Go green!

The green smoothie may not taste the best, but the effects it offers within six weeks make up for it.

The green smoothie is my start with any athlete wanting to go supplement-free.

Shikhar Dhawan. It’s 7am. The Green God Smoothie. He downs it like a pro. His moustache has a light green tinge. Why? The power of the planet lies in its greens. The human body shows drastic recovery on a greens-enhanced diet. All athletes should start their day with a juice of that colour.

The human intestines are nearly 7m long. After the long fast of the night, the small intestine is relatively clear of all the food. Then, the main aim of the first meal of the day is to provide:

1. A cleansing.

2. Energy to jump-start the day.

3. Molecules to heal the gut lining.

Planning the first beverage of the day is of primary importance to promote longevity of the body. Athletes need their guts to be young and fit. The digestion and absorption of a young optimum gut will pull into the body better nutrients and energy. An older gut is tired and throws tantrums in absorption of calories and nutrition due to the athlete’s workload.

Athletes not only destroy muscle and other soft tissue during training, but they also eat six-eight meals a day. An elite athlete consumes anywhere between 100 percent and 200 percent more food than a normal person. The higher calorie load on the digestive system comes with a logic that requires you to eat clean, eat sensible, eat on time and, above all, eat with a plan.

Research is now showing that plant-based foods have high healing properties. In an athlete, the regime of training pushes the body to the near limit of destruction. In a day, millions of cells are destroyed in microscopic trauma. To rejuvenate, we need energy. We need molecules that are the building blocks.

Nitrates are found in diets that are rich in leafy green foods. Researchers from the University of Leuven in Belgium gave 27 athletes a nitrate supplement. They found changes in the muscle fibre composition due to the training and diet strategy. These changes indicated positive training gains.

The green smoothie is my start with any athlete wanting to go supplement-free. This blended concoction of various green leaves may not taste the best. However, the effects it offers within six weeks make up for the green gunk’s smell and taste.

To have the body enhance its work level, the following nutrients need to be enhanced: potassium, sodium, iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc and selenium. The greens mentioned are those that confer on any athlete superhuman abilities by ensuring the right vitamins and minerals balance. They can be consumed raw or cooked.

Spinach

 

Due to its high iron content and other super greens compounds, this is a favourite for me. I always advise baby palak as it is less bitter. It contains small amounts of protein that help an athlete recover. The fibre content in palak when had with six-eight meals in the day helps in better bowel movement. High protein diets of athletes lead to low fibre intake. Palak helps in moving food out of the body as well as in rejuvenating the body’s depleting mineral reserves due to sweat and red blood cells loss. In juices, the phenolic and antioxidant compounds are higher and thus having a juice in the morning may help boost the digestive system’s functions.

Rocket leaves

 

All sports performance studies today point to beetroot and its nitrate content that enhances performance. However, the food with the highest nitrate content turns out to be rocket leaves, or arugula. This salad leaf is easily available in most vegetable shops. A quick tip is to buy rocket leaves seeds from Amazon and plant them in pots around your house. Every day you will get a fresh supply of these easy-to-cultivate-and-maintain leaves.

Kale

 

This superfood is not easily available in vegetable markets. Go online and buy kale seeds. They grow very easily at home in potted boxes. Kale is the foreign sister to palak. However, kale brings to the table a better tool for testosterone utilisation. All athletes, both male and female, require testosterone. Kale has glucosinolates, sulphur-containing compounds that are broken down into isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol, and which have muscle-boosting and muscle painkiller activity. Athletes given kale by me have shown a drop in DOMS (delayed onset of muscle soreness) and pain post-training. Pre kale consumption, athletes would have up to 48-72 hours of muscle soreness. Post kale consumption, this dropped to under 24 hours.

A lot of athletes ask me whether juicing is good. For green, I say yes. Chewing leaves is tedious and boring. The greens need to be given in one shot. Clean, without hassle, and your taste buds should not have time to register a complaint. So the best way to consume greens is to JUICE IT!

A juicer or a blender is a necessary investment to enhance performance. Think of it as an athlete’s equipment.

Below is a list of juicers and blenders that I recommend an athlete can buy:

1. Wonderchef Nutri-Blend (Best for travel)

2. NutriBullet PRO High Speed Blender

3. Kuvings Professional 240-Watt Cold Press Whole Slow Juicer (My Personal Choice)

4. Sujata Powermatic PM 900-Watt Juicer

5. Havells Nutrisense 150-Watt Cold Press Slow Juicer

In India, we have vegetables that are grown year round. The Western ideology that a supplement in a dabba will enhance your performance is right. But you need the power of greens. Get the greens in you. The taste is your only battle. The victory is the sustained power and winning edge you will see in six weeks.

The author is chief sports nutritionist at QUA Nutrition Clinics. To get a smoothies recipe card, send an email to ryan@quanutrition.com.

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