What about energy drinks…??? That’s the Big Question I get asked by high school kids, coaches, parents and other active, under-thirty year olds. They want to know if guzzling drinks such as Red Bull and Full Throttle are OK for energy boosters.
My response to being asked “What about energy drinks?” is to reply, “Why are you lagging on energy? Did you consume an adequate sports diet earlier in the day?” Undoubtedly not.
Generally, the desire for an energy drink is the symptom of a bigger nutritional problem: skipping breakfast, barely eating lunch and now at 3:00 p.m. needing help to get through the afternoon, including a workout.
You’re naïve to think that a can of caffeinated sugar-syrup will optimize performance. While it may stimulate you enough to make the workout seem easier, it will not replace a health-promoting, energy enhancing foundation of wholesome meals and pre-exercise snacks. No energy drink will compensate for poor nutrition.
Energy drinks should really be called “stimulant drinks.” They are the equivalent of a small cup of coffee (energy drinks typically contain between 80 to 140 mg of caffeine) with two heaping tablespoons of sugar (or 7 packets of sugar @ 110 calories). That’s enough to get anyone wired!
Many athletes also question if energy drinks are bad for their health. While I have less concern about the occasional energy drink, I am concerned about over-consumption, especially in small children. I read a medical report about a teenage basketball player who drank four cans of an energy drink and died, likely due to heart problems. The dose is the poison.
Fuel wisely, play well.
For information on how to choose a high energy sports diet:
Here's your chance to learn from two highly regarded sports nutrition experts:
NASHVILLE, TN Sept. 24-25, 2010
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FT. LAUDERDALE, FL Jan. 14-15, 2011
TAMPA, FL Mar. 4-5
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This intensive workshop by Nancy Clark MS, RD CSSD and exercise physiologist William Evans PhD is designed to help sports dietitians, coaches, athletic trainers, exercise physiologists, sports medicine professionals and serious athletes find answers to their questions about--
-eating for health, enhanced performance and longevity
-balancing carbs, protein and sports supplements
-managing weight and eating disorders.
Exercise physiology, exercise and aging, sports nutrition, protein, ergogenic aids, creatine, weight control, counseling tips for eating disordered athletes, case studies and hands-on information.
“Nancy Clark and Bill Evans present a nice balance of science and practical information in their Nutrition & Exercise Workshop. I got what I wanted—plus more!”
“I was surprised to learn new information on a topic I thought I knew so well.”
More often than not, I talk with novice marathoners who assume they will lose weight once they start training for a marathon. After all, if they are running for miles and miles, how could they not lose weight???
Well, guess again, according to a study presented at the American College of Sports Medicine's Annual Meeting. In a survey of 64 participants in a three-month marathon-training program, only 11% of the runners lost weight and 11% actually gained weight. (The rest remained at a stable weight.) Of the 7 who gained weight, 6 were women. They got hungrier and ate more!
Among the entire group of runners, three-quarters of the women reported eating more while training, as compared to only half of the men. It seems that Nature works hard to defend women from losing weight! After all, in terms of evolution, a woman’s job is to be fertile.
Hence, if you are a woman who decides to run a marathon, be sure the primary goal of your training is to improve your endurance, not to lose weight. If you want to do both, you have to carefully manage your appetite. All too often, marathoners can convince themselves they deserve to eat several extra cookies because they just ran a few miles…
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.
In the flood of my daily emails, I often find some meaningful words of wisdom. The story below is from the MEDA newsletter (www.MEDAinc.org). MEDA is the Multi-service Eating Disorders Association, a helpful resource for people who struggle with balancing food and weight. I hope you enjoy this story about Invisible Victories. If you are a compulsive exerciser (perhaps disguised as a dedicated athlete), perhaps it will inspire you to add some gentleness to your day.
By Whitney Post, former World Champion and Olympic Rower
We live in a culture that is always looking for the shiny accomplishment. We are taught to be good, to look good, to achieve more-and it never seems to end. Yet I have found over and over again that the tasks and achievements that are most in line with my recovery are invisible, humble acts that won't take up space on my resume and that I probably won't want to tell anyone about at a cocktail party. Each month in this column I will celebrate an invisible victory that I or one of my clients has accomplished. My hope is that it will help you be better able to spot and celebrate your own.
