So far, my favorite of the Lessons has been #8:
Superfoods + Fitness = Your Route to Optimum Performance
Especially during basketball season, I’m willing to do anything and everything to improve my performance. LEGALLY, of course. No roids for this chick 😛 This lesson was an awesome display of how different foods can give us that little edge that we want to have when we’re competing.
1. The nutrients that we put into our bodies do more than just taste good and keep us alive. Jarid always jokes that I’m part werewolf or something because I heal exceptionally quickly and my body seems very resilient. I tell him, it’s due to the crazy amount of vitamins and minerals I eat! Turns out, I wasn’t too far off!
2. Different levels of activity will require different proportions of proteins, fats and carbohydrates to support optimum performance—how your body burns these fuels changes as you compare short, intense bursts of activity with long, endurance activities:
3. I also thought it was awesome that the lesson gave us FOODS FOR FITNESS, HYDRATION, and RECOVERY lists which included things we could incorporate into our diets to help us achieve optimal performance:
While fruit in general is an excellent source of simple carbohydrates—the ideal fuel for short bouts of high-intensity exercise—I recommend dates for their abundant glucose. Glucose is immediately available to your liver, providing instant energy. Your body doesn’t have to break it down or convert it to a different form to use it.
Glucose is the best primary fuel before or during high-intensity activity, but as a stand-alone energy source, it has the trade-off of burning quickly (it needs to be replenished every 20 minutes).
Fructose (the other major simple carbohydrate in fruit) is the slow-burning complement to its sister, glucose. Fructose kicks in slower and takes longer to burn than glucose, prolonging its effectiveness as a fuel. Agave nectar, from the blue agave cactus, consists of 90% fructose, making it an exceptional, easily digestible source of this slow release carbohydrate.
Combined, dates and agave nectar are the perfect marriage of simple carbohydrates to fuel any workout.
Praised as a fatty acid superfood in Lesson 6, the medium-chain triglycerides abundant in coconut oil make it an excellent source of quick energy. Like glucose, medium-chain triglycerides go directly to your liver to deliver their energy, without having to be processed first.
Staying Hydrated: Replacing Electrolytes:
As important as the fuel your body needs for energy, proper hydration is critical to performance. When you exert yourself, you need more than just water to function—you must also replace the electrolytes lost when you sweat. Why are electrolytes important? They allow your cells to stay hydrated longer, which has a direct impact on your endurance.
Also introduced in Lesson 6, coconut water is a delicious, natural source of electrolytes, making it a perfect, whole food sports drink that will keep you hydrated under the most trying conditions.
A mineral-packed sea vegetable, dulse is the richest known source of naturally occurring electrolytes. I use it in a number of exercise-specific recipes.
Dulse is easily blended with three parts (fresh-squeezed or 100%) fruit juice and one part water to make a basic, electrolyte-replacing sports drink—use about a tablespoon (two strips) of dulse to every three cups liquid.
Energy-Boosters: Strategic Stimulants:
One of the guiding principles in my approach to nutrition is that you should get energy from nourishment—and not from stimulation. By stimulation, I’m mostly referring to caffeine and refined sugars, which give you energy today by stealing it from tomorrow (essentially, this is energy with strings attached—it leaves you with an energy debt—I speak about this at length in The Thrive Diet).
Because of this principle, I avoid caffeine and other stimulants, except under specific circumstances where I can justify sacrificing tomorrow’s energy for an energy-boost now (on race-day, for example).
I’ve recalibrated my system through many years of eating clean and avoiding stimulants. While I think it’s unhealthy to rely on these energy-boosters regularly, they do have a place and can be helpful when used strategically to give you a performance edge.
One of the healthiest and most effective stimulants before exercise is yerba mate, a South American herb. A nutritional powerhouse, yerba mate is packed with minerals, vitamins, amino acids and antioxidants. High in caffeine, yerba mate is usually brewed like tea, but can be added to sport-specific recipes as an energy-booster when ground to a fine powder.
Green Tea (Matcha)
This fine, chlorophyll-rich powder has an exceptional antioxidant content. What makes matcha special compared to other green teas is the difference in its caffeine; unlike other caffeine sources, matcha delivers a slow, steady energy over the course of hours, so it doesn’t cause jitters.
Green tea is also rich in the amino acid L-theanine (gamma-ethylamino-L-glutamic acid) which is found almost exclusively in tea plants. A non-protein amino acid, L-theanine is unique in that it is neurologically-active. Studies show L-theanine has a calming, anxiety-reducing effect, leading to sharpened mental acuity and concentration—from a performance perspective, focus and calmness are key in the mental component of competition.
L-theanine is also being studied for its potential to control high blood pressure and as an anti-cancer agent.
Ginseng and Rhodiola (Russian Ginseng)
Both adaptogens like maca (which you learned about in Lesson 6), ginseng and rhodiola are not stimulants in the classic sense—though they are both renowned for their energizing effects. Ginseng and rhodiola can be used strategically to increase energy and mental clarity. In addition to this, rhodiola is shown to increases your body’s anaerobic threshold (how it performs with a lack of oxygen), which can improve endurance.
As adaptogens, both are also effective at reducing the physiological effects of stress, helping your body recover after training.
Foods for Recovery:
The most compelling benefit of chlorella specifically targeted to helping your body recover from exercise is its ability to stimulate cellular regeneration. Chlorella’s extremely rapid growth rate is made possible by the Chlorella Growth Factor and its high nucleic acid content (DNA and RNA—both nucleic acids—are the building blocks of cells).
Since training and intense exercise damage muscle tissue (the healing of that damaged tissue is what causes increased strength and muscle bulk over time), chlorella’s unique ability to stimulate cellular regeneration makes it an ideal food to include in your training nutrition.
Additionally, chlorella is highly alkaline-forming and also detoxifying. Since your body functions best in an alkaline state—and the stress of high-intensity exercise can contribute to acidity—including a strong alkalizer in your recovery nutrition can speed recovery. The detoxifying effects of chlorella are helpful in clearing the lactic acid that can build up in your muscles after exertion.
The ability to help your body cope with stress, balance hormones and support your adrenal gland makes maca a powerful nutritional tool for post-training recovery. As you learned in detail in Lesson 6, you’ll want to take it regularly to prepare your body for the stresses of intense activity; if you’re training or challenging yourself, I recommend taking a little more than your day-to-day dose to speed recovery and keep you energized.
In addition to maca’s contribution to recovery, it can also be used as an energy-booster. While most of maca’s benefit is built up over long-term use, you it can be quite energizing when used prior to training.”
I’m really pleased with how in-depth these lessons are from the Thrive In 30 Program and am constantly looking forward to the next email from them letting me know there’s a lesson to read through! Brendan Braizer does a great job of explaining what we need and why. It all makes perfect sense! With his help, come basketball season, I’m going to be a lean, mean, fueled machine! 😉