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Will a Mediterranean Diet Improve Your Performance?

A small study suggests that you might be able to improve your performance athletically by following a Mediterranean diet before competing.
Will a Mediterranean Diet Improve Your Performance?
STOCKHOLM – AUG 22 2015: Triathlete Sarah True running followed by Nicola Spirig Rachel Klamer and Flora Duffy in the Women’s ITU World Triathlon series event August 22 2015 in Stockholm Sweden

Following a Mediterranean diet has been shown to protect your heart, ease your symptoms of psoriasis and reduce your likelihood of becoming frail. Some research even suggests that a Mediterranean-style diet can improve the outcome of in-vitro fertilization. But can you improve your performance on the track or playing field by eating the Mediterranean way?

Will Eating a Mediterranean Diet Improve Your Performance?

Athletes who want to improve performance in endurance events should consider a Mediterranean style diet, according to a small study (1). The investigators compared the performance of eleven runners on a Western and a Mediterranean diet. The volunteers ran after eating a Western diet for four days and after four days of Mediterranean diet. They waited more than a week between the two dietary periods.

At the close of each dietary intervention, the athletes ran 5 kilometers as fast as they could. They also completed a vertical jump test, a Wingate cycle test and a test of hand grip strength. The participants ran an average of 6 percent faster after four days of the Mediterranean-style diet. (This dietary pattern is rich in vegetables and fruits and low on sweets and meat.)

The athletes’ heart rates were not significantly different on the two diets, however. In addition, there were no differences on the other tests completed. Further tests will be needed to see if a longer period of eating Mediterranean style could help you improve your performance even more.

Learn More:

If you would like some advice on how to follow a Mediterranean diet yourself, you may wish to consult our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. In it, we outline the basics of this diet as well as a DASH diet and a low-carb diet. Each of these eating plans is supported by extensive research.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Baker et al, "Short-term Mediterranean diet improves endurance exercise performance: a randomized-sequence crossover trial." Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2019.1568322
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