Whether you're an elite athlete, or just someone who wants to improve your fitness, fueling your body with good quality food will help you feel good while you train and help you recover faster.

There are so many supplements and snack bars available today that it can become totally cumbersome trying to work out what's the best to assist with your training sessions. I always vote for real food first. These seven foods will have you bypassing your pre-workout synthetic supplements for the real deal.

1. Beets

The color and composition of beets say it all — it looks like blood and the heart.

It's great for the circulatory system as a whole, though specifically it’s the nitrates contained in beetroot that researchers are most excited about. Beetroot increases athletic performance by reducing their oxygen consumption and decreasing the time it takes an athlete to reach exhaustion.

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Stock up on beet juice daily for five or so days before a competition or consume as a regular part of your diet to reap the benefits.

2. Maca

An adaptogenic herb found in Peru that's usually found in powder form, Maca has high levels of iron, which is important for oxygen transport in the blood; calcium, which is needed for healthy muscle function; and amino acids, which play various roles in the body, but are particularly great for energy production and muscle recovery.

Maca bolsters energy and stamina, so you can go harder for longer. Add to your smoothies, raw balls, or mix in with your favorite nut butter.

3. Salmon

Packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are well known for their anti-inflammatory properties and for supporting optimal cellular function. Omega-3s also assist with protein synthesis — hello muscle tone and strength!

Aim for 3 servings of salmon a week.

4. Turmeric

Packed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, turmeric helps to prevent oxidative damage during exercise and reduce inflammation in joints. It’s even been shown to assist with arthritis.

Add to your cooking or send fresh turmeric through your juicer.

5. Green Tea

The bioflavanoid, quercetin, which is present in green tea, has been shown to increase VO(2max) (the amount of oxygen you can use) and decrease the time it takes an athlete to reach fatigue.

Chill some green tea in the fridge to consume before your session for a natural pre-workout drink without the crash.

6. Spirulina

The consumption of this member of the blue-green algae family has been a practice among athletes in diverse cultures for years. It’s been known to decrease oxidative stress, which is perfect for recovery.

Additionally, a 2010 study found that spirulina improves time to exhaustion in training, as well as decreases the use of carbs for energy and instead switches you into fat-burning mode. More energy, plus more fat burnt — yes please!

Add spirulina to smoothies or raw balls. Or shot it down first thing in the morning.

7. Full-fat yogurt

Probiotics, found in yoghurt, help to replenish the good bacteria within your gastrointestinal system, which is conducive to health.

Additionally, studies have shown positive results with athletes who supplemented with probiotics. Their immune responses improved, their ability to recover from fatigue was enhanced, and they were better able to maintain the health of their digestive system.

Add yogurt to smoothies or combine with a healthy granola!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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