There is a secret weapon that you can use to train harder, recover faster from workouts, heal injured muscles, reduce inflammation of joints, and improve your energy. It’s something your competitors don’t fully use. It’s cheap. It’s in your kitchen. It’s green, red, blue, yellow, orange, and white. Most importantly, it’s alive!
Vegetables form a connection between the dinner table and sports performance. Speed and power athletes especially need high quantities of fresh vegetables in the diet to combat the extreme drain on chemical fuel that is part of intense sprinting, weight lifting, and plyometrics. By regularly eating a broad range of vegetables, speed / power athletes can get optimal performance from their central nervous system, the ultimate source of speed. Here is a way to separate yourself from the crowd, simply by nurturing your nervous system rather than just focusing on muscles. The nervous system tells the muscles what to do and when to do it. Feed your nervous system and win. The food the nervous system feeds on comes from animal protein and fats, all put to work by produce.
Fresh vegetables aid in the absorption of other nutrients. A protein rich diet, essential to any speed / power athlete, is activated with green leafy vegetables. Even the steady ingestion of fiber from vegetables aids the gut in assimilating the nutrients in animal protein. Quality fats, so critical to the diet of speed / power athletes, have an important role in vegetable intake. The nutrients in vegetation are absorbed best in the presence of fats, while the roughage of vegetation aids the body in digesting the fats. This all adds up to a prolonged digestion, keeping insulin levels in check so that you become ever more insulin sensitive, reacting sharply in the chosen moments when insulin is released.
Every morning athletes dutifully open bottles of pills then swallow a handful of vitamins, minerals, and God-knows-what. Despite the high cost when adding all the bottles together, sadly a large percentage goes down the toilet. There is a simple way to resolve the problem. Do it the way our ancestors have done for a million years or so. Eat the micronutrients from their source, vegetation. Don’t bother taking folic acid pills (vitamin B-9) when all you have to do is have a salad for dinner. Why choke on laboratory made vitamin C when the source is from fresh vegetables? You want minerals? Go to the source, vegetables.
A Vegetable Each Day Keeps the Vultures Away
Insufficient vegetable consumption plays havoc on an athlete. It causes muscle damage, early fatigue, and subpar performance. It interrupts the efficiency of the immune system, leading to sickness and injuries. Furthermore, intense training results in the release of muscle damaging free-radicals. With regular daily consumption of fresh vegetables, natural antioxidants can combat the free-radicals. Antioxidants are particularly effective when combined with plant nutrients (phytonutrients). This combination greatly affects performance.
Phytonutrients stimulate the central nervous system (CNS). They aid in cellular signaling, thus affecting the way that the CNS sends out messages. This CNS messaging is highly anti-inflammatory and aids in the growth & repair of body tissue. The dreaded post-workout DOMS (delayed onset of muscular soreness) is of particular interest to speed and power athletes who absolutely must train with punishing intensity. Phytonutrients help control DOMS.
Speed and power athletes must increase fresh vegetable consumption for another critical reason, their pH balance. This is a complicated problem. Any athlete who wasn’t born with one-in-a-billion talent must work crazy hours of intense training to find a way to success. The body must be continually built up to be able to apply more force to the ground. To fuel all this intense work and growth the athlete needs to consume a high amount of protein, about 25% of dietary intake.
The result of so much protein and so much intense exercise shifts the pH balance significantly to the acidic side. An acidic imbalance acts like a magnet for muscle irritation, soreness, and the onset of injury. Complicating this is the standard American diet that is highly acidic. Meat and dairy are acidic, but so are the processed fats in most of our processed foods. Rice is acidic, coffee is acidic, and so are condiments. Importantly, fruit concentrates and fruit juices are acidic. As a result of our overly acidic diet, millions of people suffer from stomach acids, then blindly follow the multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical industry to take “anti-acid.” But the magic pills do almost nothing. By eating high amounts of fresh vegetables you can reduce acidity, reduce injuries, and reduce muscle irritation without visiting the doctor and without taking yet another drug.
