Working out regularly is one of the best ways to keep your body in peak condition. But working out on an empty stomach – or worse, a stomach full of junk food – can lead to less than optimal results. Feed your body regularly with the following super foods to provide optimal fuel for your workouts... and see the biggest rewards!
1) Oatmeal Oatmeal is a heart-healthy whole grain that contains valuable soluble fiber to help soak up unwanted fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream. But perhaps even more important, it's packed full of good carbohydrates – the most critical energy source for athletes. Oatmeal maintains your energy for a longer period of time during your workout and curbs appetite by slowing the absorption of glucose into your bloodstream. Oats are also a good source of B vitamins, important for athletes as a source of energy.
Quick & Healthy: Mix plain oatmeal with milk and add a handful of nuts or seeds and dried or fresh fruit. Toss it in the microwave and cool off with a splash of milk before eating.
2) Yogurt Yogurt is a well-known source of calcium, which supports healthy bones and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. But did you know that calcium also plays a role in muscle metabolism? If you're feeling zapped of energy during your workout, consider looking at your intake of calcium to see if you are meeting the recommended levels. If not, try adding some yogurt to your breakfast, lunch, or snack. Rich in Vitamin B-12, this super food also helps athletes prevent fatigue.
Quick & Healthy: Sweeten plain yogurt with your favorite fruit and top with nuts and seeds for a quick snack before or after your workout.
3) Blueberries This miniature super fruit is chock-a-block full of nutrients and is the star of the show when it comes to antioxidant properties. Antioxidants can help to reduce oxidative damage to cells resulting from free radicals produced during periods of strenuous activity. Nutrients in blueberries may also promote healthy blood pressure. These super foods contain Vitamin C to support your immune system, and are a source of energy-enhancing carbohydrates and fiber to help sustain your energy and keep you in the game.
Quick & Healthy: Blend fresh or frozen berries into your favorite smoothie or top up your morning breakfast cereal with these tiny burst of nutrition.
4) Sweet Potatoes Sweet Potatoes may not be your typical vegetable of choice for dinner, but you might want to start making these nutrient-dense super foods a staple after you hear what they has to offer. Sweet potatoes contain more of the antioxidant beta carotene than any other fruit or vegetable. They are also a source of Vitamin C and one of the only fat-free sources of Vitamin E. Of course, Vitamins C and E both have antioxidant properties and aid in muscle recovery among athletes. Last, but not least, sweet potatoes are an excellent source of iron, which is important in oxygen production for athletes during a workout.
Quick & Healthy: Bake, grill or microwave these nutritious super foods. My favorite way to prepare them is by making sweet potato fries. To do this, cut them in to thin slices, place on a baking sheet, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and garlic and roast them in the oven.
5) Salmon Salmon is a source of high-quality protein, iron, and Vitamin B12 – which is important for optimal athletic performance. It also contains omega 3 fatty acids. The nutritional fats found in salmon have been shown in epidemiological and clinical trials to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Recent studies have also indicated that omega 3 fatty acids may be beneficial to intestinal health. In addition, omega 3 fatty acids may have anti-inflammatory effects, protecting against conditions such as arthritis. It's no wonder salmon and other fatty fish have been touted as super foods!
Quick & Healthy: Consider fish a healthy fast food that can be a beneficial addition to your meal in just 10-15 minutes by poaching, baking, grilling or microwaving it with your favorite herb. Add canned salmon to your sandwich or salad for a nutrient dense recovery meal.