These healthy power foods will push your diet, body composition, and athletic performance to the next level.
You train hard and naturally want to optimize your look and feel. That’s why it’s imperative to eat the highest quality foods and snacks, every day. Your body, after all, is like a sports car, which means the fuel you use will directly impact its performance. Throw in low grade processed foods, sputter along, and eventually cause system damage. While many athletes know, perhaps instinctively, that they have higher calorie, protein, and carbohydrate needs than the average individual, most don’t know the difference between high quality foods and low quality foods.
To clear up some of the confusion between the two, the list provided below lays out the best foods for athletes. Work these “high grade” items into your daily routine to look, feel, and perform better.
Topping this list is salmon. Salmon’s a perfect pick for its vital amino acids (which your muscles require to grow), and omega fats. Omega fats, like fish oil supplements, are essential to any high level athlete, as they help enhance your immune system, decrease joint inflammation, and boost your overall recovery rates. Additionally, they improve your insulin sensitivity, a key factor in determining how the body utilizes incoming carbs. Good insulin sensitivity means more carbs will end up in your muscle cells instead of your fat cells for storage, which is a plus for anyone!
The next best food for athletes is quinoa. A favorite alternate protein source, quinoa is great because it’s a complex carb offering a full spectrum of amino acids. While most grains are incomplete sources of amino acids (meaning they must be either eaten with other foods such as beans or legumes or served up with a protein source), quinoa is a standalone. Yes, it’s not nearly as high in bioavailable protein as say a chicken breast is, but for vegetarian athletes, it’s a very good source of protein that should be consumed regularly.
Third on the list is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt trumps regular yogurt because it’s higher in protein content and much lower in sugar. Many fruit flavoured yogurts are filled with simple sugars, which simply won’t provide the lasting energy needed to get through your gruelling workouts. Greek yogurt however, solves that problem. Oh, and can’t stand the taste of bland Greek yogurt? Jazz it up with some low fat granola or low-sugar canned fruit. Either will make it a more complete snack as they’ll add quality carbohydrates to the mix.
Next up, blueberries. Blueberries have very high antioxidant content, helping protect you from free radical damage associated with the stresses of hard training. They’re also high in fiber which will help regulate your blood sugar levels, and keep your energy stabilized throughout games, practices, and hard workouts. Oh, and did I mention they taste great and have very few calories? Yeah, because there’s that too.
For the athlete avoiding protein powders, chocolate milk is a great alternative. It has the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein to help you recovery quickly after workouts. Feeling like, after a particularly tough session, you want some extra protein? Consider mixing a scoop of chocolate protein powder in with your glass of chocolate milk and see how you feel the next day. The blast of amino acids should really make a difference.
Finally, don’t forget to add bananas into your daily routine, especially when training hard. They’re a great source of potassium, which is important for promoting strong muscular contractions and keeping your electrolyte level where they need to be. After a session where you’ve lost a lot of fluids, eating a banana along with drinking plenty of water (after your protein shake) is an ideal recovery strategy. Try it and I guarantee you’ll thank me later.
The list above encompasses the healthy foods that should be the foundation of your healthy diet, and if they aren’t currently in the picture, it’s time to make revisions to your menu! After all, what sort of fuel would you feel comfortable putting in your car?
Of course, if you're looking for some supplement alternatives to add to this list, we at 1Rwould recommend the following choices: