Check out Jean Briggs’ insightful and informative blog about the top foods you should be eating when working out.
To ensure you have good energy levels for your weekly training, you need to be eating the right food. Not only do your food choices determine your performance, but they also affect your safety and recovery post-workout.
Training requires complete lifestyle change. Everything you eat before exercising is just as important as what you eat after a session. In order to properly fuel yourself for your workouts, we’ve outlined some of the best, most nutritious food (with vegan alternatives where necessary) to help you reach your fitness goals.
Whether you’re a meat eater or not, beans and legumes are wonderful sources of protein. They lack the saturated fats that are normally found in meat products, thus much healthier without losing out on protein content. Plus, they contain soluble fibre, which keeps you fuller longer, and as we’ve said in a past blog post on Auro, it helps to prevent bloating.
Great in smoothies, cereal and sometimes even salads, berries are best known for their antioxidants that aid with post-training recovery and muscle repair. They also help preserve muscle strength as you age.
Rather than reaching for an electrolyte drink after your workout, have a banana instead. It’s also got potassium, which balances out the fluid in your body and lowers blood pressure. Eating a banana before a workout will also protect you from muscle cramps and spasms.
These veggies refer to the often dark, flowery looking greens in the cabbage family, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale and spinach. They’re packed with antioxidants to protect from free radical damage during strenuous exercise, not to mention calcium and vitamins A, K and B6 to prevent inflammation. The iron content also helps carry more oxygen to muscles as you’re working out.
Other than its high protein content, chicken is packed with selenium, which helps protect your muscles against possible free-radical damage from exercise. Additionally, chicken has the B vitamin niacin, which regulates fat burning as you’re doing cardio. The breast is the leanest part of the chicken and the most versatile, with plenty of ways to prepare, cooking-wise.
Vegan alternative: Tempeh (gluten-free) or Seitan
According to experts on Veg Facts, Seitan has the closest texture chicken breast, with the highest amount of protein and carbs, and the least amount of fat compared to tempeh or firm tofu. Access to seitan may be limited, depending on your location, so tempeh would be the next best thing in terms of protein content. It’s also gluten free.
All that healthy eating might push your cravings towards something sweet. Let yourself indulge with some dark chocolate, which contains flavanols that help with inflammation, lower the risk of blood clots and improve overall heart health. An ounce a day is recommended for portion control. It’s also worth noting that dark chocolate is vegan friendly.
A complete protein has all the nine essential amino acids we need but aren’t naturally produced by the human body, as reiterated by Runner’s World. Complete proteins are often found in animal products, with eggs being the most complete food routine, right after human breast milk. Such amino acids help promote muscle recovery, so start the day right with a couple of eggs.
Vegan alternative: Fat-Free Greek Yogurt or Firm Tofu (both gluten-free)
If you’re looking for a meal replacement, firm tofu is the way to go. Just crumble it up, fry and season it and it’s almost like scrambled egg whites. As for a cooking or baking substitute, experts at The Spruce Eats say that fat-free Greek yogurt is a healthier alternative low in moisture and has the same binding abilities as eggs, with more protein and the addition of priobiotics to support gut health.
Omega 3 fatty acids are known for reducing inflammation as well as cleansing arteries, all of which are essential for anyone in training. Salmon is rich in omega-3’s, and it’s also packed with lean, muscle-building protein.
Vegan alternative: Chia Seeds
As stated on women’s wellness site Pretty Me, chia seeds have the highest concentration of omega-3s in the plant world. Additionally, they offer a decent amount of protein. They’re a versatile superfood that can be made into breakfast puddings, or simply added into smoothies, cereals and salads.
Whole Grain Carbs
When it comes to training, carbs are absolutely key. Higher intensity or frequency of working out requires more fuel, which means including a serving of carbs in main meals. The best way to increase your carb intake is by eating whole grains, from 100% whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, brown rice pasta and steel-cut oats for those that are gluten free. Supplying more energy than refined and processed grains, whole grains are also good for those that are weight conscious.
Eat well and train hard, everyone!