3 Foods To Power Up Your Performance & Immunity

Want to boost your workout performance and increase your body’s natural defenses? But of course! Turns out three foods can do the trick.

Before you learn the first one, here’s a bit about how it helps.

Nitrate Power

Nitrates are nutrients found within certain foods. They bring oxygen to muscles to fuel work and improve performance.

From: How Not to Die

Nitrates, concentrated in green, leafy vegetables and beets, not only help deliver oxygenated blood to your muscles by helping dilate your arteries but also enable your body to extract more energy from that oxygen – something never before thought possible.

Did you notice green leafy vegetables and beets?

These foods have nitrate power, especially beets.

Run with the Beet

Want to run better?  Eat some beets. It worked for 5K runners.

From: How Not to Die

In another study, men and women eating one and a half cups of baked beets seventy-five minutes before running a 5K race improved their running performance while maintaining the same heart rate and even reported less exertion.

Faster times with less effort. Beet me up!

Next, don’t be shy to liquefy…

You Juicin’?

Beet juice works too. Just ask cyclists. They were happy to ride with this finding.

After sipping beat juice, cyclists were able to perform at the same level of intensity while consuming 19 percent less oxygen than the placebo group. The beet-juice drinking group exhibited greater endurance while using less oxygen. In short, the beet juice made the biker’s bodies’ energy production significantly more efficient. No drug, steroid, supplement or intervention had ever before been shown to do what beet juice could do.” 

What’s the ideal amount of beets for better performance?

From: How Not to Die

To maximize athletic performance, the ideal dose and timing appears to be a half cup of beet juice (or three three-inch beets) two to three hours before a competition.”

(For more on competition nutrition, click here.)

We know beets rock. Next let’s look at foods to boost your immune system.

Green Light

It’s a go for leafy greens. And who knew they were on the cutting edge of immune science?

According to research from the Babraham Institute, eating green vegetables give us more than just vitamins and minerals.

“Green vegetables of all types are also a key source of specialized chemical signals that our immune systems use to self-communicate.”

This is a huge deal. Why?

Good communication boosts immunity.


Other researchers found that proteins in leafy green cruciferous vegetables interact with surface cell receptors that switch on T-bet to initiate the innate immune response in the digestive tract. That’s where 80% of our immune system resides.

But wait! There’s more…

Researchers also found that a special type of immune cell known as an innate lymphoid cell (ILC) is found throughout the digestive tract. It can protect the body from invading pathogens (big word for bad stuff that causes disease).

“Further, the team determined that ILC’s produce a hormone (interleukin-22) that protects the body from invading bacteria and help maintain a healthy environment in the intestine by balancing bacteria levels, and may also help to resolve cancerous digestive lesions.”

Go Green! Not a fan of the green team? Maybe you’ll like blue…

Berry Nice for Immunity

When it comes to berries, 3 choices come to mind: rasp-, straw-, and blue-.

Which is best?

When it comes to immune boosting power, think blue.

From: How Not to Die

In one study, researchers asked athletes to eat about a cup and a half of blueberries every day for six weeks to see if the berries could reduce the oxidative stress caused by long-distance running. The blueberries succeeded, unsurprisingly, but a more important finding was their effect on natural killer cells. Normally, these cells decrease in number after a bout of prolonged endurance exercise, dropping by half to about one billion. But the athletes consuming blueberries actually doubled their killer cell counts, to more than four billion.

More natural killer cells (term used by immune experts) means better immunity. Blue berries are good, even for low carb dieters. Of the recommended fruits, low carb researchers found blueberries (5-10 carb grams per day) to be a top choice.

(For more on the how to lose weight safely and effectively with a low carb approach, check out my interview with Dr. Jeff Volek, the nation’s leading expert on low carb research).

Wrap Up

  1. Run with the Beet 

    – Beets contain nitrates and improve the endurance of runners and cyclists.

  1. Green Light

    – Chemicals in green leafy vegetables support immune power.

  1. Berry Nice for Immunity

    – Blueberries doubled the amount of natural killer cells in runners to strengthen the body’s natural defenses.

Thank you for reading!


PS If you wouldn’t mind sharing my mission to help families and friends, please share my mission to help power up their performance and immunity. Thank you!

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About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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