(Fully Freely Fit & Fitness Superstar)
by Charissa Farley-Hay (Farley Interlocking Pavers, Wildest Restaurant, Coachella Yoga, and Pilates Power Gym)
I love the time I spend in the summer at our home on Kauai. Something about this place attracts people who are drawn to health and fitness. They make being strong and healthy, and the things you need to do to be this – look- less about something you have to “do” and more about something that comes naturally.
Case in point – Cynthia Fowler, Kauai fitness guru, a published writer on health and wellness, a certified personal trainer (NASM), corrective exercise specialist (NASM), registered vinyasa yoga teacher (RYT 200), certified Enhance fitness teacher, group exercise instructor (TRX, indoor cycling, HIIT, SMR, etc), owner of FoundationUp Fitness, blogger, and health coach (foundationupfitness.com or directly at Cynthia@fullyfreely.com). Her happy-high-energy-burner-nature girl-vegan vibe just lights a fire of motivation and energy in you that you weren’t quite sure you had.
What do you think of supplementation? In the fitness industry I’ve heard of just about every ergogenic supplement out there marketed towards athletes. Strikingly, most supplement shops are not marketing these pills, powders and drinks to professional athletes. Instead, they market to the common gym-goer, the recreational athlete and the weekend warrior who are cleverly targeted with phrases like “shred and sculpt!”, “boost your metabolism!” and “increase your energy!” I’m not going to list all the fillers, preservatives and colors in performance supplements on the market. I’d like to ask anyone interested in improving their athletic performance, “How important is quality, and how can you clean up your supplement shelf?”
Why are so many people focused on supplements rather than performance whole foods? I think everyone thinks “My body deserves the highest quality. I want clean, organic, effective, nutrient-dense fuel without any added junk!” but supplement companies advertising dangles a carrot before us by telling us, “you don’t have to do the research to figure out how to get all the best performance-enhancing vitamins and minerals from food, because we’ve put all the things an athlete wants into these easy-to-take pills, powders, shakes and bars.” I’m not going to argue about the convenience factor. And I am not saying that all supplements out there have long, seemingly-foreign ingredient lists, either. Some companies are committed to using whole foods that are sourced naturally. I am going to use the word “many” here. “Many” big companies in the supplement industry have the following objective: to produce the most amount of product in the least amount of time for the least amount of money and reach the largest demographic. Keeping that in mind, they tend to use synthetic, mass-produced vitamins, cheaply-sourced minerals, binding agents, colors, fillers and a ton of preservatives.
What are some of your favorite foods for performance? Beets have been shown to increase blood nitric- oxide (NO) concentrations, which is linked to vasodilation, blood flow and beneficial impacts on muscle contraction. In short, beets are muscle-fatigue fighters. Both endurance athletes like runners and those training for strength like weightlifters will see improvement in their performance when muscles can contract for longer periods before fatigue. This also has significant impacts on metabolism during exercise.
Ginger for post-exercise pain. In addition to the use of ginger to ease GI discomfort and soothe a sore stomach, there has been growing interest in the research of ginger as a dietary supplement for athletes, specifically as an analgesic. Inflammation is a common cause of aches, pains and general soreness after exercise. The longer it takes to recover, the longer it takes to get back to training. Some athletes use NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) to decrease pain but, unfortunately, these carry a long list of possible adverse side effects. Ginger supplementation has been shown to reduce the inflammatory response to exercise, decrease soreness and aid in muscle recovery after exercise. What are your thoughts on pre-workout supplementation? Lately I’ve noticed that almost everyone in the gym uses a pre-workout supplement. What’s a pre-workout? It’s a big category, but most are intended to increase energy and performance during a specific bout of exercise. Usually the main ingredient is caffeine. Taking a pre-workout may get you revved up for activity, but it usually comes at a cost. Some adverse effects include jitters, restlessness, raised blood pressure, water retention and tingling in the hands and feet. Often these side effects are related to excessive doses. For example, a cup of coffee might contain about 90-100 mg of caffeine, but pre-workout supplements can contain up to 500mg in a suggested serving.
You don’t need stimulants to benefit from working out, but if you are looking for ways to increase energy with cleaner pre-workout options, consider ginseng, yerba mate and green tea. It’s important that when considering any ergogenic aids, even “natural” ones, to consult your doctor, because stimulants can affect people, especially those with pre-existing conditions, in different ways. Green tea and yerba mate are thought to be “cleaner” stimulants due to the smaller amounts of caffeine compared to coffee and energy drinks, the lower acidity, and the vitamins and antioxidants that come from them. How does someone begin replacing supplements with performance foods? Start with one or two small changes at a time. If you have time to extract these superfood compounds directly from fruits and veggies by juicing or blending, that’s great. If convenience is a priority, you may consider letting a local juice companies do some of the heavy lifting for you and pick something up before or after your workout. It doesn’t have to be complicated – add new foods to your diet by learning how to prepare them in your meals and teas.
I’ve only just scratched the surface here. There are so many superfoods being studied for their ergogenic properties. Using plants to enhance performance is not just a trend. As more light is shed on the potential side effects, chemical additives and lack of regulation in the dietary-supplement industry, it becomes clear that nature does it best. My hope is that whether you want to run in a Marathon, surf all day, compete in weightlifting, or simply maintain your body, you will choose supplementation that supports your goal with real, fresh-food ingredients.
Look for junk-free nutrition labels, locally-grown superfoods and small businesses that practice sustainability. I believe the human body already has the innate the potential to be strong and exceptionally fit. Sports supplements should support the body’s natural, incredible mechanisms for producing energy, building muscle mass and recovering. I am wary of products that make grand promises to deliver a shredded body in a scoop. When the convenience carrot dangling just overhead looks too good to be true, it often is. My advice: swap it for a real one.