Tahini is a superfood for athletes due to its superior nutritional value. A tablespoon as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet:
- helps build muscle mass
- promotes athletic performance
- reduces recovery time
- delays fatigue
- replenishes electrolytes
- protects bone health
- is a good source of energy
- supports digestive health
- boosts the immune system
- increases energy expenditure
- may ease pain
- is easy to incorporate into diet
13 reasons why tahini is the ultimate post-workout food.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds, and it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods an athlete can eat daily.
The best time to eat 1–2 tablespoons of tahini is after strenuous exercise.
May reduce recovery time
Firstly, athletes should consume 1–2 tablespoons of tahini after exercise because it’s one of the richest foods in lignans.
These powerful phenolic compounds have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant actions. Hence, they greatly help hard-working muscles recover faster after a demanding workout.
Moreover, lignans and other antioxidants in sesame seeds may even ease pain related to injury!
Helps build muscle mass
Moreover, tahini may help build muscle mass.
Tahini is an excellent vegan source of protein. Just a tablespoon has about 2.6 grams of protein. A 2-tbsp serving provides 5.2 grams of protein.
The monounsaturated fat in tahini appears to raise the beneficial HDL cholesterol without raising the dangerous LDL cholesterol.
Cholesterol is implicated in the synthesis of the most powerful steroid and sex hormones, as well as vitamin D.
Thus, among others, tahini promotes the synthesis of testosterone, which is a key hormone of muscle hypertrophy and strength.
Testosterone is one of the most important muscle-building hormones. We can naturally increase its synthesis by consuming certain foods.
Furthermore, consuming monounsaturated fat instead of saturated fat seems to have a beneficial effect on physical activity and energy expenditure. Also, it may reduce body weight, body fat percentage and insulin resistance.[3,4]
Most noteworthy, according to the American Heart Association, monounsaturated fats can have a positive effect on our health, when eaten in moderation.
A tablespoon of tahini has about 3 grams of monounsaturated fats.
Supports body hydration
Also, tahini helps athletes hydrate their bodies.
We have to replenish both fluids and electrolytes after intense workouts. Otherwise, electrolyte imbalances may occur, leading to cramps or other adverse effects.
Tahini is particularly rich in 3 essential electrolytes. Just a tablespoon provides:
- calcium 6.4% DV
- magnesium 3.4% DV
- potassium 2% DV
May protect bones of athletes
As tahini is one of the richest non-dairy foods in calcium, it supports bone health.
Vegan athletes should regularly eat tahini in particular. It’s the richest vegan source of calcium.
Athletes lose high quantities of calcium through sweating and prolonged hard exercise.
Additionally, athletes of bodybuilding or any other athlete who consume extremely high amounts of animal protein should be very cautious with calcium intake.
Animal protein is acidic. Hence, high amounts may weaken the bones. On the other hand, calcium is alkaline. The body may use the stored calcium in bones to maintain the normal pH level in the bloodstream.
Furthermore, high calcium intake may play a beneficial role in testosterone synthesis!
May lower cholesterol
On the other hand, the overconsumption of animal-derived foods may increase LDL cholesterol, as they’re the main dietary sources of saturated fat.
Athletes who work out for muscle gain and strength often consume high amounts of meat and dairy products for protein. But these foods are packed with saturated fat, which can raise LDL cholesterol when consumed in high amounts.
So, a healthy, well-balanced diet is necessary for better sports performance as well as good health.
Flaxseeds are the richest foods in lignans! They’re among the richest foods in omega-3s as well.
May lower blood pressure
Tahini may also lower high blood pressure and pulse rate. It improves endothelial function.
May improve immunity
In addition, tahini as part of a healthy diet may boost the immune system. Lignans in tahini have potent antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antimicrobial actions.[8,10]
Better immunity helps athletes perform more intense workouts per year. This is key for muscle growth and strength, as well as better endurance performance.
Furthermore, tahini is a great dietary source of selenium. Just a tablespoon provides about 9% of the recommended daily intake.
Selenium is necessary for the synthesis of one of the most potent antioxidant enzymes, called glutathione peroxidase.
In fact, selenium is a key element for improved athletic performance and reduced training recovery time.
