Fast Food

Fast Food – Feed the Need for Speed

When I say fast food, I am not talking about restaurants like McDonald’s and Wendy’s. Gaining speed requires hard work and dedication to train the right way. Besides the training regimen that is needed, there are several foods and supplements that can have a positive effect on the speed and endurance of your running.

Food alone will not make you faster but when combined with proper training, you can take advantage of good nutrition to maximise your results.

Fast Food #1: Bananas

You can’t beat a large banana for nutrition as a pre-workout snack with around 31 grams of carbohydrates and a high dose of potassium. Potassium is a major electrolyte in the body that helps maintain a good fluid balance that also battles dehydration. Dehydration can cause performance to drop off very quickly with more severe levels of dehydration causing cramping. Sprinting requires a lot of fast twitch muscles and a fast response. Cramping will really kill speed. Bananas help you avoid them.

bananasIn a 2012 study involved athletes using a cycling machine to complete a simulated 75 km road race. Every 15 minutes,  they consumed half a banana or a sports drink that contained the same amount of carbohydrates. The study found that “not only was performance the same whether bananas or sports drinks were consumed, there were several advantages to consuming bananas.”

Bananas have the advantage of having antioxidants, fiber and vitamin B6 not normally found in sports drinks and contain a healthier blend of sugars. It has been suggested that Jamaican sprinters are some of the fastest in the world due to a diet containing bananas. Bananas would be considered the number one food to develop speed.

Fast Food #2: Beets/Beet Juice

Beets or beet juice is often used by athletes to improve running performance.  Beet juice has been found in research to help athletes run farther and faster.

beet juice
Photo by K15 Photos on Unsplash

The main component of beet juice that is so effective is the high concentration of nitrates. Eating foods rich on nitrates causes the body to produce more nitric oxide that increases blood flow and increases the efficiency in using oxygen. More oxygen to muscles means you are able to run longer and faster.

2012 study used two groups consuming the same number of calories of cranberry relish or beet root 75 minutes before running a 5 km course. The results showed that consuming whole beetroot helped the athletes run 5% faster during the last mile and ran faster overall times than the athletes in the control group. Another study showed that beet juice helped athletes to cycle 15% longer when tested to exhaustion.

Fast Food #3: Caffeine

When it comes to fast food, caffeine is the best stimulant to get the job done. Sources include foods like coffee, soft drinks (though they also have loads of sugar), tea and dark chocolate. There are also supplements available that contain caffeine.

Hundreds of studies have been done that confirm the performance-enhancing effects of caffeine. Effects include an increase in short sprint speed, intermittent sprinting speed, endurance as well as recovery.

Fast Food #4: Salt

Salt has been linked to heart disease and high blood pressure when consuming high levels in your diet. Your body does need salt as an electrolyte but the amount you need will depend on your lifestyle. Active people like athletes who exercise on a regular basis will need more salt as you lose some in the form of sweat.

electrolytesOne study of salt and performance used two groups of triathletes participating in the same competition. One group consumed sports drinks and salt capsules during the race while the other group consumed sports drinks and a placebo. Interestingly enough, the group of triathletes who consumed the salt capsules averaged times 26 minutes faster than those who took the placebo.

A high-intensity workout like a practice or game (especially on a hot summer day) can reduce your electrolytes and dehydrate you due to loss of sweat. Having a salty snack with a small amount of salt before you begin or at halftime can help reduce dehydration and the resulting drop in performance.

Fast Food #5: Vitamin D

I discuss vitamin D in my next article. If you do not get enough sunlight so your body can produce a good quantity of vitamin D, using a supplement can help.

Being a former sprinter when I was in high school, using fast food would have been on my radar had research been done on these foods back then. To get he maximum result form your training for speed, all of these foods would be a great idea.

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