Nutrition and exercise are both important components of a healthy lifestyle, yet we give so little thought to the relationship between the two.
Proper nutrition can enhance your physical performance and ensure you are getting the maximum healthful benefits from your physical activity. Poor nutrition can turn your exercise program or athletic endeavors into a significant health negative, contributing to sub-optimal performance, injuries and aging.
Whether you are a world class athlete or a weekend warrior, you might want to consider whether your body is getting the nutrition it needs to support the demands you are placing on it.
Changing your diet is the secret. Our modern diet is woefully inadequate to maintain optimal health, especially for the athlete. Over time, a poor diet not only diminishes your physical performance, but also increases your odds of developing some type of degenerative disease, like heart disease or cancer.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Hippocrates once said, “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” It was good advice then and it’s still good advice today.
What Athletes Need
Exercise is beneficial to the body for a multitude of reasons. Yet exercise puts nutritional demands on the body as we burn more fuel and push our physical limits.
Anyone engaged in physical activity of any kind at any level should be concerned about these additional nutritional demands.
• Exercise and physical activity create oxidative stress on your body by increasing your body’s production of harmful free radicals. (more on oxidative stress in a future blog post)
Proper nutrition can help minimize oxidative stress by providing a greater amount and a greater variety of antioxidants that offset the production of those harmful free radicals.
• While exercise is an important part of getting in shape and keeping in shape, it places new physical demands on your body as well.
Proper nutrition can help you maximize your lean body mass and minimize your body fat for optimal health and performance at any age.
• Exercise and physical activity place variable “stop and go” stresses and demands on the body.
Proper nutrition can help your body store and release energy in the form of sugar and fat to match it’s specific needs during rest, workout and peak performance periods.
We see the cumulative damage of oxidative stress in serious athletes, who are often aerobically fit but not nutritionally fit. The higher the activity level of an athlete, the more free radicals that are produced. It is therefore critically important to match the level of your physical activity with the number of “antioxidants” in your diet in order to prevent recurring injuries and illnesses and long-term diseases.
Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants that help minimize oxidative stress. Plants produce antioxidants to protect them from free radical damage due to radiation from the sun. Since we do not similarly produce most antioxidants in our bodies, we have to eat fruits and vegetables to get them.
The effects of a few well-known antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene have been well researched. But there are thousands of different antioxidants in a given plant, and scientists are beginning to learn that these antioxidants work together in ways and in combinations they have yet to research.
It is increasingly clear that to be most effective in protecting us from free radical damage, antioxidants need to be taken together, in combination with one another, as they naturally occur in whole food. And we need to eat a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables in order to get a wide variety of antioxidants.
When individual antioxidants are isolated from other antioxidants, they become less effective and can sometimes even have adverse effects. This is why health organizations such as the American Cancer Society recommend eating fruits and vegetables, not taking isolated nutrients.
For good nutrition everyone needs to consume a wide variety of fresh raw, fruits and vegetables every day. This is especially important for athletes or anyone engaged in regular physical activity.
Fruits and vegetables are excellent, nutrient dense foods that provide a whole orchestra of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and reduce oxidative stress.
Another key nutritional objective is to build strong organ and muscle tissue while minimizing body fat. Muscles and organs such as your heart and lungs are the lean mass of your body and the essence of your body’s machinery. Conversely, too much body fat puts a strain on your body’s machinery.
To improve your physical capabilities as well as your overall health and wellness, you must maintain or increase your lean muscle mass, while reducing your overall body fat to a reasonable level.
Glycogen is how the body stores carbohydrates in muscle and liver tissue. You need glycogen to fuel muscles as well as your other organs. Without glycogen, endurance is impossible because you also need glycogen to burn fat for long-term energy.
For years athletes have tried to “carbo-load,” which really means “glycogen-load.” Often “carbo-loading” is misinterpreted as eating a candy bar before a race; this usually actually results in fat storage, not added energy. Even when done properly, “carbo-loading” leads to the retention of water.
We all want to get the most out of our workouts, and we like for our bodies to function at peak performance. So, the marketplace is full of artificial solutions to providing “extra energy” and enhancing performance: things like growth hormones, “intermediate metabolites” like pyruvate and creatine phosphate, glucosamine, and herbal stimulants.
Unfortunately, like most quick fixes, the results from using products like these are unpredictable; they often cause more harm than good. One of the problems is that products like these circumvent the body’s natural energy producing process: they try to manipulate our cells, rather than feed them. Taking them is like trying to get a donkey to do more work by constantly whipping the donkey, rather than giving the donkey plenty of food and rest.
Don’t try to whip your body into shape. It won’t work for very long.
Food is the original and ultimate fuel that feeds every cell of your body. Proper nutrition – not quick fixes – is the right answer. Over time, your body develops tolerances for “quick fix products like the ones we’ve mentioned, requiring more and more intake to achieve the same level of energy.
Food is a constant, steady, dependable, healthy source of energy. When we use whole food to maximize glycogen stores, the body does not develop a tolerance as it does with artificial means. With whole food and whole food-based supplementation, you are not taking chances with your body. And you can achieve those short-term, positive results and enjoy them over the long term as well.
Be aware of signs that you need more nutritional support. Everybody from the serious athlete to the person just beginning an exercise program can benefit greatly from proper, whole food nutrition – it’s what your body needs to stay healthy.
When the gap between what your body needs and what it is getting becomes too great, you may begin to show telltale signs that you are “wearing down” and creating significant health problems for yourself. You should watch for these and other early warning signs that you are not getting the right nutrition to match your activity level:
• Changes in your sleep patterns, especially insomnia
• Longer healing period for minor cuts and scratches
• A drop in your blood pressure; dizziness when getting up from a seated position
• Gastrointestinal disturbances, especially diarrhea
• Gradual weight loss in the absence of dieting or increased physical activity
• A leaden or sluggish feeling in your legs during exercise
• Impaired mental acuity and performance or an inability to concentrate
• The inability to complete routine exercise training sessions that were no special challenge previously
• An increase in your resting heart rate by more than 10 beats per minute early in the morning
• Muscle and joint pains
• Sluggishness that persists for more than 24 hours after workouts
• Excessive thirst and fluid consumption at night
Physical activity should enhance your health and wellness, not detract from it. Adding whole food nutrition can make the difference.
Even if you aren’t experiencing any of the “danger signs” above, proper nutrition can help ensure you minimize health problems down the road.
With good nutrition:
• You can increase your intake of antioxidants and reduce the impact of harmful free radicals.
• You can increase your lean muscle mass and reduce body fat.
• You can help ensure your body stores energy in a healthy manner and releases it when you need it.
• You can work out longer and harder without creating further stress on your body.
• You can enjoy quicker recovery times, fewer injuries, less illness, and less strain on your immune system.
• You can avoid sugar, caffeine, pyruvate, creatine phosphate, hormones and other potentially harmful substances many athletes use to enhance their short-term performance.
• You can be the best athlete that you can be without running your body into the ground.
• You can stay active for a lifetime.
Whether you are a world class athlete or a weekend warrior, whether you work out regularly or are just thinking about starting a fitness program, you will want to consider whether your body is getting the nutrition it needs to support the demands you are placing on it.
If you’re like 99.99% of the population, you need help. Jake and I recommend using the plant concentrates that we’ve been using for 25 years AND we recommend growing as much of your produce as possible with the most efficient and effective growing machine on the planet.