There is wide variety of sports nutrition products available, all of which have their place and value and offer a great level of convenience. If you are looking for some natural alternatives, or are interested in having a go at making your own, here are a few suggestions.
The best naturally occurring electrolyte drink is coconut water. It contains all the electrolytes that the body looses through sweating during exercising. Coconut water is a very effective way to rehydrate the body, quickly and efficiently, without taking in a lot of fluids. It also contains naturally occurring sugars, which can help with energy levels. Coconut water is so good for you, it is actually only one chromosome in difference form human blood, and even has a history of use in blood transfusions. Read more about the benefits of coconut water here »
Green Leafy Vegetables
Another great addition to any runner's diet, is the intake of green leafy vegetables, such as kale, spinach and chard. Greens are high in antioxidants, proteins and calcium. They are highly alkalising for the body, this is important for runners, as the body can become overly acidic after strenuous exercise. The ideal body PH is around 7, which is neutral to alkaline. When the body becomes acidic, immunity is lowered and we are more at risk of illness. Illness cannot thrive in an alkaline environment. So if you find yourself getting sick, with bouts of flu or colds, try adding a green smoothie into your daily routine. Here is a basic recipe:
1 cup spinach
1 cup kale
1 peach or pear
½ cup berries
1 cup water
2 tsp spirulina powder
few dates to sweeten
Blend together well and enjoy first thing in the morning or post run for all the vitamins, minerals, essential fats, antioxidants and energy the body requires for recovery. The spirulina powder adds a great natural source of protein, that the body is able to absorb and utilise effectively.
Spirulina is a blue-green fresh water algae, when dried into powder or tablet form, it contains about 60% protein. It is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and is therefore a great aid in the vegetarian and vegan diet. It also contains many other nutrients. Read more about the benefits of Spirulina here »
Spinach is anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, vitamin C, E and beta carotene, manganese, zinc, selenium and others. It may combat the onset of osteoarthritis and high blood pressure. One cup of spinach contains 1000% of the RDA for vitamin K, which prevents osteoclasts (the cells that break down bones). It also promotes the synthesis of osteocalcin for maintaining strength and density of bones. Popeye was onto a good thing!
Kale contains antioxidants, caetenoids,and flavenoids which fight cancerous cells, also its vitamin C, A and manganese content helps fight cellular oxidation. Kale is also anti inflammatory, one cup contains 10% RDA of the essential fatty acid omega 3. It is high in fibre, which lowers cholesterol by binding with bile acids in the liver. One cup equals 1327% RDA of vitamin K which helps with the synthesis of osteocalcin which strengthens our bones and prevents calcium build up in the tissue. One cup contains 192% RDA of vitamin A, an antioxidant which boosts immunity and maintains healthy bones and teeth, prevents urinary stones and is essential for reproductive organs. One cup also provides 88% RDA of Vitamin C which lowers blood pressure, strengthens the immune system and fights age related diseases. There are many many health benefits to be found in the simple spinach or kale leaf, by blending them up in a smoothie, the cellulose wall of the leaf is broken down which makes it much easier for the body to absorb and utilise the plants many nutrients. This is also an easy and effective way to replenish the body, and aid recovery after running.
You could also adapt this recipe and make a green spinach soup, by using the ingredients raw and adding hot (not boiling) water to the blender, the soup is still technically raw and none of the nutrients or health promoting properties are destroyed.
Raw Spinach Avocado Soup
2 cups spinach
1 clove garlic
1/3 block creamed coconut
3 Tbl olive oil
4 cups warm water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 Tbl spirulina powder
Blend all the ingredients together well until smooth and creamy, eat immediately whilst still warm. To reheat, simmer on a low temperature, in a saucepan until warm to not bring to the boil.