If you are a person who practices sports regularly, most likely you’re taking care of your diet as well. Since you are more active in your daily life, your protein and energy needs are also greater and must be covered with products of excellent quality since, otherwise, they can negatively influence your performance.
Olive oil, but only when it is extra virgin olive oil, is a perfect ally for athletes. It has both medium–term, but also short-term benefits.
In the usual adult diet, fats should represent between 25% and 30% of the total energy intake. This energy intake cannot be replaced by another type of food, since fatty acids are essential to maintain proper health.
That is why we must consume excellent quality fats. As you may know if you’ve done a bit of prior research, we must avoid saturated fats (pastries, butter, meat, coconut or palm oil). Instead, we should take healthier ones such as monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (blue fish and nuts).
For an athlete, maintaining the circulatory system in good shape is a must. During an intensive sport practice, the circulatory system is put to the test. The heart rate increases and the heart pumps more blood into the aortas, which must be ready to accept the increased blood flow.
As the PREDIMED study made clear, extra virgin olive oil is one of the most important foods in a diet in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases. The moderate intake of this oil in a day to day basis reduces by 30% the chance of suffering a myocardial infarction, a stroke or a cerebral infarction, and it helps to keep cholesterol at bay and avoid the formation of clots and atherosclerotic plaques.
Precisely, one of the polyunsaturated fats that extra virgin olive oil contains – Omega 3 – is what helps to train and maintain the muscles. This is especially important for an athlete, who is exposed to significant wear and tear.
Again, this is a characteristic derived from the presence of Omega 3 in this oil, which makes extra virgin olive oil an excellent natural anti-inflammatory. And as such, it helps decisively in the recovery of athletes after overexertion.
As the intensity of the exercise increases we consume a greater amount of oxygen producing free radicals as a result. These radicals are responsible for fatigue, but also for aging and cardiovascular diseases.
The vitamin E present in olive oil makes it one of the largest contributors of antioxidants, which are responsible for counteracting the damage that free radicals produce to our cells.
In addition, the research carried out by Jesús de la Osada, Professor of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Zaragoza, concludes that hydroxytyrosol is also present in extra virgin olive oil, a component with an antioxidant power even greater than vitamin E.
Oil extra virgin olive oil can complement all dishes of an athlete. It is ideal for dressing salads, but also for cooking fish, meat and vegetables. Also, a couple of slices of toasted bread generously drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and tomato are a great example of a Mediterranean breakfast to follow.