A lot of people think that the only thing they need to be concerned about when it comes to eating healthy is protein, carbohydrates and fats. That’s partially true. Everybody’s different and it’s important to find the sweet spot of those all-important macronutrients. But not all foods are created the same, and some – depending on what we do with our bodies – can give us a greater advantage over others.

Take exercise, for instance. I would say that the single most important factor for a person’s workout is having energy. Regardless of whether you’re a power lifter, endurance athlete or exercise enthusiast, going into a workout feeling sluggish and run down is the kiss of death to any hope for productivity.

If you really want to get your game on, feel great through your workout and get your body working with you, consider adding a few of these foods as staples in your diet.

Here’s the thing – the key to finding success with feeling good is consistency. We’re impatient when it comes to our body. If we eat something that is good for us, but don’t notice a difference by the time our meal is over, we think something must be wrong. That’s not necessarily so. Consistently sticking with healthy, whole foods will always benefit your body.

Yes, there are oodles more foods that could have made the ranks on this list, but I’ll start with my favorite five. Here they are and what they do:

  1. Cinnamon: When I think of the adage “food is medicine,” cinnamon is the first thing that comes to mind. As an athlete, the value comes in with blood sugar stabilization. Diabetics are not the only people who need to be concerned with this. The ideal timeframe from your last meal to a vigorous workout is between 3 to 4 hours, depending on the amount you’ve eaten. Blood should not be busy digesting food when you’re working out - it should be back in your arms, legs and elsewhere. That said, 3 to 4 hours is a long time to go without eating for many people. Cinnamon is the rock star of blood sugar stabilization and sustained energy. Provided you add enough cinnamon to your meal, or supplement properly, you should feel good when you workout. If you’re not eating a meal that pairs well with cinnamon, capsule supplements are available.
  2. Cottage Cheese: Betcha didn’t expect to see this on the list? The reason I like cottage cheese so much is because it’s got a good amount of protein in it – namely casein. Casein digests slowly, and has also been linked to promoting fat loss. Casein is found in dairy products and isn’t suitable for all body types or people with casein sensitivities, but is a great go-to if building muscle and losing fat is your goal. If it’s well after dinner and you absolutely need to eat something, try a half cup of cottage cheese (with some cinnamon, perhaps?) Keep in mind, cottage cheese (or any other food for that matter) won’t help you burn off the cookie or ice cream you had earlier in the day – it’s just happens to contain a healthy, functional protein. It’s also lower in sugar, so big thumbs up there.
  3. Coconut Oil: This tropical oil is a great source of medium chain triglycerides (MCT). MCTs are an exceptional fat for athletes as they’re much more readily converted to energy than their long chain counterparts. Yes, better than olive oil (event though EVOO is great in other respects)and certainly better than most crappy corn, canola and soy bean oils. Often maligned for being a saturated fat, coconut oil is actually incredibly healthy. Most people associate saturated fats with cholesterol. Coconut oil is, in fact, cholesterol free. In the store it’s solid like butter, but quickly melts at 76 degrees. Enjoy it on everything from popcorn to oatmeal to rice to turkey burgers.
  4. Flax Seeds: Your best bet for getting the benefits out of flax seeds is to buy them in their raw, whole form, then grind them as you need them. Loaded with delicate omega 3 fatty acids, the benefits of the oil will be lost if it’s exposed to heat, air or light. Beyond that, flax seeds, after they’re ground, are highly gelatinous. In other words, they’re a little gooey and stay that way all the way through your small intestine. Lots of supplements, high amounts of protein and a strenuous exercise regime can throw your tummy for a loop. Flax seeds actually help keep your stomach calm by coating it. If your stomach and small intestines are in a good place, they’re much more likely to absorb nutrients. If you absorb nutrients, you’ll have more energy. If you have more energy, you’ll have a better workout. If you've ever had regular bloating, stomach pain, or just have a sense the good-for-you foods are getting absorbed, work on giving some love to the part of your body that houses 70% of your immune system: your digestive tract. If flax seeds aren't your thing, try aloe vera juice or glutamine (amino acid supplement).
Want more tips like this? Hang out with me on Facebook. I’ll be posting some really great health and fitness tips over the next few weeks, and I don’t want you to miss out. See you there. Traci