For Educational Purposes Only
Where do you stand with exercise?
Sometimes people say, “My body feels tight” ……so the response should be, “so stretch.” Or “I have no energy,” okay so “do some aerobic conditioning.” Or, “I am not very strong and can’t carry anything.” Well then, “begin a program to strengthen your muscles.”
Others may be at a place that they want to improve their health by doing more physical activities, join a health club or participate in a race such as a 5k, 10k or marathon. Overall exercise has great advantages for increasing flexibility, endurance, strength and energy levels. It helps to improve blood circulation for all of the major organs including the brain.
The National Institute for Health recommends:
The endurance (aerobic exercise) may include:
- Brisk walking or jogging
- Yard work (mowing, raking)
- Climbing stairs or hills
- Playing tennis or basketball
They recommend to do a little type of light activity prior to and after endurance exercise to warm up the body. It may include simply walking.
Granted, there is much more to starting an exercise program.
You need to start somewhere or you may have to get back to a program you were doing earlier in your life. Physical activity has numerous benefits besides the above.
Check in with your doctor and find out what you can and can’t do. That is important.
Also, one must have a positive attitude and not only talk about it, but jump in and make a plan. It is essential to eating healthy to build up the body for athletics or improving exercise patterns.
If you have the desire to improve your performance what can you do?
Nutrition can help promote physical performance. If one is exercising to stay healthy, eating a healthy diet should be part of the program.
In general, it is best to avoid working out on an empty stomach. Although, each person is an individual so they need to evaluate how much and how long to wait after they eat to exercise.
A healthy diet provides the energy required to get in good work outs and/or finish a race. Energy levels will drop and one will not perform at their best when a person is lacking in the following:
- Vegetables and fruit with rich sources of nutrients
- Water and other fluids
- Vitamins and other minerals
The amount of each food consumed depends on a number of factors:
The type of exercise or sport
The amount of time spent on the exercise program
Some individuals overestimate the number of calories they burn and may end up over eating.
Vitamins and Minerals for Physical Performance
- Physical performance can be optimized with good nutrition. People that perform regular exercise for recreation or for athletic performance may take supplements to strengthen their immune system, help exercise recovery and improve their performance or speed.
- Research has been performed showing that by improving brain function can help athletic performance. Micronutrients, vitamins and minerals including bioactive compounds for cognitive function can be helpful. The research shows that particular vitamins such as B complex, vitamin C, D and E as well as minerals such as zinc and magnesium can have a positive influence on mental function. Beetroot juice and nootropics can also be essential nutrients for cognitive performance. Also, it is interesting that athletes eyesight has been identified as being important so lutein has been shared in the scientific literature to help athletes to improve their vision and provide protection.
Foods or products rich in nitrates
Foods rich in nitrates can help improve exercise performance especially in peak power. Certain vegetables with concentrated levels of nitrates help to increase nitric oxide levels. This helps to dilate and relax blood vessels, which help to improve circulation, blood pressure and the efficiency of delivering oxygen to the tissues.
One type of vegetable that contains a high level of nitrates is beetroots and beetroot juice. There is research that has shown that it can help one to do more physical work, for a longer period of time with less muscle fatigue. The research shows that beetroot juice extracts that are standardized to nitrates have boosted resistance to fatigue.
Research performed with a beetroot extract containing a rich source of nitrates
There was a double blind, crossover clinical study that was done with a nitrate rich product. In the study, men who were trained consumed a bar with a rich source of beetroot extract for 3 days and then participated in a heavy workout. After 10 days of a washout period, they crossed over and took a placebo bar. Prior to, during and after the exercise, evaluation of motor unit efficiency was done while men were performing isometric and contraction of their muscles.
A motor unit is a nerve muscle combination. Alpha motor neurons provide skeletal muscle with nerves and cause the muscle contractions.
The results showed that the bars with the beetroot extract increased in the amplitude of the firing rates showing the increased magnitude of muscle force. This increase showed that the nitrate rich beetroot extract helped to improve the motor units (nerves working with the muscles) to increase force while the muscles were fatigued. The product also helped improve the efficiency of oxygen intake (reduced amount of oxygen required) while exercising and did not affect the heart rate. This shows that it helps improve cardio efficiency and possibly stamina.
In summary, exercise is important and can help to increase flexibility, strength and improve energy levels. It is wise to warm up before activity and cool down afterwards. One should see a doctor in advance if they have a health condition. Nutrition is important to work outs and to improve athletic performance. There are vegetables such as beetroot that has demonstrated to help increase nitric oxide and help improve athletic performance.
If you have a health condition and or take medication, it’s always best to check with your healthcare provider prior to taking supplements.
Flanagan SD, Looney DP, Miller MJ, et al. The Effects of Nitrate-Rich Supplementation on Neuromuscular Efficiency during Heavy Resistance Exercise. J Am Coll Nutr. 2016;35(2):100-107.
National Institute for Health. National Institute on Aging. Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability. Last updated: January 29, 2021.
Szot M, Karpęcka-Gałka E, Dróżdż R, Frączek B. Can Nutrients and Dietary Supplements Potentially Improve Cognitive Performance Also in Esports? Healthcare (Basel). 2022;10(2):186.