Food is fuel. For athletes, quality nutrition makes the difference when it comes to energy, endurance, strength, and performance. To hit your workout hard or play the fourth quarter just as strong as the first, you need a balanced diet – and you need to put nutrients back into your body after the sweat show is over. What are the best foods for athletic performance?

Want to perform like an all-star – or at least give it your all? Try:

  1. Fish. Salmon, an oily fish, is packed with protein, but it’s a two-sport all-star. It’s also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation, clean the arteries, prevent heart disease, and generally allow you to perform like a champ. When you can, opt for wild fish instead of farm raised.
  2. Beans and Legumes. Beans, beans, magical fruit… These are some of the most versatile pantry staples. From chili and soups to burgers and salads, you’ll get protein and fiber. Make a pot once a week, and use them in countless recipes and snacks.
  3. Nuts. Protein: check. Healthy fats: check. Fiber: check. Anti-inflammatory nutrients: yup, they have those too. A handful is the perfect snack.
  4. Bananas. These low-calorie warriors are filled with electrolytes (which need to be replenished after activity) and potassium. If you find yourself getting cramps or muscle spasms, put bananas on your grocery list, stat.
  5. Whey Protein. Whey protein is found naturally in milk, cheese, and yogurt and aids in muscle recovery.
  6. Meat. Chicken, turkey and grass-fed beef are protein powerhouses, and you can eat them on the go. Lean protein snack sticks, like Sweetwood’s all-natural (and freaking delicious) FATTY hickory-smoked meat sticks are MVPs in an athlete’s diet. They are available in a combination of grass-fed beef and antibiotic- and hormone-free pork.
  7. Eggs. The incredible, edible egg delivers protein, healthy fat, and vitamins and minerals. If you need a snack, hard boil them. For meals, scrambled, over-easy, quiche with spinach… There are so many options!
  8. Leafy Greens. Mama was right: you need to eat your greens. Spinach, kale, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants – all critical for athletes. Vitamins A, K, and B6, calcium, and iron protect against inflammation, which can affect performance.
  9. Oatmeal. High quality carbs, ya’ll. Oatmeal is also high in fiber and helps lower your risk of heart disease. Opt for steel cut which have a lower glycemic index (meaning you won’t store the carbs as fat). Feel free to jazz it up with some nut butter, dried fruit, or flax seeds.
  10. Coconut and Olive Oils. Both are healthy fats that deliver benefits such as anti-inflammatory properties and endurance-boosting medium chain triglycerides, respectively.

The best foods for athletic performance are also great for everyone. From preventing heart disease and curbing cravings to providing essential nutrients, the items on this list will help you meet your goals.

>> When you need a go-to on-the-go snack to fuel your active life, stock up on Sweetwood’s FATTY hickory-smoked meat sticks.