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Since lockdown many people are slowly getting back into exercise whether they be returning to the gym, running or doing at home exercise. If you took a hiatus from exercise during lockdown, it’s only natural to experience a drop in fitness and to be extra sore following workouts!

To help overcome this and get the most from your workouts, diet does count and certain foods can give you a competitive edge!

To find out which foods can help with performance and which with recovery, read on below:

Performance

If not adequately fuelled for exercise, we are less likely to have sufficient energy and stamina for our workout, which can mean less progress. While it’s perfectly fine to have some slower sessions, if you are trying to hit a specific goal or target, then its important to pay attention to your diet.

Some key foods to have on board prior to a workout include:

Dates
Offer a quick source of fuel in the form of mostly simple carbohydrates but also potassium, phosphorous, calcium and magnesium. These are all electrolytes, which are an added bonus to have prior to exercise, because they can be lost during exercise.

Natural Yoghurt and fruit
This is a good combo if you are doing some form of strength training because together this snack provides simple carbs and protein. Both yoghurt and fruit also contain natural electrolytes and minerals, which can be depleted during exercise. If you aren’t a fan of yoghurt and fruit, you can also turn this combo into a smoothie by using milk!

Brown Rice Crackers
Brown rice crackers are an easy snack to consume pre exercise and offer carbohydrates to fuel workouts. Brown rice crackers also contain a little bit of protein along with magnesium, selenium, potassium and calcium. As a topping, a smear of nut butter, avocado or cheese can be added!

Recovery

Replenishing your body with lost nutrients and making sure you feed your body adequate fuel, to speed up recovery is as important as fuelling correctly pre-exercise!

Some key foods to enjoy post-workout include:

Banana or freshly squeezed orange juice
Both are rich in electrolytes, which help to promote rehydration following exercise. This is particularly important if you are exercising at a high intensity or for a long duration.

Bananas are particularly easy to carry around with you and to eat straight after the session. If you do have some more time and a bigger appetite, try a banana smoothie or banana with yoghurt and dates because both milk and yoghurt, are also a good source of electrolytes.

Brazil Nuts
These nuts are a trifecta when it comes to exercise recovery. Not only do they contain protein to assist muscle repair but also magnesium and selenium. Both of which help to aid post exercise oxidative stress, which can support a quicker recovery. Its important to remember that because they are a relatively potent source of selenium, only a few brazil nuts are needed.

Tofu
Tofu is another good source of protein and also magnesium. Magnesium is particularly helpful post exercise because it helps to support muscle function and exerts anti-inflammatory effects, helping muscles to relax and reduce soreness.

Hemp Seeds
It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of hemp seeds, including from an exercise recovery perspective! Hemp seeds are a plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are famous for their anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects. Because exercise induces inflammation and oxidation, it can be beneficial to combat this via eating a wide range of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant rich foods, including hemp seeds. They are also incredibly easy to add to you diet, some ideas including, smoothies, on top of soups, salads, oats, porridge or toast.

Chickpeas
Chickpeas are a good source of complex carbs and fibre, which both help to provide fuel to repair muscles, build lean muscle mass and replenish glycogen levels. However, chickpeas also contain zinc, which helps to support the metabolism of proteins, which our body uses to recovery from muscle damage and also acts as an antioxidant which protects against cell damage. If you are unable to consume chickpeas, other good sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, wholegrains, cashews and red meat.