Sports Nutrition Tips
A quick and easy way to ensure you get a balance of nutrition with any meal is the visually balance your plate. Here's how it works: 1/2 of your plate should be filled with colorful fruits and vegetables, 1/4 with a whole grain, and 1/4 with lean protein. A healthful fat, such as olive or canola oil, salad dressing, or avocado can be lightly distributed in the meal; and a calcium source should be included with at least 2 of your meals. When you are doing a high level of cardiovascular training, your needs change to 1/2 of your plate filled with carbohydrate (whole grains when you can), 1/4 with colorful fruits/vegetables, and 1/4 with lean protein. The rest is the same. By Amy Culp, RD, LD
It turns out that your mom was right about one thing - breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day - especially for athletes. Breakfast litereally breaks the fast from sleeping. This act gets the metabolism revving and provides fuel for working muscles if you enjoy working out in the morning or early afternoon. Studies have shown that those who eat breakfast, compared with those who skip, are better able to manage their weight. The reason is likely due to a slight increased metabolism, but more because those that eat breakfast regularly end up eating less throughout the day than those who skip. A nicely balanced sports nutrition breakfast typically includes whole grains, lean protein, fruit, and a source of calcium. Here are some ideas for grab and go breakfasts:
- Hot or cold (look for high fiber – at least 5 grams per serving)
- Add milk, nuts and fruit (dried or fresh)
Peanut Butter Banana Wrap
- Roll a banana in peanut butter
- Then roll it in your favorite high fiber cereal
- Wrap it up in a tortilla (whole wheat if possible)
- Spray Mazola No Stick or Pam into a coffee mug.
- Crack an egg into the mug and scramble.
- Put the mug into the microwave oven, cook on full power for 1 minute.
- While egg is cooking, place an English muffin (whole grain) in toaster.
- Remove toasted English muffin from toaster.
- Place a piece of cheese on one side of toasted English muffin.
- Turn cooked egg onto cheese topped muffin and top with the other side of muffin.
- Grab a container of cow’s or soy milk to balance the meal.
- Come up with your own varieties by combining your favorite fruit (fresh or frozen) with nonfat plain yogurt for protein.
- Here’s one example:
- Combine 2 medium bananas, 1 small container nonfat plain yogurt, 1 ½ cups cow’s or soy milk, dash of cinnamon or nutmeg. Blend well.
Layer yogurt, fresh fruit, cereal, and nuts in a cup, grab a spoon and go!
- Enjoy your favorite combination, but instead of having two (or more), balance this traditional breakfast with fresh fruit and a container of cow’s or soy milk.
- Choose whole grain waffles when possible
- Top with peanut butter and sliced fruit (banana, peaches or strawberries are portable) instead of syrup.
- Grab a container of cow’s or soy milk to balance the meal.
- Choose whole wheat when possible
- Try these ideas for variety:
- Ham/light cheese (microwave)
- Apple/light cheese/cinnamon (microwave)
- Light cream cheese/blueberries/blackberries
- Light veggie cream cheese/chopped broccoli
- Light cream cheese/turkey/spinach
- Balance with a glass of cow’s or soy milk
Bagels or Toast
- Choose whole grain when possible
- Top with:
- peanut butter and banana slices
- light cream cheese; pair with fresh fruit
- Balance the meal with cow’s or soy milk
"Energy" or "nutrition" bars are a handy form of quick fuel for athletes. There are literally hundreds of options on the market, but it is important to pay attention to the ingredients label before choosing a bar. A few ingredients to limit or avoid are high fructose corn syrup, palm kernal oil, and partially hydrogenated oils. Also, bars that have chocolate coatings are typically higher in saturated ("bad" fat). Soy protein isolate is a common protein source utilized, but it can often cause gastrointestinal distress for athletes. Look for bars that use whole ingredients - such as whole nuts and fruits, and whole grains. If you are following a gluten free diet, here are some options available:
- Perfect 10
- Hammer Bar
- Clif Nectar
- EnvirKids Rice Cereal Bar
- Omega Smart Bars
- Clif Builder's Bar
- Extend Bar
- Lara Bar
Preventing Cramps and Side Stitch
Most athletes have experienced the pain of muscle cramps and/or a side stitch. There are some things you can do to prevent them from occurring again.
