Do you know how sumo wrestlers "get fat"? They skip breakfast!
To their detriment, many athletes think skipping breakfast will help them "get thin" by saving a few calories. Wrong! Think again!
My typical weight-conscious client complains, “Every time I go on a diet, I end up blowing my diet and gaining weight.” This has little to do with will power but rather physiology. Just as a person cannot breathe normally after staying underwater for too long, a dieter cannot eat normally after having eaten too little food for too long. That’s the physiology of hunger. The body wants to overcompensate for the perceived “famine” (diet).
My words of wisdom to dieters are: If you want to lose weight, enjoy a hearty breakfast and lunch, and then “diet” at the end of the day so you can lose weight when you are sleeping, not when you are trying to train and perform well. Please, do not eat like a sumo wrestler!
With best wishes for high energy and low body fat,
For more information, refer to the weight reduction section in:
“I’m hungry all the time,” my clients commonly complain. They just don’t understand why they are hungry all the time, even after having eaten meals. Is this a personality quirk? Are their bodies different from everyone else’s?
The answer is plain and simple. Hunger is a request for fuel. If we did not get hungry, we would waste away to nothing. These active people feel hungry all the time because their bodies ARE hungry. They have not eaten enough food to accommodate their needs.
To live hungry is abusive … Would you withhold food from a crying (hungry) baby? No. That would be called child abuse. Please, do not abuse your body by withholding food from yourself and living hungry all day.
“But if I eat more, I’ll get fat…” is the common fearful response to my suggestion to enjoy double portions at breakfast and lunch. These hungry athletes fail to understand they are more likely to “get fat” from skimping at breakfast and lunch, because they will later undoubtedly succumb to too much dinner or evening snacking. Excess evening calories are indeed fattening.
You will be better able to manage your weight if you fuel adequately by day, and feel fed and satiated. You can then lose weight at the end of the day by chipping off 100 to 300 calories from dinner and evening snacks. How about this for your motto today: “Fuel by day; diet by night”?
Eat wisely and feel great,
For more information on how to abate hunger, lose weight and maintain energy to exercise, read Chapters 15 and 16 in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.
For personalized advice, consult with a sports dietitian. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org and can help you find a local expert.
If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to find recipes to fuel you for high energy and good health, check out my new app: Nancy Clark’s Recipes for Athletes. The information will help you create meals that make you feel and perform better.
The app offers 71 recipes, searchable by calories, carbohydrate, protein, and fat. You can further sort the recipes by recommendations for what to eat pre- and post-exercise, as well as for vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and dairy-free recipes.
Each recipe comes with a colorful photo of the prepared dish accompany the recipes as well as additional nutrition information for each recipe so you know the exact health value for each prepared meal.
The app also includes a quick reference listing of the most popular protein and energy bars, sports and energy drinks, and protein powders.
If you live outside the States, you can select imperial or metric measurements.
THe city of Boston is starting to buzz with Marathon excitement. If you are one of the nervous runners, here’s a nutrition tip to help you prepare for the 26.2-mile event:
Carb-load, don't fat-load!
Many runners confuse high fat 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 – preferably whole grain, so you don’t get constipated
Rice, noodles, stuffing
Pasta with tomato sauce (not cheese sauces);
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:
Donuts, Danish, croissants and other buttery pastries
Lasagna oozing with cheese and meat,
Pizza glistening with pepperoni grease
I’ll be at the Mizuno Booth at the Runner’s Expo if you have any last minute questions.
Speaking at the 27th annual symposium of SCAN (the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists’ group of the American Dietetic Association), Dr. John Ivy, PhD of the Department of Kinesiology & Health Education at the University of Texas-Austin shared these pointers:
• During extended exercise, your muscles need water, carbohydrate, electrolytes, and perhaps protein. While the need for protein during exercise to enhance performance can be debated, consuming protein will not be detrimental. For example, adding protein to a sports drink can lower post-exercisce markers of muscle damage, reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, and enhance recovery.
• Consuming protein before and after you lift weights optimizes gains in muscle mass and power.
• If you are serious about building muscle, you should eat meals and snacks consistently throughout the day, to provide a steady infusion of carbohydrates (to fuel) and protein (to build and repair) muscles.
• Eating breakfast is important to take the body out of a catabolic (breaking-down) state. Don't skip this morning meal!
• Consuming a small (100-calorie) high protein snack (such as some turkey or cottage cheese) before going to bed can enhance the availability of amino acids throughout the night. Anabolic (muscle building) activity is highest at night, so this snack can help optimize muscular development.
