Everyone knows that diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to health, but oftentimes people think that the "diet" part is simply about counting and reducing calories, so they eat less out of the misconception that the pounds will just melt away. In reality, you have to eat a certain amount in order to make your exercise more effective. Your body needs fuel to burn if you're going to have the endurance to make your workout sessions worthwhile.

Certain foods are more helpful in supporting specific forms of exercise. Carbohydrates, for example, are essential to fueling your body during any type of cardio or endurance exercise. Paradoxically, many people who run also try to eliminate carbs from their diet. This can greatly diminish your capacity to perform cardio workouts like running or using an elliptical, as you'll find yourself exhausted within just a few minutes.

But the solution isn't simply gobbling down more carbs—it's all about eating foods rich in carbohydrates that are also good for you.

Here are a few foods that should be included in any runner's diet:

  • Whole grains
    Whole grain oats are one of nature's best sources of carbs, and a bowl of oatmeal is an excellent pre- or post-workout snack. But don't buy those pre-flavored, sugar-filled varieties. Instead, get plain oats and flavor them yourself by adding dried fruit, nuts, or honey.
  • Energy shake
    This one is a classic. The combination of fruit and yogurt not only provides carbs, but also protein, calcium, and vitamin C. Avoid sugar additives by blending your own, and drink them before a workout, or within an hour of finishing.
  • Muffins
    Muffins are great sources of carbs and fiber, but I'm not talking about the massive bakeshop kind, which can contain a massive dose of 500 calories and 20 grams of fat. Instead of buying muffins premade, take the time to bake up a batch at home.
  • Grains and beans
    By themselves, grains provide a healthy source of carbohydrates, but combined with beans, you benefit from muscle-repairing protein. A grain salad makes for a good lunch, or have them on the side of a lean protein like fish or chicken for dinner.
  • Sweet potatoes
    Carbs aren't all this superfood has to offer. Sweet potatoes are an amazing source of potassium, B6, and vitamin A.
    The bottom line is that eating well isn't simply about cutting carbs. You also have to give your body what it needs to fuel it during exercise and repair it afterwards. With a bit of research, it's easy to discover healthy, fitness-supporting recipes that aren't just good for you—they taste delicious, too.