There’s so much more to a successful workout than the number of stomach crunches you chalk up or the distance you travel on the treadmill. According to the NHS ‘a good diet can help you get the best fitness and sport results’. Indeed, the correct nutrition will increase fat burn, boost stamina and strength, and may even aid in reducing or eliminating post-workout aches and pains. Which means that in order to get the max out of your next visit to the gym, you’ll need to rethink what you’re putting into your body, both before and after exercise!
Below you’ll find a handy list of nine superfoods that are considered optimal for those who regularly work out. Nine sensational superfoods that can be readily incorporated into your existing diet for demonstrable results.
The humble carrot really needs no introduction. But it’s worth remembering that this vibrant orange root vegetable is also a genuine superfood that’s bursting with valuable nutrients, including natural sugar, dietary fibre, beta-carotene, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin K and selenium.
What makes carrots such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Carrots are pleasingly high in carbs that are released slowly to supply lots of additional energy during a vigorous work out. Their potent combination of vitamin A (just one cup provides 600% of your RDA for this important antioxidant), vitamin C and selenium, also helps to combat the type of free radicals that are created during exercise. Lastly their high dietary fibre content actively encourages the development of lean muscle in place of unwelcome fat – exactly what you’re looking to achieve from all that hard work!
2. Chia seeds
Organic chia seeds have been used as a valuable source of food and medicine in South America for thousands of years. Indeed, the tiny white, brown, purple or black coloured seeds were once so prized by the Aztecs, that they used them as a form of currency. Organic chia seeds are brimming with beneficial nutrients, including protein, carbohydrates, fibre, vitamin A, the minerals, calcium, potassium, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus, manganese and sodium, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, enzymes, amino acids and antioxidants.
What makes chia seeds such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Organic chia seeds boast almost twice as much protein as other seeds and grains, and in a readily digestible form – protein is essential for the healthy growth and repair of body tissue, such as muscle, and is an excellent source of energy. They also contain generous quantities of calcium (around 5 times that of milk), which helps to maintain strong bones, and potassium, an electrolyte that helps to regulate water and mineral balance and stimulate muscles through electrical impulses. It is particularly important to ensure that you maintain sufficient levels of potassium when you exercise, as potassium is lost via sweat. Studies indicate that a potassium deficiency can lead to muscle strain during training – symptoms of a potassium deficiency include muscle weakness, muscle spasms, cramping and rapid heart rate. In addition, organic chia seeds are extremely rich in omega-3 fatty acids (they contain 600% more omega-3 fatty acids than Atlantic salmon) – omega-3 fatty acids help to stimulate those enzymes responsible for the transportation of fat to where it can be burnt as fuel, and simultaneously improve the flow of blood to your muscles.
Bananas are another forgotten superfood, which are often left on our supermarket shelves in favour of more exotic-sounding fare.
What makes bananas such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Bananas are loaded with vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre and are a readily digestible source of energy. In particular, they contain plenty of potassium, which as you now know, is key to keeping you hydrated and preventing muscle injury during workouts.
4. Acai berries
Acai berries are the small, purple fruits that grow on the acai palm in the Amazonian rainforests of Central and South America. They are typically freeze-dried and sold in a concentrated powder form that’s high in fibre, vitamin E, calcium, antioxidants, amino acids and essential fatty acids.
What makes acai berry powder such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Organic acai berry powder is rich in a variety of amino acids that support both muscle growth and recovery, and can help to improve muscle strength and endurance. Enjoying a regular dose of this so-called ‘Viagra of the Amazon’ will result in a demonstrable increase in both energy levels and stamina, and can help to combat fatigue and exhaustion.
For optimum results, mix organic acai berry powder into a pre or post workout smoothie, shake or protein drink.
Beans, another frequently overlooked superfood, are low in fat and high in protein, fibre, vitamins A, B, C & E, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and folic acid. In fact, so nutritious are beans that many dietary guidelines now suggest tripling your recommended intake from 1 to 3 cups per week!
