The Best Superfood Powders for Athletes
Aug 5, 2013
The vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other healthy micronutrients found in these powders are left intact during the processing or freeze-dry process. Those nutrients may prevent cell damage and reduce oxidative stress in the body. They may also boost energy levels and support the immune system. Because they're in powder form, they're easy to mix in water, smoothies and sauces, or incorporate into your favorite dishes.
Keep these superfood powders on your radar:
Green drinks are most than just a trend. ?Greens? powders are considered powerhouse supplements. They typically include ingredients such as berry extracts, barley, alfalfa, wheat grass, spirulina, chlorella, algae, ginger and other grasses and greens.
The chlorophyll found in these greens will help remove damaging toxins from the body, which can aid athletic performance. Similar to fresh greens, these young grasses and algae are known for their strong oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) score. This score is the strength behind the powder's ability to fight free radicals.
When purchasing a green powder, choose organic and one that has at least 50 percent greens. This leaves room for a few add-ins, such as probiotics, berry blends and digestive enzymes. Look for and avoid synthetic fillers such as soy lecithin, which may result in fewer greens in your cup. Avoid any product with artificial sweeteners, flavors or processed sugars.
When reading labels for ?reds? powders, you may find ingredients like berry extracts (e.g., strawberry, raspberry, cranberry, blueberry, acai, gogi) and pomegranate, beets and carrots. Similar to greens powders, reds powders are nutritional powerhouses. They contain an abundance of phytonutrients, antioxidants and polyphenols, which can decrease inflammation, boost energy and improve bone health.
The anthocyanins, which give berries their red, blue and purple color, are the all-stars found in reds powders. Athletes may get an extra boost from resveratrol found in these red fruits and vegetables. Resveratrol has been shown to boost muscle endurance by increasing the energy-producing components within muscle cells.
Note: Greens and reds powders aren't magic bullets. Just because you add them to your diet doesn't mean you can stop eating the whole, real versions of the foods.
Whey protein is found in the watery portion of milk. When cheese is produced, whey is what separates from the curds.
Whey is naturally a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids. It's particularly high in the BCAAs (leucine, isoleucine and valine). Branch-chain amino acids are important for athletes because they're metabolized directly into muscle tissue, improving performance and offering optimal protein repletion.
Athletes can benefit from a diet high in leucine, resulting in higher lean mass and lower body fatlevels. Whey protein has approximately 50 percent more leucine than soy protein.
Whey protein also helps athletes maintain a healthy immune system by increasing glutathionelevels in the body. This becomes particularly important during times of competition or overtraining.
Because whey protein is predigested it's more bioavailable in the body. It's also low in calories and carbohydrates. For athletes who follow a low-glycemic index diet, whey protein is an optimal source.
Note: Because it's a dairy product, it's sometimes unsafe for the lactose-intolerant.
Spirulina is a blue-green, microalgae with a strong nutrient profile. The low-calorie superfood is comprised of about 60 percent digestible protein, and is considered to be a complete protein. Spirulina also contains alpha-linoleic acid, beta-carotene, iron and an array of phytochemicals. Athletes like spirulina because it can increase VO2 max.
A 2010 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise reported that spirulina had a positive impact on exercise performance. The results were impressive. The time it took to fatigue after a long-distance run was significantly longer among those who took spirulina. They also found that the fat oxidation rate was increased by almost 11 percent over the placebo groups.
Maca root, which is grown in the mountains of Peru, belongs to the radish family. It's been known to boost energy levels, improve stamina, reduce post-workout soreness and inflammation, and promote clear, mental focus.
Maca root contains digestible protein, small amounts of essential fats, and minerals such as zinc, calcium and magnesium, all of which have been shown to improve performance and reduce recovery time when taken before, during and after a workout. It's also known to increase body temperature, leading to an increase in metabolism and fat loss.