Like many physical capabilities, stamina can be improved over time. While most of us chalk it up to training, your diet can actually help boost your performance too – whether you’re simply running to keep fit, or win at the next upcoming marathon.
Coached fitness advisor and sports nutritionist Caryn Zinn says, “You want to be burning long-lasting fat as a fuel mostly when you exercise, but also be able to use the quick energy source, carbohydrate , when you need to. This is called being ‘metabolically flexible’”.
To do this, she recommends a diet based on whole, unprocessed foods, and one that’s low in refined carbohydrate, moderate in good quality protein, and high in healthy fat.
Overall, Caryn says there is no one food that exactly helps stamina for running, but rather “a range of healthy foods that you should include regularly in your diet to put you in the best position for having a robust immune system and maximising sports performance”.
Here, she shares the top 10 foods to boost your health and fitness:
Eggs are considered the “perfect protein”. They contain all the essential amino acids (protein building blocks) required for growth, muscle development and muscle repair.
As far as fruits go, blueberries would have to be at the top of the list for being a powerhouse for both nutrition and taste.
While the nutritional profile includes a healthy dose of fibre, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, manganese and Vitamin K, iron, selenium and zinc, it is the potent antioxidant capacity of blueberries that makes them a cut above the rest.
One of the main antioxidants it contains is anthocyanins, which gives blueberries their blue colour. It is likely because of these potent compounds that allow blueberries to improve immunity, boost brain health and protect against heart disease and cancer.
The health benefits of avocado cannot be emphasised enough. Avocados are among the top superfoods around, being rich in several important nutrients, and delicious.
They’re particularly well-known for their supply of the heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat called oleic acid. Including some good quality fat from whole foods at each main meal is important as it helps you keep satiated and prevents constant snacking throughout the day.
Avocados are also rich in fibre, which helps to regulate digestion and in antioxidants such as lutein, which is helpful for the health of the eyes.
Whether it is roasted, boiled, grated raw or blended into juice, beetroot is a vegetable worthy of praise due to its exceptional nutritional value, providing good amounts of calcium, iron, Vitamins A and C, folic acid, fibre, manganese and potassium.
It also has a high antioxidant capacity, and can help fight off free radicals that cause cell damage and disease.
Beetroot has received a lot of attention of late because of its “super-compound” inorganic nitrate. When converted to its active compound, nitric oxide, it causes a widening of the blood vessels and helps to reduce hypertension (or high blood pressure) and also can help athletes improve sports performance.
Finding a more nutritious, health-promoting vegetable than broccoli is challenging. Broccoli is an excellent source of several nutrients including Vitamin C, K, folic acid, beta-carotene (precursor to Vitamin A), iron, calcium and fibre (both soluble and insoluble).
Botanically, broccoli is a part of the cruciferous family of vegetables; this vegetable family is well known to contain a rich source of phytochemicals (in particular indoles and isothyocyanate), which are natural compounds found in foods that are cancer-protective.
Because of these cancer-fighting properties, health organisations recommend that we include cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli in our diet at least three to four times per week.
It’s easy to see why people “go nuts with nuts”, as they are super tasty as well as nutritious.
While most nuts provide a good amount of protein, fibre and essential fats, in addition each nut variety brings its own unique set of nutrition qualities, such as calcium and Vitamin E (almonds), selenium (Brazil nuts), omega 3 fats (walnuts), carbohydrate, iron and zinc (cashews), and healthy mono-unsaturated fat (macadamias).
The combination of fats that nuts supply are considered heart-healthy which makes their inclusion into your daily diet a great idea. To ensure a good variety of nutrients for optimal health, make sure you include a good mix of the above nut varieties.
7. Fatty fish
When it comes to nutrient-rich protein sources you just cannot beat fish, be in fresh, frozen or canned. Research shows that eating fish is very beneficial to our health and that because of this we should eat more of it. Health organisations recommend eating fish (the fattier the better) at least twice per week.
Fish and seafood boast good amount of omega-3 fats, one of the essential fats and arguably the healthiest fat there is.
Omega-3 fats have been shown to be both heart-healthy and anti-inflammatory. Fish also provides the body with iodine and selenium, two nutrients that are typically low in our soils.
Iodine plays an important role in regulating our metabolism via our thyroid gland and selenium in helping to protect us from cancer. Fish and shellfish are also excellent sources of other vitamins and minerals, including Vitamins A, D, zinc and potassium.
Yoghurt imparts its health benefit in two main ways. Firstly, it is a nutrient-dense food and is rich in protein, calcium, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B12, potassium, and magnesium.
Secondly, yoghurt is a unique food as it provides the body with live strains of “good bacteria” called probiotics which can help boost the immune system and promote a healthy digestive tract.
Probiotics are naturally present in the digestive system, but due to lifestyle factors our gut bacteria profile changes, with the unhealthy bacteria outnumbering the good sorts. Including yoghurt as a daily food option is a good idea to ensure your gut remains healthy.
To make sure you get the best health benefit from yoghurt, it is recommended to choose plain, natural, unsweetened full-fat varieties, like Greek yoghurt, rather than the low-fat, added sugar varieties.
9. Olive oil
Olive oil (particularly extra virgin variety) is undoubtedly the healthiest of all the vegetable oils by far and could be considered the healthiest fat source on earth.
It is the least processed of all the vegetable oils and provides the best nutritional profile of fats. The main type of fat it contains is the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat called oleic acid.
This oil, forms a substantial part of the Mediterranean diet, and is a traditional fat that has been a dietary staple for some of the world’s healthiest populations. What’s more, olive oil contains Vitamin E and K and is rich in antioxidants that help reduce inflammation.
Ginger is an aromatic, pungent spice, which adds a unique flavour to Asian stir-fries and many fruit and vegetable dishes. Fresh ginger root is available year round; it is inexpensive and because of its health benefits, should be a prominent feature in everybody’s fridge or pantry.
Ginger has a long tradition of being very beneficial for digestion, and in particular for alleviating gastrointestinal distress such as nausea, vomiting and motion sickness.
Evidence indicates that ginger possesses several therapeutic properties including antioxidant effects (helps prevent cell damage and fight off cancers and other diseases), and direct anti-inflammatory effects via its compound, ginerols.
Source: Asia One