Best Health Magazine says these energy-boosting foods are the ideal choices before and after your workout .
Eating to gain the proper nutrition can enhance workout performance and recovery.
To best reap the benefits of your hard work at the gym, from your runs, or your cycling expeditions, you should focus on eating a diet rich in antioxidants, minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats/oils.
Vancouver-based holistic nutritionist Rich Ralph recommends “eating mindfully and focusing on a whole foods diet.” He suggests you indulge in these tasty ideas to power your workout.
1. Chia seeds
Why? “Chia seeds have near double the protein of other seeds and grains, approximately five times the calcium of milk and double the potassium of bananas,” says Ralph. Athletes need to keep their bones strong and the calcium from chia seeds is especially easy for the body to absorb.
When? “This makes a great snack 15 to 20 minutes after the workout,” says Ralph. For instance, try adding a handful of chia seeds to your post-workout smoothie. For optimal recovery, Ralph also suggests adding chia seeds to a big salad two to four hours later.
Why? The protein in eggs, which accounts for nearly 50 percent of an egg’s makeup, consists of all eight essential amino acids crucial in muscle and bone cell growth and regeneration. Eggs are also a source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins A, D, E and B.
When? Have eggs within 20 to 30 minutes of your workout. Hard-boiled eggs are also an ideal mid-workout snack for endurance athletes. “I eat eggs as a post-workout recovery snack,” says Ralph, who rollerbladed from St. John’s, Nfld., to Vancouver, B.C., in only four months back in 2007.
Why? “Kefir, which is a fermented milk product similar to yogurt, is particularly rich in vitamins B1 and B2, calcium, folic acid, magnesium, and vitamin A,” says Ralph. What makes kefir unique is the fermentation process, which makes it incredibly easy to digest. This lets the body focus on assimilating and absorbing nutrients and protein, necessary for muscle growth and regeneration. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in kefir, relaxes the nervous system, making the food ideal for late-night exercisers.
When? Kefir makes a quick and easy recovery drink 30 minutes post-workout.
Why? Millet is an ancient grain with a sweet, nutty flavor. It boasts a complete essential amino acid profile, making it a whole protein. “Millet is abundant in magnesium, calcium and phosphorus," says Ralph, "which are involved in energy production crucial for athletes.”
Preparing millet is easy. Add two parts water to one part millet, cover and bring to a boil. Once the boiling point is reached, simmer for approximately 20 minutes or until millet has absorbed all the water.
When? Because of its high protein content, Ralph suggests eating millet as your main meal three hours prior to or after exercise. This will boost recovery and prevent fatigue the following day.
Why? Bananas are chock full of vitamins and minerals. “But more importantly,” says Ralph, “muscles are stimulated by electrical impulses and the potassium [and sodium] in bananas is a fundamental factor in this.” In other words, to stay hydrated and ensure smooth muscle recovery, eat a banana.
When? Because they’re easy to digest and a good energy source, eat bananas 30 to 40 minutes prior to exercise. For long workouts, Ralph suggests snacking on a banana to get that electrolyte boost.
6. Acai Berries
Why? “Acai berries are a phenomenal fruit because they’re especially high in antioxidants,” says Ralph. They are also rich sources of amino acids, essential fatty acids and vital trace minerals, all which aid in muscle contraction.
When? Include them in a post-workout shake within 30 minutes of exercise.
Why? Because fish is a complete protein and easily usable by the body, it makes it an excellent food for muscle growth. “You also want to think about your joints,” says Ralph. “The omega-3’s in salmon keep inflammation down and the joints lubricated.”
When? Loading up on protein before exercise will minimize muscle breakdown, so Ralph suggests incorporating salmon into your main meal three hours post workout.
Why? Beans, known for their high protein and fibre content, are ideal for the vegetarian and weight-conscious individual. These little pods are a great source of energy-boosting B vitamins and antioxidant vitamins A, C and E. They are also sources of calcium, potassium, phosphorus and folic acid, while low in calories and fat.
When? Eat beans two or three hours before exercise, says Ralph. "But as a general rule," he notes, "I suggest consuming beans on a regular basis.”
Why? One cup of carrot provides nearly 600 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin A, a powerful antioxidant. Carrots also contain vitamin C and hard-to-come-by selenium. Together, this combination helps combat free radicals created during exercise.
When? Carrots make a great snack before or after your workout.