THE BENEFITS of juicing are no secret, namely that it's an extremely efficient way to get a full serving of fruits and vegetables. For athletes, liquid fuel makes even more sense. Cherry juice, for example, helps reduce inflammation, which can speed up muscle recovery. And beet juice is one of the few natural performance enhancers, thanks to high levels of nitrates, which improve blood flow in the body. "There probably wasn't an endurance athlete in the London Olympics who wasn't on beet juice," says Malachy McHugh, director of research at Manhattan's Nicholas Institute of Sports Medicine and Athletic Trauma.
Today there are dozens of companies hawking bottled concoctions at the grocery store, but here's the reason to do it yourself: heat and sunlight degrade nutrients and antioxidant compounds, so packaged juices aren't as potent as the fresh stuff. After testing more than a dozen of the top juicers on the market, here are our three favorites.
Breville Juice Fountain Plus ($150)
The Juice Fountain is a centrifugal juicer, which means that it simultaneously shreds and strains with a spinning filter. And this beast is shockingly powerful. At 12,000 rpm, it will pulverize whole apples, beets, and even fistfuls of carrots in seconds. The pulp bin is large enough to avoid mid-juice dumps, and it cleans easily. The only downside: it spins so fast that it sometimes creates a froth. But if you're trying to squeeze in a quick juice after a morning run, this one's for you.
Omega VERT VRT350 ($380)
BEST FOR: The Purist
No bells or whistles here: with just a single speed setting (on) the Vert keeps it simple. By processing foods at an extremely slow 80 rpm, the resulting juice is more nutrient rich and can be stored longer—Omega claims up to 72 hours. Two screens, fine and coarse, allow you to choose between low and moderate fiber. To top it off, the design is compact and clutter-free.
Tribest GSE-5000 Green Star Elite ($550)
BEST FOR: The Multitasker
Similar in size and shape to a sewing machine, this multipurpose masticating juicer (the food gets squeezed between two rotating gears) can make everything from nut butter and mochi to, with an optional accessory, pasta. It's surprisingly quiet at 110 rpm, and it comes with three different screens for juicing various foods (think mangoes versus kale). The price tag is hefty, but the Green Star Elite is durable and worth the expense if you'll use it for more than just recovery drinks.
Three basic concoctions to get you started on the path of Juicedom
Race-Day Performance Hit
1/2 lemon, pulped
Daily Immune Booster
3 kale leaves
Post-Race Recovery Blast
2 cups tart cherries (seeds removed)
1 cup blueberries
1 inch ginger root