Get Into The Zone… with Natural Energy Boosters!

The world of vitamins, supplements and ‘super foods’ can be a bit of a maze for those who aren’t used to supplementing their nutritional intake. For most runners, a healthy blend of proteins, carbs and essential fats can provide us with the energy we need to tackle everything from an Ironman race to a mini-marathon. It never hurts to obtain the best we can from Nature, however, and this doesn’t mean overspending on expensive items from health shops. In this post, we offer just four items to add you can easily add to your diet, which will boost energy levels, keep stress at bay and even help you achieve an optimal state of mind before a big race. Best of all, they are all affordable and easily accessed.

Natural Stress Busters: One of the most oft-ignored conditions in serious runners is stress – tension, anxiety and even depression can hit before an important run or even during the lead-up to an important event, especially when an athlete feels stuck in a plateau, frustrated because they are not able to improve their times or make progress in areas like strength and stamina. These emotions often cause athletes resort to artificial artificial performance enhancers, in a self-destructive effort to artificially enhance their performance. Steroids carry a host of side-effect which, in the long run, are detrimental to a long, fruitful career in running. There are a host of natural stress busters which can do wonders for a runner’s moods during tense periods. One of these is Sam-E (S-Adenosyl-L-Methionine), an amino acid which occurs naturally in the body and which can become depleted in moments of physical and mental stress. A groundbreaking study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry in 2010 found that Sam-E has powerful anti-depressant effects, producing double the response rate in patients with depression, as compared to those in a placebo group. What makes Sam-E so special is that it is all-natural, and boasts a strong safety record. It has additional perks for runners too, since it confers great benefits to the joints, stopping and even reversing degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis. Omega-3 fatty acids, taken in supplement form and found in foods like walnuts and wild salmon, has also been found to stave off depression, improve the mood and aid with everything from anxiety to sleep disorders and sexual dysfunction.

Amazing AdaptogensAdaptogens are agents which combat stress in a non-specific way, intensifying the body’s ability to resist an array of stressors. Adaptogens are non-toxic and have the unique ability to normalize functions in the body – i.e. they tend to lower blood pressure in those suffering from high blood pressure, and vice-versa, making them such a powerful ally, particularly for those who subject the body to tough physical workouts. Some of the most powerful adaptogens include Panax Ginseng (which boosts the immunity), Echinacea (which boasts powerful antibiotic and antiviral properties, keeping athletes in tip-top condition by enabling them to resist cold and flu bugs) and Eleuthero (which combats joint pain, muscle spasms and fatigue). Panak Ginseng and Eleuthero are most potent when taken in root form. Echinacea can be found in pill or liquid form.

Raw foods: If you’re already sourcing your fruits and vegetables from organic famers, then you’re on to a good thing. To obtain the maximum benefits from these natural bounties, try to consume them raw a few times a week. Raw fruits and vegetables contain around a third more vitamins and minerals than when they are cooked, but you do need to conduct your research beforehand, because this general rule does not apply across the board. According to an important study published in the Journal of Food Science, while some of the most popular veggies (like zucchini, peas, Swiss chard, peppers and cauliflower) lose significant nutritional value when cooked, others, like green beans and garlic, retain their antioxidant powers even after being subjected to most cooking methods. Still other vegetables (including celery, carrot and broccoli) are actually more nutritious when cooked.

Sprouts: When we allow seed, pulses or grains to sprout, they convert into potent energy factories, manufacturing a host of useful nutrients. Additionally, their vitamin content soars. Take wheat grains – sprouting them increases their Vitamin E content threefold! Vitamin B and C content is also increased.

Sprouting additionally neutralizes the abundant ‘enzyme inhibitors’ in foods like chickpeas, mung beans and lentils. Enzyme inhibitors make foods difficult to digest, often causing bloating and discomfort. When it comes to running, it is important to be nutritionally fortified yet light on your feet, so sprouts are a great ally to include in your diet as often as you can. Best of all, you don’t need to spend inordinate amounts on ‘designer sprouts’ at health food stores and supermarkets; rather, you can simply make your own sprouts at home. This helpful post by Biologist, author and popular blogger, Leslie Kenton, will take you a long way towards building your own little garden of sprouts.

