For many wanting to tone up, build muscle or improve endurance, there is often a hunt for a combination of foods or a single supplement that will give them a competitive edge or a boost. Well, forget the pills and potions– I’m afraid nothing ever came that easily. For a healthy and natural approach, it’s all about the type of fuel you opt for… and best yet, you can do it all with whole foods. Take a look at these ten foods for that ‘natural boost’.
Skim milk and skim milk powder is a fantastic choice for supplementing after strength training. It contains an amino acid called leucine, that triggers muscle protein synthesis and helps with the recovery of trained muscles. Consume 500mL of skim milk or 40g skim milk powder with water within 30 mins after strength training or a BodyPump class to help with muscle development and recovery.
Evidence is emerging that supplementation with beetroot juice prior to exercise can enhance exercise capacity and sports performance. The nitrate content of beetroot juice is the active ingredient underpinning the observed physiological and exercise benefits in studies currently being run by sports institutes all over the world. Consume 200 mL of beetroot juice an hour before a long bike ride to give you an extra boost to climb, sprint and areo-race like a Tour-De-France champion!
Oranges and Mandarins
After a strenuous cardio workout the body needs to replenish muscle glycogen otherwise you will feel extreme muscle fatigue later that day or the next morning. To replenish muscle glycogen you need to consume some healthy carbs shortly after a sweaty, heart racing session. Keep a vitamin C packed mandarin or orange handy and enjoy it within 30 mins of cardio training.
Fish oils can help active people in a number of ways. The Essential Fatty Acids in oily fish and ‘fish oils’ not only decrease muscle breakdown and increase muscle growth, but they also reduce the time it takes muscles to recover after exercise, aid in the transfer of oxygen from the lungs to the bloodstream and enhance a wide range of metabolic and hormonal functions. Pretty neat, huh? 1-2 tsp of fish oil first thing in the morning will undoubtedly help with your training load. If you cannot stand fish oil, try some sardines on wholegrain toast for breakfast or some salmon for dinner. Vegetarians could have flaxseed oil instead.
Blueberries re a potent source of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant. Use frozen blueberries with skim milk and natural yoghurt for a fabulous protein packed, natural smoothie after a high intensity interval session including weight resistance.
Chia seeds have been used for thousands of years in South America and have recently gained popularity globally. Chia seeds have many benefits including boosting energy and endurance, prolonging hydration (they absorb water beautifully) and helping maintain blood sugar balance. Throw 1tsp of chia into your water bottle or into smoothies or even sprinkle onto salads.
If you are needing a tasty ‘energy boost’, you don’t need to look much further than a banana. They are a lovely combination of natural sugars (glucose, fructose and sucrose) and when combined with oats, nuts or even peanut butter, you’ll be well fuelled for many hours.
If you are someone who tends to catch every germ/bug known to man, then you should take note of emerging research showing the immune boosting benefits of a good probiotic yoghurt. Probiotics can help improve overall health, enhance immunity and even restore a suppressed immune function. A good probiotic would be of benefit to anyone exercising strenuously more than 4 or 5 times per week.
With its fibre and nutrient content, brown rice is a great addition to any diet for sustained energy. Whether served along side a stir-fry or thrown into a salad, brown rice is quite versatile. Its nutty flavor makes it a great alternative to oats for breakfast, combined with milk, cinnamon and seeds, brown rice will keep you powered up all morning!
The humble egg contains 11 vitamins and minerals; that is pretty impressive for a tiny little capsule! Delicious and satiating as a quick omelette meal or a hard boiled snack. Eggs should be part of your weekly diet for an impressive protein source.
Nothing ever beat a minimally processed approach for long term and cost effective results. Enjoy these ‘real foods’ and reap the rewards!