You already know that there are dozens of benefits to eating your fruits and veggies – such as blood sugar regulation and lowered risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer – but did you know that they can also improve your fitness performance?
Certain fruits and vegetables can contribute to higher endurance and stamina, quicker recovery and/or reduced muscle soreness, when eaten either before or after a workout. These foods contain large amounts of complete nutrients, anti-oxidants, electrolytes and macronutrients that contribute to overall health for anyone, but are especially important for those who quickly deplete their resources through intensive daily exercise.
We know that certain dietary plans that our members may follow will restrict the number of carbohydrates, especially fruits, consumed in a given day. That’s all the more reason to make your daily allotment count! To help you make the most of this particular block of the food pyramid, try adding the following vegetables and fruits to your pre- and post-workout meals.
Citrus fruit. We all know oranges are a great source of Vitamin C, which, as it turns out, can do more than prevent the sniffles – it can also help reduce something called “oxidative stress,” which occurs in the body more when individuals exercise and has the unfortunate side-effect of creating excess free radicals, which are known to cause or exacerbate disease and damage DNA. If your sugar budget is low, try kale – this leafy green is low in calories and high in fiber and vitamin C.
Beets. Often called the candy of the vegetable world, beets are rich in nitrogen, which has the dual effects of improving the way your body uses oxygen during exercise, and dilating blood vessels to lower blood pressure. This could be particularly useful for runners.
Bananas. Long-distance runners often eat bananas prior to runs, in part because the fiber helps them to avoid the digestive issues that can come with many miles of jostling and nutrient depletion. However, they also have another use – high in potassium, bananas are a great way to prevent cramps by promoting correct muscle contraction. They are also low-glycemic, meaning they provide a slow but steady release of energy into the bloodstream. A good veggie replacement is cauliflower, which also contains potassium, but far less sugar.
Pineapple. “High-glycemic” foods get a bad rep (as they should, when we’re talking about items like candy or ice cream), but sometimes a quick replacement of glucose is exactly what your body needs. Pineapple, kiwi and watermelon release their sugars quickly, which rehydrates your glycogen stores and thus the energy back to your muscles. Potatoes and squash have also been shown to have the same effect.
If you’re interested in learning about other ways the foods you eat can impact your fitness and overall sense of well-being, call your Future Fitness Center to talk to a Registered Dietitian – a service we provide FREE to all our members!