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Vitamins and energy

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Nov 29, 2008

As I rested in bed early this morning listening to the radio, I can across a radio program that was clearly an advertorial. The speaker was taking about how you can have more energy if you buy a zillion different types of his brand of vitamins, amino acids, anti-oxidants, and other such nutritional supplements. Not once did the speaker mention that food is the source of energy. Food contains calories, and calories are the fuel you need to function.

Vitamins and supplements are just the “spark plugs” in your body’s engine. No amount of supplements will boost your energy if you skip breakfast, skimp on lunch, and plow through the day with inadequate gas in your tank. Yes, you do need vitamins to help convert the food into energy. But I rarely see debilitating vitamin deficencies in active people who are eating 2,000 to 3,000+ calories a day, including many fortified foods like energy bars and breakfast cereals that can be vitamin pills in themselves.

If you want to learn how to eat for energy as well as how eat to easily consume the nutrients your body needs —without buying expensive supplements, I recommend (of course!) my Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Fourth Edition (2008). It’ll save you lots of money in the long run! For other helpful books, go to or

Enjoy your high energy and good health!

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

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NUTRITION & EXERCISE:  An intensive workshop is your chance to learn more about nutrition and exercise.

Exercise physiologist William Evans PhD and I will be offering a 1.5 day program that is designed to help serious athletes, coaches, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports nutritionists, and sports medicine professionals find answers to their questions about--

-eating for health, enhanced performance and longevity

-balancing carbs, protein and sports supplements

-managing weight and eating disorders.


MINNEAPOLIS     Dec 5-6, 2008 


DALLAS                Jan 16-17, 2009

St. LOUIS          Jan 23-24

HOUSTON          Feb 6-7                                           


ONLINE             Anytime!


If you cannot attend in person, the workshop can come to you. Simply enjoy the course online course at[|].


Health professionals who need continuting education credits can get 10 hours of education for ADA, ACSM, AFAA, ACE, NATA, NSCA, and  CHES.


We hope you can come. As most participants agree—you’ll get what you want, plus more!



For more information and to register:

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“I love peanut butter—but I rarely eat it,” lamented my client, a weight conscious runner who deemed peanut butter as being as fattening. She, like many of my clients, was complaining about her efforts to stay away from peanut butter.  When I told her I consider peanut butter to be one of the best sports foods around, a great big smile appeared on her face.


Indeed, peanut butter can beneficially fit into your sports diet and is a good way to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. In fact, the more often you eat peanut butter (and nuts), the lower your risk of heart disease. (Hu, J Am College Nutr 20(1):5, 2001) Enjoy peanut butter (instead of butter) on toast, and PB & banana for a "decadent" snack in place of ice cream. Trade that burger (saturated fat) for a peanut butter sandwich!


Even the commercial peanut butters (like Jif or Skippy) are health-promting. They have a very small amount of “bad” (hydrogenated/saturated) fat. To minimize your intake of even this small amount of unhealthful fat, you can buy all-natural peanut butter. Don't like the way the oil in this type of peanut butter separates to the top of the jar? Simply store the jar upside down. That way, the oil rises to what becomes the bottom of the jar when you turn it over to open it. And if you eat peanut butter daily, you won't have to refrigerate it, thereby making the all-natural peanut butter easier to spread.


Despite popular fear, peanut butter eaters are not “fatter” than abstainers. Sure, if you mindlessly overeat spoonfuls of peanut butter at 10:00 pm, it can be fattening (as can be any food). But incorporating a few tablespoons into your daily meals is an investment in both a happy tummy and good health.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

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“Nancy, in your Sports Nutrition Guidebook, you mention that athletes can eat within 5 to 30 minutes of exercise and get results. It has always been my understanding that it takes quite a bit of time before food can be digested.  I have been taught that food doesn't leave the stomach for about 2 hours.  I also was under the impression that physical activity, such as running, drew blood away from the stomach thusly slowing down the digestion. Thanks for helping me better understand how to eat pre-exercise.”

Yes, believe it or not, 100 to 200 calories of carbs eaten even 5 minutes pre-exercise can enhance your performance (assuming you can tolerate the light snack). If you were to eat a heavy high protein/high fat meal such as a cheese omelet or cheeseburger, the protein and fat would linger in the stomach and possibly talk back to you. But carbs are readily available, as witnessed when a person with diabetes has low blood sugar and is given some orange juice or cola. That sugar gets into the system within three minutes. The same goes for athletes.

As for blood flow, if you are exercising at a pace you can maintain for more than 30 minutes, you can both digest the food and use it to enhance performance. The trick is to practice pre-exercise fueling, so you learn what foods, and how much of them, will contribute to better performance for your body.

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“Hey Nancy, I’m running my first marathon tomorrow. What should I be eating?” asked the young man at the running store where I was giving a nutrition clinic.


Questions like that always stun me. This runner hadn’t thought much about nutrition, to say nothing about the importance of training his intestinal tract, as well as the heart, lungs and muscles. He was missing an essential part of a training program! If a marathoner cannot train his intestinal track to  tolerate fuel in some form before and during a marathon, he or she will be more likely to hit the wall..

As I discuss thoroughly in my Food Guide for Marathoners; Tips for Everyday Champions, runners need to fuel well the day before with a diet baed on carbs (pasta, rice, fruits, breads, vegetables). The day of the marathon, the runner wants to enjoy a tried-and-true breakfast (so as to avoid losing time in the porta-potty line), and then consume about 200 to 300 calories per hour after the  first 60 to 90 minutes. The strategy shold be to practice this during training, so the day before the marathon, you have no need to worry about what to eat to enjoy going the distance.

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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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