What Happens When Functional Foods Meet Functional Fitness

We’ve been talking over the last year about the health benefits of eating vegetables in their many different forms, whether fresh, juiced, blended or, of course, as powders.

On a personal level, I’m a great lover of veg, and not just because I work in agriculture. My mantra at home―the one that makes my kids roll their eyes―is “Gotta have a veg!” At my house, we eat a veggie with every meal because, if I’m promoting the value of vegetables in my profession, I think it’s important to practice what I preach in my personal life and my diet, too.

That being said, as much as I love my vegetables, I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian. A label for me might be flexitarian: plant-based, a little fish, a little red meat. (As if being spoiled with fresh vegetables in California weren’t enough, we’re also spoiled with killer Mexican food and plenty of wine―and I love them both.)

But, on top of my already plant-heavy diet, I’ve been experiencing a whole new level of veggie power lately with the inclusion of plant-based supplements to support training in CrossFit.

First, a little bit about CrossFit. CrossFit describes itself as a style of “functional training,” which means training to increase performance in daily activities. Workouts are high-repetition and high-intensity (HIIT), including multi-joint barbel and gymnastics work like rings, pull-ups, dips and heavy weightlifting. What I like about it, specifically, is the variety. Forget running on a treadmill and doing the same tired set of crunches every day; that’s nothing like what CrossFit promotes. The idea is to keep you moving, to keep you interested and avoid boredom.

CrossFit’s promise of functional training for everyday life is no joke, I’ve found. After all that gymnastics and HIIT, I’m better equipped to go out and wrench on cultivators. I can walk fields better because I’m stretched out, with stronger legs. When I sit at my desk, my posture is taller and my core is stronger. It’s not at all about having the biggest biceps or how much I can bench press―those days are in my rearview mirror. Instead, it’s about how well my training translates into better performance in my life on a daily basis. When I get home I can lift my kids up on my shoulders with ease; they think I have superhuman strength, which feels pretty rad.

I started CrossFit in 2013 at Brethren Crossfit in Morgan Hill, CA but became more serious about it 18 months ago when I set my sights on competing in the NorCal Masters Competition for the first time. As I started training for the event, I explored the wave of new plant-based supplements on the market and have found two that significantly increase my performance.

One product, made by Onnit Labs out of Austin, Texas, is called Shroom Tech. With 1.2 grams of energy- and endurance-promoting (and, incidentally, cancer-fighting) cordyceps mushroom per serving, this product increases my cardio threshold, making it possible for me to work harder and longer when I take capsules 45 minutes before my workout. Another supplement I use is HumanN SuperBeets, also out of Austin. This product is really, really good when mixed in with my standard whey protein I drink every day, and obviously contains beets, about which we’ve already discussed the nutritional and cardiovascular benefits.

The plant-based and functional foods market is all about consuming a plant-based diet to improve daily lifestyle, just as CrossFit promotes functional fitness for daily function. At the NorCal Masters Competition, I watched 60+-year-old men and women run circles around me as a result of discipline in their diet and in their training, and I’ve certainly benefited from the marriage of both, too. In my first competition, my goals were 1) not to throw up in front of everybody, and 2) not to come in last. I accomplished both!

And for next year? I plan to pop the top 20.

For 2019 I’ll be at the top end of my age bracket for the 35-39 year old males so I have to compete with the new kids entering at 35 years old. That means carne asada burritos and Cabernet will take a backseat (think, like, the third row, waaaaay back) to cauliflower crumbles and eggs for breakfast, wild arugula and beets for lunch and a good hunk of meat/fish with some grilled veggies for dinner, in addition to my SuperBeets and Shroom Tech supplements. I’m always thankful for the versatility of fresh vegetables (e.g. served hot, cold, raw, cooked, grilled, seasoned, mixed and matched) but with the addition of plant-based supplements to my diet―and the strength they afford me to live and move better than ever before―I’m doubly grateful.

Newsletter Sign-up