We always think we know what’s best for us. We’re supposed to eat tons of kale; steamed chicken breasts; and raw, fresh vegetables. All of these are fine, but they can get a little…blah. So what are some less-than-obvious examples of surprising foods athletes can enjoy?
We checked in with some experts. First, we spoke with Kayla Little, the wonderful Wellness Director of FitRX. She astonished us with the info that one of our favorite treats from childhood is actually an ideal post-workout beverage.
“You have 30 minutes to recover from an exercise event,” Kayla explains. “Studies show that chocolate milk has the perfect carbohydrate to protein ratio (2:1) to maximize muscle recovery after an endurance event. Try eight ounces of low-fat chocolate milk for muscle recovery.”
It sounds to us like you just go the green light on indulging in a classic lunchbox staple as a grown-up—of all the foods athletes should be eating, this one would never have crossed our minds.
Related: 5 Surprising Foods That Slash Stress
Next, we spoke with Dr. David L. Vastola of Palm Beach, a specialist of Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. He focuses on nutrition (we’re excited to take a peek at his upcoming book, Fountain of Youth: Nutritional Therapies) and has a pretty cool reputation as a real-life Dr. House: his rep is built on discovering problems that other doctors have missed.
“The whole issue of eating and athletics is so clouded by marketing and someone trying to sell you something that it’s easy to get confused about what foods are actually good for athletes,” Dr. Vastola of explains. “But, if you learn the physiology of exercise and cellular metabolism, eating well makes perfect sense.”
Dr. Vastola’s surprising snack choice?
“Pizza is a great example because it’s loaded with lycopene,” he says. “Lycopene is a fat-soluble chemical that is released with cooking and absorbed—as long as fat is present (the cheese takes care of this). This chemical has been shown to help prevent cancer of the prostate and relieve symptoms of prostatic enlargement. Additionally, it can help prevent the sun burning your skin with ultraviolet rays, and can also regress potentially malignant lesions of the skin.”
Is there better news for Florida athletes who spend a ton of time out in the sun? Pizza is practically a medical necessity, and for foods athletes should consider, it’s a big win on flavor.
And finally, we chatted with registered dietician Dirk Noteboom, VP of Culinary Nutrition Services, which provides locally-sourced, organic, high-quality food options to hospital patients around the nation.
Dirk allows—nay, encourages—athletes to eat butter. “Fats in your diet should be high quality,” he explains. “I use olive oil, and believe it or not, real butter: it has a better flavor, and you know exactly what’s in it.” Real butter wins out, as opposed to the fake butter substitute stuff, which contains tons of fake flavors, soy oil, and weird chemicals.
Bonus: Dirk is also a big believe in pastas. “Somebody burning lots of calories will want to have a lot of quick energy available via carbs—served with plenty of vegetables, of course. I am a big believer in using pastas with low fat veggies/sauces. You can easily roast any kind of vegetable in the oven, the roasting process takes about 20 minutes and brings out the natural sweetness and flavor, and that tossed with some olive oil and herbs? Delicious.”
Hungry yet? Read on…