Without a doubt, what you eat and drink during the last few days and hours before the Boston Marathon makes a difference. By eating wisely and well, you can enjoy lasting energy without hitting the wall! Here are eight last minute nutrition tips for enhancing endurance.
1. Carbo-load, don't fat-load.
Carbohydrate-rich foods include cereals, fruits, juices, breads, rice, plain baked potatoes and pasta with tomato sauce. Lower carbohydrate choices include donuts, cookies, buttery potatoes, ice cream, cheesy lasagna and pepperoni pizza. These fat-laden foods may taste great and fill your stomach but fat does not get stored as muscle fuel.
2. No last minute hard training.
By resting your muscles and doing very little exercise this pre-event week, your muscles will have the time they need to store the carbohydrates and become fully saturated with glycogen (carbohydrate). You can only fully carbo-load if you stop exercising hard! You can tell if your muscles are well carbo-loaded if you have gained 2 to 4 pounds pre-event. Your muscles store three ounces of water along with each ounce of carbohydrate. (This water will be released during the event and be put to good use.)
3. No last minute dieting.
You can't fully carbo-load your muscles if you are dieting and restricting your calories. You will have greater stamina and endurance if you are well fueled, as compared to the dieter who may be a few pounds lighter but has muscles that are suboptimally carbo-loaded. Remember: you are supposed to gain (water) weight pre-event!
4. Drink extra fluids.
You can tell if you are drinking enough fluids by monitoring your urine. You should be urinating frequently (every 2 to 4 hours); the urine should be clear colored and significant in volume. Juices are a good fluid choice because they provide not only water and carbohydrates but also nutritional value. Save the sports drinks for during the event.
5. Eat tried-and-true foods.
If you drastically change your food choices (such as carbo-load by eating several extra bananas), you may end up with intestinal distress. Simply eat a comfortable portion of the tried-and-true carbohydrates you've enjoyed during training. You need not stuff yourself! If you will be traveling to a far away event, plan ahead so you can maintain a familiar eating schedule despite a crazy travel schedule.
6. Eat a moderate amount of fiber.
If you stuff yourself with lots of white bread, bagels, crackers, pasta and other foods made with refined white flour, you may end up constipated. Include enough fiber to promote regular bowel movements––but not too much fiber or you'll have the opposite problem! Moderate amounts of whole wheat bread, bran cereal, fruits and vegetables are generally good choices. (If you are concerned about diarrhea, limit your intake of high fiber foods and instead consume more of the refined breads and pastas.)
7. Eat the morning of the Marathon.
You'll need this fuel to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Although your muscles are well stocked from the foods you've eaten the past few days, your brain gets fuel only from the limited amount of sugar in your blood. When you nervously toss and turn the night before the event, you can deplete your blood sugar and, unless you eat carbs, you will start the event with low blood sugar. Your performance will go downhill from there...
Plan to replace the energy lost during the (sleepless) night with an early breakfast, as well as a pre-marathon snack at 9:00ish, as tolerated. You’ll have time to digest this food before the 10:00-10:40 a.m. Boston Marathon start. This fuel will help you avoid hitting the wall.
Stick with tried-and-true pre-exercise foods: oatmeal, cereal, bagel, toast, banana, energy bars and/or juice. These carb-based foods invest in fueling the brain, as well as staving off hunger. If a pre-event breakfast will likely upset your system, eat extra food the night before. That is, eat your breakfast at 10:00 pm before you go to bed.
8. Consume carbs during the event.
During the Marathon, you'll have greater stamina if you consume not only water, but also some carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, gels, bananas or dried fruit. Depending on your body size and how hard you exercise, you should target about 150 to 350 calories/hour after the first hour to avoid hitting the wall (For example, that's 24 ounces sports drink/hour.) The slower you run, the more you need to fuel yourself during the event. Some athletes boost their energy intake by drinking diluted juices or defizzed cola; others suck on gummi candies, mints, chomps, gels, or eat chunks of energy bar, dried pineapple, and other easily chewed and digested foods along the way. Your muscles welcome this food; it gets digested and used for fuel during the event. And hopefully, you will have experimented during training to learn what settles best...
Fear not. Nut-eaters are not fatter than people who avoid nuts. Rather, nut–eaters might be healthier. Nuts offer health-protective phytochemicals that reduce inflammation. People who eat nuts and nut-butters (such as peanut butter and almond butter) more than five times a week reduce their risk of heart disease. Consuming 2 ounces (two handfuls) of nuts a day can reduce blood cholesterol by 5%.
