Monday, September 4, 2017
Athletes are often adventurous when it comes to experimenting with weird or wild foods to fuel their bodies and sports. In fact, some are rather fanatical about whipping up power-packed concoctions pre- and post-workout. But let’s face it, shakes and bars get boring.
Here are a few surprising natural fruits, veggies and ancient grains that could shake you out of a fitness-food funk while helping with muscle damage, cramps, endurance and more.
Tart cherries: Recovery aid
Montmorency tart cherries are bright red for a reason. The stunning color comes from the fruit’s concentration of anthocyanins, a type of phytonutrient thought to help reduce muscle damage and strength loss, essentially acting as a recovery aid after intense exercise.
“Weekend warriors and exercise enthusiasts, like myself, are looking for more natural food sources to aid recovery,” nutritionist and acclaimed running and triathlon coach Matt Fitzgerald, who has incorporated Montmorency tart cherry juice into his routine, told GrindTV.
“I add Montmorency tart cherry juice, frozen tart cherries and Greek yogurt to my pre-workout smoothie and drink the second serving as soon as I get home.
“Studies have shown that cyclists and marathon runners who drink two 8-ounce servings of tart cherry juice daily had accelerated recovery, reduction of exercise-induced inflammation and maintained muscle function,” Fitzgerald says.
How to eat it: Tart cherries come in dried, frozen and liquid forms year-round. You can make your own gummies, add cherry juice to a blended drink or throw some dried pieces in trail mix.
Pickel juice: Muscle de-cramper
The thought of downing a cup of pickle juice isn’t exactly appetizing. But if you’ve ever suffered a killer leg cramp and need a quick fix, you might think twice about this pungent liquid which has proven highly effective for the immediate relief of muscle cramping.
Seizing muscles were once tied to a lack of replenishing electrolytes during exercise, but researchers now believe it’s not just pickle juice’s electrolyte concentration that eases cramps, but rather the veggie’s acid properties which triggers a reflex when hitting the back of the throat. This signals the nervous system to shut down overactive neurons that actually cause cramps. Yeah, weird, but apparently it works when you’re in a pickle.
How to eat it: The Pickle Juice Company sells pickle brine as a translucent liquid in 8- and 16-ounce bottles or as an extra-strength shot, with a formula boasting 10 times more electrolytes than the average sports drink.
Cacao: Metabolism mobilizer
Hard-to-pronounce cacao, the main ingredient in dark chocolate, is actually incredibly easy to love. This ancient bean is one of the most nutritionally complex foods on earth, but the high magnesium content in this raw food may be the most interesting component for athletes.
Magnesium plays a big part in improving blood flow and metabolizing of adenosine triphoshate (ATP), which is critical in both aerobic and anaerobic functions that active folks know well.
How to eat it: Buy organic raw cacao powder, which is made by cold-pressing the whole bean to preserve its key vitamins, minerals and enzymes. Brew it as a wintertime alternative to sugar-laden chocolate milk; add it to a banana-based smoothie; or throw in some cacao “nips” to healthy baked goods.