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10 of the best superfoods for exercise and fitness

They say you are what you eat, so it stands to reason that a diet packed with nutritious food will help you on your way to getting the best fitness and sports results

Here, we look at the best superfoods to help you along with your fitness regime - from carbohydrate-packed porridge and quinoa, to beetroot for high-intensive performance improvements.

What nutrients are important for exercise?

If you’re working out regularly, it’s best to top up with food that is rich in protein and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates provide energy for exercise and protein is needed to help your muscles grow and repair themselves.

What’s more, evidence has shown that a diet rich in protein1 may help prevent inflammation caused by exercise which could slow down your progress and cause injury in the long run.

Superfood breakdown

If you lead an active lifestyle, consider adding these foods to your diet to give your body the nutrients it needs to achieve your goals.

1. Beans for fibre, calcium and phosphorous

If you’re vegetarian or vegan, plant-based protein sources like soybeans, kidney beans and chickpeas are essential. Full of fibre, they’re filling and are packed with essential minerals.

Many types of beans contain calcium and phosphorous which your body needs to make healthy bones – a must if you take part in high impact exercise.

2. Beetroot for nitrates that aid high-intensity performance

This ruby-coloured root vegetable could be the key to longer, better performance. Nitrates in beetroots or beetroot juices may improve physical performance, especially during high intensity exercises like running.

Blend into a smoothie with apples and protein-rich almond butter for a refreshing pre-workout drink.

3. Blueberries can help alleviate muscle soreness

Pushing yourself with challenging exercise can sometimes cause muscle fatigue and soreness. But, blueberries could be the answer to minimise soreness so you make a quicker recovery. In one small study, blueberries appeared to speed up muscle recovery after demanding leg exercises.

Start the day with blueberry pancakes or scatter a handful of blueberries on to porridge for a filling breakfast to keep you going until lunch.

4. Chia seeds for energy and protein

It’s easy to see why chia seeds were prized by Aztec warriors. These small, black seeds provide a balance of energy fuel and protein along with inflammation-reducing nutrients.

Chia seeds are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids which may help to keep your heart healthy, combat inflammation and boost mental performance, critical for keeping you focused on your goals.

Sprinkle chia seeds on salads, add them to smoothies or soak them overnight in milk for an alternative to porridge.

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5. Eggs for amino acids and protein

Go to work or workout on an egg and you’ll be provided with an excellent, natural source of essential amino acids. Each large egg often contains 6g of protein with research, showing that eating enough protein can help increase muscle mass and improve bone health.

6. Flaxseeds for fibre and protein

A source of fibre and protein, flaxseeds are also a good source of Vitamin B which is essential for normal metabolism and nerve function. Flaxseeds are also rich in the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) which studies have shown may be help combat inflammation caused by exercise.

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7. Hemp seeds for plant-based protein (vegan friendly)

With a whopping 11g of protein found in three tablespoons, hemp seeds are a wonderful source of plant-based proteins for vegans. Hemp seeds are also rich in important minerals like calcium, magnesium and iron.

Calcium and magnesium work together to keep bones healthy and support muscle fatigue, with magnesium also contributing to muscle size and tone. Iron helps athletic performance by helping the normal flow of oxygen around the body.

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8. Porridge for energy-boosting carbohydrates

A hearty bowl of oats is a wholegrain, high fibre source of energy-boosting carbohydrates. Eating foods high in fibre may help maintain glucose levels and will keep you feeling fuller for longer.

9. Quinoa for protein and carbohydrates

Naturally gluten free, tiny grains of quinoa provide both protein and carbohydrates. Containing all nine essential amino acids, they are also a good source of magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.

Getting enough potassium is especially important if you exercise on a regular basis because it helps your muscles to work properly and maintain normal blood pressure. And zinc contributes to protein synthesis within your body, which is essential for muscle growth and repair.

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10. Sweet potatoes for slow-release carbs

Unlike refined carbohydrates, which can cause blood sugar rise and crash quickly, sweet potatoes are a good slow-release carbohydrate. Slow-release carbohydrates are absorbed slowly by the body, providing a longer-lasting energy source. They're also packed full of immune-boosting vitamin A, so try them roasted or mashed instead of white potatoes.

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