Sunday, 3 February 2013

My Fitness Diary 6: Natural Performance Enhancers

When all's said and done, there's no substitute for a healthy diet!
Yes, I am still running- apart from a small hiatus around Christmas due to extreme busy-ness and tiredness and several days off last month due to illness followed by lots of snow. Actually I ran 5k for the first time at the end of November, and this week managed 7k (including hills) one evening. Thanks are due to my husband, who has been a major motivating force these dark, cold nights (we have to run after work.) I've been on just one daylight run since the beginning of November, as I can't seem to get out until later in the day, even at weekends! I must say I do feel so much fitter and energised through running; I really enjoy it and it has certainly toned up and strengthened my legs and bottom- but I don't think I've lost that much weight really, as I get so ravenously hungry when I have run that I can easily eat twice my usual amount!! As I run after a full day's work (which starts around 6am with household stuff before going out to my job and usually ends when I have cooked and served the evening meal around 6pm) plus I am no Spring chicken any more, I am often feeling in need of a pick-me-up before going running. I have tried a spoonful of honey, water, a banana, a few dates, fresh vegetable juice or a vitamin drink, etc. with some success, and I got to thinking about healthy ways to enhance athletic performance.
Last April, tragically, a 29 year old woman collapsed and died just one mile from the finish of the London marathon. The cause was reported to be heart failure from extreme exertion, but now it has come to light that a significant contributing factor in her death was a legal performance-enhancing stimulant which she had added to her water bottle. I wonder what natural and safe foods/drinks can be used to enhance running performance? A performance enhancer is something that will increase endurance, speed or muscle strength. they are known as ergogens.  Here's what I have found out:
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  • Beetroot Juice: A study has recently shown that drinking beetroot juice can result in increased endurance.
  • Peppermint aroma: Sniffing peppermint oil has been shown to reduce perceived physical workload and fatigue, resulting in increased running speed, hand-grip strength and number of pushups.
  • Co-enzyme Q10: This natural supplement plays a role in producing energy at a cellular level, converting calories to ATP (the form of energy the body uses to do physical work.)
  • Caffeine: There is a legal limit on the amount of caffeine consumption allowed in competitive sports, and caffeine is perhaps not the most innocuous of substances, but nevertheless, it is well-known as an endurance-enhancer which delays the onset of muscle fatigue.
  • Antioxidants: The flavonoids found in fresh fruit and vegetables, combat free radical damage (which is why foods high in antioxidants are often called "superfoods"). These antioxidants reduce the pain and inflammation brought on by exertion during strenuous excercise.
  • Resveratrol: This is found in the skin of red grapes and other fruits (but before you reach for that glass of wine, be warned that it contains very little of the stuff!)  It can also be synthesised chemically and is sold as a supplement, in which form it is mainly derives from Japanese knotweed, that invasive "pest" plant that is being eradicated from English parks and gardens (so it is good for something, after all...) It had been shown to enhance heart function and muscle strength in high doses, and it also helps prevent heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

Disclaimer: I have not personally tested out any of these, so I cannot recommend their use. If you want to try them out, be sure you know the correct amounts to take.

Personally, I think that a diet rich in plenty of water, fresh fruit and vegetables, pulses and nuts will actually be the best aid to anyone's excercise program. There's just no substitute for a body fuelled on pure and natural health-enhancing foods!




4 comments:

  1. I read a book by Scott Jurek who is an ultramarathon runner. He is vegan and has recipes in his books and thoughts on vegan diet when being a runner. It's a good book.

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    1. Thanks Haridasi, I will have a look at the book- sounds really interesting :)

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  2. Great to hear you back to running and even ran a 7k, these super foods are really helpful, esp nuts which give instant energy!

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