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5 Small Healthy Foods That Pack A Big Punch

It’s quite easy to look at your training regimen and quickly pick it apart, knowing where you need to improve. More often than not, it might seem as though monumental changes need to be made in order to reach your personal goals. This doesn’t always have to be the case though! As opposed to making huge adjustments to your training regimen or your diet, there are actually many small things you can do that will have the same amount of impact.

Using food as an example; high-caliber athletes do eat large amounts of food in order to fuel their training sessions and help achieve personal goals. However, some of our planet’s tiniest foods can really pack a big nutritional punch. A few delicious, healthy snack options like the ones below, can be all you need to take that next big step in your training.

Chia Seeds
These are one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, which is pretty surprising given their size. Just two tablespoons (1 ounce) of chia seeds will provide you with enough antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, and nutrients to keep you training effectively. Just to give you an idea: they are one of the best sources of plant-based protein at 14 percent by weight, and gram for gram, they contain more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon. Try incorporating them into oatmeal, smoothies, parfaits, or even a glass of water with a squeeze of lime. This drink was a traditional source of energy and electrolytes for the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico, known to be some of the greatest distance runners since they could run hundreds of miles without rest!

Related: 3 Brands Smoothie Lovers Should Know

Flaxseed
Also well known for their high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, flaxseed has been shown to be very beneficial for all athletes, especially runners. Not only do foods rich in omega-3’s act to lubricate joints, but they help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and ability to metabolize glucose too. This means better joint health during high-impact training sessions, as well as a reduction in that “energy roller coaster” feeling you may get which can result in dizziness, nausea, or headaches.

Nuts
There are practically as many variations of healthy nuts as anyone could hope for. Being packed full of vitamins and minerals, these make a nutritious and easy on-the-go option for athletes. Certain varieties, especially pistachios, even contain the nutrient lutein, which is an antioxidant typically found in dark, leafy green vegetable like spinach or kale. It has immense cardiovascular benefits for athletes since it promotes efficient blood flow to sore and tired muscles. It’s also easy to be concerned with the fat content in nuts, but rest assured that this is truly a case where fat is beneficial for you. The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are healthy fats and even work to have an anti-inflammatory effect for runners.

Related: Nuts for Weight Control

Quinoa
Alongside chia seeds, this ancient superfood is one of the top sources of plant-based protein. Just one cup delivers high amounts of fiber, minerals, antioxidants, all nine essential amino acids, and enough protein to prime muscle recovery. Quinoa also contains lysine which has shown to help repair and grow muscle tissue faster which is vital for high-impact, endurance athletes. It’s also incredibly versatile within a multitude of dishes so it’s incredibly easy to incorporate this into your diet! It’s neutral flavor allows it to absorb the flavor of the dish and it’s a perfect substitution for oatmeal during breakfast, or even pasta and rice during your other meals.

Goji Berries
Foods that can help your body adapt and overcome external stress or key for endurance athletes. You’re in luck because goji berries are a great healthy snack that have been shown to do just that. Since they are an adaptogen (a natural substance that helps your body adapt to stress), they can help normalize your body’s response to training and even strengthen your immune system since they contain over 500 times the amount of vitamin c as an orange. They also contain 18 amino acids making them a complete protein that will aid in muscle repair and overall strength. Aiming for a handful of them a day will set you on the right path in your training.

Team WR

Team WR represents the Women's Running staff and community behind the magazine and womensrunning.com. The team was created in July 2014 when Women's Running underwent its first re-design since it debuted in 2009. Collectively, Team WR has run everything, from marathon, to half, to novelty runs, to ultras, to 10K and 5K races, to obstacle events, to triathlons.