Can The Best Extra Virgin Olive Oil Really Make Our Heart, Muscles and Bones Stronger?
Updated 23rd September 2021
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Athletics Throughout History
- So How, Exactly, Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Strengthen Your Body’s Athletic Performance?
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gives Athletes The Energy They Need
- Polyphenols in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Help Muscle Recovery
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil Protects Athletes Cardiovascular System
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil Helps Build Muscle
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil Prevents Oxidative Stress
Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Athletics Throughout History
«Νοῦς ὑγιής ἐν σώματι ὑγιεῖ». That’s the ancient Greek saying which means “a healthy mind in a healthy body” and underlines the necessity for keeping both your mind and body in shape. Greece has a great tradition in sports, considering they were the ones who introduced The Olympic Games, as well as in extra virgin olive oil. They certainly had an active lifestyle.
That is why the winners of the first Olympic Games, held in 776 BC were crowned with branches of the sacred olive trees. The winners of the Great Panathinea, a sports event held in Athens in honour of the goddess Athena were also gifted with largely decorated amphoras filled with extra virgin olive oil.
This olive oil was produced from specific olive trees growing on the famous rock of the Acropolis. Those trees were considered sacred and the value of the olive oil, being symbolic and pecuniary was extremely high, as no one else but the winners could possess it. Even nowadays, Marathon winners in the Olympic Games, are crowned with olive branches, continuing a tradition of 3000 years.
However, the olive trees and oil did not have only symbolic and pecuniary significance. The ancient athletes also applied olive oil on their skin before a competition to protect their muscles and they regularly consumed pure extra virgin olive oil.
Today, extra virgin olive oil remains as beneficial to today’s athlete as ever and the Mediterranean diet, rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and extra virgin olive oil as the only source of fat, is the ideal food model. In fact, good nutrition is an integral part of training which improves the mental well-being and ensures a better performance.
So How, Exactly, Does Extra Virgin Olive Oil Strengthen Your Body’s Athletic Performance?
So much has already been researched and written showing how an active lifestyle can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and Cancer – in some cases by up to 50 per cent.
But, if we take a step back and ask how we can help our bodies to be more active in the first place, simply with our nutritional choices. By choosing the best olive oil we can afford, we are giving our body and mind an essential fuel.
Olive oil is now probably the most widely researched superfood on the planet and its many health benefits are evidence based and well understood. Thanks to the recent spotlight on the Mediterranean Diet, extensive research has been done on the phytonutrient composition of olive oil. What has been discovered is an extensive list of phytonutrients; one of the most praised is its polyphenols. The amount of polyphenols found in Extra Virgin Olive Oil is truly amazing!
Several of the polyphenols found in olive oil including hydroxytyrosol, oleuropein and luteolin have shown to be especially helpful in avoiding unhealthy blood clotting by keeping our blood platelets in check.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Gives Athletes The Energy They Need
In normal adult diet, fats represent between 25% and 30% of the total energy intake. This energy intake cannot be replaced by another type of food, since fatty acids are essential to maintain proper health.
That is why we must consume excellent quality fats. As you may know if you’ve done a bit of prior research, we must avoid saturated fats (pastries, butter, meat, coconut or palm oil). Instead, we should take healthier ones such as monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (blue fish and nuts).
Whether you are training for a competition or just building your fitness and strength for wellbeing and health, your results will be influenced by the diet you eat.
Choosing foods which are rich in healthy fats, such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, can help improve your body’s potential in many ways, including muscle recovery and increased energy levels.
This is particularly good news for runners who are considering following a Mediterranean diet to improve performance. According to a recent report in Runner’s World, the range of foods and good fats from nuts, seeds and extra virgin olive oil can benefit runners in a number of ways.
By substituting heavily processed fats in meats and refined grains with more fruit, vegetables and fish, runners can increase their carbohydrate intake, providing the quick-burning fuel that they need.
According to Lori Russell M.S., RD, CSSD, CPT : “The boost to heart health and the cardiovascular system as a whole is the biggest benefit for athletes.”
One study found that following a Mediterranean Diet improved 5K running times when compared to eating a standard Western diet. The significant quantity of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants obtained from eating the Mediterranean way can also potentially boost endurance energy and a person’s ability to stay mentally strong in performance, says Russell.
Polyphenols in Extra Virgin Olive Oil Help Muscle Recovery
The high antioxidant content in Extra Virgin Olive Oil, specifically the presence of polyphenols, can contribute to a quick recovery for athletes.
In the context of exercise performance, the primary role of polyphenols is to act as an antioxidant. Exercise causes damage to muscle cells, releasing destructive free radicals into the circulatory system. Left unchecked, these highly reactive molecules can wreak havoc on cells and various bodily processes.
Antioxidant polyphenols neutralize free radicals by converting them into more stable molecules. Therefore, if you supplement with these powerful compounds, you can reduce oxidative damage from free radicals, decreasing overall damage and promoting faster recovery.
Additionally, the Mediterranean diet can even boost the health of the families of runners, according to a 2021 study in the International Journal of Obesity. Relatives of those who stuck to the diet for two years were more apt to lose weight, too.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil Protects Athletes Cardiovascular System
For an athlete, maintaining the circulatory system in good shape is a must. During an intensive sport practice, the circulatory system is put to the test. The heart rate increases and the heart pumps more blood into the aortas, which must be ready to accept the increased blood flow.
Extra virgin olive oil is one of the most important foods in a diet in order to prevent cardiovascular diseases. The moderate intake of this oil on a day to day basis reduces by 30% the chance of suffering a myocardial infraction, a stroke or a cerebral infraction, and it helps to keep cholesterol at bay and avoid the formation of clots and atherosclerotic plaques.
One of the polyunsaturated fats that extra virgin olive oil contains – Omega 3 – is what helps to train and maintain muscles. This is especially important for an athlete, who is exposed to significant wear and tear.
As the intensity of the exercise increases, we consume a greater amount of oxygen but also increase our production of free radicals as a result. These radicals are responsible for fatigue, but also for aging and cardiovascular diseases.
Research carried out by Jesús de la Osada, Professor of Biochemistry at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Zaragoza, concluded that the polyphenol hydroxytyrosol which is present in high quality extra virgin olive oil like Morocco Gold prevents oxidative stress by combating these free radicals.