The efficiency of the body’s physiological processes during activity are directly affected by nutrition. For effective training and performance, the body requires macronutrients in the form of carbohydrates, protein and fat and equally important is the intake of micronutrients (vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, found in vegetables and fruit).
Logically, as physical activity increases, energy requirement increases and it is important for individuals to be aware of what types of food, the timing of meals and how hydration works best for them within their fitness program.
Whether training for a marathon or enjoying a walk around the park, the body requires energy to do it. Our mitochondria are the places where our cells produce the energy for the body from the nutrients in the food we eat. Each of our cells has several hundred to over two thousand mitochondria inside of them, depending on their need for energy.
Eating nutritiously everyday helps maintain mitochondria and will also provide essential antioxidants to help combat the free radical damage produced through this metabolic process of energy making.
Having a varied diet to include plentiful amounts of veg, fruit, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and lean grass fed/organic meat is crucial in supplying all the basic nutrients but there are also many specific foods available to choose from that can give extra support for exercise . My particular favourite is Beetroot.
Beetroot has a high nitrate content, roughly 20 times more than most other vegetables. The research around this demonstrates the increased consumption of dietary nitrate increases plasma nitrate and nitrite concentrations, and has been shown to elicit cardio-protective effects and improve exercise performance (1).
Whole Beetroot and also beet juice can increase the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood and has also been found to reduce the amount of oxygen that muscles require in order to function optimally (2,3).
Try out this smoothie recipe I regularly make and is one of my go to juices: just make sure you wash all fresh fruit and veg first to remove pesticide residues.
Beetroot and Berry Smoothie Recipe
Blitz together the following ingredients until smooth.
3-4 cooked (smallish) beetroots (you can use1 medium washed raw beetroot if your blender can take it – cut it up into smaller pieces
100g fresh or frozen strawberries
1 frozen banana
100g frozen blueberries
200 - 300ml coconut water or almond milk for a thicker smoothie
If you need to sweeten this, I personally use a wee squeeze of natural vanilla paste (Little Pod). You can experiment with changing the fresh fruit ingredients.
Makes 2 smoothies.
1. Van der Avoort CMT et al. Increasing vegetable intake to obtain the health promoting and ergogenic effects of dietary nitrate. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29559721
2. Muggeridge DJ et al., A Single Dose of Beetroot Juice Enhances Cycling Performance in Simulated Altitude. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23846159
3. Murphy M, Eliot K, Heuertz RM, Weiss E. Whole Beetroot Consumption Acutely Improves Running Performance. Available from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22709704