats, protein, snack foods and even convenience items I recommend in my cart, to make your athlete snacks easy to organize!
If you want to see what a sample day looks like with many of these options, check out what I ate on a 20 mile run day.
What Should Be On an Athletes’ Grocery List?
You’ll want to have a variety of foods from each food group available, and the extent of what you buy may depend on several questions and life situations.
You’ll want to consider:
- Are you feeding young athletes? (See more on nutrition for teenage athletes need here)
- How often are you exercising? The higher intensity/volume, the more (often) you need to eat
- Do you follow a certain diet? (i.e. vegan diet, vegetarian foods, dairy free)
- Are you low in any specific nutrients? (i.e. – iron, calcium, protein, vitamin D, omega 3) – Consider this post if iron supplements for runners are necessary.
- Are you on any medications or supplements, as prescribed by a doctor?
- Do you like to cook or prefer convenience foods?
Those are just some questions to ask when coming up with a grocery list for athletes. I love to keep many staples on hand, so my lunch ideas for runners are always popping!
Carbs for Athletes
Carbohydrate intake is often the foundation of an athlete’s diet, and I always recommend loading up your pantry with easy carbohydrate staples.
I get most of my carbohydrate-based stables from Thrive Market. As a member, you save more money, and it’s easy to just schedule deliveries when you’re close to running out.
Thrive Market is kind of like a blend between Trader Joe’s and Aldi’s – unique items at a low cost. It’s amazing.
Some of my favorite high carb foods for runners are:
- grains (rice, quinoa, millet)
- pasta (chickpea pasta for extra protein!)
- breads, tortillas
- crackers, chips
- fruit (dried, fresh, frozen)
- granola (for storebought, this and this are my favorite)
- starchy and canned veggies – beets, corn, beans, pumpkin
- Sun-maid and sour raisins
- snack bars (or you can make your own hemp seed bars for extra protein!)
Having these foods readily available and stocked will make high carb snacks for athletes easy and attainable. Some great carb snacks include:
- Cinnamon Maple Granola
- Vegan Protein Bites
- Gluten free Blueberry Muffins
- Vegan Hemp Protein Bars
- Apple Pumpkin Pie Baked Oatmeal
I can usually also make my breakfast based on many of these staples.
Here are some more ideas for Breakfast for Athletes on the go.
This runners grocery list includes both meat based and plant-based protein options so shop accordingly! If you follow a vegan diet for runners, there are still plenty of meal options and ways to meet your needs for protein for athletes.
Similarly, nutritional yeast is a great option for vegan runners because of its nutritional profile.
I like seeing my athletes have a high protein grocery list because we want adequate protein at each meal and snack.
How Much Protein Do Runners Need?
Like any athlete, runners should be getting protein at every meal, spread evenly throughout the day. See more details about protein for runners here.
The focus on protein should happen after a workout as opposed to before a workout, though there is some literature suggesting that pre-workout protein may mitigate some of the muscle breakdown and soreness.
More on the difference between pre workout and post workout nutrition. Some of my favorite protein snacks are pre made energy bites.
Many of these are important for injury recovery!
- beans and legumes (we always make vegan edible cookie dough and Maple BBQ chickpeas with canned chickpeas!)
- beef/turkey jerky
- protein powder (tips on finding a protein powder for runners)
- chicken sausage (quick to cook!) for this chicken sausage sheet pan meal
- meats and poultry (definitely recommend Butcher Box for sustainable, affordable options)
- seafood – Don’t forget about canned tuna/salmon, frozen shrimp/salmon in addition to fresh – they are more budget friendly and shelf stable.
- high protein pasta (this and this are favorites)
- nuts/seeds (great for these peanut butter cheerio bars)
- hemp seeds
- meat substitute products (Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, Gardein, MorningStar, etc)
What I love about Butcher Box is the quality of the meats you’re getting, and you can determine how often you receive it as well as what cuts you’d like. You’ll receive a free gift of the meat of your choosing upon signing up!
While there’s no best protein for athletes, it’s so important to get a variety of foods to ensure a distribution of the amino acids, especially leucine.
Leucine is an important one, specifically, for athletes because it can help with muscle building and reducing breakdown, among other things.
See more about leucine for athletes here!
As mentioned above, nuts and seeds are great sources of anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Also,
- avocado or avocado oil
- olive oil
- seafood, especially salmon and tuna
- hemp seeds
- chia seeds
- flax seeds
- tahini (great in this tahini lentil hummus and this tahini lime dressing)
- dark chocolate (my favorite of all time and this is good too)
If you want to try making your own peanut butter, try this cinnamon salted peanut butter. So easy!
Did you know my college nickname was snacks? And for good reason. I was (and still am!) always snacking on something.
Snacks are the perfect opportunity to bridge the gap between meals and keep you from getting too hungry. Furthermore, they provide additional opportunities throughout the day to get nutrients in.
It’s really difficult to meet your nutrient needs as an athlete through just three square meals, so consider these opportunities.
- Kind Snacks granola
- Kind Protein Bars
- Perfect Bars
- Protein stix (Actually found these really tasty!)
- pop chips, popcorn
- Protein Power Balls
- trail mix
- string cheese
- Lara Bars
- Baby carrots and hummus
- Energy bites (these are so good!)
As I discuss in my marathon training, when you’re in training, you have to think about your energy and “slices of the pie.”
When your training increases, that’s going to take up a larger portion of the pie. That means there are fewer of other portions, so you want to streamline or make it as easy as can be.
That may look like:
- Ordering more meal delivery
- Paying for more babysitting
- Rotisserie chicken
- frozen pizza
- Buying pre-chopped veggies or more convenience bars
- Eating out or getting takeout
- Power Bites pre-made rather than making your own
- buying granola rather than making your own
- Hiring help on your business
All of these things can make your life easier and reduce the amount of time spent on other things.
I also really love Sun Basket – their directions are easy to follow, and the food is delicious.
For lack of a better term, these foods don’t necessarily fall into the above categories, though they are technically carbohydrates. They are less nutrient-dense, though I would argue, still important and maybe even essential to help meet energy needs.
Plus, they generally improve quality of life and convenience is a big factor!
Some of my favorites include:
- ice cream and ice cream cones
- peanut butter cups
- teddy grahams
- graham crackers (great for a pre run snack)
- frozen waffles (a staple pre run meal for me)
You’ll want to include some of your favorites too.
Repeat after me – eating sweets regularly reduces the feeling of out of control eating and binge eating.
Sometimes, supplements for runners are necessary.
- Creatine – I pretty much always recommend creatine to my athletes because it’s one of the most researched supplements out there and there are not really any negative side effects.
- Collagen – I personally add collagen to my coffee each morning. It’s not a magic elixir, but there is some interesting research coming out about athletes and collagen.
- Tart Cherry – This can be great post workout, and can help minimize inflammation. In this study, participants ingested just over a cup of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days, and it resulted in less pain after running.
What are some of your favorite grocery foods?