Mediterranean diet rapidly boosts athletic endurance

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Reprinted with the kind permission of Life Extension.

March 06 2019. A study reported on February 13, 2019 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that a Mediterranean diet was associated with improvement in athletes’ endurance after just four days. The diet is characterized by greater intake of fruit and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and whole grains, and reduced consumption of red and processed meat, trans and saturated fats and refined sugars.

The study included 11 recreationally active men and women who ran five kilometers on a treadmill after consuming a Mediterranean diet for four days and the same distance after four days on a Western diet that was high in fat, sodium and refined sugar, and low in fruit and vegetables. The two trials were separated by a period of nine to 16 days.

Despite similar heart rates and perceived exertion, participants completed the five kilometer run 6% faster after the Mediterranean diet was consumed in comparison with the Western diet. The researchers suggested that anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects associated with the Mediterranean diet could be mechanisms supporting the observed exercise enhancement.

“Many individual nutrients in the Mediterranean diet improve exercise performance immediately or within a few days,” commented lead researcher Edward Weiss, PhD, who is a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University. “Therefore, it makes sense that a whole dietary pattern that includes these nutrients is also quick to improve performance. However, these benefits were also quickly lost when switching to the Western diet, highlighting the importance of long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet.”

“This study provides evidence that a diet that is known to be good for health is also good for exercise performance,” he added. “Like the general population, athletes and other exercise enthusiasts commonly eat unhealthy diets. Now they have an additional incentive to eat healthy.”

—D Dye

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