Fitness Foods: The Best Choices for Your Workout

July 2, 2024

No one starts a road trip on empty. Whether the journey is carefully planned or spur-of-the-moment, the gas tank gets filled, the battery gets charged. To forget this vital step means risking being stranded in the middle of nowhere. The body is no different.

Professional athletes are enjoying longer careers thanks partly to improvements in the science of nutrition. What we eat matters. While teen champions have succeeded on a diet of fast food and soda, poor eating choices catch up with everyone eventually. 

It doesn’t matter if someone is starting their fitness journey or prepping for a triathlon. Choosing healthy food and healthy snacks along with consuming sufficient calories is often the crucial difference between success and failure. No matter the activity, there are ways to incorporate strategic eating habits and make easy healthy meals designed to improve performance. Here are some great fitness foods — healthy selections that can improve any physical activity.

Healthy Foods Deliver Energy for Endurance Activities 

Over the past few years, intermittent fasting has gained not only online popularity but scientific support as well. The most common technique is to limit eating to an eight-to-ten hour window while abstaining from food for the remainder of the day. This method can supercharge weight loss and even speed up metabolism. 

By not eating throughout the day, the body depletes stored sugar. When that happens, it begins to burn fat. “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours,” explains Johns Hopkins neuroscientist Mark Mattson, who has studied intermittent fasting for a quarter-century. “If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”

Although ideal for weight loss, not eating before a tennis match or ten-mile run is generally a recipe for disaster. In some cases, it really does come down to individual preference. Some people prefer to run on an empty stomach. Doing so can actually improve the body’s ability to manage blood sugar levels. It also makes it more likely that stored fat will be used for energy – which can spur fat loss. 

However, near the end of a taxing physical activity, the body will begin breaking down muscle instead of fat. As nutritionist Chelsea Amengual, MS, RD, explains, by exercising during the fasting period “…you’re more susceptible to hitting the wall, which means you’ll have less energy and not be able to work out as hard or perform as well.”

That’s why the key to successful endurance training may lie with planning a healthy breakfast. The secret to having energy throughout a lengthy activity is by consuming sufficient quantities of slow-digesting, higher fiber carbohydrates. There are plenty of healthy meals – many cereal options fit the bill. At least one-to-two hours before exercising, enjoy a bowl of whole grain cereal, fruit, and skim milk. Bananas are a great choice because not only are they loaded with slow-digesting fiber, but they have around 422 mg of potassium. Anyone who’s endured the dreaded late night “charley horse” knows how painful muscle cramps can be. The cramping culprit is often depleted potassium because it is sweated out during physical activity. At breakfast banana can make all the difference. Blueberries are another good option – they are not only full of fiber but some studies suggest they may alleviate post-workout soreness. 

Oats are another healthy breakfast, pre-workout option. Steel cut oatmeal requires more prep time but the effort can be worth it. That’s because a bowl made with some blueberries or just cinnamon and nutmeg delivers energy for hours. Scrambled eggs and whole wheat toast are one of the best easy healthy meals.

Sometimes there isn’t time. Rushing out the door to play a softball game or take a spin class shouldn’t mean skipping a meal. Instead, opt for a pre-workout snack like Greek yogurt and granola or a low-sugar energy bar.

Healthy smoothies are an awesome time saver. The trick with any food designed to fuel an endurance activity is paying attention to sugar content. Cereals (even ones labeled healthy and whole grain) are often filled with sugar as are many popular yogurts. The same is true of many so-called “healthy smoothies.” That’s because adding large amounts of fruit can increase the sugar while the processing of the blender strips its fiber. Whole fruits take longer to digest. So, make smaller smoothies with just half a banana, unsweetened milk, and sugar-free protein powder. 

No matter the sport or activity, dealing with regular blood sugar crashes can be a real challenge. That’s why getting tested is so helpful. Even better, thanks to advances in testing technology it’s possible to discover any deficiencies without having to leave the comfort of home. Kyla Clinics offers a $99 test that not only monitors blood sugar but provides information on hormone levels, heart health, and liver and kidney function. 

