Autumn Foods are a Runners’ Best Friends: Three Recipes to Harvest Fall Nutrition

Running in the fall means crisp autumn air, lower sweat rates, layered clothes, and a beautiful array of leaf colours to look at as you put those kilometres of running in. Whether you’re fueling for high intensity hill repeats, threshold race pace runs or long slow distance training sessions, fall also harvests many great local vegetables to round out your nutritional health.

Fall vegetables such as beets (and their leafy tops, aka beet greens) and garlic, and leafy greens such as spinach are a key source of dietary nitrate, a nutrient that boosts your body’s production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps get better blood flow to your working muscles, leading to improved exercise performance. Sounds like a good reason to include these foods more often if you are putting time into a running or training schedule!

How can you get more dietary nitrates onto your plate?

The best way to get this “nutritional help” for your running performance is to improve your intake of vegetables that are rich in nitrates. Here are a couple of ways you can incorporate them into your day.


Nitrates before a workout can enhance your performance during a training session by opening up your blood vessels and allowing oxygen-rich blood to rush into your working muscle. This little boost might be all you need to nail your workout. For a fast pre-workout snack, check out our PowerFuel™ “Beet the Competition” Hummus recipe below!

Post workout:

Eating foods high in dietary nitrates after your workout is beneficial for overall health. Nitrates may lower your risk of high blood pressure and can help keep your heart healthy. Dietary nitrates are typically found in vegetables which also contain essential nutrients your body needs to fight diseases. Nothing says recovery like a PowerFuel™ Glory Bowl (recipe below).

Food for pleasure:

Food is to be enjoyed and adding nitrates to your diet doesn’t have to be a bore. You can easily add high-nitrate foods to your salads, but there are many other ways to eat more of these vegetables. You can add spinach to a fruit smoothie, or even make a chocolate cake with beets (Sheila Kealey’s recipe below is really to die for!).

Finding ways to hide nutrient-rich vegetables in foods that you love is the best, and most satisfying, way to eat more nitrates. Here are three recipes to incorporate nitrates rich foods in your day to day:

PowerFuel™ “Beet the Competition” Hummus

This delicious and easy to make dish by Beth Mansfield serves as a fantastic pre-workout snack. The combination of beets with chickpeas provides carbohydrates for extra energy throughout your workout or race on top of the beet focused nitrate boost. Choose cut up fresh veggies to go along with the hummus – their high water content will help keep you hydrated!


  • 3 medium or 2 large cooked beets (450 g)
  • 540 mL can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 heaped Tbsp. tahini + 1 clove garlic + ½ tsp. cumin
  • 3 Tbsp. lemon juice + 3 Tbsp. water + 2 Tbsp. olive oil


  • Put all ingredient in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth
  • Eat with lots of cut up veggies and whole-grain pita
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PowerFuel™ Glory Bowl

This glory bowl is the perfect recovery meal: grains help restock your carbohydrate stores after a long race, while beets and greens offer nitrates and protein for muscle recovery.

This recipe is versatile and you can mix-and-match ingredients so that you never get bored of the same bowl.

Ingredients (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 cups cooked rice, quinoa, barley or soba noodles
  • 1 cup grated beets
  • 1 cup grated carrots
  • ¼ cup toasted almond slivers
  • 2-4 cups spinach leaves or beet greens
  • 1 package (300 g) firm tofu cut into ½” cubes OR a similar amount of cooked shrimp OR cooked chicken breasts, sliced into strips


  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1 Tbsp Tahini
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 3 Tbsp Tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed (another fall vegetable, contains nitrates as well!)
  • ¾ cup sunflower oil

TIP: This dressing can also be used on steamed vegetables – yummy!


  • Mix dressing and blend until smooth.
  • Assemble bowls: Layer rice in bottom, top with beets, carrots, greens, and almonds. Place sautéed tofu cubes or spinach/chicken on top. Drizzle bowls generously with dressing.
  • Enjoy! 
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Rich Chocolate Cake (with Beets) from Sheila Kealey

This awesome chocolate cake recipe by Sheila Kealey will satisfy your sweet-tooth while alsoproviding nitrates for your training sessions.

Ingredients (makes 16 servings)

  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans*
  • 1 15-oz can sliced beets (not pickled), drained, reserving 1/2 cup juice (or 2 cups sliced, cooked beets pureed with 3/4 cup water)
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1½  teaspoons baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* For better flavour, toast the nuts first by placing them on a baking sheet, and place in the 350-degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes. If you’d like you can ditch the pecans in the batter and use them as a topping instead.


  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a bundt tin or two 8 x 4 x 2-inch loaf pans with a little butter or transfat free margarine.
  • Puree the beets with the reserved juice in a blender or food processor and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract.
  • In a separate bowl or measuring cup combine the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Add the dry mixture to the beet batter and mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  • Pour the batter into the loaf pans. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Test by touching the top of the loaf; if the cake springs back and there’s no indentation, it’s done. Run a table knife around the edges of the pan and turn out onto a rack to cool.

Aja Gyimah is a master’s student and sport dietetic intern from Ryerson University. For the past 5 years she has been working towards becoming a Registered Dietitian. Sport nutrition is one of her passions along with providing accessible nutrition information to the public. Check out her Instagram page for more information.