Fueling your training with real, whole and natural foods helps your body derive its energy from sources that it can effectively handle. It’s time to get away from processed, refined and commercial foods that are specifically marketed for you to buy, thinking that you’ll be doing your body “good”. Instead let’s go back to the basics, and focus on whole foods that hardly contain ingredients, because they are ingredients themselves.
Along with a balanced, healthful diet, your training fuel should be derived from staple foods that support your body as an athlete. Some of these include bananas, beetroot, carrots, apples, flaxseeds, quinoa, buckwheat, watermelon, oranges, dried fruit (like dates, apricots or prunes), ground provisions, papaya, pineapple, oats, brown rice, beans, legumes and raw nuts and seeds.
Then, we can use some foods therapeutically to enhance performance. I like to call them superfoods. These have a low calorie count, and high nutrient value, proven to help prevent and in some cases reverse the effects of oxidative stress on the body. Adding them to your daily diet will help you go the extra mile!
Coconut water is a great natural sports drink, which contains valuable minerals, known as electrolytes. We lose these through sweat; replenish them after more than an hour of activity. Coconut water is a powerful antioxidant that is considered nature’s isotonic beverage.
Green drinks (juicing with leafy greens) in general give you energy, antioxidants, an immune boost and a clear mind. They cleanse your organs, alkalize your blood, rid your joints and muscles of inflammation and infuse your cells with pure green goodness!
Raw honey, pure maple syrup, raw cane juice and agave nectar are all natural sweeteners that can be used to make sports gels or drinks, and that have valuable enzymes, immune supporting properties and loads of vitamins and minerals.
Don’t fear chocolate, in it’s unrefined form. Raw cacao beans or powder contain an extremely rich supply of antioxidants, magnesium, minerals and vitamins. And not to mention pure energy! Add some to your shake for an extra kick before your workout.
Add some Maca root to your shakes or smoothies for adrenal support. Maca is an indigenous root from Peru known for its adaptogenic properties. An adaptogen is a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress and normalize itself. Maca is packed with nutrients, and can increase stamina and combat fatigue and low libido.
Hemp and chia seeds are great sources of complete plant-based protein; they contain all essential amino acids, vitamins, minerals and omega 3. They help fuel your body to enhance muscle development, speed up recovery and optimize overall well-being. Drizzle them on salads, rice or smoothies.
Beets are well known for their ability to increase nitric oxide in the body, promoting endurance. Add to a salad; or, juice with carrots, apples, lime and ginger to make a fantastic antioxidant rich, performance optimizing and anti-inflammatory power drink.
Some good snack options around training time include homemade energy bars, trail mix, carrots and hummus, smoothies, whole food shakes, bananas or other fresh fruit combined with nut butter. A healthy snack is especially important if you plan a workout several hours after a meal. Although good fueling before training is crucial, the post workout meal is probably the most important of the day for anyone who cares about nutrition or wants to build muscle, lose fat or improve their physique and performance.
Take the time to understand what your body needs (and doesn’t need), how much it needs, and the best sources for nutrition.