This post is an excerpt from Juicing for Athletes by Brian Pace.
Improving your endurance in competition by juicing will not necessarily make you faster, but it will allow you to maintain a high speed for a longer period of time. If your body is properly hydrated, the decrease in performance will be much less in a high intensity race, or a long endurance race. More importantly, it will prevent you from cramping up, which is the number one experience that hampers your performance based on heat in the event, or duration of a race. There are some major players with regards to endurance that come from fruits and vegetables, and they can drastically improve performance in a way that has never really been studied deeply.
Now, when I think of celery, I have a flashback to 1991 when Roland was telling me that celery hydrated the body and helped in the lubrication of the colon walls which assist in getting rid of the hemorrhoids that had shattered my daily life three weeks after leaving the perfect Olympic Training Center food plan. Once I got into mountain and road bike racing, all I heard about was how important hydration is in endurance events lasting up to and above 30 minutes. I knew right from the start that I wouldn’t have some mixed powder drink in my water bottles. The season I won a State Title in mountain biking was not just because I had trained properly, but it was because I had celery juice in my water bottles instead of Gatorade. Of course my teammates laughed at me, because in 1999 drinking celery juice for endurance was not the status quo. I’m not even sure if it is the status quo today, but it is a much more accepted practice for endurance athletes.
The taste does take some time to get used to, but after you become aware of the hydration benefits you will quickly forget about the taste. For this chapter, I don’t want you to think about just your body, but I want you to think about your cells. Celery has traditionally been used for healing health ailments like inflammation, liver problems, fluid retention, headaches, asthma, as well as constipation. But since I’m not a doctor, I will focus on celery improving cellular function that will ultimately improve endurance.
The main endurance benefit you will get from celery is it is rich in electrolytes. Sodium & potassium are two electrolytes, which work in conjunction with other electrolyte minerals to provide the necessary salt-ions to penetrate the cells and hydrate them. The reason that electrolytes are imperative to your athletic performance is because they are responsible for maintaining the proper ph balance that creates the electrical impulses that promote cell function in the muscles during any physical activity. Potassium, sodium and other electrolytes present in celery serve as the most complete fluid replacement drink.
Common table salts or inorganic sodium chloride are not helpful to your athletic performance, as it will not be as successful at hydrating the body. The most common side effect from taking inorganic salts is having an upset stomach and bloating. If you survey endurance athletes that have quit races, the major reason is experiencing an upset stomach. The bloating that comes from taking inorganic salts upsets the stomach because the salts are not breaking down efficiently, and as a result the body send a trigger to dump what is in the stomach. This experience using shuts down the legs. The body perceives it to have some type of gastrointestinal threat, and your performance has ended, and you actually had good intention.
The organic potassium and sodium present in celery come with other secondary minerals, and because it’s complete it enters the body without any extra energy being expended. The other electrolytes serve a purpose in improving your endurance, and they should not be overlooked. The reason that athletes cramp up during or after competition is by not having enough calcium & magnesium. Calcium and magnesium are responsible for contraction or retraction of the muscles. That is why an athlete will feel his/her muscle starting to cramp up when they are contracting or retract the legs or arms.
The calcium & magnesium in celery will be responsible for allowing your muscles to have what it needs to continue the electrical muscle impulse without it misfiring like when its depleted. The worst thing to experience in a race situation is to have to back off your efforts to keep the cramps from completely locking up your legs. If you are at the 80% mark in your event, and you have to back off and get passed up by other athletes, it is going to be an experience that will take time to live down. The intake of celery can ensure that your body will continue to work all the way through your event.
Another remarkable quality of celery is that it can flush out acids. This is really important in a competition because lactic acid is the number one limiting factor for sports performance. Celery is a powerhouse as you can get boron, manganese, selenium, zinc, iron, folic acid, phosphorous, amino acids, vitamin C, vitamin K, as well as vitamin B1, B2, and B6. If you are going to be drinking celery juice, then be prepared to go to the bathroom more often because the potassium and sodium will have a diuretic effect on the body in flushing out excess fluid. During a woman’s menstrual cycle, she retains a lot of fluids and drinking celery juice will allow those excess fluids to be eliminated from the body.
I was introduced to cucumber in my sports career a little differently than I thought I would be. In 1997, I was introduced to the world of spinning, which is a fitness class on a stationary bike. I was Johnny G Certified, and he was the creator of spinning. About nine months into teaching spin, I had quickly become one of the popular instructors in south Florida. As a result, I was invited to a Johnny G Spin-a-thon, where there were one hundred spin bikes and some of the best spin instructors in the country. The event was to go for twelve hours, or until everyone dropped out. I lasted about four hours before my legs totally locked up and I had to eventually stop. I think I only walked in there with enough to spin for about two hours, so making it to four hours was really the athlete in me pushing for more, even when I had started cramping up after three hours.
