Each year, millions of Americans gather with friends and family to feast and give thanks – whether it’s a traditional Thanksgiving, Friendsgiving, or even Dragsgiving (yea, it’s a thing). It’s one of my favorite holidays for so many reasons, but let’s be honest, it’s mostly about the food! As a runner, how does this amazing Thanksgiving feast fuel me for the run and help me recover?. I decided to break down a classic turkey day menu for you – sharing some great recipes, some good tips & tricks, and some nutrition insights as they relate to running.
After all, Thanksgiving is also the LARGEST running day of the year in America, almost 1,000,000 runners racing in about 1,000 events, a true cornucopia of Turkey Trots. And with the average person consuming upwards of 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving, these trots help us feel a little bit better about that extra piece of grandma’s pumpkin pie.
So let’s serve up a Thanksgiving menu, course by course, to see how this holiday fuels our other appetite, our appetite for running!
How many Thanksgivings start with a smorgasbord of cheese & sausage platters, shrimp cocktail, standard crudité veggie platter, some deviled eggs, dips (cheesy, creamy, artichoke & spinach-y, the list goes on), and all assortments of those nut mixtures? It’s pretty much a full meal on its own.
But, what should runners know about the app course? Well, in my opinion, it’s all about the VEGGIES! Target those fresh, natural, and nutrient-dense foods, and feel free to load up. Of course, it is okay to sneak a ham and cheese croquette every now and then, but limit the fatty and fried options that are often associated with GI inflammation issues.
Here are some of our favorite appetizers to try this year with your guests:
All the Sides
Depending on where you’re from, certain sides are a staple of any Thanksgiving meal. The South loves corn pudding and bacon Brussels sprouts, the Midwest must have its green bean casserole, and New England never passes up a Parker House roll. And interestingly enough, a recent ranking from dailymeals.com discovered one side was the star… stuffing!
Ok, ok, we all love our sides, but what can I take away from these delicious must-haves as a runner? This is where getting your carbs comes into play – many of your classic sides (mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, breads & rolls) contain carbohydrates that are the essential fuel for your run. Enjoy on Thanksgiving and then reheat on Friday to carb up for a weekend long run!
The other sides tend to be cooked vegetables. Again, these are often great nutrient-dense food options, and most come with a nice serving of fiber as well. One tip: try to let your healthier vegetable options dominate your plate, paired with the protein star that we’ll talk about in a minute. You’ll want to chow down on those carbs as well, but unless you’re gearing up for that long run, enjoy these in moderation.
Try some of these delicious side recipes:
It’s Time for the Main Course
And now for the star of the show, plumage and all… the bird. Obviously, the traditional main course item is your classic Thanksgiving Day turkey. However, other popular proteins make it to the table as well – ham, roasts, even ribs! These delectable Thanksgiving staples are the centerpiece of the meal.
So where does running fit in? Recovery! These protein items are the key components to aid recovery after a run (or any workout). Protein helps repair and strengthen the body after intense physical activity. Consider cooking up a Thanksgiving-inspired omelette or frittata with those leftovers – a post-workout brunch opportunity in the making!
Our favorite main course recipes:
Desserts… ok, let’s be honest, PIE!
Save room for the most important course… dessert… I mean, pie! Apple pie takes the cake (some irony there 😉) with 20% of Americans dishing it out over other pies. However, close runner-ups include strawberry and classic pumpkin.
Now, I know you’re asking, how does pie relate to my running? Well, I see it plain and simple, if you go for a run, you deserve some pie. Now this obviously shouldn’t be a daily indulgence, but one of the greatest things about logging all those miles is the opportunity to treat yourself every once and awhile. So, in my humble opinion, pie relates to running because it acts as a reward for your hard work with your consistent and diligent training routines.
We couldn’t end our menu without serving up some of our favorite Thanksgiving races. Race these Turkey Trots or find one in your area – bring out the whole flock to start your day with fitness and fun before you take a deep dive into feasting and festivities!
🦃 North Shore Turkey Trot – Highland Park, IL • Get BONUS swag with “BRTurkeyTrot“!
🦃 Turkey Day 5K Minneapolis – Minneapolis, MN • “BIBRAVE18” saves $5 for your flock!
🦃 Oakland Turkey Trot 5K – Oakland, CA • Use “BROTTVIP” for 10% off!
🦃 Art Van Turkey Trot Chicago – Chicago, IL • Save $5 with code “BIBRAVE18“!