Top 10 Foods for Endurance Athletes

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Low energy is simply not an option for an Endurance Athlete! In my series “Eating for Energy: Teleclass for Endurance Athletes” I walk you through the diet and lifestyle changes you can implement to fuel your body for maximum performance. Here is a quick look at the top 10 foods every endurance athlete should have on their shopping list.

1. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah), also known as a “super food” for its high nutritional profile, is my favorite fast cooking grain. It cooks in just 10-15 minutes. Quinoa is an ancient high-energy grain from South America. The Incas used it to
increase the stamina of their warriors and allow them to run long distances at
high altitudes. It is an ideal food for endurance. Quinoa is a complete protein;
meaning is has all 9 essential amino acids comparable to milk! Therefore. it is
perfect for vegetarians concerned with protein intake. It is also a good source of
manganese, magnesium, iron, zinc, potassium and calcium. Because it is gluten
free, it is very easy to digest. Quinoa has a slight nutty flavor and crunchy
texture. I recommend trying to incorporate this whole grain into a variety of your
meals. From Breakfast to Dinner it can be very versatile.

2. Almond Butter is a great, healthy alternative to traditional peanut butter.
Almond butter is a nutritional powerhouse that contains significant amounts of
protein, calcium, fiber, magnesium, folic acid, potassium, and vitamin E. Nut
butters are a great source of protein, and will keep you full. Try them on
bananas, bagels, or sprouted grain toast.

3. Leafy greens (kale, swiss chard, collard greens) are the number one food
missing from most of our diets, yet should be the most consumed. They are
chock full of nutrients vital for athletic performance – high in calcium, vitamin c,
magnesium, zinc, iron and many other nutrients. Including more greens in your
daily diet will increase your energy and crowd out other foods that aren't as
nutritious. Plus, greens cook fast! Sauté them with some garlic and olive oil or
add your favorite condiments.

4. Salmon is a great source of protein that won’t leave you feeling sluggish plus is
one of the best sources of the essential fatty acid omega 3. Essential Fatty Acids
help you burn excess fat, restore health to the cardiovascular system, relieve
arthritis pain and inflammation, strengthen the immune system, improve oxygen
transport and muscle maintenance. Try salmon grilled with some soy or teriyaki

5. Oatmeal is another great source of complex carbohydrates and one of my personal favorites before any race. It is easily digested and does not seem to
ever cause discomfort. Try adding nuts, fruit, and cinnamon for a warm, tasty
breakfast. Rolled oats will cook in about 10 minutes making this a great option
before a long workout. You can also bake rolled oats with apples, pears, maple
syrup, and cinnamon for a yummy fruit crisp. Look for the gluten free oats made
by Bob’s Red Mill.

6. Brown Rice Pasta is my favorite traditional pasta alternative. It tastes much
better then the typical whole grain pastas and is better for you. Brown rice pasta
does not contain any gluten so those who have a gluten sensitivity or who wish
to not eat wheat can greatly enjoy this pasta. Lundberg family farms brand
makes great brown rice pasta.

7. Sprouted Grain Bread is one of my favorite food products that I use. Sprouted
grain bread is a better alternative to whole grain breads as they are very easy to
digest and contain few ingredients (only the grains, no flour). You can find them
in the freezer section of your local health food store. I love that you keep them in
the freezer so that you always have some on hand. You can use the bread and
wraps for sandwiches and english muffins for breakfast.

8. Raw Superfoods- Cacao, Hemp and Maca. These raw Superfoods are known
for their high nutritional profile. Cacao, or raw chocolate is the actual fruit where
chocolate comes from. It is the HIGHEST antioxidant food on the planet and the
#1 source of magnesium and iron. You can find raw cacao in powder or nib
form. Use it in baking, smoothies and more. Hemp is one of my favorite protein
alternatives- loaded with omega 3’s, its also very easily digested. It comes in a
powder and seed form and can be added to foods like smoothies and
oatmeal. Maca is another raw superfood. Grown in Peru, you can find it here in
health food stores in powder form. I like to add maca to my smoothies. Maca is
an incredible root vegetable that helps to increase energy, endurance and
strength. Maca is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to
balance and stabilize the body's systems

9. Fruit: Any kind of fruit will do. Use the sweet taste of fruit to satisfy your sugar
cravings, without adding to your waistline. Add a variety of colors to your palate
to get the most benefits- from vitamin c, to other potent antioxidants. I always
have on hand some bananas, and whatever seasonal fruit is available. Frozen
fruits are also great to stock up on, just make sure there isn’t any added sugar.

10. Vegetables should be an athlete’s best friend. Add as many as possible to
your diet depending on what is in season. In the fall, root veggies like carrots
and parsnips are in season – as well as sweet veggies like yams and sweet
potatoes. In the spring, green vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, and spinach
are in season. If you don't have a lot of time, making a stir-fry with your favorite
veggies is the best way to get in those 5-9 servings each day.

Elizabeth Stein is a Certified Holistic Nutrition Counselor. She works with athletes who are looking to increase energy, improve their overall health and take their performance to the next level by clearing up the confusion around healthy eating and saving you time in the kitchen. For more information visit

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