We all know that food is fuel. You’ve heard it everywhere and you probably believe it. But, are you putting it into practice? Far too often, fitness enthusiasts and athletes worry more about what they’re not eating, or what they shouldn’t be eating, than about what they should be eating.
Eating smart doesn’t have to mean counting calories or avoiding the fast food lines (though this should probably be a consideration), instead, it can mean incorporating foods with major health benefits into your diet. When you eat certain foods, your performance could improve along with your overall health, while your cravings for less-healthy options decrease. It’s worth a shot, right?
People might joke about quinoa, but, it’s worth adding to your diet if you have yet to do so. As one of the most naturally protein-rich foods that exists, along with the fact that it contains all 9 essential amino acids and twice as much fiber as other grains, it truly qualifies as a “super food.”
Consider starting slow, adding quinoa to the brown rice you already eat and slowly reducing the ratio of rice to quinoa. Add a little extra virgin olive oil and garlic for added cardiovascular enrichment.
Who doesn’t love a little vinegar in the morning? Not you? Might be time to rethink that…
With numerous health benefits including: boosting heart health, increasing good cholesterol, reducing heartburn and boosting the body’s metabolism, apple cider vinegar brings a lot to the table. The best part? It doesn’t take much to make a big impact.
Before you buy just any ACV, look for brands that are organic and say “with the mother.” Much like Kombucha (something else to look into!), the “mother” in ACV refers to the healthy bacteria that carries all the health benefits. If the bottle is clear and not cloudy, it doesn’t contain the bacteria needed to see benefits.
To add ACV to your diet, add 1 to 2 tablespoons to a glass of warm water with a teaspoon of honey. Sip it on an empty stomach first thing in the morning for a boost throughout the day. Not that brave? Add it to a homemade salad dressing to mask the flavor even more.
Omega 3 fatty acids offer amazing health benefits that can be hard to come by, especially if your diet isn’t high in fish or avocados.
Chia seeds make it easy to get the omega 3 fatty acids your body is craving to reduce inflammation and boost your metabolism while giving you the energy you need to push for maximum performance. Additionally, they add a significant amount of antioxidants, minerals (2 tablespoons contain 18% of the daily recommended intake for calcium, 50% of manganese and 35% of phosphorus), and fiber.
The best part? These tiny seeds are easy to add to your routine! Sprinkle them in granola, on yogurt or cereal or bake them into pancakes – the options are limitless. If you’re looking for a replacement for eggs, chia seeds form a gel when mixed with water that make them an excellent option for many recipes.
Hemp…like the 90’s fashion that went out of style awhile ago? Kind of.
Hemp seeds (also referred to as hemp hearts) come from the hemp plant and fall into the nut category. Containing both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, along with a higher ratio of protein – 25% – than most comparable foods, hemp seeds aid in digestion (excellent option for pre-race jitters), and serve as a healthy option for non-meat, naturally-based protein that doesn’t come from a powder.
With very little flavor, hemp seeds can be added to almost any food. Consider adding a tablespoon to your next salad or on top of grilled chicken breast, then think about adding it to your daily routine.
Your heart matters, as an athlete, it’s what allows you to push for higher levels of performance, what keeps you moving in the first place. That’s why most of the foods we’ve covered benefit the heart in big ways. Raw cacao is no different.
Cacao is the main ingredient in dark chocolate. Unlike its counterpart, cocoa powder, cacao powder is made by pressing the entire cocoa bean, maintaining the original nutrition of the bean. Cacao is known for boosting the body’s ability to pump blood efficiently and contains a high level of antioxidants.
Look for powder that can be added to protein shakes in the morning, for whole beans and even chocolatey nibs for snacking. Look for a higher percentage of cacao when comparing products – more cacao means less sugar! The flavor can take some getting used to, but, it’s worth it in the long run.
The foods above are becoming more popular, meaning they should be fairly easy to find in your local grocery store or farmers market.
Ready to get more out of your workouts? Before you focus on gathering the right gear, slapping on your sport earbuds and picking a routine, consider adding a few of the foods listed above to your shopping list. Fuel better, play harder…it’s that simple.
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