By Anne Guzman
An athlete should be focused on nutrient density within the diet. For the lowest amount of calories what is the highest source of nourishment you can consume? This is where juicing hits the mark and why produce really is so important to your health and wellness.
Juicing is not a fad. It’s a legitimately excellent way to get the required amount of nutrients for your body, from raw foods, without the added fiber. Excess fiber can sometimes be problematic to the athlete who already has to consume more food than the average person due to their high energy expenditure.
Although fiber is certainly important to every day health to help maintain steady blood sugar and regularity of the bowels, there are times for an athlete when having fiber could wreak havoc on their intestines. These include consuming fiber right before or during training. Although juicing can fit into any part of your day, having a juice in the hours before your ride can be perfect! Waking up and juicing can also make for a great routine and healthy start to your day, whether you are an athlete or not.
Get Your Veggies!
Most people struggle to consume enough fresh fruits and vegetables. It’s recommended that as adults we have 7-9 servings of fruits and vegetables combined per day. A few examples of 1 serving of vegetables would be:
• 1 cup of spinach
• 1/2 cup of squash
• 1 cup of kale
• 1/2 cup of carrots
A few examples of 1 serving of fruit would be;
• 1 orange
• 1 nectarine
• 1 pear
• 1/2 cup of berries
• or 1/2 cup of melon
Enzymes and Digestion
Most people prefer to eat vegetables cooked, which can damage their live enzymes. Enzymes play a key role in your body’s metabolism. They cause necessary chemical reactions to occur, allowing the food you eat to be converted to energy. The benefit of juicing is that you are getting raw vegetables and their live enzymes.
Over the course of one’s life, a lot of stress can be put on the digestive tract due to eating poorly (excess processed foods, copious amounts of alcohol, overeating). As a result, later in life many people suffer with poor digestion, less digestive enzymes and therefore a compromised absorption of nutrients.
Symptoms of poor digestion are not limited to having flatulence or gas. Symptoms of poor digestion can include headaches, constipation, poor skin, a weak immune system, fatigue, and seasonal and food allergies to name a few. Everything in your body is related to your body’s ability to digest and absorb the nutrients that you consume in your diet.
Digestion is the cornerstone of good health. If it’s compromised, we need to find means to make digestion easier so that we can absorb the nutrients we need. With juicing, the produce has already been mechanically broken down so you save your body the energy required to digest it.
Turning on the Juice
If you are new to juicing, I suggest you start with vegetables you eat most regularly and are already used to. Alternatively start with a simple juice like this one listed below:
Some people can get adverse reactions such as headaches or nausea if they go from eating hardly any produce to suddenly juicing 8 cups of kale, beets and other dark leafy greens; ease into it. Once you have tried this simple juice a few times and feel good, then I suggest moving onto more dark leafy greens, which is where you will get a greater deal of nutrients. If you feel great, at this point you can try adding herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil to the mix. Examples of some great nutrient dense vegetables and fruits to juice include:
Swiss chard; Kale; Carrots; Spinach; Collard greens; Green grapes
Beets; Cranberries; Ginger; Parsley; Basil; Cilantro; Blueberries; Cherries
The majority of your juicing should come from vegetables. Try to get most of your fruit in its whole form to avoid spiking your blood sugar and insulin with excess sugar from pure fruit juices. By eating the entire orange vs. a glass of orange juice, you keep the fiber in and therefor slow the release of sugar into your bloodstream. This is important for maintaining steady energy throughout the day. Although some fruit is OK in your juice, I tend to veer to a larger ratio of vegetables and eat my fruit whole.
Having said this, as an athlete, a fruit juice could be great after a workout when you want more sugar to recover from depleted glycogen levels! Timing is everything. Although most fruit is pretty low glycemic, it can certainly still be an excellent recovery drink as it will be chock full of vitamins and minerals and is a carbohydrate. A good idea for a post ride juice could be a combo of fruits and veggies, focused on sweeter veggies higher in carbohydrates, with vegetables such as celery for electrolytes.
Here is a nice combination juice for before or after a workout:
Beets, Carrots, Celery, Grapes, Lemon, Cayenne Pepper, Ginger
Beets – A source of sodium, magnesium, calcium, iron, phosphorous, Vit A and C; niacin and folic acid; also a source of nitrates which have been shown to improve endurance in athletes as well as to help reduce blood pressure.
Carrots - Rich in beta carotene (converted to Vitamin A in the liver). Vitamin A is anti-aging, cancer preventing, good for your skin and excellent for your eyes! Carrots help to flush toxins from the body and liver and have been shown to reduce the chances of stroke. Also carrots are the second most popular vegetable in the world next to potatoes!
