Beetroot a Legal Performance Enhancer

Beetroot is arguably the best vegetable on the planet especially if you participate in endurance sports. I’ve often referred to it  as ‘natures EPO’.

Heres why I think so:

  • Years prior to its recent surge in popularity, beetroot had been used medicinally for ailments such as constipation, fevers and skin problems.
  • Beetroot is a great source of iron and folate, it also contains betaine, magnesium and other antioxidants.
  • Boiling beetroots in water and then massage the water into your scalp each night, can work as an effective cure for dandruff. (apparently)
  • Along with its performance enhancing properties, Beetroot can help with preventing dementia and lower blood pressure due to its high nitrate content.
  • Beetroot contains the mineral silica an this helps the body to utilise calcium, this can reduce the risk of osteoporosis due to its benefits to skeletal health.

Here is a great link that references all the sport research on beetroot.

Some ways to include beetroot in your diet.

  • Purchase readymade beetroot juice and have a glass each morning.
  • Drink a pre-workout ‘shot’ of beetroot juice.
  • Make your own juice or smoothie and add beetroot.
  • Chop or grate the beetroot and use it in salad, sandwiches or wraps
  • Cook a grated beetroot curry.
  • Chop it and put it on pizza.
  • Fry grated beetroot into a rosti.
  • Great ingredient to add moisture to chocolate cakes and brownies
  • Make a refreshing beetroot dip
  • Put a slice of it in a burger (Kiwi Burger).

A Month To Focus

“Focusing is about saying No.”

Steve Jobs

Can you focus on one task exclusively for one month? Can you give up a bad habit for one month? Can you instil a new habit for one month?

That’s exactly what I have been doing recently. After being  inspired by movements such as ‘Stoptober’ ,’Dry July’ along with seeing online fitness challenges like 10,000 steps a day and run everyday for a month or Ride 500Km in a month. I decided to trial some of my own month long experiments.

The benefit of this is that a month really isn’t that long, so if it doesn’t work then you have only sacrificed something for just over 4 weeks and then you can return to normal. It’s easy to say no to something for a month knowing the opportunity will come up again in a following month. But if the change works and you’ve learnt something from it. Then you gain a new perspective in a short period of time which could pay dividends going forward.

My Experiments have included: (along with what I learnt)

  • Running at least 5K everyday for a month
    • My running economy improved in the initial two weeks, but soon found I was enjoying running less when I wasn’t recovering. My final two weeks training sessions were less effective and during my next race after the month of training i found I had greater aerobic capacity but I had lost the sharpness and ability to inject speed into my running. Soon after the race I realised I had burnt out and needed a few weeks of low volume running to recover.
    • Lesson: Don’t ever neglect recovery, I now try to avoid consecutive days running and monitor how fatigued I get after each run, especially leading up to a race.
  • Eat a vegan diet for one month:
    • I long wondered if the stories of dramatic weight loss and improved energy and vitality were true. During my month on a vegan diet I experienced mostly positive outcomes. I had more energy as my Carbohydrate levels increased. I was more hydrated following a reduction in Protein and an increase in water abundant plant ingredients. My weight went slightly up de to increased water retention but not to the extent it changed my appearance. I enjoyed the taste of food more as the diet required me to be more inventive with herbs and spices to jazz up the vegetables. I became a lot more conscious of what food I consume and how many foods contain meat,eggs and dairy. I was satisfied by blander food, where before I may crave meat, cheese other high fat products for snacks I now found contentment and satisfaction in a raw date or a whole banana because avoiding high fat,salt and sugar products meant my taste buds craved actual food.
    • Lesson: We don’t need animal products to thrive despite conventional wisdom. We crave what we eat most there fore the body can easily adjust what it craves. Soon after eating more fruit and veg this is what my body started to desire. I found so much enjoyment from eating more vegetables and fruit that I have now adopted primarily a plant-based diet, not 100% but approximately 9/10 meals.
  • No fizzy soft drinks for one month
    • There was no purpose to me drinking fizzy drinks but I had a daily habit of drinking a 330ml can of diet coke. After reading information on the negative effects of soft drinks and in particular sweetener, I soon realised I actually didn’t enjoy drinking coke and that I solely consumed it out of convenience and habit. I stopped for one month to see if I could handle it.
    • Lesson: I stopped for a month with the intention of only drinking soft drinks when I really wanted one. It’s been two years now and I haven’t ever desired one single soft drink. When I am out a fizzy water is as refreshing a drink as I need!
  • No alcohol for one month.
    • I normally drink a glass of wine on a Friday and Saturday, but when times are tough I found an excuse for Wednesday and Thursday drinking which was affecting my sleep and wellbeing. I longed for a break just to see what my body would do and if it would improve my mood and sleep. I didn’t actually find this challenge hard to implement at home but did find social situations in bars a restaurants a little boring.
    • Lesson: I did see some change in my weight, not a lot but my belly was slightly less bloated and my digestion was a lot more consistent. The main change was I slept better without needing a pee at 3am and this in turn improved my mood and energy. I now drink far less and consider if I really need it before i buy a drink. The biggest factor for me is not having it in the house that way I only drink when I go out which is less than once per week. Overall the less I drink the better I feel.
  • No Coffee for one month
    • More detail on my blog post about this, but in a nutshell the hardest thing I have ever given up (even temporarily) but once I got through the tough week I began to feel better during the day, with less dips in energy and after 3 weeks I slept a lot more consistently through the night.
    • Lesson: I was addicted to caffiene without knowing it and it was a painful withdrawal. I now appreciate the strength of caffeine and the impact it has on the body but because I love the taste of coffee I won’t give it up for good. I now have a fresh coffee first thing in the morning and drink hot and cold water throughout the day as a substitute to the espresso and avoid coffee machines like the plague.
  • Train (Swim,Bike or Run) everyday for one month
    • I generally have trained everyday or at least most days for the past 20 years initially just swimming but now a mixture of swimming, cycling, running and weight training. In preparation for a big event such as an Ironman I have a 4 week training block of overload where I don’t have anytime off to see if I can maximise the load on my body and prepare it to handle extreme periods with little rest, this overload period is generally followed by a week-long recovery.
    • Lesson: I found I can accelerate my fitness greatly during a focus month, even across all three sports. I also find by mixing the sports I do, I don’t suffer from overtraining or pick up any injuries. unlike running exclusively. That is because swimming and cycling is low impact on the body so is unlikely to damage the muscles. It is still possible to get overuse and fatigue injuries if not managed correctly. I don’t do a solid month often but I do, I use it strategically to accelerates my fitness and prepare my body for a tough demanding race.

