Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:34 pm

If you’re training hard, try following a Mediterranean diet. Research has found it boosts endurance exercise performance…

Following a Mediterranean diet improves athletes’ endurance exercise performance after just four days, according to a study from Saint Louis University.

Researchers found that participants ran a five-kilometre distance six percent faster after eating a Mediterranean diet than after eating a Western diet.

Researchers found no difference between the two diets in performance in anaerobic exercise tests.

The diet basics

The Mediterranean diet includes whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oil and whole grains, and avoids red and processed meats, dairy, trans and saturated fats and refined sugars.

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By comparison, the Western diet is characterised by low intake of fruit, vegetables and unrefined or minimally processed oils and high intakes of trans and saturated fats, dairy, refined sugars, refined- and highly-processed vegetable oils, sodium and processed foods.

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Health benefits of a Mediterranean diet

Senior researcher Edward Weiss, Ph.D., professor of nutrition and dietetics at SLU, says that the Mediterranean diet is well-established as having numerous health benefits.

He and his team hypothesised that the diet’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, more alkaline pH and dietary nitrates might lead to improved exercise performance.

“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,” Weiss said. “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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The study

Seven women and four men were enrolled in the study. The participants ran five kilometres 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 nine to 16 days separating the two tests.

Weiss says that the study found that the run time was six percent faster after the Mediterranean diet than the Western diet despite similar heart rates and ratings of perceived exertion.

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Source: Saint Louis University via

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