Colorful foods are not only more efficient in terms of energy exchanges but are also our only source of the important antioxidants that our bodies’ need to properly function.
Antioxidants are needed in higher amounts in this program because exercise causes such an increase in demand for energy that the formation of harmful free radicals overwhelms the body’s ability to neutralize them. The foods I have chosen are based on the aforementioned demands and needs of metabolically active cells.
All of the foods recommended are whole plants or fermented ones. They all fuel exercise and help the body heal. Some are botanicals that are added to flavor food (garlic and ginger), while others are staples from other cultures (lentils and soybeans). Some need to be fermented (wine and yogurt) products in order to be effective.
The foods were chosen based on their proclivity for being useful to the body during times of physical stress. These food, spices and beverages provide wonderful flavor to meals and are precisely the foods needed by athletes to fuel and aid recovery from exercise. Aren’t we fortunate!
Exercise is the most stressful situation known to humans.
During exercise, the body is exposed to a level of stress that has no equal in life. To illustrate this extreme internal condition, consider a high fever of 105 degrees, core temperature that is considered to be near death. These conditions increase the body’s metabolism by 100 per cent above normal. By comparison, during a marathon, an athlete’s metabolic rate climbs to an astounding 2000 percent of normal.
The sight, smell, sound and texture of food is the result of the interplay between the library of compounds contained in food and the membrane receptors of the eyes, nose and mouth.
These interactions between phytonutrients and receptors make eating a joy. The interaction of other phytochemicals are responsible for the real benefit they provide, improved health.
In The Athlete’s Solution, fruits, vegetables and legumes are the main ingredients in every meal. In addition to fueling exercise, these colorful foods lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
In addition to the benefits from exercise, there are other effects, directly attributed to the library of phytochemicals contained in the plant. These compounds include carotenoids, flavonoids and its subspecies of tannins, polyphenols and anthocyanosides. All in addition to its store of sulfur containing glucosinolates and nitrogen bound indoles.
These chemicals are part of Nature’s miracle libraries. They contain a vast ensemble of complicated compounds with difficult names and intricate chemistries. The essential point however is simple. Plants are good for health.
These plant phytochemicals ensure healthy biochemical pathways by protecting enzymes, membranes and active sites from free radical attack. These molecules also promote growth, aid in repair and repress the formation and growth of cancer cells.
The more color and variety that meals have the more diverse the libraries will be. A diverse library of phytochemicals is always preferred over a large dose of a single one.
Within the green food group are an assortment of leafy vegetables, grasses, herbs and spices. Their green appearance reflects the high concentration of chlorophyll contained in these plant’s cells.
Chlorophyll is the phytochemical responsible for converting solar energy into chemical energy during the process of photosynthesis. The energy is then converted and stored in the form of the essential nutrient, carbohydrate, which is stored in the plant.
The chemical energy released in the process is also used in the synthesis of the library of small phytonutrients formed by the plant. Many of these compounds are known to help the body ward off dangerous toxins, free radicals and mutagenic agents.
Chlorophyll itself is used as a breath freshener and it’s role in preventing cancer is still being investigated. It has the potential to stimulate red blood cell production because of its strong similarity in chemical structure to hemoglobin.
Both chlorophyll and hemoglobin possess four-peptide chains attached to a mineral. Chlorophyll has magnesium as its center while hemoglobin has iron. Their roles in the health of their respective organism are functionally similar.
Lutein is a powerful antioxidant. It is the most important antioxidant in the eye. Dark green, leafy vegetables contain a high concentration of lutein.
Lutein is important for eyesight because it is preferentially deposited in the macula and rods of the retina.
Lutein is a yellow pigment that absorbs blue light and prevents excessive oxidative damage to the eye. Lutein is a uniquely configured phytochemical that appears yellow to the eye but absorbs blue waves. Blue is bad for eyes.
Lutein’s predilection for accumulating in the eye and therefore protecting it, helps prevent macular degeneration, one of the chronic diseases associated with aging.
The blue wavelength damages the eye. Blue waves initiate free radical production in the photoreceptors of the eye. Like all free radical attack, oxygen radicals contain an unpaired electron. The unpaired molecule is highly unstable and immediately seeks out the nearest structure to attack in order to stabilize itself.
When free radicals are generated they attack the lipoproteins in the two hundred million or so rods and cones of the retina. The retina is the structure in the eye that is responsible for vision and which contains the rods and cones that receive images.
The receptors of light or photoreceptors become altered and damaged when free radical attacks occur. Free radicals, if not quenched or prevented from forming in the retina, will damage the macula or central region of the retina.
Lutein prevents the formation of free radicals by absorbing the harmful blue waves.
Prolonged damage causes macula degeneration, a common result of aging. It is also caused by a diet deficient in lutein.
Alpha lipoic acid, also known as thioctic acid, is another powerful antioxidant found in a few green foods.. Alpha lipoic acid is naturally founds as part of spinach’s phytochemical library where it is bound to a protein. Alpha lipoic is routinely added to supplement formulas because there is not enough foods that provide it.
Alpha lipoic acid, along with vitamins C and E, are the body's first-line of defense against free radicals. Unlike the two antioxidant vitamins (C and E), alpha lipoic acid is able to quench free radicals in both polar (only vitamin A) and lipid (only E) environments.
This makes alpha lipoic the ideal antioxidant.
The conversion in the body of alpha-lipoic acid to dihydrolipoic acid appears to produce an even more powerful antioxidant. Both forms of lipoic acid quench peroxynitrite radicals, free radicals implicated in causing cancer..
Alpha-lipoic acid promotes synergism between antioxidants. This network of antioxidants includes alpha lipoic acid, vitamins C and E as well as glutathione peroxidase and Coenzyme Q10.
Lipoic acid increases insulin-receptor sensitivity. This improves the ability of insulin to bind to muscle cells and thus facilitates glucose entry into muscle cells, this reduces blood glucose levels. It is thought alpha lipoic acid reduces the frequency of insulin resistance based on this mechanism.
Insulin resistance is often the cause of coronary heart disease and obesity. The therapeutic dose for lipoic acid is 600 mg/day.
In Europe alpha-lipoic acid is used as a medical treatment for peripheral neuropathy, a complication of diabetes. In the United States, it is sold as a dietary supplement.