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Almonds as a performance enhancer

Charlotte Hilton Andersen is the author of the book The Great Fitness Experiment: One Year of Trying Everything and runs the popular health and fitness website of the same name, where she tries out a new workout every month, specializing...

Almonds increase exercise endurance and power

Skip the energy gels, jellies, drinks and powders before your next run — now there's a new sports performance supplement. And by "new," I mean old — really, really old. Almonds may be the original sports supplement as shown by a new study that compared almonds as a pre-workout snack with an energy cookie.

Scientists set up two groups of cyclists. After taking a baseline ride, one group was given almonds to eat before cycling, while the other group got a cookie with the same amount of calories. Both groups ate their assigned booster for four weeks before coming in for another test. During their (stationary) bike ride, they were tested for blood levels, energy output, heart rate and metabolic rate. Then, the groups switched foods for another four weeks before coming in for a third, and final, test.

The results were pretty convincing: The almond-eating cyclists not only cycled longer and farther, but they also had lower fat oxidation, lower oxygen consumption and higher levels of antioxidants than the cookie monsters. The researchers concluded it is the unique nutrients found in almonds that contributed to the effect. Nature wins again!

Anyone who's ever looked down the sports supplement aisle at the store knows there's a dizzying array of options when it comes to fueling your workout. It can be hard to understand what all the different options are — and what's hype and what's not. Even if you find something backed by research, you still have to figure out if taking it in powder form will get you the same benefits. I'm not saying any of that stuff is necessarily bad, but sometimes the simplest things are the most effective.

So if you're looking to up your game before your next race, you might want to consider throwing back a handful of almonds. Just don't do it during the race. Your saliva gets all sticky and it's hard to swallow and you could choke. Not that I've ever done that. (Yes I have.) 

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