By Lily Hardcastle

Recovery Begins On The Inside

Recovery is not only a big part of a successful racing tour, but also of a successful workout week. When does recovery begin? It starts immediately after you cross the finish line. What you do to cool down, rest your mind, and nourish your body is the key to how soon you can train or race again. The first thing I reach for after the race is water and my Vega Performance Protein. This natural plant-based product builds and repairs my muscles and reduces recovery time between my training and races. It is dairy, gluten, and soy free and I love the chocolate. I mix this Vega Sport powder with rice milk, almond milk, or just water to begin the repairing process with its 26 grams of protein per serving. If I do not have the powder, then I reach for water and the Vega Sport Protein Bar with its 15 grams of protein.

Below I am having a Protein Bar after our 8 mile Saturday workout, strength exercises, and flexibility. We were soaked in the Florida heat, but it was good preparation for our 2013 Body Protection Tour that begins in the Middle East early next month.


(Photo by Wayne L. Johnson –

I have been using Vega Sport products since my first running tour in 2008. I take the Vega One nutritional shake first thing in the morning when I awake and then the Vega Sport recovery products after every workout.  Treat your body right and start your recovery from the inside first so you will be able to successfully perform again later!

The Power of Juicing and its Affect on Performance

Whether you are an elite athlete or an amateur enthusiast, one element of your lifestyle that will undoubtedly improve your sporting performance is your diet. Nutrition and lifestyle are key elements to the way in which you can perform physically and mentally, and despite the lengths that people will go to with their training, diet is all too often forgotten about. The basics of nutrition can be found in many different online resources and it’s important to gain a good understanding of what your body requires to perform at its optimum level and then implement this into your diet. If you are looking for an extra boost to your diet that will dramatically improve peak performance and give your body a ‘hit’ of goodness, juicing could be the answer.


What is Juicing?

Juicing is essentially the process of extracting the juice of fruits and vegetables and drinking them. Some nutritionists advocate juice fasting for periods of time for anyone interested in cleansing their bodies or losing weight, and this has been proven successful time and again. Athletes however, use juicing in order to boost their nutrient levels and give their bodies a timely injection of energy before, during, and after sporting activity. Almost all of the nutrients and goodness from the fruit and vegetables remain in the juice but the fiber is taken out, leaving a highly concentrated juice drink.

When you drink a fresh fruit or vegetable juice (which does not contain the fiber) the body is able to transport the vitamins and minerals around the body extremely efficiently. This provides you with a ‘quick fix’ of healthy, vibrant, natural energy. Because the fiber has been extracted from the juice, the digestive system does not have to remove it, meaning less work for the same nutritional goodness. The digestive system uses up to 60% of the body’s energy when it is working hard to digest a big meal, and this is why you often feel lethargic after consuming a large feast. Juicing is a quick and effortless way for you to get an influx of nutrients into the body.


How Can Athletes Utilize Juicing?

Juicing can be used to great effect by athletes who are looking to maximize the body’s potential as it allows you to load the body up with nutrients without using up valuable energy during digestion. You can also consume much more equivalent fruit and vegetables as it is condensed into a refreshing drink. Used as part of a well planned training and nutrition regime, juicing really can provide you with an additional boost just when your body needs it.

Freshly squeezed juices contain huge amounts of electrolytes, which help to rehydrate the body, and getting it from natural juices is the healthiest way. If you are really looking to give the body a boost of nutrients, you can also add in some natural hemp protein powder, spirulina, or wheatgrass powder to help the body to fight fatigue in the aftermath of heavy exercise. Research shows that the optimum time for the body to take in natural proteins in around 30 minutes after exercise, so having a juice drink 30 mins after exercise will be a great way to replenish lost nutrients.

For greatest effect, juices should be consumed on an empty stomach as this is the quickest way for your body to extract the goodness from the liquid. This means that on a race day you can utilize the body boosting power of juicing by consuming a nutrient dense juice one hour before the event, another during the race (if possible) and then another 30 mins after completion, with added natural protein powder if desired. This regime can also be followed on training days.


How to Get Started

There are countless different recipe ideas and combinations out there, with some being particularly good for short term energy boosts, and others for prolonged energy usage. The trick is to try as many different juices as you like and see what works best for your body. Beetroot, cantaloupe, pineapple, kale, spinach, celery, apple, orange, pear, lemon, and watermelon are all great items for athletes to juice as they provide tons of energy for the body. A ‘green juice’ may take a little bit of time to get used to as the flavors are particularly strong, however your body will reward you for sticking with it. You can always start with more fruit based juices and slowly add in your vegetables if you prefer.

Juicing is the perfect way to stock up on nutrients and energy without placing extra demands on the body due to heavy digestion, so if you want to feel light and energetic before and during exercise, give it a go.