Lemon – A good source of vitamin C, known for its antibacterial, anti-viral and immune boosting qualities. Lemon is also a digestive aid and liver cleanser. Lemon is alkalizing for the blood and can cut the bitterness of some vegetables when juicing. Limes can work in the same way for taste. Daily lemon juice and water is a great idea!
Celery – A source of natural organic sodium (salt), vitamin A, vitamins B1, B2, B6 and vitamin C. Celery also contains amino acids, calcium, folic acid, magnesium and iron. Yes it has nourishment! It has also been shown to reduce blood pressure and is quite cost effective for juicing.
Grapes – A source of resveratrol which is cardio protective, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic. Grapes are also blood sugar lowering. Grapes are also a source of proanthocyanidins, which are some of the most powerful antioxidants known. Grapes also have many flavenols and carotenoids.
Cayenne – Helps to break up mucus, is an anti-inflammatory which may help reduce allergies, and a digestive aid. Cayenne is also a circulatory stimulant which can help improve the pulse of digestive and lymphatic rhythms and can help reduce joint pain as well as acting as an anti-bacterial agent.
Ginger – Supports good digestion and improves absorption and assimilation of nutrients in the body and has anti-inflammatory properties. Ginger also acts to relieve nausea and has been reported as an immune system booster and to have pain killing capabilities for those with arthritis.
Anne’s Secret Beet-Nik Mix
• Keep a juice for a maximum of 24 hours. If you store your juice put it in the fridge and use a glass jar leaving no space for air at the top. Fresh juices are highly perishable via oxidization. (Think of what happens to an apple left out on the counter and how it browns. This is the oxidization).
• When you purchase a packaged juice in a store, (unless it was just juiced that day as some quality juice bars do this), it was likely pasteurized before sold. This means the juice was boiled which destroys the bad bacteria, moulds and microorganisms but also and denatures much of the vital nutrients at the same time. Go for the fresh juiced option at a juice bar or do it yourself at home.
• When possible juice organic produce to reduce the amount of pesticides you are ingesting. If you are using conventional produce be sure to wash it well before juicing to remove as many pesticides as possible from the skin.
• Consider growing your own produce and juicing it. Or find a local organic farm that you trust.
• Juicing does not replace a meal. Fruit and vegetable juices have no fat and low protein. You can consider adding 1 tbsp of essential oils to your juice or pairing it with a lean protein wrap or other meal.
• If you have a fast moving lifestyle, juicing is a great way to add more healing raw foods into your diet.
• Clean your juicer right away to avoid any mould from forming in the machine.
• Rotate the vegetables and fruits that you juice to get a variety of different minerals and vitamins.
When I discuss juicing, I often hear “but it’s time consuming” or “it’s expensive”. Yes, juicing does take some time. However, fighting a sickness or disease will take more time. Yes buying produce costs money, but we can likely honestly all shave $5 from a daily coffee or latte habit or some other area in our lives and donate it towards produce for juicing?
Too many times in society today it takes a diagnosis for us to shape up and start a new habit like juicing. Have you ever noticed that someone who has been given a possibly life ending cancer diagnosis immediately turns to juicing? If not, it’s true, it’s exactly what happens. Should we not ask ourselves then, why we are not all juicing as a means to prevention of disease? Are we really that busy? Since when does our health not rate high on our priorities?
You are an athlete. You want to perform. You want to recover. You want to be the best version of you that you can be. It takes 20-30 minutes to prepare a juice and clean your juicer or less to drop by a juice bar and purchase a freshly made juice!
20 minutes a day – that seems like a good investment to me!
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
This article does not replace any medical advice from your doctor. Always consult with your doctor before starting a new juicing regime as there can be interactions between certain foods and medications.
Anne Guzman is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and Sports Nutrition Consultant with a degree in Kinesiology. Her passion lies in Sports Nutrition for endurance athletes as well as general health and wellness. Anne raced full time on the women’s Professional circuit in North America with some bouts in Europe from 2008 until 2011 and previous to cycling was a Provincial and CIAU Champion and National Bronze medalist as a Varsity Freestyle Wrestler. Currently Anne works with athletes helping them reach their potential by combining their own training plans with her nutrition plans. Anne believes that many athletes undermine their intense detailed training regimes by not backing them with sound nutrition. Her personal experience as a cyclist and athlete is a great asset to her business as she understands the needs and nuances that come with the sport. Currently Anne works with Peaks Coaching Group as well as her own business Nutrition Solutions Anne Guzman.