Heart of Fitness

Your heart beats, on average, about once a second. If you make it to 80, your heart has beaten more than 2.5 billion times. That’s more than the number of times any other muscle in your body will contract during your lifetime, no matter how much you bench press. So why is it that bodybuilders often take their hearts for granted? Partly, we suppose, it’s a result of believing that it gets exercise while they’re focusing on other bodyparts. That’s partially true; your heart gets worked no matter what you’re doing, which should mean that those who work out regularly have healthy hearts. But just to make sure, try taking these supplements, most of which also offer other training advantages.

Lycopene helps increase the elasticity of blood vessels, and recent studies on this food-based supplement indicate that taking it may help improve blood vessels’ function, allowing easier, more “fluid” flow to working muscles. While the study demonstrates benefits for reducing heart disease, it’s also easy to see that lycopene may support exercise performance. Tomatoes, especially in concentrated forms like sun-dried and sauces, are great food sources of lycopene. For supplements, look for those that provide 20 to 40 milligrams and take once per day with meals.

Taking these essential fatty acids, which are so vastly underrepresented in the American diet, decreases levels of triglycerides, which are associated with risk of cardiovascular disease and many forms of cancer. They also have been shown to assist with maintaining muscle mass and assisting fat burning. The easiest way to do this is to take 2 to 3 grams of fish oil two to three times a day with meals.

Those interested in adding muscle mass understand that arginine increases nitric-oxide production, which relaxes blood vessels. This allows greater delivery of blood and nutrients to working muscles. But it also improves endothelial function, reducing blood pressure and the risk of coronary heart disease. Arginine also helps blunt the harmful effects of aging that can accumulate over time. Support your heart by taking 3 to 5 grams of arginine before and after workouts. On rest days, take one 3- to 5-gram dose in the morning on an empty stomach.

These are only a few of the many supplements that support heart health. The combination of a healthy whole-food nutrition program (high in protein and healthy fats), with these supplements will help keep your ticker ticking well past those 2.5 billion beats.