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Juice Basics (Plus Four Combos to Try)

By Jesse Kropelnicki

You may have heard of juicing, or the process of making your own juice, but you might wonder why it would be something to consider as part of your nutrition plan. I have been juicing for the past couple of years. As odd as this may sound, it can be a therapeutic break in a hectic day. The juice itself can be very tasty, or not at all.

juiceThe beauty of juicing is that you decide exactly what type of juice you are going to make, based entirely on your mood. Some days I feel like a fresh apple, ginger and cranberry will do. On other days, something moves me to combine kale, garlic, and beet; a tequila-like cocktail that you won’t soon forget! Either way, you'll quickly find that juicing provides a bit of a boost, which will make you feel healthier.

For those who have never juiced, there are two primary types of juicers: 1) the high-speed centrifugal juicer, and 2) the slow speed auger. I have, and like a lot, the slow speed auger. It is easy to use, clean, and ready to juice anything you throw into it.

For athletes, the benefits of juicing run pretty deep. Juicing fruits and vegetables provides a huge dose of phytonutrients (plant chemicals) in a very concentrated, easily absorbed form. This quality alone makes juicing whole, fresh, ripe and raw fruits and vegetables one of the most powerful vehicles for achieving optimal health; upon which speed is built. Here are some of the most commonly touted benefits of juicing:

  1. Many of the common juicing ingredients contain chlorophyll, a substance found exclusively in plants. It has a structure similar to hemoglobin which is the substance in blood that is responsible for transporting oxygen. Some research has found that consuming chlorophyll enhances the body's ability to produce hemoglobin, thus improving the efficiency of oxygen transport.
  2. Fresh juices have the ability to deliver a group of nutrients know as enzymes. Enzymes are your body's work force. In addition, fruit and vegetable juices are good sources of the traditional nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
  3. Since juicing removes the indigestible fiber of fruits and vegetables, nutrients are available to the body in much larger quantities than if the fruit or vegetable were eaten whole. Because the process of digestion that is necessary when you eat whole foods is bypassed, the body can quickly absorb larger amounts of nutrients from the juices than it can from solid foods.
  4. Finally, fruits and vegetables provide one more substance that is absolutely essential for good health in the athlete – water!

I typically try to include choices in my juices that I wouldn't typically eat on their own in a raw form. Below are my four favorite recipes that apply particularly well for the athlete:

Apple/Ginger Juice
2 apples
1/2 lemon
1/2" of ginger root
1/2 cup of cranberry

Red Stuff Juice
12 plum tomatoes
1 apple
1 cup of cranberry
1 beet

Triathlete Juice
1 beet
2 cups of kale
1 head of romaine
1/2 lemon
1/2 inch of ginger root

Carrot/Garlic
2 cups of baby cut carrots
1 cup of broccoli
1-2 cloves of garlic (Not too much…this packs quite a punch!)

The first rule of juicing is that an apple can act as an excellent sweetener! Rule number two: If you want to hide the taste of something, like a dark leafy green, lemon and ginger will do the trick! And lastly, romaine will add volume to your juice without much taste.

I’m sure that you noticed some reoccurring ingredients in the above recipes: primarily beet, ginger, and kale. These are my favorite ingredients to use as a base for my juices, as they provide the following health benefits for athletes:

Beet — Beets are a unique source of phytonutrients called betalains. Betanin and vulgaxanthin are the two best-studied betalains from beets, and both have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and detoxification support. Studies have shown that beet ingestion actually improves endurance performance! Beets are very high in nitrates, which, when processed in the body, increase our levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps to relax blood vessels, and improve oxygen efficiency. Hence the lowered blood pressure and increased endurance of beet juice drinkers. Lastly, beets are a rich source of iron, which many athletes struggle to get sufficient absorption of.

Ginger — Many studies have shown that ginger acts as an anti-inflammatory and is a powerful natural painkiller. For the triathlete, these are ideal qualities as most of us spend our days chronically inflamed, after frequent and damaging workouts. I like to put ginger root in my post workout juices for this purpose. Typically ½” of the root will do.

Kale — Researchers have identified over 45 different flavonoids in kale. Kaempferol and Quercetin are at the top of the list. Kale's flavonoids combine both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in a way that gives kale great qualities to help avoid chronic inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is commonplace in the athlete, as the primary energy system utilized during exercise is aerobic and therefore oxidative in nature. This fat oxidation creates damaging free radicals, which kale helps to minimize the damage of, in our bodies.

As you navigate through your multisport season, don’t be afraid to include real juice as part of your nutrition plan. This practice can help you stay healthy and may even create some really good habits you can carry forward for years to come.

Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite/pro level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, LLC, a leading provider of personal triathlon coaching; TheCoreDiet.com, a leading provider of sports nutrition; and Your 26.2 a marathon training company. He is the triathlon coach of professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Ethan Brown, and Jacqui Gordon among others. His interests lie in coaching professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. You can track his other coaching comments/ideas via his blog at www.kropelnicki.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.

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