A team of researchers at Saint Louis University (SLU) in Missouri have discovered that taking a Mediterranean diet can boost athletes’ performance in four days.
They found that sticking to a plant-based Mediterranean diet could do wonders for the human ability to exercise as well as build an athletic body.
The Mediterranean diet, which is typically rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, and allows moderate consumption of fish, dairy, and red wine — contains various compounds that boost athletic performances.
Edward Weiss, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU explained that Mediterranean diet offers a range of benefits, from cardio-protective effects to staving off chronic diseases. As a result of this, researchers are increasingly pointing out that this diet may be the key to a long and healthy life.
Prior to their findings, Prof. Weiss and his colleagues recruited seven women and four men who were “recreationally active”, as participants for the study. After 4 days of adhering to the consumption of plant-based diet mainly, the participants were asked to run 5 kilometres (km) on a treadmill.
In about 9 to 16 days later, the researchers repeated the test by asking the participants to follow a Western diet for another 4 days, and take the 5km treadmill test again. Previous studies have established that a Western diet is typically “characterized by an overconsumption and reduced variety of refined sugars, salt, and saturated fat.”
The researchers were also out to test the effects that these two diets would have on anaerobic or muscle-strengthening exercise. So, they asked the participants to take a cycle test, a vertical jump test, and a handgrip test at the same time points throughout the study.
Overall, the study found that people were 6 percent faster in the 5 km treadmill run after following the Mediterranean diet than they were after adhering to a Western diet.
This improvement occurred even though the participants’ heart rates were about the same and they felt just as tired on both occasions. By contrast, the diets did not have any effect on performance in anaerobic exercise. Prof. Weiss and colleagues conclude.
The findings, as reported on Science Daily Today, and published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that adhering to the Mediterranean diet for just 4 days is enough to boost exercise performance.
The lead author noted that many of the foods in the Mediterranean diet contain antioxidants and nitrates and have anti-inflammatory and alkalizing properties. So, this means that by sticking to this diet, a person will experience improved endurance and exercise performance.
Weiss further asserted that many individual nutrients in the Mediterranean diet improve exercise performance immediately or within a few days, “Therefore, it makes sense that a whole dietary pattern that includes these nutrients is also quick to improve performance.
“However, these benefits were also quickly lost when switching to the Western diet, highlighting the importance of long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet”, he said.