Power through the day with snacks that pack a punch.
The term “superfood” gets thrown around more than you do on a bad day of grappling. If you lose sight of the importance of balanced nutrition, superfoods are nothing more than trendy marketing tools that will keep you throwing money at hyped-up foods. For instance, tossing a superfood like blueberries into a protein smoothie on a regular basis will not magically erase the damage of breezing through the drive-thru every morning for a sausage and cheese biscuit. There needs to be balance in your diet, and that’s where superfoods can shine.
Superfoods will generally be natural foods that are high in certain nutrients that have specific health benefits, such as decreasing inflammation, supporting your immune system, and decreasing your risk of certain diseases. Top billing for combat athletes are the natural anti-inflammatory benefits of superfoods. Between the rigors of daily training and dealing with nagging injuries, decreasing inflammation is a key component to optimal training and performance. Staying healthy, especially during cold and flu season is also important. A strong immune system can help protect you from all the nasty bugs that seem to attack hardest as the weather gets colder.
Serious fighters are always looking for that extra edge, so why not add a little superpower to your daily diet with these easy-to-prepare, nutrient-rich super snacks.
SNACK ON THIS
• Sliced Apples and Almond Butter
Apples are full of antioxidant flavonoids, including quercetin, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, and fiber. Chomp down on this refreshing fruit with peanut butter’s healthier twin—almond butter. Even though many health benefits are obtained by eating whole almonds with the skin on (the skin contains most of the flavonoids), a minimally processed, raw almond butter retains most of these nutrients, along with magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, selenium, fiber, and zinc. Benefits of this delicious duo include immune support, blood sugar regulation, and anti-inflammatory properties. Choose organic apples when possible, as conventional versions are one of the most highly pesticide-sprayed fruits.
• Guacamole and Raw Veggies
Loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, avocados pack a huge power punch in the anti-inflammatory and heart health departments. As a fighter, inflammation is part of the game, so keeping smooth, rich tasting avocados in your diet can help stave off the aches and pains of training and competing. Avocados also are brimming with phytosterols, carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants, fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, and vitamin C. Sliced and eaten by itself in its simplest form is quite enjoyable, but if you have a few extra minutes, making your own guacamole is a snap. Take a peeled and mashed avocado, and mix with ½ medium diced tomato, ¼ onion (diced), fresh chopped cilantro, and the juice of ½ lemon or lime. Add sea salt, pepper, and a little garlic, and you have a great dip for raw veggies.
• Kale Chips
This snack may not sound delicious at first—even if you like kale—but give these treats a try. If chips are you’re nutritional Achilles’ heel, kale chips may help keep some crunch in your diet. Don’t expect them to taste like your favorite potato chips, as you’ll definitely know you’re eating a green vegetable. However, depending on how they’re seasoned, kale chips can be a unique, savory snack with many benefits. Kale is a dark, leafy green with antioxidant, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory nutrients. It’s also a great source of vitamin A, vitamin C, manganese, and fiber.
Making your own kale chips is a snap.
- 6oz of fresh kale, cut away the inner ribs
- Tear the kale into similar sized pieces
- Place kale in a Ziploc bag, add 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp. vinegar
- Arrange the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet
- Cook at 300 degrees for 30 minutes or until crisp
- Season with sea salt and pepper
• Greek Yogurt and Blueberries
Greek-style yogurt is a fighter-friendly food, with its high protein and low sugar content. Adding blueberries will increase the supply of potassium, magnesium, and folate. The antioxidant superstars in blueberries, such as beta-carotene, lutein, anthocyanin, ellagic acid, and vitamin C, help improve your immune and cardiovascular systems. Studies have shown organic blueberries have a much higher antioxidant concentration versus conventional versions, but sometimes they can be pricey. Try frozen organic blueberries, which are typically less expensive than fresh.
• Homemade Trail Mix
Due to some naturally sweet ingredients, trail mix should be used as a treat and not a regular indulgence. However, combining superfoods such as raw almonds, walnuts, goji berries, and dark chocolate pieces make a great trail mix. It may also be something to grab when all the holiday treats start circulating around your home and you need something sweet. Almonds and walnuts are great sources of anti-inflammatory and hearth healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Goji berries provide 18 essential amino acids, 21 trace minerals, essential fatty acids, and amounts of vitamin C and beta-carotene that outweigh those of oranges and carrots. Optimal antioxidant capacity and lower sugar content will be found in dark chocolates with a higher percentage of cocoa (70% or above), and those that have been
cold-pressed and not subjected to a Dutch Process.
Snacks are important parts of an athlete’s daily routine. Healthy snacking can help keep cravings at bay, your metabolism in check, and blood sugar levels stabilized for optimal energy and cognitive function. Grabbing a bite with 40 to 60 grams of carbs approximately 30 to 60 minutes prior to training will top off your fuel stores. Fruits; bars such as the PowerBar Fruit Smoothie Bar; gels from GU and PowerBar; and Gatorade G1 Prime are all examples of primarily carbohydrate-based snacks (with low fat and minimal protein to facilitate gastric emptying).
Replenishing and repairing your body with a combined protein and carbohydrate snack about 30 minutes after training is vital to proper recovery. The amounts of nutrients post-workout will differ depending on body weight and the type of training. Carbs at approximately 0.5 grams per pound body weight should be combined with protein at 20 to 40 grams after hard strength training, or 15 to 25 grams after primarily cardio-based activity. Greek yogurt with fruit; 1-2 scoops protein powder with almond milk and banana; sprouted grain English muffins with organic turkey breast or raw almond butter and mashed up raspberries; and Gatorade G3 PRO recovery drinks are all good examples of recovery friendly foods.
When you’re well fueled with healthy snacks throughout the day and before and after training sessions, your energy levels, strength, and endurance should be maximized, while fatigue and injury risk minimized.