A muscle cramp is caused when muscles are involuntarily and forcibly contracted and then not relaxed. Cramps are most likely to occur in tired muscles, therefore a lack of training or exercising at high workloads can increase the likelihood. Inadequate stretching may also contribute to cramps. Dehydration, when fluid and sodium losses are high, can also contribute to cramping.
Preventing muscle cramps:
• Increase strength, fitness, and endurance with proper training.
• Allow adequate recovery time and rest for muscles after hard training sessions
• Stay well hydrated by determining your sweat rate (more on this in past and future tips). Replace losses with sport drinks that provide fluid and electrolytes (including sodium) that can help prevent cramps. During training sessions or events lasting longer than 3 or 4 hours, athletes often need to determine a more specialized sodium replacement schedule than what sport drinks can provide. These sodium replacement rates range from .25-.70 grams per hour, and can often be provided from specialty sport products or salty foods. A sports dietitian can formulate a hydration and electrolyte replacement plan specifically for you.
A stitch is a localized pain that is usually felt on the side, just below the hips. A stabbing pain in the shoulder joint sometimes accompanies the side stitch. The exact cause is unknown, but there are some things that have been shown to help:
• Allow at least 2-4 hours after eating prior to exercise. High fat foods, and foods and fluids that are high in sugar are more likely to cause a problem. Meals prior to exercise should be high-carbohydrate, low fat, and moderate in protein.
• It is possible that a full stomach can contribute to side stitch during exercise. Water and sports drinks empty more quickly from the stomach than more concentrated fluids such as soft drinks. Drinking small amounts of fluids at frequent intervals can still allow for adequate fluid while allowing time for the stomach to empty.
• Following a training schedule that increases in intensity and duration slowly and progressively, rather than suddenly, can also help prevent side stitches. .
• If a stitch does occur, bend forward while pushing on the painful area and breathing deeply. By Amy Culp, RD, LD
Preventing Holiday Weight Gain
Keep these tips in mind when maneuvering through the holiday parties and meals to prevent gaining weight this holiday season:
1) Make time to keep up with your training schedule. It may mean going for an early morning run or ride, or organizing a family group workout, but working out this time of year can not only keep your metabolism up and running, but relieve stress too!
2) Try to avoid “saving up” calories by eating very little (or nothing) before attending a party or family meal. This strategy usually backfires, resulting in overeating and overindulgence. Instead, have small, balanced meals (a small amount of protein, carbohydrate, and fruit or vegetable – for example yogurt, fruit, granola parfait) every four to five hours to prevent low blood sugar and hunger pains.
3) Remember, this isn’t your last opportunity for delicious and special food! This type of “last supper” thinking tends to result in overeating. Focus on balancing your plate with some of your favorite “fun” foods (foods that provide you with a lot of satisfaction, but not a lot of nutrition), and foods that provide you with balanced nourishment. When surveying the buffet of choices, only take the foods you really want. Try to vary your choices to include some protein foods, lots of vegetables, and a small amount of starches. Minimize or avoid fried foods or those in rich sauces.
4) Decide how full you want to feel at the end of the party or meal. Having a plan helps you stay attuned to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. If you don’t want to feel so full that you need to unbutton your pants, avoid over-filling your plate. Start with single servings, and then decide if you want to get more. The more food that is on your plate, the more you will eat – it is human nature!
5) Pay attention to the food you’re eating! Slow down and enjoy each bite. Eating fast usually results in overeating.
6) Avoid socializing around the food table. You’re more likely to eat mindlessly if you’re around food. Instead, make it a point to move away from the table when you’re finished eating. Shift your attention to socializing and having fun.
7) If you drink alcohol, be aware that it is absorbed quickly on an empty stomach, which can lead to an increase in appetite. This often makes healthier food choices less appealing. Try having a small meal or snack before drinking alcohol, and drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to help stay hydrated and moderate alcohol intake.
8) Plan time to rest and relax! Stress and exhaustion make following healthy lifestyle habits more difficult. Enjoy the season! By Amy Culp, RD, LD
Choosing a supplement to add to your nutrition plan is not a decision to be taken lightly. There are many supplements on the market that can be very helpful for endurance athletes, and then there are some that will be of no benefit – except making your urine a really interesting color. Remember that the supplement industry is still largely unregulated. The consumer’s biggest concerns are: purity, potency, effectiveness, and safety of each supplement taken. You’ll also need to be aware of how supplements might interfere with medications and/or medical conditions, so always speak with your physician before starting a supplement. A sports dietitian can also be of help when choosing supplements to fill in the gaps in your nutrition plan. There are some on-line resources available for you to begin educating yourself:
* www.consumerlab.com. This company also provides independent test results and information to help consumers evaluate dietary supplements. Consumers can search individual supplements and brands for potency, purity, and safety. Products that pass Consumer Lab’s testing are eligible to bear the CL Seal of Approval.
