What you put in your stomach before, during, and after exercise can mean all the difference between a winning performance and one that leaves you limping across the finish line. And while there is no shortage of super-engineered sports nutrition products on the market, your pantry may already hold the key to your next PR. Presenting simple, inexpensive grocery staples backed by science to keep you going strong.
Before: Chicken Noodle Soup
A comforting bowl of chicken noodle soup can do more than keep the sniffles at bay, it can also boost your workouts. A study in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found that athletes who spooned up sodium-dense chicken noodle soup before a cycling test not only drank more aqua during their workout but also retained more water (i.e. lost less through urine) than those who just drank water before jumping on the saddle. This implies that the soup changed kidney function and the risk of dehydration for the better. And those noodles can help top up your energy stores before working up a sweat.
Try: Pacific Organic Chicken Noodle Soup, $2.79 for 17.6 ounces at Target Pacificfoods.com
Turns out honey is nature’s energy gel. Scientists at the University of Memphis found that honey is just as effective as a sports gel at increasing performance during endurance exercise. The sweet gift from busy bees contains a cocktail of fast-digesting simple sugars— namely fructose and glucose—which are an effective energy source for muscles in motion. Try mixing honey and a pinch of salt with water in a gel flask.
Try: Nature Nate’s Raw & Unfiltered Honey, $6 for 12 Ounces Naturenates.com
After: Cereal and Milk
The dorm room favorite could be the surprising recovery food of champs. A study hailing from The University of Texas at Austin showed that people who ate a bowl of whole-grain cereal with nonfat milk after two hours of exercise experienced increases in muscle glycogen levels and muscle protein synthesis—two key markers of better exercise recovery. The carbs in cereal restore spent muscle energy reserves (glycogen), and the protein in moo juice kickstarts muscular repair.
Try: Organic Valley Fat Free Milk $3.49 on Amazon Fresh