By Lily Hardcastle

How To Achieve Peak Performance

We wanted to share what we learned in this 2012 Isles Mile Challenge experiment  that could help you perform at your peak. Remember this is a “buffet” of ideas, please pick or choose what you want that could help you reach your highest level of performance.

1) TRAINING – Our focus in the spring on running up and down the Ringling Bridge to prepare my body for the up and down conditions of the islands worked out great. My training buddy, Wayne, and I set up sprint work, tempo work, and interval work on uneven terrains. We live in Sarasota and train most of the time on surfaces that are very flat, we call the conditions “Florida Flat” (as I have raced in California on so-called flat courses, but they are very up and down compared to Florida).

2) RECOVERY – After 30,000 miles of travel through various time zones, my body held up surprising well. With races every week, one pulled hamstring and the tour was over. No Advil or ice was used  to recover – just massage therapy and my Body Protection program. During an interview the other day, the reporter did not believe me at first when I said that I used no medicine at all on the trip, but after he heard of my training – he understood. Not only on this tour did I not get injured, but I also did not get sick. My immune system stayed strong throughout the travel. I took my Vega One shake every morning, followed a strict vegan diet, and had no alcohol.

3) RACING – Prayer, visualization, and a present focus mentality prepared me for the various race conditions. Each race was different, but my mind was the same. There were times I spent hours on the road race course going through the turns and 1/4 mile splits over and over. I wanted to feel like I had raced on this new course before. Getting familiar with the conditions really assisted me in my racing confidence. Also,my focus on my racing form and technique really helped me to stay fast and strong. Charlie Olbrias (our official timekeeper) said that I looked as fast as I did 3 years ago when he followed me to 27 races in 2009. My mile race times this year backed up his observations and assertions.

Now that the summer is over, it is time to set up your fall training, recovery, and race schedule. Please feel free to ask me any questions on how to optimize your efforts as you try to peak in the last quarter of 2012.

How Nutrition Plays A Vital Role In Your Recovery

We had the special opportunity to hear Brendan Brazier speak in Sarasota on Sunday afternoon sharing snippets from his new book, Thrive Foods. A former professional Ironman triathlete and author of Thrive and Thrive Fitness, Brendan is the creator of a whole food line of nutritional products called Vega. In the photo below, Brendan and I are flanked by Sheri and Leslie from Sequel Naturals.



I have traveled all over the world the last few years as a Vega Ambassador with my nutritional packets of Vega to start my day with Vega’s Health Optimizer – thus replacing any other supplements. Then I finish my workouts with Vega Sport, a natural plant based performance protein, for my recovery phase. These are the main products that I use in the Vega line. Vega products are a great example on one of the topics that Brendan discussed yesterday – high net gain nutrition vs. low net gain nutrition. He believes that with athletes of similar talent, workouts, etc. – the difference is the recovery phase for improved performances. He went on to say that the key to the recovery phase is nutrition – about 80% of the recovery phase is your nutritional intake between workouts.

Please check out his new book, Thrive Foods, on how nutrient dense foods can change your life and the lives of others.

Nutritional Seminar

Vega is an award winning line of plant based nutritional products that has been a long standing sponsor of I will be joining Brendan Brazier, the Formulator of Vega, at his event in Sarasota on November 20th at 2pm at the Glenridge Performing Arts Center as he gives a nutritional seminar based on his new book, Thrive Foods. Brendan will be discussing the importance of nutrient density to ensure healthy eating. RSVP at (941) 924-4754 or via email at if you are in the area and would like to attend.

Also, please check out the 10/24 interview with another of our sponsors, SOLE, as it summarizes our 2011 event, “5 Wonders Under 25 Minutes.” It can be found on the SOLE homepage at

Thank you all for your support in 2011!

What To Eat The Day Before A Big Race?

On our travels for the North American Race in Willimantic, CT, we had the opportunity to stop in for lunch with the Nutrition Consultant, Marc O’Meara. We had a great luncheon meal the day before the big race with his family out in his yard on a beautiful July afternoon. Here is a colorful picture of Marc’s nutritious spread:


  • Menu – Grilled Seasoned Tofu
  • Grilled Marinated Summer Vegetables
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Quinoa and Vegetable Salad
  • Watermelon and Strawberries
  • Water

It was a wonderful way to fuel our bodies for the mile race on the 4th. You can read more about Marc’s ideas about nutrition at or watch the video below as we discussed after the race about what to eat the day before a big race:

Time to Mend

It has been a busy couple of weeks. In my last practice in Florida, I pulled a hip flexor. I still traveled to Boston in an attempt to run at Indoor Nationals. After seeing my Chiropractic Consultant in NH, Dr. Brian Bigelow, he taped my injured areas with kinesiology tape, an amazing tool  (see photo), and said to give it a shot. I ran a couple of laps, but felt the hip was tearing more so I stepped off the track. It was the right move as I have a big event to prepare for starting with our heavy training in May. I have not had many injuries in my life. It is tough to get me to slow down, but I will let things mend over the next couple of weeks.