The solution is to change an acidic pH balance to alkaline level by eating a wide range of vegetables. Remember, intense exercise results in an acidic pH, thus every intense training athlete must eat an unusually high quantity of vegetables to move the pH balance to the alkaline side. Other things help, too. Surprisingly, wild honey is alkaline. Many speed training athletes supplement with beta alinine which is alkaline.
A high alkaline diet is also high in calcium from the green leafy vegetables. Calcium is best absorbed in a high alkaline environment; not taking calcium pills surrounded by an acidic diet. Calcium is critical for speed training athletes because it is instrumental in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness. Sore joints after lifting weights can be mitigated by the calcium in green leafy vegetables. It also boosts the immune system to reduce chances of catching a cold.
Yet another essential function of maintaining a diet rich in fresh vegetables is the “interior broom” system. With regular vegetable consumption, the fiber tends to sweep and clean the gut. This allows for more nutrients to come into contact with the intestinal surface and therefore aid with digestion. The interior surface stays stimulated and more capable of processing food. The body then receives the benefits of many more nutrients. The fiber from fresh vegetables is significantly greater than whole wheat or oats. One cup of oatmeal has 4 grams of fiber. Compare that to avocados which have 11 grams per cup, carrots 7, vegetable soup 7, and broccoli 6.
The 4-S Solution
Salad Soup Sauce Slices
It doesn’t matter if you love vegetables or hate them. You already eat them now so the trick is to get more of them down your throat without much fuss. Solve the problem of eating more vegetables the easy way. This is done by taking your vegetables in parts.
Start with salad. Have a big salad every night first, before eating anything else for dinner. Make sure the salad is varied in vegetables, not just lettuce (the least nutritious green leafy vegetable.) Toss in olives, carrots, parsley, sprouts, and almost any vegetable in sight. Have an olive oil and vinegar dressing with herbs for nutrition and taste. Other nights have a Cesar salad, Greek salad, or imitate your own Olive Garden salad. The dinner salad should be considered obligatory.
Next, get into the habit of having a large bowl of vegetable based soup several times per week. A huge pot of homemade soup works best, flavored with chicken or ham bone. Try many different kinds of soup, but double the vegetable amount in each recipe. The longer it cooks, the better it tastes. Freeze the leftovers and enjoy later.
You eat ketchup now, why not just expand dietary intake of this vegetable sauce? Make a variety of vegetable sauces and dump it on healthful chips and later all over your dinner. Get into the habit of having slices of celery or carrot to use as a dipper. Make a lot of homemade salsa and avocado – guacamole. Make flavorful vegetable sauce to top meat dishes the way you use ketchup. Another great way to have liquefied vegetables is juicing. Learn the art of vegetable juicing that has lots of pulp remaining. The great taste will amaze even the most vegetable hating among you.
Slice vegetables and eat. Have them steamed with a cheese sauce, or a butter sauce, or drenched in fresh squeezed lemon. Have fresh tomato slices, fresh cucumber slices, and slices of many vegetables. Most of all make vegetable consumption a habit.
One final note: go organic. There are many toxic pesticides in standard grocery store vegetables that have a disastrous effect on reactions, the very thing that speed is made of. Nerves are dulled or damaged by just a few parts per million of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and preservatives. Toxicology research from Cornell University found that signals from the CNS to muscles (especially to fast twitch muscles) are slower and diminished in intensity in the presence of Chlorpyrifos and Dimethoate, two common commercial pesticides.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) warns that many grocery store vegetables have high quantities of toxins. These toxic commercial vegetables include bell peppers, celery, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes. However, the EWG gives a positive rating to standard grocery store avocado, broccoli, cabbage, onion, and sweet peas.
Most grocery stores have a wide selection of organic vegetables. If not, then head to a farmers market or roadside vegetable stand. If all else fails, go to Whole Foods.
Eat your vegetables, make sure they are organic, and work like a madman.