By harnessing the power of your weekly shop and with a bit of kitchen prep, you can boost your fitness by making your own performance-enhancing drugs – all completely legal and with no nasty side effects
The drug: Anabolics
This, of course, is what most people mean when they say ‘steroids’ – the muscle-boosting drugs used by everyone from sprinters to bodybuilders. They do boost muscle growth, but they can also cause infertility, baldness and excess body hair. As well as being illegal, of course.
The substitute: Bison
This pasture-raised, organic variety of beef is arguably the world’s best muscle-builder. It’s high in omega 3 fats – which enhance anabolic signalling after training – and provides body-building creatine, glutamine and glycine. It’s also higher in protein than beef, containing 21.6g against 19.6g per 100g. Get two bison burgers for £4.30 from keziefoods.co.uk.
The drug: HGH
Your body produces growth hormone naturally – but that’s not enough for some athletes, who use the synthetic version to boost muscle growth. Unfortunate side effects include unexpected facial growth, which makes it tricky for dopers to deny they’ve been using it.
The substitute: Greek yogurt and pineapple
This works best as a pre-bed snack. According to research published in the Journal Of Clinical Endocrinology, pineapple boosts night-time serotonin and melatonin production, which assists the production of HGH. The yogurt is full of L-glutamine, which many studies have linked to HGH-boosting effects.
The drug: TRT
The bad news: once you hit your 30s, your testosterone levels start their inevitable decline, affecting your muscle mass, body fat levels and virility in ways you won’t like. If it’s causing you a medical problem, doctors can prescribe testosterone replacement therapy (TRT), but there’s a downside – if your body gets too much T from therapy, it’ll downgrade production even further.
The substitute: Venison and broccoli
Meat is great for testosterone, but a University of Utah study suggests that too much of the saturated fat found in beef can reduce its effects. Venison, however, sits right in the sweet spot. The broccoli contains indole-3-carbinol, a phytochemical that strengthens testosterone’s muscle-building effects and reduces the damage caused by oestrogen. For added flavour, cook both in butter and sprinkle parmesan on the broccoli.
The drug: EPO
There’s a reason every crooked Tour de France team kept a synthetic version of the naturally occurring hormone erythropoietin (EPO) in their saddlebags – it regulates red blood cell production, allowing more oxygen to be carried to the muscles, which improves endurance. The downside? Overdo it and your blood turns to sludge.
The substitute: Scrambled eggs and peppers
The most common dietary intervention for increasing red blood cell production in athletes is similar to the one for treating anaemia, and that means getting the form of iron known as haem (or heme) from egg yolks or red meat. For an extra boost, improve your body’s ability to absorb it with vitamin C-rich peppers.
The drug: Adderall
Initially prescribed to ADHD-afflicted children, this ‘smart’ drug is now the secret weapon of overachieving high-schoolers and executives. But there’s a chance the effect is all placebo – in a US study, users did no better in cognitive tests.
The substitute: Blueberries and almonds
Blueberries are the fruit highest in anthocyanins, flavonoids that can enhance memory, help rejuvenate brain cells and reduce the risk of dementia. Almonds are high in tyrosine, an amino acid that helps production of dopamine – the feelgood chemical produced by adderall.
From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.
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