5 ‘Superfoods’ for the Training Table

By May 24, 2015 December 9th, 2016 Nutrition

I believe everyone is an athlete. That makes every table a training table. Whether you’re “training” for weight/fat-loss or have competitive goals, this requires energy. Sustained energy comes from what we eat, with certain foods packed with so much nutrition that we could consider them “Superfoods.”

I recommend that nearly all natural foods are health-enhancing, with each individual deciding which particular ones make them feel the best. Organic choices are typically ideal because they contain less chemical residue and usually are higher in nutrients than conventional foods. Locally grown items are particularly good.

Natural foods should be our main source of nutrients rather than relying on dietary supplements, which are not always a healthy choice. An exception is fish oil—as most fish will not supply adequate EPA and DHA, nor will flax oil. This dietary supplement is important for most people.

Of course, avoiding all junk food is just as important if optimal performance is the goal. As vital as exercise is, eating well is at least as important. Gone are the days when healthy meat and fat, especially eggs, were considered something to avoid.

Below are five key Superfoods. Regular consumption—even daily intake—can significantly contribute to improved performance while encouraging to optimal health:

  1. Beef
    The best meat is organic and completely grass fed. When cooked rare or medium rare, the high amount of the amino acid glutamine (destroyed by cooking) is the fuel for the gut, helping other foods get absorbed. This helps ensure we obtain all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and macronutrients from our diet. Beef also contains the most easily absorbed form of iron, vital for red blood cells and muscle function.
  2. Leafy vegetables
    The best ones are spinach, beet greens (the roots are great too), kale, dark lettuces, and dandelion. These contain many nutrients, including folate. Lentils, asparagus, beef and turkey are also particularly high in natural folate. A surprising number of people are unknowingly low or deficient in folate, one of the B vitamins necessary to help make red blood cells to carry oxygen to the muscles. Synthetic folic acid (found in almost all dietary supplements and processed flour and other packaged foods) can be less effective and often dangerous.
  3. Egg yolks
    Whole eggs are very healthy foods. The yolk is where most nutrients are found, and eating them often can improve your health. Choline, an important nutrient found in egg yolks more than any other food, is vital for the body to better cope with stress. Egg yolks of healthy chickens are also high in vitamin A. There’s a misconception that fruits and vegetables have lots of vitamin A, which is untrue. The beta-carotene in plant foods must be converted to vitamin A, not something that’s done very effectively in humans, and the reason animal foods are so important.
  4. Coconut oil
    Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are popular in supplement form to improve energy, but why not eat the real thing—virgin coconut oil? It’s great for cooking, smoothies, in recipes, even coffee!
  5. Blueberries
    Exercise can create significant oxidative stress, which slows recovery and speeds aging. To combat this, the body requires various vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients for use as antioxidants—which should come from food not pills. Blueberries may be the best single-food source of these nutrients. Just a half-cup a day, frozen or fresh, can significantly help combat oxidative stress. Spinach and other vegetables, and even beef, also contain important nutrients to combat oxidative stress.


  • Vidya Narayanan says:

    I am a vegan. I.e. no beef, egg, fish. What is alternative for me

  • Cynthia says:

    Hello Ivan,
    I am vegetarian but eat occasionally fish ( just don’t like the taste of it). I do eggs daily.
    I am curious to know what’s the acceptable quantity of nuts, almonds, seeds/ day?

    Thanks a bunch,

  • Sally says:

    I love the fact that Phil recommends meat, but also see he recommends a mainly plant based diet. So my question is what proportion of our daily protein intake can be red meat/chicken/pork?
    Don’t want to overdo it.

  • angelique Cummings says:

    I did the 2 week MAF test and felt fantastic at the end of it with regards to the diet. As to the workout aspect of the test, thanks to doing the MAF training with a heart rate monitor it turns out I have Mitrovalve Prolapse. This explains why throughout my entire life my heart rate has always been very high even though I felt great during a workout, but the stress of keeping up the pace made me feel miserable afterwards. It also indicated I was overtraining. It has been over 2 months and I am still walking to keep my heart rate below 140. Any time I add sprints to my workout it seems like my body produces a ton of cortisol as I feel miserable the next day. I love running, but as it is, it seems like I will need to stick with walking for the rest of my life. Do you have any other people who have MVP who have found a way to solve this?

  • Bob Schneider says:

    Hello Ivan,

    I am about to start the two week test. I like to make a smoothie for breakfast that includes blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Should berries be eliminated for the two week test?

    Thank you!


    • Bob:

      Yes, it’s better to eliminate berries for the TWT.