* www.supplementwatch.com. This site is helpful for consumers looking for potential benefits and risks of dietary supplements. The site provides independents and science-based evaluations of supplements.
* http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/%7Edms/ds-savvy.html FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition’s web site for tips on making informed decisions and evaluating information.
* http://dietarysupplements.nlm.nih.gov. The Dietary Supplements Label Database includes information from the labels of over 2000 brands of dietary supplements. The database is designed to help the public find information about ingredients in brand name products. Links to other helpful resources for researching supplements can also be found.
* http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/dietarysupplements.html. Provides general information about dietary supplements
* http://nccam.nih.gov/health/supplements.htm. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A great resource for those looking to research these therapies, including supplement use.
* http://abc.herbalgram.org/site/PageServer. Local experts on herbal remedies – the American Botanical Council: “your source for reliable herbal medicine information.” Amy Culp, RD, LD
Managing Runner’s Diarrhea
If you’ve ever experienced the need to “go” during or after a run (or any workout), you were likely experiencing a fairly common problem among athletes. Runners, however, do tend to be more affected by diarrhea and cramping than other athletes. One of the causes is a decrease in blood flow to the gastrointestinal tract during exercise, as well as exercise-induced changes in gastrointestinal hormones and the nervous system. In addition, the repetitive up and down action of running may cause injury to the walls of the large intestine, leading to diarrhea and blood loss. Here are some tips to help manage or prevent this issue:
- Stay well hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids before and during exercise is one of the best defenses.
- Evaluate fiber intake. Eating high-fiber foods, such as bran cereals and other whole grain products too close to the time of exercise can be a source of the problem.
- Decrease caffeine intake. Caffeine can have a laxative effect.
- Limit artificial sweeteners – especially sorbitol. This can cause diarrhea.
- Liquid vs. solid meals. Some athletes tolerate liquid meals prior to competing better than solids. Make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of macronutrients (carbs, fat, and protein) from the liquid meals.
- Find a pre-race/exercise diet that is tried and true. Nerves and anxiety are often high prior to a competition – this doesn’t help with diarrhea. So, find foods that you tolerate well prior to racing and stick to them. Then, you’ll just have to figure out ways to calm those nerves!
This week's tip comes from an excerpt of a fellow sports dietitan's book, "Endurance Sports Nutrition" by Suzanne Girard Eberle. The book is packed with useful information for triathletes. This tip comes from the section of the book titled "Planning Meals for Endurance Athletes," and she offers these 5 guidelines:
1) Plan to eat every three to five waking hours. This will keep your energy levels and metabolism up.
2) Eat from at least three food groups at mealtimes - this will help ensure you get a variety of foods.
3) Eat a protein-rich food an/or some healthy fat at every meal. Carbohydrate provides energy, but protein and fat are important not only for the nutrition they provide, but also because they help us to feel satisfied for longer periods of time than carbohydrate alone.
4) Design snacks that include at least one food from a food group. Snacks are mini-meals that give you an opportunity to get more nutrients. (See previous tips for ideas).
5) Drink a healthy beverage with every meal or snack. Athletes need to pay attention to their hydration needs, and drinking at meal times can help you meet your goals. Choices include water, 100% juice, low-fat milk, herbal tea, or a sports drink (useful after a tough workout to replace electrolytes). By Amy Culp, RD, LD
Many of our users want to learn useful tips for reading nutritional labels. They know that some people use food labels to make decisions about food, but aren’t sure what they should be looking for. There’s a lot of information on the label, but it can be confusing – “should I look at grams of carbohydrate, calories, the percentages….” Here are a few general tips for what to look for on the nutrition facts label, and what to look for on the ingredients label.
1) Look at the number of servings provided in each container. Just because a container has 3 servings in it doesn’t mean you can’t eat the whole thing in one sitting. This will depend on your nutrient needs for that meal, snack, and for the day. But, you need to be aware that all the information on the label (calories, fat, carbohydrates, etc.) is provided PER SERVING. So, if the container has 3 servings in it, you have to multiply all the nutrition information by 3 if you eat the whole thing.
