Athletes are always trying to get an edge on the competition. Most of the time the points of entry are through gear and nutritional technology, and with those it’s always about the input. But what if gaining a competitive edge came in the form of not doing something? And what if that “not doing” related to your food intake? For most athletes the idea of not eating conjures up thoughts that range from ridiculous to absurd. But, using a centuries-old tradition for maintaining health could soon become part of your next training plan.
Fasting does not always mean the complete absence of food. In fact, some fasts incorporate eating into their modality, so for athletes a better term to use would be cleansing. Even better would be “recovery,” something that John Ivy, author of The Performance Zone, feels athletes do not pay enough attention to or understand how it relates to performance. The stresses and rigors placed upon a body during the racing season, along with the production of free radicals and the consumption of processed foods and fuels, can result in muscle and cell damage, injuries, digestive problems and an overall lack of vitality. Without proper recovery, these issues only subside until they are exacerbated by the racing season. You can’t have an “on-season” without having an off-season, and exercising is only half of the equation.
A guided and comprehensive cleansing program based in fresh juices made from fruits and vegetables along with some supportive supplements can provide the body with an opportunity to heal and repair all of its physical issues. According to Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of The Fasting Path, “fasting stimulates a more than twofold increase in IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor) binding protein,” which increases lean tissue development, muscle formation, tissue repair, organ health, bone strength and energy levels. Sometimes, the less you do, the more you gain.
To accompany your off-season cleanse, try this juice recipe. Remember that juices should be freshly made and pressed or extracted. No pulp allowed. Here is one of my favorite recipes. Watermelon has tons of lycopene, which supports the cardiovascular system and tastes great, while cilantro helps to collect toxins in the body, lime adds in some vitamin C, and the ginger helps with digestion with a bit of zing.
3 cups watermelon, OK to include some rind
½ bunch cilantro (You can also add or substitute mint.)
Knob of ginger
Place all ingredients in juicer, strain through cheesecloth and enjoy.
Adam Kelinson is the author of The Athlete’s Plate: Real Food for High Performance (VeloPress) and owner of Organic Performance. He regularly guides athletes through his program, “The Athlete’s Cleanse.”