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How the Mediterranean Diet Can Improve Your Endurance

How the Mediterranean Diet Can Improve Your Endurance

Find out what nutrient-packed foods can give your athletic performance a boost.

Austrian ultra-runner Christian Schiester, 51, has competed in the most extreme environments, including the Sahara Desert (six days), Antarctica and the Brazilian jungle. His go-to fuel? A bottle of olive oil laced with nuts, corn and dates. It’s a trick he picked up in Egypt.

We will say Schiester is smart about the nutritional choices he makes to bolster his endurance, even though we’re not in favor of extreme athletic endeavors. And a new, small study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition reaffirms the benefits of his Mediterranean-diet style concoction—a blend of complex carbs and healthy fats, including monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) that are associated with improved blood vessel function and insulin levels.

In the study, 11 recreationally active men and women were able to run five kilometers 6 percent faster four days after they switched from a Western (red meat, saturated fats, added sugars) to a Mediterranean diet (fruits and veggies, fish, whole grains, some dairy and poultry, and little-to-no refined sugars and red meat). Four days!

The researchers suggest the phytonutrients in the foods and their anti-inflammatory effects make the body work more efficiently, which boosts athletic performance. So, if you’re trying to up your game from couch potato to 10,000 steps a day (track your steps on the Sharecare app for iOS and Android) or from a quarter-mile to a mile jog, your first step should be toward the Mediterranean diet plan. Check out “Dr. Oz Explains the Mediterranean Diet,” and find out more reasons to try the Mediterranean diet.

Medically reviewed in October 2019.

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