Ask anyone who works out on the regular and you'll likely discover that they have some sort of motivating ritual: syncing up their iTunes library, putting on their favorite workout gear or even rolling their shoulders as part of a stretching protocol. We all have our go-to actions that prime us for our regimen, helping to focus our headspace and ready our body.
Top-level athletes of any category, however, will tell you that nutrition plays a big role in their routines as well. Some of these pros have successfully tapped into the secrets of superfoods to elevate their performance even further. Here are six of the cutting-edge superfoods that are the most lauded amongst the athletic community as supporters of a little extra edge:
1. Condensed Greens
The main antioxidant found in green vegetables is chlorophyll, which is shown to help build red blood cells and increase oxygenation. Better oxygen circulation means greater aerobic capacity—a boon of a benefit for almost any sport. While consuming easily digestible foods before a workout is of the utmost importance, no one is suggesting that this is the time to be sitting down to eat a high-fiber salad, though. Nevertheless, condensed sources of chlorophyll—like a spoonful of wheatgrass juice powder or spirulina in water—can offer your body all the benefits of chlorophyll without the digestive impairment.
2. Chia Seeds
Chia seeds are a known endurance food and particularly helpful for long bouts of exercise, such as running or cycling. Their well-rounded nutrition of moderate protein, healthy omega fats and complex carbohydrates make them an excellent slow-burning source of fuel, and their small size means they won't weigh you down during your workout. A bonus: chia seeds’ naturally occurring minerals include several important electrolytes that help prevent dehydration! Throw some chia seeds into water with lemon and honey for a simple pre-workout drink or drink them up while working out to consume small amounts of nutrients without even noticing.
Your quality of breath can make a huge difference in your ability to push hard in a workout, and cordyceps are well-known to support these efforts. This medicinal mushroom helps strengthen the respiratory system as a whole, which can enhance your ability to breathe deeply and better process carbon dioxide. Sold in powdered form, you can add cordyceps to your workout drink or even your morning coffee.
Aside from its impressive antioxidant content, matcha helps enhance endurance during exercise. While this may be in part to the small caffeine boost it offers, studies suggest that the boost is also likely due to matcha's ability to increase metabolism and improve the body's natural rate of burning calories. Since matcha improves fat oxidation and the body's ability to use fat as fuel, it's profoundly useful for athletes who wish to maintain a lean physique and reduce their percentage of body fat without compromising muscle gain. Matcha powder is useful for making light and tasty warm matcha lattes or blended drinks in which you can add a few more flavorful ingredients.
5. Beet Juice
As another incredible stamina booster, beet juice is known for its ability to help with blood flow and blood pressure. Gaining this enhancement in circulation alone has shown to improve top athletes’ speed in training—plus, this superfood can assist in the nutrient absorption of other superfoods as well! You can either drink beet juice as is or consume a beet juice extract or powder.
6. Coconut Oil
While coconut oil isn't exactly known as a common superfood since it's high in calories and low in micronutrients, it still earns a mention on this pre-workout list of power foods. Coconut oil is extremely high in medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which are a type of fat that is metabolized similarly to glucose. In other words, your body is able to use this special fat as energy, creating a steady source of fuel without having to rely on sugar. A spoonful of coconut oil before a workout can help you avoid burnout and keep a little gas in your tank throughout your performance.
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