How Superfoods Help Your Fitness Journey
What are Superfoods?
The truth is, there are no set criteria for what is or isn’t a superfood. Superfoods also don’t have their own food category, like ‘fish’ and ‘vegetables’ do. A ‘Superfood’ is fundamentally a marketing term for food types that are thought to be highly nutritious and great for your health. The majority are plant based and are packed with antioxidants, healthy fats, fibre and vitamins; and the first set of Superfoods identified came from Michael Van Straten’s 1992 cookbook named - you guessed it - Superfoods.
Depending on the nutritionist and dietician that you talk to, the number of Superfoods that they recognise ranges from 10 to 50. The truth is, a food is only super for you if it is relevant to your core health objectives. So to help you get the most effective food sources that match your core objectives, we have listed some of the Superfoods you should try:
How to Build Lean Muscle? With Superfoods...
If you are looking to build lean muscle, then your diet is everything. The core difference between lean muscle and bulk, is the speed that your body converts protein into muscle mass, and the fitness program that you are working to. The foods you eat, really play a big part in giving you the lean muscle aesthetics that you are looking for. Try to incorporate these five foods into your diet:
Although you often find acai in supermarket shops in a powder form down a non-refrigerated aisle, acai is actually a Brazilian ‘superfruit’ and naturally looks similar to a blueberry. It is rich in anthocyanin, which boosts your blood flow, and is rich in anti-inflammatory antioxidants.
Steel Cut Oats
Packed with fibre, Steel Cut Oats are great for people looking to build lean muscle. The low fat content in oats combined with the slow digesting properties make it the ideal breakfast if you have an early morning work out planned. A portion of steel cut oats will help you feel fuller for longer.
It would surprise you to learn that there is twice the amount of potassium in an Avocado than there is in a banana. Similar to digesting oats at breakfast, smashing avocados at lunch is a great way of feeling fuller for longer at lunch. This will help you power through afternoon workouts.
One of the most concentrated non-meat proteins that you can eat. A small cup of lentils mixed into your meal plans will give you the proteins for lean muscle build and more importantly muscle recovery after a workout. They can be bland in taste, so you might have to get creative if you want to enjoy eating them.
Supercharged with vitamins, antioxidants and other key minerals, Watercress could have fit into any fitness objective diet. A cup of watercress only offers up 4 calories to the body, and on top of its lean muscle building benefits is packed with zeaxanthin and lutein, both of which are heavy hitting cancer-fighting phytochemicals.
How to Build Bulk Muscle? With Superfoods...
A huge part of building bulk muscle is done in the gym. There is no replacement for more weight training, and repetition on heavier weights, after all the heavier the weight that you lift, the stronger your body becomes, and bulky muscle mass is the key to a strong body. But you have to feed your body the right foods. Try to incorporate these four foods into your diet:
The most obvious component of a muscle building food plan is Eggs. Incredibly concentrated in protein, all nine of the essential amino acids, and vitamin rich too, eggs are the key to getting high levels of protein into your body ready for your strength training full body workout.
Supercharged with protein, fibre and flavonoids Black Beans are great for incorporating into muscle building post-workout meals. Flavonoids are antioxidants that help blood flow, and will aid in reoxygenating your muscles quickly, to help delay lactic acid, and give you the ability to reach the last reps in your sets.
Having twice the protein of normal yoghurt, Greek Yoghurt is a portable and easy to consume protein source. Some of the best athletes in the world consume greek yoghurt in the short hours after their workouts, to speed up the muscle recovery and general body recovery. It also helps that it tastes pretty good too.
This food can make your gains or it can break your gains if you don’t consume it in moderation. Peanut Butter is rich in Arginine, Protein and Amino Acids. It is a food type which converts protein to energy and fuels the muscles you are training. While it hosts all of these positives, it is high in sugar and trans-fats, so should be consumed in moderation.
How to get Joint & Body Flexibility? With Superfoods...
Not everyone is looking to bulk up and become the next Eddie Hall when they set themselves a fitness program, for some people it is about becoming a more flexible yogi, or maintaining suppleness in the body as they get older. If you have joint and flexibility goals then you should adjust your diet accordingly. Try to incorporate these four foods into your diet:
Fundamentally, Prunes are dried plums, and still sit within the fruit family. High in polyphenols,prunes, have great bone building and joint strengthening qualities perfect for flexibility and softer fitness goals. They help boost bone density and are a key dietary element if you are working against the impacts of osteoarthritis.
