As a former endurance athlete, I know that low energy is not an option. Whether a triathlete, runner, cyclist or swimmer, you’ve probably spent the night before a big race or long run consuming large amounts of pasta at your favorite Italian restaurant. But is there a better way to fuel your body and provide it with the proper nutrients to aid in recovery and effectively fight the free radical damage from which endurance athletes suffer? Consider adding to your grocery list these six superfoods that will boost your endurance.
Sweet potatoes are a starchy vegetable, rich in vitamins A and C, which are both powerful antioxidants that work in removing free radicals from your body. They help lower blood pressure and are a powerful food for endurance athletes because of their high vitamin and mineral content. The potassium, iron, manganese and copper are all minerals that many athletes lack; manganese and copper being crucial in healthy muscle function.
Quinoa is an ancient high-energy grain from South America. The Incas used it to increase the stamina of their warriors and allow them to run long distances at high altitudes. It’s a complete protein, meaning is has all nine essential amino acids. It’s also a good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium. Because it is gluten free, it is very easy to digest, a good thing when you’re headed out for a long run.
Oatmeal has a high soluble fiber content, is high in complex carbohydrates, is a good source of protein and has a low glycemic index, which provides a sustained release of energy into the bloodstream—imperative for endurance athletes. Oatmeal offers your body a regular dose of Vitamin B and is rich in minerals and antioxidants. It’s credited for maintaining a good level of cholesterol in the body and is known as one of the most nourishing foods for the body, especially for athletes.
Whey protein isolate is the purest form of whey protein and is a complete protein that contains all of the essential amino acids. It’s absorbed quickly and efficiently into the body, making it an athletes dream. It doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol. The protein and array of amino acids are essential in muscle re-building, especially after a strenuous workout or race. For athletes, it’s a great fast recovery method because it helps prevent muscle breakdown and is the fastest digesting protein.
Kale is a member of the cabbage family and contains high levels of vitamins A, K, B6, calcium and iron. It’s an antioxidant-rich vegetable that helps regulate the body’s inflammatory process. Kale also contains carotenoids and flavonoids, two powerful antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals that cause oxidative stress, as well as a high fiber content that helps lower cholesterol.
Chia seeds are a nutrient-dense super food that contain a high amount of fiber, three times the amount of antioxidants than blueberries, and are loaded with calcium, iron and protein. They also contain a high amount of omega-3 fatty acids and hydrophilic properties, which means that the seeds have the ability to absorb more than twelve times their weight in water, thus allowing prolonged hydration. The seeds help in retaining moisture and regulate the body’s absorption of nutrients.