Healthy, whole food nutrition consists of many elements. The following eight are of particular value for people who are runners:
1. Alkaline-Forming Foods
Alkaline-forming foods balance the body’s pH. An acidic environment adversely affects health at the cellular level; people with low body pH are therefore prone to fatigue and disease. And because acidity is a stressor, it raises cortisol levels, which results in impaired sleep quality. To help your muscles recover and to lower your cortisol levels, consume highly alkalizing foods, such as those rich in chlorophyll, soon after exercise.
When our body’s activity level rises, we use extra oxygen. This causes cellular oxidation, which can create free radicals. These reduce cell life span and in turn cause premature cell degeneration. A reduction of stress through better nutrition combats free radical production. Antioxidants in foods help to rid the body of free radicals by escorting them out of the body.
For most people, building, strengthening, and repairing bone is calcium’s major role. Runners, however, have another important job for the mineral: muscle contraction and rhythmic heartbeat coordinator. About 95 percent of the body’s calcium is stored in the skeleton, but it’s the remaining few percent that is the first to decline. Calcium in the bloodstream is lost in sweat and muscle contractions, so active people need more dietary calcium.
Electrolytes are electricity-conducting salts. Calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and sodium are the chief electrolyte minerals. Electrolytes in body fluid and blood regulate or affect the flow of nutrients into and waste products out of cells, and are essential for muscle contractions, heartbeats, fluid regulation, and general nerve function.
5. Essential Fats
Combined with proper endurance training, a diet with an adequate supply of EFAs can help improve running and endurance. Our bodies can store only a small amount of muscle carbohydrate. Once the body has burned all of its carbohydrate stores, it has to be refueled—as often as every 30 minutes during a long race or workout. This fuel shift and endurance during running is facilitated by dietary EFAs.
Iron helps maintain the health of red blood cells so that the body can deliver oxygen-rich blood to the hardworking extremities—maximizing efficacy and therefore running performance.
Phytonutrients are plant compounds that offer health benefits independent of their nutritional value. They are not essential for life, but they can help improve vitality and quality of life. For example, a phytonutrient found in tomatoes improves blood vessel elasticity and thereby enhances blood flow through the heart. This enhances running performance.
8. Raw Food
Before the body can make use of cooked food, it must produce enzymes to aid in the digestion process. That takes work, which of course is an energy draw and therefore creates a nominal amount of stress. In addition, food containing both sugar and fat cooked at a high temperature can provoke an immune response that causes inflammation.
Post Workout Plant-based Nutrition Tips: Helping You Help Yourself
In place of isolates and acid-forming animal foods, there are a host of plant-based options that will ensure inflammation be kept to a minimum after running. Post workout, excellent plant-based protein sources include: hemp, pea, and rice protein. And while protein is a crucial component for muscle repair and building, so too are essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), vitamins, minerals, enzymes, probiotics, antioxidants and a host of other nutritional components that can be found in a variety of plant-based whole foods. This being the case, my post workoutsmoothies will deliver greater results if it contains these components, not merely protein. Additionally, chlorella – a form of freshwater algae – is an excellent addition to the post-workout smoothie. Due to its exceptionally high chlorophyll content, it’s among the most alkaline-forming foods available.