If you’re an athlete or fitness enthusiast who really aims to always pushing yourself and improving upon your best, complacency is one word that should never be able to be applied to you. Nowadays, there’s plenty of supplements of all sorts that promise to give you a little something extra to improve your athletic or workout capacities, but in truth a good many of them – and nearly all of the fully synthetic ones – aren’t much to speak of in that regard.
The musculature of the human body is downright impressive, and if you’re one of the types we’re talking about there then you know that you really put your muscles through their paces in your quest to always be expanding upon what you’re physically capable of in your sport or training / fitness exercises of choice. You won’t need to be reminded that muscles need protein to recover and grow. According to Dr. Zickler from Yeswellness all-natural plant-based protein source like Sun Warrior Protein is always preferable, however we’re going to instead focus here more on the energy supply end of the equation.
Plus, plain and simple, exercise is downright good for you. It helps you sleep better, maintain a healthy body weight, improves your skin and complexion, and – perhaps most importantly – it promotes your brain to produce BDNF. Now of course very few of you outside of physicians and kinesiologists will know what that means. BNDF stands for brain-derived neurotropic factor, and it’s very much like fertilizer for your body. Want to continue to grow – or age – well? Exercise frequently and with as much intensity as you can muster up!
Some may be surprised to learn that Mother Nature’s bounty of fruits and vegetables can go a long way in powering you up for games, events, or particularly strenuous training activities, and oftentimes as much or even more so than labeled pre-workout performance supplements and the like. Let’s have a look at some of them, and from there you’re encouraged to go the natural route and be fuelled up naturally – and more deliciously and nutritiously too!
Topping our list are citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, limes and pomelos – among others – that are powerhouse sources of Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a proven champ when it comes to providing your body with every bit of the ample energy you need to be competing or training at your best. Let’s have a look at the two parts to that equation. For starters, Vitamin C promotes the formation of amino acids in your body, which function as precursors to specific chemicals that work to regulate your energy levels. When you’re training hard, naturally you want those energy levels to be high during your waking hours, and you want plenty of amino acids on hand to accomplish that.
If they’re not where they need to be, you’ll be hard pressed to avoid becoming fatigued at some part during your exertion. Whether you’re doing a triathlon or just trying to keep your heart rate up while going hard on the elliptical, it really blows when your heart and head are saying go but your body’s saying no. Now let’s be clear – we’re not advising that if you eat plenty of Vitamin C-rich fruits you definitely won’t become fatigued, but it certainly will reduce the likelihood of being fatigued, and the extent to which you’ll suffer from it.
What’s more, pairing a solid Vitamin C source with spinach (which will be given its own props belows) is a great positive combo for athletes looking to eat right for their performance. The Vitamin C will enhance your body’s ability to absorb the iron in the spinach, meaning you’ll get the maximum amount of it delivered to your bloodstream.
Go Bananas – Or Go Longer with Bananas
If you’ve ever seen the happenings before a long-distance endurance running race of any sort on TV, you may notice the athletes eating bananas before the race commences. Bananas are loaded with potassium, and potassium promotes the body retaining water more effectively. Sweating cools your body, but it also depletes water and electrolyte levels, If you’re going to be engaging in any activity where you’re going to be sweating profusely, eating 2 or 3 bananas (don’t overdo it – excess potassium can actually be harmful, but we won’t discuss that here) somewhere around 1 to 2 hours before you start breaking that intense sweat will have this benefit for you.
Specifically, you’ll avoid the effects of dehydration. These effects can vary, but are often complex and many times you’re not aware of them right away. One of the most prominent ones, however, is that it adversely affects how successfully you recover after any bout of particularly strenuous physical exertion. So for those of you who don’t want to ache quite so extensively the next day, we recommend eating a few bananas before you start whatever your sport or exercise of choice you’ll be engaging in.
Further, bananas are rich in healthy carbohydrates for the body to then convert into fuel. More ‘gas in the tank’ for you, and less soreness the next day!
You’re Popeye, The Sailor Man
Popeye hasn’t been on TV for a good many years now, but some of you may remember him, Olive Oyl, and that dastardly Bluto. When Popeye would have to confront the belligerent Bluto he’d eat a heaping handful of spinach and then proceed to completely dominate his much-larger opponent.
Yes, Popeye was a fictional character, but it turns out his strength and vigour coming from spinach was based in legitimate science. That’s because spinach is a super source of iron, and having iron in your body at an optimal level is important for seeing to it that your body tissues – and muscles most notably in this case – are receiving all of the oxygen they need to work unimpeded.
A half cup of spinach will deliver about 3.2 grams of iron. With the fact spinach and the iron within it is explicitly related to muscle performance, it is highly recommended for long-distance endurance sports athletes in particular. Mix it with any dish you like, and consume it a few days before your event.
Watermelon is much the same as the other fruits in our list for the fact that it too provides immediate energy reserves. However, watermelon gets an added nod as a better choice for energy because it boasts the optimal mix of B-vitamins, potassium, and fructose to deliver a timely wallop of energy AND have that energy be distributed over the course of a longer period of time. Accordingly, watermelon is a superb choice for any type of strenuous interval training, or for sports that involve going hard, then resting, then going hard again, and so on.
Plus, watermelon has one of the highest water contents of any fruit, and that means it’s nearly unbeatable as a food choice for optimal hydration. With that high water content, watermelon also has the benefit of making its vitamins and minerals more readily available and absorbed by the body once it enters the stomach. Here’s a diet / training tip for you to keep handy – if you’re looking for a quick but light and healthy snack just before your event or training session, eat a few slices of watermelon and then follow it up with a spoonful of honey.
Kale: Leafy Green to Keep You Lean
Kale is one of the champions of the leafy greens family when it comes to providing you with energy for your athletics or fitness pursuits. How it’s beneficial in that regard is much the same way it is for spinach or other greens, but what gives kale the leg up here is that it contains more fibre than pretty much any other leafy green vegetable.
How’s that significant? Well, the abundance of fibre will slow the digestion process, and as a result that maximizes the amount of energy-providing nutrients that your body will absorb. One tip; cook kale in olive oil (do so only for a limited time though) and have it added with other effective fruits and vegetables for energy like beans, oranges, legumes and leafy vegetables. You’ll then have a well-rounded vegetable and fruit mix salad that can deliver you all the energy that your body needs as you prepare to push it hard.
Speedier with Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are one of the many ‘starchy’ vegetables, and starchy vegetables are grouped as being complex carbohydrates. First, the complexity of these carbs provides you with long-lasting energy, and second – they also promote you feeling physically upbeat between exercise / performances / competitions and diminish feelings of hunger in between any of the 3 primary meals of the day. They also happen to be chock-full of other important energy nutrients, so they definitely deserve to take up the last spot on our list here of ideal fruits and vegetables for sports energy.