by Angela Davis |@jerseygirlsport Jersey Girl Sports fam with the warmer weather we tend to be more body conscious, so now, more than ever, the "battle of the bulge" is important so we can be ahead of the weight loss curve. As you continue to work out to stave off those extra pounds, be sure to pay attention to what you eat. Some foods are good to eat before a workout, but some are absolutely better. Whether you regularly workout to keep yourself in good shape or are training for an event, what you eat is just as important as the physical effort you put in. From your energy levels to your muscle strength and recovery, your food choices make all the difference. While regular meals, a balanced diet and keeping well hydrated remain as important as ever, including certain foods in your diet will give you that extra boost you need when it comes to your training sessions. Here we look at 5 key foods to make a regular part of your diet. Oats These slow release carbohydrates are the perfect way to start your day, helping to keep your blood sugars and energy levels even all morning. However, the fact that they have a low glycemic index isn’t the only reason to eat oats for breakfast; they are also rich in a number of vitamins and minerals that have an important role in relation to exercise. Oats are packed with B vitamins, particularly vitamin B1 (often referred to as thiamine), which is crucial for the efficient release of energy; so not only do they provide you with a great source of fuel, but they also offer you a means to make best use of it. They are additionally good for magnesium, one of the minerals that is essential for muscle function; this is particularly important as when you train hard your magnesium levels can fall during exercise, so it’s advisable to make sure you’re starting with a favorable level. You might not be familiar with the mineral manganese, but this is another element that helps the body to metabolize carbohydrates for energy release and something that oats provide plenty of. Besides eating oats as porridge for breakfast, try making oat bars for a post-workout snack or why not try oat crackers topped with no-fat cream or cottage cheese? Berries Whether you opt for blueberries, strawberries, raspberries or currants, these fruits are all loaded with antioxidants. Ensuring you have a good intake of these protective nutrients can help to protect your muscles from damage by free radicals, which can otherwise lead to the soreness you may be familiar with a day or two after exercise. Besides its antioxidant function, vitamin C, which all berries are rich in, helps to support the immune system, which can sometimes take a knock when you’re putting a lot of energy into exercise. By having plenty of vitamin C in your diet, if you do get an infection, your white blood cells are more able to fight it off quickly. Berries are also great for vitamin B9 (alternatively known as folate), which isn’t just important for pregnant women, but helps with the production of new proteins to carry out repair to muscle fibers. Even if you aren’t aware of it, during training your muscles develop micro-tears which need to heal. Top your morning cereal with berries, stir through yogurt or add them to baking for an indulgent snack. Oily fish If the like of herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines and trout don’t appear regularly on your menu, it’s time to think about including them each week. These oily fish provide the best source of omega-3 fatty acids available in the diet. Omega-3 essential oils might be advised for promoting a healthy heart, but by boosting your circulation, this also provides benefits for exercise, as your muscles receive a more efficient supply of oxygen and fuel, while the by-products of respiration are removed more easily, helping to reduce muscle fatigue. However, omega-3s also provide other benefits. They are a natural anti-inflammatory, so help to reduce inflammation if you sustain an injury while exercising and as well there is evidence that they may help you to build muscle mass if you’re looking to enhance your muscle strength. Oily fish are also one of the few foods in the diet to offer vitamin D, which you usually obtain when your skin is in contact with sunlight. However, as more of us spend time indoors and use sunscreen when we are out in the sun than we used to, we’re at risk of deficiency of this vitamin that has been shown to boost muscle strength and performance. Green Leafy Vegetables Guess what? Leafy greens and vegetables in general are a good source of protein AND they're low in fat. Not only is this ideal for meeting your protein needs for muscle gain and repair, but some, like spinach is also rich in iron. Women are more prone to iron deficiency anemia due to menstrual losses, so it’s particularly important you strive to get sufficient iron from your diet, as even if your levels are just sub-optimal (so not full-blown anemia) you will struggle to train as you will be more prone to lethargy and breathlessness. Other foods such as eggs, fortified cereals, green leafy vegetables, pulses and dried apricots also provide iron. Eating greens, even in smoothie will boost your performance and aid muscle recovery. Nuts If you eat little or no animal produce, nuts make an important nutritional contribution to your diet. Whether you add them to your meals or include them as a post-exercise snack, they will help to meet your protein requirements for muscle growth and repair. They are another good source of B vitamins for energy release, as well as the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium to protect your muscles from damage. Even if you’re a meat eater, as these are nutritionally rich and such a convenient food, perhaps it’s time you started to include them in your diet? Continue to fight the good fight in the battle of the bulge and make sure you fuel your body properly. Remember, weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise. Watch what you eat, and then watch your body look better than ever!