Preferred modes of eating come and go faster than you can say “keto,” but the Mediterranean diet, like the foods it comprises, has staying power. And while you’ve heard it talked up for decades, you may not know that it can be particularly beneficial for athletes. That's not surprising, since it focuses on nutrient-rich foods like whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, legumes, and vegetables — the premium fuel required to power you to do the impossible.
“The Mediterranean diet is good for athletes because it focuses on whole grains, which athletes need to replenish their carbohydrate stores after activity,” Maggie Michalczyk, MS RD, says. "The Med way of eating also prizes sources of protein and good fats, like chicken and fish, with its heart-protecting omega-3 fatty acids."
The healthy fats Med eaters feast on — in the form of nuts, seeds, and olive oil — help with satiety and better absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), Michalczyk says. Adding them to greens maximizes the benefits.
Vegetables — an obvious must for active bodies, thanks to their vitamins and minerals — are a mainstay on the Med. They contain antioxidants that can fight inflammation and speed post-workout recovery.
"Lastly, legumes deliver carbs, protein and fiber, which are especially beneficial for vegan or vegetarian athletes,” Michalcyzk says.
While your current mode of eating may be working for you, you can dip your toe in the Med with these easy Mediterranean meals.
5 Easy Mediterranean Meals to Help Fuel Your Workouts
These eggplant tostadas by The Toasted Pine Nut, take just 35 minutes and get heaps of veggies in. They’re also low-carb, gluten-free and have protein to boost muscle repair. The pine nuts and hemp provide wholesome fats to sustain you.
This colorful pasta salad from Ambitious Kitchen, starring pesto and goat cheese — along with tons of hearty vegetables — delivers carbs, vitamins, and minerals. The cashew pesto sauce offers creaminess to fill you up. Swap for a different shape pasta or cheese, like feta, if you like.
Pack these for a lunch that’s easy, delicious, and filling. This recipe from Wholesomelicious gives a good balance of carbs, protein, and fat. Add vegetables, olives, or any other toppings you’d like to customize the pie and pile on more nutrients.
This salmon dish from The Movement Menu over a bed of steamed cauliflower rice is gluten-free, low-carb, Paleo, and Whole30-approved, so it works for practically anyone. The fatty acids in salmon lower inflammation, making this a recovery go-to. Feel free to swap cauliflower rice for regular brown rice or quinoa for some good carb content, but don’t lose the fiber-packed salad.
Octopus provides protein to boost muscle repair. This dish by The Castaway Kitchen is clean and simple, grilled with olive oil and herbs. If you want extra carbs, you can add grains. Looking for more fiber? Toss in legumes.