Speaking Point: Eating smart can enhance your physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise. For optimal health and exercise performance, you need to consume the ideal foods and fluids as well as select the right time to take in these fuels. Here are my top ten post-exercise foods:
Speaking Point: 1. Baked Potato - Eating whole foods with a high glycemic index (carbohydrates that break down quickly during digestion and release glucose into the bloodstream) has been shown to result in higher muscle glycogen levels after a hard workout than foods with a low glycemic index. Muscle glycogen is the fuel that feeds your muscles. Consume this type of carb within 30 minutes after exercise at two-hour intervals for four hours or more. This timing of consuming post-exercise carbohydrate improves athletic performance versus waiting for two hours. Baked potatoes are also high in potassium, an essential micronutrient. Other high glycemic, but less nutritious, carbohydrates include: white bread, bagels, waffles, pretzels, rice cakes, and low fiber cereals (Cornflakes, Rice Krispies).
Speaking Point: 2. Watermelon is high on the glycemic index, a great source of fluid being 92% water, and a good source of vitamin C, potassium and vitamin A.
3. Almonds contain vitamin E, an antioxidant* shown to reduce cell damage during aerobic/endurance exercise and weight training. It's still unclear whether vitamin E may be helpful in reducing muscle soreness and inflammation during recovery however. Almonds are a good source of protein, magnesium and healthy fats. Fat (limited to 20-35% of the diet) is essential to provide energy and aids in the absorption of essential fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, and K). *Dosages above the recommended intake levels of antioxidants can have potential negative effects.
Speaking Point: 4. Chocolate milk. Recent research studies found low-fat chocolate milk to be the ideal sports recovery drink. It contains the perfect ratio of carbohydrates to protein and outperformed popular "sports drinks". Milk is also 89% water and helps restore fluid balance. It's an excellent source of protein, calcium (important for growth, regulation of muscle contraction, nerve contraction, and nerve conduction), zinc, and vitamin D (required for adequate calcium absorption and good bone health).
Speaking Point: 5. Water - Drink at least 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise. Many athletes don't drink enough fluids during exercise to compensate for fluid losses. You can also get fluid from your fruits and vegetables as they have a high water content. For example, lettuce is 95% water, broccoli 91%, grapefruit 91%, carrot 87%, and apple 84%. Consuming salty foods during meals/snacks will help replace fluid and electrolyte losses.
Speaking Point: 6. Yogurt is high in potassium and 85% water. Potassium is important for fluid and electrolyte balance, nerve transmission, and active transport mechanisms. Eat a diet rich in a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts/seeds, dairy foods, lean meats, and whole grains to maintain healthy levels of this micronutrient. Yogurt is also an excellent source of protein, calcium, zinc, and vitamin D.
Speaking Point: 7. Cantaloupe is rich in vitamin C and ß-carotene (vitamin A). Evidence shows that strenuous and prolonged exercise increases the need for vitamin C and that physical performance can be negatively affected when vitamin C intake is marginal or deficient. These antioxidants play important roles in protecting cell membranes from damage by free radicals. Theories suggest that long-term exercise produces a constant "oxidative stress" on the muscles and other cells since exercise increases your oxygen consumption by 10-15 times. However, studies have shown that due to habitual exercise, a well-trained athlete has a more developed 'built-in' antioxidant system than a sedentary person.
Speaking Point: 8. Beans are high in B vitamins. This micronutrient is important to produce optimum energy and to build and repair muscle tissue. B vitamins are found in whole unprocessed foods. Processed "white" carbohydrates have a lower B vitamin content. Beans are also a good source of protein, potassium, iron, zinc, and magnesium (essential for regulating neuromuscular and cardiovascular functions). Suggested foods: hummus dip, tofu, baked beans, black bean soup, and whole bean burritos.
Speaking Point: 9. Clams are a very good source of heme iron. (They're right up there with beef liver.) Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin and found in animal foods. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources of iron. Iron is required for its oxygen-carrying capacity. An iron deficiency can impair muscle function, normal function of the nervous and immune systems, and can limit your work capacity during exercise. Clams also top the list as a source of B-12. One serving of clams (three ounces) has 14 times more vitamin B12 than a fortified breakfast cereal with 100% of the DV (Daily Value)! A deficiency in B12 can result in anemia and reduced endurance performance.
Speaking Point: 10. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food. Three ounces of oysters has 10 times more zinc than a 3-oz. serving of beef. Zinc is necessary for growth, building and repair of muscle tissue, energy production, and immune status. Meat has up to four times more zinc than non-animal sources. A deficiency can negatively affect health and physical performance and is most often seen in vegetarians or people who consume diets low in animal protein. Other good sources of zinc include red meat, poultry, nuts, crab, lobster, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.