If you're looking for a quick hit of energy before you begin your workout routine, then sure there are plenty of protein bars and shakes that you can easily buy from your local store... But, why not try giving yourself a more natural energy boost? There are so many foods including fruits, grains and proteins that will help your body power through that workout, whether you're lifting weights, running or going to your weekly yoga class.
Here are our picks of the top five power foods.
Bananas are loaded with digestible carbohydrates that help to maintain strength and muscle function as you exercise. They also provide a long-lasting energy boost, which should see you through the most gruelling of gym sessions! If you're hoping to build muscle, then the potassium found inside our favourite yellow fruit can actually help to build muscle mass because it stimulates nerve pulses which cause muscles to contract.
Tip: Chop up a banana into slices on top of some natural yogurt or try making a frozen banana popsicle!
Lentils are a good source of all the things you need before a workout, like carbohydrates, protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals. They provide an energy boost without any unnecessary calories or fat, but make sure you eat them in small quantities and at least 30 minutes before you exercise, otherwise they could leave you with indigestion. Granted, lentils are not necessarily a typical snack food, so make sure you prepare in advance.
Like most other berries, blueberries are infamous for their antioxidant benefits as a result of anthocyanins and other phenolic compounds. It's generally believed that the darker the berry, the more of the good stuff it has in it, which is why the lovely little dark blue blueberry made our list! If blueberries weren't already considered such a 'superfruit,' according to a study last year published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, they could also have a positive impact on healing damaged muscle tissue, which is ideal for those who prefer more strenuous workouts.
Tip: Try taking a handful with you in a container to munch on while you workout, or blend up a blueberry and banana smoothie.
Almonds are handy to carry with you on the way to the gym and also add a bit of taste for those with a sweet tooth. They're nutrient-dense nuts which contain both fat, protein and fiber which will give you a sustained energy boost and make you feel fuller for longer.
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5. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate may seem like a strange choice for before a workout, but just like blueberries, the health benefits of eating dark chocolate are no secret. Compounds called tyramine and phenylethylamine present in chocolate are the ingredients that are guaranteed to give you an energy boost. Remember to go for quality organic chocolate with the highest percentage of cocoa (over 75%), because there is less sugar and fat and more of the pure cocoa goodness.
Tip: For the benefits of chocolate without the calories, grate some over the top of natural yogurt and then throw on your favorite fruit.
Although you could take a small snack with you for more energy while you workout, generally try to eat all of these foods at least 30 minutes before exercising to make sure you don't get indigestion or feel too bloated.
Remember, when you're working out hydration is really important to ensure that you're replenishing all the fluids you're losing.
Image: Kyle MacDonald's