Natural highs

beansWhile I know that ultimately results come from regular training session and plenty of hard work, I’m still not adverse to hearing about natural solutions that might help boost performance. These are particularly welcome when they include items which might ordinarily be counted as indulgences, such as coffee and dark chocolate!

Recent reading has highlighted the following as potentially beneficial to both performance and recovery:

  1. Coffee

Research has shown a link between coffee (or more specifically, the caffeine in coffee) with improved exercise performance and decreased perception of effort.

Reports from the European Food Safety Authority and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research indicated a link between caffeine consumption and increased endurance levels, while the EFSA study also showed that caffeine could effect the central nervous system in such a way that it reduced perception of fatigue and pain.

Coffee is also thought to encourage muscles to use fat for energy, and all of this from just two 250ml cups of coffee (totalling around 200mg caffeine) 30-60 minutes before exercise. That’s certainly reason enough for me to drink up!

  1. Peppermint oil

A study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that 0.05ml of peppermint oil added to a bottle of water everyday for 10 days significantly increased participants time to exhaustion.

  1. Dark Chocolate

It is thought that epicatechin, found in cacao, has the potential to boost performance with early studies showing a link between the intake of epicatchin over a 15 day trial period and an increased number of muscle capillaries and energy-producing mitochondria.

  1. Nitrate rich foods

Spinach, beetroot, celery and rocket are rich in nitrates which oxidise in the body to form nitric oxide. This widens blood vessels and makes more oxygen available to your muscles and may increase mitochondrial efficiency.

The Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that just a 280ml glass of beetroot juice could lead to performance gains

5. Pineapple

Pineapple contains the enzyme bromelain, a natural painkiller, which can help reduce pain and inflammation. Blueberries and green tea are also thought to have similar anti-inflammatory properties.

Happy training!

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