Proper nutrition is a key component of performance and is just as important as a fartlek workout, progression run or acceleration stride. Finding the right fuels and perfecting the right recovery ritual can be tough when the Internet is saturated with facts, some of which may not be credible.
Whether you're in need of a boost from antioxidant-rich foods, interested in the effects of caffeine or need to find your healthy body fat percentage, these tips from the American College of Sports Medicine can help keep you healthy, fueled and informed.
Juicing for Performance
During a 46-mile (75-km) race, cyclists performed just as well when they fueled with banana as compared to sports drink. They drank about 8 ounces of sports drink or ate half a medium banana + water every 15 minutes during the 2.3-hour event. Time to start taping bananas to your helmet?
More: 10 Post-Run Drinks to Fuel Recovery
Tart cherry juice contains numerous antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that can reduce pain and inflammation associated with osteoarthritis. When arthritic women (ages 40-70) drank a 10.5-ounce bottle of tart cherry juice or a placebo twice a day for three weeks, some of the inflammatory markers in their blood decreased. Women with the highest amount of inflammation noticed the most benefits. This is just one example of how food is a powerful medicine.
Pomegranate juice is another rich source of bioactive compounds that reduce muscle soreness. Healthy men who drank PomWonderful juice for eight days before muscle-damaging exercise experienced less muscle soreness.
More: The Healthiest Juices of All
Nitrates in foods such as spinach (and beets) reduce the oxygen cost of exercise and enhance efficiency. Healthy young men who consumed half a liter of spinach juice for 6 days were able to perform better anaerobically. Maybe this is why Popeye was strong to the finish?
Dietary nitrates in the form of beet juice (called beetroot juice in the UK) have been shown to improve 2.5 mile (4 km) and 9.5 mile (16 km) time trial performance by almost 3 percent in racing cyclists. During a longer, 50-mile time trial, cyclists who consumed a half-liter of beet juice 2.5 hours pre-ride rode almost 1 percent faster. This small improvement was not statistically significant, but to a cyclist, the improvement would likely be meaningful.
More: Can Beet Juice Instantly Improve Your Endurance?
Elite rowers who consumed beet juice for 6 days performed better on an erg test. This was particularly noticeable in the later stages of exercise. Pre-exercise beets or borscht anyone?
Both beta-alanine and sodium bicarbonate can reduce the negative effects of lactic acid in athletes who do very high intensity exercise. In an intense five-minute cycling test, beta-alanine enhanced performance. When combined with sodium bicarbonate, the improvements were even better.
More: Electrolytes 101