Nutrition & Herbs to Boost Athletic Performance
This article isn’t just for the elite athlete, although it will definitely apply to them. Regardless of your age or current activity level, YOU CAN optimize your physical strength, stamina and endurance. There are cultures throughout the world that are active well past the century mark, and you can do the same by aligning with God's design of the human body and using the foods, herbs and medicines He so graciously offers to us.
1. God intended us to consume primarily alkaline forming foods and for our body to be primarily alkaline.
People are consuming primarily acid forming foods today such as meat, grains, sugar, coffee, sodas, dairy and processed foods. Acids cause tissue breakdown, inflammation, mucus formation, inhibits detoxification and oxygenation and causes free radical formation. An alkaline environment is oxygen rich, encourages detoxification and cellular regeneration, soothes inflamed tissue and enhances cellular function.
Brendan Brazier, who is a professional Ironman Triathlete, two-time Canadian 50 km Ultra Marathon Champion and bestselling author on performance nutrition, has this to say about the importance of pH balance for optimal health and athletic performance:
“It amazes me how little attention the value of balance pH has garnered from the mainstream medical world. Positive acid/alkaline balance is one of the most important factors in athletic performance.”
Athletes in peak training are the most affected by acidosis. Vigorous exercise creates stress in terms of muscle trauma caused by the workout. Physiologically speaking, hard exercise is the stressor but equally important is rest and recovery. The correct balance of exercise, nutrition, rest and recovery is the recipe for max growth.
Brendan Brazier states,
“For recovery to be expedited, alkalizing foods, such as those rich in chlorophyll, need to be consumed soon after exercise. Protein must also be consumed to help repair broken down muscle tissue. As with processed energy bars, numerous sport supplements touted as post-workout recovery agents contain highly processed, manufactured proteins usually in the form of denatured isolates, which are acid-forming. Suggesting they be consumed soon after a workout will fulfill the body’s need for protein, but completely neglects its need for pH balancing.”
2. Plant Based Diet
Several studies have been done on cultures that still follow their ancient roots and haven’t succumbed to the processed foods of today’s world. These cultures regularly live into their 100’s with no incidences of cancer, degenerative diseases or heart disease and they stay active daily into their old age. They all have in common a frugal, semi-vegetarian diet that’s low in calories, and closely linked to the soil, from which most of their food is taken directly without much refinement, low in fat and proteins, mainly from plant origin (meat is usually only eaten on rare occasions). Another powerful contributory factor to the health and fitness of these people is, undoubtedly, their daily, habitual physical activity, which consists mainly of walking, hiking, household and farming activities.
Nutrients must be secured from eating a variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds which is the way God intended humans to receive their nutrients to attain the ultimate health possible. This is a description of Genesis 1:29 found in the Bible.
" And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food." Genesis 1:29
You are probably wondering…”Can people eat meat and still be healthy?” The answer is yes, but excessive amounts and poor choices are causing a lot of problems and many people are turning away from meat in order to restore their health. Regardless of what you choose, you will always benefit from eating more fruits, vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds, while choosing less meat. I see this every day. We are in a generation that is over-fed and under-nourished. We are so congested in our bodily systems that we can hardly process the food we do eat and the body never has a chance to go deeper and become efficient in the area of digestion and nutrient extraction.
We have created a simple nutrition program that is both an alkalizing diet and mostly plant based called, Eating By Design. Download the free guide here.
Supplementing is critical today because of the lower quality of foods we have to choose from today and the overall destruction of our food supply. Supplementation can be a confusing topic, especially with so many supplements on the market. The mainstream supplement market found in corporate vitamin stores is full of processed, denatured, acid-forming, toxic, energy robbing and gland weakening products that are highly marketed for one purpose....to sell you a product and make money. It is not to actually benefit your health.
A few of the most important things to supplement, especially for athletes or people who are regularly active, would be minerals, antioxidants and herbs (which several herbs are extremely high in both minerals and antioxidants).
