Like the cars we drive, our bodies require fuel to take us where we want to go. While we don’t need gasoline to start our engines, nutrients from healthy foods are the key ingredient to fueling our peak performance.
No matter our age, level of physical activity, or weight, proper nutrition is vital for providing our body with the kind of energy we need to achieve at the highest level. For athletes, especially, a healthy diet that properly fuels you is just as essential as hydration when pursuing excellent workouts consistently.
So, what type of foods does your body need to give you the endurance to power through your day? And how can you find the stamina and nutrients you need on a plant-based diet?
Let’s dive into all this and more in ATAQ’s Guide to Nutrition for Muscular Endurance:
What Nutrients Help Endurance?
Before we discuss the best foods for increasing our endurance, we need to explore the three essential macronutrients our body needs for sustained energy.
These macronutrients are our body’s favorite source of energy, and they can be found in a wide variety of foods.
An efficient and effective fuel provider, complex carbs are broken down by the body into a smaller sugar (glucose) that provides us with immediate energy. They also fuel contractions in our muscle groups and increase brain activity, making them an excellent source of energy for shorter, intense workouts.
Dietary Recommendation: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that carbohydrates make up approximately 45 to 65 percent of your daily calorie intake.
Another critical source of fuel for our bodies; these macronutrients have an undeserved negative reputation that can overshadow the many benefits.
In addition to helping us absorb vitamins, insulate our organs and regulate hormones, healthy fats provide us easily-accessible energy in the short term while also building our long-term energy reserves. Fat is especially good at fueling us for an extended period, like longer workouts of moderate difficulty.
Dietary Recommendation: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that total fat make up 20 to 35 percent of your daily calorie intake.
In the world of sports nutrition, protein is mostly known for its muscle-building powers, but did you also know that it helps with increasing your stamina and enhancing your endurance?
Protein is essential for providing the body fuel to build and repair tissues. It is also an excellent fuel source that takes a very long time to break down, leading to longer-lasting energy that aids muscle endurance.
Dietary Recommendation: The Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein suggests consuming 1.7 grams of protein per pound of weight every day.
Now that we know the three important macronutrients that are key for energizing our body in a healthy way, let’s break down some plant-based foods that can provide you with filling servings of complex carbs, healthy fats and vital proteins, respectively.
Healthy Sources of Carbs
While there are many different sources of carbs, ATAQ’s advice is to stick with carbs that are in their natural form, meaning they are fiber-rich and packed with other nutrients. These are far more beneficial than the types of carbs found in junk foods like candy, breakfast cereal and sugary baked products.
While this list does not include every source of healthy carbs, some of our favorite sources are:
- Vegetables: broccoli, beets, brussel sprouts, carrots and zucchini
- Whole Fruits: apples, blueberries, bananas, grapefruits and oranges
- Whole Grains: brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, whole wheat, and whole-grain pasta
- Tubers: potatoes and sweet potatoes
Healthy Sources of Fat
Just like carbs, there are many different sources of fat to be found.
The key to focusing on healthy fats is to stay vigilant with your diet and make sure you place more emphasis on high-quality, energizing sources of fat rather than popular, unhealthy varieties.
One of the great things about healthy fats is that they’re often easy to find, affordable, and perfect to eat on the go. This versatility gives you a wide range of flavors, styles, and options to find your favorite healthy choices.
While there are a plethora of options out there, some of our favorite sources of plant-based fats are:
- Seeds: chia seed, flaxseed, sesame seed, sunflower seed, and pumpkin seed
- Nuts: almonds, cashews, macadamia nuts, pistachios, and walnuts
- Plant Oils (in limited amounts): canola oil, extra virgin olive oil, sunflower oil, and vegetable oil
- Tofu and Beans: chickpeas, kidney beans, lentils, peas, and soybeans
Healthy Sources of Protein
If you’re looking to boost your strength training and energy levels to reach optimal performance, protein is a great way to start.
There are numerous excellent sources of protein, even for those of us who stick to a plant-based diet. In fact, plant-based protein options can give you all the benefits of protein from meat without any adverse effects of consuming animal products.
Whether you like high intensity, interval training, or are seeking to increase your cardiovascular endurance; protein is a perfect way to help your body repair and energize for more extended periods.
Some of our favorite sources of plant-based protein are:
- ATAQ Protein Powders: with flavors like chocolate, vanilla, and matcha, our plant-based protein powder packs 25 grams of non-GMO protein per serving and matches the amino acid profile of whey as closely as possible
- Vegetables: brussel sprouts, broccoli, edamame, garden asparagus, and spinach
- Nuts: hazelnuts, macadamia pecans, peanuts, and pine nuts
- Grains: oats, quinoa, and wild rice
Endurance is the ability to endure a difficult or challenging activity for an extended period. To have consistent, reliable endurance, our body requires the proper foods to attain the nutrients we need to perform at our best.
By maintaining a diet full of healthy, plant-based carbs, fats, and protein, we can give our body the proper fuel it needs to withstand any kind of endurance exercise. Plus, we can give ourselves the healthy, lasting energy we need to make it through any challenge our day might throw at us.