2) Calories – should you count them? Calories can be a useful guide, but most people don’t need to worry about counting all their calories on a daily basis. This can be a tedious and confusing task. However, knowing the amount of energy (same thing as calories) that a food provides can be a helpful tool. Do you want a low calorie snack an hour before a workout? Are you looking for a higher calorie post-workout recovery meal? Are you filling up on non-nutritional calories all day (soda, for example) and not even noticing it? You can also use calories to compare foods. Take an energy bar for example – one may be higher in calories than the other. Look at the ingredients label next to find out why – is it prepared with nuts (a calorie dense food), or is it just oats and sugar (digested more quickly, and lower in calories).
3) Fat – use in moderation. Most health professionals recommend that Americans eat about 30% of their calories from fat. This is a good number for endurance athletes also. Here’s a rule of thumb to see if a food meets those guidelines: for every 100 calories per serving, the food will have 3 grams of total fat or less. So, for example, if you’re looking at a granola bar and it provides 220 calories per serving and 2 grams of fat. This would meet the guidelines. This rule of thumb won’t work for all foods. Obviously if the food is high in fat (say salad dressing, olive oil, etc.) the rule of thumb won’t work. I typically have my client use this rule of thumb for prepared foods, convenience foods, and most frozen foods. If it is a food that you typically eat that does not meet these guidelines, look at the ingredients label to see where the fat is coming from. If it’s from a healthy oil (olive oil, canola oil), nuts, avocado, peanut butter, then I say it’s still a good choice, but just be aware of portion sizes.
4) Saturated fat and trans fat – avoid when possible. These fats can lead to increased cholesterol levels and other issues in the body if eaten over time. Keep in mind that if the food provides ½ a gram or less of saturated or trans fat PER SERVING, the food company can still put 0 grams on the label. So, you need to look at the ingredients label and limit foods with partially hydrogenated fat, tropical oils (cocoa butter, palm oil, palm kernel oil, butter, shortening) to make sure you are limiting your intake of them.
5) Carbohydrates – look for fiber! Endurance athletes need to have at least ½ of their calories coming from carbohydrate. It’s still a good idea to limit carbohydrates made from refined flours and sugars (unless it’s right before or during a workout) to increase your intake of fiber and nutrients. One serving of carbohydrate is equal to 15 grams. Most endurance athletes will eat about 4-5 servings per meal and 3-4 servings per snack (depending on size, goals, etc.). A good rule of thumb for choosing breads, cereals, pastas, crackers, etc – is to look at fiber. Try to find one that provides at least 3 grams of fiber per serving. It’s still important to look at the ingredient label. Look for the words whole wheat flour (not wheat flour) to indicate a whole grain. Also, see how much sugar is added – sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, honey (all words for sugar). Compare food labels and choose those that have the least amount of added sugars.
6) Daily Values – only a guide. The percent daily values show you how much of a nutrient has been provided in that food, when compared to a 2000 calorie diet. Most of the endurance athletes I work with need much more than 2000 calories. However, you can see if the food provides a large or small percentage of each nutrient.
Alcohol and Sport Performance
Do you ever crave a nice cold beer or margarita after a long Saturday ride, run, and/or swim? Of course moderate alcohol consumption is ok, and some studies show that it can be beneficial to health. However, there are some important considerations for athletes to remember so they can enjoy their beverage, but not affect performance in their sport.
Post-workout Alcohol Consumption:
Alcohol is a diuretic, so it shouldn’t be used as a way to replace hydration after exercise. Make sure you’ve replaced your sweat losses (see tip next week for determining your sweat rate) before enjoying your alcohol. Of course the best post-exercise drink is one that not only replaces fluid lost, but also includes carbohydrate, electrolytes, and even protein (unless you are going to eat some protein in 15-30 minutes).
Pre-workout Alcohol Consumption:
Drinking alcohol prior to or during exercise is not a good idea either. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system and impairs judgment, reaction time, as well as fine and gross motor coordination (speech, walking, balance). Alcohol decreases the amount of glucose that is put out by the liver, which can cause low blood sugar levels and early fatigue (bonking) during endurance exercise.