Minerals are the foundation for everything that happens in your body. You can’t move a muscle, blink or lift anything without minerals. Athletes drink electrolyte minerals for a reason. A short list of nutrient dense, high mineral foods include:
There has been a lot of buzz regarding the importance of antioxidants, and rightfully so. Oxidative stress is a natural byproduct of physical activity, and this can be offset with the right foods and supplements. Slowing the oxidative process is how we slow aging, wrinkles and the breakdown of glands and organs. The richest sources of antioxidants are found in:
Sour Red Grapes
Adaptogenic Herbs for Athletic Performance
If there was something that I thought every athlete should add to their arsenal, it would be mushrooms and herbal adaptogens. Put aside creatine, BCAA supplementation, glutamine and any other ergogenic aid. These only address the physical demand (with debatable results), while neglecting the psychological and emotional needs of an athlete, and the biological and chemical stressors that deplete strength and endurance. What many people don’t think about when it comes to power, speed and endurance, is that there is more to it than the physical output. What if there was something that could increase your drive, stabilize your emotions and increase physical output? There is, and they are in the elite group called adaptogens.
Panax Ginseng: Panax ginseng is the most studied physical-performance herb on the planet. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine and has been popularly used as an energy enhancer and sexual stimulant. Increases energy levels, boosts physical performance and endurance, stimulates function of endocrine glands and enhances energy, helps increase strength, enhances immune system function, mental function, balances blood sugar levels and promotes general well-being.
Cordyceps Mushroom: Cordyceps is one of the most prized immune boosting and energy enhancing adaptogens known in Chinese herbalism. Often compared to Ginseng! It’s known for dilating the lung’s airways, providing more oxygen to the blood, increasing cellular oxygen absorption by up to 40%. It’s said to noticeably increase physical strength and stamina, improve function of the heart, boost immune system, improve athletic performance, boost endocrine gland and hormone production.
Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng): The Siberian form of ginseng is generally a less expensive alternative to “true” Asian or Panax ginseng. Eleuthero’s ability to increase stamina and endurance led Soviet Olympic athletes to use it to enhance their training. Strengthens the body during times of stress, stimulating and energizing, improves oxygen uptake and recovery times, strengthens the immune system, stimulates physical and mental ability, stimulates the central nervous system and increases libido.
Rhodiola: Rhodiola also known as “golden root” has tremendous fat burning, energy enhancing and brain boosting power. Historically the Vikings used it to enhance physical strength and the Sherpa people used it to climb at high altitudes including Mt. Everest. Known to boost energy levels, increase red blood cell count and oxygenation of cells, reduce mental and physical fatigue under stress, boost concentration and brain function, improve physical endurance and exercise performance.
Maca: Maca is an adaptogenic herb, from South America and also has been called “Peruvian ginseng.” Some benefits of maca are that it boosts energy levels, improves stamina, promotes a clear mental focus and restores optimum hormone balance. It has a high effect on the endocrine gland system, normalizing and boosting their function and hormone productions. It has been known to raise energy in a balanced way, increase physical stamina, good source of protein and nutrients, reduce recovery time, anabolic effect, balance hormones and raises testosterone levels.
Ashwagandha: It literally means “the grounded strength of a stallion” and also known as “Indian ginseng”, it is a prized adaptogen traditionally used in ayurvedic medicine in India but now known worldwide. It shows positive effect on the endocrine, cardio and central nervous systems. It boosts immune function and while blood cell count, increases energy, increases physical strength and endurance, helps improve brain function and blood flow.
Shilajit: Also known as “conqueror of mountains and destroyer of weakness”, it is a phytocomplex that contains over 85 minerals in their ionic and highly absorbable form. It promotes the movement of minerals into muscle, tissue and bone. It has been highly prized in the region of the Himalayan mountains for improving energy, reducing inflammation, increasing strength and stamina, enhancing memory and for detoxification.\
Chaga Mushroom: Chaga grows on wild birch trees in extremely cold regions. The incredible compounds of chaga are mostly due to the nutrients of the wild birch trees that are transferred to the mushroom. Chaga contains a multitude of minerals, and is one of the highest sources of superoxide dismutase (SOD) known, responsible for blocking the toxicity of free radicals. It improves physical and mental work capacity, improves exercise recovery, boosts immune system, improves energy levels, improves mental clarity and energy levels.
