Is the Med diet best for exercise?
The Mediterranean diet (Med diet) is well-established as having numerous health benefits, but now a study from Saint Louis University has found that eating a Mediterranean diet can improve athletes’ endurance exercise performance after just four days!
In a small study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, investigators found that participants ran a 5K some 6% after eating a Med diet than after eating a Western diet. The Med diet in the study was based on whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and whole grains, and avoided red and processed meats, dairy, trans and saturated fats and refined sugars. By comparison, the Western diet was characterized by low intake of fruit, vegetables and unrefined or minimally processed oils and high intakes of trans and saturated fats, dairy, refined sugars, refined and highly processed vegetable oils, sodium and processed foods.
The research team considered that the Med diet’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, more alkaline pH and dietary nitrates might be the reasons for leading to improved exercise performance. And while the gains came fast, the benefits were also quickly lost when switching to the Western diet, highlighting the importance of forming new eating habits that adhere to such a diet to maintain the benefits. It also is a great example of how important diet can be for exercise performance, with food being much more than just fuel or its calorific content.
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