      • Bob Schneider says:

        Thank you Ivan. I am a 55 year old who has been doing short triathlons for the past couple years. Since stumbling upon MAF it has opened my eyes. I realize that I have been overtraining for years. I came to dread workouts because they often hurt. I loved completing the events but started to think it wasn’t worth the pain. Just a couple of weeks ago I started over and have been retraining my aerobic system. I’m slower than slow now, but I can go for a very long time virtually pain free. I wish I had realized this years ago. What a non-violent way to treat your body! Pardon the pun, but MAF appears to be “a path with a heart”. And thank you for all the kind and thoughtful answers you provide to the myriad questions you field. This program is a gift. Sincerely, Bob

  • Nicole Chauvet says:

    Hi Ivan,

    I know how Dr. Phil feels about all sugars including stevia and the like. But I was wondering if he has an opinion on coconut sugar? It has a great deal of vitamins and minerals plus it’s low in glycemic index.

    • Nicole:

      Our official stance, which is certainly the one I go by, is to try to stay away from generally all sugar. Although coconut sugar may be less glycemic than other sugar, the reason we go for it, the reason that we like it, is because we’re trying to find some way to put carbs in our bodies in a more concentrated form.

      Although it is effectively “less bad” than other sugars, the mindset that pushes us towards eating it is really what must be challenged: are we hoping to take away just enough of the bad stuff to not show clinical symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance, or would we rather turn the other way and head wholeheartedly in the direction of pursuing health and fitness?

      I guess what I’m trying to say here is that there are two opinions that matter: what it does to the body, and what the act of pursuing it says about the mindset with which we approach health and fitness. When you put those two opinions together and look at the implications, then I can tell you that Phil’s opinion would be that you should stay away from it.

      (Unless of course, you have a particular reason for using it tied to a particular athletic event and a particular physiological situation).

      I hope this helps.

      • James says:

        Quite a few of Dr Phil’s recipes contain honey and fruit. Do you stay away from these Ivan? I eat honey and fruit daily usually after a workout. I’m not carbohydrate intolerant though.

        • James:

          The recipes aren’t catalogued by whether they correspond to the Two-Week Test or not (although they should be). Eating honey and fruit after a workout is just fine if you aren’t carb intolerant (or if you aren’t doing the Two-Week Test). However, I personally do best with more complex carbs and starches like those from heavy greens, roots, corn, and legumes.

  • L. Worth says:

    Just discovered this after reading the new McDougall book. Sounds interesting and I am giving it a try. Never used heart monitors before, but maybe there is some benefit to this technique. At 70, I’m still running an occasional 7:00 mile & people at the gym act stunned when they see me on the treadmill. But I’m going to slow down for a bit.

    L.W., author, Run Like and Indian, & Eat Like an Indian: The Real Paleo Diet.

  • Sharon says:

    What about astaxanthin, as found in wild Alaskan salmon, for the best bang for your buck in terms of antioxidants?

  • Rocco says:

    Right! I take glutamine powder in my tongue (1000mg) with water and a fruit after training, in 10 minutes I eat mignon beef (8oz) and cherry tomato; I feel great!

  • Lionel says:

    Thanks for this Phil, Please can you tell me what I should eat instead of Beef as I am a vegetarian. I eat eggs every other day and fish a couple of times per week and plenty of nuts / seeds, but no land-based animal meats.
    Thank you for your time and excellent work.

  • Roxana says:

    What type of fish oil do you recommend to supplement with?

  • Hugo says:

    Eat paleo… ?

  • Krzysztof says:

    I don’t eat beef everyday. In relation to gluramine, I have been advised by my Physio to take L-glutamine supplement (1/2 teaspoon in the morning and in the evening) for better absorption of nutrients and to increase immune system function. He said that is safe for my health. Could I ask you for your opinion in this matter?
    Thank you.

    • Krzysztof:

      Thanks for your comment. Everyone’s situation is different, so we can’t tell if L-glutamine will be beneficial in your case. That said, L-glutamine supplements do not carry many health risks, but future studies could say otherwise. We recommend that you stick to your physio’s prescription and direct any more specific questions about your case to them.

      Thanks for commenting!

      • Krzysztof says:

        I would like to thank you for the great article and for your time to answer my question. It means that it is better to stick to real food. Could I ask you about one more thing? What about slow cooking of cheaper beef cuts? Is it worth to consider it to include these types of cuts and cooking into my diet?
        Thank you again!

        • Krzysztof:

          Thanks for your continued interest. Beef cuts are always good, wherever they come from on the cow (as long as they are organically and ethically sourced, of course). The benefit of slow cooking is that it involves lower temperatures. Since high temperature cooking tends to destroy or alter a lot of nutrients and vitamins, low-temperature cooking helps preserve the nutrient content of food. Both of your ideas are well-worth considering.

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