For athletes, Thanksgiving is a super day to take a day off from exercise, relax with family and friends, and to carbo-load. Your muscles will benefit from having time to refuel, recover, and heal. As we all know, rest is a very important part of a training schedule.
The traditional Thanksgiving dinner offers the perfect combination of sports foods: abundant carbs (to fuel the muscles) and protein (to build and repair the muscles). The goal is consume three times more carbs than protein. Here is the line-up:
Carbs; mashed potato sweet potato stuffing squash turnip peas cranberry sauce stuffing apple pie pumpkin pie
By fueling well on Thanksgiving, your muscles will be ready to exercise hard on Friday. And when your workout is over and you are ready to refuel, why not enjoy a turkey sandwich with stuffing and cranberry sauce, some fruit from the cornucopia, and leftover apple pie. Yum!
With best wishes for a pleasant time with family and friends,
Nancy, here’s a question for you. Should my calorie intake fluctuate based on how much training I'm doing? I usually do between 90 and 120 minutes a day, but sometimes I might do just a 45-minute workout. Do I cut my calorie count proportionally?
On days when you are doing less exercise you will likely want to eat just as much (or almost as much) because—
1) Your muscles are using any extra unburned calories to refuel your depleted glycogen stores from the previous days’ tiring workouts, and
2) You may be more active during the rest of your "light exercise" days. That is, observe if on your light days or rest days you decide to mow the lawn, vacuum the house, wash your car, and do lots of errands. That extra activity counts!
Your best bet is to listen to your body; it is your best calorie counter. If you are thinking about food and fighting the urge to eat, your body is saying it needs more fuel. When you eat something to resolve that hunger, observe if you--
--stop obsessing about food, and
--have interest in doing something other than fight off urges to eat.
I generally eat just as much on rest days. Sometimes by dinner I am not as hungry, so I eat a lighter dinner just because I don't want a heavy meal. I listen to my body and trust it can regulate an appropriate food intake. Perhaps you can experiment and observe ithat your body can also naturally regulate a proper intake? (It that seems too hard, you might want to meet with a sports dietitian who can help you eat intuitively. Use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.)
Looking for some comfort food to take the edge off of a tiring day? This recipe from the new fifth edition of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook will give you a “food hug” within the boundries of a healthy meal. Enjoy!
Light-yet-lively Mac & Cheese
I’ve lightened up his family favorite meal by adding diced cauliflower. No one will notice the difference, especially if you use small shells for the pasta. The cauliflower hides inside the shell.
Becausethis recipe includes chopping and grating, invite a friend or family member to help you cook. While you make the sauce, someone can grate the cheese, and another person can dice the cauliflower. The final result is a meal made with love.
If you don’t have time to bake the Mac & Cheese, skip those instructions. It tastes good right off the stove top!
2 cups (about half a box) of uncooked small pasta, such as small elbows or small shells
2 cups finely diced cauliflower
2 cups milk
3 tablespoons flour
¼ tsp dry mustard
¼ tsp garlic powder
salt, pepper to taste
5 ounces shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
Optional: 2 tablespoons lowfat cream cheese
1.Fill a pasta pot with water and to a boil. While the water is heating, dice the cauliflower into small pieces.
2.Add the pasta to the boiling water, cook for about five minutes, and then add the diced cauliflower. Drain when the pasta and cauliflower are tender, in about 4 or 5 minutes.
3. In a large saucepan, wisk together the flour and milk, place over medium-high heatand bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
4.Add the mustard, garlic powder, cayenne, (lowfat cream cheese), salt and pepper; mix well.
5.Add the grated cheddar cheese, stirring until melted.
6.Add the pasta and cauliflower.
7.Enjoy eating it as is, or pour the mixture into an 8 x 8 baking pan that has been treated with cooking spray and bake for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbly.
Nancy, I can’t believe you recommend chocolate milk as a good recovery food for athletes after a hard workout. It’s filled with refined sugar!!!!
My response: Yes, chocolate milk (or any flavored milk, for that matter) contains added sugar. For hard-working athletes, sugar is a form of carbohydrate that refuels depleted muscles and feeds the brain. Like the sugar in bananas and oranges, the sugar in chocolate milk comes alongwith a plethora of nutritional benefits. That makes chocolate milk a better option that chugging a sports drink that offers just empty calories.
