Your body depends on certain nutrients to fuel itself through a workout, and some foods are better than others at providing those nutrients. Here are the top 12 fitness foods


Popeye was right: Spinach will keep you strong. Swedish researchers have found that inorganic nitrate—abundant in spinach—results in muscles using less oxygen, which improves muscle performance.



Watermelon juice helps ease post-workout muscle pain. Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that L-citrulline (watermelon is rich in this amino acid) helps reduce recovery heart rate and muscle soreness.



Cherry juice can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain and damage, according to a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine. Plus, a study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that regularly drinking antioxidant-packed sour cherry juice significantly increases muscle recovery after intense exercise.



What makes kefir unique is the fermentation process, which makes it incredibly easy to digest. This lets the body focus on assimilating and absorbing nutrients and protein, necessary for muscle growth and regeneration. Tryptophan, an essential amino acid found in kefir, relaxes the nervous system, making the food ideal for late-night exercisers.



Want a little push to get you through your next workout? Beets, which have lots of nitrate, can help to keep you moving. According to one study, nitrates improved oxygen use and helped study subjects exercise for up to 16 percent longer.



Tomatoes are rich in lycopene–a natural antioxidant that protects cardiovascular health and helps reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.


Peppermint oil

Research published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that consuming this essential oil for 10 days had a positive effect on blood pressure, exercise performance and breathing ability during a workout. Put a drop in your water bottle before your workout.



The protein in eggs, which accounts for nearly 50 percent of an egg’s makeup, consists of all eight essential amino acids crucial in muscle and bone cell growth and regeneration. Eggs are also a source of calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc and vitamins A, D, E and B.

Have eggs within 20 to 30 minutes of your workout. Hard-boiled eggs are also an ideal mid-workout snack for endurance athletes.



Get energized for a workout with this banana smoothie. According to research published in the online scientific journal PLoS One, consuming a banana during a workout is as beneficial as a sports drink. Plus, bananas provide antioxidants, potassium and other nutritional benefits.


Chia seeds

Athletes need to keep their bones strong and the calcium from chia seeds is especially easy for the body to absorb.

For a great post-workout snack, add a teaspoon of ground chia seeds to your smoothie. For optimal recovery, add ground chia seeds to a big salad two to four hours later.