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Superfoods for a Top Athlete

By USYF Contributor, 05/23/19, 4:15PM CDT


  There are many factors to be considered when building the “perfect” athlete; what skills is he or she practicing, the amount of sleep he or she is getting, how much screen time, etc. However, one of the primary factors that often goes unnoticed is the type of food the athlete chooses to eat. The workouts, practices, exercises, and skill training sessions are a decent chunk of the development of the player, but the type of food the individual consumes to replenish the lost nutrients after the workout is as, or more, important than any of those sessions. 

Here is our list of the top 10 foods an athlete should consume on a regular basis to crystallize their training into top-tier performance. Please keep in mind these foods are in no particular order.


     DISCLAIMER: The author of this article has no background as a nutritionist or healthcare professional. Research was conducted using resources such as Fisher Titus Medical Center, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Diabetes Association. Thank you.


Flaxseed, Olive, and Coconut Oil

Olive Oil contains a high amount of anti-inflammatory properties that helps in decreases muscular tension and joint use. The Omega-3s in the flaxseed oil does the same, but tends to wounds and bruising. Finally, the coconut oil contains high amounts of mid-chain triglycerides that assist in endurance and boosting metabolism. These three foods also contain high amounts of protein and fiber.



Most berries contain a plethora of antioxidants which aid in many body processes and are lost during long training sessions. The darker the berry, the (sweeter the juice) more oxidative-stress preventing chemicals are present. In the long run, most berries can maintain muscle strength as you age.



Legumes are foods like beans that are plant-based, but contain a decent amount of protein. These can be cooked any which way, and unlike normal meats, they don’t contain saturated fats or fiber which prevents hunger for a longer time.



Salmon contains has many positive facets including proteins, omega-3s, and fish oils that build muscle, reduce inflammation, and cleanse the arteries. This prevents heart disease and helps bulk up in areas where it might have previously been more difficult. Salmon can be enjoyed in many ways, but is recommended to about 8 ounces a week.



This is a tricky one, because a) not all carbs are bad but b) there is a limit to the amount of pasta an individual consumes. Carbs are a very important part of an athlete’s diet because they supply the body with carbohydrates that act as a fuel for an athlete.  Pasta also contains fiber which causes stress on the intestines so don’t eat too much in one sitting. 



Putting this one right after pasta made us a little sick to our stomachs (thinking about Banana Alfredo) but we’ll do it anyway. Bananas are a very low-calorie snack which provide a high amount of electrolytes that are lost after high activity levels. Bananas help regulate fluid intake, muscle spasms, and cramps.


Whey Protein

This is an obvious one but we thought we would post it to make sure we covered all our bases. Whey protein is, well, protein that contains essential amino acids & doesn’t contain lots of fat or cholesterol so it is the perfect balance for an athlete. Whey protein holds the amount of protein and amino acids necessary to rebuild muscles and prevents their breakdown.



This includes chocolate milk, just maybe not the Nestle kind with the rabbit on it. That might fall under Milk Chocolate because it’s about 50% of each… Milk, however, contains lots of carbs and protein that are good for muscle recovery and the caffeine in the milk dilates blood vessels which helps with post-workout relaxation. Milk can also aid in muscle tissue repair.



A sensational source of energy carbohydrates and fiber counts, oatmeal is a great way to feel full for a longer period of time. The whole grain level of 100% lowers heart disease and helps gain weight if necessary. Steel-cut oats are preferable to instant oats because they don’t cause insulin levels to spike, leading to a buildup of carbs. 


Cruciferous Vegetables 

No, cruciferous does not mean that these vegetables eat meat; it means dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussels sprouts. These foods all contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to boost athletic stamina and performance. The vitamins all protect against inflammation, and the iron quantities supplies more oxygen to the muscles. Kale helps lower cholesterol with its carotenoids and flavonoids (we promise we aren’t making up words).