On my return to Florida, Brendan Brazier, who formulated the vegan products that I use everyday called Vega, was in Sarasota speaking about his new book, Thrive Fitness. I am sponsored by Vega and appreciate Brendan’s work in creating great products for all of us to benefit from in our nutritional intake. The Vega Optimizer is a complete whole food meal replacement made exclusively from natural, plant-based ingredients, Vega is an ideal meal for people on the go, providing high quality convenient nutrition without compromises. Vega features 25g of complete protein, essential fatty acids, fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, probiotics, enzymes and a full dose of ChlorEssence and MacaSure in every serving.


I had three talks scheduled after the race in New England on my new book, Creating Amazement. I had the chance to speak to 1000 kids at my old middle school in NH on the topic of short-term and long-term goal setting. It was a great experience sharing our message.

What to Eat After Exercise?

Race #8 took us to Littleton, MA for the Eat Balanced Nutrition Mile. The Nutrition Consultant for the website, Marc O’Meara, hosted the event on a Thursday evening. After the event, Marc made us a special “post-race” meal in order to speed up my recovery and help me heal my body for another race in a short amount of time.

Check out what Marc has to say in this video about what food is good for recovery, how soon to eat after exercise, and what our bodies need after participating in any sport:

Please visit Marc’s website at for more information on his services.

I Start My Day With Vega

Many of you have written me about how do I start my day as a 46 year old vegan athlete? What do I eat as a vegan athlete? Why am I vegan? One of the big reasons I was able to accomplish my 20/20/20<5@45 event last year was due to my vegan nutritional intake. I have been a vegan now for almost half my life. I began my vegan ways when I was living in India coaching the Junior Davis Cup Tennis Team from 1986-91. Back in the late eighties in Madras, milk was brought to your house in a plastic bag directly from the cow and you had to boil it. Ice cream was one of the easier ways of contracting typhoid. And the Amul cheese was just simply disgusting. So I traveled to India as a lacto-vegetarian (consuming dairy products), and soon became a vegan as I stayed away from the milk, ice cream, and cheese. After my years in India, I tried to eat some dairy products when I returned to the USA, but I found I felt better without any dairy in my diet. From the late eighties until now, I have been a devout vegan athlete.

I grew up on the “traditional American diet.” During my senior year at Bowdoin College, I became more interested in vegetarianism. After college, I became a lacto-vegetarian, then during my time in India evolved into a vegan. I was an easy convert. I could not believe the difference I felt when switched to a solely plant based diet: waking up the same way every day – never groggy, more energy, lighter and faster, more “in tune” with my body, and needing less sleep. I was amazed. My blood type of AB+ is well suited to a vegan diet. So since my late twenties, I have eaten only a plant based diet. It has provided me a solid foundation to build my active lifestyle.

Now at 46, I am always searching for new products that can add quality to my life. After I completed my 20/20/20 quest in 2008, a friend of mine told me about Vega products. Vega is part of Sequels Natural Ltd. based in Vancouver, Canada. I tried their all-in-one plant based formula and I could really feel the difference quickly. In early 2009, I had a meeting arranged for me with Vega founder Brendan Brazier. 

I have tried almost all of the vegan protein shakes. After my testing, I chose the best one – the Complete Whole Food Health Optimizer from Vega in the chocolate flavor. This is how I start my morning. I pour vanilla rice milk in my shaker bottle, mix with a scoop of the Vega Optimizer, shake it well (I like it the “James Bond, way” – shaken, not stirred) and drink down this clean alkaline-forming drink. It is the first thing into my body. And prepares my body for excellence.

This is how I begin every day during my grueling “SmoothToe New England Marathon…One Mile At A Time.” Recovery is the key as I try to run sub 5 minutes for the mile 27 times over 2 months. Feel free to check out Vega products on our “online shopping” page or at our “sponsors page” at or at

All the best with your healthy and energy providing diet. It will provide a foundation that allows you to reach your highest aspirations!