The Gymnastics Kitchen with Betsy: Functional Foods for Maximum Body Health

Greek yogurt with berries

If you are a competitive gymnast, you most likely  do not live a "normal" life. You are training 3-5 hours per day, rushing from school, to gym, to home, trying to cram in home work and some sort of social life. On top of that, your body is tired, sore, in need of repair, energy, and rehabilitation.

Traveling around and speaking at gyms around the country and working with parents and gymnasts daily, I come across the same questions over and over again about nutrition for the competitive gymnast. What I see in common is that gymnasts are dealing with tired, sore, and broken down bodies. Gymnasts need MORE functional foods. These are foods that can help with energy, joint and muscle soreness, muscle repair, fatigue, sickness, and fungus.

Here are my top go-to functional foods for gymnasts:

Garlic: For fungus and infections

If you aren't cooking with garlic, it's time to do so! Add a clove into stir fries to spice up fish and chicken. The gyms you are training in are most likely loaded with fungus. Garlic helps to fend off fungus (Yes, I see warts and athlete's foot all the time!) Put more into your body to fight off infection and help with immunity against pesky fungal infections and also the common cold. Garlic has also been shown to fight off tumor growth. 

Turmeric: For inflammation, sore muscles, and immunity

How many times have you said this? "I'm soooooooo sore." Use turmeric, a spice from the ginger family, to spice up chicken, fish, eggs, rice, and vegetable dishes. It's a super spice filled with strong antioxidants to fend of inflammation of the joints and muscles. It's also filled with potent compounds that fight off cancer-promoting free radicals, tumors, and fungus. 

Berries: For energy and immunity 

Potent, energy-giving berries are filled with phytochemicals and vitamins that stave off infection, help with immunity, and fight the common cold. If you aren't incorporating a daily dose of berries, up your intake to a cup a day, blueberries, raspberries, goji berries, and black berries. You can put them in your oatmeal, yogurt, or eat them fresh -- just give them a good rinse before you do so!

Pomegranate: For inflammation, energy, and fighting infections

Sore muscles? Need extra energy for workouts? Fighting the common cold? Herein lies one of the most powerful free-radical fighting foods on the planet -- the pomegranate seed! It takes a little knack to open one of these luscious fruits, but once you crack it open, enjoy these tasty seeds on salads, in yogurts, cereals, or at the bottom of your water glass! 

Greek Yogurt: For intestinal health and muscle repair

Need more protein to repair those muscles after a workout? If you can't get to your grilled chicken fast enough, grab a cup of Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is an amazing functional food because of the probiotics-healthy bacteria that we all need in our guts for them to function. If you are struggling with gas, intestinal or bowel issues, which NO gymnast wants while flipping around, add a daily dose of Greek yogurt to your meal plan.

If you would like an individualized meal plan, contact Betsy McNally-Laouar at 

Betsy McNally is a personal fitness and gymnastics trainer certified in Sports Nutrition. She currently works with the elite and upper level gymnasts at Cincinnati Gymnastics creating training and meal plans. She also works with gymnasts all around the country through online seminars and through camps. If you need more help with gymnastics recipes, meal plans  and fitness, check out her website, and email her at

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