Drinking the night before exercise can also affect performance. Aside from the obvious effects a hangover would have on a workout, consuming a lot of alcohol leads to dehydration. This is an important consideration during hot training months, because starting a workout dehydrated increases your risk for developing heat illness.
Moderate drinking (considered 1 to 2 drinks per day for women and 1 to 3 drinks per day for men. A drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of 80 proof liquor) the night before or after exercise will not likely affect performance or health as long as you stay hydrated. For every alcoholic drink you consume, drink a glass of water, which can help you remember to stay hydrated.
By Amy Culp, RD, LD.
For endurance athletes (triathletes), many find that having a lean body weight is beneficial for performance; however, endurance athletes must be careful about trying to reduce body weight, especially during training season. Cutting back too much too quickly may impair performance. The American Dietetic Association recommends that for most endurance athletes that have weight to lose, a goal of decreasing 0.5-1.0 pounds per week is appropriate to avoid losing lean muscle mass, stressing-out your heart or causing electrolyte imbalance. Any large change in weight usually reflects changes in fluid stores, so it is better to pay attention to the changes in your body composition than to the numbers on the scale. Talking with a Registered Dietitian will give you a better idea of what body weight may be best for your performance, and strategies for your sports nutrition plan to ensure high energy as well as weight management. By Amy Culp
As a sports nutritionist, I often find that a common mistake that many athletes make is not consuming enough carbohydrate to support their needs during activity and for recovery. Remember that at least ½ of your intake should come from foods with carbohydrate. Below find some healthful way s to increase carbohydrate intake in your nutrition plan to optimize energy and performance:
1. Low-fat chocolate or strawberry milk can be an excellent post-workout snack.
2. Smoothies are easy to make by blending frozen or fresh fruit with yogurt.
3. Pack your gym bag or backpack with snacks that won’t perish, such as a cereal or granola bar, energy bar, trail mix, or canned sports shake.
4. Mix your favorite breakfast cereal with a whole grain, high-fiber cereal.
5. Top cereal, pancakes, or waffles with fruit (fresh, frozen, or canned).
6. Balance your breakfast with fruit, 100% juice, or low-fat milk.
7. Add fruit or cereal to yogurt for natural crunch and sweetness.
8. Experiment with different sandwich breads that are packed with nutrients, such as whole grain bread, bagels, English muffins, and pita bread. Pumpernickel and rye are also good options.
9. For less fat and added nutrients, replace a side of French fries or regular potato chips with a side of baked potato, beans, bean salad, pasta salad, potato salad, wild rice salad, or baked chips.
10. Pile extra nutrition onto your salad by adding a variety of colorful vegetables, fruit, and beans.
11. Make a baked potato a meal by adding beans, salsa, vegetables, and cheese.
12. Experiment with different shapes and types of pasta (consider whole grain or spinach) topped with your favorite sauce. Serve with a salad, crusty bread, and a glass of low-fat milk.
13. Thick crust pizza offers more carbohydrate than thin crust. Ask for extra veggies, and serve with a side of fruit and crusty bread.
14. A meal of beans and rice with a side of vegetables and fruit is a carbohydrate rich alternative to a meat-based meal.
15. Try a new whole grain each week. There are a variety of packaged grain mixes at the grocery store. Consider quinoa, couscous, wild & brown rice.
The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods, based on how each food affects blood sugar (glucose) as compared to a standard reference food’s affect. Foods ranked high on the index produce a greater increase in blood sugar than foods ranked low on the index. Carbohydrate-containing foods can be classified into three categories:
High GI (> 70)
Medium GI (56-69)
Low GI < (55)
Use of the glycemic index may offer some advantages for athletes. Using it to understand how carbohydrate-containing foods affect your performance can enable you to plan a menu for optimal performance.
Consuming low-GI foods one hour before exercise may help to provide sustainable energy during exercise. Low-GI foods are likely to be most beneficial for endurance athletes, such as triathletes.
Consuming high-GI foods just before exercise may increase performance by providing ready fuel. However, high-GI foods consumed just before exercise may also encourage fuel storage (due to the release of the hormone insulin) rather than fuel availability, resulting in premature fatigue.
Consuming high-GI foods during exercise may help to maintain fuel availability, thereby increasing performance and encouraging a faster recovery following your workout.
Consuming high-GI foods after exercise may provide for faster recovery by maximizing energy replacement and muscle repair.
