How to Eat Healthy Like An Elite Runner

Posted by Tina Muir, Elite Runner

Although it doesn’t feel like October due to the mostly warm weather lately, the leaves are starting to change color and we are now able to say the GORE-TEX Philadelphia Marathon is next month!

Sunday, November 17 is fast approaching. If you’re like me, your long runs are getting towards their peak distance and you want to do all the little things to make sure you are getting the most our of your final weeks of hard training. By now you are probably bored of those same pasta dinners and are looking for something new to give you enough energy to sustain those long runs. Faced with this dilemma, I looked into other grains and created a Moroccan Chicken Couscous meal. It’s full of delicious flavor; with plenty of splices without being too spicy (spicy foods are a major trigger for unanticipated bathroom stops on runs) and it hits all of the major food groups!

Couscous is a lower calorie carbohydrate than other grains such as rice and quinoa, but it’s still a great source of protein. Chicken is a lean meat that adds to the protein content, as do cashews. This protein will help repair your tired muscles after pounding the pavement for many miles in preparation for race day. There are also plenty of vegetables in this dish including tomatoes with their Vitamin K to make your bones strong and carrots that bring Vitamin A to help you see in the dark as daylight gradually decreases. However the most impressive health benefits from this dish come from the spices:

  • Cinnamon helps to lower blood sugar and is a natural anti-inflammatory
  • Paprika promotes healthy blood vessel function (crucial for runners!)
  • Cumin has antiseptic properties to help you fight off colds quicker; especially at this time of year when your immune system may be feeling run down
  • Tumeric contains curcumin which fights cancer promoting free radicals
  • Ginger helps to treat allergies related to respiratory problems that are common during the seasonal changes

Although this is my debut marathon, I plan to run as close to 2:40 as possible. Training has been going well, but I have been only able to sustain it with good nutrition, plenty of hydration, enough sleep and listening to my gut feeling when something doesn’t feel quite right.

Everyone racing may have different goals for this race, but it is after all a marathon. We are all striving for the same finish line. Nutrition is critical to successful completion, and I want to share one of my favorite night-before long run meals so that it hopefully can help you feel full of energy for your last few weeks of training.

Moroccan Couscous

Serves four as a main dish

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes


1.5 tbsp of oil, 1.5 cups (170 g) couscous, 2.75 cups (650ml) vegetable stock, 1 large chicken breast (diced), .5 small onion (diced), 1 carrot (thin, short slices), 1 medium tomato (cut into chunks), 1/3 cup (50g) chickpeas, 2 gloves garlic, 1.5 tbsp salt, 1.5 tbsp pepper, 1.5 tsp cumin, 1.5 tsp turmeric, 1.5 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cinnamon, .5 tsp ginger, 1 tbsp lemon juice, 0.25 cup (10g) parsley, 0.25 cup (50g) cashews


In a small bowl, combine 0.5 tbsp, 1 tsp of salt, pepper, cumin, turmeric, paprika, 0.5 tsp cinnamon and 0.5 tsp ginger. Add the chicken and mix around to coat the chicken.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent then add the seasoned chicken. Once the edges of the chicken have cooked, add the carrots and garlic and cover in between stirring regularly.

Boil the vegetable stock/water in a small saucepan. Add the couscous and remove the heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until all the water has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Add the remaining spices into the couscous, along with 0.5 tbsp oil and stir to coat the couscous.

Meanwhile, add the chickpeas, tomatoes, lemon juice, and parsley and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the couscous and cashews. Garnish with parsley to serve and you’re finished!

Good luck on Race Weekend and most of all, have fun! See you there :)

You can follow more of Tina’s training progress and healthy recipes at her blog, or follow her on Twitter @tinamuir for daily nutrition advice, training tips, and motivational quotes.

*Please consult your doctor or dietician before changing your diet*