Fueling Your Body With Peak Performance Foods

Natalie Coughlin chopping dried plumsCommitting to establishing a healthy lifestyle takes dedication. A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean dieting for eternity or running yearly marathons. What it does mean is developing a routine exercise plan combined with nutritious foods that support and fuel workouts so that your body can achieve peak performance.

From our vantage points as a professional athlete and a sports dietitian, we both constantly seek out foods that pack a powerhouse of nutrients to sustain our bodies all day long. Not everyone swims for hours or goes through football drills daily, but no matter your exercise of choice, even if it’s walking 30 minutes a day, it’s always recommended to fuel up with vitamins and minerals from food sources.

What you eat before and after a workout can make all the difference. Whether a seasoned athlete or weekend runner, most of us don’t want to exercise on a full stomach. A good general rule is, based on the type of physical activity, an hour prior to and an hour following the workout, opt for a snack or smaller meal that packs protein or potassium such as yogurt, milk, half of a peanut butter sandwich, an ounce of dried fruit, such as dried plums, or a sports bar. Foods rich in protein like yogurt and peanut butter are great for muscle recovery. When it comes to potassium, dried plums are an ideal performance food since they provide carbohydrates, B vitamins, antioxidants, potassium and fiber. During a workout, we tend to lose a lot of sodium when sweating, and we need potassium to help regulate fluid balance in and out of cells to help muscles contract.

When we think of potassium, most people would say bananas are the best source, but actually foods like dried plums and potatoes are also sources. For an extra nutrition bonus, dried plums promote heart, bone and digestive health, and their fiber helps curb appetite by providing a sense of satiety or in other words, fullness. When we feel full, we’re less likely to overeat.

Fluid intake during a workout is just as important as food intake before and after a workout. Maintaining fluid balance during a workout is essential for cardiovascular function, body temperature regulation, injury prevention and recovery from activity. It’s best to drink 10 to 20 ounces of fluid one hour before exercising and 14 to 40 ounces per hour of strenuous exercise. Water helps you feel satisfied, flushes your system and keeps you hydrated, but it’s not the only source you can use for hydration. While water is the most recommended form of liquid for hydration, low-sugar juices, sports drinks, milk and tea can all count, too.

Enjoying a variety of nutritious foods and fueling up with whole grains, fresh and dried fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein can help provide you with optimal peak performance results during your workout. Check out the USDA’s “My Plate” recommendations for more information about healthy food choices.

Whether you’re just getting started on an exercise program or you’ve been working out for years, here are some tips on eating right and staying in shape:

  • Eat simple, seasonal, nourishing foods, including an abundance of fruits and vegetables
  • Try to get your vitamins and minerals from whole foods
  • Consume adequate amounts of protein
  • Keep a nutritious go-to snack with you at all times (Our favorite:  Dried plums and nuts!)
  • Stay hydrated

Best of luck to you in your fitness endeavors!

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This is a sponsored post written by Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, CSSD, LDN and Gold Medalist swimmer Natalie Coughlin, spokespeople for the California Dried Plum Board, in partnership with Dr. Oz.