Factors that may limit the usefulness of the glycemic index:
GI values can differ according to food variety, region, cooking method, degree of processing, and how ripe a food is.
GI values differ from person to person.
GI values are for one food, versus a combination of foods, which is often how food is eaten.
GI values may not be available for all foods.
A quick Internet search will provide you with lists of foods and their glycemic index. The glycemic index can be used to guide food choices. Explore how different carbohydrate-containing foods affect you to see what works best.
By Amy Culp, RD, LD
Maintaining a healthy immune system is important for everyone, but endurance athletes (triathletes) may need to pay a little extra attention to theirs. Research (and experience from working with athletes) shows that endurance athletes often suffer from a weakened immune system, partly due to the all the work you have to do to stay on top of your game! Here are some tips for staying healthy:
*Have a sports nutrition plan. Eating enough carbohydrate, protein, and fat to recover from your workouts is essential. Understanding how to fuel before, during, and, after a workout is also essential for your performance and recovery. Restricting your intake depletes your immune system. No amount of supplements can make up for a poor diet.
*Maintain a healthy weight. Having a weight that is too low can affect immunity.
*Get enough sleep (aim for 7-8 hours). This is when your muscles rest and recover.
* Eat lots of color. Fruits and vegetables contain an abundance of antioxidants and phytochemicals that work to keep you healthy. Make sure you have at least one food item that is colorful on your plate at each meal.
*Discuss your training load with a personal trainer. Make sure that it’s realistic to help you achieve your goals, yet reasonable enough to achieve. Over-training can deplete your immune system.
*Consider supplementation. Here are some supplement recommendations from my colleague, sports dietitian Ellen Coleman, MA, MPH, RD, CSSD, author of Eating for Endurance.
(Note – consult a physician or sports dietitian about dosage and before starting a supplement program).
*Glutamine – Take immediately after training. Intense exercise training results in a drop in glutamine levels, and if chronically low, can contribute to depressed immune function. The following brands were approved by consumberlabs.com for potency & purity:
NOW glutamine powder
Precision Engineered™ glutamine powder
Prolab® Glutamine Powder
Syntrax Glu FM™ glutamine powder
*Whey Protein – Take any time during the day. Some studies have shown an improved immune function in those that consume concentrated whey protein. The following brands were approved by consumberlabs.com for potency & purity:
Body Fortress® Precision Engineered™ Whey Protein
Precision Engineered® Whey Protein
MET-Rx® Engineered Nutrition® Ultramyosyn™ Whey Advanced Protein
Solgar® Whey To Go® Ion-Exchanged, Micro-Filtered and Hydrolyzed Whey
Worldwide Sports Nutrition® Extreme Whey Protein Powder
Vitamin World® Vanilla Soy Protein Isolate Powder
*Probiotics -- use recommended dose on bottle and take anytime during the day. Probiotic bacteria may enhance the ability of the immune system to recognize and destroy invading organisms. The following brands were approved by consumberlabs.com for potency & purity:
Ethical Nutrients Acidophilus
Nature Made Acidophilus
Trader Darwin's™ For the Survival of the Fittest LiveBac® Acidophilus (at
Puritan's Pride® Inspired By Nature™ Potent Acidophilus
Puritan's Pride® Inspired By Nature™ Milk Free Acidophilus
By Amy Culp
Many of my athlete clients often want to know if buying organic foods provides an added benefit to their overall health. There are a few things that you should know when deciding whether to pay more for the organic foods. In general, there are studies that have suggested that organic produce is higher in nutrient levels than conventionally grown produce. In addition, there are some studies that show some connection between health risks and hormones and antibiotics found in meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy. However, it appears that you can limit your exposure without breaking the bank (organic foods are typically 10-30% more than conventionally grown foods).
The Environmental Working Group, a watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., analyzed more than 100,000 pesticide tests completed on produce to determine if there were differences in the amount of pesticides found. The result was a list of the "Dirty Dozen (see below)," and the "Consistently Clean." According to the Environmental Working Group, by eating the organic versions of the dirty dozen, you can reduce your exposure to contaminants by 90% - now that's helpful information you can take to the bank!
"The Dirty Dozen"
-According to the Environmental Working Group, these 12 fruits and vegetables contain the highest levels of pesticides; buying organic can reduce exposure.
