Many of us have been working on improving our fitness over the past year’s lockdowns. Maybe you’ve started jogging, doing Zoom fitness classes, or taking your dog on longer, more strenuous, walks than usual.
We know that making the most of our daily exercise allowance is good for our mental and physical health, but did you also know that certain foods boost your performance and help your recovery?
Ensure that your body has all the plant power it needs by including these super-six foods in your diet.
Pulses are excellent sources of protein and antioxidants, both of which are essential for the repair and maintenance of your hard-working muscles.
Pulses are healthy, low in fat, incredibly versatile and inexpensive! Good sources include peas, beans, lentils, chickpeas, and soya (eg tofu, tempeh and edamame). So fill up on hummus, tofu, or a nutritious Easy protein wrap if you want to improve your performance and recovery time!
If you’re planning on doing endurance activity, you need long-lasting energy, and that means healthy complex carbohydrates.
Wholegrains, such as wholemeal bread, wholewheat pasta, brown rice, quinoa, muesli or oats are all great choices to give you the kind of carbs you need – whether you’re doing a 30-minute run or a two-hour hike. They are also a great source of healthy protein – win, win!
Fresh fruit contains a cocktail of health-boosting vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and compounds such as flavonoids and fibre, all of which contribute towards healthy muscle maintenance and energy levels. A post-workout smoothie can be a great way of getting your fresh fruit fix – you can even throw in some protein like tahini or peanut butter for extra muscle recovery.
Top tip: When it comes to fruit, the brighter the better! The bright colours of fruit are not just nice to look at, all of these pigments have some pretty powerful disease-busting properties and they help you achieve faster recovery times after training.
Nuts and seeds
Lastly, you also need some unsaturated omega-3 healthy fats which are crucial to your performance and blood pressure regulation.
Thankfully, these can be found in nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, and hemp seeds. Simply sprinkle them on your cereal or porridge, pop some in your morning smoothie or snack on a small handful of walnuts.
Top tip: Flaxseeds are one of the richest sources of omega-3 fats but whole seeds may just go straight through you! So, use flaxseed oil or ground flaxseeds.
These red roots are a rich source of nitrates, which increase the flexibility of your blood vessels and help to maintain a healthy blood flow.
The consumption of beetroot juice has been found to be particularly beneficial. It can help to improve endurance and generally make exercise feel less physically demanding. This is thought to be due to the nitric oxide increasing the ability of muscles to uptake glucose from the blood, and to improving blood supply, which may help the removal of waste products.
As well as including the above foods in your diet, follow these simple tips for maintaining a healthy exercise regime:
- Drink enough water – at least two litres a day!
- Always leave at least 2-3 hours after a main meal before you start any kind of exercise. You can have a small snack such as a piece of fruit, or smoothie up to 30 minutes before.
- Focus on protein and carbs after a workout. To support your muscle recovery and energy restoration, you should eat or drink something you can digest quickly such as a protein-packed smoothie, energy balls or piece of fruit within 45 minutes of finishing your training.
To find out more see Viva! Health’s new Sports Nutrition pages.