A reasonable guideline for an athlete is to limit refined sugar intake to no more than 10% of daily calories. That equates to about 200 to 300 calories a day. The sweaty, tired athlete who recovers with a quart of Gatorade consumes 200 calories of refined sugar— and misses out on positive nutritional benefits that could have been provided by chocolate milk.
Despite chocolate milk's sugar content, the beverage remains nutrient-dense. When athletes refuel with chocolate milk, they get not just sugar that fuels their muscles, but also:
--high quality protein that builds and repairs muscles
--calcium that strengthens bones
--vitamin D that enhances calcium absorption
--sodium that helps with fluid retention and replaces sodium lost in sweat
--potassium that replaces sweat losses and helps maintain lowblood pressure
--B-vitamins such as riboflavin, that help convert food into energy
--water that replaces fluid lost with sweat
--a desirable balance of carbohydrate and protein. (The muscles recover will with three times more carbs than protein.)
I invite you to pay more attention to the nutritional value of the whole beverage rather than just the added sugar. Chocolate milk offers far more nutrients than the sports drinks that athletes commonly chug after a hard workout. Those sports drinks, as well as other commercial “sports foods” (gels, chomps, sports beans, sports candies), receive little public criticism yet are generally 100% refined sugar with minimal, if any, nutritional benefits. In my opinion, those engineered sports foods are the bigger nutritional concern than the 40 to 50 calories of sugar added to 8-ounces of chocolate milk.
PS. Yes, a "perfect diet" would have no refined sugar .. but who said an athlete needs to eat a perfect diet to have a good diet?
This event is specifically for women runners over 40. My talk takes place Monday Nov 18 from 12-1:00 EST; see the list below of others speakers on other days. This is a free opportunity to get running advice from renowned experts so you can discover how to:
Deal effectively with the particular challenges that women runners face in their 40s,50s, 60s and 70s.
Prevent and treat injuries so you can avoid frustrating layoffs that derail your progress
Practice optimal nutrition for performance and maintaining your ideal weight
Train more efficiently and effectively so that you can improve your running without spending extra precious time
“Run Faster, Further andInjury-Free for Years to Come”
Free Women’s RunningTelesummit
Monday, November 18, 2013 – Thursday, November 21,2013
What an incredible roster of experts. Benefit from the knowledge and experience of:
• Kathrine Switzer
as we discuss many areas of vital importance to woman runners over 40 so that you can run faster, furtherand injury-free.
When you are exercising for more than 60-90 minutes, you want to consume quickly absorbed carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar and energy levels stable throughout your run. Many marathoners are confused about what to eat during long runs. The following tips can help you fuel wisely and avoid from hitting the wall. (Remember that it’s important to experiment with fueling during long training runs to avoid any race-day surprises!)
-- How can you tell when you should eat during long runs? Pay attention to your body’s requests for fuel: mood-change, thoughts about food, reduced energy, tired legs, slower running…
--The amount of carbohydrates needed will vary from person to person (body size, speed, intensity, and training will all effect this), but aim for between 150-300 calories of carbohydrates per hour. This can be from a mix of sports drinks like Gatorade to foods like Gu, candy, or dried fruit.
--Most runners start consuming carbohydrates (sports drink) beginning at 45 minutes to an hour into the race. Breakfast fuels the start of the run.
--If you are a slow runner, vary your food choices to reduce "flavor fatigue" for 4+ hours. It’s easy to get through a half marathon relying only on gels, but it’s difficult to keep that up for twice the time. You’re likely to get “sugared out,” meaning your taste buds or stomach may not tolerate the same food for that many hours. Experiment with a few different options during longer training runs to see what your stomach and GI tract tolerate and what gives your body the most energy.
--Convenience is the big advantage to engineered sports foods such as Gu, Chomps, Sport Beans, and the like. Most come in pre-packaged 100-calorie servings, and they are easy to carry with you. However, real food can work just as well, particularly for slower marathoners who will be pounding the pavement for more than four hours.
