5 Foods that Improve Athletic Performance

Getting an edge at the gym through pre-workout supplements that are packed with high amounts of caffeine and other stimulants that are not good for your long term health has become a popular strategy. These pre-workouts have harsh side effects such as digestive issues, liver issues, and its dependency for a workout. Incorporating specific foods throughout your day and before your workout have been shown to enhance your endurance and strength.

1. Beets

Beets provide a number of health benefits through their high fiber and polyphenols that help to prevent diseases such as cancer and heart disease. On top of these benefits, beets are absolutely loaded in compounds called nitrates that help give you a boost during your workout.

One review of studies found that when consumed, beetroot juice improved time-to-exhaustion and cardiorespiratory performance. (1) Nitrates, like those found in beets, have a really beneficial effect on your blood vessels. Nitrates are converted into nitric oxide, which promotes vasodilation of blood vessels. Simply put it, this means your blood vessels open up wider, which promotes an increased blood flow to allow more oxygen to fuel your cells. Optimal performance was found to be 2-3 hours after consumption, so it is recommended you consume beetroot juice ~90 minutes before your workout.

2. Garlic

Garlic is a spice that was used as one of the first foods improve athletic performance. Ancient Greek athletes, who competed in the Olympics, were given garlic before their competitions. (2) Garlic is believed to improve athletic performance by activating an enzyme that converts L-arginine into nitric oxide. In turn, this supports increased dilation of your blood vessels to have a similar effect as beets. (3) By consuming garlic a few hours prior to an athletic competition, you allow your body to best absorb its beneficial effects.

3. Arugula

All leafy greens are an excellent source of nitrates. However, due to their high-fiber structure, they are not as readily available as those found in beet juice. Regular consumption of these greens can help maintain high levels of circulating nitrates. This helps to regulate blood pressure and, in the long term, help support a workout. Specifically, arugula is the leafy green with the highest levels on nitrates, which makes it the best choice when addressing athletic performance. (4)

4. Salmon

Salmon is a fish that is considered to be one of the healthier foods on the planet, as it helps support a number of functions including your brain and cardiovascular health. Most of these benefits come from its rich source of omega 3s in its oil. However, salmon’s benefits go beyond its omega 3s. Salmon is high in a protein call CoQ10. (5) Studies have shown that people supplemented with this enzyme improved aerobic power, anaerobic threshold, exercise performance, and/or recovery after exercise in both trained athletes and untrained individuals. (6)

5. Green Tea

Green tea is most notably touted for its powerful anti-cancer properties through its high concentration of antioxidants. One set of antioxidants found in green tea are catechins. Studies have shown that regular consumption and supplementation of these compounds is linked to improved endurance in humans. Also, animal studies have shown that green tea promotes an improvement in muscular strength as well. (7,8)

Bottom Line

Research has shown that a healthy diet has a number of benefits on athletic performance, body figure, and long-term health. Ditch the supplements that damage many facets of your body and incorporate the natural sources that give you the same boost!