Proteins are used to build muscle and carbohydrates are used for energy. That’s the end of the story for some athletes. Many of us seem to view the world of nutrition in black and white. Lost in the gray area is a powerful array of vitamin and nutrient rich vegetables that have the potential to take your training to bold new heights.
So I propose that we add a dash of color to your plate of chicken with brown rice. It’s time to go green!
Here are several super foods that can be added to your routine immediately to balance your diet and maximize your athletic potential.
Green Tea – Green tea contains powerful antioxidants that help to cleanse the body and burn fat. Green tea may also potentially fight off cancer and heart disease in addition to preventing diabetes, stroke, dementia and high cholesterol. Research has shown that green tea also reduces carbohydrate utilization during exercise, which will allow you to train harder and run faster.
Spinach – There’s a reason why Popeye ate this stuff. With only 40 calories per cup, yet packed with vitamins and minerals, adding spinach to your menu will definitely make you “strong to the finish.” A study conducted by The Daily Telegraph has found that eating 300g of spinach “reduced the amount of oxygen needed to power muscles by as much as five percent when exercising”. Research has also shown that the antioxidants found in this leafy powerhouse may help to fight off ovarian, prostate, and other forms of cancer, improve brain function, increase cardiovascular endurance and more.
Asparagus – This veggie has so many benefits that it would be nearly impossible to list them all here. Some of the highlights include its role in preventing birth defects and increasing fertility and its role in lowering the risk of heart, kidney and a slew of other diseases. Asparagus also helps to reduce pain and inflammation, ease menstrual cramps, and aid with depression. It’s even considered an aphrodisiac!
Artichokes –These may not be the prettiest vegetables on the shelf but it’s what’s on the inside that matters, right? And boy is there a lot on the inside! Artichokes are a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and vitamins A and C. Artichokes have also been shown to help lower cholesterol, reduce nausea, ease abdominal pain, and cure digestive disorders. Artichoke extract has also been shown to help prevent alcohol-induced hangovers in case you have one too many and still want to train the next day!
Broccoli – Another fiber-rich antioxidant source that helps to ease digestion and reduce the risk of various medical diseases and symptoms. Research has also shown that broccoli may play a role in reducing hormone-related cancers and ease the symptoms of the common cold.
Cucumber – Cucumbers reduce the risk of kidney, bladder, liver, and pancreatic disease. They have also been shown to help lower blood pressure and curb cravings. Cucumbers are also rich in enzymes that help the body digest protein which will make it easier to pack on lean muscle mass.
Cabbage – Aside from being a great side for corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day, cabbage is useful for easing digestion, preventing stomach ulcers, curing headaches, and reducing the effects of arthritis, heart disease, skin, and eye disorders.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg. Honorable mentions go out to turnips, collard greens, green peas, green beans, green peppers, and green apples.
Millions of dollars are spent on supplements each year, but Mother Nature has already provided the ultimate vitamin shop. So save yourself some green at the pharmacy and start incorporating a few of these superfoods into your diet today!
Darrell W. Butler is a Rutgers University graduate and a Parisi Speed School Certified Sports Performance Enhancement Coach. He holds Personal Trainer Certifications through ACE and NFPT and specialty nutrition and group fitness certifications including Training for Warriors, ISCA Kickboxing, Insanity, TRX and IndoRow. He has trained, managed and consulted for top fitness companies worldwide and has written for various publications including his Food, Fitness and Music Lifestyle blog DoubleFML.com.