As the temperature outside continues to drop, our typical post exercise snacks and meals of smoothies, cold shakes, and salads tend to become less appetizing. Soups can be a great way for athletes of all types to meet many of their nutritional needs while also satisfying the craving for warmer foods.
Benefits of soup for Athletes:
-Vegetables: Soups are a great way to load up on veggies and work to meet your daily recommendations. Whether you make your own soup or buy it pre-made, “beefing” it up with vegetables is always an option. Aside from the obvious benefits of vitamins and minerals necessary for great health and physical performance, most vegetables tend to be a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which are essential for keeping your digestive system in top shape. As many athletes know, this is of the utmost importance.
-Antioxidants: Adding those dark leafy vegetables, like spinach and kale, can provide antioxidants, which can help decrease inflammation and aid in muscle recovery after intense exercise.
-Fluid: By definition, soups contain lots of fluid, usually in the form of broth or water. Either way, eating soup can be a savory alternative to plain water when trying to increase your fluid intake or even replenishing your fluids after exercise.
-Electrolytes: Cold weather does not prevent the body from sweating. Everyone’s sweat composition is different, but one thing is certain: electrolytes will be lost when excess sweating results from exercise. Soups can be a great source of sodium, potassium, magnesium, and other minerals, making them a great way to replenish these minerals lost through sweat after an intense workout.
-Protein: Essential for building muscle and overall body function, protein can be easily incorporated into any soup. Lean meats, such as chicken, ground beef, cuts of beef, pork, fish, etc. are hearty additions to any soup. For those athletes who are vegetarian or vegan, there are several meat alternatives that go nicely in soup and can pack a good protein punch: tofu, beans (there are oh so many options), quinoa, cheese, etc.
-Carbs: This macronutrient is essential for every athlete. It not only plays an important role in restoring energy to the body, it can be a major component to any delicious soup in the form of brown rice, whole wheat noodles, barely, and also beans which double as a carb and protein. Let’s not forget those starchy vegetables that can also provide those much-needed carbs, such as peas, corn, and potatoes. A soup combined with the appropriate amount of protein could be a great post work out snack or meal!
-Convenience: Soups are best when made in bulk and can be eaten throughout the week as a meal or snack. Throw all the ingredients in the crockpot in the morning and come home after a long winter run to a warm bowl of soup!
-Inexpensive: Making soup does not have to be expensive. When made in a big batch, cost per serving is usually miniscule. Canned or frozen vegetables and beans are perfect for soup making and tend to be much less expensive than their fresh versions. Not to mention that canned and frozen vegetables are packaged at the peak of ripeness allowing them to retain more of their nutrients than fresh.
-Weight control: If putting on the winter pounds during the off-season of concern, soups are a great way to feel full without filling up on calories. Broth based soups packed with vegetables are naturally low in fat and provide fiber to keep you fuller for longer.
Note: Some soups to pass on are soups with cream base, fatty meats, and/or a cheese base. These soups will be high in saturated fat, and not beneficial to exercise recovery or weight maintenance.
Beyond these individual benefits, the ingredients work together to provide even more of a nutritional impact. Consuming foods rich in iron with foods rich in vitamin C helps increase iron absorption. For example, a soup made with ground beef and tomatoes, like Chili. So even though the weather is getting colder you can still find more seasonal friendly foods that still support physical activity.
Come back next week for 3 performance-enhancing soup recipes!