Running literally, or just trying to run through life. Running the trails, or just trying to run from place to place and stay high enough on energy to make it through the day. Running in a race, or maybe just running after kids and running to meetings and running through peak hour train crowds. Whatever it is, there’s this underlying energy buzz that we crave in all of these instances.
You know what I’m talking about: that buzz and zing, that hum that flows through your brain, courses through your blood that keeps you feeling a little electric, on edge, and ready to tackle anything! “Like what coffee does to me?” you’re thinking.
Yes. Like that buzz and energy boost you get from caffeine, only with no coffee involved. Instead, from natural sources that have been scientifically shown to increase your energy and improve your performance. When it comes to natural endurance and increasing energy, we can tackle it in two ways: consume a product that boosts energy, or consume a product that increases metabolic efficiency, thereby allowing our body to more effectively generate energy. Let’s talk about both and then you can figure out what the best way is for you to give yourself a bit of a boost!
- Matcha – Ground green tea leaves, this natural product offers a boost of energy not only because of the small caffeine content of green tea, but also because of the natural health benefits of matcha including the antioxidants, catechins and mitochondrial food provided by the enzymes within the plant. This combination of benefits, set alongside the caffeine mean that matcha is able to give you a natural boost of energy without the jitters and negative effects of other options such as coffee.
- Chaga and mushrooms – I’ve talked about mushrooms on here before, specifically when I shared my Chaga Mushroom Elixir, an energy boosting, all natural drink which is a great alternative to coffee or for an afternoon pick me up! And that is exactly what these adaptogenic mushrooms do: they act as a natural stimulant within the body, increasing energy and alertness. In addition however, they are incredibly high in antioxidants and have tremendous benefits for the immune system. Endurance activities can be very taxing on the immune system, due to the constant stress and breakdown on the body, and boosting cellular immunity is a hugely important part of combating this. Consuming mushrooms such as Chaga, Reishi and Lion’s Mane is a great way to offer your immune system a boost and ward off potential sickness!
- Adaptogens – While the mushrooms above, do fall under the category of adaptogens, there are many other adaptogens which can be consumed and function in naturally boosting energy, performance and endurance. the benefit of adaptogens isn’t just the energy component, but rather the fact that by their very definition, adaptogens help the body adapt to stress. Endurance activities, such as running and cycling, cause physical stress on the body. Training the body to adapt to this is an important part of training, recovery and injury prevention. Adaptogens, such as Maca, Ashwaganda and Rhodiola can all play a key role in doing this.
- Beet Juice – The nitrate content of beets is the winner in this guy! When you consume beat juice, the nitrate concentration is converted to nitric oxide in the mouth. Nitric oxide acts as a vasodilator, opening up the blood vessels and allowing more oxygen to pass through via in the blood, the former of which is sent to the muscles to increase their functionality. Oxygen is the bottleneck when it comes to endurance sports: lack of oxygen in muscles converts the method of energy production to one that produces more lactic acid, which builds up, eventually leading to fatigue, exhaustion and forcing you to quit. Therefore, if you can increase the oxygen, this exhaustion phase can be pushed ahead, allowing more performance time.
- Ketones and fats – If you’ve heard of the Bulletproof coffee game, this is what we are talking about here. While Bulletproof Coffee, as per the formal Dave Asprey formula and recipe, uses Ghee, you can still follow the principals behind the product and create your own vegan version. The idea with Bulletproof coffee is that there is a source of fat added to the coffee which is used to directly fuel the brain. This fat consists of fatty acids which the brain is able to quickly and readily use, and as such, converts them to ketones which fuel the brain cells, increasing alertness, facilitating focus and concentration, and simultaneously promoting fullness within the body because of the energy source. The trick here though is that it is a specially formulated selection of fats, known as “Brain Octane Oil,” which actually are picked up almost immediately by the brain and which don’t simply get stored as fat within the body.
- Turmeric and anti-inflammatories – This last one doesn’t so much offer an energy boost as much as it, like beet juice, improves your body’s efficiency, which then allows you to improve your endurance. One of the main benefits that has been discovered in regards to turmeric is its ability to fight inflammation within the body. Endurance training, like many other forms of physical activity, causes breakdown of muscle. Unlike other activities though, such as weight lifting, where the goal is to break down muscle to build it back up bigger and stronger, in many ways, the breakdown of muscle in endurance activities is a byproduct. It occurs slowly, over time, as a cumulative effect of constant intense training and physical stress on the body. The outcome of this is increased inflammation within the body, because the body senses that the muscles are being damaged and inflammation is like a red flag to signal in the repair troops! And as much as this is good, inflammation itself causes issues within the body, and should be reduced as much as possible, or it will become a hindrance to performance and recovery. Consume turmeric (in combination with black pepper to increase absorption) regularly in your dinner, smoothie, latte or baking!
What are your favourite natural ways to boost your energy or to improve your endurance performance while running?