Food is fuel, and what you reach for before and after exercise can make or break your workout success. Power up and maximize performance with these 10 fitness foods.
1. Peanut Butter
Healthy fats and protein provide sustained energy and protein to boost muscle performance. Add PB to a post-workout smoothie, or make a batch of energy bars to tuck in your gym bag.
Recipe: Oatmeal Peanut Butter Energy Bars (pictured above)
Not only does oatmeal make a delicious breakfast, but the soluble fiber promotes heart health and controls dips in blood sugar. A small bowl with fresh fruit makes a terrific pre-workout meal.
Recipe: No-Cook Blueberry-Almond Oatmeal
3. Greek Yogurt
The strained Greek-style yogurt contains more protein and less lactose than unstrained yogurt, making it a tasty choice for exercise enthusiasts. Top with granola for a healthy snack or as part of a meal.
Recipe: Coconut Sour-Cherry Granola
Potassium-rich banana are the ideal fruit to help tired and worn-out muscles. Freeze ahead for extra-creamy smoothies.
Recipe: Coconut Water Smoothie with Mango, Banana and Strawberries
5. Chocolate Milk
There’s continually mounting evidence to support the idea that the balance of carbs and protein found in chocolate milk is ideal for post-workout recovery. For folks who cannot digest dairy, chocolate soy milk would be the best comparable dairy-free option.
Eggs provide protein, Omega-3 fats, vitamin B12 and even some vitamin D! Eat both the yolks and the whites to reap all the healthy benefits. Egg sandwiches make a wonderful grab-and-go post-exercise breakfast, and eggs can be combined with potatoes for a healthy and satisfying weekend meal.
Recipe: Baked Eggs in Hash Brown Cups
One ounce of nuts provides 150 to 200 calories of good-for-you fuel — choose the highest-protein options, like pistachios and almonds, for after exercise.
Recipe: Pear and Pistachio Guacamole
8. Lean Meats
Animal proteins like meat, fish, eggs and dairy products provide all the important building blocks that muscles need to stay lean and strong. Choose low-fat options like chicken and turkey breast and lean cuts of beef.
Recipe: Juicy Grilled Cheeseburgers
Seeds are another superfood option, providing protein, minerals and inflammation-fighting Omega-3 fats that help protect cells from damage. Flax, pumpkin, chia and sunflower seeds are just a few of the irresistible options.
Recipe: Tropical Chia Pudding
Many types of fish could qualify as fitness foods, but salmon certainly tops the list — it’s sustainable, low in mercury, easy to prepare, and packed with nutrients to promote healthy muscles and a strong cardiovascular system. Salmon is also one of the best sources of Omega-3 fats you can find. Enjoy smoked salmon as part of breakfast or brunch, or make a healthy and satisfying salmon burger for dinner.
Recipe: Perfect Salmon Burgers
Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.