The more nuts you eat, the better heart-health response you will get, as long as you stay within your calorie budget. Walnuts are particularly good fro heart-health because they contain ALA, an omega-3 fat. For more information about the health protective properties of nuts, go to www.nutstudies.org.
Here's a tip for how to enjoy more walnuts:
Line a baking sheet with foil. Sprinkle on a layer of walnuts. Drizzle the walnuts with honey or maple syrup. Bake at 325-degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the nuts are smell aromatic and look toasted. Occasionally stir the nuts during that time. Cool, store in an airtight container, and enjoy a handful for snacks or sprinkle them on top of cereal or yogurt.
This past weekend I attended a state-of-the-art sports nutrition conference sponsored by SCAN, the Sports and Cardiovascular Nutritionists practice group of the American Dietetic Association. I had the pleasure of listening to the top researchers offer their latest sports nutrition news. Here’s what researcher and registered dietitian Louise Burke, PhD, Director of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, had to say about carbohydrates.
DAILY CARBOHYDRATE NEEDS
• Don’t try to calculate a diet according to “percentage of carbohydrates”—such as a diet with 60% of the calories from carbs (a typical recommendation for athletes). Rather, define your daily carbohydrate needs in terms of grams per pound (or kilogram) body weight. The guidelines developed by the International Olympic Committee are:
Low intensity exercise: 1.5 to 2.5 g Carb/lb (3-5 g Carb/kg)
Moderate exercise (~1 hour/day): 2.5 to 3 g Carb/lb (5-7 g Carb/kg
Endurance exercise (1-3 hours/day): 2.5 to 4.5 g Carb/lb (6-10 g Carb/kg)
Extreme exercise (>4-5 h/day): 3.5 to 5.5 g Carb/lb (8-12 g Carb/kg)
Hence, if you are a serious athlete who weighs 150 pounds and trains for 2 hours a day, you’d need about 375 to 675 g carbohydrate per day. One grams of carbohydrate offers 4 calories, so this equates to 1,500 to 2,700 calories of carb to fully fuel (and refuel) your muscles. This is more carbohydrate than many endurance athletes tend to consume when eating on the run.
• By hitting your carbohydrate targets, you can restore depleted glycogen stores within 24 to 36 hours post exercise.
CARBS DURING EXERCISE
* If you will be exercising for less than 45 minutes, you have no need to consume carbs (such as a sports drink) during exercise. What you eat pre-exercise will carry you through the workout.
• If you will be exercising for 1 to 2.5 hours, you should target 30 to 60 grams carbohydrate per hour. Your pre-exercise snack should carry you for the first hour, and then you’ll want to target 120 to 240 calories of carbohydrate per hour thereafter. This equates to 120 to 240 calories from carbohydrate.
• If you will be exercising for more than 2.5 hours, you should target 60 to 90 grams of a variety of carbohydrate per hour (as tolerated). That’s 240 to 360 calories from sports drinks, dried pineapple, gels, gummi bears, and other carbs that taste good and settle well. Be sure to practice fueling during training, so you know what foods and fluids work well – and what ones don’t!
Do you have food(s) that you try to stay away from because you fear you will overeat it once you start with a small bite?
For many of my clients, cookies, peanut butter, and bagels fit into this category of “trouble foods.” These hungry athletes try to stay away from these “fattening foods.” They believe that eating, let’s say, one cookie will lead to eating 200 cookies, and they will end up getting instantly fat. Sound familiar?
If a food has too much power over you, try this experiment (as suggested in the book Beating Your Eating Disorder):
• Weigh yourself (first thing in the morning) on Day 1 of the experiment.
• Make one dietary change that you are sure will make you get fat (such as eating a big cookie at breakfast).
• Maintain this one change for 7 days (without making any other food or exercise changes), then weigh yourself again.
• Repeat this experiment for another 7 days. Take the average of the weights. (Weight fluctuates due to shifts in water.)
Have you gotten fat? Doubtful.
Take note: if the scale has gone up a tiny bit, the gain is likely due to replenishment of depleted muscle glycogen (carb) stores. For each one ounce of carbs stored in your muscles as glycogen, you also store about three ounces of water. Hence, do not obsess about a number on the scale. Rather, observe how much better you feel during the day and also during your workout.
While food experiments sound like a good idea, the reality is they can be very anxiety provoking and hard work. Eating more calories is hard because you are giving up control without being sure you will feel better in the long run. To learn how to take the power away from trigger foods, try reading Beating Your Eating Disorder. Other self-help books are available at www.gurze.com.
