The Healing Power of Food
“Healing” is associated with sickness, but what you eat can be sources of wellness in endurance training.
How is healing important to an endurance athlete who is healthy and has no medical issues? How do you feed your body to “heal” it from the stress of training and racing? Here are four ways the right food works its magic on your body.
HOW FOOD HELPS: Each time you subject your body to intensive training, whether by swimming, running, or cycling, parts of your muscles tear due to overuse. The fibers of your muscle need proper building blocks to be able to repair well.
THE FOOD THAT “HEALS”: The best “building block” of muscle repair is protein.
BEWARE: Not all proteins are created equal. For example, not all protein powders for shakes are healthy. Some contain unwanted and unhealthy ingredients such as refined sugars, artificial coloring, and artificial flavoring. Although these types of protein powders still deliver protein for repair, it can adversely affect your health. The refined sugars can raise your blood sugar. Or there can be unhealthy fats, which your body doesn’t need.
CHOOSE: Go for simple protein powders made with whey protein isolates. Whey isolates are 100% pure protein that deliver repair to the muscle effectively. In contrast, whey protein concentrates contain a lot of unhealthy fat, which your body doesn’t need.
HOW FOOD HELPS: Glycogen is what fuels your muscle. Without glycogen, your muscles are akin to a car on empty. After each race or training session, your glycogen stores are depleted, needing a top-up.
THE FOOD THAT “HEALS”: Since the source of glycogen is carbohydrates, the best way to refill your glycogen stores is by taking in clean, simple carbohydrates as part of your post-training meal.
BEWARE: Complex carbs post-workout.
CHOOSE: Simple carbs are best for glycogen store refilling because it’s processed quickly by the body. Eating white rice, as part of a meal, is a great way of replenishing glycogen stores after a hard workout. Keep in mind that white is best after a workout but complex carbohydrates such as brown rice are best for constant consumption.
Immune system support
HOW FOOD HELPS: Due to the intensity of training and racing, the immune system of an endurance athlete takes a beating. In order to recover, train, and race well the next day, one must make sure that the immune system is supported.
THE FOOD THAT “HEALS”: Eating food that has a mix of essential vitamins and minerals, sans the chemicals and artificial ingredients, would be the basic foundation of keeping your immune system well.
BEWARE: Another way to protect your immune system is to stop eating junk and processed food, most especially after training and racing when your immune system is most vulnerable.
CHOOSE: Start with a good vitamin A, C, B-complex, and Zinc for beginning athlete’s immune system support.
Lactic Acid Flush
HOW FOOD HELPS: Lactic acid is the waste product of muscle use. A build-up of lactic acid means pain, tightness, and a burning sensation in muscles, which prevents you from training and racing well. Lactic acid must be flushed out by massage therapy to break down lactic acid crystals.
THE FOOD THAT “HEALS”: A diet rich in alkaline-forming foods such as fresh fruits, fresh vegetables, and other whole foods are key in creating an alkaline environment in your body.
BEWARE: Avoiding acid-forming food such as processed food, junk food, and fast food. Staying away from food like these helps ensure that your body can expel lactic acid well.
CHOOSE: A drink you can take to help create an alkaline environment in your body involves 1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar mixed in a glass of water to be taken after a strenuous workout. Incorporating lemon-infused water in your daily regimen is an easy way to help alkalinize your body.