When it comes to pre-workout and post-workout nutrition, it’s all about timing, carbs and protein — for vegans and non-vegans alike. The wrong timing can lead to delayed recovery, compromised results and stomach upset during training, while proper timing and food help you perform at your best.
When it comes to building muscle and strength, getting enough protein is as fundamental as advertised. But if you’re chronically bypassing the produce aisle for the meat case in your quest for gains, you’re selling yourself short. Certain vegetables are packed with nutrients that have demonstrated muscle- and strength-boosting properties. They deserve a place on your plate, pronto.
Whether you work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening, we’ve compiled 5 veggies.
Yes, beets. A number of studies have shown that consuming the carpet-staining vegetable can improve your athletic performance. Athletes who drank beet juice experienced a 38 percent increase in blood flow to muscles, particularly “fast twitch” muscles that affect bursts of speed and strength.
Runners who ate baked beets before a 5k race ran five percent faster. The secret weapon: Nitrates, a natural chemical that increases endurance and lowers blood pressure.
Related article: 10 Tasty Keto-Friendly Vegetables That Are Incredibly Low-Carb
Downing iron is as important as lifting it — the mineral is crucial to building muscle and strength, and spinach is the dietary MVP. A 180-gram serving of boiled spinach has 6.43 mg of iron — more than a six-ounce piece of hamburger.
The leafy green is also an excellent source of magnesium, a mineral that’s essential to muscle development, energy production and carb metabolism. Levels of testosterone (and muscle strength) are directly correlated to the levels of magnesium in the body. Other good veggie sources of magnesium: Radishes, soybeans and chard.
Related article: 20 Vegetables And Plant-Based Foods Highest In Protein Content For Optimal Muscle Growth Benefits
There’s a reason bodybuilders scarf these with their chicken breasts: They’re one of the cleanest sources of fuel available. High in fibre and carbs (4 grams and 27 grams per serving respectively), the vibrant tubers have a low glycemic index, meaning they burn slowly, providing a long-term source of energy that helps you power up after a workout and recover your stores of muscle glycogen afterwards.
The fibre keeps you fuller longer, helping prevent the overeating that’ll shatter your dreams of getting shredded. Bonus: One cup of sweet potato cubes has four times your RDA of vitamin A, which helps your body synthesise protein.
Related article: Ditch These 6 Foods And Drink Options Before Your Workout So They Don’t Derail Your Gains
Green, red or yellow all mean go—peppers are the vegetable with the highest amount of vitamin C, which helps burn fat and turn carbs into fuel. Muscle tissue drinks up vitamin C, helping it process carnitine, a fatty acid that’s essential to muscle growth and recovery. Just half a cup of peppers provides 300% of your recommended daily intake of C.
Related article: Follow This Lean-Muscle Food To Transform Your Physique And Reveal Your Six-Pack
Whether you consume them as tofu or edamame, soybeans should be in your veggie rotation if you’re serious about building muscle. And that’s not just because of their hefty protein content (one cup of tofu has 52 grams) that has made them vegetarians’ go-to meat substitute. Soybeans are the vegetable that’s highest in leucine, an amino acid that stimulates protein synthesis.