What makes beans such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Beans are a superb vegetarian source of protein and calcium – two basic nutrients that gym enthusiasts require in abundance. The high amounts of fibre in beans also helps to stabilise blood sugar levels, thus preventing unwelcome dips in energy levels mid workout. Lastly they contain magnesium and iron – magnesium keeps your blood circulating properly and reduces muscle fatigue, whilst iron produces energy and ensures that it’s distributed evenly throughout your body.
Enjoy beans mixed into fresh salads some two hours prior to your next gym visit.
6. Hemp protein powder
Organic hemp protein powder is made from the hemp plant – one of the oldest plants on earth, which has been harnessed by the ancient Indians, Mesopotamians, Sumerians, Persians, Egyptians and indigenous tribes of Central America since the Stone Age.
What makes hemp protein powder such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Organic hemp protein powder contains a variety of nutrients, including protein, fibre, omega-3 fatty acids and phytonutrients, which not only promote muscle growth and improved endurance, but also help to maintain a healthy heart and blood vessels. In fact, hemp contains Edestin – considered the most edible and readily digestible form of protein there is – and is one of the richest sources of vegetable protein in the world. This is especially beneficial for endurance athletes, such as triathletes and marathon runners, who need access to high protein foods that can be rapidly digested, yet without expending too much energy. Hemp protein powder is also an excellent source of energy and perfect for aiding muscle repair and recovery after a particularly punishing session at the gym.
Organic hemp protein powder is delicious in smoothies and shakes and can be used as an additional ingredient in homemade energy bars, which are ideal for enjoyment directly before or immediately after exercise.
7. Brazilian ginseng
Brazilian ginseng powder is a superfood extract made from the root of the Pfaffia Paniculata. It is rich in vitamins, minerals (including iron, magnesium, cobalt, silicon and zinc), electrolytes, amino acids, hormones (sitosterol and stipmasterol) and the trace mineral, germanium.
What makes Brazilian ginseng powder such an ideal superfood for workouts?
South American tribes have been using Brazilian ginseng to boost their energy levels for thousands of years. Today it’s a common ingredient in energy drinks and often recommended for those suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It contains beta-ecdysterone, a natural anabolic agent, in addition to three ecdysteroid glycosides, which significantly increase the production of muscle tissue and enhance athletic performance, without the kind of side affects typically associated with steroids. Brazilian ginseng powder also contains large quantities of the trace element germanium, which is believed to increase the supply of oxygen to your body’s cells and thus has a positive influence on stamina.
For maximum results stir Brazilian ginseng powder into your choice of smoothie, shake or juice, and enjoy 30 minutes prior to working out.
8. Maca powder
Organic maca powder is made from the root of the maca – a tuber crop that belongs to the crucifer family and is native to the high Andes of Peru. This hardy vegetable, which thrives at extreme altitudes, contains vitamins (B1, B2, C, E), minerals and trace elements (calcium, potassium, magnesium, sodium, zinc, copper, selenium, manganese, tin, iodine, phosphorus, sulphur, silicon and bismuth), as well as naturally occurring enzymes and essential amino acids.
What makes maca powder such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Although not a complete source of protein, this powerful adaptogen and energy-rich superfood supplement does boast a high hormone precursor and amino acid content, and thus delivers an almost equal performance to that of high-quality proteins. Maca was often supplied to Inca warriors prior to battle to increase their alertness, energy and strength, and recent studies indicate that animals benefit from significantly increased energy levels after its administration.
Kefir is a fermented milk drink that’s somewhat similar to yoghurt – it’s particularly rich in vitamin A, B1 and B2, calcium, folic acid, magnesium and the essential amino acid, tryptophan.
What makes kefir such an ideal superfood for workouts?
Packed with healthy enzymes, minerals and live cultures that help to balance intestinal flora, aid digestion, and strengthen your immune system, fermented products, such as kombucha tea and kefir, are also incredibly easy to digest. This allows your body to concentrate on absorbing the nutrients and protein necessary for muscle growth and regeneration. The tryptophan in kefir also helps to relax your nervous system, making it an ideal superfood drink for those planning to visit the gym late in the evening.
Kefir is an excellent recovery drink that can be enjoyed approximately half an hour after every work out.