Find anyone who works out and you'll likely discover they have a ritual: syncing up their iTunes library, putting on their favorite workout hat 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.
But when looking at top-level athletes – of any category – you'll notice that nutrition plays a big part of this routine as well. Some of these pros have successfully tapped into the secrets of superfoods to elevate their performance even further. Here's a few of the cutting-edge superfoods that are the most lauded amongst the athletic community as a great way to enjoy a little extra edge:
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. Of course, before a workout, easily digestible foods are of the utmost importance, and no one is suggesting that this is the time you should be sitting down to eat a high-fiber salad. Nevertheless, condensed sources of chlorophyll, like a spoonful of Wheatgrass Powder or spirulina in water, can offer your body all the benefits of chlorophyll without the digestive impairment.
Chia Seeds: Chia Seeds are a known endurance food and are 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 your pre-workout drink or drink them while working out to consume small amounts of nutrients without even noticing.
Cordyceps: 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 to 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.
Matcha: Aside from its impressive antioxidant content, Matcha helps to 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 is profoundly useful for athletes who wish to maintain a lean physique and reduce their percentage of body fat without compromising muscle gain. Matcha Powder makes a wonderful drink that can be enjoyed as a warm or cool tea.
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.
Coconut Oil: While coconut oil isn't exactly a superfood – it's high in calories and low in micronutrients – it still earns a mention on this pre-exercise 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 to avoid burnout and keep a little gas in your tank throughout your performance.