Lou. With inverted coffee cup.
I had some questions about swimming performance and cardiology over the weekend and I decided to go to an expert to get some answers. I had a nice phone conversation with Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn who is a fairly well known expert on heart matters and exercise (he was a gold medal Olympian, after all...) who has had a long tenure at the Cleveland Clinic. We discussed many aspects of diet as they relate to cardiac health and declining performance. I got many great pointers for vastly improving my diet but the thing that was most interesting to me, in the moment, was information he gave me about the role of nitric oxide in coronary artery health and the ability of arteries to dilate effectively.
Apparently the endothelial tissue in arteries makes it's own nitric oxide but, like most good things, it gets progressively reduced by aging. Nasty stuff this aging. But the good news is that by aggressively adding foods rich in nitrates to one's diet the body is quite capable of converting the nitrates to nitric oxide. The advantages are healthier blood flow, less damage to blood vessels from the aches and pains of aging, and because of the increased ability to dilate well, and stably, better endurance for exercise....and life.
The plant with the most nitrates are generally the leafy greens like kale, arugula, Brussel sprouts, and the like. One powerful source is found in beets. Not cooked beets as the cooking changes the bioavailability but in unaltered beet juice. I immediately went to the local Whole Foods to buy more kale and beet juice. The beet juice I like best has added ginger and turmeric which are also very good antioxidants. I've been on the recommended amount of beet juice since yesterday morning and while I'm sure this is somewhat from the placebo effect, but my workout this morning felt a lot less arduous that the same basic workouts I did in the pool through last week.
But what does this have to do with the coffee cup? In the course of our conversation Dr. Esselstyn suggested that coffee isn't that great for you and that by eliminating the caffeine I might have less overall load on my heart while exercising and, well, doing everything else. I thought I should give that a try as well.
I cut out the caffeine on Saturday and after the headaches and lethargy I went through on Sunday I felt better yesterday and back to normal today. I'm drinking a "no buzz" blend of decaf coffee because having coffee with people is part of the structure of my existence. But it's the people in front of me that are important, not necessarily the blend in my cup.
So, today's report is: Beet juice is an acquired taste. Beet juice turns body waste pink. I swam equally fast today but with less effort. My resting pulse is about two beats per minute slower. I want to take a nap.