If you’ve been keeping up with this year’s abridged Formula One action, you’ll know that Lewis Hamilton and his Mercedes are once again proving to be an unbeatable combination. The skill and experience of the driver and engineers goes without saying. But think about all the other factors that contribute to make Car 44 faster than the rest. One is the fuel that goes into the engine. It’s similar but subtly different to what you put in your normal road car.
Fuelling our bodies for sporting or athletic endeavour is conceptually similar. By and large, if you follow a healthy and nutritious diet, you are more than 90 percent there. Adding superfoods can give you that extra boost that makes the difference between making it to the end and challenging for the win.
What are superfoods?
The phrase “superfood” sounds like marketing spiel, but there are real benefits to including them in your diet. Put simply, superfoods are whole foods that are naturally high in particular nutrients. This makes them valuable for anyone who might need a little power boost during the day, but particularly for athletes.
For sure, superfoods can boost your energy and stamina. But they are also important during work outs, reducing recovery time. After all, you can hardly expect to train at your best if you are still feeling drained, achy and breathless from the previous session.
Which foods are super?
There are different superfoods for different circumstances. For example, we could easily draw up different lists for general health, for an athlete in training and for choosing superfoods on a limited budget. But the following superfoods would generally be common to all:
Goji berries: One of the best-known superfoods, the humble goji berry is high in polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin, three vitally important phytochemicals. Polysaccharides give a boost of antioxidants into the body and improve blood flow, while the other phytochemicals boost the immune system and are vital for eye health.
Maca: Some people say maca is like caffeine but without the negatives. One tablespoon is enough to give you an energy boost that will noticeably improve your workout performance. It is also a rich source of protein for muscle development, and helps reduce inflammation, thereby boosting recovery. Maca has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety, too, so next time you feel the temptation to have a macchiato, or perhaps even something stronger, give maca a try instead.
Ginseng: Here’s one of the core ingredients of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been used since ancient times as a cure for just about anything. Panacea or placebo? The long list of purported benefits, helping with everything from concentration to cancer and from anxiety to anaemia might sound too good to be true. But people have been using it for 4,000 years and continue to swear by it, so we wouldn’t dismiss it lightly!
Chia seeds: Here’s a superfood that is packed with natural minerals. It’s richer in calcium than milk, has more potassium than bananas and beats broccoli when it comes to magnesium. The seeds also hold water in your body, helping to keep dehydration at bay, and are rich in fibre.
Other superfoods we could mention include acai berries, spirulina, matcha and cacao. Why not give them a try and see how they affect both your athletic performance and your overall wellbeing?