Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and athletes aren't immune. Many runners, gym junkies and triathletes think pushing themselves to the limits all-day every-day will result in a 'get out of jail free' card.
Overtraining: A very common problem I see in my practice is many athletes compromising their health at the expense of getting fit-typically by overtraining, which can include too much volume and not enough rest. This regime can produce a deadly combination of inflammation, stress and free-radical oxidation. Sleep, rest days, an easy training day and stress management must be priority #1.
Dietary choices and nutritional deficiency: The truth is many athletes are unhealthy because of poor dietary choices and nutritional deficiencies. The sugar laden sports drinks and bars, the post long-run trip through In-N-Out every Sunday and the milkshake-like coffee drink consumed every morning on the way into work all sabotage your longevity. Athletes also get stuck on the latest performance enhancing supplement or cure-all smoothie powder instead of eating real, unprocessed whole foods.
Community: The last big component of heart health is community. Studies have shown that spiritual practices and being a part of active social networks promote healthy behavior, foster feelings of optimism and hope, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and encourage a sense of relaxation. Having a higher purpose, being emotionally connected to the world around you and participating in group activities promotes healing, boosts immune function and positively influences the cardiovascular, hormonal and nervous systems. Point being – get out there and worship, join a club, volunteer, find a way to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others and your heart will thank you for it.
The whirlwind of life and newsworthy headlines on everything except heart disease often overshadow the importance of cardiovascular health. When you're trying to load up on protein, rehydrate properly and balance carbohydrate intake to build muscle and recover after a workout, it's easy to forget that you need to take care of your heart, too.
That fist-sized muscle beats over 100,000 times a day and pumps blood through the entire body. The best way to thank your heart for the work it's doing... eat whole foods, get enough sleep, find your spiritual and social center and reduce stress.
Person to Follow...
Nate Helming-The Run Experience
Nate is a very good friend of mine, a running mentor and an all-around cool dude! His passion for running and the outdoors was evident from the first time we met. Since then he's shared more knowledge on mobility, strength and running form than my brain can handle- to call him a guru is an understatement.
He has created an online community called The Run Experience that teaches athletes how to run better and feel great while doing it. He is based in San Francisco and in addition to coaching runners and triathletes of all levels, he trains Olympic level cyclists, professional triathletes, elite mountain bikers, and national-level ultra runners on strength and mobility. Nate has traveled around the world to speak about better strength training for endurance athletes, and regularly publishes videos and articles on how runners can do it better!
Given this month's focus on taking care of the heart, these are some common heart-healthy foods that should be making a daily appearance in your diet:
- Nuts & seeds contain phytosterols that help lower cholesterol.
- Beans are rich in B-vitamins which fight blood clots and the hardening of the arteries.
- Salmon is loaded with Omega-3 unsaturated fats which reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Oats contain fiber and chemicals called lingans that protect against heart disease and cancer.
- Berries are rich in antioxidants which help reverse oxidative damage.
Here are a few more equally great foods to begin adding in to the mix:
- Cooked tomatoes
- Hemp seeds
- Cold pressed oils
- Coffee & green tea
- Veggies-brussels sprouts, cauliflower & onions
- Spices & herbs-cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and cilantro
Cooking fish can be an intimidating process - this recipe combines a few of the suggested heart healthy ingredients and is super simple, quick and guaranteed to please. Serve over a big plate of greens, spinach or arugula work well.
Heart-felt Honey Almond Salmon with Roasted Veggies
- 1 6oz serving Sizzlefish Salmon
- 1tbsp local honey
- 2 tbsp shaved almonds
- 1c peeled beets
- 1c brussels sprouts
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Slice beets and brussels sprouts – drizzle with 2 tbsp coconut oil and spices. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
- While that cooks-- Spread the salmon with honey and almonds, place skin side down in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 12-14 minutes until almonds are crunchy brown and fish is done.