If your workouts have been suffering lately, it’s time to rethink what you’re having beforehand. Stress, poor nutrition, and a lack of sleep can all rob your energy, but luckily, there are some awesome superfoods that can improve your workouts to give you just the boost you’re looking for. I’m a big fan of functional nutrition, which basically means that you eat foods that provide your body with the exact benefits you’re looking for at any given time.
For instance, if you’re looking to sleep well, you’re certainly not going to have a cup of coffee or an energy drink. You’re likely to reach for more calming foods to help you sleep, right? Well, the same goes for your workouts. I’m sure you know the importance of an energizing meal before a workout, but sometimes, even the best bowl of oatmeal or banana with nut butter just doesn’t cut it.
But what about coffee, you ask? Well, while I love having a cup each morning myself, I don’t rely on caffeine to get me through my workout and you shouldn’t either. Caffeine can quickly tax the adrenals, dehydrate your body, and contribute to inflammation. So instead of having several cups of coffee or a Red Bull before your workout, try using some of nature’s finest raw superfoods and reap the benefits all day long:
Maca isn’t only an energizing superfood that will improve your workouts, but it’s also a great source of protein for your muscles. Maca contains 20 amino acids in just one tablespoon, which is usually all most people need to get results. Maca provides a long, lasting stream of energy and it also reduces stress, inflammation, muscle cramps, and physical exhaustion. You can even use it directly after your workouts to help your muscles recover more quickly. Don’t worry though- maca won’t keep you up all night if you have an evening workout planned. Unlike caffeine, maca is not a stimulant but instead it’s an adaptogen, so it adjusts to your body’s needs to restore a sense of balance. Try maca powder in this Raw and Healthy Vegan Chocolate Smoothie.
Cacao is by far one of the top foods to have right before a workout. It’s high in magnesium, which provides your body with energy and reduces stress at the same time. Cacao is also a wonderful source of antioxidants to relieve inflammation and its theobromine content acts as a mild stimulant to give you plenty of long-lasting energy without the crash of caffeine. Cacao also gives you a brain-boosting dose of dopamine to improve your mood and motivation without any of the additives that processed chocolate contains. Use a tablespoon in a smoothie, an energy bar, or even stirred into your coffee for a rich, delicious mocha.
Spirulina is found in blue green algae and is an amazing source of iron, protein and Vitamin B12. It contains 80 percent of your daily iron requirements, 4 grams of protein, and 150 percent of your daily B12 needs in just one teaspoon. This makes it a fantastic source of nutrients for vegans and for anyone in general. Iron helps deliver oxygen to the blood stream for optimal energy levels and Vitamin B12 is needed for metabolism and energy production, healthy blood and oxygen flow, and to maintain a healthy nervous system. The protein found in spirulina is a great replacement to grains in the diet since it’s less inflammatory and the amino acids found in spirulina can help improve your lean muscle mass. Last but not least, spirulina is rich in chlorophyll so it helps reduce inflammation to improve your workouts around the clock. Try these Healthy Nut-free Spirulina Vegan Sesame Bars.
4. Acai Berries
All berries are fantastic for you, but I’m a fan of acai above the others. Acai is unlike any other fruit out there and is an awesome replacement for other fruits in your diet to get a highe rdose of nutrition. Acai contains omega 3 fatty acids, boosting more than salmon in just one serving. It also contains a large amount of anthocyanins that improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and protect the brain and nervous system. Plus, the fruit tastes like a mix of chocolate and blueberries yet it only contains 2 grams of sugar per serving so it won’t spike your blood sugar. You can use the powder or use the frozen packs found in the frozen food section at the grocery store to make a smoothie or a delicious acai bowl for breakfast.
5. Chia Seeds
Chia helps hold water in the body to prevent dehydration and it contains large amounts of magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and calcium. All of these nutrients are prime fuel for your muscles, your heart, your brain, and your nervous system. Chia is also rich in fiber and potassium so it helps combat bloating that can make workouts uncomfortable. Just one tablespoon per serving is all you need to energize your body, ward off hunger and give you just the boost of energy you’re looking for. Since they’re tasteless they’re also easy to add to just about anything. Try them in these Raw Hemp Chia Seed Bars.
Matcha is one of my very favorite superfoods because it provides energy and reduces stress at the same time. (It pairs wonderfully with maca for this reason FYI.) Matcha is a form of green tea that’s less processed than most types you’ll find at the store. It’s rich in chlorophyll, more so than wheatgrass, spinach, or broccoli, and it’s a fantastic source of antioxidants. Green tea is known to be a top stress-relieving superfood due to high amounts of the amino acid L-theanine, which reduces cortisol in the body and helps the body achieve a sense of balance. When purchasing matcha, always buy pure, ceremonial grade matcha tea without additives. It should be a bright, almost lime green in color – not a ruddy greenish brown color, which indicates it is poorer in quality. Try it in a matcha latte pre-workout in exchange for that second cup of coffee you might be tempted to have.
7. Camu Camu
Camu camu is slowly becoming more popular and I’m so glad because this superfood is one everyone needs more of, if you ask me. Camu camu is not only the highest source of Vitamin C on the planet, but it’s also an incredible brain-booster and energy-booster. The Vitamin C in camu camu helps reduce inflammation, combat fatigue, acts as an anti-fungal, and protects the immune system. Vitamin C is important to prevent muscle cramping, reduce soreness, and can help put that extra pep in your step you need right before a workout. It’s also virtually sugar-free so it’s awesome for your blood sugar levels as well. Plus just one teaspoon a day is all you need to get over 700 percent of your daily Vitamin C needs. Forget the oranges and try some camu camu instead!
I realize superfoods aren’t cheap, but I can’t imagine my day without them now after seeing how much they’ve improved my workouts and recovery, not to mention my mood and overall body composition. Start where you can and add two or three into your day until you get up to having all seven each day. The best part is, you only need a small serving so they last an incredibly long time once you’re able to purchase them. Superfoods are easy to add to a smoothie pre-workout or you can just blend them with some almond milk and ice for a quick energy shake. You can also mix them with dried fruit such as dates to make energy balls or use them however else you like.
Do you use any of these superfoods for your workouts?