Astragalus: Astragalus is a tremendous cellular proliferator (strengthens cells), and has a powerful effect on the adrenal glands, nervous system and the whole endocrine system. It is most popular for stimulating the immune system by increasing the activity of the white blood cells. It boosts energy levels, increases stamina, increases resistance to stress and fatigue and strengthens the glands.
Jiaogulan: Jiaogulan is a powerful adaptogenic herb used by the Chinese for centuries as a “cure-all” herb and is also known as the “immortality herb.” It is been studied and found to have more active properties than ginseng, some studies showing up to 3-4 times as many. Its adaptogenic nature helps regulate bodily functions and bring balance to the body under a wide range of stressful circumstances. It increases strength, endurance, helps gain lean muscle mass, stimulates nitric oxide release which elicits vasodilation and increases cardiac function.
Hormone Production & Testosterone Enhancement
Deer Antler: I’ve heard it said that no serious athlete would be caught not taking deer antler. It is truly one of nature’s miraculous examples of regeneration and sustainability. In the Spring, antlers naturally grow at an astounding rate of up to 2 cm daily. This displays the powerful growth factors and special nutrients involved to grow such tissue so quickly. Deer antler has a long and illustrious history as a muscle building, blood building, kidney and adrenal fortifying agent of physical transformation. It is loaded with growth factors, anti-inflammatory action and regenerative power. It improves athletic performance, improves lean muscle mass, increases production of red blood cells, improves mental facility and acuity, has anabolic and growth stimulating properties, supports the whole endocrine system and cardiovascular system, accelerates wound healing, and slows the deteriorating effects of aging.
Tongkat Ali: Tongkat Ali has been shown in many studies to have a powerful effect on raising testosterone levels, some studies showing up to 3-4 times.
Tribulus Terrestris: Tribulus has also been shown in studies to increase levels of testosterone and physical performance. This translates into increased athletic performance, strength and muscle mass.
Pine Pollen & Bee Pollen: Bee pollen is a special substance that can only be produced by nature. Man-made pollen does not possess the same unique properties, even though it is chemically identical, as far as science can determine. When laboratory synthesized pollen is fed to bees, they die even though all of the known nutrients are present. Bee pollen is the richest known source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, hormones and enzymes. It is used by many bodybuilders and Olympic athletes alike to increase strength, endurance and has all 22 amino acids, half of which are free form. Pine pollen has similar nutrient properties but also has higher levels of plant sterols than bee pollen. These are hormone precursors and lead to an increase in testosterone production and balances the ratio of androgens to estrogens in the body
Astaxanthin: Astaxanthin is considered by many as nature’s most powerful antioxidant: 6,000x stronger than Vitamin C, 550x stronger than green tea and Vitamin E, 11x stronger than Beta-Carotene and 20x stronger than synthetic astaxanthin. It is the ideal for protecting our cells and is the ideal nutrient for our joints, skin, eyes and brain.
What makes all of these herbs amazing is that they are God’s chosen medicines for our body. They don’t have side effects like pharmaceutical drugs, they all have side BENEFITS. They contain the intelligence of God which is why the herbs work WITH your body, not against the design of your body like man-made pharmaceutical drugs and chemicals. Herbs are powerful because they have to survive the elements in extreme conditions. This makes them a far better choice. Combining them with solid nutrition will boost your athletic and physical performance, not to mention your emotional and psychological stability.
In summary, we are designed to be amazing, powerful, athletic and strong. Processed foods, sedentary lifestyles and lack of motivation has made us sick and weak. Regardless of your situation, you can start feeling better by eating the right foods, cleansing and taking quality supplements. God and His creations are always available for us if we decide to choose them!
To optimal performance!