Holiday Recipes to Support Your Fitness

Fitness nutrition is not just for serious athletes. If your activity level is higher than the recommended 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, the extra (helpful) stress that you put on your muscles, joints, cardiovascular and respiratory systems will need a bit more nutrition. While the stress we put on during exercise is beneficial, so that our body wants to adapt and become stronger and better, we put ourselves at higher risk of injury and illness if our diets aren’t adequate to support our recovery needs.

holiday sports nutrition

While my last post highlighted holiday recipes that are great pre-workout and post-workout, the truth is what we eat all day long impacts energy levels and recovery! Eat enough calories pre-workout, but not the rest of the day and your preworkout snack or meal won’t make that big of a difference. Eat protein after a workout but never have it in breakfast? That’s a problem.

In addition to enough energy and protein you want to aim for getting lots of plant-based color in your diet. More colors provide a wider variety of antioxidants that lower inflammation and support recovery. Still there’s one mineral, one vitamin and an essential fat you’ll want to pay attention to as well.

Iron needs go up with increased activity, and females especially should be aware of this. Iron is what transports oxygen in your red blood cells so it can get to your muscles for energy metabolism. It also is a main component of our bodies major energy generating system (the electron transport chain!). The more you move, the more you need. Don’t have enough and you’ll be feeling more fatigued during workouts and throughout the day!

Vitamin C is especially important for endurance athletes and anyone who participates in cold weather sports. I’m looking at you runners, cyclists, hockey players and skiers! Those activities put added stress on the lungs that some extra vitamin C can support. Say goodbye to seasonal upper respiratory tract infections when your diet is adequate in energy, carbs protein and immune nutrients like C.

Your joints and vascular system have more stress on them than the average American, too. Consuming enough Omega 3 fatty acids is important, and most Americans do not get enough. While we use the blanket term “omega-3”, there are actually different types of this fat. EPA is the type most important in adulthood for lowering inflammation (thereby supporting joints, heart health, and muscle recovery). We know we can consume enough of this by eating fatty fish twice per week. While chia seeds, flax seeds and walnuts are good sources of omega-3 ALA, we don’t know how much converts into DHA. You still want to eat those sources, but may want to consider adding algae to your diet, too 🙂

Meals

make-ahead-cranberry-orange-kale-salad

This Make Ahead Cranberry Orange Kale Salads from Stephanie McKercher of Grateful Grazer is great to pack for lunch. It will increase your intake of important antioxidants to lower inflammation and speed recovery, as well as Vitamin C and Iron. I recommend prepping some tofu or chicken over the weekend as well as some quinoa or farro and mixing them in when packing lunch for work. That way you have a perfectly balanced meal.

holiday broccoli salad

Broccoli Pomegranate Salad via Shaw Simple Swaps is also rich in Vitamin C and iron, but myself and Liz recommend you add a protein to make this a more complete meal. Tofu, chicken, salmon, whatever! Need a bit more for your training? Throw some quinoa in, too, or have some whole grain bread on the side.

christmas tree salad
McKenzie Caldwell over at 20’s Nutrition not only made a Christmas Tree Salad, bursting with vitamin C, too, but the dressing has kombucha in it! Gut health is something athletes should pay special attention to since their GI tract and bodies experience more stress than the average person. Kombucha contains good gut bacteria. Go ahead and finish the bottle of kombucha with your main course afterwards!

Snacks

holiday nuts

Holiday Spiced Nuts from Dixya Bhattarai at Food Pleasure Health have cinnamon which has shown to be good for circulation (think nutrient and oxygen delivery to muscles!) and has been shown to get glucose into your cells a bit more effectively. The latter can be good for energy replenishment if you pair the nuts with a piece of fruit. If you add walnuts into the mix, you’re getting some omega-3 ALA.

Keep these Cinnamon Spiced Roasted Walnuts via Liz Weiss of Liz’s Healthy Table around this season as a nutrient rich snack. Nuts contain vitamin E, a really important antioxidant that most American’s slack on.

IMG_0598
For one last nut recipe, you can try my Maple Chia Spiced Pecans and Walnuts. They’re a staple from Thanksgiving through the new year in my house and both the walnuts and chia seeds provide lots of omega-3 ALA.

Believe it or not, night time snacks are important for recovery! Growth hormone is it’s highest right after a workout and right after you fall asleep. If nutrients aren’t hanging around, it won’t be able to do it’s job as well.

pomegranate dark chocolate ricotta cups
These Pomegranate Crunch Dark Chocolate Ricotta Cups from Amy Gorin, RD give you a little bit of sweet plus a few grams of protein to replenish energy stores and repair your muscles. I recommend piling a bit more ricotta into the recipe for more protein, and pairing with a glass of low-fat milk or soy milk.

While a bit too high in healthy-fats for pre-workout, these Cran-Almond Energy Bars from Ginger Hultin at Champagne Nutrition are great any other time of day!

The cookies below may work for you as a pre-exercise snack, it totally depends on your own gut health! If you know you’re a bit sensitive to GI cramping during exercise, save these to snack on other times of the day. Stomach of steel? {I envy you} Go ahead and grab one before you move and top with some nut butter if you’ll have more than 45 minutes.

cranberry pistachio cookie
Make these Christmas Cookies with White Chocolate, Cranberries and Pistachio from Whitney E. RD. If you throw in some extra pistachios, you’ll make them a bit more rich in minerals essential for blood and immune health like zinc, copper, and iron. Plus, this recipe uses “flax eggs” instead of real eggs for another omega 3 boost.

Sarah Schlichter at Bucket List Tummy has remade a classic with her Oatmeal Raisin Peppermint Cookies.  Mint is not only a holiday flavor but is great for calming your stomach and can act as an antibacterial to support immunity.

Cocktails and Mocktails

While alcohol in excess can impair muscle recovery and lead to dehydration, both harming your progress and performance, yes, you can enjoy cocktails, too! While a glass of red wine might be my first recommendation, it can get boring and this season is all about fun and festivity. Just practice moderation and stay hydrated with water when you’re imbibing too. Staying away from the alcohol? So am I this holiday season. You can skip the alcohol in any of these and add some extra club soda or sparkling water.


This Gin Ginger Beet Cocktail from Ginger Hultin at Champagne Nutrition might as well have been made for athletes (yes, you still should practice moderation). Beets contain natural nitrates to dilate blood vessels, increasing blood flow and therefore nutrient delivery to the muscles. Ginger is a powerful anti-inflammatory that is great for your gut, may reduce muscle soreness, and has been shown to benefit heart health.

Non Alcoholic Cranberry Spritzer. A drink recipe that is the perfect signature cocktail for any party, holiday, shower, or graduation. Can be made with alcohol or as a non-alcoholic drink recipe. A cranberry drink recipe that is low calorie.

Jodi Dannen of Create Kids Club has an easy Cranberry Spritzer Cocktail or Mocktail that you can make in a big batch for the holidays. It includes a touch of nutmeg which has great antioxidant potential.

Pomegranate Orange Mulled Wine - Healthy Holiday Cocktail Recipe

Want to stick to red wine? Don’t be boring about it! Try Whitney English’s Pomegranate Orange Mulled Wine to get in the holiday spirit.

Hope all you active readers enjoy the holiday season with these
festive eats, treats and drinks!

11 thoughts on “Holiday Recipes to Support Your Fitness

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