It’s clear that eating right goes hand in hand with exercising, but in our world full of information—and misinformation—it can sometimes prove challenging to separate what’s true and what’s a big fat lie when it comes to how certain nutritional practices affect your fitness. Get the facts on three hot food topics so you can make the most of your fitness routine.
Following a vegetarian or vegan diet negatively impacts workout performance.
While there is limited research on the effects of a vegetarian or vegan diet as it relates to athletic performance, the idea that a meat-free diet—and in the case of vegans, one free of eggs and dairy—won’t provide exercisers with enough protein to adequately build and repair muscles is a misconception.
One of the most commonly held beliefs is that because animal sources provide protein that is complete and can be used by the body more readily, they must be superior to plant sources. However registered dietitians and researchers will be the first to tell you that if you’re consuming adequate amounts of a combination of a variety of quality plant-based protein sources—such as soy, nuts, beans, seeds, leafy greens, quinoa (a complete protein), and whole grains—you can get all of the protein needed for optimal physical performance.
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Chocolate milk serves as a great postworkout recovery drink.
Given the fact that one of the commonly cited studies on this topic was supported in part by the Dairy and Nutrition Council, it’s easy to see why some people are skeptical about this. But other research has shown that both plain and chocolate milk is as effective, if not more effective, as many sports drinks for rehydrating post-exercise given its high concentration of electrolytes. Chocolate milk also provides approximately a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, which nutrient timing research shows to be most effective for increasing protein synthesis—to help repair muscles—and replenishing energy (glycogen) stores, which provide the body with what it needs for recovery. Have a glass 45 minutes to an hour post-workout, or if you’re vegan, chocolate soy milk provides a similar carb-to-protein ratio, dietitians say.
Caffeine enhances your workouts.
The research is clear that caffeine does enhance athletic performance—so much so that the NCAA has restrictions on how much athletes can have in their systems. But before you go reaching for that venti Americano, keep in mind that the risks of consuming too much caffeine and developing a dependency may outweigh the benefits. Chronic caffeine use has been shown to contribute to high blood pressure, decreased bone mineral density in women, jittery nerves, and sleeplessness. And if you regularly drink coffee, tea, or energy drinks, consuming additional caffeine likely won’t boost your athletic performance too much, as research has found that non-caffeine users experience the greatest java boost.
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