What kind of nutritious foods you eat before and after a workout plays a crucial role in your fitness progress – accounting for a whopping 80 percent of your body’s ability to get rid of unwanted fats. The remaining 20 percent is made up by exercise and lifestyle factors, such as sleep and stress.
Pumping your body with the wrong type of fuel will compromise your capacity to lean down, utilize energy, sensitize your insulin, and recover. Pre-workout meals like energy bars and drinks are classic examples of this, since they’re usually high-glycemic fuels filled with simple carbs that ruin your body’s natural ability to exhaust energy stores. Although this may help enhance your performance for the meantime, it also hinders you from burning fats and sabotages your workout efforts.
In addition, the common notion of calories in and calories out, which is yet another worthless workout myth, should be put to rest for good. You do not get fat because you eat too many calories and don’t exercise enough; you get fat because you eat the wrong kinds of calories. No matter how much time you spend in the gym, you’re never going to reach your fitness goals if you keep loading up on grains and fructose-rich foods.
Best Nutritious Foods
Stop making these diet mistakes and start optimizing your fitness strategy today by incorporating these nutritious foods into your everyday meals:
Avocado is one of the nutritious foods packed with an impressive list of beneficial nutrients. A single avocado contains 36 percent of the daily requirement for vitamin K, 30 percent of the daily requirement for folate, and 20 percent each of the daily requirements for pantothenic acid (vitamin B5, which is needed to break down carbohydrates), vitamin B6, vitamin C, and potassium.
But what makes avocado one of the top nutritious foods is its high amounts of fiber and monounsaturated fats, which are easily burned for energy. Despite their slightly sweet taste when ripe, avocados are actually a low-fructose superfood. Check out these healthy but tasty avocado recipes that won’t ruin your diet.
2. Coconut Oil
Perhaps nature’s most abundant source of healthy medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) – which your body sends to your liver to use as energy – coconut oil makes a unique instant energy booster.
But the immense benefits of coconut oil don’t end there. Mounting studies also show that the MCFAs in coconut oil assist in promoting weight loss, improving insulin sensitivity and glucose intolerance, and increasing thyroid activity. People with a sluggish thyroid find it difficult to manage their weight no matter how hard they exercise.
Although you can eat coconut oil by itself, one way to get the most out of it is by using it as a natural sweetener. So make some nutritious foods by adding coconut oil to your green juices, smoothies, and even your morning coffee.
Drinking a cup of coffee before you hit the gym can take your workout to a whole new level. According to studies, coffee can increase your metabolism by up to 20 percent. This pre-workout caffeine chug also has the power to upgrade your exercise performance by improving circulation, reducing pain, enhancing endurance, preserving muscle health, and improving your memory as an added bonus.
Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet who swears by the functional benefits of consuming coffee before exercising, recommends having just one cup of coffee or one shot of espresso in the morning or before training and then another cup to get you going throughout the day. To maximize coffee’s benefits, opt for freshly ground, organic, brewed coffee, which is also rich in valuable antioxidants. In order to count coffee as one of the top nutritious foods, you need to skip the sugar and the creamer.
Also, although coffee can help you fight off fatigue, hunger, and stress, too much of it may put you at risk for adrenal exhaustion. Because coffee also has a diuretic effect, make sure you’re properly hydrated always.
4. Green Vegetable Juice
Vegetable juicing has been gaining a lot of hype, especially among fitness enthusiasts, due to its countless positive effects on the body. Some of these benefits include allowing you to effortlessly consume a significant volume of vegetables, helping you easily absorb all nutrients, strengthening your immune system, and increasing your energy levels.
On top of using vegetables containing many essential vitamins and minerals, green juices in particular are highly recommended as a pre-workout beverage as they’ve been found to:
- Increase blood count for better performance;
- Improve respiratory function for added endurance;
- Neutralize oxidative stress caused by intensive workouts;
- Reduce inflammation and repair cellular damages caused by physical stress.
When it comes to juicing, going for locally grown organic produce is always the safest and the best. Non-organic varieties are usually doused with toxic pesticides and fertilizers, which you may ingest in full concentration when you use them in juicing.
It’s also important to note that while blenders are perfect for making refreshing smoothies, they’re not recommended for increased nutrients since the very high temperature ends up damaging the juice. Instead, you can make some nutritious foods by using a top-quality juicer. There are several types you can choose from like centrifugal, masticating (slow), and hydraulic juicers.
5. Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs
Eggs have always been one of the favorite snack choices of fitness fanatics because they’re packed with good-quality protein, which is essential to the building, maintenance, and repair of your body tissues, such as your skin, internal organs, and muscles. They’re also full of healthy saturated fats and cholesterol, which help keep your body in tip-top condition at all times.
However, you can put the eggs on your list with tops nutritious foods only if you get them organic and pasture-raised. Your eggs should be sourced from chickens that were raised the way nature intended, meaning, roaming freely outdoors and foraging for food like seeds, green plants, insects, and worms.
In one egg-testing project, Mother Earth News compared the official US Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs with eggs from hens raised on pasture, and found that the latter contains:
- Two-thirds more vitamin A;
- Twice more omega-3 fatty acids;
- Thrice more vitamin E;
- Seven times more beta-carotene.
How To Choose Healthy Eggs
To choose the best-quality organic pasture-raised eggs and to get the most out of them, follow these useful tips:
1. Steer clear of non-organic egg varieties. These eggs are usually sourced from chickens living in confined animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, which are often fattened up with genetically modified grains and soy, and pumped up with antibiotics or synthetic growth enhancers. Ideally, it’s best to source your eggs locally. Check out the nearest food coops and farmers’ markets near you.
2. Know your yolk. Basically, you can tell whether your eggs came from true free-range chickens or not by the color of their yolk. Foraged hens produce eggs with bright orange yolks while dull, pale yellow yolks are a sure sign you’re getting eggs from caged hens that were not allowed to forage for their natural diet.
3. Avoid eggs that have been fortified with omega-3s, vitamin D, or any other nutrient. It’s highly likely that they were sourced from chickens fed with poor-quality, synthetic nutrients, which may have already oxidized.
4. Preferably, consume the yolks as raw as possible. Heat from cooking damages many of the highly perishable nutrients in the yolk and reduces its antioxidant properties by 50 percent. In addition, cholesterol in the yolk can be oxidized with high temperatures, especially when it is in contact with the iron present in the whites, like in scrambled eggs, which contributes to chronic inflammation in your body. Poaching or soft boiling, which keeps the yolk runny, are the healthiest ways to prepare your eggs.
5. Bonus: Pre- and Post-Workout Meal Advice
A high-quality protein (whole food) with a veggie-type carb is an all-time winning combo, regardless if it’s a resistance-training day, an interval-cardio day, or a non-workout day. That said, wait for 40 to 35 minutes and then treat yourself to a spinach or broccoli salad paired with steamed or roasted organic chicken, or boiled organic eggs after a fat-blasting cardio.
But when doing an intense muscle-building workout, consume your post-workout nutritious foods 15-30 minutes later. After strength training, your body tends to need more rapidly absorbed nutrients and a higher glycemic (or fast-released, starchy) carbohydrate. One of the delicious and nutritious foods I take almost every day is a high-quality whey protein with banana.
Guest post by Arrianne Nellaine del Rosario, who is a writer for Mercola.com. She has written various health and fitness content and has also transcribed many in-depth interviews of several experts in the field. Arrianne is currently writing and researching about foods with probiotics and how to add them to your workout meals.