Your body is a finely tuned machine – and if you push yourself to the limit with your physical fitness, it’s important to be mindful of how you fuel your body. By choosing foods that satisfy your hunger and have added nutrients to help improve your endurance, strength and muscle recovery, you can get more out of every meal.
If you’re an athlete, here are 10 foods that could help keep you going before, during, and after your workout. With a diet rich in these foods, you’ll have the help you need to reach your fitness goals.
Watermelon is a popular summer treat, but if you’re an athlete, you’ll want to eat this colorful melon year-round.
Since watermelons are so sweet, it’s often assumed they’re high in sugar – but this amazing fruit is actually made up of 92 percent water and just 6 percent sugar. In addition to being super hydrating, which is important after a workout, watermelons are also high in citrulline. Citrulline helps relax the blood vessels and increases nitric oxide, which aids in blood flow.
Enjoy slices of this sweet treat on its own for dessert, with yogurt and granola in the morning or blended into a super hydrating smoothie to enjoy after your workout.
Perhaps you’ve heard that some athletes drink tart cherry juice when recovering from a race or a rigorous workout. That’s because studies have shown that cherry juice is full of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory properties. Sipping on cherry juice has been shown to reduce muscle pain and possibly even muscle damage, which improves overall soreness and aids in recovery post-workout.
Whole cherries can also make for a great snack between workouts as they are an excellent source of fiber, Vitamin A and folic acid, a heart healthy vitamin that can get depleted through strenuous exercise.
Montmorency cherry juice in particular is thought to be the best kind of juice to drink for muscle recovery. If it’s too tart to enjoy on it’s own, try blending it into a smoothie or mixing with sparkling water.
3. Sweet Potatoes
Being an athlete means you’re burning a lot of calories – and that means you don’t have to feel bad about eating carbs. In fact, you need carbs because your body requires more fuel.
Sweet potatoes are a great carb to turn to. In addition to being a filling carbohydrate, sweet potatoes are also packed with vitamins and minerals that can do so much more than just fill you up. They’re full of potassium, which aids in electrolyte balance and muscle control, and fiber, which helps keep you fuller longer and builds muscle, promotes weight loss and controls appetite.
A baked sweet potato makes for a healthy and easy side or snack while sweet potato fries can be a healthy, satisfying substitute for regular French fries.
4. Cruciferous Vegetables
Cruciferous vegetables are important for anyone who’s trying to eat healthy. They’re full of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – and athletes should be filling up on them.
Vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, kale, collard greens, bok choy, and arugula are all in the cruciferous family. These veggies are high in sulfur, a mineral that helps promote cell growth in your cartilage, tendons, and ligaments, all important body parts used when you’re exercising. Cruciferous vegetables are also good for increasing your strength, and they can reduce the effect of estrogen in your body, which in turn increases the benefits of testosterone, which helps build muscle.
Add some steamed broccoli, cauliflower, or brussel sprouts as a side dish to any meal to get a full serving. You can also add veggies like kale or rapini to soups or pasta dishes to add extra cruciferous veggies into every meal.
Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries aren’t just delicious; these small fruits are some of the most nutritionally dense fruits around. Berries are full of antioxidants and vitamins, and blueberries in particular are even thought to help alleviate delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout.
One study conducted on endurance athletes found that a daily dose of blueberries significantly reduced muscle inflammation and eased muscle soreness. In addition to the short-term benefits that berries offer, blackberries are also thought to inhibit tumor growth.
Grab a handful of berries for a snack or stir them into yogurt for a tasty, nutritious addition to your daily meals. They’re easy to eat alone or throughout the day as convenient snacks.
If you’re looking for a filling, healthy food to start your day, look no further than a bowl of oatmeal. Not only will oatmeal keep you feeling satisfied, but it’ll also a fill you up with as much protein as an egg. Oatmeal is an excellent food to eat in the morning or before a workout, as it keeps hunger at bay because it’s high in fiber and slow to digest
Oats, which are the key ingredient in oatmeal, contain plenty of magnesium, which aids in muscle regrowth and repair. They also lower the stress hormone cortisol, which gets raised by exercise, and B vitamins, which play a role in your energy level, muscle function, and metabolism speed.
If you’re looking to add more oatmeal or oats into your diet, they’re very versatile. Oats can be eaten hot or cold, and they’re easily turned into oatmeal if you make them overnight.
Bananas are a pretty amazing fruit. They’re convenient, they come in their own packaging, and you can eat one on the go whenever you need a carb boost. But did you know they’re also packed with potassium? Potassium is a key nutrient for athletes. It helps control blood pressure, but potassium can get depleted quickly through strenuous exercise.
To ensure you’re getting enough potassium, choose a banana. Bananas can help replenish this essential mineral quickly and easily, and they’ll help you avoid a spike in blood pressure. It’s no wonder why bananas are a favorite snack choice for runners and cyclists. A single banana can keep you from getting muscle cramps or feeling lightheaded while pushing yourself at the gym.
Bananas are always great on their own, but they also make a good addition to a smoothie, your oatmeal, or on top of toast.
8. Chocolate Milk
Dairy has gotten a bad rap recently as consumers move away from cow’s milk and switch to almond, soy or coconut milk. However, if you don’t suffer from any dairy-related food issues, there’s no reason to give up traditional milk.
If your stomach can handle dairy, chocolate milk (yes, chocolate!) may be a better recovery drink option than a sugary sports drink. Not only does chocolate milk offer double the carbs and protein of regular milk, water, or sports drinks, but it also contains a small amount of sodium and sugar to help you stay hydrated and energized. Lastly, the caffeine in chocolate can help relax your blood vessels, promote the flow of oxygen to your muscles and lower your blood pressure, which is helpful after a tough workout.
So, instead of reaching for a sugary drink or a protein shake, you can grab chocolate milk when your workouts are finished. You’ll get all the nutrients you need, plus a few extra benefits.
When you think of protein, you probably think of steak – but red meat isn’t actually the best source of protein. Experts say that fish, like salmon, may be a better option for athletes.
Salmon is especially high in omega-3 fatty acids, which are easily absorbed by the body and known to lower blood pressure and triglycerides. Eating salmon can also reduce blood clots. Omega-3s have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help ease pain and soreness after a tough workout. Lastly, salmon is also high in Vitamin D, which is an essential ingredient for healthy and strong bones.
Try baking salmon in the oven along with some fresh veggies, or you can make a batch of salmon burgers to eat throughout the week.
You’ve probably heard about how long distance runners will “carb load” on pasta before a big race in order to fuel up. While some think carbs aren’t healthy, they’re actually a great source of energy for athletes.
Carbs are more easily digested than proteins or fats and they can help replenish the glucose in your muscles to keep you fuelled for longer. While whole wheat pasta is typically better for you since it’s a complex carb with more fiber, experts say that white pasta before a big race or workout may actually be the better option since it can be digested more easily.
If you need to recover, make yourself your favorite pasta. You can add in some cruciferous vegetables and a healthy protein, and you’ll have a delicious meal that’s able to keep you going.