Hard-working athletes who perform high-intensity and high-volume training should be very mindful of maintaining healthy levels of selenium. They have an increased risk of selenium deficiency!
The richest food in selenium is Brazil nuts. Just a Brazil nut provides almost 100% of the recommended daily intake.
Tahini is packed with copper. Just a tablespoon provides 27% of the Daily Value!
Moreover, copper supports the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen and improve blood flow to the working muscles.
Almost two-thirds of the body’s copper is located in the skeleton and the muscles.
Both endurance athletes and athletes of bodybuilding should be mindful of consuming a wide variety of foods with copper. Often exhaustive workouts may deplete copper stores.
Tahini is particularly rich in phosphorus as well. A serving provides 16% of the Daily Value.
Phosphorus is essential for strong bones. When combined with resistance training, phosphorus can increase bone mass and strength.
However, elite athletes may require much higher dosages than the general population. Especially during the competition season.
Moreover, tahini is one of the richest vegan foods in iron. A tablespoon provides almost 8% of the Daily Value.
Eating various foods high in iron after strenuous exercise is important for optimum physical performance. Hard training sessions deplete iron stores.
Female endurance athletes have the highest risk of iron deficiency.
Among other benefits, iron is involved in oxygen transport and energy metabolism.
Tahini is the ultimate must-to-eat food for vegans, vegetarians, and people who follow a plant-based diet. It provides certain compounds that aren’t found abundant in many vegan foods.
A serving of tahini provides 6% of the Daily Value of zinc.
Zinc is implicated in muscle synthesis. It’s a key element for the muscle regeneration process that takes place after exercise. Actually, one in every ten human proteins is a zinc protein!
Athletes have higher requirements for zinc than people who follow a sedentary life. So, they should eat a wide variety of zinc-rich foods in their post-workout meals.
A serving of tahini contains 5% of the DV of niacin. Niacin improves endurance performance. It regulates glycogen concentrations.
Tahini is rich in fiber as well. Just a serving provides 1.4 grams of fiber. This dose is 5% of the Daily Value on a 2,000-calorie diet.
A diet rich in fiber is good for athletes. It helps maintain a lean body, as it promotes satiety. Athletes should increase fiber intake when they want to lose weight.
Also, a fiber-rich diet has been associated with better physical performance.
Most noteworthy, fiber improves the health of gut microbiota, which is key to good health.
Fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are the main dietary sources of fiber.
Can athletes eat tahini before a workout?
Certainly, the best time to eat tahini for athletes is after strenuous exercise. However, eating tahini in the pre-workout meal could also have positive effects on sports performance.
May provide steady levels of energy
Firstly, eating tahini before a workout is good for athletes because it provides steady energy levels during exercise.
Tahini has a pretty low glycemic index. It’s almost zero. That’s because it has negligible amounts of sugar, while it’s packed with healthy fats, protein, and fiber, which don’t spike blood sugar levels.
In fact, fiber and antioxidants in tahini play a key role in regulating blood sugar levels.
Tahini can control total postprandial glucose responses after a carbohydrate-rich meal.
Sesame is a beneficial agent for human glucose metabolism. It can be a key part of glucose-lowering diets.
Antioxidants may delay fatigue!
Eating a wide variety of foods high in antioxidants like tahini before an intense workout could delay fatigue.
Exhaustive exercise produces huge amounts of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Small quantities of these byproducts of physical stress can be beneficial for increased muscle gain and strength.
But, these can be dangerous for our health or sports performance in high amounts.
We have to consume foods high in antioxidants like tahini in order to neutralize them.
Antioxidant-rich diets may also lower the risk of musculoskeletal injuries!
A serving provides 15% of the Daily Value of thiamine. This B vitamin is essential for energy metabolism.
Amateurs and elite athletes should consume high dosages of thiamine. Before and after workouts. Strenuous exercise depletes thiamine. Also, as thiamine is a water-soluble B vitamin, it has to be replenished daily.
Moreover, a serving of tahini provides 10% of the recommended daily intake of manganese. Manganese is crucial for improved physical performance, as it’s implicated in protein and carbohydrate metabolism. It’s essential for strong bones and good immunity as well.
In addition, tahini is a great pre-workout snack because a tablespoon provides 6% of the recommended daily intake of riboflavin.
