More often than not your sports nutrition plan is only as good as your daily nutrition plan. The quality of your performance will be determined by the quality of your nutrition, most elite athletes recommend shopping at local markets where you can find fresher foods that are richer in micro and macro nutrients, noting their benefits to performance and body physiology.
Most of the produced food found in supermarket chains have travelled, on average 1,500 miles from their origin, they were picked prematurely, sprayed with chemicals to delay ripening, and then shined with a wax to make them look fresh. During that time those products progressively lose their nutrient quality. Some, such as spinach, can lose up to 50% of Vitamin C (a crucial antioxidant and immune builder) within just a few days of being harvested.
Farmer’s, in particular specialised ones, have a direct relationship with the food they grow and understand the best time for harvesting a plant for its freshness, quality of taste and density of nutrients. This is of direct benefit to the athlete in the prime of their racing season. This is a time during which your body is undergoing lots of stress and requires the highest level and quality of nutrients as possible.
Whether you are a first-timer or regular at the farmer’s market, it is advisable to take advantage of being able to talk to the farmer face-to-face. They will be able to assist you with all your questions about how the food is grown, what is on its way out of season, what is in-season and what is to come in the following weeks.
A few tips to make the most of your next farmer’s market visit:
- Go online and find out the location and hours of the farmer’s market closest to you and make it part of your regular weekly schedule.
- Leave the shopping list at home. Survey the landscape; let the produce that’s available guide your choices.
- If you don’t know—ask. Farmers love to connect with their customers and are happy to answer your questions.
- Chose produce that is bright or deep in colour, firm to the touch, and under the shade. Keep in mind that truly perfect food has imperfections to its shape and appearance. Don’t be afraid of a little dirt or a couple of spots.
- Quite often the food that grows together tastes best together. So, use minimal preparation to retain freshness, flavour and nutrients, and let the produce guide your menu.