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Now more than ever, people are beginning to focus on nutrition as a primary fitness goal. Eating right can help you become healthier and happier by enabling you to work out more effectively, reduce body fat and achieve your fitness goals. The strong connection between nutrition and fitness suggests that eating the right foods can fuel you through harder and longer workouts.
If you want to get more out of your workout sessions, improving your nutrition could be the key to making unprecedented progress. Below, you'll discover how proper nutrition affects athletic performance and the best foods for enhancing your fitness. Regardless of your fitness goal, this vital nutrition information can help you reach the next level.
How Proper Nutrition Improves Workouts
What we eat plays a key role in our overall fitness. In fact, research has found that nutrition has the most significant impact on fitness when compared with other factors such as regular exercise. These results indicate that using nutrient-dense foods, also known as superfoods, to fuel your workouts can greatly enhance health.
Superfoods are important because they include healthy carbohydrates, lean proteins and fats essential to your well-being. They are also a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals in relation to the number of calories they contain. Certain superfoods may even contain compounds that boost the metabolism to prompt more efficient fat burning.
Nutrition research suggests you can naturally increase the rate at which you burn fat by eating foods containing certain compounds. For example, red peppers contain a molecule known as capsaicin, which speeds up your body's natural rate of burning fat. Incorporating foods in your diets that stimulate and improve the body's fat-burning process can help get rid of fat more effectively.
When combined with routine exercise, these metabolism-boosting foods can help you reach fitness goals faster. While eating healthy foods improves health in general, it can also enable you to achieve fitness goals by supplying the energy and nutrients needed to recover from workouts and keep training.
For instance, many athletes look to naturally occurring antioxidants to help reduce the muscle inflammation caused by an intense workout. Quercetin, in particular, is a powerful antioxidant often used to enhance athletic performance. Studies show that an increased intake of quercetin among athletes led to both a higher metabolic rate and more lean muscle mass.
Whether you're an experienced exercise enthusiast or new to the workout game, you can see gains by eating a healthy, well-balanced meal about one or two hours before working out and another healthy, well-balanced meal within an hour or two after finishing your workout. This basic workout nutrition plan meets the needs of most healthy people who exercise regularly.
Top 7 Fitness Foods
The term "fitness foods" refers to exceptionally healthy, nutrient-dense foods and can be used interchangeably with "superfoods." Including numerous fitness foods in your daily diet is helpful for staying healthy and achieving your fitness goals. In this section, you'll discover some of the best fitness foods and why they'll do wonders for your workouts:
Salmon is your best friend for building muscle. This fatty fish is filled with omega-3 fatty acids, which offer numerous health benefits, including fighting heart disease, promoting brain health and decreasing inflammation. Research also indicates that salmon may be a potent muscle booster. One study found steers that were fed fish oil demonstrated vastly improved muscle development, using twice the amount of amino acids to build new protein tissues.
To give your muscles a helping hand, you can have a delicious cut of wild salmon for dinner a couple of times a week or enjoy salmon jerky as a portable snack. If you're not a seafood fan, try looking for an algae-based source of omega-3 fatty acids.
2. Tart Cherries
If you wake up feeling excessively sore after a workout, tart cherries may be able to help you fight pain and regain your strength quicker. Research has found that drinking tart cherry juice can help athletes recover from intense strength training. One study found that participants who drank 12 ounces of a tart cherry juice blend per day saw significant pain reduction and almost 20% less strength loss than those in the placebo group.
Although fresh tart cherries are only in season in late summer, you can find frozen and dried tart cherries more frequently throughout the year. You can also purchase tart cherry juice to help fuel your workout recovery.
3. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate is the secret weapon for increasing your aerobic capacity and training longer. Studies show that the caffeine found in dark chocolate can bolster both your strength and endurance so you can make your workouts longer and more intense. The combination of caffeine and carbs your body receives from dark chocolate can help enhance your muscle recovery after a challenging workout.
When it comes to the health benefits of dark chocolate, the darker the better. Higher percentages of dark chocolate contain less sugar and more antioxidants, so look for a bar of dark chocolate that is about 85% cacao. Have a couple of ounces of your dark chocolate about two hours before exercising to fuel your workout or enjoy it afterward to recover.
4. Pea Protein
Pea protein powder is quickly becoming a popular recovery superfood and with good reason. It offers a bounty of branched-chain amino acids, which are compounds that delay fatigue during a workout. The arginine found in protein powder made from yellow peas is also great for boosting blood flow and heart health, while the powder's high iron content aids muscle growth and development.
You can easily enjoy pea protein powder by scooping it into a pre-workout smoothie or mixing it into your morning oatmeal. The powder doesn't have an overwhelming taste, making it easy to blend into recipes.
For additional muscle strength recovery, look no further than the pomegranate. Pomegranates are stuffed with antioxidants that have been linked to improved muscle recovery. Research has shown those who drink 4 ounces of pomegranate juice twice per day experience remarkably less muscle soreness and less muscle weakness after completing resistance-training exercises than those who do not.
While pomegranates are a winter fruit, you can get frozen pomegranate seeds all year-round. All you have to do is thaw the seeds and toss them into a yogurt parfait, bowl of oatmeal or fresh garden salad to enjoy the muscle-building benefits. You can also take small shots of 100% pomegranate juice to help your muscles recover from workouts.
6. Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is the ultimate sports nutrition superfood because it is nutrient-dense, filled with healthy fat and proven to provide long-lasting energy for athletic endurance. Peanut butter's high protein content also makes the delicious spread key for muscle growth. To get all the benefits of peanut butter while avoiding added sugars or preservatives, you may want to look for natural or organic peanut butter.
As a bonus, peanut butter is low in cholesterol and saturated fat, making it a heart-healthy food. Studies have shown that consuming about 1 tablespoon of peanut butter each week can reduce the risk of heart disease.
7. Beet Juice
Want to boost your stamina? Beet juice is your answer. Research has found this red root veggie may be able to boost your energy even more effectively than caffeine or nearly any other supplement. In one study, athletes who drank 16 ounces of organic beetroot juice cycled for up to 16% longer than those who drank a placebo — an improvement scientists say isn't achievable by any other known means, including training.
If you want to enhance your performance through the power of beet juice, all you need to do is purchase a juicer and some fresh beets, which are in season all year long. Alternatively, you can buy bottled beet juice and sip it straight or blend it into a pre-workout smoothie.
Learn More About Sports Fitness and Nutrition at Spooky Nook Sports
If you're interested in learning more about how your nutrition impacts your fitness, Spooky Nook Sports can help. We've teamed up with a certified sports nutritionist to bring you the most up-to-date, science-backed sports nutrition information possible. We'll work with you to answer your dietary questions and come up with a workout nutrition plan tailored to your needs.
Whether you want to become a better athlete or boost your health in general, contact Spooky Nook Sports for a sports nutrition consultation today.
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