Top 10 Plant-Based Foods For High Energy & Physical Performance
Maintaining a high level of energy and strong physical performance is not always easy if you don't fuel your body with the right foods.
Whilst your physical energy and output over time, has much to do with your mindset and how much you prioritise movement, there are also certain foods known for their energising and nutritional powers that can contribute to your physical performance.
Here, we share with you 10 of our favourite foods that can really help energise you as part of a well-balanced and plant-based diet and lifestyle.
Oatmeal, organic oats and porridge is one of those classic, high performance, energy foods.
Oats contain a type of soluble fibre known as beta glucan, which is what makes cooked oats have a "gluey" type appearance. Beta glucan slows the absorption of sugars or carbs over several hours, giving you sustained energy and helping you to stay satiated for a long period of time.
Packed with fibre, oats have a lower glycemic index than many other foods, meaning they help to keep your blood sugar stable. They are the perfect breakfast food if your looking for sustainable energy to keep you going throughout the day, particularly if you're prone to mid morning tummy rumbles.
Oats can be soaked overnight in nut milk to prepare a delicious power breakfast or heated in a saucepan to prepare a comforting, energising winter porridge. Top with raw honey or your favourite dried fruit.
2. Sweet Potatoes
Rich in complex carbohydrates that deliver slow-release energy and phytonutrients that reduce inflammation in the body, sweet potatoes are a well known physical performance food.
After intense exercise, when glycogen levels are depleted in the body, sweet potatoes are a wonderful food source that will help to replenish those levels.
Similar to oatmeal, sweet potatoes are considered a performance superfood because they are rich in potassium which helps prevent muscle fatigue and the slow release carbohydrates will help keep you fuller for longer.
Another great benefit of sweet potatoes is their vitamin C content, which helps support your immune system if you're placing your body under physical stress. They're also loaded with potassium, which helps to regulate heart beat, relax your muscles and reduce blood pressure.
Enjoy sweet potatoes regularly at dinner time, either mashed, steamed or baked with a little extra virgin olive oil or grass-fed butter, fresh herbs, sea salt and cracked pepper.
You can also prepare them as a cool snack for the next day. Chop them into chunks, steam them and allow to cool. Then store in the fridge overnight and add them to your favourite salad or a plate of leafy greens, drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice for lunch the next day.
There's a reason why many athletes choose ripe bananas as their go-to snack food. Loaded with potassium, fibre, vitamin B6 and other high-performance nutrients, mother nature made bananas the ultimate, quick fix energy food!
Bananas are delicious and the perfect on-the-go healthy snack, but they also bring you essential, natural electrolytes that are depleted during moderate and intense exercise.
For this reason, eating a banana after a work out, rigorous hike or bike ride, is the perfect replenishment snack.
Bananas are both nutritious and filling, meaning you're less likely to reach for heavier calorie-laden foods before and after physical activity when you eat bananas.
They're also superior to sports drinks that are unfortunately these days laced with artificial colours and sweeteners.
It's best to source your bananas weekly from your local farmer's markets or local fruit shop. Buy them just off ripe and allow them to ripen in fresh air next to a window on the kitchen bench before you consume them, or peel, slice and freeze them for adding to smoothies.
4. Raw Nuts
Raw nuts are the perfect energy food.
Packed with natural fibre, good fats and plant-based protein, raw nuts should form a staple of a high-performance diet because they deliver vital nutrients without the additives, preservatives and other unwanted calories.
Not only that, raw nuts satiate the appetite so that you fell less hungry and they deliver important building blocks to feed the muscles and joints.
Raw nuts are also loaded with key minerals that help to fight fatigue, such as magnesium, calcium and iron - all vital for maintaining robust health and a strong body.
As an in-between meal snack food, nothing beats raw nuts to keep you going and to bring you slow release energy so that you don't crash and burn.
Our favourite high-performance raw nuts are macadamias, walnuts, almonds and brazil nuts. Enjoy them on their own, with dried apricots or mango, add them to organic dairy or coconut yogurt, or dip them in raw honey.
5. Chick Peas
Chick peas are another low glycemic, high performance food that provides slow release energy and is packed with fibre and plant-based protein.
Packed with iron, calcium and other minerals, chick peas support healthy bone structure and strength.
They're also a great weight loss food, because they aid digestive health and help you stay fuller for longer. Enjoy chick peas in soups, stews or add 1 can of drained chickpeas into a blender with a dash or olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of sea salt, to prepare a power packed, homemade hummus!
6. Chia Seeds
Small but packing a serious nutritional punch, chia seeds are an excellent source of plant-based omega-3 fatty acids and key nutrients that help prevent inflammation and soreness in the body.
