Gold Medal Nutrition: 5 Foods Athletes Love

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You may not be a world-class competitor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eat like one to help you nail your health and fitness goals! For elite athletes, food is a critical part of being able to push their bodies to the limit—slicing milliseconds off world records, snatching that extra kilo, and keeping absolute mental clarity under intense pressure. When it comes to sports nutrition, there’s a huge variation in terms of what different athletes need. But talk to certain groups and teams, and you’ll find even athletes have favorite foods.

Discover the five fierce superfoods that deserve a gold medal. (They may already be tucked away in your fridge or pantry!)

1. Runners Swear by Sweet Potatoes

Distance runners need fuel, and carbs are the quickest and easiest way to keep muscles moving. For many elite runners, overly sweet gels and jelly beans just aren’t able to cut through their nagging hunger on a long run. That’s why they turn to sweet potatoes before lacing up their shoes. Sweet potatoes are not only full of potent antioxidants, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, they also deliver delicious, slightly sweet, slow carbs—perfect for a pickup mid-race. Raisins are another popular—and natural!—choice. They’ve been shown to be just as effective as sports jelly beans in maintaining blood sugar levels in endurance events.

2. Cyclists Swish Beet Juice

Every second counts for cyclists, and the priority is getting oxygen as quickly as possible to hard-working muscles. That’s why you’re likely to spot several pro riders swishing a purple liquid around their mouths before an event. It’s beet juice, which has been shown to shave vital seconds off a finish time. Beet juice contains nitrates, a natural chemical that’s converted to nitric oxide and used by the body to dilate blood vessels. Blood moves more freely when vessels are relaxed, which means it can quickly travel to where it’s needed most—those pumping legs!

3. Soccer Players Recover with Sushi

With a grueling training schedule and quick turnarounds between events, the world’s best soccer players know recovery is key. When players come off the field, they need carbs for fast refueling, and protein to maximize muscle repair. James Collins, sports and exercise nutritionist and adviser to the Great Britain Olympic football team, has been quoted, “It’s important to serve players food they will enjoy. A popular buffet choice is sushi—it hits the perfect balance of protein and carbs for recovery.”

4. Swimmers Start the Day with Oats

Success for swimmers comes down to long, hard hours in a pool focusing on just getting through the yardage, to develop power, speed, and endurance. Training sessions burn crazy amounts of calories (not 12,000 calories, necessarily, but a lot!). Crack-of-dawn workouts can make eating before a training session extremely tough. So what do elite swimmers eat, without missing a minute of their zzz’s? Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD, sports nutrition counselor in the Boston area, says, “The swimmer’s best bet is something that can be eaten while driving to the swimming pool: overnight oats are a great choice!” The healthy breakfast is easy to throw together in the evening and grab the next morning before heading out the door. The carbs from the oats, fruit, and milk help to top up blood sugar levels, and can help novice swimmers get through early morning sets, too.

5. Weightlifters Love Milk

Weightlifting is the ultimate measure of human strength. It’s less about endurance and more about quick, intense bursts of power. Lifters train hard daily, attacking heavier and heavier weights. And even though they don’t need calories for the same reason a runner might, they do need a huge amount of calories to build strong muscles and keep them firing. Ask a weightlifter what they drink after a hard training session? Good old-fashioned milk! These hardcore athletes know it’s the best recovery sports drink. With its perfect combination of carbs and protein (whey and casein), and the branched chain amino acid leucine (to help repair and build muscles), milk’s the perfect choice for growing muscles.

Who knows? With a little inspiration, some hard work, and these eating tips from the pros, perhaps you too could crush a personal record on your next run, swim, or workout!

Gold Medal Nutrition: 5 Foods Athletes Love

Source: Fitbit Blog

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