ARTICLE: The Healthy Athlete 1

While I was injured I published an article covering loads of ways to help yourself recover quickly. Today we'll look into a few nice and comfortable "substances" that'll help you heal and recover faster, and generally live a healthier life (surprisingly many people today are fit and unhealthy at the same time, sounds weird? It isn't!).

I'll publish a large number of these articles, as there is so much good food out there, but today we'll start with a small sample including two of my all time favourites (no, not pizza and beer): strawberries and black tea.

Black Tea
Everyone knows that Green Tea has many health benefits, but fewer of us would know that Black Tea is a very useful for athletes as well as being a very enjoyable way to relax.

Black Tea has been proven to have positive effects on the cardiovascular system (and reduce the risk of coronary disease). Sadly this effect is removed if you take your tea with milk.

Another bonus for every man is that it lowers the amount of LDL in your body (which is the bad cholesterol, see eggs below).

For athletes the main bonus is that black tea has proven to soothe away stress, and this doesn't just include mental stress, but also physical. As runners, we'll subject our bodies to great amounts of stress, and I can personally vouch for feeling more relaxed and ready to regenerate after a cup of the black stuff... (not Guinness! Nice as it is...).

Cantaloupe (Melon)
I always carry these as part of my dried fruit bag on longer runs. The cantaloupe is heavily recommended in the book "Paleo-Diet for Athletes" and here's why: It provides a very high level of potassium, and a ridiculous amount of vitamin C and A (in fact, a cantaloupe melon has more than 100% your daily intake covered in just one cup!).

You need to be healthy to truly enjoy being fit, and this affordable fruit will have that effect on you, especially if you're a smoker, or live with a smoker (as the high Vitamin A content is beneficial to lung health).

I've been waiting a long time to lay the myths about eggs to rest. People have a completely irrational paranoia when it comes to eggs. They'll happily wallow in fries, crisps, fried fish, and other foods heavy on saturated fats and empty carbs (the two "killer" constituents of food), but God forbid they had one too many eggs!

People talk about cholesterol as if they know what it is, so quite a few will be surprised to know that there are two types (LDL, bad, and HDL, good), and that the bad sort of cholesterol can change "size", making it "healthier".

Recent studies have shown that not only daily consumption of two eggs not make your cholesterol levels worse (in fact, its the contrary). Any heightened cholesterol levels observed in the general population are the product of saturated fats in your diet, not eggs!

Given that eggs have a huge amount of health benefits (as an athlete all you need to know is they are rich in proteins, amino acids, minerals, and relatively low on calories), cutting them out of your diet or reducing intake of eggs, is a big mistake. This is a low cost quality of good quality protein and more, use it!

(And yes, I've heard the stories of the grandfather who ate an omelet made of 10 eggs and fell sick. He'd have fallen sick if he'd eaten 5 red steaks, or drunk 3 big bottles of milk as well!).

Summation: As an athlete eggs are excellent because they are easy to get almost anywhere. Eggs are useful both pre-exercise (to keep protein levels up) and post-exercise (for repair and recovery).

Goji Berries
Another berry that I enjoyed dried on my müsli in the mornings. Goji berries originate from China and Mongolia and are one of the nutritionally densest foods on the planet.

They are sadly expensive, but really include everything you need, essential fatty acids, higher vitamin C content than oranges, anti-oxidants galore, and, uniquely to the plant world, 19 amino acids, including all of the 8 essential acids necessary for life (which means these will seriously support muscle-building and cellular repair at an accelerated rate).

Uric acid is a by-product of the metabolising of many foods, most notably: white flour, mussels, sugar oatmeal, spinach, and, most importantly, protein.

As an athlete you will invariably try to eat more protein than average (which is good, since the average person eats too little), so your uric acid production will rise. Unfortunately, if your liver is below average "processing power" or you've had previous kidney problems, high protein diets can be potentially dangerous and will cause gout.

Two ways to alleviate this is supplementation with pantothenic acid, that is B5 vitamin, and celery juice, but a much better option is the two foods that actually neutralize uric acid: strawberries and cherries. Eating as much as 250g per day is recommended (but hard!).

If the taste and this little bonus is not enough, look how packed these little red things are in nutrients: WH Foods description.

Omega 3, B5, and a large amount of potassium, makes this one of the major fruits for athletes.

Spices - Pepper vs. Salt
Salt is one of the most over-used substances in our modern culture, and leads to all sorts of health problems. As runners we have the luxury of eating more since we deplete huge stores of Sodium (Salt is made up of the two electrolytes Sodium and Chloride), but even we should not over-use it. Personally I use Solo's Low Sodium Sea Salt, to get maximum taste for minimum Sodium.

Another great alternative is something as simple as black pepper. Black pepper is a product of the vine simply called "pepper plant", and has a surprising amount of healthy benefits:

  • Contains manganese (important for fat and protein metabolism, supports immune system and blood sugar levels, and is involved in production of cellular energy, reproduction and bone growth)
  • Contains vitamin K (necessary for proper bone growth and blood coagulation)
  • Contains Iron (forms part of both hemoglobin and myoglobin, and is thus essential to oxygen synthesis)
  • Stimulates the production of hydrochloric (stomach) acid thus improving digestion
  • Is a powerful anti-oxidant
  • Has anti-bacterial properties
  • Stimulates the breakdown of fat cells
Not bad for a run-of-the-mill table spice!