Here are some common choices among runners:
- Raisins,dates, dried cranberries—or any dried fruit
- Swedish fish, jelly beans, gummy bears, or other chewy candy
- Pretzels, fig cookies
- Dried cereal
- Mini peanut butter and jelly (or honey) sandwiches*
- *If you prefer snacks that aren’t convenient to carry in your pocket, ask friends or family to stand along your race-day route at points when you know you will need fuel.
--Gatorade or other sports drinks contribute to your carbohydrate intake. Just pay attention to how much you are consuming so you can adjust your food intake. Diluted fruit juice can work well for some too.
Marathon excitement is in the air! If you are one of the nervous runners, here’s a basic nutrition tip to help you prepare for the 26.2-mile event:
Carbo-load, don't fat-load!
To their dismay, many runners confuse high fat foods and high carb foods. They fat load. Fat does not get stored in your muscles as glycogen (the fuel needed to prevent you from “hitting the wall”). Only carbs get stored in your muscles as glycogen.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include:
Hot and cold cereals
Fruits- bananas, grapes, raisins, and all fresh and dried fruits and juices
Breads, bagels, crackers – whole grain, so you don’t get constipated
Rice, noodles, stuffing
Pasta with tomato sauce (not cheese sauces)
Quinoa, lentils, beans – but be careful of getting too much fiber…
Baked or boiled (sweet) potatoes (without lots of butter)
Vegetables, particularly carrots, peas, beets, corn, and winter squash
Lower carbohydrate, high fat choices that may taste great,fill your stomach but leave your muscles unfueled include:
Below is a letter I received from a soccer coach whose team has embraced proper fueling as a way to get to the winners’ circle. I hope it will inspire you to get your team on the Good Nutrition Bandwagon! After all, performance starts with fueling, not training!
Dear Nancy, I wanted to give you an update on what's happening with our boys’ high school soccer team. Inspired by your Food Guide For Soccer, we've slowly gone from giving only very basic nutrition advice other than "hydrate and eat carbs" to a full fledged nutrition "battle plan.”
Pre-season, the head coach asked if I would talk to the players on nutrition, explaining he wanted to make nutrition education a big part of this years’ season. I agreed and have talked to the players, sometimes several times a week. The information I give them comes almost exclusively from your Food Guide for Soccer, Sports Nutrition Guidebook, website, and other articles you have written. The players are being taught, to the best of our ability, the what, when's and why's of nutrition and how it impacts them and their game.
Our official high school season began on Aug 31 with two games against two very tough opponents. We ended the day with two wins. 3-0 and 5-0. We are about half way through our regular season with a record of 7 wins, 1 tie and two losses. We are one game away from first place in our division and the team has their sights set on a county championship as well as a district and state title.
The players are engaged and believe in the nutrition improvement effort.They've felt and seen the results and most (dare I say all?) of them get it. I had to chuckle as some of the boys told me that about a half hour before their first game this season they saw most of the opposing team line up at the snack bar and walk away eating hot dogs, burgers and fried chicken. Our nutrition guide (something I prepare for each game) for that game advised them to avoid those items. We offered them alternatives. Fresh fruit, thick-crust pizza, soft pretzels, and a choice of chocolate milk, water or sports drinks. We beat the opposing team 5-0. First time in 3 years!
For critical evening games, we'll often keep them at school and feed them before they board the bus at 4:30. They have all trained their bodies to accept pre- and mid-game fueling. We've just started to include an additional "emergency" bag of gummies to be used if we find ourselves in overtime situations. We offer them low fat chocolate milk within 15-20 minutes of the end of each game. They all enjoy it and they all know WHAT it's doing for them. They've made their water bottle their best friend. This season, leg cramps are extremely rare.
I keep reinforcing my doubt that any team we face will be as well prepared nutritionally. While some teams we'll face may be technically better, most of them will hit the wall by half time. The “good nutrition advantage,” as you know, is both physical and psychological. That's powerful.
The players now consider proper fueling to be their secret weapon. The gummy bear bag is passed around discretely during halftime and the post game refueling never takes place within view of the opposing team. FUNNY! It shows me they believe!
Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the helpful information in your books!
