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International ultra runner and Active Root Ambassador Nathan talks about the benefits of ginger on athletic performance.
It began in the desert!
I was aware of the anti-inflammatory benefits of ginger but to be honest I hadn't used it as an aid in this practice. It wasn't until 2017, when a friend of mine, Susie Chan, on the advice of twice Marathon Des Sables winner Elisabet Barnes, was eating a piece of crystallised ginger at the end of each day in the race to help settle her stomach. Owing to the extreme temperatures, the physical demands of racing each day and the challenge to your digestive system of consuming energy on the move and when our body is very depleted, it not surprising stomach complaints are commonplace. In the past I will admit I was not the biggest fan of ginger, but I enjoyed it in cakes and biscuits, remember fondly loving the Jamaican Ginger cake on the market we would always get, and loved ginger crunch creams round my Grandma's as a child.
Having suffered with bowel and digestive issues throughout my 20's and early 30's, I was diagnosed as Coeliac. Over the years not only my digestive system was affected but physical complications occurred resulting in surgery. My brain function and coordination were affected. Concentration and memory was poor. Lethargy and tiredness was commonplace. Naturally my absorption of nutrients was weakened and therefore my physical performances in my athletic career was inhibited and inconsistent. At the time I was an International ultra runner, but suffered from multiple stress fractures which indirectly I can draw back to inhibited absorption of nutrients.
My gastric issues are under relative control on a gluten and lactose free diet since 2014. My performances, and recovery have improved and are much more consistent. However, I am still prone to bouts of physical issues owing to contamination and the sensitivity of my digestive system and hormones. So going back to the desert and Susie Chan's, ultimately, Elisabets advice, I decided to 'give ginger a go'. During the MDS I tried some and quite enjoyed the taste and on returning home I decided to get out and buy some.
The problem when I train and my digestive system is out of sync, my fluid and energy intake is inhibited. I find it difficult to drink and eat. Here I now turn to crystallised ginger. A few chunks, between 1-3 and I get a little bit of energy and the great benefits which I have noticed help settle my stomach and later on in the day I am able to eat and drink normally again.
Daily I take a bite to preempt any issues knowing it will also help with the anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, at races now I always carry a few chunks in case of any upset during the course of the race. I have had at least 3 race performances seriously affected by gastric issues since 2014 and now I think I have another means of helping to control this. Recently, during a 400km race in China across the Gobi desert, I believe any potential gastric upset was contained through the crystallised ginger and in addition, an ongoing benefit to help reduce inflamed soft tissue and more en route.
I am ecstatic there is now a sports drink on the market, not only with the great properties of ginger to help myself and of course other athletes and sports people out there, but with great natural ingredients. From my own experience of unnatural products these other ingredients can have a contradictory effect on performance and recovery. It is an absolute pleasure to be part of the Active Root team and supporting the brand.
Keep an eye out for Nathan's upcoming article on 5 tips on preparing for your first ultra...