Olympians Love Power Foods
Dara Torres, swimming.
Power food choice: raw almonds
Almonds are the best high fat, anti-inflammatory food! It’s not often nutritionists recommend high-fat foods, but the quality fat found in almonds is super supportive for athletes especially during recovery. One serving of almonds contains six grams of protein, six grams of carbohydrates, and more than 20 flavonoids. These antioxidants prevent free-radical damage resulting from extreme training sessions. Manganese and copper are two minerals found in almonds. Both are needed to maintain the metabolic processes and support stamina. Almonds are also high in magnesium. When an athlete has enough magnesium in their system, their vessels relax, which improves blood and oxygen flow throughout the body.
Ashton Eaton, decathlon
Power food choice: chunk light tuna packed in water
Tuna is an excellent source of protein. Tuna is rich in magnesium, potassium, B vitamins and omega-3 essential fatty acids. By consuming a healthy, lean protein after a strenuous workout recovery time is enhanced.
More: How to Fuel Your Body for Energy
Carli Lloyd, soccer
Power food choice: edamame
Edamame is considered one of the best plant proteins, similar in quality to eggs and cow’s milk. A unique protein in soy called, peptides, is known to provide extreme health benefits, including improved blood pressure, controlled blood sugar and improved immune function, all which are necessary in the world of extreme sport. While soy foods are still linked to controversy, stick with organic, whole food forms. Choose fermented versions like tempeh, fermented tofu, and soy miso which include immune boosting probiotics.
Tamika Catchings, basketball
Power food choice: grilled chicken
Chicken is so versatile! It is a great source of protein. Approximately 67 percent of our daily protein needs are found in just 4 ounces. Skinless chicken breast is an athlete favorite. Athletes are encouraged to eat lower fat options. Athletes are very hard on their bodies, so the lean protein found in chicken breasts may actually help prevent bone loss. Chicken is very rich in B6 and niacin. These B vitamins are necessary in the conversion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into usable energy.
More: How Much Protein During a Workout?
Heather O’Reilly, soccer
Power food choice: Greek yogurt
Foods rich in probiotics have been shown to enhance recovery from fatigue and help maintain a healthy immune system. The International Journal of Obesity, recently published information showing that “adding one or two servings of yogurt to your daily diet can help you maximize loss of fat and minimize loss of muscle.” For athletes, dairy may enhance gains in lean mass, strength output, as well as reduction in body fat levels.
Eric Shanteau, swimming
Power food choice: peanut butter
Peanuts, like almonds, are a very good source of monounsaturated fats and antioxidants. Peanuts actually contain high concentrations of polyphenols. Roasting peanuts can actually boost their antioxidant level by as much as 22 percent! Nutrition science has found that those who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who almost never eat nuts. So for the athlete needing to maintain their weight for competition nuts are a great snack choice for quick, sustained energy.
More: Learn to Snack Strategically
Reese Hoffa, shot put
Power food choice: sprouted-grain breads
Sprouted-grain breads are made from wheat kernels, called wheat berries. The kernels sprout, are ground up and then baked into breads. Because they are made from whole-wheat kernels, sprouted grain breads are a good source of whole grains and fiber. Sprouted-grain breads made from a variety of grains and legumes can provide a complete set of amino acids.
More: 5 Best Carbs for Athletes
Sample Olympian Diet
Approximately 60 percent of an athlete's diet should steam from carbohydrates with a mix of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and small amounts of low fat, organic dairy. About 30 percent of an athlete's diet should come from lean proteins, fish, poultry, lean meats, beans, and low fat, organic dairy. Another 10 percent of an athlete's diet should come from quality fats, olive and canola oils, nuts and nut butters, seeds and avocados.
A smart nutrition goal for any athlete would be to enjoy a nutrient rich, mostly plant-based diet. Always fuel before, possibly during and after exercise. Balance energy by eating small, frequent meals throughout the day and be sure to hydrate adequately with water, herbal teas and natural juices. Good nutrition will always enhance performance. Never let poor nutrition be a limiting factor.
More: Natural Race Food Alternatives
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