If you’re a performance focused athlete, you’ve probably spent a lot of time figuring out how you can train your muscles and eat to get your body into the best shape possible. Sometimes though, we forget that the heart is a muscle too, and beyond eating protein to build and repair skeletal muscles, the heart has its own set of nutrition needs to ensure a healthy cardiovascular system.
With so much dietary and lifestyle advice available these days it can easily become overwhelming. Truth is the body thrives on a variety of real, nutrient dense foods that it uses for all of its metabolic processes. The best foods for heart health aren’t surprising and include things like: plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats from nuts and seeds, legumes (beans, lentils & peas), fibre-rich whole grains (oatmeal, rice, teff), omega 3 rich fatty fish (salmon, mackerel) and other foods like garlic and dark chocolate.
Further interesting new research also sheds light on the connection and benefit between plant based diet and endurance sports. A 2019 study  highlights how the features of a plant based diet present safety and performances advantages for endurance athletes. Increased blood flow and tissue oxygenation leading to reduced oxidative stress and inflammation are a few areas where a plant based diets help. Achieving a lean body composition, lowered blood pressure and reversing existing atherosclerotic lesions (which may provide a substantial measure of cardiovascular protection) are just some of the other benefits highlighted in the study as well.
Although it’s clear that food and exercise are on the front line for a healthy ticker, there are certainly a few key supplements that should be considered too.
Few other supplements play such a wide role in health as Omega 3 fatty acids. Found mainly in cold water fish and some nuts and seeds, Omega3s provide protection against inflammation, and support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Since most people don’t get enough in their diet we recommend supplementing with Progressive OmegEssential.
Another important mineral that many people don’t tend to eat enough of is Magnesium. It is involved in 300+ enzymatic reactions in the body (including energy production) and it’s also lost through sweat. It helps with nerve function throughout the body including normalizing the heart, and it’s “master mineral” status also lends to helping with stress & relaxation, sleep and sore muscles. Depending on your needs there are several forms of Magnesium with slightly different benefits.
L Carnitine is a nutrient and supplement that plays a crucial role in energy, acting as a shuttle bus moving the fatty acids into the little cellular mitochondria. As the heart operates on ~%60 energy from fat, the muscle cells in the heart require this for metabolism! Studies have shown that L Carnitine plays helpful roles in exercise endurance in people with compromised heart function. Pure Vita Labs (PVL) L-Carnitine is a great choice.
A naturally occuring substance in the body, CoEnzyme Q10 (or CoQ10) is responsible for helping to generate ATP to usable energy. It also functions as a potent antioxidant with studies backing it’s effectiveness at preventing cellular oxidation from free radicals, increasing blood flow and heart attack regulation. As levels of this nutrient decline with age, as well as when taking cholesterol lowering class of drugs ‘statins’ it’s important to know the implications and be preventative with the health of your heart! Give Prairie Naturals CoEnzyme Q10 a try.
Iron, an essential mineral that helps to transport oxygen is critical to performance and for ensuring that muscles are working properly! Although available from food, it’s one of the most common nutrient deficiencies, especially for women (even more so in women who are active!). Low levels of iron in the tissues can impact aerobic activity and may lead to feelings of lethargy. Although low iron or iron deficiency anemia is a simple diagnosis, it is a serious issue and should be corrected with the help of a healthcare professional before. That said, there are plenty of high quality iron supplements available such as Lorna Vanderhaeghe IronSMART.
Regardless of your age, it’s never too early to get pumped up about protecting your heart with a healthy diet, lots of aerobic exercise and smart supplements! We’ve got the expert advice to help you achieve your peak performance in aspects of your health – find a Reflex location near you! Follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We are #ReflexNation.
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