It turns out that the food you eat can do more than replenish the stores of energy and fluid you lose while exercising — some can help you get more from your workout, as well as aid your endurance and recovery.
Here are five foods to make your workout easier:
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1. Coffee: Runners love a cup of pre-race joe for the pep it puts in their step. Research shows that the caffeine in coffee can enhance physical endurance and stamina, making a long run or ride feel easier. Iced or hot green tea works too. Feel free to add milk, but skip the sugar, which can negate the caffeine kick.
2. Ginger: Sore muscles often feel rewarding after a hard workout, but intense aches just plain hurt. The fix? Ginger. Consuming half a teaspoon of the raw root or ground herb lessened next-day muscle soreness by 25 percent in one study, likely because ginger contains pungent pain-relieving chemicals such as gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone.
3. Apples: Eating an apple is a great way to boost exercise endurance. Apples are a good source of an antioxidant called quercetin. One study showed that quercetin — when taken in supplement form — helped people bike longer. Quercetin aids endurance by making oxygen more available to the lungs. Grapes are another quercetin-rich fruit.
4. Tart cherry juice: Inflammation is the scourge of muscles, causing pain and swelling and hindering performance in your next workout. Ease that affliction with cherries. They’re rich in polyphenolic compounds-namely flavanoids and anthyocyanins-that are shown to decrease inflammation. In fact, when athletes consumed a cherry concentrate daily for seven days before and two days after a strength-training workout, their muscles recovered faster, U.K. researchers reported. Find tart cherry juice at your local grocer and drink it in place of your morning OJ.
5. Beets: Naturally occurring nitrates help deliver more oxygen to your muscles, thereby reducing fatigue during high-intensity exercise. A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating a 7-ounce serving of baked beets 75 minutes before exercise helped runners run three percent faster during a 5k-and in the last mile, they ran five percent faster. Being able to up the intensity like that means you torch both your opponents and major calories.