A Sports Nutritionist Weighs in on Fit Fueling Trends

Lori Nedescu
by Lori Nedescu
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A Sports Nutritionist Weighs in on Fit Fueling Trends

Trends come and go. They grab our attention, draw us in and leave us wanting something new all over again. In the food and nutrition world, new trends are constantly popping up: keto, gluten free, kale chips, beet juice, golden everything, coconut everything, dusts, sprinkles, essential oils … the list goes on.

Sure, these things can be fun to try, but is there actually any potential for them to help? Or will they just drain your bank account and make you come off as a pretentious foodie? As an active person, your diet needs to center around foods that can promote health (immunity, organ function, vitality) and performance (energy, recovery, body composition).

Let’s explore a few trends that might be beneficial to fueling your fitness:

This humble root vegetable is currently enjoying time in the spotlight. It’s meat and/or juice is in everything from veggie burgers, soup, bars, granola and chocolate to kombucha, smoothies and energy shots.

If you can get past the intensely earthy flavor, beets are a worthy addition to your diet. This vegetable has the power to increase blood flow, delivering more oxygen to your working muscles and potentially delaying the onset of fatigue and decreasing perceived exertion.

Adding beets might be most beneficial to beginner athletes as supplementing with beets is less effective with elite/professional athletes (potentially due to their already high-quality diet and highly trained bodies). Of course, whole beets are cheap, easy and completely healthful — but that’s not trendy or glamorous.

Bars, baked goods, chocolate, porridge mixes and smoothies are all being infused with a ‘perk-you-up’ dose of caffeine. For athletes, caffeine is known to turn down the ‘rest’ signals, allowing the body to keep pushing during workouts. Keep in mind that there’s 95 mg of caffeine in a standard cup of joe so watch for supplementation way below that mark (not likely to see benefits) or much higher (could cause a higher HR or anxiety). In the end, everyone’s caffeine tolerance is different, so be mindful of what your body can handle.

Not a typo. Bugs are intentionally making their way into daily diets. Bars, flours, protein mixes, chips, even granola laced with crickets have all popped onto grocery shelves recently. Grossed out? Don’t be. Harvesting crickets is an extremely sustainable way to get protein, plus the insects have fiber, B vitamins, iron and calcium to keep your body strong and healthy. Don’t collect your own insects (for sanitary reasons), instead look to the pros (EXO, Chapul) to give this trend a try.


READ MORE > EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CRICKET FLOUR


Smoothies and shakes have long been staples of the fitness crowd. They provide a simple, portable way to sip a powerful blend of nutrients for instant energy, meals on the go or as recovery fuel. Unfortunately, many smoothies also provide way too much sugar (from large servings of fruit or added sources) and calories. Enter drinkable soups (FAWEN, ZÜPA, Daily Harvest). They have the same portability, but with a focus on vegetables for a lower calorie, savory, nutrient dense and tasty way to sip your fuel without added sugars and fillers.

Pop one in your car, gym bag or cooler for an energizing pre-workout snack or post training session nutrition boost on the go.

A staple of ketogenic diets, fat bombs are an energy bite that is pretty much all fat. Think coconut meat, nuts, seeds and coconut oil processed into a ‘dough’ with a touch of natural flavoring (mint, vanilla, cocoa, matcha) and rolled into thick balls. Choosing a ‘fat bomb’ over a ‘bliss ball’ (granola/date variety) might help increase satiety, steady blood sugar levels, and give your body fuel for a LSD-style (long, slow, distance) workout. These balls might be small, but they pack a calorically dense punch, so portion control is key.

This tangy topping has made a big comeback with small-batch production of fermented flavors that act as the perfect, nutritious addition to your sandwich, salad, burger or macro bowl. Using this natural, whole-food topping over super processed, sugar-laden sauces helps clean up your eating habits. Besides the whole food, low-calorie attribute, there’s fermentation. Eating more fermented foods can improve digestion, meaning less gastric distress during future training sessions.


READ MORE > 6 TASTY FERMENTED FOODS WITH A PROBIOTIC KICK


Alkaline, flavored, sparkling, ionized or any other water variety is likely to be just as beneficial to your body as plain ol’ H2O. However, many active people simply do not consume enough water throughout the day, which can lead to dehydration, increased hunger signals and even cramping muscles. If there’s a trendy water you like drinking, and you’re more apt to drink water that way, well then have at it!

To make it work for you even more, choose a water with added vitamins, minerals and electrolytes (LyteZone, Nooma). Drinks like coconut, aloe, maple, cactus and watermelon water all contain a natural boost of vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and phytonutrients that can be beneficial to an active body. Just make sure your trendy ‘water’ doesn’t contain too much extra sugar or calories.

This antioxidant-loaded spice is commonly referenced with the adjective ‘golden’ — golden lattes, milk, bars, bites, porridge … the list is endless. Golden might refer to the vibrant hue, but is also applicable to its elite power status in the health and healing world. The spice is known to provide bioactive anti-inflammatory properties that could possibly help your body rebound more quickly from the chronic stress of daily workouts.

To make this trend truly work for you, skip the flashy, processed items (you’d have to eat a lot of ‘golden’ popcorn to reap the antioxidant benefits). Instead, add pure curcumin (the active compound in turmeric) to your stir-fries, dressings, grains, smoothies and soups for a natural dose of the powerful spice.

THE VERDICT

Remember that any trend enters the mainstream quickly and without much scientific evidence to back up claims. Trendy foods are fun, but don’t expect them to be life-changing when it comes to your fitness. Any active person will benefit from a diet of whole, less-processed foods regardless of what is currently considered trendy. Contact a dietitian/nutritionist to get more information on foods and supplements to add to your individual diet to give your body a performance boost.

About the Author

Lori Nedescu
Lori Nedescu

Lori, MS RD CSSD is an accomplished sports dietitian; she holds a Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition and Certification as a Specialist in Sports Nutrition. As a current professional road cyclist and previous elite marathoner and ultra-runner, Lori knows firsthand that food can enhance or diminish performance gains. She understands the importance of balancing a quality whole food based diet with science-backed performance nutrition and strives to share this message with others. Learn more about her @CadenceKitchen.

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