Additionally, chia seeds are known to help prevent heart disease and are packed with fibre, minerals, antioxidants and muscle building protein.
Chia seeds are incredibly easy to incorporate into your diet. One of the easiest and most delicious ways to enjoy chia seeds is to make chia pods or puddings as a breakfast or raw dessert.
Simply add 3-4 tablespoons of chia seeds to 1 cup of raw almond or coconut milk, mix in a small bowl or mason jar, cover and allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.
Add a some pieces of your favourite seasonal fruit, raw dates, maple syrup or raw honey in the morning for a power-packed breakfast. Or great some raw organic chocolate or add a sprinkle of cacao nibs on top for a delicious raw dessert after dinner.
Chia seeds can also be added to your favourite smoothie to help replenish the muscles and aid recovery after a rigorous workout.
Learn more in our blog 5 Amazing Benefits of Chia Seeds.
7. Medjool Dates
Medjool Dates are one of the best natural sweeteners and snack foods on the plant and are definitely considered a high performance food.
Not only are they wonderful for energy, they are rich in potassium, which can help to replenish a depleted body after rigorous exercise. They can even ease post-workout cramping and aid muscle recovery.
There are a number of ways you can enjoy pitted medjool dates.
Consume them as a delightful snack together with raw nuts. Or add 1-2 to your favourite smoothie combo and blend to sweeten in the place of raw honey. They're also great for preparing raw treats or for chopping and adding to your morning porridge or favourite yogurt.
Aside from being packed with antioxidants to help fight free radicals, berries can actually help you perform better.
As a general rule, the darker the berry, the more rich it is in phyto-nutrients and protective elements that help your body defend against oxidative stress.
The high antioxidants in berries also help your body to recover faster, so that you can stay on track with your physical exercise routine.
Be sure to eat 2-3 cups of fresh, seasonal berries each week by eating them on their own or combining them with raw nuts, yogurt or fruit salad. You can even freeze fresh berries and include them in your favourite smoothie recipes.
Our favourite berries are Blueberries, Blackberries, Raspberries and Strawberries.
If not in season or for those occasions when you can't get your hands on fresh berries, try our super nutritious and convenient BERRY Raw Juice Powder
Simply, mix 1-2 tablespoons of raw powder into a glass of chilled water and enjoy, or add to a blender with nut milk, banana and a pitted medjool date or raw honey, to prepare an energising raw smoothie!
9. Coconut Oil
Raw coconut oil is packed with long and medium chain fatty acids, which are beneficial for sustained energy, satiating the appetite and protecting the body from bacterial and viral overwhelm.
Coconut oil is ideal for frying and baking due to its extremely high heat point, which means that it doesn't go rancid when under heat stress, like many other oils can which can cause unwanted chaos in the body when regularly consumed.
Super versatile, raw coconut oil can also be enjoyed as an addition to raw treats, desserts and smoothies. It is a genuine performance food that is both satisfying, easily digestible and that won't weigh you down.
Also, MCT Oil is a derivative of coconut oil that is gaining wide acclaim in athletic circles as a high performance energy supplement. MCT stands for medium chain triglycerides - it provides a burst of quick, clean sustainable fuel, because the long chain triglycerides have been removed. This means it requires virtually no digestion as it by-passes the liver and stomach and enters the blood stream to be immediately used as fuel.
Learn more about MCT in our blog What's The Difference Between MCT Oil & Coconut Oil
10. Dark Chocolate
Dark chocolate has long been touted for its cardiovascular benefits, but it's also a well regarded physical performance and mood elevation food.
Dark chocolate increases nitric oxide in the body, which dilates blood vessels and reduces oxygen consumption so that you can do more for longer.
This means, when you eat real organic chocolate which is free from additives, preservatives and processed sugars, it can not only put you in the right frame of mind to exercise, give you a nice energy boost and also sustain your performance.
Keep in mind that there is a big difference between commercial chocolate like you'll find on your supermarket shelf and that which is prepared from organic raw cacao - the way "real" chocolate is meant to be!
For this reason, we recommend getting the benefits of chocolate by adding raw cacao powder and/or cacao nibs to your favourite raw treats, smoothies and desserts.
Learn more in our blog 7 reasons why raw cacao is a wellness superfood
The Main Take Away
Mother nature provides a wide selection of superfoods that have special qualities when it comes to optimising your physical performance.
By including even just a few of the plant-based selections we've shared with you here, you will boost your energy for longer, avoid nasty hunger pangs in between meals and help your body to replenish itself following moderate activity.
Even if you're not very physically active, by embracing these foods, you will benefit from the heart health and cardiovascular benefits that are so important and lacking in most other foods.
Learn more in our blog Top 7 Reasons To Embrace A Plant-Based Diet & How To Do It
Tolman Self Care.