It’s hard enough to pick out a work out, let alone match it with the perfect diet. There are lots of ways to exercise, and there are lots of foods to eat, and even more combinations of the two to try. Although nutrition is a big part of performance not a lot of coaches and athletes do a lot of research what the best diet is for their specific workout needs. (1)
Unlike strength training athletes which need lots of quick release energy, endurance athletes need more access to long term energy. The best foods to eat for endurance athletes contain plenty of carbohydrates and protein, provide lots of vitamins and minerals, have a minimal amount of fat and keep you hydrated. (2)
Endurance training is a great way to exercise, although results in a study using rats it was found that endurance type exercise may make heart more susceptible to oxidative stress. (3) Eating lots of foods with antioxidants you can prevent this oxidative stress. It is better to get antioxidants from your food rather than taking antioxidant supplements. (4)
Not sure if you’re eating the right kinds of foods for your endurance routine? Look at the following delicious and nutritious foods:
Start your day off right with a bowl of oatmeal or add it to a protein shake for a healthy boost. In a recent study the beta glucan found in oats has been proven to improve endurance in rats. (5) Oatmeal is a whole grain which means it’s made out of carbohydrates also known as complex sugars. Unlike simple sugars complex sugars aren’t very sweet but they are a better source of longer lasting energy, just the kind of thing your body needs before and after exercising. But that’s not all — oatmeal still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Oatmeal is also an excellent source of fiber and antioxidants. (6, 7)
Cherries like all fruits contain fructose, a perfect all natural carbohydrate that makes cherries taste sweet and gives us the energy boost we need when exercising. (8) Their tart yet delicious juice has been proven to decrease oxidative stress. (9) Some cherries even contain high levels of polyphenolic compounds including flavonoids and anthocyanins which not only have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects but also reduce muscle damage. (10) Cherries are a great treat to have after a long workout. (4)
It’s true what they say about eating your greens: greens really do make you big and strong! Kale is especially great at making your bones big and strong since it is such a good source calcium. (11) Kale also provides your body with all the fiber and minerals it needs without adding extra oxidants that could cause oxidative stress. Plus, kale contains plenty of vitamin C; vitamin C has been shown to help lower cholesterol levels. (12) Kale keeps your heart happy, you’re oxidative stress low and your bones strong.
Milk is delicious and nutritious. It is a staple of the American diet, an important part of a healthy breakfast. It should come as no surprise that milk is just as big a part of an endurance athlete’s diet. Milk consumption increases muscle protein synthesis which in turn causes muscle growth. (13) Milk also is full of protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats — just the kinds of nutrients that are important for endurance athletes.
Chia seeds are full of antioxidants. (14) The also contain high amounts of fiber. (15) A handful of chia seeds contains 26.5%, protein, 34.1%, healthy fats, and 59.8% dietary fiber of the recommended daily value. (16) They also contain Omega-3s and carbohydrates. (17)
With so many good nutrients why wouldn’t you want to try this healthy snack?
In a study done on mice it was found that eating walnuts decreases muscle fatigue. This is big news for endurance athletes because less fatigue means endurance athletes can endure longer. (18) In addition to that exciting news walnuts contain melatonin which when eaten, has anti oxidative like properties. (19) So although walnuts aren’t chock full of antioxidants they still limit oxidative stress. Walnuts also have a good fatty acid profile. (20) These things combined make walnuts pretty much a super food for endurance athletes.
Starchy and as unhealthy as a sweet potato may look they are actually quite healthy. Sweet potatoes are rich in antioxidants that lower the risk of heart disease. (21) They are a good source of protein which is very important in building muscle. (22) They also contain lots of good vitamins and minerals that not only keep your muscles big and strong but also help brain function so you can perform at your best. (23) So next time you are craving something starchy indulge your whim and satisfy your hunger with a delicious sweet potato.
Wild salmon is a great source of protein and protein is very important to endurance athletes who want to either strengthen or maintain their muscles. However a high protein count isn’t what really makes wild salmon popular for endurance athletes. It’s the Omega-3’s and fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory which means they prevent too much blood clotting and inflammation. (24) That also means they help prevent heart disease and help you work out for longer. Wild salmon is the kind of scrumptious dinner that will keep you well fed and ready to exercise.
Grapefruits are a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin A, and various minerals including calcium and potassium. (25) Grapefruits are also a great source of phytochemicals, non-essential-nutrients that provide extra health benefits. (26) Grapefruits have lots of antioxidants. (27) They are good for your bones and for your heart. (28, 29) These are the kind of health benefits that might win an endurance athlete their race.
Watermelons are the best summer fruit. They are sweet, juicy and delicious and they are a great snack for endurance athletes. The sugar in watermelon that makes it so mmm-mmm good can give athletes the quick bursts of energy they need. Also, one of the most important needs of an endurance athlete in nutrition is to get enough fluids to prevent dehydration. (2) Since watermelons are 92 percent water they are very good at keeping us hydrated. (30) Watermelons also contain antioxidants that help prevent the heart from getting too stressed while you exercise. (31)
Finding food with lots of antioxidants, protein, carbohydrates and minerals may seem like a real chore but there is such a wide variety of healthy foods to try this is only the beginning. Soon you will find your own favorite foods that give you the nutrients you need and taste great. Being willing to try new try new things is part of being healthy and by eating right you can expect to see better performance in your endurance sport.