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This is not your typical article on nutrition.
Athletes understand the importance of healthy fats. They get plenty of protein. And if we have to hear anymore about carbs we might just go crazy. If you want to up your game, you have to think beyond macronutrients and start focusing on optimal nutrition that helps you get the most out of your body.
Common misconceptions among athletes is that nutrition stops at getting the right level of macronutrients for optimal body composition and energy. While this approach is a good start there is a whole layer of micronutrients that are generally ignored, which leaves athletes vulnerable to nutrient deficiencies, poor absorption, weight gain, fatigue and ultimately sub-optimal performance.
Have you wondered what you happens to your food after you chew it up and swallow it down?
While you may be doing everything right; eating unprocessed and organic whole foods, eating a great combination of proteins, fats and carbs or eating plenty of vegetables and colors – is your body really primed to get the most out of those foods?
Spartan has always had one approach: Keep it simple. Eat Real Food
But there are many things that our ancestors didn’t have to worry about that are present it today’s modern world, that are impacting the way our body’s can utilize the real food we try so hard to eat:
- Every day stresses are more constant and diverse.
Rather than needing to fend off tigers or other predators, we’re asked to balance work, family, exercise, relaxation time, late night emails and more. These chronic stressors play with our hormones and our bodies are no tuned to effectively absorb the foods we eat.
- Eating organic isn’t always easy
You ate a healthy meal of vegetables, healthy fats and some protein, but that plate was filled with pesticide-ridden veggies, farmed eggs or cows that were fed grains stripped of their nutrients. Plus there is also the hole that organic can leave in the wallet when compared to non-organic, grain-fed options.
- Environmental pollution and nutrient deficient soils
Intense agriculture, processing and over farming, have left the foods we eat deficient in good bacteria and key nutrients that make us sick and our guts vulnerable to disease and poor digestion.
- Eating a perfect diet isn’t always tasty
Consistently eating chicken and broccoli over and over again to keep your meals healthy, may lack the variety your body needs to recover and perform, and more simply, isn’t very exciting or tasty. You’ll hear a lot of dieticians, nutritionists and healthy chef say “eat the rainbow.”
So what are the missing links that can give your body the advantage it needs so your performance isn’t handicapped by the above factors?
- Digestive Enzymes for Optimum Absorption
Your digestive tract produces enzymes which break down the foods you eat to facilitate nutrient absorption. What you eat can either help or hinder this enzymatic process. When this process is hindered by dietary deficiencies and the stress of a busy lifestyle, malabsorption can occur, leaving you in a nutrient deficit that may affect performance and recovery. Have you ever heard of bromelain? Getting more digestive enzymes in your system can come through fresh pineapples or papaya that can assist in the breakdown of protein consumed after workouts or during meals.
- Functioning liver for detoxification, immune support and blasting fat
With the growing number of toxins in food and drinks we consume (alcohol), the liver is asked to do more than ever before. Increasing your body’s antioxidant levels through foods like milk thistle, dandelion root and artichokes help with optimal liver function, which can help detoxify the body and boost the metabolism to aid in speeding up fat loss. Incorporating an herbal regimen into your day can assist in attaining that optimal body composition.
- Probiotics and Prebiotics for Gut Health
Gut flora is a game-changer when it comes to immune system support, with a whopping 70% of the cells that make up your immune system found in your gut. A high quality probiotic can increase the amount of good bacteria in the large intestines and prevent harmful bacteria from multiplying. Exercise is a stressor on the body, causing the immune system to have increased moments of weakness as it works to help overcome the strain of a grueling training session. Athletes know all too well that missing training due to a nasty cold is unacceptable.
- Adaptogen to optimize recovery
Stress, fatigue and poor sleep not only delay recovery but also negatively impact your training. Ask any professional athlete or coach will harp on about the importance of recovery and its impact on performance. Adaptogens are an amazing class of herbs that promotes bodily balance, vitality and the ability to ‘adapt’ to varying stressful situations. They’re often hard to say and hard to find but here are some for the googling:
- Ashwagandha fights the effects of the normal, everyday stress by lowering cortisol levels
- Rhodiola encourages lower production of cortisol, aids normal sleep and lowers everyday mental and physical fatigue.
- Siberian Ginseng, one of the most potent adaptogens, enhances mental performance while providing a long lasting energy boost.
Athletes know that optimizing sleep, enhancing mental performance and having lasting energy can be the secret weapon to support week after week of training.
So what now?
As you read this, you likely thinking “I haven’t seen any of this in my grocery store” or “some of these foods aren’t grown in the US and aren’t worth consuming out of season.” Then you’re probably imagining countertops lined with pill bottles and cabinets bursting with tubs of powder, potentially costing a fortune and become quite difficult to travel with on holidays or to races.
Trying to find high quality supplements that cover all your bases, saving you time and money can be hard – particularly with so many options out there and many of them being filled with unnecessary sugar and synthetic additives.
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