Just imagine how nice life will be for you and your loved ones when you can wake up without food fears and rigid food rules… this is a change worth making!
Nancy. I’ve heard I should eat a 3 or 4 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein right after I exercise, but I don't know what that looks like in terms of food. So, to be safe, I buy commercial recovery foods and drinks to be sure I get the right ratio. Are there other options?
Answer: The goal in a sports diet is to consume about three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. The ratio need not be exact. You just don’t want to consume a heavy amount of protein that displaces carbs (i.e., if you fill up on a big steak, you are not filling up on pasta). You also do not want heavy recovery foods (high fat, high protein, such as a burger) that sit in the stomach and slowly digest.
Commercial recovery foods and beverages are more about convenience than necessity. You can enjoyably refuel with chocolate milk, fruit yogurt, a sandwich, or pasta with meat sauce. By backing your workout into a carb-based sports meal (such as spaghetti with meat balls, stir-fried chicken and veggies with lots of rice), you'll get more carbs than protein, and plenty of fuel for your muscles.
Whether or not a protein-carb recovery beverage is superior to a carb-only beverage remains questionable. In a recent study (Green, 2008) in which athletes drank either a carb or a carb-protein recovery drink immediately after muscle-damaging downhill running, both beverages offered a similar recovery process over the course of three days. The authors conclude the meals that they ate (in addition to the recovery drink) in those post-exercise days supplied the protein and carbs needed to recover.
You won’t go wrong by refueling soon after exercise with a carb-protein combination if you done exhausting exercise and aren't yet ready to eat a meal. If you prefer engineered foods because they are convenient, buy them. But if you prefer the wholesome goodness of chocolate milk, yogurt and a banana, a fruit smoothie (milk, banana, berries), a bowl of cereal, and other tasty protein-carb combinations, save your money and enjoy real food instead. And remember, immediately consuming recovery foods is most important for the athlete who has exhausted him or herself and will be exercising again within the next six hours. Fitness exercisers need not get obsessed!
Green MS, Corona BT, Doyle JA, Ingalls CP. Carbohydrate-protein drinks do not enhance recovery from exercise-induced muscle injury. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2008;18(1):1-18.
Do Hummers need more gas than Mini-Coopers. Of course!
Do athletes who weigh 180 pounds need more calories than those who weigh 120 pounds? Of couse.
While this seems so obvious, I spend too much time counseling 180-pound over-fat athletes who try to eat like a 120-pound ballet dancer. They believe:
1. Food is a fattening “enemy.”
2. The less they eat, the faster they will lose weight.
3. The lighter they are, the better they will perform.
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
1. Food is fuel, not fattening. People who eat normally tend to be lean. People who diet tend to be heavy. Hence, dieting tends to make people heavy (in the long run) while learning how to eat normally contributes to a leaner physique.
2. The less you eat, the more likely you are to binge and regain all the weight you lost. This urge to binge is physiological. Just as you gasp for air and cannot breath normally after having stayed too long underwater, you can eat normally after having restricted food the point of feeling ravenously hungry.
3. The best-fueled athlete (who is genetically gifted and well trained) will out-perform the starved athlete who is thinner-at-any-cost.
I invite you to eat wisely, perform well and be at peace,
For food help:
To consult with a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in sports nutrition, find your local expert at www.SCANdpg.org.
Happy Day-After-Valentine’s-Day! Or maybe it’s not so happy if your sweetie gave you a chocolate-filled heart and you are staring at it, trying to “stay away” from the yummy treats. Do you eat them all today to “get rid of them”? Or can you enjoy one every day for the next few weeks?
If you are like too many of my clients, you believe you cannot eat just one chocolate. As one marathoner reported “I am addicted to chocolate... I ate the whole candy-filled heart in two hours.”
I beg to differ with her. I doubt if she is “addicted” to chocolate. My hunch is, she doesn’t give herself permission to eat chocolate very often. Hence, when chocolate crosses her path, this becomes her “last chance” to eat the stuff. You know “I’d better it all now to get rid of it, because I can never ever eat chocolate again. It’s a “bad” food…”
When a food has power over you, you need to eat it more often, not stay away from it. How about a little (preferably dark) chocolate every day with lunch? With time, you’ll get tired of the stuff. And remember, chocolate is not a “bad” food. Actually, it is quite delicious! The trick is to learn how to eat it in moderation.
