What to Eat to Enhance Your Athletic Performance

Leafy greens boost your performance, speed your recovery, reduce inflammation, and eliminate pain. Greens are also the most powerful food for improving blood flow and reversing cardiovascular disease. An all around winner.

A few weeks ago, I finished a 30-mile bike ride and despite not properly training (not recommended), I still felt great. That was amazing considering how exhausting and painful biking once was for me. During my teens and 20s, I was that person walking around marinating in BenGay Ultra Strength Cream. Now, I rarely experience that level of insult and pain. And I’m sure my improvement is related to eating nutrient-dense, plant-based (anti-inflammatory) whole foods.


Leafy Greens

If you are looking for a way to immediately boost your performance, start by eating plenty of leafy greens. Leafy greens are rich in nitrates—compounds that get converted in your body to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide dilates arteries, improves blood flow, reduces inflammation, enhances performance, and speeds recovery.

Nitric Oxide

Increased nitric oxide quickly reverses a number of conditions, like heart disease, high blood pressure, and erectile dysfunction. These diseases are directly linked to the Standard American Diet, (animal products, sugar, salt, fat, fast food, and processed food), causing chronic inflammation of body tissues, narrowed arteries, and decreased blood flow. On the other hand, nitrate-rich foods keep your arteries wide open!

Arugula contains the highest nitrate level of all greens. Some other fantastic greens include Swiss chard, lettuce, spinach, kale, basil, cilantro, collards, mustard greens, and beet greens.

Leafy greens are equally beneficial whether cooked, in a salad, or blended into a smoothie!

leafy greens, salad

When looking for nitrate-rich food, avoid artificial nitrates—chemical preservatives added to processed meats, like hotdogs, cured meats, sausage, and cold cuts. These harmful substances increase your risk for a variety of cancers.

If you are ready to make the most impactful change in your nutrition, start eating an abundance of leafy greens. Watch what happens when these nitrate-rich foods blast your nitric oxide levels and performance through the roof.

By |2019-05-29T13:40:22-05:00June 19th, 2015|Reduce pain and boost energy|4 Comments

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About the Author:

Dr. Carla Hightower, MD, MBA is a certified integrative health coach, speaker, and corporate wellness consultant. She helps busy people develop healthier lifestyle habits and use plant-based nutrition so they can heal themselves. She provides educational information through her health coaching services and an online course on diabetes. In addition she is an engaging speaker on the subject of plant-based food and healthy lifestyle habits that improve health, energy and productivity. In her prior career she practiced anesthesiology for 21 years. In the midst of that career she overcame personal health challenges by adopting a plant-based lifestyle. Also, she observed that most of her patients were suffering from preventable complications of chronic lifestyle diseases. From those experiences she is motivated to teach people how to take full control of their health through better eating and lifestyle habits.


  1. Anita June 19, 2015 at 8:56 pm - Reply

    What a great post! Letting go of unhealthy eating habits and eating the green leafy stuff (and any other veggie) is something I’m struggling with. Thanks for informing us on how important eating “green” is when it comes to athletic performance and overall general health!

    • chightower June 19, 2015 at 9:17 pm - Reply

      Thank you for letting me know that my post was beneficial. That’s such good news. I will definitely write a follow up, highlighting science behind eating greens.

  2. David Pollard June 28, 2015 at 6:26 pm - Reply

    Hey I really like your blog. Let me know when you are making some of this plant-based food. I’ll bring my appetite.:) Also, I read your story about you not liking to work in the medical industry as well. I didn’t know it was that bad and society’s perception of medical doctors is that they are superhuman, big money. Although I know it’s a stressful job, but people would say the benefits, pay and such, balance it out. I guess there is another side to it all. Would love to hear more about that.

    • chightower June 28, 2015 at 11:44 pm - Reply

      David, thank you for your positive feedback. I’m glad you enjoyed the post on leafy greens. I did not intend to shame the medical industry because it is a rewarding career. I was honored and privileged to care for my patients, nevertheless, the declining resources became a truly worrisome issue, especially in community hospital settings.

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