*If budget allows, choose organic meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy to limit exposure to antibiotics and growth hormones.
-The pesticide levels found on these 12 fruits and vegetables are low to undetectable. Buying conventionally grown is ok, and good for your wallet!
By Amy Culp
Looking for an alternative to the commercial energy bar, but like the convenience they provide? I found this yummy recipe in sports dietitian Nancy Clark’s book.
These bars will provide you with a good dose of carbohydrate, protein, and healthful fat (especially if you use the natural-style peanut butter). The breakdown of nutrients is a good mix for a long bike ride or a recovery snack after a training run. For variety, you can make this recipe with cashews and cashew butter, and/or add a variety of dried fruits (cranberries, cherries, and dates).
½ cup salted dry-roasted peanuts
½ cup roasted sunflower seed kernels or use more peanuts or other nuts
½ cup raisins or other dried fruit
2 cups uncooked oatmeal, old-fashioned or instant
2 cups toasted rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
½ cup peanut butter, crunchy or creamy
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
(optional: ¼ cup toasted wheat germ)
In a large bowl, mix together the peanuts, sunflower seeds, raisins, oatmeal, and toasted rice cereal (and wheat germ). Set aside. In a medium microwavable bowl, combine the peanut butter, brown sugar, and corn syrup. Microwave on high for 2 minutes. Add vanilla and stir until blended. Pour the peanut butter mixture over the dry ingredients and stir until coated. For squares, spoon the mixture into a 8” x 8” pan coated with cooking spray; for bars spoon it into a 9” x 13” pan. Press down firmly. (It helps to coat your fingers with butter, oil, or cooking spray).
Let stand for about an hour, then cut into squares or bars.
Yield: 16 squares or bars
Nutrition Information: 225 calories, 30 grams carbohydrate, 6 grams protein, 9 grams fat
With over 600 different "energy" drinks on the market, you may find yourself wondering if these drinks could help you get through the day with more energy, lose weight, speed through your workout, build more muscles, or just feel like a "rock star." After all, these are some of the claims put forth on many of the containers. However, before downing the next drink, you may want to consider a few factors.
The common ingredient in many of these drinks is carbohydrate in the form of some type or types of sugar (sucrose, fructose, maltodextrin, etc.) and some type of caffeine or other stimulant. While athletes need carbohydrate for energy and recovery before, during, and after a workout, the concentration of carbohydrate in many energy drinks is not optimal for absorption, as in many sports drinks. This may result in gastrointestinal upset if consumed too close to a workout.
The other main ingredient in the energy drinks is caffeine, or an herbal form of caffeine. While some research has shown that caffeine can improve exercise performance, the doses needed to feel the effects were very high (6 mg per kilogram of bodyweight); this is a level that would cause most people to feel light headed, jittery, and even experience gastrointestinal upset.
The dose of caffeine is not always apparent on many of the energy drinks, but may be high enough that would cause an athlete to fail a doping test for caffeine. Some athletes believe that the herbal forms of caffeine (guarana seeds, kiola nuts, Yerba mate leaves) are safer than caffeine. In actuality, it has the same effect on the central nervous system. In addition, there is a wide variablity in the sources and processing of these herbs, so it is very difficult to know the amount of caffeine that will be provided.
There is very little, if any, regulation of energy drinks since they are viewed as a dietary supplement. Therefore, there is no guarantee in the purity of the ingredients or overall product. There may be little, none, or too much of any of the herbs or other ingredients listed on the label. In addition, some of the drinks contain such small amounts of the listed "magic" ingredients that they are unlikely to have any noticeable effect on performance. If you find yourself feeling low on energy - remember there is no magic - eat enough of a well balanced sports nutrition diet, drink adequate fluids, and get enough rest for recovery. If you choose to turn to an energy drink, it is advised that athletes consume them either after a workout, or >2 hours before so as to not affect performance.
Calcium maintains bone and teeth health, helps to regulate many hormones and enzymes, and aids in muscle and heart contractions. Getting enough calcium in your diet will decrease your risk of bone injury as well as improve overall muscle responsiveness and performance. Females, in particular, must pay close attention to getting enough calcium in their diets, because they are more at risk for developing osteoporosis (weakness of the bone).
