Foods that boost sports performance

Oct 4, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. ET

Whether you train to compete or thrive on fitness progress you make at the gym, the foods you eat are as important as the way you exercise. Hoarking down a pint of premium ice cream before you sweat is certainly an obvious no-no, but do you really know which foods can actually improve your workouts? To help you get the most out of your fitness time, here are foods that boost sports performance.

Fruit salad


Technically not a food, but one of the most essential components of an athlete's diet, water will keep your muscles hydrated and replenish the body fluid lost due to sweat and respiration. Your specific water quota depends on exercise duration, ambient temperature, humidity, and your fitness level, but aim for 8 (8-ounce) glasses of H2O every day. And drink up before you get thirsty to reduce your risk of dehydration.


How is it that this fatty fish ends up on nearly every health enhancing list? Because salmon is teeming with omega-3 fatty acids and quality protein among other important nutrients. When you're training, you're inducing muscle fiber microtears, which your body immediately begins to repair. Omega-3s can aid in exercise recovery – and the quality of your next workout – because they possess anti-inflammatory properties. Protein is a must-eat for athletes because it repairs and builds muscle tissue and bones as well as aids in healing connective tissue, such as ligaments and tendons. The stronger your body, the better your sports performance.

3Nuts and seeds

Another excellent source of omega-3s, nuts and seeds provide anti-inflammatory benefits and promote the health of every one of your body's cells. In addition, nuts and seeds are loaded with vitamin E, a nutrient that plays a role in boosting your immune system (it's tough gutting through a workout when you're ill). Even better, these tasty nibbles offer a balance of protein and carbohydrates, both of which improve muscle function. Protein may be the building blocks of muscle tissue, but carbohydrates are the fuel that make your muscles power through a workout.

4Colorful fruits and vegetables

You should already be consuming five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day, but if you need more reason, fruits and vegetables are chockfull of antioxidants, carbohydrates, and other phytonutrients that boost your health. Of note, vitamin A rich foods, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, apricots and mangoes, top the list of athlete-friendly foods. Vitamin C rich foods, such as papaya, peppers, broccoli, strawberries, oranges, and cantaloupes are also winners when it comes to boosting sports play.

5Whole grain fortified cereal

For breakfast or snack, whole grain cereal is an easy carbohyrate-rich nosh that can sustain your energy during a hard workout. Fueling your muscles is only one of the benefits; fortified cereals are also loaded with vitamins and minerals that can keep your body at peak function. If you are an early morning exerciser, you'll find a modest bowl of cereal and milk an hour or so before you sweat will help you work out even harder than if you roll out of bed and hit the track or gym.

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