Could soup be a runner's best friend?

Ready for a run? A pre-run bowl of soup can boost your nutrients and hydration.
Ready for a run? A pre-run bowl of soup can boost your nutrients and hydration.

Soup probably isn't the first food that comes to mind as nourishment for runners. And while it may seem like an odd selection, it's an option that's highly recommended.

There are a number of reasons why soup is welcome cuisine for sprinters and long-distance runners, alike. For starters, it's a great way to meet your nutritional needs -- particularly if you're also on a weight-loss regimen. Eating soup before your regular meal can help you reduce caloric intake by about 20 percent overall [source: Girdwain]. Soup also allows you to mix together a number of ingredients, making it easier to combine protein, fiber and carbohydrates into one dish.

Another advantage to eating soup is that it can aid your body in hydration. Researchers have found that runners who ate chicken noodle soup before a run in hot weather had better hydration and electrolyte levels after the run than the runners who drank only water [source: Applegate]. The scientists believe this was because the salt content of the soup caused the runners to consume more water during the run.

On a more instinctual level, soup can also offer relief after a run. Especially in colder weather, it can be the ultimate comfort food -- providing warmth for body and soul.

If you'd like to try your hand at soup making, you're likely to find dozens of recipes suggested by the readers and contributors of online running publications and forums. There are also plenty of cookbooks that focus on healthy cooking.

However, if you're not one to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you can opt for canned soup. You'll find that there are many options -- including a lot of healthy versions -- on supermarket shelves. Just be sure you read labels to ensure you're not getting an overly fattening soup with low nutritional value.

Of course, if you run in hot weather a lot, you may prefer to forgo soup for the options discussed on the next page.