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Mediterranean diet found to improve endurance performance

In a new study coming out of Saint Louis University (SLU) in Missouri, researchers concluded that eating a Mediterranean diet can improve endurance performance after just four days.

Mediterranean food

Sound crazy? Well, it may not be. A Mediterranean diet includes a healthy dose of fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and whole grains. It tends to avoid red and processed meats, dairy, trans and saturated fats, as well as refined sugars. Published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers found that participants ran a 5K six per cent faster after eating a Mediterranean diet than after eating a Western diet.

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The study included a total of 11 participants – seven women and four men. Each participant ran a 5K time trial on a treadmill on two occasions – once after four days on a Mediterranean diet and on another occasion after four days on a Western diet, with a period of two weeks separating the two tests.

The research team led by Edward Weiss, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU, hypothesized that the diet’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, more alkaline pH and dietary nitrates might have lead to improved performance.

Weiss is quoted in Science Daily as saying:

“Many individual nutrients in the Mediterranean diet improve exercise performance immediately or within a few days. Therefore, it makes sense that a whole dietary pattern that includes these nutrients is also quick to improve performance.  However, these benefits were also quickly lost when switching to the Western diet, highlighting the importance of long-term adherence to the Mediterranean diet.”

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These findings mirror that of Canada’s updated food guide. The stereotypical Western diet is characterized as having a low intake of fruit and vegetable, and high intakes of fats, dairy, refined sugars and processed foods.