I am a parent and one of the usual meal time challenges even with teenagers is persuading them to eat vegetables. See Vegetable added everything for my last post on the issue of sneaking in the veggies. I was amused then to see this mix in the frozen foods section of the grocery store. Not just vegetables but “athlete’s mix”! And yes, we bought some and the high school athlete even ate some. (American readers can admire the bilingual packaging. I missed it when I lived in the US for five years. I kept flipping the cereal box over to practice my French but all I got was more English.)
Lately with all the fuss about protein, even here–see How to Get Lots of Vegan Protein (Tracy) and My new challenge! (me)–we can forget how much vegetables matter for health, well-being, and athletic performance.
In a recent research review the Precision Nutrition team asked Do veggies improve endurance?
I’ll let you go read the full report and just quote their conclusion,
“Supplementing with nitrate for three days, using levels that you can get with eating 200-300 g spinach made male cyclists use less oxygen to do more work.
This improvement came mostly from improving the efficiency of individual mitochondria.
There may be other relevant factors involved. For instance, when we eat food-based nitrate, bacteria in the mouth and gut reduce nitrate to nitrite, which is then converted into nitric oxide (NO). NO signals smooth muscle to relax, which increases vasodilation (opening of blood vessels) and thus improves blood flow. In fact, 8th century Chinese doctors used potassium nitrate to treat cardiovascular disorders such as hypertension and angina (as well as garlic, which also improves NO production).
What does this all mean? If you plan to do any endurance type race I’d say chow down on at least a big container of baby spinach (312 g) for each of the three days leading up to the race, and see if you beat your personal best. Worst case scenario — you’ll eat a little more salad.”