The best sources of calcium are dairy products, such as milk, cheese and yogurt. Other good food sources are tofu processed with calcium, kale, almonds, collard greens, spinach, canned salmon with bones, bok choy, and soy milk that is fortified with calcium. If you choose to take calcium supplements, try calcium citrate or calcium carbonate, which tend to be better absorbed. Supplements that have bone meal, oyster shell, and shark cartilage should be avoided because of their lead content, which can be toxic. by Amy Culp
Iron is an important mineral that affects your red blood cells and helps to deliver oxygen to your muscles and body tissues. However, it is very common for athletes to have anemia (low levels of iron in blood), which decreases their exercise performance and may also impair their immune system. Eating red meat is the easiest and most common way to get iron, but you can also get iron from a variety of other foods, such as oysters, clams, salmon, tofu, raisin, and whole grains. Note that tea, coffee, and excessive intake of some minerals such as zinc may inhibit how well your body absorbs iron, so consume those foods in moderation. by Amy Culp
Do you ever have intense food cravings? Many people are aware of when they are craving a particular food, but feel that they "shouldn't" induldge. However, this just intensifies cravings, and typically you will end up eating more food than you intended. Satisfy your craving with small portions of the food, and be mindful of each bite - that will enhance your satisfaction, so that you're not left wanting more. If you feel that your cravings are out of control, consult a registered dietitian to discuss strategies to help you.
by Amy Culp
Looking to speed up your recovery time after a long run or ride? A recent study found that adding a multi-vitamin that contains antioxidants to a balanced sports nutrition plan improved recovery time in comparison to those who did not supplement. Choose a multi-vitamin with additional antioxidants to get the most benefit – and ensure your diet if full of colorful fruits and vegetables for even more antioxidants!
Having difficulty with portion sizes? You were born with a great tool to help you with moderation - your hand! Here are some examples of single servings:
3-4 ounces meat = palm of a woman's hand
1 cup of grain or beverage, or medium piece of fruit = a fist
1 serving bread, tortilla = your hand, including fingers
1 tablespoon salad dressing or peanut butter = two thumbs
1 teaspoon butter or oil = tip of your thumb
A general "rule of thumb" = if it's bigger than your hand or fist, it's probably more than one serving.
*Depending on your specific nutritional needs, it may be important that you serve yourself single, double, or even triple the size of these portion sizes. Meet with a sports dietitian to find out your needs!
A few days before a triathlon event, make a checklist of all the gear and fuel that you will need to perform. Your nutrition is just as important as your swim cap, your helmet, or your running shoes. Think about the foods that you’ve consumed during, or right after trainings – what has tasted good and provided you with a boost of energy, yet set well with your stomach? Don’t try anything new on the day of your event. Make sure you get enough carbohydrate to keep you fueled at optimal levels during the entire event. Remember that during transition and while on the bike are good times to fuel up and hydrate.
Can’t exercise due to an injury? Afraid you may gain weight during the downtime? Your body needs adequate nutrition to heal properly. Severely restricting your intake could increase your recovery time and result in lean muscle loss. If you eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full, chances are you won’t gain weight (your appetite will likely decrease with decreased physical activity). Keep in mind some other basic weight management tips:
· Be aware of portion sizes – start with a balanced plate of single servings – then check in with your hunger.
· Ensure a balanced intake from all the major food groups.
· Don’t eliminate whole food groups or your favorite foods – you’ll just end up craving them more, and possibly overeating. by Amy Culp
Endurance athletes can benefit from consuming adequate amounts of antioxidants (such as vitamins C & E), which may prove to reduce muscle damage and soreness, and reduce free radicals that are released in the body. While many athletes turn to supplements for antioxidants, research is showing that additional benefits can be gained from obtaining antioxidants from the foods you eat. One reason for this is because the foods that are high in antioxidants are also usually high in other health-promoting nutrients such as fiber, phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals. One easy way to ensure you are getting a steady supply of antioxidants is to choose a variety of fruits and vegetables every day – at least one from each color of the rainbow (purple, red, orange, yellow, blue, green). by Amy Culp
Vitamin B12 is essential for making blood cells and maintaining a healthy nervous system. Since B12 is only available from animal sources, vegetarian athletes are particularly at risk for B12 deficiency anemia. You’re probably getting enough B12 if you regularly eat cheese, eggs, milk, or yogurt; however, to get in the recommended 2.4 mcg of B12, strict vegans may need to supplement their diet with fortified foods like cereal and soymilk or take a B12 supplement. by Amy Culp