If you are an athlete who trains to exhaustion, you are either fueling up for a workout or refueling and recovering from the workout. While much attention has been placed on recovery, I find that many of my clients are confused about how to best refuel after a tiring workout. Here are a few tips based on research presented at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2013 Annual Meeting (www.acsm.org).
• It’s never too late to improve your sports diet.
Even experienced veteran cyclists often do a poor job of refueling. Only 38% of 212 competitive cyclists chose a carbohydrate-protein mix. Because residual fatigue from both training and competition strongly influences the ability to perform optimally, you would be wise to pay attention to a proper recovery diet!
• Be sure to include enough carbs in your daily diet.
Among 215 Navy SEALs, 86% ate less than the recommended carbohydrate intake (>2.5 g grams carb/lb; >5 g carb/kg). Like many serious athletes, the SEALs chose a high protein diet that would help build muscles—and skimped on the carbs needed to optimally fuel muscles.
• Rehydrate soon after you exercise; don’t delay until evening.
Although adequate hydration contributes to optimal performance, it can disrupt sleep in athletes who rehydrate primarily at the end of the day. A study with 35 male rugby players indicates 75% of them did a good job of rehydrating at a 10-day training camp. However, those who hydrated well at night tended to wake up at least three or more times to urinate. For better sleep, drink more fluids right when you finish exercising, instead of near bedtime.
• Don’t hesitate to make your own recovery drink.
A study comparing a fruit smoothie (made with milk, banana,berries) with a commercial product showed similar recovery benefits for subjects who did muscle-damaging exercise. Both recovery drinks offered the same amount of calories, protein, and carb. Food works!
• Spend your money on real fruits, veggies and whole foods –not on supplements.
• For 17 days, well-trained cyclists took an antioxidant supplement containing freeze-dried fruit-vegetable juice powder. The supplement offered no boost in immune function beyond that created by exercise itself.Instead of antioxidant pills, you might want to put that money towards your health club membership?
Q. I’m the coach of both a youth football team and a youth baseball team. in the summer, I’ve have noticed that the kids ask for water breaks during baseball more often than in the fall. Since the weather is typically cooler in the fall, should I schedule fewer water breaks or should I give the football players the same drinking opportunities as the kids in the summer?
ANSWER: Yes, you should indeed schedule as many water breaks! For youth football players, the weather can become tropical inside their uniforms. They can sweat a lot, even if the weather feels cool for the coaches and parents. Yet, because the weather is cool, the kids may not think to drink as often.
If the kids become dehydrated, they will be cranky, tired, and have less fun. One goal of youth sports is to have FUN! So please do offer your team frequent drinking opportunities. You can use the breaks as a time to educate the kids about the importance of staying well hydrated so they feel better and prevent needless fatigue.
As for what to drink, water is generally fine for youth sports. As long as they have had a pre-practice snack, they will have the energy they need to perform well and will not need sugar-based sports drinks.They will not be sweating enough to require the little bit of sodium (electrolyte) that is in a sports drink. Sports drinks are designed to be takenduring endurance exercise that lasts for more than 1.5 hours, such as marathons; sports drinks generally are not essential for youth sports.
While many kids enjoy sports drinks before, during and after practices and games, I’d encourage wholesome foods before exercise (banana,bagel, orange, graham crackers), water during (or water fruit such as watermelon chunks or orange slices if they seem low on energy), and chocolate milk afterwards (if the kids will not be eating a meal soon thereafter). Chocolate milk for recovery contains both carbs to refuel the muscles, as well as protein to build and repair muscles – as well as calcium for growing bones. While the kids should not be training to the point of becoming depleted at which point they would really need a recovery drink, teaching them about optimal sports nutrition practices will invest in their future athletic career when sports becomes more intense.
As a coach, would like to give a sports nutrition book to each athlete on your team?
As a group exercise leader, would you like to raffle a doorprize to the folks who show up for class?
As a health teacher, would you like to provide a practical nutrition text at a minimal cost?
Well guess what: the fourth edition of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook is on sale!
Special Sale: 24 Sports Nutrition Guidebooks for only $240.
That's one case of books at half price! I can even autograph them, upon request.
