We know that a balanced diet and exercise go hand in hand, but we're getting a glimpse into just how closely they are related in a new study.
The report, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, found that people who ate a Mediterranean diet for just four days were 6 percent faster during a running exercise than those who ate a Western diet for the same period.
The Mediterranean diet, which was named the No. 1 healthiest diet of 2019, focuses on whole, unprocessed foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, healthy fats, and less red meat. It's an anti-inflammatory diet and has been known to improve heart health and symptoms of autoimmune disease.
Knowing these benefits, researchers at Saint Louis University wanted to know how it could improve exercise performance when compared to a Western diet, which consists of fewer fruits and veggies, more trans and saturated fats, refined sugars, and processed foods.
Participants completed two 5K runs on separate occasions, one after four days on the Mediterranean diet and the other four days after eating a Western diet. They found that the people who ate a Mediterranean diet completed the 5K 6 percent faster than those who ate a Western diet, pointing to the diet's positive effect on performance in endurance exercises like running.
"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," said Edward Weiss, Ph.D., senior researcher and professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU in a statement.
The study showed that the performance benefits of the Mediterranean diet disappeared right away when people went back to the Western diet, so it may be optimal to stay on the Mediterranean diet for longer than four days for consistent improvements.
If you're looking to get started, you'll want to begin with familiarizing yourself with the best foods to focus on. This includes veggies like spinach, mushrooms, and sweet potatoes, and fruits like grapes, pomegranates, apricots, etc. We love that the Mediterranean diet emphasizes incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your diet rather than restricting large food groups and the seven-day Mediterranean diet meal plan is a great place to start. It includes delicious meals like mushroom and broccoli eggs muffins, tuna salad and arugula, and shrimp and broccoli stir fry.
On top of the Mediterranean diet's long list of benefits, you can add greater endurance to the list. We hope you enjoy the delicious foods and notice an extra pep in your step next time you're on the go.