Nutrition and Speed

 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?

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The Hidden (?) Benefit of Exercise

After a holiday hiatus, I’m resuming my 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 that’s part of 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.

We all know the benefits of exercise, right? And most of them are pretty obvious to ourselves and, we hope, to everyone else — bigger muscles, smaller waist, more energy, less sickness, cool workout clothes, attracting a better-looking girlfriend/boyfriend, etc., etc. So I was a little surprised by the title of chapter three: “The Hidden Benefit of Exercise.”

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Nutrition: More Than the Food We Eat

'Day 362' photo (c) 2009, Bruce - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

We’re 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 following the links over in the right-hand column.

Extensive scientific research has shown that many of the amino acids, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and proteins that are the foundation for peak performance and health are simply not available in the foods we eat at levels that deliver the maximum benefits.

Chapter 2 focuses on the question of supplements. I know some folks who insist that, if we maintain a healthy, well-balanced diet, we shouldn’t need to take any supplements. They are suspicious of the pills and powders that seem so … well, unnatural. But there are some problems with that logic.

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NO Laughing Matter


Don’t confuse nitric oxide (NO) with nitrous oxide, which is the laughing gas your dentist may give you. NO is a gas, but it’s actually more closely related to nitroglycerine … yes, the explosive, and the heart medication.

Nitric oxide (as our author, Nobel prize-winning scientist Dr. Louis Ignarro explains in the video above) is naturally produced by our bodies as a result of a healthy diet and regular exercise. NO causes your blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood, oxygen and nutrients to reach tissues and cells.

We can actually improve athletic performance — increase strength and stamina — by boosting NO production in our bodies so that our cardiovascular system can more efficiently deliver oxygen and nutrients to muscles and other tissues.

“Health is Wealth: Performance Nutrition for the Competitive Edge,” explains how to accomplish this. The book is now available to purchase from the Health is Wealth website, although not yet available from Amazon or as an ebook. I’m blogging through a chapter each week, beginning today with the introduction.

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Health is Wealth

“You work out, you eat right, and you believe you are doing all you can to stay healthy. But what if you are missing a critical component that could help you take your health, fitness, and athletic performance to the next level?”

So starts the blurb on the back jacket of a forthcoming book from Nobel Prize-winning scientist Dr. Louis Ignarro. I’m going to be blogging through his new book, “Health is Wealth: Performance Nutrition for the Competitive Edge.” I’m not sure when the book will become available for purchase. If you just can’t wait, I encourage you to purchase the original title from Dr. Ignarro, Health Is Wealth: 10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds of Living to 100 . His upcoming book is based on the earlier work, but updated and revised specifically for athletes. You can purchase online from Amazon by following the link over in the right-hand column of this page, if you want the paperback version. Or, you can download the Kindle version for five bucks here: Health is Wealth (10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds Of Living To 100)

I’ll be sure to let you know as soon as the latest version of “Health is Wealth” is released. In the meantime …

Dr. Ignarro was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1998 for his discovery of the importance of nitric oxide to the cardiovascular system. Our bodies naturally produce nitric oxide when we exercise, but we can stimulate the production of nitric oxide to further enhance fitness and to improve strength, endurance, energy and recovery. We’ll learn more about nitric oxide as we review “Health is Wealth,” but in a nutshell, this nutrient causes our blood vessels to dilate, allowing more blood, oxygen and nutrients to reach the tissues. Nitric oxide not only improves cardiovascular health, which improves athletic performance and endurance and enhances overall health, it also enables our bodies to combat disease more effectively.

Dr. Ignarro is revolutionizing sports nutrition and performance. Sports nutrition companies are now trying to capitalize on Dr. Ignarro’s research by offering products they claim boosts the body’s nitric oxide production. Some of those may be fine products; however, many of them fall short of the claims because they try to cut corners (and costs) and neglect key elements of Dr. Ignarro’s findings.

Dr. Ignarro, who has completed 13 marathons and is an avid cyclist, has translated his groundbreaking scientific research into some very practical steps that have benefited me and, I’m convinced, will improve your athletic performance as well. In “Health is Wealth: Performance Nutrition for the Competitive Edge,” he explains (in a very reader-friendly style) the role of nitric oxide in boosting athletic performance. He also writes about the 10 power nutrients (from his earlier “Health is Wealth” book) that will jumpstart your body into peak performance.

Here’s a brief video from Dr. Ignarro, answering the question, “What is nitric oxide?”

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