The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: Three Oils That Help Gymnasts

The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: Three Oils That Help Gymnasts

Join health expert Betsy McNally-Laouar in an exploration of oils: flaxseed, olive oil, and coconut. McNally-Laouar is a specialist in sports nutrition, and knows exactly what every gymnast needs to stay healthy.

Jul 21, 2017 by Betsy McNally
The Gymnastics Kitchen With Betsy: Three Oils That Help Gymnasts
Cooking healthy doesn't have to be boring or tasteless! Gone are the days of deep-frying and sautéing in butter, lard, or trans-fats. Today there are many cooking oils that also serve a higher purpose for bodies under stress.

These are the top three oils -- along with their seeds and fruits -- that I love. They're absolutely perfect for gymnasts. 

1. Flaxseed/flaxseed Oil

Flaxseed come from the plant "linum usitatissimum." These seeds, when cold-pressed, are filled with a rich, fatty oil also called linseed oil. This fat is truly amazing as it is filled with heart-healthy fiber and a serious does of omega-3 and ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). These are fatty acids that the body needs but can't produce on its own.  

I love flaxseed oil for gymnasts because it fights inflammation of the joints and bones. It is filled with powerful "lignans" which are compounds that fight infection and viruses. Flaxseed oil helps with both immunity and also infection.

Flaxseed oil additionally helps with brain function and keeps female hormones balanced! 

Always buy organic and cold-pressed, and make sure you refrigerate this oil after opening. It only stays good for six to eight weeks because it oxidizes quickly. You can sprinkle the seeds as well!

Be sure to take 1 tablespoon of this oil per day in these forms:

  • ​Stir into a smoothie
  • Use as you would butter on toast, in oatmeal, on sweet potatoes
  • Stir the seeds into Greek yogurt or protein shakes, or sprinkle on top of salads 

2. Coconut oil/water/milk/shreds

Coconut is quite possibly the most amazing food on the planet. One reason I love coconut specifically for gymnasts is because of its energy-producing ability. Coconut oil will help gymnasts power through four-to-six hour workouts with its healthy fat called "medium-chain triglycerides," or MCTs. MCTs are fatty acids the body uses for immediate energy instead of storing it in the fat cells.

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of the coconut. It's one of my favorite "cure-alls" for gymnasts because of its antifungal and antibacterial properties. Rub coconut oil in your hair for extra shine and strength, or on your ripped hands to avoid fungal and bacterial infections.

Use a tablespoon on your toast, corn on the cob, sweet potato, or anywhere you want to spread butter (like popcorn). You can even brush your teeth with coconut oil -- it's that powerful! 

Other benefits of coconut oil? 

  • ​It is rich in healthy fat for skin, nails, and hair
  • It is heart-healthy and can lower bad cholesterol
  • It is delicious on any food
  • You can cook with it!

Moving on to coconut milk….

Coconut milk is found after the meat of the coconut is crushed -- usually  taken from more mature coconuts. Coconut milk is one of the best substitutes for people who are lactose intolerant or have allergies to milk or nuts. The milk not only tastes amazing but it is loaded with electrolytes and vitamins and minerals that gymnasts need. It also is filled with those healthy fats we talked about earlier! 

Try coconut milk with a little cocoa powder for a great post-workout drink. It has less sugar than gatorade and supplies you with a similar electrolyte boost of iron, magnesium, copper, and calcium.

Let's not forget about coconut water…or the shreds! 

Coconut water is the water inside of the coconut right after cracking. It comes from younger coconuts and is another great substitute for sports drinks. Coconut water is tasty, filled with great minerals and natural sugars, and it's great in green shakes and smoothies. You can also use coconut shreds in your shakes, in yogurt, or sprinkled over toast.

3. Olive oil/olives

Quite possibly the most heart-healthy oil on the planet is olive oil. Olive oil comes from the pressing of their fruit: the olive.

Olives are known as the main staple of the Mediterranean diet. This diet is known all over the world to help lower the risk of cardiovascular and heart disease and help with joint and muscle inflammation. This diet is loaded with tomatoes, grapes, nuts, greens, lean meats, and of course lots of olive oil and olives. 

But why is olive oil great for gymnasts? First, because if its anti-inflammatory properties: it helps with sore muscles and joints. The ancient Greeks were on to something when they used olive oil as a massage cream for sports injuries and muscle fatigue. Try massaging sore muscles with this miracle oil!

Olives are loaded with skin-loving vitamin E and and filled with potent anti-oxidant powers (anti-cancer, anti-disease). Olives are also filled with unsaturated healthy fat and antibacterial properties. You can eat olives by themselves, pair with fruit and cheese, or add to salads. Olive oil keeps your joints lubricated and your immunity strong.

I recommend one to two tablespoons daily for a strong gymnast!

  • ​Use olive oil on salads with balsamic or apple cider vinegar
  • Use while sautéing meats, veggies, and eggs
  • Make an exfoliating and calming face scrub by adding a squeeze of lemon a tablespoon of olive oil and sugar

Betsy McNally-Laouar is a personal fitness and gymnastics trainer certified in Sports Nutrition. She works with gymnasts all around the country online and through camps. If you need more help with gymnastics recipes, meal plans and fitness, check out her website, and email her at or her Facebook page Betsy McNally Laouar Gymnastics Nutrition and Fitness Specialist