I'm a plant-based professional triathlete who specializes in Ironman and Ultraman triathlons, which means I'm training for races that last 9 to 25 hours and 140.6 to 320 miles. During my most intensive training phases, I spend between 35 and 40 hours a week swimming, biking and running.
Before, during and after those workouts, I need a whole lot of fuel. Here are five reasons green juice plays an important role in meeting that need.
1. It's a natural source of electrolytes.
One of my favorite long workouts recently is swimming about 6.2 miles. This means I'm facedown in the pool for about two and a half hours. The 100% natural electrolytes in coconut water, for example, are something I can feel good about consuming in the mass quantities I require on my longest training days.
It's easy to forget how much fluid I lose underwater in a tough workout like that, but the cramping, depleted feeling I get if I've overlooked my hydration and electrolyte intake is unmistakable. I've always got a couple of bottles of coconut water on the pool deck, as it provides the hydration, calories and electrolytes I need.
2. I can minimize my processed sugar intake during workouts.
I've learned that consistent fueling during the first hour of any longer workout is essential, and I cringe to think about what would be happening to my insides if I were fueling with traditional sports drinks! Drinking juice means I don’t have to pound sports drinks filled with processed sugars to get my electrolytes and calories.
3. It's easy and portable.
Particularly now, with fresh-pressed juices readily available at many stores, I can grab a juice to refuel immediately after a workout — even when I’m on the go. In addition to my own training and racing, I also run two businesses and am often rushing off to a meeting or jumping on a call immediately after a workout. I don’t always have time to stop at home to make myself a green shake, so convenience is key.
4. Juice is an easy way to get greens.
I’m always looking for ways to fit more leafy greens into my diet; I grind them up in my shakes and include them in my salads. (Here's my grocery shopping list in case you're curious.) Because my diet is entirely plant-based, leafy green intake is something I monitor closely — these veggies are an important source of iron for me, and maintaining my iron stores is essential to keeping my energy levels on point.
5. It's a recovery aid.
Juicing enables me to pack a large portion of my daily fruit and veggie needs into one drink. All of those vitamins and minerals are absolutely crucial to my recovery process and help me maintain a consistent, strong performance in my workouts from day to day.
I learned this lesson the hard way during my first Ultraman World Championships, a competition that involves more than 24 hours of racing over three days. I relied too heavily on traditional sports drinks and gels for fuel, and didn't take in enough "real food" over the first two days. I paid dearly for that in the second half of the race.
Three years later, when I returned to the championships and won, I had a recovery drink with coconut water and vegan protein powder the minute I crossed the finish line each day, and drank my own special coconut water, spinach and vegan protein concoction while I was cycling to make sure my body had what it needed to recover. I wholeheartedly believe that my improved fueling strategy was a major key to my overall improvement, and seriously contributed to my taking the world title in 2013.
Photo courtesy of the author