If you are an athletic person, whether a professional or an amateur, then you must be fed up with companies trying to sell you their amazing, one of a kind, life changing, must-have nutritional supplement!
One of the more recent trends in the supplements industry are the so-called super greens. Offered in raw powder form (for use in smoothies or shakes) as well as capsules, super greens are claimed to have many health benefits, but how much of that is actually scientifically backed?
Super Greens in a Nutshell
“Super greens” and “green superfoods” are just fancy marketing terms, which in the nutrition world are used to refer to powders that consist of several vegetables, fruits and herbs; either in raw powdered form or as extracts.
There isn’t anything really “super” about greens supplements. They just pack many nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits and other natural ingredients in an easy-to-use powder form.
Since many people don’t consume enough veggies and fruits these days, they are missing out on several essential, health-boosting nutrients.
Adding a greens supplement to your diet can make up for the lack of green foods in it. Although you’ll still be missing out on fiber and other nutrients found in fresh veggies and fruits, it’s still arguably better than nothing.
These powders can easily mix with water, making them a healthy addition to smoothies, shakes, and other drinks. More often than not, the powder has a grassy taste, so they may not be very enjoyable taste wise.
The Benefits of Super Greens
Greens formulas contain various nutrients and bioactive compounds that support overall wellness and may provide several health benefits.
The benefits gained from any greens supplement are not exclusive, i.e. you can have the same benefits, and even more, by simply eating lots of fresh vegetables and fruits on a daily basis.
Individuals who do not consume enough fresh greens in their diet may benefit the most from adding these supplements to their regimen.
The following are some of the general, and again non-exclusive, benefits of greens products:
Greens powders are generally rich in several vitamins and minerals that are essential for a well-functioning, healthy body.
Not all products contain all the essential vitamins and minerals, and quantities vary per product, so it’s important to check the label if you have specific requirements for certain nutrients.
Immune Function Support
Vitamins A, C and D have been found to enhance the function of the immune system. These vitamins are found in their natural form in many plants and plant-based (greens) supplements.
Herbal and plant extracts used in greens supplements are loaded with natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, which may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases associated with oxidative stress.
Some neurodegenerative and cardiovascular diseases have been linked to oxidative stress. Consuming foods or supplements high in antioxidants may help protect the heart, brain and whole body from disorders and infections.
Greens provide the body with important nutrients that play a role in maintaining energy levels, however, they may not be particularly effective as energy boosters.
Some formulas contain ingredients with energizing and stamina-enhancing effects, such as green tea extract, ginseng and others.
pH Balance Support
It has been shown that vegetables and fruits in general increase the body’s alkalinity and increase urinary pH.
Greens may improve acid-alkaline balance and help the body get rid of toxins, although the supporting evidence is not conclusive.
Greens for Endurance Athletes
During exercise, contracting skeletal muscles produce free radicals that lead to oxidative damage in muscle fibers and contribute to muscular fatigue during prolonged physical activity.
Exercise naturally prompts the body to produce antioxidant enzymes to counteract oxidative damage caused by pro-oxidants like free radicals.
It has been suggested that increasing the body’s antioxidant capacity through supplementation may help delay muscular fatigue and improve performance during endurance training, however, human studies failed to reach a conclusive answer to whether this is the case or not.
In short, antioxidant-rich greens powders do not seem to result in a significant improvement in performance during endurance exercise.
Greens for Strength Athletes
If you are more of a bodybuilder or a strength athlete, then you want to make sure that your muscles can readily adapt and grow as you exercise.
As it turns out, the oxidative stress that occurs in muscle tissues as they constantly contract helps regulate some physiological processes that stimulate muscle adaptation, repair and growth.
Taking antioxidants shortly before or after exercise can inhibit the muscle growth-stimulating effect of oxidative stress and decrease other positive effects of exercise.
It may be counterproductive for people looking to build muscle to take any supplement with antioxidants before or after workout as it may slow down gains.
Since greens powders are rich in antioxidants, they are not recommended as pre-workout or post-workout supplements.
So, Are Greens Powders Worth it for Athletic People?
As said earlier, greens are a good source of many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other plant compounds that are beneficial for maintaining overall health.
As far as athletic performance is concerned, consuming greens powders does not seem to provide any significant performance benefits, and may slow down the muscle building process if taken during exercise.
Athletes who maintain a well-balanced diet and eat plenty of fresh greens aren’t likely to achieve any remarkable benefits by taking greens supplements.
If you are unable to meet the recommended daily intake of vegetables and fruits, then greens powders can be a convenient way to compensate for some of the health-promoting nutrients you are missing out on.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these supplements are not complete substitutes for vegetables, fruits and herbs, which contain dietary fiber and other beneficial natural compounds you won’t find in packaged formulas.