Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSD As a sports dietitian when it comes to adding key nutrients to athletes eating routines, you can’t beat lentils; they provide plant-based protein, soluble fibre, insoluble fibre, folate, potassium, iron, and manganese. Each aspect of nutrition that lentils deliver is essential for athletes!Plant-based protein: Adequate protein is a must for rebuilding muscles, repairing muscles, maintaining strength, and overall muscle mass. While most people get plenty of protein from meats/animal sources, I’m always looking for ways to incorporate plant-based protein sources as which deliver fibre, vitamins, minerals, and lentils deliver all-that! Each cup of cooked lentils has about 18 grams of protein, which is equivalent to the protein content of about 3 large eggs.Fibre: The reason I’m always looking to add more fibre is because as a general rule, most people don’t get enough fibre in their eating routine, especially soluble fibre. Lentils deliver both soluble and insoluble fibre. The key with soluble fibre is that it is linked to helping slow digestion and can help to lower ‘lousy’ (LDL) cholesterol levels. By slowing digestion this also results in balancing blood sugar levels, which for an athlete can lead to longer sustained energy levels.Vitamins and Minerals: What’s great about lentils is that they have a lot of what I like to call “behind the scenes” nutrients – vitamins and minerals. Often times there is so much focus on the macronutrient content of food (aka carbohydrate, protein, and fat content) that the importance of the nutrient-rich nature of foods gets left behind. Like in the case of lentils, they are nutrient-rich and deliver important nutrients including: folate, potassium, iron, and manganese, which all provide health-helping benefits.Folate is an important vitamin for athletes because it plays many important roles in the body including being required for normal red blood cell synthesis, which because of this function could have an effect on exercise.Potassium is a mineral that plays a key role in fluid balance and is one of the three major electrolytes. Plus potassium concentrations in skeletal muscle may play a role in the development of fatigue during exercise, making adequate potassium intake a must for athletes!Iron is utilized in the body for many functions related to exercise including in hemoglobin synthesis; this plays an important role for athletes because hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues. Exercise can increase iron requirements and if an athlete is deficient in iron, replenishing iron stores could have an overall benefit to boosting performance. What is interesting about iron is that combining vitamin-C rich foods or beverages with or within an hour after consuming food with iron, absorption of iron is increased. For example, each Chia Cherry Lentil Muffin has 1.8 mg of iron or about 9% of the Daily Value for iron. Combine a Chia Cherry Lentil Muffin with a small glass of orange juice or an orange to help boost iron absorption.Manganese is a mineral that is important to athletes because it is involved in bone formation and is involved in carbohydrate metabolism.I encourage athletes to be creative and add lentils into their eating routine by incorporating lentils into: salads, soups, stews, and even into baked goods like Chia Cherry Lentil Muffins to gain all of the nutrient benefits that lentils deliver. The bottom-line is that lentils can help deliver important nutrients to maximize performance!Molly Morgan, RD, CDN, CSSDMolly Morgan is the owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions and is a registered dietitian, board certified sports specialist dietitian, and author. Molly works with the Ottawa and Binghamton Senators (NHL/AHL hockey) as their nutrition consultant. She creates interactive workshops for players at all levels of the organization from development to the NHL and works individually with players and their families to create custom performance focused meal plans.Additionally, Molly has authored three books including: Drink Your Way to Gut Health (2015), Skinny Size-It (2014), and The Skinny Rules (2011). Molly lives in Upstate New York with her husband and two sons. She enjoys skiing, cooking, playing the piano, and her favorite sport is hockey.