Hot Topics In Sports Performance For Runners

Florida is in the full swing of track.  Many teams are in the middle of competition season and preparing for big meets just around the corner.  I have received a lot of interest from athletes wanting tips on leveraging nutrition to give them an edge against their competition.  There are many 'hot topics' with considerable evidence from research linking them to   improved sports performance.  A few of these 'hot topics' that are specific to running are caffeine, beet powder, and cherry juice.

'Hot Topics'- Track Performance

Caffeine - Some studies have shown benefits in athletic performance when an athlete consumes caffeine prior to competition.  They experience decreased perception of fatigue so their optimal exercise output lasts longer.  This is especially helpful in long distance running.  In my years of collegiate racing, I would always have one or two shots of espresso within the hour before my race.  I have full confidence that this helped improve my race performance.  

BEWARE - Even though caffeine has its benefits, an athlete should experiment taking caffeine before a hard effort in practice before trying it on race day; caffeine is not always tolerated well by everyone.  Certain people may experience symptoms including anxiety, increased heart rate, insomnia, and GI discomforts.  Additionally, it is important to note the upper limit of caffeine is less than 300mg (no more than two to three cups of coffee per day).

Cherry Juice - Studies are showing that cherry juice benefits all athletes in recovery.  Cherry juice is high in  antioxidants.  These antioxidants keep the body in check by protecting its cells from both inflammation and stress caused by free radicals.  The recommended dose for optimal recovery is about 10 fl oz of 100% cherry juice after a workout (preferably with no added sugars).

Beet Powder - Beet root powder is a signifi cant source of nitrate.  Nitrate can be converted to a vasodilator in conditions that are not dependent on oxygen.  Vasodilators can help widen the vessels so that blood can flow more easily to tissues in need of nutrients.  This mechanism can improve exercise tolerance and endurance.

BEWARE: Side effects could include GI discomfort and discolored urine.  It can also be toxic if too large of an organic dose is consumed.  Too much supplement form can lead to vascular collapse.  I recommend obtaining beets from sources of food rather than supplement.    

About The Author: 

My name is Katelyn Greenleaf, Registered Dietitian!  I graduated from the University of Alabama (UA) with a Masters degree in Food and Nutrition.  I competed as a NCAA collegiate athlete for UA on the track and cross country teams, during which I was able to qualify and compete at the NCAA national meet. I currently hold the UA record in the 3k steeple chase. 

 I have a passion to use my experience and love for athletics, and my knowledge about the proper nutrition to help athletes perform their very best.  I believe this starts with support from the family, and reliance on the Lord.  I am excited to offer my nutrition services that are scientifically-backed and applicable for all!  Visit my website to learn more at

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