Today at the gym I was amazed that the gentleman using the squat rack next to me was drinking a monster energy drink during his sets.  It surprised me so I hunted around the internet to see what I could find about energy drinks.  It seems that most energy drinks use things that our body can already make or can receive from food but the research seems to suggest that it isn’t clear if adding these things synthetically actually causes us to have more energy.  Does L-carnitine cause more energy or is it present in the body when our body is causing more energy?

Next, a younger man, perhaps college age, completed some deadlifts in the squat rack on the other side of me.  He also caused me to pause.  He was drinking some kind of workout mix in between his sets.  Once again, I found myself curious.  What do pre-workout or during work out mixes even do?  The quick research I did out of curiosity suggests they make you feel like your workout is better but many of the claimed effects simply don’t happen unless one is working out extremely intensely.  Let’s just say both the guy drinking the monster drink and the gentleman drinking the pre-workout could have put forth a little bit more intensity.

Now, why put your liver through that if you are not really getting benefits?  I don’t have the answer to that, but I know that for myself, since I’ve moved to a plant based diet and reduced my animal product consumption by at least 60% I have more energy in my workouts than when I was a high school kid trying to “get big” for football.  The gentleman around me made me realize this today as I went into my workout today thinking it wasn’t going to go well.  It’s the end of the school year and I have to admit that I’m “teacher tired.”  But even more so, I’m “parent tired” as I’ve been struggling with our own kids lately.

But my workout went pretty well.  It wasn’t my best, but I still made progress.  So what are the best foods to eat to create the “energy” and “feel good” workouts that energy drinks and pre-workout mixes claim?  Whole food plant based complex carbs are important.  Take a look at what Robert Cheeke eats from the forks over knives website.  There are a whole lot of carbs in those foods.

For me, there are a few plant based foods I regularly eat that I think are responsible for my energy during workouts.  I eat millet, buckwheat and quinoa regularly for breakfast.  Millet helps the body metabolize food and the liver work.  Ditch the energy drink and try a hot cereal millet breakfast that you can make the night before.  Studies in rats demonstrate that Buckwheat increases muscle growth and reduces body fat.  Try another super charged breakfast with a cocoa buckwheat hot cereal.   This is a bit dryer than the millet breakfast but the cocoa powder adds quite a bit of nutrients.  Quinoa is one of the few plant foods that is a complete protein.  Don’t waste your time with creatine when you can consume quinoa easily for breakfast, in a salad or as a side with dinner.

I’ve also started eating barley more as well.  This week I made a barley casserole and simply swapped out the rice and used barley.  All 3 of my girls ate it.  It needed a little salt, but when a 1-7 year old will eat it, that’s a win in my book.  Barley helps with inflammation which is going to help with recoveries from workouts.

Where can you start adding in a super grain?  Others I want to try are Sorghum and Rye.  Grab your fitness tracker like the Jawbone UP3 or Chronometer on your phone and take a look out how many nutrients you add to your body when you insert certain grains in your diet.  Reply in the comments if you find a recipe that can’t be beat.