Marathoner Bill Rodgers may have been right when he commented more marathons are won or lost at the porta-toilets than they are at the dinner table! Diarrhea is a major concern for many athletes, particularly those who run. Understandably so. Running jostles the intestines, reduces blood flow to the intestines as the body sends more blood to the exercising muscles, stimulates changes in intestinal hormones that hasten transit time, alters absorption rate, and contributes to dehydration-based diarrhea. Add some stress, pre-event jitters, high intensity effort—and it’s no wonder athletes (particularly novices whose bodies are yet unaccustomed to the stress of hard exercise) fret about "runners’ trots."
Exercise—specifically more exercise than your body is accustomed to doing—speeds up GI transit time. (Strength-training also accelerated transit time from an average of 44 hours to 20 hours in healthy, untrained 60-year old men.) As your body adjusts to the exercise, your intestines may resume standard bowel patterns. But not always, as witnessed by the number of experienced runners who carry toilet paper with them while running. (They also know the whereabouts of every public toilet on the route!) Athletes with pre-existing GI conditions, such as irritable bowel or lactose intolerance, commonly deal with runners’ trots.
Solutions for intestinal rebellion
To help alleviate undesired pit stops:
--try exercising lightly before a harder workout to help empty your bowels.
--experiment with training at different times of the day.
--if you are a morning runner, drink a warm beverage (tea, coffee, water) to stimulate a bowel movement; then allow time to sit on the toilet to do your business prior to exercising.
--visualize yourself having no intestinal problems. A positive mindset (as opposed to useless fretting) may control the problem.
The following nutrition tips might help you fuel wisely and reduce the symptoms:
1) Eat less high fiber cereal. Fiber increases fecal bulk and movement, thereby reducing transit time. Triathletes with a high fiber intake reported more GI complaints than those with a lower fiber intake.
2) Limit “sugar-free” gum, candies and foods that contain sorbitol, a type of sugar that can cause diarrhea.
3) Keep a food & diarrhea chart to pinpoint food triggers. For a week, eliminate any suspicious foods--excessive intakes of juice, coffee, fresh or dried fruits, beans, lentils, milk, high fiber breads and cereals, gels, commercial sports foods. Next, eat a big dose of the suspected food and observe changes in bowel movements. If you stop having diarrhea when you cut out bran cereal, but have a worrisome situation when you eat an extra-large portion, the answer becomes obvious: eat less bran cereal.
4) Learn your personal transit time by eating sesame seeds, corn or beets--foods that can be seen in feces. Because food moves through most people's intestines in 1 to 3 days, the trigger may be a food you ate a few days ago.
5) Stay well hydrated. GI complaints are common in runners who have lost more than 4% of their body weight in sweat. (That's 6 lb. for a 150 lb. athlete.) Runners may think they got diarrhea because of the sports drink they consumed, but the diarrhea might have been related to dehydration.
6) When all else fails, you might want to consult with your doctor about timely use of anti-diarrhea medicine, such as Immodium. Perhaps that will be your saving grace.
The bottom line
You are not alone with your concerns. Yet, your body is unique and you need to experiment with different food and exercise patterns to find a solution that brings peacefulness to your exercise program.
We currently have 9 dogs that we train and compete with in herding competitions. We train on a daily basis, locally as well as nationally. (www.fourmileaussies.com is our kennel website.)
I can tell you for sure that a hungry dog isn’t at his best. Hungry dogs are quicker to get in a fight, but they may not necessarily win. When we compete with our dogs, not only do we need physical strength but also we need mental sharpness. (The dog has to obey some pretty complex commands when taking the livestock through the course.) A dog that is hungry (or hasn’t eaten the morning of a competition) tends to get tired when things get tough (i.e., he won’t work as hard to turn back a running cow.)
They also get mentally sloppy as the day wears on. They will forget what ‘right’ and ‘left’ means sometimes. Or they will get sloppy and allow one sheep to split from the group and they won’t bother putting it back. All this sloppiness results in losing points during your run.
Since our dogs can’t talk to us, we have to observe their behavior and adjust their nutrition based on the results we see. I can tell you for sure, that a dog that has had several small meals (or snacks) throughout the day lasts longer, tries harder and is mentally sharper than a dog that skipped breakfast and has only had water to drink. I think dogs are pretty much like humans.
I’m thinking any coach that gave that advice never trained dogs!
I am in the process of revising The Cyclist’s Food Guide. I’m looking for “words of nutrition wisdom” from cyclists of all abilities. Just a few sentences of what you wished you had known before you bonked … your secret to maintaining energy … the food mistake you made.
Here’s an example of what I want:
“For long rides, I drink orange juice and tomato juice, which I can get at convenience stores. Both juices are potassium-rich and the tomato juice has sodium, which helps me feel better on the ride.”