High riboflavin intakes before prolonged running or other endurance exercise may reduce muscle pain and soreness! It may also enhance functional recovery after exercise!
Above all, riboflavin protects muscle tissue from oxidative damage, due to its potent antioxidant properties!
Also, riboflavin promotes a lean body, as it supports weight loss.
How long before exercise can athletes eat tahini?
Athletes should avoid consuming tahini for at least a couple of hours before exercising.
As a rule of thumb, we should avoid consuming fiber before a workout. A high fiber intake before exercise can impair athletic performance. It can cause bloating, stomach cramps, discomfort, and many more adverse effects.
Is it OK to eat tahini every day?
Yes, tahini is one of the most nutrient-dense foods, an athlete can consume daily. Even athletes on keto and people with diabetes can daily consume tahini, as part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. After all, tahini has potent anti-diabetic effects.
How much tahini can athletes eat per day?
A tablespoon of tahini has about 90 calories and 1.1 grams of saturated fatty acids.
Fitness enthusiasts who work out for a lean body, amateur athletes, or athletes of bodybuilding in the cutting phase better consume only a tablespoon of tahini a day.
However, long-distance endurance athletes or athletes of bodybuilding in the bulking phase could consume even 3 tablespoons per day.
fat (% DV)
Can tahini be dangerous?
Keep in mind, that the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 13 grams of saturated fat on a 2,000-calorie diet per day. A tablespoon of tahini provides almost 9% of the DV.
We should be cautious with the total intake of saturated fat. Especially, people who consume high amounts of animal-derived products are more likely to exceed the maximum safe dosage of saturated fat.
People with allergies should be very cautious before consuming tahini for the first time as well.
Furthermore, tahini can make you gain weight, as it has many calories. Even athletes with huge energy expenditure should be mindful of total consumed calories. Especially if they want to lose weight before a competition or event.
How to eat tahini for a lean body?
Tahini is a great ingredient for many easy and quick recipes.
The easiest way to incorporate tahini into your daily eating routine is by spreading it on bread. You can add honey, maple syrup, or any other sweetener to your tahini toast. You can enjoy this healthy snack two hours before exercise.
If you prefer eating it after a workout, you could add various seeds or nuts:
- walnuts for omega-3s. High intake of omega-3s also supports muscle growth.
- almonds for vitamin E.
- hemp seeds for extra protein and omega-3s!
- pumpkin seeds for magnesium, which athletes require in high amounts.
Tahini is also a great ingredient in oatmeal, dips, dressings, and hummus!
Here are 10 creative ways to include tahini in your daily diet:
- Smoothies: Add a tablespoon of tahini to your favorite smoothie recipes for a creamy texture and a nutty flavor. It pairs well with banana and dates.
- Salad Dressing: Create a rich and flavorful dressing by combining tahini with lemon juice, garlic, water, and a dash of salt. Drizzle it over your salads for a unique twist.
- Hummus Variation: While traditional hummus is made with chickpeas, you can create a tahini-based hummus using tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and some spices. Serve it with pita bread, raw vegetables, or as a spread in sandwiches.
- Tahini Sauce: Mix tahini with water, lemon juice, salt, and a touch of honey or maple syrup to make a versatile sauce. Use it as a dip, drizzle it over roasted vegetables, or use it as a topping for falafel.
- Tahini Oatmeal: Stir in a spoonful of tahini into your oatmeal along with fruits and nuts for added creaminess and a nutty taste.
- Tahini Yogurt Dip: Mix tahini with plain yogurt, garlic, and a pinch of cumin for a delightful dip. Use it with fresh vegetables, pita bread, or as a sauce for kebabs.
- Tahini Toast: Spread tahini on whole-grain toast and top it with sliced bananas, honey, and a sprinkle of cinnamon for a quick and delicious breakfast or snack.
- Tahini Granola Bars: Incorporate tahini into homemade granola bars for a nutrient boost and a satisfying snack. Granola is great post-workout food as well.
- Tahini Rice: Stir tahini into cooked rice along with some chopped herbs for a unique side dish that complements a variety of main courses.
- Tahini Energy Bites: Mix tahini with rolled oats, honey, and dried fruits. Then shape the mixture into bite-sized balls. Keep them refrigerated for a quick and healthy energy boost during the day.