Juicing Your Way Through the Holidays

Athletes love to indulge this time of year. In fact, the average American gains between five and 10 pounds in the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. So how do you balance the endless holiday treats and party platters with nutrients that support your offseason training? The answer: Juicing!

I have been juicing for the past couple of years. As odd as this may sound, it can be a therapeutic break in a hectic day. The juice itself can be very tasty, or not at all. But the beauty of juicing is that you decide exactly what type of juice you are going to make, based entirely on your mood. Some days I feel like fresh apple, ginger and cranberry will do. On other days, something moves me to combine kale, garlic, and beet; a tequila-like cocktail that you won’t soon forget! Either way, you'll quickly find that juicing provides a bit of a boost, which will make you feel healthier and happier through the holidays and throughout the year.

There are two primary types of juicers: 1) the high-speed centrifugal juicer, and 2) the slow speed auger. I have, and like a lot, the slow speed auger. It is easy to use and clean, and is ready to juice anything you throw into it.

For athletes, the benefits of juicing run pretty deep. Juicing fruits and vegetables provides a huge dose of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) in a very concentrated, easily absorbed form. This quality, alone, makes juicing whole, fresh, ripe, and raw fruits and vegetables one of the most powerful vehicles for achieving optimal health; upon which speed is built. Here are some of the most commonly touted benefits of juicing:

  1. Many of the common juicing ingredients contain chlorophyll, a substance found exclusively in plants. It has a structure similar to hemoglobin which is the substance in blood that is responsible for transporting oxygen. Some research has found that consuming chlorophyll enhances the body's ability to produce hemoglobin, thus improving the efficiency of oxygen transport.
  2. Fresh juices have the ability to deliver a group of nutrients know as enzymes. Enzymes are your body's work force. In addition, fruit and vegetable juices are good sources of the traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
  3. Since juicing removes the indigestible fiber of fruits and vegetables, nutrients are available to the body in much larger quantities than if the fruit or vegetable were eaten whole. Because the process of digestion that is necessary when you eat whole foods is bypassed, the body can quickly absorb larger amounts of nutrients from the juices than it can from solid foods.
  4. Finally, fruits and vegetables provide one more substance that is absolutely essential for good health in athletes: water!

I typically try to include choices, in my juices, that I wouldn't typically eat on their own. Below are my four favorite recipes that are particularly good for athletes:

Apple/Ginger Juice
2 apples
1/2 lemon
1/2 inch of ginger root
1/2 cup of cranberries

Red Stuff Juice
12 plum tomatoes
1 apple
1 cup of cranberries
1 beet

Triathlete Juice
1 beet
2 cups of kale
1 head of romaine
1/2 lemon
1/2 inch of ginger root

Carrot/Garlic
2 cups of baby carrots
1 cup of broccoli
1-2 cloves of garlic (Not too much…this packs quite a punch!)

Three Rules of Juicing

  1. An apple can act as an excellent sweetener.
  2. If you want to hide the taste of something, like a dark leafy green, lemon and ginger will do the trick.
  3. Romaine will add volume to your juice without much taste.

I’m sure that you noticed some recurring ingredients in the above recipes—primarily beet, ginger and kale. These are my favorite ingredients to use as a base for my juices, as they provide the following health benefits for athletes:

Beet: Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Studies have shown that beet ingestion actually improves endurance performance. Beets also are very high in nitrates, which, when processed in the body, increase our levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels and improve oxygen efficiency. Hence the lowered blood pressure and increased endurance of beet juice drinkers. Lastly, beets are a rich source of iron, which many athletes struggle to get enough of.

Ginger: Many studies have shown that ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and is a powerful natural painkiller. For the triathlete, these are ideal qualities as most of us spend our days chronically inflamed, especially after frequent and damaging workouts. I like to put ginger root in my post workout juices for this purpose. Typically a half inch of the root will do.

Kale: Researchers have identified over 45 different flavonoids in kale. Kaempferol and Quercetin are at the top of the list. Kale's flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in a way that helps alleviate chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is common among athletes, since the primary energy system utilized during exercise is aerobic and therefore oxidative in nature. This fat oxidation creates damaging free radicals, and kale helps to minimize that damage.

As you navigate the upcoming holiday season parties, don’t be afraid to do a bit of juicing. This practice will help you stay healthy throughout the holidays, and may even create some really good habits that you can carry into the New Year. You may get a few cockeyed smirks along the way, but tis’ the season.

Join me in the Core Diet “Holiday Juice Challenge”: Juice once a day, every day from now to the end of the year. You pick the juice, and when you drink it. You’ll be a stronger and healthier athlete … I guarantee it.

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