Juicing right

April 09, 2014, 10 a.m. (ET)

By Shawn Dolan, PhD, RD, CSSD, USOC sport dietitian
& Meghan Donovan, MS, USA Volleyball dietetic intern
Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Summer 2013 issue.

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As more juice bar chains open and specialty juices are promoted to enhance performance, more athletes on the U.S. National Volleyball Teams seem to be asking what I think about drinking juices as a good way to improve their overall diet. There are a variety of reasons why drinking juice can be beneficial for athletes, but there are just as many reasons why it may not be the right choice for you! After reading this article, you can make wise choices as to what juices you choose and how much you drink.

Let’s start with one of the obvious benefits. By drinking 100 percent fruit or vegetable juices, you can increase your fruit and vegetable intake. This may be an easy and time-efficient way to boost your fruit and veggies servings into a more optimal range. An 8-ounce veggie juice or another green salad? For some athletes, that’s an easy choice. 

 Berry Spinach Smoothie
 1 cup frozen berries (Blueberry or strawberry)
 1 banana
 1 cup water
 2 handfuls spinach or kale
 Optional - 1/2 cup of OJ for 1/2 the water

It’s even more of a factor when you consider the quantity of food you need to consume in order to get a lot of nutrients. Take tart cherries, for example. They provide a great source of anti-oxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties, which have the potential to decrease muscle soreness. In order to benefit from tart cherries, you would need to eat 80 to 100 tart cherries to get maximum anti-inflammatory benefits. That’s a lot of cherries. So it might be preferable to have a 16-ounce drink of tart cherry juice after an intense workout to reap the benefits.

Beet juice is unique in that it has the potential to improve certain types of athletic performance. Blending juices from different fruits and vegetables is another option, and it allows you to increase the health benefits – the more ingredients, the more vitamins, nutrients and minerals you’re getting – and it’s also a way to experiment with combinations so you can find a drink that tastes best to you. By blending fruits and vegetables you maintain the fiber that is beneficial for digestive health.

A lot of athletes are interest in juicing at home. This can be a good way to always have access to a juice drink, however, remember that juicing fruits and vegetables removes the fiber from your fruit. You can always add some of the pulp that is extracted back into your juice or use it in baked goods and soups. The great thing about juicing at home is that very few of your fruits and veggies go to waste. If they start to look tired, throw them in the juicer.

One other thing to remember if you’re juicing at home is that homemade juices have not been pasteurized, so they sh9ould be consumed within the day. Even if you put them in the refrigerator, they can still develop bacteria that can cause food poisoning. And always remember to wash the fruits and vegetables in hot water before putting them in the juicer.


Green Juice 
 One bunch kale
 One whole lemon
 2-3 apples
 2-3 stalks celery or one cucumber
 2-3 thick quarter slices of fresh Ginger
 Handful of herbs - cilantro or parsley

Whether you’re buying juice at the store or making it at home, don’t lose track of calories. Juice is a good supplement to your diet if your goal is to gain weight, but if you’re trying to maintain your weight or shed a few pounds it’s important to keep in mind that you don’t often feel as full when drinking your calories as you do when you eat them. Sometimes the body doesn’t do a good job recognizing calories (energy) from liquid sources.

Also when buying fruit juices at the store, check the label carefully. A lot of fruit juices have very little fruit juice but do have sugar that adds unnecessary calories. Look for juices that are 100 percent juice. They might be a blend of juices rather than just one, and that’s okay – but make sure it’s juice that doesn’t have added sugar in the ingredient list.

Juice isn’t a replacement for water. You still need to drink plain water.

It’s also not a replacement for a sports drink that you might consume during a match or practice. The concentration of carbohydrates in juice is often more than twice that of a sports drink, so it can cause gastrointestinal distress when consumed during activity.

Remember, fruit and vegetable juices can be part of an athlete-fueling plan. Just choose wisely and drink up.

Originally published in VolleyballUSA, Summer 2013 issue.
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