The human body is the only machine that improves with use. Working out on an elliptical or treadmill undoubtedly improves your fitness. Like a car, what you put in your fuel tank determines how well your engine works. The term “superfood” has become popular lately and refers to foods that are especially valuable for their nutrients. For the fitness minded, there are superfoods that also boost your metabolism and help you lose weight – all without dieting. Surprisingly, the simplest – and cheapest – superfood is perhaps the most important of all.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the best superfoods and how they can maximize your elliptical or treadmill workout efforts. We will divide the foods into the following categories:
- Tree nuts
- Berries and Broccoli
- Green Tea
- Egg whites
- Red chili peppers
- The most important superfood of all
The health benefits of tree nuts have been known for years. The most commonly recognized tree nuts are almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts.
An article published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition showed that tree nut consumers had lower body weights, lower body mass indexes (BMIs) and smaller waist circumferences. Combine this with low impact workouts on an elliptical, like thenew Miami model, and you multiply the benefits even further.
Tree nut consumption is also associated with a 5% lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome. This syndrome is a combination of conditions: high blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and high cholesterol.
If we dig deeper, it appears that metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance are intimately linked. This means that your body’s cells cannot respond normally to insulin which interferes with proper blood sugar and fat metabolism. Some symptoms of insulin resistance might include tiredness, difficulty concentrating and hunger. The consumption of nuts, therefore, may give you more energy and help you stick with your treadmill workout routine.
Another theory being investigated is that tree nuts can increase blood serotonin levels which can decrease hunger and improve mood. So eating nuts may help you lose weight and make you happier.
It is recommended that adults eat 1.5 ounces of tree nuts per day to receive all the health benefits associated with this superfood. As we will see later, other superfoods also work by preventing metabolic syndrome.
Berries And Broccoli
There has been a lot of research about the beneficial effect of berries on the brain. These super fruits contain anthocyanidins; an antioxidant that helps improve cognition as shown by research at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. Antioxidants prevent oxidative stress upon your cells. Oxidative stress can play a role in some cancers and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Antioxidant foods may also reduce inflammation and decrease muscle soreness. This is especially helpful for when you get back on a treadmill, like a Sebring, for another session of fat burning.
Berries also may hold an additional secret to weight loss. When consumed with starches, blueberries blunt the insulin response according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition. Also, research from the University of Florida shows that diets rich in plant-based foods can help you lose weight even if you eat the same amount of calories. The researchers believe that antioxidants play a key role in this process, which makes blueberries especially valuable due to their high antioxidant content.
It is recommended that you eat a half a cup of berries at least three times a week. Every day is even better to get the full health benefits.
The vegetable counterpart of berries is broccoli. Ounce for ounce, broccoli is the most nutrient rich vegetable in the world. Plus, broccoli is full of antioxidants. One half cup a day is the recommended serving size.
As we continue along our list of superfoods, we come to one that seems to have a never-ending list of benefits: the avocado. Plus, the avocado is full of fat, good fat that is. The avocado is rich in:
- Monounsaturated fatty acids (“good fat”)
- Dietary fiber (important for bowel regularity)
- Vitamin C (good against colds, cancer, heart disease and diabetes)
- Potassium, vitamins A, B, E and essential minerals
These nutrients have an important impact on workout effectiveness. For example, proper potassium balance might prevent muscle cramps, and vitamin C and E may play important roles in skeletal muscle repair according to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.
Analysis data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey which is a program of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that avocado consumers have:
- Lower body mass indexes (BMI)
- Smaller waist circumferences
- Lower body weight (average of 7.5 pounds less than non-avocado consumers)
- Higher HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels
The exact mechanism behind the healthy advantage is not clear, but the study discussion suggests several factors, such as:
- Food energy density – energy dense foods are higher in sugar or fat content
- Macronutrient bioavailability – amount of nutrients your body absorbs from the food
- Physical properties of avocados – structure of the food may influence the effect on the body
The daily serving size of a medium sized avocado is about a fifth to a quarter of the fruit per day.
Oats are all about fiber. Dietary fiber helps keep you bowel activity regular, and they help you feel satisfied after eating for a longer period of time. Oats also are a healthy source of carbohydrates. There is a common misconception that carbohydrates make you fat. If you consume carbs in the form of potato chips, then you will probably gain weight. But if you eat oats, you can actually lose weight by eating.
Oats are a form of resistant starch. Resistant starches pass partially undigested through your stomach and small intestine. According to research from the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center for Human Nutrition and other studies, resistant starches, like oats can:
- Reduce fat
- Increase fat metabolism
- Increase muscle mass
- Curb food cravings
- Control blood sugar
- Lower bad cholesterol
One of the most interesting findings in the study, which involved 4,451 persons, is that people who ate the most carbohydrates were the slimmest. The key was that they ate a diet rich in resistant starches found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Resistant starches are a superfood because they create a biophysical change in your body. These foods boost metabolism so that just by eating them your body burns fat more effectively. If you combine this with exercise related ways to kick start your metabolism, you will lose weight faster and keep it off.
The serving size for oatmeal is ½ cup in hot water or milk.
