If you are a gym rat who reads-and-exercises at the same time, be aware: the kind of magazine you read can influence your state of mind after you leave the gym. That is, if you read National Geographic, you will likely feel better about yourself after you finish your workout. But if you are a man who reads magazines such as Men’s Health or a woman who reads fashion magazines such as Glamour, you will likely end up feeling worse about your body.
Yes, the media has a powerful effect on your self-image! All those lean and beautiful models can make you believe you are fat and frumpy. Please remember, in real life, we rarely see people who look like models. That’s because the photos with models are air-brushed and convey false images of humanity.
Rather than compare yourself to a model, your better bet is to appreciate your body for all the wonderful things it does for you and be grateful for your good health. Your body is likely “good enough” the way it is. Stop comparing and stop despairing!
There’s an interesting (to me, at least) debate going on at the FoodNetwork.com Healthy Eats blog (http://blog.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/2010/06/22/14-foods-experts-do-not-eat/). Toby Amidor RD interviewed several registered dietitians (RDs) and then wrote a blog about what foods dietitians do NOT eat. The blog has generated a lot of responses: fake foods, high fructose corn syrup, margarine, frozen dinners, fried chicken....
While some RDs stay clear of, let’s say, artificial sweeteners, others respond the American Dietetic Association’s Position Stand says they are well tested, safe and a fine alternative to sugar….even professionals disagree on many topics! For me, the debate points out food is like a religion. You want to believe in the healthfulness and/or healing powers of what you put into your body. The placebo effect can also comes into play. That is, if you believe a food is good for you, it will (hopefully) conjure up positive health benefits.
My message to you, the confused consumer, is to take all the nutrition information that comes your way, digest it thoughtfully, and decide which foods fit into your value system—and which “nutrition religion” you want to follow. FYI, all the conflicting information also confuses me! I struggle to separate out the political leanings of the “food conservatives” vs. the “food extremists.” You know: “the commercial food supply is safe” vs. “eat only organically grown foods.” I do know we will unlikely go wrong with “home cooked, locally grown.” On that parting note, I encourage you to support your local Farmer’s Market this summer!
For athletes on the go, the best breakfast is something that’s fast, easy, nutritious and delicious. Here’s a super sports breakfast idea from Nina Marinello, PhD, Coordinator of Sports Nutrition at the University at Albany. So good, you might want to enjoy two of ‘em! Thanks, Nina, for the tasty idea.
Whey to Go English Muffins
• Toast a whole wheat English muffin.
• Top each half with part-skim ricotta cheese.
• Sprinkle on cinnamon and add sliced bananas, your favorite fruit or fruit spread.
This breakfast has just what the sports nutritionist ordered: carbohydrates for energy and protein to repair and build muscle. As a matter of fact, ricotta is a good source of whey protein which is essential for repairing and building muscle.
To add more energy-providing carbohydrates, muscle-building whey protein, and health-enhancing vitamins and minerals, top this breakfast off with a glass of low-fat chocolate milk. You’ll have a breakfast that’s a real winner!
“Since I’ve given up meat, I’ve been eating lots of nuts and peanut butter for protein” reported my client. She thought she was eating TONS of protein, but the reality is, nuts and peanut butter are not as protein-dense as many people think.
While nuts do offer protein, only about 5 to 10% of their calories come from protein and about 70% of their calories come from fat. (The good news is, the fat in nuts is health-protective so is a positive addition to a sports diet.)
Most athletes need at least 60 grams of protein. Two tablespoons of peanut butter offer only 8 grams of protein for 180 calories. You could get three times more protein—26 grams of protein—in the same amount of calories of Greek yogurt!
Beans (as in kidney beans or hummus) are also lower in protein than many vegetarians realize. Beans offer about 6 grams of protein in a half-cup. While they are a smart choice for athletes because they offer a hefty does of carbs and can both fuel the muscles and heal/build muscles, they only offer about 12 grams of protein per 180 calories.
You also have to eat big portions of tofu and garden burgers…
The trick to getting enough protein as a vegetarian is to read the food labels for protein information. You'll discover you need to consume generous amounts of plant proteins at each meal and snack. Yes, you can successfully consume a balanced vegetarian diet; you just need to educate yourself about the protein content of the foods you choose. More information is readily available in the protein chapter of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
You’ve seen the ads and have listened to the news with suggestions that (dark) chocolate is good for you. You may be wondering: What is the whole story on chocolate? Is it little more than an alluring form of refined sugar, saturated fat and empty calories? Or does chocolate (in moderation, of course) have positive qualities that might be beneficial for athletes?
The good news is chocolate is made from cocoa. Cocoa comes from a plant and is a rich source of health-protective phytochemicals, just like you'd get from fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Two tablespoons cocoa power (the kind used in baking) offers the same antioxidant power as 3/4 cup blueberries or 1.5 glasses red wine.
Chocolate does indeed have health protective properties. In the Netherlands, elderly men who routinely ate cocoa-containing products reduced their risk of heart disease by 50% and their risk of dying from other causes by 47%. Impressive.
The bad news is, dark chocolate has a bitter taste, so most people prefer milk chocolate, like in a Hershey’s Bar with:
24 grams sugar (46% of calories)
13 g total fat (55% of calories)
8 g saturated fat (equivalent to a tablespoon of butter).
At least, the sugar (read that “carbs”) in chocolate fuels your muscles. But so does the (natural) sugar in alternative snacks, such as bananas and raisins.
The trick is to enjoy dark chocolate as part of the 100 to 150 “discretionary” sugar calories that can be part of your daily sports diet. As for me, I'll enjoy my dark chocolate during a long hike or bike ride. Tastes better than most engineered sports foods and nicely fuels both my body and my mind!
Here’s a recipe that uses nutrient-rich cocoa. Enjoy it in good health!
This low fat brownie pudding forms its own sauce during baking.
It’s a tasty treat for when you are hankering for a chocolate-fix
and a yummy way to add a little dark chocolate to your sports diet.
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