By: Michele Wolfson
The best way to get fit is a balance of a healthy diet and exercise. Any doctor will tell you that this is a foolproof way to achieve this goal. Popping a daily vitamin is definitely beneficial, but when it comes right down to it- eating real food is a lot more valuable then gobbling down supplements.
Besides, you can get most, if not all, of the nutrients essential to good health by selecting the right combination of foods. You just have to know where to look. The right fitness foods speed your results and make you healthier, too. Ready to eat your way to a better body? These 9 great foods and drinks are guaranteed to make any type of exercise you do more effective - long after you've broken a sweat.
- Papaya and Pineapple Juice: Both of these tropical fruits are loaded with bromelain and papain, enzymes that not only help break down proteins for digestion but also have anti-inflammatory properties to speed up your post-workout recovery.
- Eggs: The edible egg is still incredible after all these years. Hard-boiled eggs are most convenient, but it's also easy to scramble a few in the a.m. and enjoy them with a slice of toast. Eat all parts of the egg and don't sweat the fat: It's healthy and filling.
- Chocolate Milk: Refresh and rebuild simultaneously. Some studies say that the best sports drink may come from a cow. British researchers found that milk does a better job than water or sports drinks at rehydrating the body after exercise. This might be shocking, but milk has more electrolytes and potassium. The addition of chocolate gives milk a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat for speedy muscle recovery. For optimum benefit, make sure it's pure cocoa powder and not the syrup stuff.
- Greek Yogurt: Consuming a 5.3 ounce container of Greek yogurt is a great treat before a workout, especially for lifters. It's easy to take with you on the go and it's packed with protein. It has more than double amount of protein compared to the regular yogurt and is a great source of good carbs, perfectly suited for your post-exercise energy requirements. Be sure to skip yogurts with added fruit and sugar. To add flavor, drop in a few berries or nuts. If you prefer cottage cheese to yogurt, it will also do the trick.
- Peanut Butter Sandwich: Mixing complex carbohydrates and protein is smart, especially before a strenuous workout, because they provide energy and help build muscle. Try eating whole-wheat bread with peanut butter.
- Pasta: My father is a physician and an avid cyclist. He feels that carb loading is essential the night before a big ride, so he eats a bowl of pasta for dinner. However, if you really want a great source of fuel, make sure you combine a complex carbohydrate with a protein source. I would suggest a big bowl of whole-wheat (or quinoa) pasta with a protein like cheese or grilled shrimp in order to regulate your sugar levels.
- Coffee: Instead of drinking caffeinated drinks that are loaded with sugars, go for a cup of Joe instead. University of Georgia scientists revealed that drinking two cups of coffee after exercise reduces muscle soreness more than pain relievers can. Caffeine blocks a chemical that activates pain receptors. While some caffeinated beverages are carbonated and sugary, which could cause gas pains, an espresso or 8- or 12-oz coffee can be a great pre-workout boost.
- Green Tea: This drink is a great way to replenish fluids after a workout. According to Men's Health Magazine, Brazilian scientists found that participants who consumed three cups of green tea every day for a week had fewer markers of the cell damage caused by resistance to exercise. Therefore, drinking a few cups every day may help your muscles recover faster after an intense workout.
- Almonds: A handful of these babies are my go-to snack pre-workout. I combine this handful with an apple and call it my "double-a" solution for something to munch on when I am hungry before a workout. Two tablespoons of nuts, such as almonds, and an apple, will give you the carbs, fiber and punch of protein you need without weighing you down.
For more health tips, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)