8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS

2. SPINACH

Spinach is perhaps the most versatile leafy vegetable. It’s also one of the most nutritionally complete foods. Loaded with vitamins A, C and K, a variety of minerals, and an array of phytonutrients, spinach earns a Nutrition Data Completeness Score (NDCS; a US measure of how complete a food is with respect to twenty-three nutrients) of 91, six points higher than kale. For endurance athletes, spinach is one of the best food sources of dietary nitrate next to beets. Nitrate enhances endurance performance by increasing blood flow to the muscles and helping the body’s cells create energy more efficiently.

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3. OLIVE OIL

The Sky professional cycling team consumes so much olive oil, they even have their own brand, Team Sky Extra-Virgin Olive Oil! The team’s nutritionists believe strongly in its endurance benefits. And, worldwide, elite endurance athletes consider it a vital part of their diet. Why? Antioxidants in olive oil, especially hydroxytyrosol, prevent oxidative damage to blood vessel walls and other tissues. Other antioxidants, including oleocanthal, fight inflammation in a similar way to ibuprofen and it also acts on the neuromuscular system to support endurance fitness.

4. GARLIC

Science suggests garlic may boost endurance fitness and performance. In a study at James Madison University, a group of students took a graded exercise test. Half of them ate garlic extract beforehand. Fourteen days later, the test was repeated, but the treatments were reversed. On average, the students’ VO2 max scores were 2.7 per cent higher when they ate garlic. While you can’t expect cooking with garlic to lead to major performance breakthroughs, it’s the cumulative effect of eating foods, such as garlic, that contribute to endurance fitness and performance breakthroughs.

8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS

5. TEFF

Injera, a spongy bread made from the grain teff, is a staple in Ethiopia, the world’s second-greatest running nation. The millet-like grain contains 50 per cent more iron than whole wheat. Ethiopians eat little red meat, but a study by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute found only two out of 101 elite Ethiopian runners tested was iron deficient. Here, researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University added teff to the diets of 11 recreational female runners and found it elevated their daily intake of iron from around 10.7mg (the recommended intake is 15mg) to 18.5mg. TIP: To make teff porridge, roast some teff in a saucepan. Add 1.5 cups of water for every half cup of teff and boil until it’s thick.

6. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a favourite training food of elite endurance athletes worldwide. Low in calories but rich in vitamins A and C, plus antioxidants beta-carotene and lycopene, they also aid muscle recovery. In 2012, researchers at Stockholm University found tomato juice significantly reduced post-workout oxidative stress in a group of non-athletes. A year later, Greek scientists found that endurance athletes who replaced their sports drink with tomato juice, during and after training for two months, had significantly less muscle damage and inflammation.

8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS

7. CHERRIES

Tart cherries have the most powerful anti-inflammatory effects of any food, thanks to high levels of anthocyanin antioxidants. By controlling inflammation, cherries may accelerate post-workout recovery, increase training capacity and enhance performance by reducing muscle pain. Most research has used tart cherry juice because it has higher levels of anti-inflammatory compounds. In a 2010 study in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, marathon runners had less muscle damage after a marathon when they’d consumed tart cherry juice. They also had lower levels of inflammation and recovered faster.Drinking cherry juice for several days before an event may get you to the finish line faster and you may feel less sore the next morning. Research also shows drinking tart cherry juice during periods of intense training can help reduce muscle damage and boost recovery.

8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS

8. SWEET POTATOES

More than almost any other food, sweet potatoes are gaining fans among elite endurance athletes. American professional cyclist Ally Stacher has even developed her own sweet potato based energy bar called Ally’s Bar. Racers eat these tubers because they’re a rich, wholesome source of carb that’s nutritionally well-rounded compared to some other high-carb foods. Sweet potato is rich in vitamins A and C, fibre, and the antioxidant beta-carotene. Their NDCS of 65 is about 20 points higher than whole grains. TIP: Cook until soft, thencombine with other ingredients in a blender to make a quick soup.

8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS
8 SUPRISE ENDURANCE SUPERFOODS

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