By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
January 7, 2015
- Get physical with less muscle fatigue and exhaustion
- The secret ingredient for improved performance
- Work it like you mean it
Now that the New Year is here, many of my patients are ramping up their levels of physical activity. Chances are good you’re trying to turn over a new leaf, too, by pushing your body into more movement than you’re used to.
It’s one of the best things you can do for yourself. The more activity you get, the better chance you have of building a strong, lean body that’s free from disease as you age.
This is especially true if you’re doing other things right – like eating your organic fruits and veggies, wild-caught fish, and limiting meat consumption.
Unfortunately, added physical activity is one of the first things you might feel yourself wanting to give up on shortly after the New Year begins. But, if you’re like some of my patients, it’s not because you don’t want to improve the condition of your body.
You might just find you’re having a hard time kicking up your physical performance. And then, you find yourself unable to sustain your chosen activities for any length of time.
So, you might hop on your bike or take a hike on the beach for longer than you’re used to, expecting your body to respond the way it did when you were a teenager. But, for some reason, your muscles easily become fatigued. You might lose their breath. Your legs get wobbly, and you might even get a little dizzy.
Now, this might make you feel like you can’t achieve your goals. It’s not uncommon for many folks to give up before they barely even get started.
Well, there’s no reason for that thought to even enter your head. Because I know you can do it!
It doesn’t matter if you’re simply experiencing the results of an inactive lifestyle or have a more chronic condition going on – like reduced lung volume or peripheral artery disease. There’s a way to boost a compound in your body that is proven to enhance physical performance, endurance and stamina.
When you exercise, your muscles demand plenty of fuel to function properly. How do they get it? Your blood delivers oxygen to your working muscles. Then, the oxygen breaks down glucose to create ATP – the energy your muscles need for maximum performance.
This means your body needs maximal oxygen uptake when you exercise. There’s actually a name for this. It’s called VO2 max – a measure of your cardiorespiratory fitness. (You can easily have it measured at certain doctor’s offices and sports centers.)
Now, here’s the thing. Your VO2 max levels decline about 10% every decade. This decline is associated with a decrease in physical activity. However, there is a way to improve VO2 max and improve oxygen uptake to every cell in your body.
What’s the secret ingredient? It’s a naturally occurring compound produced by your own body called nitric oxide, or NO for short. When you have enough of it, it can enhance your staying power and stamina when it comes to ramping up your physical activity.
Adequate levels of nitric oxide…
- Improves VO2 max by reducing the amount of oxygen needed by the lungs during physical exertion.
- Improves the energetic function of your muscles.
- Lets you exercise longer before reaching exhaustion, even if you have COPD.
- Boosts exercise tolerance and performance.
- Decreases blood pressure.
- Oxygenates tissue in the legs and feet, which increases exercise tolerance in people with peripheral artery disease.
So, I’ll bet you’re chomping at the bit to find out how to regain your physical stamina and kick up your performance levels with nitric oxide.
You’ll be surprised to find out how easy it is.
There are certain plant-based foods that contain natural nitrates. When you eat them, they go through a process in your body that results in the production of nitric oxide. (Don’t confuse these natural sources of nitrates with the potentially cancer-causing nitrates and nitrites added to deli meats and hot dogs.)
One of the richest sources of NO-boosting nitrates is beetroot and beetroot juice. In fact, many studies on the health and exercise benefits of increased nitric oxide use concentrated beetroot to gauge the benefits.
My second favorite source of nitrates is green, leafy vegetables. These are easy to come by, and are all a part of our natural diet. Anything from arugula to spinach, kale to lettuce and cabbage to turnip greens will do the trick.
You can also find nitric-oxide-boosting supplements. For example, an amino acid called citrulline naturally increases levels of L-arginine – a natural precursor to the production of nitric oxide in your body. Your body couldn’t produce NO without arginine. All it takes is 1,500 mg of citrulline daily to get an NO boost.
In the meantime, don’t curtail your physical activities just because they leave you short of breath or lead to muscle fatigue. Eat your beetroots or drink beetroot juice. Add greens to every meal.
Then, get out there and work it! For top results, alter the levels of intensity of your activity. For example, walk at normal speed for two or three minutes, then speed up to a brisk walk, jog or sprint for the next minute. Do this 5 to 7 times. This type of interval training will offer the most long-term benefits for your health.
Hawkins S, et al. “Rate and mechanism of maximal oxygen consumption decline with aging: implications for exercise training.” Sports Med. 2003;33(12):877-88.
Larsen FJ, et al. “Dietary nitrate reduces maximal oxygen consumption while maintaining work performance in maximal exercise.” Free Radic Biol Med. 2010 Jan 15;48(2):342-7.
Jones AM. “Dietary nitrate supplementation and exercise performance.” Sports Med. 2014 May;44 Suppl 1:S35-45.
Kenjale AA, et al. “Dietary nitrate supplementation enhances exercise performance in peripheral arterial disease.” J Appl Physiol. 2011 Jun;110(6):1582-91.
Conor Kerley, et al. “Supplemental dietary nitrate for COPD: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.” ERJ Sept 1, 2013 vol. 42 no. Suppl 57 4850