Whether you’re training for a race, working out to lose weight or exercising simply just to feel healthy and fit, it’s important to remember that a solid training plan should also place a strong emphasis on nutrition.
In fact, some experts would even argue that eating well is even more important than your training.
After all, what you eat turns into the energy that fuels your workouts, and it also plays an important role in recovery; the more nutritiously you eat the faster your body will bounce back after an intense workout.
Maintaining a nutritious diet can sometimes feel mundane, though. Ever feel like you’re eating the same meals and snacks over and over again? Grilled chicken, lots of salads and piles of steamed veggies; all of that can get old pretty quickly.
Luckily fall is an excellent time to add some excitement to your eats.
New foods that aren’t always available year-round are starting to pop up in grocery stores across the country, which means it’s the perfect time for you to experiment with new foods to fuel your fitness with.
Here are few examples—some obvious, others often overlooked—but definitely all delicious and most importantly, nutritious.
1. Fresh Beets
Beets can usually be found at the grocery store year-round, but being a cool-weather crop, when planted in the summer they are freshest for fall harvest. Among other beneficial nutrients, beets are high in folate (a B vitamin), manganese and potassium, as well as betalains, which provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and detoxification benefits.
Pumpkins are to fall as cake is to birthdays; one just wouldn't be right without the other. And according to Lauren Rezende a dietitian for the American Council on Exercise, the insides of your jack-o-lantern can actually provide some pretty exceptional health benefits including: improved bone health, thanks to magnesium which helps transport vitamin D and calcium; blood pressure reduction, thanks to magnesium and potassium; and a reduced risk for injury thanks to high levels of vitamin C.
“Pumpkin is a tasty pick for helping produce collagen,” says Rezende. “Collagen isn’t just a must to keep skin smooth, it also builds strong connective tissues to keep tendons and ligaments in the joints ready for the next HIIT circuit.”
3. Butternut Squash
Or as Ross Gellar might call it, “squatternut bosh.” However you choose to say it, this winter squash variety is not only bursting with lots of fall flavors, but plenty of fitness-fueling nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin B-6. Get creative and use it to flavor your favorite recipes like soups, breads, chips or pancakes.
4. Sweet Potatoes
Another food you’ll likely find at your local grocery store year-round, sweet potatoes always make great fitness fuel but are freshest and most flavorful when fall crops are harvested. Aside from their rich, sweet flavors, the best thing about sweet potatoes is the long list of health benefits they offer including antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory and blood sugar-regulating nutrients.
5. Fresh Figs
Fresh figs can be hard to find. They are known to have a short shelf life and can usually only be found in early summer or through fall. This elusive fruit is known to be a good source of potassium, which helps to control blood pressure and also serves as good source of dietary fiber, which is associated with weight management benefits.