For about the next three hours, I just hung out and watched other spinners drop out one by one. By the time they stopped, only twelve people were left, and Johnny G was drinking pickled juice. If you don’t know what pickled juice is, it is cucumbers that have been put in vinegar, and as a result the nutrients from the cucumber have leached into the liquid. He was drinking that because it was high in all the vitamins and minerals that I just discussed. Of course I had to go out and try it, so I went out and bought two large containers of pickles, threw the pickles away, and put the juice in three water bottles. The next day, I went to my spin class ready to give it a try, and after about 20 minutes I took a big gulp from it like it was Gatorade. The problem is, it does not taste like Gatorade. The taste was so sharp that it took everything in my soul to not spit it out right there in the class, but everyone could see the gag reaction that I had.
That was when I realized two things that I would implement as protocols for the future. I would give anything that I thought of or tried an immediate taste test before trying it in the field. It actually had to be palatable for me to want to drink it. The next protocol is not only will I try it in the field by myself, but it had to be as close to the proper race effort. If I was going to have a gag reaction, I needed to know it when I was at my absolute physical exertion. The end result is I dumped the pickled juice endurance drink, but I started doing research on drinking cucumbers. I quickly added it to my celery drink and it passed both the tests with flying colors. It actually made my endurance drink taste much better, and that is when I started to look at cucumbers as a permanent item in my endurance drink.
A lot of the benefits in Celery parallel Cucumber, which make it a great endurance source. Cucumbers is a great source of magnesium as well as potassium. It also has a diuretic affect on the body that will produce more urine to get rid of excess fluid in the body. Cucumbers have a water content of 96% and the nutrients in the juice cause a cooling affect on the body, hence the popular phrase, cool as a cucumber. This is important as heat is the leading factor which adversely affects endurance. If you can take in cucumber, then it can reduce your overall body temperature, which will extend your performance. Since cucumber juice has an alkaline affect on the body, it generates energy. The minerals like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, folate, sulfur, and molybdenum make it as complete as possible for your body to assimilate to boost endurance.
Another beneficial use of drinking cucumber juice is that you get silica, which is building block for your body. Your muscles, bones, ligaments, and connective tissue use silica as the major component for rebuilding, and this is important for any athlete, who will be putting stress on the muscles and joints during training. Copper is another component that is present in cucumber and it is primarily responsible for transporting the energy throughout the body. Cucumber has a smooth taste and can add a lot of volume to your drink along with rendering the perfect balance of electrolytes.
I was introduced to coconut water by way of wheatgrass. The fitness club that I worked at opened a juice bar, and they started juicing wheatgrass. The only way that I could take the wheatgrass juice was to immediately chase it with coconut water to dilute the taste. After I acquired the taste for wheatgrass, I stopped used coconut water, and bought my own wheatgrass juicer and started making it at home. I will get into the benefits of wheatgrass later in this book.
Once I started doing research into coconut water, it started to reveal itself as another component that I could add to my hydration drink. As a table tennis professional, I always drank more coconut water when I was out of the country competing in Europe, but especially Asia. Coconut Water was such a dominate choice when I was training in Japan, Hong Kong, and China that I just started to see the benefits of extending my performance. The problem came when I returned back to the US only to find coconut water was such a specialty item that it was really hard to find in the early to mid nineties. But living in south Florida I started run into it everywhere that I went, especially the Asian markets, Caribbean markets, and farmer’s markets. At this point I was around coconut water so much that I’m not sure if I chose it, I think it chose me.
The first quality of coconut water is, it is pure distilled water. It is practically impossible to find any water on the planet that has gone through what coconut water has experienced before it gets to you. It is simple the most pure water you will drink that doesn’t require processing. It is very simple to look at a coconut tree that is 30-40ft high and not marvel, but that is where all the magic happens. The water that is in a coconut has been pulled from the ground, and has slowly and methodically traveled all the way up the tree to the coconut. As a result, the water that is in the coconut is as pure as you can get, and it is protected from the elements because of the hard green shell.
Coconut water has potassium, which is another heavy-hitter for boosting endurance. A normal serving amount has 569mg of potassium, and that is almost double the amount compared to a banana. The electrolyte potassium travels to every cell in the body and is responsible for the electrical impulses for nerve conduction, heart contraction, as well as skeletal muscle contraction. 14oz of coconut water has approximately 192mg of sodium as compared to 52mg present in the same amount of Gatorade. Sodium works to regulate the fluid in the body, and that prevents the body from becoming dehydrated. In addition, sodium flushes out excess fluid from the body.
