World Cup chowdown
Caught Women's World Cup fever yet? Yeah, we're right there with you. But even the biggest fan still needs to break for meals. And since you're already living and breathing soccer, you might as well add eating to that list, too. So make like the top players, and fill up on German fare while watching the games.
Although this year's host country isn't exactly known for its light cuisine (think: spaetzle, strudel and German chocolate cake), there are plenty of athlete-approved options, says sports nutritionist Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a marathoner and triathlete whose grandmother once owned a German restaurant. So whether you're cheering at home, in a local biergarten, or in Berlin, use her guide to feast the right way:
1. Potato salad
Forget the creamy mounds found on picnic tables. Germans make their potato salad with vinegar, mustard and parsley, so their dish has one-sixth the saturated fat as our mayo-laden version. Serve their version at your next cookout, and your arteries -- and your muscles -- will thank you. According to a study from North Dakota University, the acid in vinegar may fend off muscle cramps during workouts. Researchers found that the sour liquid (in pickle juice form) relieved the knots in cyclists' legs 37 percent faster than water alone. Since chugging from the Vlasic jar isn't our thing, we suggest scooping up this tasty potato salad.
Unlike the fatty links sold stateside, German sausages are usually handmade and preservative-free. "If you're making your own, or shopping somewhere with multiple options, you can be picky about what goes into them," Gerbstadt said. She recommends requesting an all-lean meat version. No specialty shop in your 'hood? Consider eating the higher-fat kind in the traditional way. "Sausages are typically served at the end of the meal instead of coffee or dessert, and in very small portions," she said.
Sauerkraut and sausages are like chili and hot dogs: the two go hand-in-hand. But this shredded cabbage dish puts our favorite garnish to nutritional shame. Not only is it high in fiber and vitamin C, but it's also loaded with cancer-fighting compounds called isothiocyanates.
The dish's fermentation process also produces "good" bacteria, or probiotics, that bolster the digestive and immune systems. In a British Journal of Sports Medicine study, long-distance runners who popped a daily probiotic pill suffered half as many sick days -- and were able to train more -- than those who didn't. For the biggest boost, seek out fresh (not pasteurized) sauerkraut.
4. Rye bread
"The breads in Germany are usually the dense, whole-grain varieties, with minimal amounts of added sugar or gluten to help it rise," Gerbstadt said. The result: These loaves provide longer-lasting energy. According to research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who ate rye bread for breakfast felt fuller -- and experienced less of a blood sugar spike -- than those who had slices of whole-grain. Bonus: German breads are often studded with sunflower, poppy or caraway seeds, adding a boost of disease-fighting nutrients like calcium and potassium.
At most Bavarian restaurants, you'll find rote beete salat, a side dish made with vinegar, horseradish and other spices, on the menu. This tangy salad is known to win over even the biggest beet-haters, so give the root vegetable another chance. You'll get a dose of energy-boosting iron and nitrate, a chemical that helps the body to process oxygen more efficiently. Chugging beet juice can improve endurance by up to 16 percent, according to scientists from Britain's University of Exeter. And while the athletes in the study chugged half a liter daily for six days, experts say smaller amounts are also beneficial.
Minutes after German biathlete Andrea Henkel won the IBU World Cup 10K this year, she toasted victory with a giant stein of beer. Specifically, an Erdinger Weissbier, the non-alcohol brew marketed in her home country as a sports-and-fitness drink. The concept isn't too far-fetched: Beer has been shown to protect marathon runners against colds and respiratory infections. And researchers from Spain's Granada University found that a pint was more hydrating post-sweat session than water alone, thanks to its carb content.
If you don't want to skip the booze, a lighter pilsner or ale is your healthiest choice, Gerbstadt said. (Darker beers are higher in calories and alcohol content.) Then go ahead and pour yourself a glass after a tough workout. Prost!