I want to thank Rachel Bikofsky, our May 2010 Invisible Victory Contest winner for sharing her strength and growth in this essay about the Boston Marathon. I believe it belongs on the medal stand because it articulates something so many of us feel when we see high level athletes, or witness events we think our "perfect" or "preferred" selves should be participating in. The victory here comes in accepting her own body's truth about what is right and balanced, and releasing old ideas of who she should be.
My Invisible Victory – by Rachel Bikofsky
Today was the 114th Boston Marathon, and I didn't run it. Nor did I run the 113th, or the 112th, or any marathon ever, at any time. Every year in recent memory, I have used Marathon Monday as an excuse to berate myself endlessly for my lack of strength and discipline-obviously, if I possessed those qualities, I'd be running. So this year, as the big event loomed once more, I approached it with my usual sense of trepidation...and was pleasantly surprised to be greeted not with self-hatred, but with acceptance and clarity. Here's what I know:
I did not run the Marathon, and this used to mean that I was weak. But, I know I'm not weak, because I wake up at 5:45 every morning, get to work an hour later, and have energy enough to shepherd 25 rambunctious third graders through a full day of learning, five days a week.
I did not run the Marathon, and this used to mean I was undisciplined. But, I know I'm not undisciplined, I just save my discipline for things that matter to me, and running doesn't. I work hard, I study meticulously, I make to-do lists and schedules and stick to them. If I set a goal, I do my best to meet it, and I'm pretty sure that's what discipline is about.
I did not run the Marathon, and this used to mean I'd never have the body I wanted. Well, it does mean I'll never have a marathoner's body, but it doesn't have to mean I'll never have a body I'm satisfied with. Also, it probably means for me I'll have a better chance of keeping my period, and won't have to endure the pain of running with stress fractures in my feet ever again. It means I'll be gentler with my body, and my body and spirit will reflect that.
I did not run the Marathon, and this used to mean I'd never get medals or have people cheer for me. Okay, so it probably does eliminate one possible avenue for medal winning. But last week, one of my students presented me with two tiny origami swans he had made for me in art class. Better than a medal? It was for me.
I did not run the Marathon, and this used to mean I had no worth. While it's true that I'm not a runner, I am a person who stops to touch wildflowers and exclaim over nature, who is intuitive to the needs of others, who loves her family, and who can soothe a crying child. I am a thinker, a writer, and a person with a wicked sense of humor. I am all of those things, so I can also accept what I am not.
What not running the Marathon means is simply that I am not a marathon runner-and there is no longer a value judgment attached to that statement. It's neither good nor bad, it's just what is. And, I'm finally, finally okay with that, or at least more okay than I've ever been before. I did not run the race, or win a medal...., but I have earned an invisible victory, and I think the 114th Boston Marathon has been my best one yet.
The best part about food is the taste. But too often, we eat too quickly to even taste our food. The vacuum-clean-your-dinner-plate style of eating can leave you hungry (even though your stomach might be full.)
Try this experiment to help you fully comprehend how much pleasure is lost when you vacuum clean your dinner plate and inhale your food as quickly as possible.
Necessary supplies: two Hershey’s Kisses
Experiment #1. Unwrap one Hershey’s Kiss. Smell the Kiss then place it in your mouth, twirl it on your tongue, slowly bite into it, and savor it! This pleasurable process should take more than one minute.
Experiment #2. Unwrap the second kiss. Eat it as quickly as you can. Observe the lack of pleasure when you fail to taste what you consume.
Next time, think twice before you gobble your food. You might be missing out on one of life’s finest pleasures—tasting the wonderful foods you eat!
“You are about to embark on one of the most wonderful aspects of your, or your child’s, soccer career. Understanding the principles of good sports nutrition (which is good nutrition for life), it is completely reasonable to expect a player and team to discover a whole new level of play, and of excellence.”
Authors Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark quoted in the Forward.
This extremely organized, entertaining, educational and practical book is themed around soccer nutrition for female athletes; however, readers from all backgrounds will benefit from its excellent dietary advice. Both authors have significant experience with health and nutrition at the amateur, university and professional level. If your knowledge about sports nutrition was limited before reading the book, you will receive a significant introduction about a vital topic.
