Dieters sometimes shy away from pineapple because of its sugar content—which is precisely the thing that’s attractive to athletes looking to fuel up. (One cup of chunks has 16 grams of the sweet stuff.)
“Pineapple has just the right amount of simple sugars to top off athletes’ glycogen stores, ensuring they have good energy going into an event,” says Jules Hindman, a Boston-area sports nutritionist. And they’re great post-workout, too, when your body is primed to gobble up some sugar to replace the glycogen used by your muscles, helping you recover faster and prep for your next workout, she says.
What’s more, pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which acts as an anti-inflammatory and may be particularly helpful if you’re training through an injury. (Researchers are looking into whether bromelain can help treat a host of inflammation-related diseases, such as sinus infections, hay fever, osteoarthritis—even cancer.)
If you’re looking for vitamin C, pineapple’s got that, too—helpful for endurance athletes recovering from a big race, when their immune systems are weakened and they’re susceptible to catching a bug. The fruit also has manganese, a mineral that keeps the metabolism humming and promotes collagen growth, which is essential for wound healing.
Buy pineapples that are firm, with leaves still green and not falling out. For a spicy twist, cut away the skin, core it, slice it into rings, and grill with a dusting of cayenne pepper. Or buy frozen chunks to make a tropical smoothie—alcohol optional.