If you’re starting a new fitness program, or you’re trying to get to the top of your game at the gym, then you want to boost your athletic performance and maximize results. While fitness and natural talent contribute to athletic performance, proper nutrition also plays a big role.
The basic aspects of athletic performance are skill, strength, endurance, and recovery, and you can build on these by eating the right foods and consuming healthy supplements. It helps to have the proper vitamins, minerals, fiber, and fluids, and you can consume them in a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. However, certain superfoods can provide superior nutrition to get you closer to peak athletic performance. Keep reading to discover some superfoods and ergogenic aids that can help you get to the top of your game. [This article, “Boost Your Athletic Performance With 9 Great Natural Superfoods” was originally published in NewsHealthWatch]
The first ingredient of peak athletic performance: proper hydration
You need to drink plenty of fluids for maximum results from each workout. Proper hydration increases circulation, supports joint movement and helps to regulate body temperature. Furthermore, when you hydrate properly during exercise, this ensures that enough oxygen gets to your muscles and byproducts of exercise are flushed out of your system.
Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink fluids, as at that point, you’re already dehydrated. Drink two cups of fluid before exercise and every 15-20 minutes during a workout. When you exercise, you also excrete electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and chloride, which can lead to electrolyte imbalance. Electrolyte imbalance will weaken your performance and increase your heart rate. It may also raise your core temperature, putting you at greater risk of heat stroke. So, make sure to replenish your electrolytes as you hydrate.
Try these superfoods to reach peak athletic performance
Here are nine reliable athletic performance boosters that you can try as part of your pre-and post-workout routine:
A byproduct of the cheese-making process, whey protein is rich in the branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), leucine, which plays a critical role in protein synthesis and muscle rebuilding. To boost overall athletic performance, you want protein synthesis to exceed the muscle breakdown that occurs during exercise; amino acids must be circulating in your blood to build muscle after a workout. Therefore, it’s recommended to consume 20-30g of protein about 1-4 hours post-workout. Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids, and it contains no fat or cholesterol. Amino acids don’t just help with muscle repair, they also support the immune system, mitochondria, and various systems of the body.
Popular among athletes as a ‘recovery food,’ protein-rich salmon helps to rebuild muscles and repair connective tissues post-workout. The anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids in salmon can reduce joint stiffness and muscle soreness. Omega-3s can also lower triglycerides and blood pressure, making salmon a heart-healthy snack. These healthy fats are known for their mood-boosting properties and may help fight depression as they boost athletic performance.
Also a great way to boost your omega-3s, flaxseeds are a good option if you don’t consume at least two servings of fatty fish per week or take fish oil supplements. This is because flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which is a precursor to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the omega-3s found in fatty fish. Flaxseed is also rich in fiber, protein, and potassium.
4. GOJI BERRY
Known as one of the most nutrient-dense foods on earth, the goji berry has been recognized by Chinese medicine for its healing properties for thousands of years. Goji berries are rich in vitamin C, iron, beta-carotene, and B vitamins. These superfruits can enhance muscle building as they contain 18 amino acids, including all eight essential amino acids. The potassium content of goji berry supports muscle contraction, and its healthy iron content gives you energy. This superfood is an all-around winner and can help you to achieve peak athletic performance, especially when you consume it in supplement form.
Popular among athletes as a pre-workout snack, bananas are rich in carbohydrates and potassium. When they are broken down into glucose in your body, carbohydrates are an important source of fuel. Because bananas contain healthy fiber, their glucose content gradually enters your bloodstream, giving you a steadier energy boost. The potassium in bananas supports muscle contraction and regulates hydration. (Low potassium levels are associated with muscle cramps.) The anti-inflammatory properties of bananas speed up post-workout recovery time, helping you to reach peak athletic performance at your next training session.
6. ACEROLA CHERRY
Acerola cherry is a tropical plant also known as ‘West Indies cherry’ or ‘Barbados cherry.’ Known for their ultra-high vitamin C content, the berries of this plant have been used in folk medicines to treat diarrhea, coughs, and colds. Acerola is also rich in magnesium, potassium, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, and vitamin B5; these nutrients support muscle contraction, boost energy, and regulate hydration. In addition, the vitamin C in acerola reduces post-training inflammation, and may help speed up your recovery.
Beetroot is rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, and nitrate. Nitrate converts to nitric oxide in your body, which acts as a vasodilator, and increased blood flow to your muscles provides them with the oxygen and nutrients they need to perform. Nitric oxide also improves lung function and strengthens muscle contraction, making beetroot juices and powders very popular among athletes wanting to boost their cardiorespiratory endurance and athletic performance.
8. GREEN TEA CAFFEINE
More of an ergogenic aid than a superfood, green tea caffeine can give you a boost for your next workout. Because it blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, caffeine decreases pain perception, helping you to push harder during exercise. Studies have also shown that caffeine significantly enhances fat burning when consumed 30 minutes before a workout. In addition, this natural stimulant increases levels of norepinephrine (adrenaline) in your body, helping you to train harder and boosting your athletic performance. You might even experience heightened focus and concentration after a dose of caffeine. The caffeine in green tea is thought to release energy more slowly than the caffeine found in coffee, which tends to cause jitters in high doses.
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a plant that grows naturally in the Amazon. It has been used as a traditional remedy for centuries, and the bioactive nutrients in the guarana plant give it stimulant and antioxidant properties. This natural energy booster contains caffeine, but it also contains the stimulants theophylline and theobromine. Guarana may improve athletic performance as it delays fatigue, increases aerobic capacity, increases endurance, and improves mental alertness. Also an ergogenic aid, guarana has low toxicity in moderate doses.
Try a supplement to boost athletic performance
While consuming nutrient-dense superfoods to help you reach peak performance, you may also consider supplements containing these potent ingredients. Voke, a United States company founded in 2014, produces a unique superfood tablet made with whole guarana seed sourced from the Brazilian Amazon, red beetroot, acerola cherry, and green tea caffeine. Free of artificial flavors and sweeteners, this tablet can help boost your athletic performance or provide a quick energy boost late in the afternoon.
Foods and beverages to avoid: These can actually impair athletic performance
To reach your fitness goals and maximize your athletic performance, you should avoid harmful foods and beverages like sodas, trans fats, and alcohol. Sodas are filled with empty calories and often have a very high sugar content. Artificially sweetened varieties are no healthier, as they may damage your gut microbiome or cause carbohydrate cravings. Trans fats raise your LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol), lower your HDL (‘good’ cholesterol), and raise your risk of heart disease. The effects of alcohol can linger in your body for up to 72 hours, including slowed reaction times, increased risk of injury, and dehydration.
Fuel your body for the best athletic performance
The right foods and supplements can help you push harder during workouts, rebuild muscles, and speed recovery time between training sessions. When you fuel your body with essential amino acids, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, electrolytes, and nitrate, your body can reach peak athletic performance, and you can get the most out of your workouts. Supplements like Voke chewables are available to give you a sustained energy boost complete with a dose of vitamin C to help your muscles recover faster. If you hit the gym or practice a sport regularly, fueling your body the right way can make the difference between going through the motions and peak athletic performance.
Active: 10 Superfoods for Endurance Athletes
NASM: CAN SUPERFOODS EQUAL SUPER PERFORMANCE?
One Green Planet: How Superfoods Take Your Athletic Performance Up a Few Notches
Important Note: The information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be construed as health or medical advice, nor is it intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease or health condition. Before embarking on any diet or program of nutritional supplementation, it is advisable to consult your healthcare professional in order to determine its safety and probable efficacy in terms of your individual state of health.