As a former strength & conditioning coach, my clients would consistently ask what foods they should be eating before and after exercise. While the answer to that question is dependent on a variety of factors including personal goals, body fat percentage, age, and preferences, there are a few foods that are a good idea to consume around workout time for almost every one. One food that most people should consider adding to their health routine to enhance fitness performance and recovery is spirulina.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae with incredible health benefits that should not be ignored. Studies have shown that spirulina may be therapeutically effective for cancer, high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, viral infections, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions. Rich in vitamins B1, B2, B3, copper and iron, as well as other beneficial phytonutrients like phycocyanin, spirulina contains a plethora of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents when obtained from a high quality source.
While consuming spirulina provides a variety of health benefits, new research shows that spirulina consumption may be especially beneficial for individuals engaging in exercise. According to new research, spirulina has been shown to increase exercise performance, making it a perfect add-on for any pre-workout shake or smoothie.
One study found that spirulina has the ability to increase time to fatigue, meaning subjects were able to exercise for longer before getting tired. But it doesn’t end there; spirulina has also been shown to reduce muscle soreness. Ever have those days where you use being sore as an excuse to skip the gym? Adding spirulina to your post-workout shakes can help relieve some of the soreness that sets in over the next few days following an intense lifting session.
In case you need more convincing, spirulina has been shown to increase fat oxidation during exercise by 10.9%, meaning that subjects were burning more fat while they were working out after consuming spirulina.
Keeping in mind that real food is most effective for any health or fitness goal, it is important to note that spirulina is primarily used as a food, but can also be taken as a supplement in tablet form.
A great way to incorporate spirulina into your diet is adding a serving of raw spirulina powder into a pre or post-workout shake with a scoop of Grass-fed Whey Protein, using raw coconut water as a base. Although the taste of spirulina is initially off-putting, the natural sweetness from the coconut water and the creamy, strawberry or vanilla flavor of the protein powder masks the spirulina wonderfully.
On a final note, side effects from spirulina consumption are far and few, but still possible, so be sure to consult a medical professional before beginning any sort of regimen with this power food.
Consider adding a spirulina/grass-fed whey protein shake as a pre-workout meal 1-3 hours prior to your workout to receive the maximum benefits. Below is a simple recipe that I've used in the past.
*Recipe intended for 2 servings*
- 1/4 tsp Spirulina
- 1 scoop Grass-Fed Whey Protein (strawberry or vanilla)
- handful frozen blueberries
- 1 cup raw coconut water or unsweetened almond milk
- small handful of ice
Place all ingredients in blender and blend for approximately 1 minute. Consume this drink 1-3 hours prior to exercise or 1 hour post-exercise.
Joe Condora is a nutrition and health coach at Valley Integrative Pharmacy and host of the top-rated health and wellness podcast The Primal Example Podcast.