Eating fish is healthy, but not all fish are the same. Salmon is a superfood powerhouse. Not only is it rich in protein, but salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Research has shown that the omega-3s may help prevent cancers, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Joe Collela, a leading Pittsburgh based bariatric (weight-loss) surgeon, told the Seattle Times, “Frankly, I don’t know a better food to eat than salmon.”
The reason for Dr. Collela’s enthusiasm is that salmon’s rich omega-3 content appears to promote weight loss, even when compared to other fish. So yes, fish is good for you, but salmon is especially good for you. Salmon also might be helpful in preventing metabolic syndrome.
Salmon is packed with healthy vitamins such as vitamin B12, D, B3 and B6. It is also rich in important minerals and elements like selenium and potassium.
The high protein and vitamin content of salmon make it one of the best foods to eat post-exercise since your body is especially ready to absorb nutrients within the first hour after a workout. This helps restore your the protein broken down during your training session.
The recommended serving size of salmon is 3-4 ounces or one salmon steak.
Green tea originated in China where for centuries it has been revered for its health benefits. Green tea contains enzymes, amino acids, carbohydrates, polyphenols, carotenoids, vitamins, phytochemicals and dietary minerals. There are volumes of research touting the benefits of this superdrink including:
- Improved blood sugar
- Possible cancer risk reduction
- Skin benefits
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Improved alertness
- Prevention of cognitive decline
Some research has shown that green tea can increase exercise endurance by up to 24%. So if you are training for a marathon on a Boston Marathon treadmill, you might want to seriously consider taking advantage of this superfood’s benefits.
For those that want to lose weight, the news is also good. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging has shown that green tea consumption may help:
- Prevent metabolic syndrome
- Promote weight loss
- Trim your waistline
One cup of green tea per day is the suggested serving size.
All the superfoods listed until now are great sources of nutrition and can help you with weight loss. To a certain degree, all of them are metabolism boosters. However, there are some foods that are especially effective at revving up your body’s engine. These foods literally help you lose weight while you sleep. When these foods are combined with exercise, such as training on an elliptical, like the Islamorada, your efforts are multiplied far beyond what a normal diet offers.
Do you remember the scene in Rocky when he chugged down a half-a-dozen raw eggs before going out to run? You don’t have to go to that extreme, and leave out the cholesterol rich egg yolks. But egg whites are rich in branched chain amino acids. These are essential amino acids, meaning that you can only get them in your diet. They also make up 35% of the essential amino acids for your muscle proteins.
Branched chain amino acids have been used for decades by bodybuilders whose main goal is to minimize fat and gain muscle. Some people use these nutrients to help reduce fatigue. There is evidence showing that the branched chain amino acids may also prevent muscle breakdown.
Your muscles are your metabolic furnace. They are what power your body to move and burn calories. Smart eating means keeping muscles strong and healthy which lead to a more active overall metabolism. Adding intelligent exercise, like muscle activation, increases your benefits even more.
You can safely eat up to 3-5 egg whites per day since they are low in calories and over 90% protein.
Red Chili Peppers
Now we are really getting warmed up. Chili peppers contain a special element called capsaicin which makes the peppers spicy. Doesn’t it make sense that increased heat would burn fat? Well, according to research from the American Chemical Society, this just might be true.
Capsaicin seems to have a double benefit. For starters, sprinkling peppers on your food seems to induce an appetite suppressant effect so you eat less and have less hunger pangs. Red peppers are also extremely rich in antioxidants, which gives an added weight loss advantage. They are also rich in vitamins A, C and K.
The Most Important Superfood Of All – Water
Water is the ultimate superfood. Image by Hans.
Water is the ultimate superfood. Image by Hans.
Your body is approximately made up of 60% water. The human body consumes water constantly, even just by breathing. The water balance in our bodies is critical for proper metabolic function. Even mild dehydration affects your body, mood, energy level and cognition. After all, the brain is made up of 75% water.
The University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory studied how mild dehydration affects people. Mild dehydration was defined as a 1.5% loss of total body water. We don’t even start to feel thirsty until we get close to a total body water loss of 2%.
The research showed that even mild dehydration can cause headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, reaction delay, and learning and memory difficulties. Another study published in the journal Obesity, showed that adequate water consumption helps people lose weight.
Remember, if you feel thirsty you are already mildly dehydrated, so it is best to stay hydrated throughout the day. Make sure you are well hydrated before you step on your elliptical or treadmill, and be generous with fluid intake during your workout. Nothing will hinder your exercise efforts more than being dehydrated.
Water just might be more beneficial than any of the superfoods and the one most often overlooked. How much water should you drink each day? Well it can depend on your body size, but the rule of thumb is one liter (33 ounces) per day according to Brenda Davy, Associate Professor of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech.
According to Boston College research, about two thirds of Americans do not drink enough water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the percentage of US adults that are overweight is about two thirds. Anyone see a connection?
The age-old advice of eat plenty of fruits and vegetables is fine, but superfoods truly stand out from the rest. These superfoods don’t work because they are necessarily lower in calories. Instead, the composition of these foods holds something special that makes your body work more efficiently. If you combine this with exercise on an elliptical or treadmill, you will find your workouts are more effective than ever.