My nutritional advice focuses on the intake of nutrient rich foods. Nutrient intake compared to the number of calories you consume is key. You want to consume food that gives you the most nutrients compared to the amount of calories you consume.
All nutrients including vitamins and minerals are considered but my main focus is on Phytonutrients.
What are they? Phyto is a Greek word meaning "plants". Phytonutrients are nutrients only found in foods that come from plants. These foods includes vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds and grains. Vegetables generally have the highest phytonutrient levels, especially cruciferous vegetables.
Phytonutrients go by names such as lycopene, lutein, allicin, carothnoids, flavonoids and anthosyanians just to name a few. There are hundreds of known phytonutrients and nutrition researchers estimate there may be thousands more yet undiscovered.
In my opinion, phytonutrients are the most critical elements for your long term and cardiovascular health.
Researchers are discovering new benefits of phytonutrients everyday and I believe there are A LOT more benefits to be discovered in the future.
To learn more about phytonutrients and their benefits visit the webpages on my "Phytonutrient Links" page.
How will this way of eating benefit you?
1) Probably the most important aspect for an athlete to eat phytonutrient rich food is they will keep your arteries and cardiovascular system free of plaque buildup. If you currently have any plaque buildup this way of eating will decrease plaque and restore your arteries to good health.
The phytonutrient Lycopene,(found in red plant foods) in studies a few years ago, was shown to keep arteries clear of plaque buildup. More recent studies now show it isn't just Lycopene that keeps arteries healthy but phytonutrients in green leafy vegetables do as well.(as i had suspected and have stated previously that as time went on studies would show many more benefits from phytonutrients). Dr. Fuhrman has written a good article about the heart benefits of green vegetables which can be read at https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/green_vegetables.aspx
You may think if you are young and physically active that you do not have any coronary plaque. But autopsies performed on US soldiers in Korea and Vietnam with a mean age of 22, found that 77% from the Korean war and 45% from the Vietnam war showed evidence of coronary vessel atherosclerosis.(plaque buildup).
Of course, keeping your arteries clear and healthy is critical for any athlete who competes in a cardiovascular intense sport. This will allow for lower heart rates when physical activity puts you under cardiovascular stress and improve your heart rate recovery time immediately after exercise. This will also lower your resting heart rate.
Contrary to what many believe, exercise alone will not keep your arteries clear of plaque.(proof of this can be found among long distance runners who appeared physically fit and died of heart attacks) I will even go as far to say that what food you put in your body is just as important as exercise for your cardiovascular health.
2)This nutrient rich diet will bolster your immune system. An improved immune system will prevent you from getting sick as often so you won't miss training days due to sickness.
3) You will feel more energetic and your recovery time between workouts will improve. This will give you the ability to train more often, longer and harder.
4)Some phytonutrients also act as antioxidants which lower oxidative stress on your body which will help you to age slower both mentally and physically. Exercising actually causes oxidative stress so antioxidants are very important for athletes. By reducing oxidation you will slow down the aging process allowing you to increase the length of your athletic career.
5) This diet is better for your overall general long term health. Phytonutrients have been found to shrink tumors and prevent some cancers.
6) By keeping your arteries clear of plaque and slowing down your aging process you can extend your athletic career by many years. To what age could someone possibly compete? I think that is still an open question at this time.