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The Diet Change That Can Help You Get 6 Percent Faster in 4 Days

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Following a Mediterranean diet-rich inhealthy fatslike olive oil, vegetables, fruits, fish, and legumes, while limiting red meat and processed foods-can help you get faster, a newstudyout of Saint Louis University suggests.

People who followed a Mediterranean diet for just four days ran a 5K that was 6 percent faster, cutting an average of 1 minute and 50 seconds off their times.

Researchers believe antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of those kinds of foods may be responsible for the endurance boost.

A small study published in theJournal of the American College of Nutritionfound that recreationally active men and women ran a 5K six percent faster after following aMediterranean dietfor four days than after eating a Western diet for the same amount of time.

In the study, researchers at Saint Louis University had a group of seven women and four men follow a Mediterranean-style diet for four days. Each day, they ate four tablespoons of olive oil, at least three servings of nuts and fruits, and at least two servings of vegetables. They also made sure to eat fish, legumes, and red wine over the period, while they limited meat and restricted sodas and bakery sweets.

The researchers then put the volunteers through a battery of exercise trials, including a 5K treadmill run to test endurance, and vertical jump, handgrip, and cycling sprint trials to test anaerobic fitness.

The men and women went back to eating their normal diet for nine to 16 days, and then switched to a classic Western diet-they whittled down their intake of vegetables and fruits to fewer than two servings per day, ate fewer than one serving of nuts and legumes over the four days. They also increased their intake of grains (mostly notwhole grains), dairy, red and processed meat, andadded sugarand sodium to match the levels in the standard Western diet.

After four days, they went back into the lab to run through the tests again. There were no significant differences in anaerobic fitness between the two diets. But the volunteers ran a whole lot faster when they followed the Mediterranean diet, smoking their Western diet times by an average of 1 minute and 50 seconds. They completed the distance in 27.09 minutes versus 28.59 minutes, despite having the sameheart rateof about 160 bpm and the same ratings of perceived exertion.

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The researchers speculate that the Mediterranean diets anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, more alkaline pH, anddietary nitratescould be behind its endurance-boosting benefits.

Many individual nutrients in the Mediterranean diet improve exercise performance immediately or within a few days, senior researcher Edward Weiss, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU said ina press release. Therefore, it makes sense that a whole dietary pattern that includes these nutrients is also quick to improve performance.