Superfoods are used for a variety of pre and post-workout reasons, to help turbo-boost energy levels, aid with recovery after intense exercise or reduce inflammation and muscle pain, if you’ve over-exerted.
This list of five exercise-enhancing superfoods, and how to use them, will help you get the best out of your workout.
Organic Maca powder is thought to increase energy levels and endurance, making it the ultimate superfood to boost your performance while exercising. Maca is an adaptogen, which helps to enhance the body’s ability to cope with stress and fatigue. It can also help you to recuperate and repair damage to the body, caused by the strain of vigorous exercise.
The Maca plant originates from Peru and has a long history of medicinal and culinary use in South America. Maca powder is derived from the dried root of the plant. It’s a popular supplement used by bodybuilders and athletes as it’s thought to help with muscle gain along with increasing strength (though these claims are not yet scientifically proven.)
Add maca powder to your favourite drink (this works particularly well with rice milk) or blend into a smoothie.
Curcumin, the active constituent of Turmeric that provides its distinctive yellow colour, has been proven to help with recovery after exercise, due to its powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
Turmeric has been shown to deliver outstanding support to the heart, with some experts claiming that it promotes a similar effect on the cardiovascular system as aerobic exercise.
Turmeric is also gradually replacing caffeine as a healthier way to boost adrenal function before a workout. While caffeine supplements are thought to constrict vascular dilation and flow, turmeric has no such adverse effects, making it a more sensible pre-workout choice.
Also, Turmeric can be added to soups and smoothies, made into a comforting tea, added to rice, tossed with roasted vegetables and used as a base ingredient in curries.
Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever favoured by some athletes as a method of reducing muscle pain, post exercise. Both raw and heat-treated Ginger have been found to be effective in this capacity, with raw Ginger producing a slightly greater effect.
Taking a regular Ginger supplement may reduce muscle soreness after exercising and is a safe and cost-effective alternative to over the counter pain medications.
Fresh or powdered Ginger can be added to a range of home baking or stir-fry recipes. You can also stir it into a smoothie, sprinkle on your favourite hot drink or take it as a dietary supplement.
Chia seeds have almost double the protein found in other seeds and grains, along with five times the calcium found in milk and double the potassium of bananas.
As athletes need to maintain strong and healthy bones, a daily portion of chia seeds after a workout is a great choice, easy for the body to absorb and convenient to consume.
Grab a handful as a snack or sprinkle over a stir-fry, salad or smoothie.
Cacao powder is the purest form of chocolate and follows a different manufacturing process to cocoa, as the beans are fermented and cold-pressed in a low-impact method that preserves as many natural enzymes as possible. Raw cacao powder is not roasted at high temperatures like its cousin cocoa powder either, so the natural enzymes, polyphenols and minerals remain present at consumption.
Cacao powder is great for athletes as it is proven to lower inflammation. It also helps those who want to stick to a low-sugar diet or weight loss plan alongside their exercise regime, as it contains the same mood-enhancing benefits as chocolate, without the addition of preservatives, dairy products and refined sugars.
Add raw cacao powder to home baking or a favourite smoothie.
Additional energy-boosting foods
Along with these five effective superfoods, great options to boost your workout also include dates, sunflower seeds and pumpkins seeds. All three options are easy-to-grab snacks, packed full of protein to help repair damage along with iron to help pump blood around the body for increased energy.
Pumpkin seeds are also known for their anti-inflammatory properties, to help repair sports injuries, whilst dates are rich in potassium, helping the body recover after strenuous exercise.