Eating well is the key to an athlete’s performance. An athlete should always eat healthy and follow an endurance diet for building stamina. The best food for athletes’ performance depends on the kind of sport one is involved in, weight requirements, gender and age. Accordingly, your trainer/coach will specify the best food for athletes. In general, the super athlete diet consists of high quality, nutrient dense food from different food groups like carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Let us take a look at what should athletes eat:
Shop for high quality carbohydrates including the following:
- Corn tortillas
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Winter squash
- Whole grain breads and pancakes
- Whole wheat tortillas
2. Vitamin and mineral rich foods: fruits and vegetables
The super athlete diet should be Fresh, Local, Organic and Seasonal. Fresh produce has a lot of enzymes and nutrients. The longer your produce takes to reach you, the greater the nutrition loss. So avoid eating canned or frozen foods. Organic foods enhance athletes’ performance as they have no antibiotics and chemicals. Seasonal foods at their peak of flavor and nutrient content help your body adapt to the climate you are living in. Include organic and seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet for endurance athletes:
- Collard greens
Proteins are super foods for endurance and stamina. You must however only choose animal proteins that are raised under healthy conditions. Choose USDA certified organic animal meat. Also select eggs and chicken from poultry that is allowed to roam freely. Choose fish from oceans and rivers instead of farm raised. Select products from animals that are raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. Here are top protein sources to include in food for athletes
- Baked beans, kidney beans. Pinto beans, split peas, black beans, lentils
- Tempeh, tofu
- Fish/sea food- salmon, halibut, tuna, shrimp
4. Healthy fats
Avoid rancid fats and oils. Stay away from light colored oils which invariably indicate that they have been refined and filtered at high heat using chemical solvents. Choose healthy butters and fats from animals that are not fed antibiotics and hormones. Include plenty of nuts and seeds which give energy for athlete.
- Nuts and nut butters-almonds, walnuts, cashew nuts, peanuts, pecans, hazelnuts
- Olives and olive oil
- Seeds- sunflower, flax, chia, etc
5. Superfoods for fast recovery between/after events
- Protein drink– Drink a protein rich beverage with 5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. The drink should ideally have L-glutamine for fast recovery. L-glutamine amino acid helps with muscle loss and speedy recovery of worn out tissues.
- Snack on raisins, pretzels and green tea. Raisins are top foods for endurance and stamina; they have alkaline ph and high glycemic index. Green tea is high in antioxidants and helps assist in free radical neutralization.
- After the event, have cinnamon bagel or whey protein. Take 5000 mg of fish oil and 1000 mg of vitamin C with it. Your main meal can comprise of balance between protein and carb. Include fruits and vegetables in this as well.
6. Top endurance and stamina super foods for athletes
- Almonds-Use almonds, almond butter or almond flour in recipes. A Chinese study has proven the benefits of this superfood by testing it on cyclists and triathletes.
- Bananas-These are the favorite pre-exercise superfoods for many tennis starts and athletes.
- Beets-Many studies[i] have proven the acute and chronic consumption of beet root juice enhances endurance performance.
- Black beans-Endurance athletes produced by Brazil mostly eat black beans which have now been included as a major composition in their food pyramid.
- Brown rice-Many professional racers have now switched to this grain instead of white rice.
- Cherries-A 2010 study on racers showed that the ones that consumed tart cherry juice on race day and 2 days afterward showed much less muscle damage compared to racers who did not.
- Red wine– Many endurance racers drink a glass of red wine owing to its healthy benefits on the cardiovascular system. The resveratrol antioxidant in red wine also increases HDL cholesterol, and reduces blood clotting.
- Salmon-Eat salmon twice a week and you would have met your Omega 3 essential fatty acid requirement for a week. The protein factors in salmon also combat inflammation and oxidative stress.
- Spinach-Spinach, after beets, provides high quantity of dietary nitrates which enhance performance by increasing blood flow to the muscles.
- Sweet potatoes-In addition to healthy carbs, this super food for athletes provides fiber, vitamins A and C and beta carotene.
As stated before, the highest quality food will provide you with the highest nutrition. Use the above list of super foods to customize your super athlete diet.
[i] The Endurance Diet: Discover the 5 Core Habits of the World’s Greatest Athletes By Matt Fitzgerald