Please pass along this info to people who might be interested in this special offer-- --collegiate athletes -- a book for everyone on the team --coaches and parents of youth sports organizations (soccer, football, gymnastics) --health teachers who want an inexpensive text book (or supplemental text) --corporate wellness programs as a give-away upon enrollment
Disclosure: A new 5th edition of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook is hot off the press. Hence, I'd like to sell the copies of the 4th edition that remain in my garage. The nutrition information in the 4th edition is accurate, so this is still a good book.
Q. How important are carbohydrates vs. proteins for runners?
Today's literature seems to say all sorts of things?
A. Runners (and all athletes) need carbs to fuel the muscles (and the brain)
and protein to build and repair muscles. Carbs and protein do different jobs
in the body so we need to consume both.
All carbs (fruits, veggies, grains and sugars) digest into glucose, the fuel
preferred by the brain. If you have low blood glucose, you’ll feel lightheaded
and dizzy. No need to get to that point with proper fueling
(plus being light-headedis no fun)!
Your body needs more calories from carbs than protein:
--about 2 to 5 grams carb per pound of body weight
(depending on how active you are)
--about 0.5 to 0.9 grams protein per pound
(depending if you are a fully-muscled adult or a growing teenager).
Rather than get caught up in numbers, just be sure to have wholesome grains,
fruits and veggies as the foundation of each meal (two-thirds of the plate),
with some protein as the accompaniment. You’ll end up with the right balance.
But if you have just a protein shake, let’s say for a recovery food,
you will lack the carbs needed to refuel the muscles. Make that protein
shake into a carb-protein fruit smoothie!
Or if you have a chicken Caesar salad (protein and fat), be sure to have a
whole grain bagel with it, or crackers, or add some rice to the salad.
“Training low” (with low carbohydrate stores) and "competing high" (with muscles fully loaded with glycogen) as a means to enhance competitive performance is receiving attention from coaches, elite athletes, and researchers alike. A 2005 study (1) with untrained subjects suggests that training with deplete glycogen stores can enhance adaptive muscle responses to conditions that might occur at the end of a competitive event. Training low might also reduce reliance on limited glycogen stores. When Hansen’s subjects“competed” with loaded glycogen stores, they performed better.
These results have raised questions and controversy. If you restrict your carbohydrate intake during training, you will become unable to train hard, and that can hurt your athletic ability. Sports dietitian Louise Burke PhD of the Australian Institute of Sports suggests inserting a few “training low” sessions into the training program where the focus is on making “aerobic” gains. You would want to target the sessions in the week where quality, intensity, or techniques are not as important.
You can train low by having either low blood glucose or low muscle glycogen; both scenarios can happen during a second training session in a day. Note: Adding caffeine to a “low” training session can enhance power by about 9%, but this still does not match the power generated by fully glycogen-loaded muscles plus caffeine.
Training low is not much fun. For most ordinary mortals, staying well fueled on a daily basis is a smart investment. I suggest you fuel your muscles on a daily basis with quality grains, fruits and vegetables. By being well fueled, you'll be able to work hard and enjoy improving your performance.
(1) Hansen A, C Fischer, P Plomgaard, J Andersen, B Saltin, B Pedersen 2005.Skeletal muscle adaptation: training twice every second day vs.training once daily. J Appl Physiol88(1):93-9
I’m training for amarathon and get annoyed by having to stop to urinate during my training runs. I drink a lot the day before, and I drink about 8 ounces 45 minutes before I start. I then have to pee at mile 2, then mile 5. The urine is a light color. I’m tempted to not drink anything…
The kidneys need about 45 to 90 minutes to process liquid; nerves might hasten the process! Try drinking earlier, void the excess, and then tank up again. For example, if have a long run on Sunday at 8:00 am. Drink well the day before (stopping by 7:00 p.m, so you don't wake up 5 times during the night to go to the bathroom), then in the morning, have a good drink by 6:00-6:30. That should give you time to get rid of the excess water.
Alternatively, if drink well the day before and are well hydrated, you could drink 8 to 12 ounces right before you start the run, so the water will be in your system and not in your kidneys.
Experiment and learn what works best for your body!