I’m blogging through Health is Wealth: Performance Nutrition for the Competitive Edge by Dr. Louis Ignarro, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, and Dr. Andrew Myers. If this series sparks your interest to learn more about performance nutrition, you can purchase their book (either paperback or digital) by either clicking on the book cover in this post, or following the links over in the right-hand column. You can also read the whole series of chapter-by-chapter reviews under the “Past Posts” link, also in the right-hand column.
In this section of the book, the doctors discuss how several key nutrients will impact athletic performance — speed, strength, endurance and recovery. This section also features interviews with several top athletes.
Chapter 5: “Nutrition and Speed”
As a marathon runner, I’m not as focused on speed as, say, a soccer player or a short-course triathlete. But, in my ongoing quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon, I do need to increase my speed. For my age group, I need to post a 3:25 finishing time, which will mean running much of the race at a 7:35/mile pace. So I’m running more intervals than before, pushing myself to get faster, which makes this chapter relevant.
I’ve written about nitric oxide before, so I won’t repeat all of that here. You’ll recall that nitric oxide improves blood flow, sending oxygen and glucose to working muscles. “By allowing blood to flow more freely,” the doctors write, “NO enables critical systems to receive energy, shed heat, and get the oxygen they desperately need.” A healthy diet and proper nutritional supplements will boost the body’s production of NO, thereby boosting athletic performance.
“It’s all about oxygenation.”
So says Brett Fischer, a licensed physical therapist and certified athletic trainer who is interviewed in this chapter. Fischer has worked with a number of professional sports teams (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, PGA and others). Fischer includes nitric oxide supplementation in his programs because “if they can deliver oxygen … more oxygen will get to the tissue and athletes will heal. That is why physical therapists do hot packs, whirlpools, and ultrasound massage.”
“I believe in this stuff,” says Fischer, “that’s why I do it every day … That’s the bottom line and why we recommend nitric oxide supplementation to enhance these processes.”
Speed burns fuel
In order to develop more speed, an athlete needs to consume a high level of quality carbohydrates such as whole grains and beans. Among the foods they recommend: berries, sweet potatoes, salmon/tuna, lentils, healthy oils (like extra-virgin olive oil).
These foods take longer to digest and release their energy more slowly than fast-burning, simple carbohydrates like white sugar and potatoes. Among other things, this means a steadier release of insulin to convert food into glycogen and fewer blood sugar highs and lows. Ideally, speed athletes should consume 55%-60% of their daily calories in the form of complex carbohydrates.
Several power nutrients have been shown to benefit athletes seeking to increase speed: antioxidants, creatine, omega-3 fatty acids, L-arginine and protein. These nutrients should come from our diet, but we should also be getting additional “doses” of power nutrients from supplements. The doctors provide some interesting information about each of these nutrients. For example, I learned that natural creatine levels in the body decline with age, but the right kind of training can actually reverse some of this decline.
Advice from a Champion
Chapter 5 also features an interview with Chris McCormack, 2010 Ironman World Champion, who is competing against athletes half his age to make the 2012 Olympics in short-course triathlon. When asked about dietary supplements, he explained that before each race he uses a Coenzyme Q10 load of about 5000 mg per day for about five days.
5000 mg???!!! I have to wonder whether that is a typo. Herbalife sells a CoQ10 supplement for general heart health that comes in 100 mg doses, which seems to be the most common, though I’ve seen some other brands offer 400 or even 600 mg doses. But 5000 mg sure sounds like a lot of CoQ10 … though, if it works so well for this Ironman champ, maybe it’s worth trying. McCormack says he uses “a colostrum-based product out of Germany” but doesn’t identify the product.
I’ll do some more research … in the meantime, I’d like to know, do you use CoQ10? In what amounts? How has CoQ10 impacted your training?