Go Green – How Green Foods Can Improve Your Running Performance

By Rick Morris

Green foods aren’t anything new. They have been around since the first plant sprouted from the soil of Mother Earth. Our ancient ancestors were the first to discover the benefits of eating green. They didn’t eat green foods because they thought they were healthy – they ate them because they were readily available. Early man survived on what they could hunt or gather. The green foods growing all around them made for easy picking. Did you know that green foods can improve your running performance?

In modern society the convenience of fast food restaurants and pre packaged foods have become a new and much less healthy way of eating. Instead of enjoying the health and fitness benefits of freshly harvested vegetables we are chowing down on processed foods, pre-packaged meals and deep fried fast food.

It is a well known fact that these high calorie, high fat, low nutrient foods are not good for your general health. But does it affect your running performance? You bet it does! As a runner you need to pay close attention to how you fuel your body. You need lean, high quality, high octane fuel. Not watered down, over processed fuel that provides a lot of empty calories and few nutrients.

Green Food Basics

All foods contain energy in the form of carbohydrates, fats and proteins. But where does that energy come from in the first place? You know from your physics classes that you cannot create energy from nothing, so where does it come from? It originates with the sun. The carbohydrate in plant life contains the sun’s radiant energy and represents the first link in the food chain of life. Green plants make carbohydrates through the process of photosynthesis. In photosynthesis, the chlorophyll (green pigment) in plants traps the energy from the sun and uses it to convert carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates. So – green foods contain the most pure and nutrient rich form of carbohydrate available. Of course, all fruits and vegetables aren’t green. Some are blue, red, purple and nearly every color under the sun. All of those fruits and vegetables are healthy food choices, but pound for pound you can’t beat the nutritional value of green foods.

Types of green foods include leafy green vegetables, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage), grasses (wheat grass, barley grass), algae (chlorella, spirulina), vegetable sprouts and sea vegetables.

Benefits of Green Foods to Runners

You know green foods are healthy because they are low calorie, nutritional power houses. But why are they great foods for runners? It starts with the chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is more than a pretty green color. Chlorophyll has been shown to stimulate the production of hemoglobin, increase your oxygen uptake and energize your body. Does oxygen uptake sound familiar? Your VO2 max is a measure of your maximum oxygen uptake. Chlorophyll can increase your oxygen uptake and your VO2 max. Your endurance, recovery time and energy levels all improve.

Green foods are also slightly alkaline in nature. One of the causes of running fatigue is a rise in the acidity of your blood. If you consume green foods on a consistent basis, the alkalinity of the green vegetables will help buffer the acidity of your blood and improve your running performance.

Green foods also contain a lot of phytochemicals. These are compounds that will aid in your recovery and protect your cells from the oxidation caused by free radicals produced by strenuous training.

Including Green Foods in Your Diet

Green foods have their highest level of nutrition when eaten fresh and raw. Green foods start to lose some of their life-force as soon as they are picked because their source of energy has been cut off. So – the fresher the better. Eating raw foods is also better because heating above 120 degrees will destroy the living enzymes they contain.

It is not always possible to eat freshly picked vegetables so the next best choice is fresh, raw vegetables, preferable organic, from your local grocer. Juicing is also a good way to go. You can purchase your own juicer or buy fresh juice at a local juice bar or natural grocer. Wheatgrass juice is a popular type of juice that is a nutritional giant.

Nothing beats fresh, whole green foods – but if you are in a hurry or just can’t get to your organic grocer, you can also go the supplement route. Spirulina and chlorella are available in both powder and tablets. Try to consume green foods on a daily basis. Both your general health and your running performance will benefit from it.