In pursuit of maximum performance, you want to make sure that every calorie is chosen wisely. Running enthusiasts get the most bang for their buck by choosing the most nutrient-dense food. A nutrient-dense food is defined as having a very large proportion of nutritional content to caloric value. Running enthusiasts on a restricted-calorie diet are best served by these nutrient-dense foods as they are limiting their caloric intake and should be extra careful with their food choices.
Restricted-calorie diets aside, all athletes are served better by nutrient-dense foods, given the fact that nutrients from natural sources are absorbed at a much higher rate than the synthetic nutrients found in over-the-counter supplements. Not sure what to bring along in your waist pack? We’ve got you covered. Below are some of the best choices for the running enthusiast looking to up their game.
The Chia seed was originally grown in Mexico. This superfood has been held in high regard for its medicinal properties and nutritional value. The word Chia translates to “strength” in the Mayan language. Chia seeds were often the preferred food chosen by Aztec warriors, due to their ability to provide long-lasting energy.
Chia seeds are also a rich source of antioxidants, which rejuvenate the skin and are believed to slow down aging. Chia seeds are packed with minerals, which are very helpful to athletes who lose minerals through sweat while performing intense workouts. Chia seeds are a solid choice for the running enthusiast looking for a quick boost of energy mid-run. They are a very compact, nutrient-dense food that will fit well in waist belts.
Swiss chard is a nutritional powerhouse. With just 35 calories per cup, Swiss chard supplies you with a massive variety of vitamins and minerals. Just one cup of Swiss chard provides you with 6 times the recommended daily allowance of vitamin K! You will also find vitamins A and C and several minerals. The fibrous nature of Swiss chard makes it a great addition to a pre-workout meal, as it will slow down the digestion of carbohydrates and provide long-lasting energy.
Swiss chard has also been discovered to contain a very unusual flavonoid called Vitexin. Vitexin has several anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. Swiss chard is also known for its antioxidant properties, scavenging free radicals. The considerable amount of nutrition compared to the number of calories in this vegetable should make it a staple in any serious athlete’s diet.
Chlorella is a green freshwater algae that is rapidly gaining recognition for various reasons. While chlorella is not your “traditional” food, it can be purchased as a food supplement. Chlorella is very low in calories, and about 60% of its calories come from protein. You will also find B-vitamins, iron, vitamin C, antioxidants, omega-3s and fiber within chlorella.
Aside from vitamins and minerals, chlorella boasts some chelating properties. This powerful nutrient binds to heavy metals and aids in detoxification by excreting them from the human body. Chlorella assists the body to lessen the damage that heavy metal toxicity can cause to the human body’s vital organs, such as your liver and kidneys.
Chlorella seems like a powerful tool that helps the consumer stay healthy. Chlorella also boasts immune-system-boosting properties. A recent study demonstrated that participants who ate chlorella produced more immune antibodies than the control group. A stronger immune system translates to less downtime from training. The running enthusiast who wants to ward off infection and continue to pound the pavement intensely will definitely want to check chlorella out.
While not as “exotic” as some of the other foods on this list, black beans are definitely worthy of recognition. Today, black beans are cultivated and enjoyed worldwide in different cultures and cuisines. Perhaps the fact that this bean is so commonly found is one of the reasons why it is not as highly coveted as some of the more common “superfoods.” Regardless, black beans are indispensable to the running enthusiast due to their nutritional profile. A cup of cooked black beans provides 15 grams of protein, which provide amino acids that help muscles recover from intense workouts. Black beans also help stabilize blood sugar and promote digestive health by providing us with 15 grams of fiber per cup. Just one serving will account for 60% of the recommended daily allowance for fiber.
In addition to the impressive macronutrient content of black beans, the black bean is no slouch in the micronutrient department. Black beans provide us with an impressive array of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and zinc. These minerals are all involved in the production of energy and are vital to the athlete. Foods high in minerals are critical for athletes, due to the fact that they are lost in sweat. Black beans are a nutritional powerhouse that is not to be ignored.
Amaranth is a gluten-free grain that is native to Peru. Today, in many of the larger countries such as Russia, India, and North and South America, amaranth is gaining recognition for various health benefits. One cup of cooked amaranth boasts an impressive 9 grams of protein, with 4 grams of fiber and just 250 calories.
Amaranth is also very mineral-rich. Amaranth contains magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, zinc and copper, to name a few. The high calcium content in amaranth makes it a great choice for maintaining strong bones and muscles. Without enough calcium, bones become weak and brittle, becoming more susceptible to fracture. A lesser-known attribute of calcium is that it is a crucial component in muscular contraction, and athletes with a calcium deficiency are more susceptible to muscular cramps.
Amaranth’s fiber content also helps us lower cholesterol. Fiber tends to flush toxins out, and bile along with it. The liver is responsible for manufacturing bile from cholesterol. Consuming fiber will force excretion of bile, which will prompt the liver to manufacture more, thus lowering cholesterol.
You Get Out What You Put In
Are you serious about feeling and performing better? Do you want to keep your body running like a well-oiled machine? We cannot stress the importance of solid nutrition enough. A high-caliber training program requires high-caliber fuel. Try adding some of these foods into your diet–and become a healthier, stronger version of yourself.