Every month I see a new issue of some nutritional magazine labelling this fruit or this vegetable the next food that will give you magical powers, save your life or make you a superhuman athlete. Another example of how you’ve been lied to, manipulated and spoon fed a huge bowl of turds. Thankfully, I am here to burst another bubble (let’s face it, I’m pretty good at this) and arm you with the knowledge to make smarter eating choices.
Covered in this blog:
- Where the term ‘superfood’ came from
- The problem with superfoods
- Why endurance athletes need fruits and vegetables
- How to eat super food
- What to do if you need help
Where the term ‘superfood’ came from
Occam’s razor, “the simplest explanation is usually the right one”, might have actually been conceived with this in mind. It’s all marketing, friends!
To illustrate and reinforce my point, let’s simply look at the origin of the term ‘superfood’. According to this article on the Harvard website “the earliest recorded example may have taken place in the early 20th century around World War I, used as part of a food marketing strategy.”. Bananas hold claim to the world’s first superfood title, not that it really is worth anything.
Of course, it has been mentioned in scientific papers throughout the years, the term is catchy, but still a marketeers dream. I’m certainly not disputing the superpowers that fruits and vegetables can give you, but ultimately, however, it is used to get you to favour one type of produce and spend more money.
The problem with superfoods
Now, I’m definitely not against anything that gets people to eat more fruits and vegetables, what I am against is getting people to eat one specific type; often neglecting others. That’s the reality, we only eat a certain amount of fruit and vegetables per day, fill up on ‘superfoods’ and miss out on others.
Not that it often happens from eating real food, and is usually a side-effect of supplementation, but “it’s important to note that excessive consumption of certain nutrients can still be dangerous even if it does not lead to overt toxicity symptoms” - this article in Heathline.
That’s where we get issues around people who want to cheat the system and ingest a large quantity of the goodness from a certain superfood in one go. If you’re one of these people, while I hope you weren’t seriously hurt, I hope you shirt your pants and learnt a valuable lesson.
Anyway, if you’re someone who does try to eat the latest ‘superfood’ and follows the crap 5-a-day advice, here’s why you shouldn’t, then you are almost certainly not eating enough variety. You shouldn’t be limiting yourself like this, live a little and experiment.
The importance of eating fruit and vegetables for endurance athletes
On the subject of 5-a-day, if you’re an endurance athlete, you will be needing to eat far more than that to support your training and recovery. Take five minutes to read why in the blog I linked in the last paragraph, but ultimately you might want to consider aiming for 5-a-meal. It’s actually very easy, especially if you tend to eat food that doesn't come in a wrapper.
Alan Christianson in the May 1999 issue of Nutrition Science News had this to say: “Athletes who participate in endurance sports—those that involve more than one hour of consistent activity—have specific needs [to consume more fruits and vegetables] because of what they demand from their bodies.”
Simply put, you need a wide variety of micronutrients to ensure you adequately recover and, therefore, perform well in training and racing. You shouldn’t really be limiting yourself to any specific food or food group, again, live a little and experiment!
How to eat super food
Start by increasing the amount you eat per day. If 5-a-meal is too much for you, at least try to eat 12 portions. This should be relatively easy; 3-per-meal, if you eat 3 meals per day, plus some fruit or vegetable based snacks.
A portion is relative to the individual, so use the size of your fist as a rough guide. Try not to overthink it, it’s not that difficult!
If you’re worried about this, a simple quick fix to getting a lot of fruit and vegetables, cheaply and easily, into your system is to make a smoothie from frozen produce (yes you can use vegetables for this, tastes nice, mostly…), just add water or milk (plant based preferred) and blend. Frozen produce will last longer and tends to be more affordable, especially if you buy in large quantities from places like Costco.
That’s the quantity of produce sorted. The quality, or more specifically variety, is fairly straightforward too. This article posted to the Science World website suggests that “by ‘eating the rainbow’, we give our bodies the range of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that make and keep our bodies healthy.”.
For those unfamiliar with this term, it simply means aim to eat fruit or vegetables that have a variety of different colours, like a rainbow. Again, this is super simple, it might just take some habit breaking and, again, starting by buying frozen produce will help you get into this new eating pattern. I get it, it’s hard to grocery shop.
What to do if you need help
We all need a little help and guidance sometimes. Speak to a registered nutritionist if you are struggling and need a hand. Our Spokes Performance product comes with nutritional guidance and we have nutritionists ready to give you even extra assistance, should you need it.
Mainly this requires a bit of planning and preparation, but shouldn’t cost you much more. If you’re really time poor, then try services such as Instacart, if available to you, as they can cut huge chunks of time from your daily chore list.
Bottom line is to remember that there will always be excuses to not do something, make this an occasion where you say “yes!”...