Coconut water also has an alkalizing impact on the body, as it is called a isotonic drink. The supreme quality of anything that is alkaline is that it has the potential to neutralize anything that is acidic, which makes lactic acid the primary acid to flush out of the cells and muscles during exercise. Phosphorus is an electrolyte that plays the role of transferring energy throughout the body that promotes muscle contraction, which is how you can continue your physical output. Also, coconut water improves body temperature regulation, which promotes you competing for a longer time without overheating or cramping up.
I think you are starting to see a reoccurring theme with celery, cucumber, and coconut water. All three have the five major electrolytes that are responsible for all the processes that promote hydration, the flushing out of excess fluid, along with having a cooling affect on the body. All three contain 95% or more water content, which enables the body to have high quality pure distilled water for hydrating the cells. Moreover, all three possess a multitude of secondary vitamins and minerals to support other body processes that affect the quality of your performance
The next giant of hydration is Watermelon, and it has all the same 5 major electrolytes as the Celery, Cucumber, and Coconut Water. Watermelon is also a mild diuretic because of the 92% water content it contains. It is rich in compounds called Carotenoids like lycopene and beta-carotene. These antioxidants are very colorful and it helps the body protect itself from being attacked from the sunlight, bacteria, and fungi. The great benefit about this antioxidant is that quality is passed onto you once you have ingested Watermelon.
Unchecked free radicals can wreck havoc on your body, and they promote a multitude of health problems. Free radicals are able to oxide cholesterol, which allow it to now stick to your artery walls, where it can lead to heart attack or stroke. Free radicals also increase inflammation in the body that causes osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Lycopene neutralizes these free radicals before they can kick start the negative chain reaction in the body. This is important because your bone and joint health play a very important role in your endurance output. The better your joint and bones feel, the better you will perform without incident.
Watermelon also has other carotenoids like lutein, photofluene, phytoene, beta-carotene, and neurosporene which are super anti-oxidants to protect your body. Drinking watermelon will have an significant endurance benefit to it, but it does provide other performance benefits.
Another reason that you want to drink watermelon juice is you can boost sport performance because of the L-Citrulline that it contains. The main reason why L-Citrulline is perfect for endurance sports is that a 16oz glass of the white watermelon rind will deliver a therapeutic dose to the muscles, and that will extend nitric oxide production because L-Citrulline recycles L-Arginine, which is the precursor to nitric oxide. One of the best benefits of L-Citrulline is neutralizing the amino acid L-Arginase in the blood that destroy L-Arginine production. Drinking watermelon will promote the body having a more direct pathway to utilizing the nitric oxide to boost performance for a much longer period. If you are involved in doing long races like marathons, ultra endurance events, and 6 or 12 hour mountain bike races watermelon juice will keep you hydrated, as well as delivering the essential nutrients to the muscle to maintain your peak performance for a longer period of time.
Below are some juicing for endurance recipes that will help you perform for a longer period at your maximum effort. The reason that there are a lot of recipe combinations created, is for you figure how and what you like based on taste, as well as what your body will allow you to drink without reacting. All the combinations you will see are what have been tested in hot weather, cold weather, training rides, 1-hour road races, 2-hour race mountain races, 1-hour weight lifting, as well as 6 and 12-hr Mountain Bike Endurance Events.
Juicing for Endurance Feature Recipes
a. Coconut Water
a. Celery Juice
b. Coconut Water
a. Coconut Water
c. Yellow Watermelon
b. Yellow Watermelon
b. Coconut Water
a. Yellow Watermelon
b. Coconut Water
a. Coconut Water
b. Swiss Chard
b. Watermelon Flesh
a. Yellow Watermelon
a. Yellow Watermelon
b. Watermelon Rind
a. Red Watermelon Flesh
What you will find challenging about these recipes is actually acquiring a taste for the combinations. What you will also have to work out is which combinations you like under certain conditions. How I worked it out when I was in my trial and error period I would put all the recipes on my fridge. Based on what I had in the fridge I would make a combination.
I would then go back and make notes of what I liked on the fridge. Some of them worked better than others. Coconut water is always a good base drink because it has all the electrolytes, as well as a higher calorie amount than the cucumber or celery. The red flesh of the watermelon is something I have always used sparingly because the flesh has a lot of sugar in it, and it has a potential to give you a sugar hit. If you are interested in using the red watermelon flesh, it works better as a pre-training or pre-race drink just like in the juicing for speed recipes from the previous chapter. If you don’t have a problem with the sugar hit during training or racing, the red flesh can continue to fuel your body more efficiently than a sports gel that requires more energy to digest that has a potential to upset the stomach.
The yellow watermelon is way sweeter than the red, but you only need about 4oz per water bottle, and it works better with cucumber or celery, which is a lot lower in calories, but high in the electrolytes that are needed for endurance. There are so many combinations that you can create when you start, so work your way through enough of them until you have found something that works for you in all the conditions you will be performing under.
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