For athletes, food is fuel, and they go for premium. Mindlessly inhaling refined carbs is like filling up on regular unleaded. Instead, focus on nutrients that help you hit your numbers, recover fast and get back at it the next day. Ask Kastor's wife and star trainee, elite distance runner Deena Kastor. "Processed foods make me feel terrible," she says. "I don't restrict — I eat cheese, risotto, drink red wine — but I always try to make my own meals, and I focus on quality ingredients."
Try it: Follow our Drop 10 diet (page 78) to make healthy eating easy, and add in these super-for-athletes foods:
- Beets: The chemical nitrate naturally found in the veggie has been shown to lower blood pressure and protect your heart, and as a preworkout beverage in, say, a smoothie, beetroot juice could reduce breath rate during exercise, which means it can be easier to move faster and go longer, say self contributing experts Willow Jarosh and Stephanie Clarke, R.D.s.
- Watermelon: A compound in the fruit may help increase the amount of nitric oxide in your blood. That's just a fancy way of saying it could help you run a little longer or do a few more box jumps if you have a slice about an hour pre-exercise.
- Tart Cherries: They contain antioxidants called anthocyanins, which research has shown reduce inflammation after a tough session, so you may feel less sore and bounce back faster. Drink the juice, bake with them, or spread a jam on whole-grain toast.