As I have studied nutrition and athletic performance, I’ve learned a great deal about the power of plants and their ability to improve muscle gains and reduce recovery time. They also help increase energy during workouts and performance better than any carb load or meat eating for protein suggested by many body builders and athletes. I have also see how many vegetarian and vegan body builders outperform their meat-eating counterparts, which has intrigued me. Here is a small part of what I’ve learned.
Potassium is an important component of building muscle. It also helps remove waste and toxins, such as monopotassium phosphate, carbon dioxide, and parallactic acid that accumulate in your muscles as you work out. A process known as saponification converts fat into soap, which washes these acids out of the muscles, giving better muscle gain in less time. Potassium salts are essential in keeping muscles and nerves healthy and neutralize acids and alkalize the blood and lymph.[i]
Just two olives contain 250 grams of potassium. One banana contains 422 grams of potassium, which has been found to help constrict blood vessels and help regulate blood pressure. Cardiologists believe that high blood pressure is caused by a deficiency in potassium just as much as a high level of sodium, so keeping these minerals in balance is important.[ii]
Bananas are one of the best foods for providing our bodies fuel for energy. They contain two types of sugar known as glucose and fructose. Glucose is digested the quickest and gives a burst of energy, whereas fructose is absorbed slowly providing a longer lasting release of fuel. The fiber in the banana helps keep sugars at moderate levels, unlike sucrose which is known as table sugar.
Many athletes consume 10-20 bananas or more in a day before, during and after long workouts and right after more intense activities that are shorter in duration. Bananas are easy to eat quickly and contain incredible amounts of most nutrients needed, in a near perfect balance. They are high in carbohydrates, are very satisfying, and provide enough fuel to remain active for long periods of time. They are also hydrating and can be used in place of energy or sports drinks.
Bananas are rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, aiding in the prevention of many different types of cancers. They contain soluble fiber, which helps keep the colon clean and a high amount of water, which also helps encourage regularity and hydration. Grains are also a source of fiber, but the insoluble fiber they offer can irritate the digestive tract, causing digestive upset and a number of other health issues. Bananas are low in cholesterol and contain almost no fat, so they are great in aiding the reduction of heart disease as well.
Seratonin is another ingredient in bananas, which encourages regular and strong heartbeats and keeps the heart working well during exercise and other stressful activities. Eating bananas regularly is a great way of practicing prevention of these and other diseases.
May people are concerned about the sugar content of bananas and the possible link to diabetes. Medical professionals who have studied this issue have found that the fat circulating in the blood is the problem, not the sugars from fruit. By reducing the amount of fat consumed to 10% or below, the sugars can get through the bloodstream and feed every cell of the body which gives energy without a rise in blood sugar. Those with type I diabetes may also see improvements as they reduce the amount of fat from their diet. Each case must be evaluated by a professional and monitored—and if a person is allergic to bananas, this obviously would not apply. There are two different types of gums in bananas known as guar gum and pectin, which are known to help reduce the uptake of sugar in the body as well.
Drinking water is the best way to quench thirst, but marketers of a variety of different brands of sports drinks have found that athletes will drink more of their product if they add salt. The problem with this is that added salt increases dehydration, creating a desire to drink even more.[iii] This imbalance can be dangerous while exercising or competing in sports, and is not recommended.
You can make your own sports drink using the following recipes:
1 quart purified water
3-4 ripe bananas
1 stalk celery or ½ cup celery juice (optional)
Blend together until smooth and pour into a water bottle to take on the go
*This recipe contains plenty of electrolyte minerals, vitamins and enzymes needed for a good workout as well as natural salts from the celery.
1 cup dried fruit (apricots, raisins, dates, figs, or pineapple)
1 quart purified water
Soak overnight to allow the sugars and electrolytes in the fruit to seep into the water. Pour the water into a water bottle for an instant sports drink and save the fruit to eat later, if desired. *Use one type of fruit or a mixture of your favorite fruits.
[i] “How to Build Muscle On a Raw Food Diet: the Best Foods, Exercises and Supplements to Build Muscle Quickly” by Peter Ragnar
[ii] “The Color Code: A Revolutionary Eating Plan for Optimum Health” by James A Joseph, Ph.D., Daniel A. Nadeau, M.D., and Anne Underwood
[iii] “Nutrition and Athletic Performance: A Handbook for Athletes and Fitness Enthusiasts” by Dr. Douglas N. Graham
Wendy P. Thueson is owner of Raw Chef Wendy, LLC. She is a certified Chef, Master Herbalist, and Raw Food Coach. She is passionate about the healing power of plants and sharing her message of hope with others because of her life changing experience regaining her health in 2009. She suffered from chronic fatigue for 28 years, debilitating neck and back pain, brain fog, stuttering, Grave's disease, and hypoglycemia to name a few. Wendy began eating a high amount of raw foods and using herbs medicinally. As a result, she is now symptom, pain and medication free. She educates all ages through hands-on classes, speaking at various events, and has been featured on television, radio and in magazines. She has authored several books and online programs to help others learn how to eat and live happier lives. She is an adoring wife and mother of four. You may find her at www.rawchefwendy.com