If you ask most people what’s the best pre- or post-workout meal or snack, they’ll probably mention sports drinks, protein powders, protein bars, and anything but plain old food.
Well, this is continually being proven wrong by researchers, sports nutritionists, and exercise specialists.
The latest research by McMaster University professor Stuart Phillips shows that the top foods for athletes—and regular exercisers—are:
1) Chocolate milk: offers post-workout water, protein, electrolytes, and carbohydrates—and not to mention, it tastes good too! According to Phillips, chocolate milk helps rehydrate your body after exercise and recharges damaged muscles. For these reasons, it’s far superior, he says, to water and sports drinks when it comes to post-workout recovery.
For more information on chocolate milk, click on rechargewithmilk.ca (full disclosure: this site, recommended by Phillips, is sponsored by the Dairy Farmers of Canada—but it’s actually quite informative and packed with good information—why I’m okay with linking to it. They’re also sponsoring the giveaway at the end of this piece…and free stuff is always good!)
2) Oatmeal: contains carbs, fiber and B vitamins (which are key for the breakdown of carbs into glucose and energy in the body—among other things).
Oatmeal, with protein-packed almonds, is the perfect pre-workout meal (particularly if you’re exercising in the morning). I also like to add dried cranberries, zest from a lemon, cinnamon (which helps control blood sugar), and a drizzle of agave nectar into mine. Just had a bowl this morning!
3) Salmon: rich in protein, iron, vitamin B12 (critical for healthy nervous system functioning and making blood cells) and omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for brain function, reducing inflammation in the body, and normal growth and development.
My favorite way of cooking it: Marinate it in a little lemon juice and spices (try O&Co Salt & Herb Mix for Fish, $8.50; www.oliviersandco.com/salt-and-herb-mix-for-fish.html), drizzle with olive oil, and cook covered at 400ºF for 20 minutes. Shut off the oven, take off the cover, and let sit in the warm oven for another 15 minutes.
4) Blueberries: high in carbs (key for energy) and free-radical-fighting antioxidants (more free radicals are produced in the body during exercise).
I like to add frozen blueberries to almond milk and blend up with a frozen banana and some agave nectar—the perfect fuel-up smoothie!
5) Sweet potatoes: chockfull of iron (which helps your body produce oxygen during exercise) and antioxidants beta-carotene as well as vitamins C and E.
Don’t have the patience or time to cook them in the oven? Simply puncture a few times with a fork and cook them on high in the microwave, on a paper towel or plate, for 4 to 5 minutes.
6) Yogurt: high in calcium (important for strong bones and muscle contractions) and energy-boosting vitamin B12. Look for yogurts with little to no added sugar and gut-busting lactobacteria or acidophilus (healthy bacteria that helps digestion).
I love Greek Fage (pronounced “fah-yeh”) Total 2% yogurt with granola (for carbs and taste) and a tiny bit of honey mixed in.
There’s no Gatorade on Phillips’ list, no packaged protein bars, no fruity gummy chews.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’ll probably still stick these into my bike “bento” snack pack (http://www.teamestrogen.com/prodFB_840200.html) for races because they’re so convenient, but the important take-home message from Phillips’ research: you don’t have to spend a lot of money on processed sports foods at other times.
Real food is still your best bet.