Written by Janette Mason, CNP
When you think of tomorrow’s workout, what comes to mind? Are you anticipating a high output day or are you already feeling drained? When it comes to fitness, building a strong foundation for athletic output and recovery are non-negotiables. How you show up to your workout and how you feel afterwards are important indicators of how your body can handle the physical stress of working out.
If you have been experiencing less energy lately and feel totally drained after your workout routine, it may be time to introduce some additional nutritional support to get your body back to fighting shape.
Here’s the run-down of our top superfoods to lean on when feeling unmotivated and low-energy before a workout:
Maca: traditionally used for its energy and libido enhancement, studies show it is a great go-to for better workouts.1
Coffee: we probably do not need to tell you about the energizing effects of coffee, but did you know it has been extensively studied for workout enhancement?2
Mushrooms (Reishi, Cordyceps, Lions Mane): mushrooms are the “it” superfood right now and a big reason is due to their apoptogenic properties. Adaptogens are ‘smart’ substances which can work with your existing state of health to enable you to better deal with environmental, physical, and mental stress factors. According to Health Canada, some mushrooms such as reishi are used in Herbal Medicine as potent adaptogens to help increase energy and resistance to stress.3
Astragalus: this superfood may be new to you, but in the nutrition world it has been studied significantly for its performance enhancement mechanisms. Specifically, looking at how it can effectively enhance physical condition and improves aerobic performance. 4
Post workout recovery is crucial if you want to show up the next day and be able to perform at your best. When working out, you are actively putting your body under physical stress. When you push your muscles by running, jumping, lifting, etc. you are effectively putting your body into a state of stress. This is helpful when working out as it allows for greater energy output to be done by the body. The stress that you put onto your body in a workout can increase overall inflammation and muscle breakdown (we must break down muscle to build bigger ones).5
Supporting the body through the recovery process post-workout:
It is important to focus on bringing the body back to baseline. This means reducing inflammation and mitigating DOMS (delayed-onset-muscle-soreness). Our top choices of superfoods for recovery include:
L-theanine: also known as the “zen” amino acid. This amino acid has been regarded as a strong contender for promoting focus and a feeling of calm. Studies show that post-workout supplementation of 50 mg L-theanine accelerates mental regeneration after physical exercise.6 So, instead of feeling completely spent after a grueling working, L-theanine can help encourage mental energy as you get on with your day.
Holy Basil: the findings from 24 human studies published to date suggest that the tulsi is a safe herbal intervention that may assist in normalizing glucose, blood pressure and lipid profiles, and dealing with psychological and immunological stress.7
Ashwagandha: studies show ashwagandha supplementation is associated with significant increases in muscle mass and strength and suggests that ashwagandha supplementation may be useful in conjunction with a resistance training program.8
Turmeric: a well-known herb, touted for its anti-inflammatory action, turmeric has been studied for its benefit towards reducing DOMS. Data demonstrates curcuminoids (active constituents of turmeric) reduce muscle damage and improve muscle soreness in healthy young subjects following a bout of muscle damaging exercise. Faster recovery allows for consistent training at competition intensity and might lead to enhanced adaptation rate and performance.9
Tart Cherry Powder: has strong anti-inflammatory properties which make this superfood a good choice in aiding recovery following exhaustive and strenuous exercise.10
- Stone M, et al. (2009). A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen. J Ethnopharmacol, 126(3): 574–576.
- Graham TE. (2012). Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med, 31(11): 785–807.
- Health Canada. Mushrooms Monograph. Accessed May 25, 2020 at: http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/atReq.do?atid=mushrooms.champignons&lang=eng
- Z Liang, et al. (2019). The influence of six weeks intervention of Astragalus Membranaceus on female athletes in aerobic performance by ultrasound imaging. J Med Imag Health In,9(3): 584-588.
- Medical News Today. How to build muscle with exercise. Accessed May 25, 2020 at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/319151#tips-for-beginners-
- Jäger R, et al. (2008). Improving mental regeneration after physical exercise. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 5(P3).
- Jamshidi N, Cohen MM. (2017). The clinical efficacy and safety of Tulsi in humans: a systematic review of the literature. eCAM, 2017: 1-13.
- Wankhede S, et al. (2015). Examining the effect of Withania somnifera supplementation on muscle strength and recovery: a randomized controlled trial. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 12(43).
- Fang W, Nasir Y. (Epub Nov 10, 2020). The effect of curcumin supplementation on recovery following exercise-induced muscle damage and delayed-onset muscle soreness: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytother Res.
- Connolly DA. (2015). The role of cherries in health, exercise and disease. J Hum Nutr Food Sci, 3(1).