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8/19/19blog post

top foods for performance improvement

As school and fall sports swing into full gear, so do sore muscles and fatigue. When muscles are pushed beyond limits and the body grows tired, injuries are far more likely to happen. So how can you help? Fuel your athlete with the right foods to help with inflammation and energy.

reducing soreness

Besides stretching, food can really help with reducing muscle soreness. Eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes after exercise is important for recovery.

How much does my athlete need?

The amount depends on duration and intensity of exercise. For most athletes, 15 to 30 g of protein and two to four times that amount of carbohydrates are recommended.

The post-exercise snack should be followed by a larger meal from all food groups within two hours.

Be sure to include foods high in omega-3 fatty acids and polyphenols (e.g., fatty fish, nuts and seeds, and tart cherries or tart cherry juice) in an athlete’s recovery regimen to help reduce muscle damage and pain.

Try these foods throughout the day:

  • Citrus such as oranges and a variety of juices.
  • Berries and cherries. Anti-inflammatory phytonutrients (a substance found in certain plants which is believed to be beneficial to human health and help prevent various diseases) in berries explain why cherries can speed recovery.
  • Calcium. Milk is a great source. There are products designed just for this purpose such as Muscle Milk, but regular 2% milk does the trick too.

Get it all in with a smoothie made with tart cherry juice, yogurt and banana!

improve performance

For nutrition to aid in injury prevention and improved performance the body must meet its daily energy needs. Not enough daily overall calories will limit storage of carbohydrates to use for energy and poor food choices day after day can lead to both low energy and injury.

Two to three hours before playing sports, eat a meal that is rich in carbohydrates, low in fat and fairly low in protein and fiber for quick digestion. Portion size will depend on gender and body weight along with how intense or long the training session will be.

To succeed in building an energy-packed, nutritious meal, try to include all five of the following components:

  1. Whole grains or energy-enhancing foods: 100 percent whole-wheat bread, bagels, tortillas, pita bread and crackers, brown rice, whole-grain pasta, beans, potatoes, oatmeal, whole-grain breakfast cereals, yogurt.
  2. Lean proteins or recovery/muscle-building foods: Grilled/baked/broiled/roasted chicken, fish, pork loin, turkey, sirloin and lean ground beef, eggs, low-fat cheese, tofu.
  3. Fruits and vegetables or antioxidant-rich foods: Apples, oranges, bananas, blueberries,  grapes, melon, strawberries, broccoli, green beans, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms, cucumbers, tomatoes.
  4. Fat or immunity/flavor-boosting foods: Salmon, tuna, nut, seeds, olives, olive oil, canola oil, avocado, nut butters, oil-based salad dressings.
  5. Fluid or hydration-promoting beverages: Water, milk (cow, almond, soy, etc.),  100 percent fruit juice
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Lora Scott, MD

program director sports medicine
view full bio