Make Room in Your Gym Bag for these Seven Performance-Enhancing, Fatigue-Fighting Ingredients
Have you been so inspired by the upcoming Olympics set to kick off in Rio that you've upped your workout hours? Bravo! If you're in the southern hemisphere, there's no better way to fight the winter blues and if you're further north, you're already rocking (and maintaining) that bikini body. But to ensure you don't find yourself falling asleep on the bus on the way to work after another sun-up bootcamp, Health Bird spoke to Belinda Reynolds, IsoWhey Sports Dietitian and Nutritionist, on the right foods to help you not only enhance your performance, but also fight off fitness fatigue... Because sometimes, a gym session and diet overhaul is kinda exhausting!
Beetroot juice is no longer just a burger additive. Beets are a rich source of nitrates, which increases the size of blood vessels to allow more oxygen to flow to muscles and regulate muscle contraction.
New research is showing that beetroot juice, when taken before exercise, can enhance exercise capacity and sports performance, and in some studies, beetroot juice has improved endurance by up to 15%.
Glutamine is one of the most common amino acids found in muscle mass, but when you exercise, glutamine reserves become seriously depleted. This can have an effect not only on your energy levels, but also your muscle strength and ability to bounce back from exercise.
Fitness fanatics love Glutamine for two reasons. Firstly, it increases your ability to create Human Growth Hormone, which aids new muscle growth and the body's ability to metabolise fat. Secondly, it boosts your immune system- bodybuilders are very prone to becoming run down and sick, thanks to their Glutamine levels depleting during such intense workouts, and often look to l-glutamine supplements to help counterbalance this.
Coenzyme Q10 plays an important role in the production of energy, as it is essential for powering mitochondria - the ‘generators’ in our cells - providing them with energy. The majority of CoQ10 in our body is in the form of Ubiquinol, and is responsible for not only providing our cells with energy, but fighting illness triggers like free radicals and inflammation.
Studies have also shown Ubiquinol to increase short-term maximum performance, boost energy and speed recovery from exercise muscle exhaustion. Our Ubiquinol levels naturally decline as we age, starting at age 30, and earlier if we’re stressed and physically active. So if you’re burnt out, there’s a good chance your cells are actually depleted from the energy they need - Ubiquinol.
L-arginine may sound like it belongs in a laboratory, but it is a well-known supplement in fitness circles, that works in a similar way to beetroot juice.
Like beetroot juice, l-arginine increase nitric oxide (NO) synthesis, creating improved blood flow to all major organs. What’s so good about blood flow? Improved circulation benefits us when we're exercising because more oxygen is delivered throughout the body to organs and muscles, enhancing recovery.
L-arginine is also popular because it promotes growth hormones in the body – which doesn’t mean you’ll bulk up, but is actually beneficial if you’re looking to gain lean muscle and lose fat.
Magnesium is involved in all steps of energy production, making it popular in not just fitness circles but health circles in general. Magnesium is also the key nutrient required for muscle relaxation, with a deficiency often being the culprit behind muscle cramps, soreness and spasms. Two-thirds of Australians are deficient in Magnesium, which could explain why many of us are feeling regularly wiped out. If you have difficulty recovering post-workout and are prone to muscle cramping, or you find yourself consistently fatigued, investigate Magnesium.
Coffee lovers, celebrate! Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, increases the release and activity of adrenaline, enhances endurance and even improves performance during high-intensity events for up to four hours! Obviously it’s important to not overdo it- drinking five cups of coffee before a workout is more likely to make you unwell in the long run. Stick to the recommended daily intake of no more than 400mg, which is the equivalent to four cups of coffee. And that's at a maximum!
BCAAs or branch chain amino acids, are the building blocks of our muscles. The intake of these amino acids helps to build and maintain lean and dense muscle mass. Consuming BCAAs before, during and after exercise encourages a protein balance within skeletal muscle and helps to prevent and reduce the breakdown of muscle during your work out. The good news is that these days, many protein powders actually include BCAA’s in their formula.
Keep in mind that although there are many new ingredients out there that can boost your performance and reduce feelings of fatigue, no amount of pre-workout formulas will help you if you’re eating a diet full of energy-zapping, processed foods. These ingredients can certainly boost your performance if you’re exercising regularly - but they’re definitely not magic ‘ab-making pills’. Hard work and dedication is still what it's all about!
Belinda Reynolds graduated with an Honours Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2003. She has been involved in the complementary medicine industry for nearly 15 years.
Belinda’s greatest passion is assisting practitioners in developing their knowledge by presenting new research in the area of integrative medicine. Now a mother of two, pre- and postnatal, infant and child health have evolved as subjects particularly close to her heart.