Researchers from Saint Louis University have found that the Mediterranean diet can improve athletic performance within four days of being implemented.
The study — published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition — found that participants who followed the Mediterranean diet had a 6% faster speed in a five-kilometer race than those who followed a “Western diet.”
Researchers noticed this difference after four days, but they did not find any difference in aerobic exercise performance between the athletes.
The study enrolled seven women and four men in a randomized-sequence crossover study. Participants ran five kilometers on a treadmill two separate times — once after four days on a Mediterranean diet and again after four days but on a Western diet. Researchers included a period of nine to 16 days separating the two tests.
According to Edward Weiss, a professor of nutrition and dietetics at Saint Louis University, the study found that athletes on the Mediterranean diet ran the 5K 6% faster than those on the Western diet — even though the groups had similar heart rates and levels of exertion.
Weiss and his colleagues theorized that the Mediterranean diet’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, nitrates’ content and more alkaline pH could improve athletic performance.
This is because systemic inflammation hinders such performance; therefore, the anti-inflammatory foods of the Mediterranean and pro-inflammatory foods of the Western diet may have influenced the results.
The Mediterranean diet consists heavily of fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, fatty fish, whole grains and olive oil with minimal sugar, red meat, processed meat and saturated fat.
On the contrary, the “Western diet” scarcely incorporates fruits and vegetables and consists of numerous processed foods, refined sugars, highly processed vegetable oils, sodium and unhealthy fat.
“This study provides evidence that a diet that is known to be good for health is also good for exercise performance,” Weiss said. “Like the general population, athletes and other exercise enthusiasts commonly eat unhealthy diets. Now they have an additional incentive to eat healthy.”
See the full study here.
The Pappas Post has published a full beginner’s guide to the Mediterranean diet — and how to incorporate it.
The Pappas Post Market also offers various Mediterranean products, including awarded olive oils from Greece.
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