By Keri Glassman, MS, RD, CDN
Our bodies are pretty amazing machines. And, it’s no surprise to anyone reading here that what we put in our bodies directly influences how we look, feel, and perform.
How our skin glows, how much energy we have, how fast our brains respond, how we run, climb, or spin (and feel while doing it), and how quickly we recover from activity, all depend upon the fuel we put in these incredible machines we call our bodies.
Here are 5 of my favorite foods to keep on hand (to mix and match) for fast snacks or mini meals to keep our bods movin’:
It doesn’t matter whether you throw them in your gym bag, keep a bunch on your desk at work, or grab one from Starbucks when you pick up your morning coffee, just make sure you don’t ignore the banana. Bananas are one of the most convenient foods for people on the move, but they’re also loaded with carbohydrates for fast fuel (oh, and carbs are the only macronutrient that is used for energy by the brain.) One banana contains over 400 mg of the electrolyte potassium (a traditional sports drink has about 60 mg). Potassium is crucial for regulating fluid balance, maintaining healthy blood pressure, and protecting against muscle loss.
TRY: Banana + almond butter + dash of cinnamon
I’m an uber fan of all nuts and nut butters. From almonds to walnuts, they all contain fiber, antioxidants, protein, and healthy fat, making them the ultimate satiating and fueling food. Fat and fiber help to satisfy and keep us full, and protein aids in muscle growth, but it’s those sneaky antioxidants such as vitamin E and manganese that help reduce inflammation and aid in recovery.
TRY: Brown rice + almond milk (heat up!) + 2 teaspoons almond butter swirled in
Carbs are vital for supplying your body with energy, and complex carbs from whole grains like brown rice also provide you with fiber and B vitamins. Those B’s contribute to better transportation of oxygen from the lungs to muscles and convert carbs to energy, both of which can benefit your fitness game.
TRY: ⅓ cup brown rice + ½ cup Greek yogurt + cinnamon for a new twist on rice pudding
The probiotics in kefir are big-time beneficial for your gut health. A happy gut equals a happy body, better immune function, and overall health. Also, this yogurt drink contains 20% of your calcium needs, and we all know we need strong muscles and bones for that kettle bell class.
TRY: Kefir + almond butter + banana + Life's Abundance protein powder in your morning shake
If there is one nutrient that is undervalued, it’s H20. Headaches, fatigue, and irritability all can arise from being improperly hydrated. And, water plays a role in making sure your body runs as efficiently as possible to carry out all of the activities it does on a daily basis, like repairing cells, digesting food, and yes, kicking metabolism into gear. Aim to drink approximately two cups fluid about 2 hours before exercise for adequate hydration, and drink at regular intervals during exercise to replace water lost (about every 15 minutes).
Water alone is sometimes not adequate when it comes to staying properly hydrated, and this is where electrolytes (minerals such as sodium, potassium, chloride, and magnesium) come into play. These minerals control everything from how much water your body retains for cellular function, to keeping your body functioning normally, including your heart rhythm, muscle contraction, and brain function.
Activity and excessive sweating leads to fluid loss, loss of electrolytes, and dehydration. It’s important to rehydrate with water, but water alone does not contain the electrolytes needed to allow your body to function at its best ability. Electrolytes are generally needed for athletes who are exercising at high intensity for longer than 90 minutes to obtain proper fluid balance. So if you’re in this category, make sure to replenish after a serious sweat sesh.
TRY: Making your own electrolyte water, or try a natural sports drink like coconut water. But, whatever you do, drink up and hydrate properly.
Keri Glassman is the founder and president of Keri Glassman, Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice in New York City, as well as The Nutrition School, a 12-week online course created to provide an unprecedented nutrition education and a springboard for building a successful career as a nutritionist. She is on the advisory board for Yahoo Health, is a contributing editor and advisory board member for Women’s Health Magazine, the Health and Wellness partner for JW Marriott hotels, and contributes monthly to Livestrong.com and Foodnetwork.com.
Keri was Lead Nutritionist for Turner’s health and wellness entertainment brand, Upwave, and the Nutritionist and Judge on the healthy cooking competition show, “Cook Your Ass Off.” She has authored four books, including The New You, Improved Diet, and The O2 Diet. Keri is regularly featured on national television programs including The Today Show, Good Morning America, and Access Hollywood Live. She is a spokesperson for national brands that align with the Nutritious Life mission, and is a prolific writer and commentator for many media outlets. Keri resides in New York City with her children, Rex and Maizy.