Performance Enhancing Foods

Performance Enhancing Drugs Foods

     It wasn’t really a topic I was going to touch on, but with recent events… I think it should be mentioned.

     Lance Armstrong, Essendon Bombers; it seems like every day another athlete or team is falling ungracefully from their perch.

     So what exactly are we talking about here? If you think about it, any sports supplement you get from a store is classed as performance enhancing. After all, if it didn’t enhance your performance in some way, would you bother taking it? But that’s not the real issue here is it? EPO, steroids, human growth hormones or any other serious performance enhancing drugs are a far cry from a protein powder, creatine or similar supplements. The big issue with drugs is you are technically getting an unfair and illegal advantage over the competition. So perhaps the ethical debate about what is fair and unfair with regards to supplementation can be left for another day.

     But what if there was something you could buy, over the counter that could give you an advantage over the competition. Well there are a number of things you can use to get this unfair advantage. Really though, everyone has the same things available to them, it’s just most of us don’t take advantage of them. It’s called good nutrition.

Now I am a firm believer in getting all my nutrients from food. Supplements are really only there if you have a deficiency or if you cannot get a good reliable source of that nutrient from the food accessible to you.

     Let’s look at Magnesium for example. As athletes, our bodies use more magnesium than the average person, and it can be of benefit to supplement this mineral to help keep our muscles relaxed and prevent cramping. But in general, things like a multivitamin are quite useless. Most supplements rely on cheap synthetic alternatives that prove of no benefit to us and can actually be quite detrimental to our health. 

What I prefer are whole food supplements. Supplements that are more like a food than an isolated vitamin supplement. I could really do a whole article on each of these supplements and their benefits, but to save from boring you too much, I will go through them briefly.

Number one on my list is cod liver oil. One of the richest dietary sources of vitamin D and an excellent source of omega 3 fats. Omega 3 is a great natural anti inflammatory and great for balancing out the omega 3 to 6 ratio. The Western diet is far to high in omega 6 which is pro inflammatory, so anything that balances that out is great. There are so many positives to this food, I would recommend it to anyone looking to improve their health. But like most supplements, there are a few things to watch out for. There are two types of marine oils you can get. Triglyceride oils and ethyl ester oils.

     Put very simply, triglyceride are the natural form of marine oils and ethyl ester are the highly processed version which you want to avoid. You will find most oils are in a capsule form and promoted as being high potency. The only way they can achieve this is by changing the molecular structure of the oil. They remove the glycerol part of the oil and replace it with ethanol. Then they can concentrate it to these high potency oils. But it is now no longer something our bodies can use. I use a brand of oil available in Australia called Melrose. It comes in a bottle, you take it by the table spoon and it is a great quality oil. If this is not available where you live, make sure you look for the word triglyceride and avoid the ethyl ester. If it says neither, assume it’s ethyl ester.

The second supplement comes under the heading of greens. You have probably seen or even tried wheat grass shots from a juice bar somewhere which basically taste like someone has cut the their lawn and squeezed the juice out of it. But this kind of product is extremely healthy. The shots from the juice bars are overpriced, so I buy mine in a powdered form. I just add one scoop to a glass of water or add it to a smoothie (so I don’t get that mown grass taste) and it’s a great way of adding super nutrients to your diet. Plenty of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients (plant nutrients) and is very alkaline. One of the phytonutrients in there is chlorophyll, which gives green foods the green colour. A very potent anti oxidant.

     If you remember those testing strips from school that tested the PH of things and you were always told that 7 was neutral and anything below was acid and above was alkaline. Well our body likes to be slightly alkaline. The modern diet tends to very acidic and foods like this are great at restoring the balance. The most common forms are wheatgrass, barley grass, chlorella and spirulina. You can even get a mixture of them. All are great and have slightly different nutrients, but they are all a great addition to your diet.

The third and final one is coconut oil. I have mentioned this before, but it really is a great food. It is actually a saturated fat, so most doctors or health professionals would have deemed it as a bad fat. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s what is known as a medium chain triglyceride. These types of fats do not get stored as fat, but get converted straight to energy. They stimulate the thyroid gland which is responsible for metabolism and can actually assist in weight loss. Also a weak thyroid can result in low energy, not something you need as a runner.

     Coconut oil is not only good to eat, but is one of the best skin moisturisers too. If you suffer from eczema, dermatitis or just have dry skin, coconut oil is great for it. Even after a long run on a warm, sunny day, I will quite often lather myself up in this oil, especially if I feel I may have a bit of sunburn. It’s great in so many ways.

So these three things are my performance enhancers, they can be viewed as supplements, but I prefer to think of them as foods. Foods that give me the energy to train hard when I need to and more importantly recover faster. After all, one of the main benefits performance enhancing drugs have on endurance athletes is the ability to recover quicker and get back out there for their next session. 

What do you use to get an unfair advantage over your competition? Be sure to leave your thoughts.

Run Well

Chris O’Driscoll


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