Consider the pitfalls of the urban athlete’s diet: Carbo-loading and sports drinks can cause a sugar spike and crash. Protein bars are often highly processed, and can be hard to digest, making you feel sluggish.
And simply dining out at great restaurants can make you salt-and-buttered to the nth.
The opposite route? Nutrient-dense foods, which make you feel and perform better.
Fuel your workout with these five superfoods, all of which provide the nutritional fortitude you and your fitness regimen may have been missing.
Quinoa. It’s a supergrain and a complete protein. Packed with fiber, iron, and calcium, necessary for proper muscle contraction and even potassium and magnesium for hydration, quinoa is a high-quality complex carbohydrate (yes, the good kind of carb) that you want on your plate. Even at breakfast.
Kale. Too bad Popeye didn’t know about this dark leafy supergreen. Kale is now everywhere—including smoothies, salads, juice—and doctors, dermatologists, and nutritionists are raving about its benefits. It’s packed with fiber, anti-aging antioxidants, even protein, and its high levels of chlorophyll can oxygenate the blood, giving you more staying power in your workout.
Salmon. Known for its essential omega-3s, which decrease inflammation and body fat (and help with great skin), salmon is also a high-quality protein, rich in energy-boosting B vitamins, magnesium—and potassium. Wild Alaskan sockeye gets two thumbs up.
Chia Seeds. They’ve recently grabbed the spotlight, and it’s not without good cause. Chia seeds contain a unique combination of protein, omega-3s, vitamins, and minerals. The soluble fiber in chia seeds keeps you full, stabilizes blood sugar, and provides sustained energy during intense workouts. (They’re also a perfect vegan alternative to fish oil supplements.)
Nuts. For an energy-boosting snack, use almonds, walnuts, pecans, or cashews in a smoothie; nut butter with fruit or vegetables; or homemade trailmix. Loaded with healthy fats, fiber, protein, and vitamins, they’re an easy, cost-effective upgrade to the processed, high-sugar protein bar. —Jennifer Kass