Healthy Foods for Endurance Athletes
With the recent “clean eating” diet trend, many foods and food groups have unfairly been cast aside with the label of “bad” or “dirty.” However, most of these forbidden foods contain beneficial nutrients that are important for athletes. When consumed in moderation, the healthy foods listed below do not have to be banished from the athlete’s diet.
Gone are the days that eggs are verboten because of their high cholesterol levels. A serving of eggs contains loads of healthy fat, Vitamin A, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, Vitamin K, folate, Vitamin B12, calcium, copper, selenium, manganese, and zinc.
Additionally, dietary cholesterol has been shown to have little to no effect on levels of blood cholesterol, meaning egg yolks are off the “bad” list. In fact, the fat in egg yolks promotes the absorption of many nutrients. Experts recommend eating no more than 1 -2 eggs per day.
True mayonnaise (also called aioli) is traditionally made from raw egg yolk, olive oil, and lemon juice, or vinegar. In its purest form, mayo provides important nutrients such as choline, selenium, vitamin D, and vitamin E, and is also a source of healthy fats, especially when made from olive or other nutritionally dense oils. When consumed in moderation (1 – 2 TBSP every few days), this condiment is a great supplement for the athlete’s diet. Check out this recipe to make your own.
Bacon has unfairly received a bad reputation as an unhealthy food, due to its high fat content. In reality, however, bacon is fairly low-calorie, weighing in at only 43 calories per slice. A nutrient-dense food, bacon is a rich source of protein, thiamin, niacin, Vitamin B12, Zinc, Vitamin B6, riboflavin, phosphorous, pantothenate, magnesium, and iron. Interestingly, bacon also has a protein to fat ratio of 4:1, which is the highest protein to fat ratio of any other meat or fish.
Wheat is perhaps one of the most demonized foods in recent years, yet unless a person has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, studies have shown there is no reason to avoid whole grain wheat. In all actuality, wheat contains healthy fiber, important nutrients (such as magnesium, Vitamin B6, and iron), and is a great source of protein.
Unnecessarily eliminating healthy foods like wholesome wheat products from a runner’s diet can lead to under eating and improper fueling, which is far worse than many of the supposed health problems that are caused by this grain.
Many athletes incorrectly assume that a salad sans dressing is the healthiest option. However, most of the important vitamins and minerals that salads provide are fat soluble, meaning including a source of fat with their consumption will aid in the absorption of these nutrients.
While oil based dressings are typically preferable, even options such as ranch or bleu cheese are allowable, in moderation (1 – 2 TBSP, once or twice per week.)
Often eschewed as a “junk food,” chocolate loving athletes can now rejoice that their favorite sweet is considered healthy. New research suggests that dark chocolate contains anti-inflammatory compounds that promote a lowered blood pressure, less stress, lower body weight, and improved cardiovascular health. The bad news? A moderate serving is only 1 -2 ounces.
The so-called nectar of the Gods is not as unhealthy as certain diet plans will lead you to believe. Recent studies have proven that wine (specifically dry, red wine) improves cardiovascular health and may even have long term benefits for endurance.
Additionally, regular wine drinkers who consumed 1 – 2 four ounce glasses of wine per day were found to live longer, have a lower risk of heart attack, a lower risk of heart disease, reduced risk of Type-2 Diabetes, reduced risk of stroke, lowered risk of cataracts, drastically reduced risk of colon cancer, and have a slower rate of neurological aging!
Have you ever found it surprising that races have beer at the finish line? Now you can imbibe post-race with a clear conscious because beer has been found to be beneficial for recovery after hard efforts. Light beers (which are the ones typically served after races) are approximately 90% water, which aids in rehydration, and they also contain protein and carbohydrates.
The alcohol found in beer has the same profile as wine, which also means some of the heart healthy benefits can be obtained by knocking back a cold one.
Full Fat Dairy
During the 90’s and early 2000’s many nutrition experts touted the benefits of low fat foods, including dairy. However, now scientists and nutritionists are taking a second look at dairy products and reconsidering them in the form that nature intended.
Full fat dairy can lead to feeling fuller longer, which is especially important on long run or long ride days. European studies have also suggested that whole milk may reduce the risk of obesity and diabetes, as well as improve cardiovascular health.
Healthy Foods for Endurance Athletes