A food that only started hitting our supermarket shelves in the last couple of years, Bok Choy is essentially a Chinese cabbage. Like the more traditional cabbage that we are used to, it is pretty neutral in taste, but the key difference is that bok choy is packed with calcium perfect for protecting your bones.
Possibly the most strange health food to be popularised recently is Flaxseed. Why?! Because flax is, in the textile world, known as linen - which is the same thing our underpants are made from. But if you sprinkle flaxseed over your yoghurt, or cold cereal, you body gets an incredible plant omega 3 boost which promotes heart health and blood flow.
Similar to watercress in that this food could fit into any fitness diet plan, Shiitake Mushrooms are incredibly important in fighting cancerous cells, and lowering your body's cholesterol levels. But more than that, the high level of sterols, lipids and terpenoids make it perfect for joint and body flexibility. Plus they’re tasty.
High Intensity Cardio
If you are looking to become fitter in training for a high intensity cardio event, such as rowing, boxing or cycling where it is all about grinding out as much effort as possible to the final second or the finish line. You need foods that are rich in energy and minerals but low in trans-fats. Try to incorporate these four foods into your diet:
It is no coincidence that Spinach was Popeye’s secret weapon. Spinach is supercharged with Vitamin K, which is a key coagulant for the blood, and more importantly helps with blood flow and oxygen supply around the body. It is versatile as a food too, but the key is to cook it as little as possible otherwise the nutritional value is lost.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals to the body’s function, it is used in over 300 chemical reactions right across the body. Brown rice is one of the best sources of magnesium, and helps the body convert food to energy as quickly as possible.
Aside from helping you to keep your immune system strong and formidable against disease, a 3oz serving of Oysters gives your body a third of the iron that it needs each day. Iron is the key mineral that helps your blood transport oxygen to organs, muscles and tissues; when you are looking for maximum muscle use iron will help you avoid feeling the lactic acid burn for longer.
It is a little bit like the unathletic kid at school. It is normally the last fruit to be picked out of the fruit bowl. But it shouldn’t be. Kiwi fruit is high in vitamin C among other essentials that are necessary to reduce muscle inflammation, and to combat the effects of asthma to enable you to take that big deep breath as you push through your cardio drills. One a day will keep your body battling in the gym for longer.
Superfood For A Healthy Lifestyle
We don’t all go to the gym to achieve chiseled bodies of iron, or to high Olympic level gymnasts, for many of us, our fitness programme is build around giving us the tools that we need to live a healthy lifestyle, so that we aren’t out of breath doing the garden, or if we have to chase our rogue dog down the street. If this is you, try to incorporate these four foods into your diet:
It doesn’t matter whether you classify it as a fruit or a vegetable at the end of the day, tomatoes are Superfoods. They are supercharged with lycopene, which apart from giving the tomato its red colour, keeps your heart heavy and is most recognised for helping to protect you from having a stroke.
These alpha-linolenic acid rich nuts are great for snacking on between meals if you aren’t quite creative enough to work out how to incorporate them into your three meals a day. Alpha-linolenic acid is key for promoting a healthy cognitive function, and is as close to real life ‘brain-power’ as you can get while helping you with your general coordination.
For some Brussel Sprouts are the worst thing on the plate at Christmas with an inevitable reputation for being a laxative, for others, they taste great. Sprouts are rich in glucosinolates which are key for combating cancer and detoxifying our bodies. So while you might not like sprouts it is definitely worth eating them semi regularly as part of a broader meal.
As one of the most famous Superfoods out there, Blueberries should be a key part of any healthy person's meal plan. Blueberries are packed with minerals and vitamins that provide all round benefits to the body but have specially positive impacts when it comes to boosting communication between brain cells, and reducing inflammation in the body and its muscles.
The simple fact is, regardless of what your fitness goals are or how often you go to the gym, you should be endeavouring to eat as healthily and holistically as possible to give your body the best opportunity to grow, develop, recover and improve over a long period of time. Superfoods are key to doing this, so start incorporating them in your diet.
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