Claims that chia seeds increase endurance have yet to be backed by research, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them. Two ounces contains 360 milligrams of calcium—more than a full glass of milk.
Pumpkin seeds are a terrific source of iron—a mineral often depleted during intense exercise—and provide high levels of vitamin E and magnesium, both of which are important for maintaining muscle. Tip: buy them raw and unsalted.
Though usually billed as nuts, cashews are actually seeds. They’re extremely high in copper, which helps the body absorb iron and transport oxygen to muscles. They’re also lower in fat than other nuts and seeds.
Hemp seeds are technically nuts, but the botany doesn’t matter: they provide one of the only complete proteins found in nature. Because it contains all nine essential amino acids—a better profile than milk or eggs—hemp is great for the immune system and helps fight inflammation.
Flaxseed is the top plant source for omega-3’s. Consuming just a tablespoon of ground flax a day helps the body become more efficient at burning fat stores for fuel.
In a 2014 study, athletes consumed 75 grams of whole almonds per day during a ten-week period. The result: they increased overall carbohydrate oxidation, a marker of improved endurance.
From champion mountain-bike racer Heather Irmiger
- 4 to 6 ice cubes
- 8 to 10 ounces almond milk
- 1 cup frozen berries
- 1 to 2 scoops protein powder
- 1 zucchini
- 1 tbs hemp, ground flax, or chia seeds
- 1 cinnamon stick, freshly ground
Blend all ingredients until smooth. “I use a burr grinder for my spices,” says Irmiger. “There are health benefits you don’t get from preground spices.”