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Eat to boost fitness!

By Nicola Monteath | March 12, 2014

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Make sure to include these top ten nutrient-loaded foods in your diet, to get the most out of your workout.

MEET THE EXPERT

Nutritional inputs from sports nutritionist and co-founder of lifestyle consultancy service, The Wellness Brothers, Sean Penny, visit www.wellnessbrothers.com for more information.

Beetroot juice

The high amounts of nitrates in beetroot boosts stamina – the body turns nitrate into nitric oxide, which reduces the amount of oxygen required to exercise – making it an ideal drink for endurance and resistance exercises. It is also high in betaine, a compound with inflammation reducing properties; joint tissue inflammation can slow down recovery and interfere with fitness goals.

Try it this way: Have a glass pre-workout, but be sure to check with your doctor first.

Blueberries

These powerful antioxidant-rich berries protect you from free radical damage that can be caused by stress of intense training. Studies have revealed that blueberries can accelerate muscle recovery, especially after strength training – which means you can work out more often for longer.

Try it this way: Blend in a smoothie with protein powder, or sprinkle over a salad.

Goji Berries

Used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine, these berries help increase energy, stamina and the body’s ability to handle stress and sustain a healthy mood, mind and memory. Available in dried form in health and nutrition stores, they improve blood circulation, allowing your muscles and brain cells to be energetic in times of exercise stress.

Try it this way: Sprinkle over oatmeal or muesli for a power breakfast. Alternatively, you can drink goji juice on its own, or blended into a smoothie.

Salmon

Containing healthy omega 3 fats, protein-rich salmon helps improve heart health, reduce muscle tissue breakdown and enhance blood circulation. Rich in essential minerals such as calcium, iron, phosphorous and vitamins A, B12 and D, salmon also aids red blood cell production and tissue repair. This is important as an increase in the cells helps the body bring in more oxygen and improves fitness performance.

Try it this way: Baked with a side of green veg.

Sweet potatoes

These sweet spuds are a great source of carbs and sustain energy over a long period of time. Packed with vitamins C and E that help prevent cell damage, sweet potatoes possess high levels of iron and other nutrients that are ideal for intense physical training. Eat it at least 90 minutes before your workout to enhance muscle recovery – this will allow you to work out more efficiently.

Try it this way: Grilled, boiled or baked, as a side.

Avocado

Each avocado contains up to 15g of fibre, a combination of vitamins, mineral and phytonutrients, and more potassium than a banana – which is a key electrolyte for training as it helps maintain water balance in the body. Avocados are high in calcium and magnesium, both important nutrients for workouts, as it helps with the functioning of muscles. Made up of fat and sugar content, avocados provide a sustained level of energy and should be eaten approximately two hours before exercising, to give you an energy boost and keep you from feeling lethargic while working out.

Try it this way: Add to a salad, or eat with grated raw sweet potato for a double-barreled nutrition boost.

Quinoa

While many believe this is a grain, it is actually a seed! In ancient times, the Incas (pre-Columbian American tribe) believed quinoa increased the stamina of warriors. This gluten free seed is rich in amino acids – a complete source of protein and high in lysine, methionine and cysteine – which help build muscle, post-workout. A great option for vegetarians, it is high in folate, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, and provides key nutrients needed if you exercise daily.

Try it this way: Eat boiled quinoa with a side of chicken and steamed veg, or include in a salad.

Water

Water is a top priority when it comes to improving fitness levels, as it is important for temperature regulation, joint health, providing nutrients, and oxygen transportation to the body’s cells. To find out how many litres your body requires per day (when inactive), simply divide your weight by 30. Depending on your activity levels and amount of fluid loss, you need to drink proportionately more water when exercising.

Try it this way: Drink one glass approximately 45 mins before training, the same amount while training (for a 30-45 min session of light weight training or treadmill) and 500ml after the workout.

Chia seeds

These nutritious seeds contain essential fatty acids, anti-oxidants, minerals and fibre and are known to reduce fatigue caused after a cardio session. Apart from slow-releasing energy – caused by slow conversion of carbohydrates to sugar – these seeds have a positive effect on muscle tissue repair, making them heal faster before the next day’s workout.

Try it this way: Sprinkle over porridge, salads and smoothies, or add to water and drink a few hours before working out.



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