5 Rich Roll Podcasts That Show What It Takes To Be Successful In Sport

I love listening to Rich Roll, he has a unique talent in getting people to dig deeper into themselves and explain what makes them tick than you would normally hear in the standard 30min interviews, below are links to 5 of my favourite. All with the theme on what it takes to be successful in sport.

  1.  Dr Michael Gervais-  Sport Psychologist on Elite Performance

2. Patrick Baboumain- Plant Based World Strongest Man, and how he got stronger on plants

3.Aaron Peirsol- Backstroke World Record Holder and Olympic Gold Medalist- On his love and connection with the water.

4. David Carter- Plant Based 300lb NFL Player- On how his diet amplified his performance

5.Mike Cotty- Elite Cyclist on turning your passion into your profession

I love listening to long format interview’s comment or link below if there are any that have impacted you and your life.

My Month with No Caffeine

Today is day 31 of my month with no caffeine, I feel great.

Day 1 however was a completely different story and its taken most of the month to get to where I am.

Why No Caffeine?

I love coffee! Not any coffee, I love whole beans from south america, freshly roasted within the past 7 days, ground directly into my espresso machine served at just the right temperature in just the right cup. (info on making the perfect espresso can be found here) I would like to say I don’t need coffee, I drink it for enjoyment rather than being addicted.

However about 6 weeks ago I was struggling. New (ish) job with lots of pressure, a 6 month old baby who sleeps intermittently throughout the night and no time to unwind just a go,go,go mentality. I found my coffee fix had snuck up from 2 quality coffees per day to 4 or 5 of any caffeinated beverage I could find to keep me awake.

Not only was I using it as a crux to stay awake and alert, I felt like I was more exhausted than I appeared on the outside and I new caffeine was masking my true level of tiredness. If you’ve heard the term, ‘coffee is borrowed energy from tomorrow’ then I was about a month in arrears.

Caffeine Holiday

I tend to like doing experiments on myself (especially with my diet) so it seemed like a good idea at the time to go cold turkey and wake up one Saturday and abstain from my usual double espresso. I was fine in the morning and quite enjoyed the change to a fresh peppermint tea.

Fast forward to 2pm and a metamorphosis occurred. When I approached the time of my normal 3rd coffee I hit a wall. My brain turned to fog, physically I became lethargic and I suddenly had the communication skills and inner drive of a drunk zombie. Acknowledging this was a temporary symptom I forced   myself through the next couple of hours until I hit bed time. Thats when the most excruciating headache hit me and the only way i could stop it was to lay motionless in a dark room with earplugs to avoid any noise. That night consisted of waking up in pain or in cold sweats, much like a severe case of man flu! but instead this was self inflicted. That night i vowed to myself I would never get hooked to the black stuff again (or if i did i would never go cold turkey again)

I’d like to say I woke up the next day fine, however the above symptoms carried on for the next 3 to 4 days and the only let up I had was it gradually decreased in intensity. (info on caffeine addiction here)

The following few days consisted of me feeling a lot fresher and sharper during the day and gradually I thought less about coffee and more about my thirst and drinking water.

I did find my bedtime went from a respectable 10pm to an embarrassing 7.30pm in the first week and I took a few days after that to build up to staying awake until 10pm like normal. But once I was there i was relieved and since then I have been falling a sleep quicker and sleeping more deeply and undisturbed (apart from the obvious baby wake ups).

Benefits I had from no caffeine

  • Continuous sleep (10-5)
  • Sleep deeper
  • Wake up fresher
  • Constant energy all day
  • No craving of coffee
  • Better hydration as I now drink more water/peppermint tea
  • Mood is more stable
  • Thoughts are clearer
  • My actual level of tiredness is not masked so I know when I need to sleep
  • Body feels like it is functioning better
  • Breath is better
  • Stress levels reduced (cortisol reduced)
  • Digestion improved (less bloating)
  • I am happier
  • I feel like theres less toxins in my body
  • Cost saving

I am undecided if I have quit the black stuff for good, but I am definitely going to take a lot of consideration before I get back in the habit and volume I was in before.

If you drink a lot of coffee or energy drinks, maybe give your body a break and try a week or two with the caffeine. (be warned pick your week wisely)

A great article on the effects of coffee by health ambition

More on what caffeine does to the brain can be found here

What have you experienced giving up coffee?