Natural High-Energy Foods for Athletes

Goji Berries and Cashews. Photo Credit: Jennifer
Goji Berries and Cashews. Photo Credit: Jennifer

We awoke as the sun began draping light over the jungle hills. It was our day of challenge: to kayak the other side of Lake Arenal and back. We wanted to carry as little as possible and loaded up on energy before we left. We also chose to pack a few high-energy foods so that we could sustain our energy to meet the challenge.

We also didn’t want to consume popular “energy” products that are loaded with preservatives and refined sugar. Refined sugar may give a short burst of energy, but it only leads to an energy crash later, and preservatives won’t do much for the body either. Luckily, we know of some high-energy foods that are also whole foods.

Our breakfast selection was not accidental. In fact, it was so packed with energy and nutrition that we hardly wanted to eat any of the food we’d packed until our final push (through a thunderstorm) on the way back. We didn’t need to eat a large quantity of these foods to get the energy they provided, so we weren’t sluggish and tired after eating. Here are the natural high-energy foods we ate and why we ate them:

Chia Seeds.

Chia Seeds. Photo by Health Gauge.
Chia Seeds. Photo by Health Gauge.

This is the food of the Rarámuri (Tarahumara) runners who cover massive distances through punishing terrain on a regular basis. Aztec warriors were also a fan. They’re also really cool. Soak them overnight in water (or almond milk) and you get a sort of gelatin or pudding that looks like frog’s eggs. Eat it, chewing well, and you’ve got your omega-3, omega-6, antioxidants, protein, and lots of energy.

Almonds.

Photo Credit: Harsha K R
Photo Credit: Harsha K R

Okay, I love almonds. Particularly with raisins, or spread (as almond butter) on toast. Luckily, they have plenty of health and energy benefits to justify my obsession. Almonds contain energy-enriching nutrients such as manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, tryptophan, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), phosphorus, and magnesium. They are also high in protein and healthy fats.

Cacao.

Yes, chocolate. Not just any chocolate, though–pure cacao that has been minimally processed, with nothing extracted and no dairy or oils added. High-quality dark chocolate is good. Raw cacao nibs are great. Cacao is filled with antioxidants, healthy fats, protein, and B-vitamins and minerals including calcium, sulfur, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, zinc and copper. Cacao provides energy in all the right ways.

Goji Berries.

Wild Goji Berries. Photo by Phil Sellens.
Wild Goji Berries. Photo by Phil Sellens.

Goji berries are native to the land of yogis. They glow red against the snowy Himalayas and shine from the sacred heart of Tibet. They were undoubtedly found by those great beings who sought enlightenment in these lands. I recently realized how enormously healthy Goji berries are. Goji berries are high in antioxidants and also contain adaptogens, which help your body adapt to stressors. They are also a complete source of protein and amino acids, contain lots of trace mineral as well as vitamins B1, B2, B6.

 

Spirulina. 

I heard of a young man who hiked for a month eating only spirulina. Whether or not this is true, it’s certainly a high-energy and nutrient-dense food. Spirulina is made up of 65% protein and amino acids. It contains Omega 3-,6 and 9s, chlorophyll, bio-available iron, and loads of other vitamins and minerals (check out this article on Wellness Mama).

Coconut. 

Photo by Hafiz Issadeen
Photo by Hafiz Issadeen

The meat is full of healthy fats and the water provides electrolytes. The water is also rich in potassium (good for rehydration) and kinetin (which is the same thing our bodies use to keep us young). One long drink of coconut water can be enough to keep you going through a long hard run.

Maca.

The Incans used maca to enhance energy and endurance and also incorporated it into many of their herbal remedies. This high-energy food is rich in vitamins B, C, and E. It provides plenty of calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous and amino acids. It is an adaptogen and helps to balance the endocrine system. It also boosts your sex drive.

Bee Pollen.

Bees made this! I can’t help but be amazed every time I eat this amazing high-energy superfood. Bee pollen “Contains nearly all nutrients required by humans. About half of its protein is in the form of free amino acids that are ready to be used directly by the body. Such highly assimilable protein can contribute significantly to one’s protein needs.” —Mercola. So many bees. So many flowers. All nourishing your body.

Photo by Bill Bumgarner
Photo by Bill Bumgarner

 

As we neared the shore, the storm cleared. Light swept across the lake and the water shimmered with delight. Our aching muscles pulled us the last few meters and we sank into the rock and mud of the marina like grateful sailors. Another adventure, another tale to be told. Another piece of chocolate and handful of berries. These helped us load the kayaks into the car, and we drove away surging with the beauty of our bodies’ challenge.

By Nicholas Tippins

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