If you’re an athlete or someone who loves working out, you know the impact of certain foods on your fitness routine. Athletes and gym junkies rely on quick-energy foods and superfoods, such as eggs, chia seeds, Greek yogurt and functional mushrooms. These foods can jumpstart your warmup and workout without making you feel too full or weighed down. Whether you’re looking to prep for a competition or just want to make your next workout the best it can be, consider integrating these foods and superfoods into your diet.
It doesn’t matter if you like your eggs scrambled or sunny side up, this beloved breakfast food is perfect for pre-workout fuel when consumed an hour before training. Eggs support muscle growth and the recovery of muscle fibers when eaten within an hour after a workout. They have a complete amino acid profile, which makes them ideal for those who want to lose fat and build strength.
In addition to being a great source of fiber and protein, chia seeds are high in important minerals, such as iron, calcium, magnesium and manganese. The latter two minerals are known to optimize gym performance, with magnesium playing a role in protein synthesis and energy production and manganese regulating blood sugar control and carbohydrate metabolism.
Supplementing your diet with functional mushrooms like cordyceps, lion’s mane and reishi can also make a noticeable difference in your workout. Om Mushroom Superfood's Fit contains all three mushrooms in a convenient powder supplement that can be added to tea, smoothies and shakes. While cordyceps is known as a natural source of energy and vitality, reishi stimulates immune function and protects endurance athletes from overtraining. Lion’s mane can help improve mental energy and focus as it supports stimulation of the production of nerve growth factor, or NGF. Om’s Energy is a powder that contains these functional mushrooms in addition to guarana, yerba mate and turmeric for non-jittery and sustained energy without a crash.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating foods like Greek yogurt — which contains both protein as well as carbohydrates — topped with berries, before working out. They refer to carbs as “fuel for your engine,” so the harder you work your engine, the more carbs you’ll need to keep going. In one Canadian study, researchers found that consumption of Greek yogurt during a training program resulted in improved strength, muscle thickness and body composition over a carbohydrate-based placebo.
With carbohydrates, potassium and vitamin B6, bananas offer another excellent source of energy and can also help athletes endure a rigorous workout. According to one study, cyclists who ate a banana before a 75-kilometer cycling trial found the fruit as efficient as a carbohydrate drink for improving performance.
Harvard researchers say consuming fatty acids and protein from fatty fish like salmon can help the body produce adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, which energizes cells. Salmon isn’t just a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower inflammation caused by exercise, but also of vitamin D. A fat-soluble vitamin that helps keep membranes healthy and supports immune function, vitamin D also keeps muscles and bones strong and acts as an antioxidant to reduce free radicals at the cellular level — produced by vigorous training.
Maca, a plant that grows in the Peruvian Andes, is a superfood that has a positive effect on energy by increasing glucose in the blood stream. Maca is rich in amino acids, phytonutrients and various vitamins and minerals, and it’s also an adaptogen, responsible for aiding in adrenal function to increase energy when added to your pre-workout smoothie or shake.
Make a difference in your workout with the help of functional mushrooms.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.