Working with Kyla can maximize workouts whether the goal is weight loss, fitness or just getting more fun from an activity. After completing a health quiz to identify areas for improving health, the next step is to choose from a selection of at-home blood tests. After receiving the blood test kit and following sample instructions, it can be returned to Kyla labs at no cost. After receiving the results, not only can patients consult with a Kyla doctor for personalized advice to improve or maintain their results but they can also continuously track their progress with nutrition, lifestyle enhancements, set goals, and daily actions.

A healthy breakfast is engineered to deliver steady energy throughout the day. Working with Kyla means getting positive results from a fitness program for years, even decades. This applies not only to distance running and tennis matches but strength training and even longevity. 

Strength Training Demands Lean Protein 

No matter the sport or activity, strength training should be a vital component. That’s because building muscle improves the chance of athletic success whether the activity is playing tennis, basketball, or riding a bike. Not only do people steadily gain fat as they age, they lose muscle. Strength training doesn’t just help people retain lean muscle, it also allows them to keep building bone density while managing their weight. Strength training can even improve cognitive function. But without the regular consumption of high protein, low calorie foods, much of that weight training will be wasted.

The humble egg should be part of any healthy breakfast but especially for those who want to gain muscle. That’s because in addition to being one of the best high protein low calorie foods eggs are loaded with leucine. This amino acid helps the body synthesize protein which encourages muscle growth. Studies suggest instead of just having eggs as an early morning, healthy breakfast they should also be added to the post-workout plate where they can really make a difference in muscular development. 

Although today many don’t consider red meat part of their healthy eating program, it can deliver benefits that plant based proteins do not. For one thing, it’s an incredibly rich source of heme iron – which is not found in plants. It’s also not only a good source of lean protein but some studies have suggested that consuming modest amounts of red meat can increase the development of lean muscle mass. The key is selecting the lowest amount of fat possible — like 95% lean ground beef which has less than fifty calories per ounce and just two grams of fat.

For those who want to avoid red meat, there are plenty of muscle-building options available. Once just a staple of serious dieters, cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein per cup. Mixed with blueberries or pineapples it’s a great pre-workout snack. For some light munching during a training session, almonds are not only one of the best high protein snacks but also an awesome source of vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus — which aids the body’s use of carbohydrates and fats.

Get Real Recovery 

After strenuous exercise, glycogen is depleted. This is the body’s primary source of energy — and it’s usually delivered from the carbohydrates that is part of many healthy foods. That’s why a post workout meal or snack is important. A healthy smoothie can deliver needed protein and aid in the recovery process. 

Especially with strength training, a healthy blend of carbs and protein is ideal. Nutritionists often recommend a peanut butter sandwich. Choose peanut butter without hydrogenated oil — it should contain just peanuts and maybe salt. If it needs to be refrigerated and/or stirred then it’s likely a healthy peanut butter and thus one of several easy healthy meals that can aid in post-workout recovery. Another good choice is grilled chicken and veggies. Both chicken and fish are perfect high protein low calorie foods. Just three ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast (about the size and thickness of a deck of playing cards) delivers 27 grams of protein and 140 calories. Tuna, another one of the high protein low calorie foods, packs 25 g of protein in a 3.5-oz serving. but is very low in calories.

Although slightly higher in calories, grilled salmon is another sensible choice. That’s because it’s packed with omega-3s which is naturally anti-inflammatory. Not only will it aid in recovery but it can also reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure. Fresh fruit like blueberries, which may reduce soreness and a banana which can restore potassium, can make not just a great pre-workout snack but an excellent post-workout, recovery one as well. 

The most important component is water, which should be sipped during the activity and consumed before and after.  No matter what the workout, Kyla Clinics is dedicated to enhancing individual well-being through proactively managing chronic conditions with at-home blood tests and AI-driven actionable insights.

No matter the workout, lifestyle affects the body. That’s why it’s not only important to track vital health indicators like primary care and hormone levels but pursue long-lasting changes with anti-aging treatments. These treatments are offered along with personalized, one-on-one consultations with Kyla doctors who have helped hundreds of patients achieve a longer, healthier life. 


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