5 Foods that Power Up Your Workout

by Jessica Girdwain

Get stronger, leaner, and sexier, and recover in less time with these delicious picks!

What should you eat before you work out?What should you eat before you work out?1. Coffee: Runners love a cup of pre-race joe for the pep it puts in their step. "Research shows that the caffeine in coffee can enhance physical endurance and stamina, making a long run or ride feel easier," says Molly Kimball, R.D., sports dietitian with Ochsner's Elmwood Fitness Center in New Orleans. Try it iced or hot a half hour before a gym sesh, but if it upsets your stomach, push it back to an hour. Not crazy for coffee? Iced or hot green tea works too. Feel free to add milk, but skip the sugar, which can negate the caffeine kick.

2. Ginger: Sore muscles often feel rewarding after a hard workout, but intense aches just plain hurt. The fix? Ginger. Consuming half a teaspoon of the raw root or ground herb lessened next-day muscle soreness by 25 percent in one study, likely because ginger contains pungent pain-relieving chemicals such as gingerol, shogaol, and zingerone. Research in the Journal of Pain suggests that it can even be more effective than popping NSAIDs. Drop a few slices of fresh ginger into your tea while it's steeping or use ground ginger in a marinade for chicken or pork.

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3. Apples:
An apple a day...Okay you know the drill. But add this to what apples can do: The fruit is bursting with a substance called quercetin, which can improve energy metabolism to increase endurance. In one study, taking quercetin supplements helped untrained cyclists ride 13 percent longer. While you'd have to eat a ton of apples for the same dose of quercetin used in the study, it can't hurt to make the fruit your snack of choice, as they may help keep you going on long rides or runs.

4. Tart cherry juice: Inflammation is the scourge of muscles, causing pain and swelling and hindering performance in your next workout, Kimball says. Ease that affliction with cherries. "They're rich in polyphenolic compounds-namely flavanoids and anthyocyanins-that are shown to decrease inflammation," Kimball says. In fact, when athletes consumed a cherry concentrate daily for seven days before and two days after a strength-training workout, their muscles recovered faster, U.K. researchers reported. Find tart cherry juice at your local grocer and drink it in place of your morning OJ.

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5. Beets: Smoke the competition at your next race by roasting some roots. Naturally occurring nitrates help deliver more oxygen to your muscles, thereby reducing fatigue during high-intensity exercise, Kimball says. A new study in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found that eating a 7-ounce serving of baked beets 75 minutes before exercise helped runners run three percent faster during a 5k-and in the last mile, they ran five percent faster. Being able to up the intensity like that means you torch both your opponents and major calories.

Ready to take your workout to the next level? Click here for more delicious foods that will help you perform better and recover faster.

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