Well-Organized with Quick References
This is a well-organized book that was compiled for easy future reference. There is a good blend of charts, images, quotes, text and website links. I liked how the authors color-coded dietary charts with a green background and food recipes in orange. They also provided separate sections for what to eat before and after practices, during travel and competitive games. Tips from professional players enhance the practical value of this guide.
Educational without Complications
The authors presented significant nutritional suggestions and standards; however, the information is displayed in easy-to-understand sections. They teach that eating healthfully doesn’t need to be expensive or time-consuming. For example, making the point that one banana and a glass of orange juice meet the daily U.S. recommended requirement for 2 cups of fruits. Or that the proper mineral-rich cereal can jump-start your day. Other interesting tips were how to eat a healthy lunch at fast food restaurants and the nutritional value of pasta sauces. Common sense examples such as these will be very helpful for parents, children and even professional athletes.
Knowledge of Professional Players
One area that stood out to me was the in-depth knowledge and appreciation of proper nutrition by the WPS players. Several were quoted in the book. For example, French international Sonia Bompastor of the Washington Freedom:
“I take iron because I’m anemic and I need that iron to perform on the field… A lot of soccer players need to take iron.”
Wide Variety of Recipes
The book contains over 40 recipes designed by WPS players from around the globe. From “Game Day Pancakes” by Karina LeBlanc of Canada to “Feijoada” by Rosana from Brazil and Japanese-style Hamburgers by Aya Miyama, you can experience the international flavor (no pun intended) of Women’s Professional Soccer.
My favorite? “Pasta with Chicken” by the all-time international caps leader, Kristine Lilly from the USA.
A wide variety of high-quality images accompany each chapter. The pictures demonstrate the diversity of nutritional food groups and world-class players who compete in Women’s Professional Soccer.
For your next practice, game or road trip, pack the “Food Guide For Soccer: Tips & Recipes from the Pros.” It will provide you with the winning nutritional edge for increased athletic performance. Available at www.nancyclarkrd.com
I’m interested in collecting information from gastric bypass athletes regarding how they have learned to fuel themselves for their exercise programs.
While there are not lots of “gastric bypass athletes”, the number is growing. (About 6% of gastric bypass patients become highly active as a part of thier weight reduction program.) These hard-working reduced-obese folks have met the challenge of losing large amounts of weight. Some go on to reach their dreams of running a marathon, completing an Ironman triathlon, or hiking the Appalachian Trail.
Because the nutrition advice given to gastric bypass patients is contradictory to optimal sports performance, lots of questions and concerns arise in this population. For example, people who have had bypass surgery are told to limit calories to 1,200 to 1,600/day, avoid simple sugars, limit carbohydrates, sip on fluids, and not drink while eating. Few athletes could excel at their sport with such limitations!
If you know of someone who wants to share their story, please pass along this information and invite them respond to this blog or contact me via www.nancyclarkrd.com.
How can you maintain good energy when you’re exercising for longer than 60 to 90 minutes? By eating enough calories of foods that settle well…!
The standard recommendation for fueling during endurance exercise has been to target 1 gram of carbohydrate per minute of exercise (60 grams of carb per hour, the equivalent of 240 calories for a 150 pound athlete). The research, originally done with just glucose, indicated consuming more than 60 grams of glucose per hour offered no additional benefits. The body has a limited number of glucose transporters and can carry only 60 grams out of the intestines, into the blood stream and to the muscles.
Recent research indicates consuming a variety of sugars (that is, more than just glucose) allows more fuel to become available per hour. That's because different types of sugars (carbs) use different transporters. Generally, athletes consume more than just glucose. (Sports drinks, for example, tend to be glucose+fructose.) Let's say you eat a banana that consists of many different types of sugars and uses many different transporters. Your muscles will have access to more fuel (up to 90 g carb/hour; 360 calories) than if you consume just one kind of sugar (as might happen with some engineered foods).
Variety is a wise idea—as is practicing yoru fueling during long training sessions so you can learn what works best for your body. Some people like engineered sports candy and gels, others prefer dried pineapple and gummy candy. Take your choice--just experiment during training to determine if 200 to 300 calories per hour is the right amount for your body.
Here’s a favorite Barbeque Salmon recipe from Keeley Dowling, a member of Sky Blue Football Club in New Jersey. The recipe is family-friendly and a yummy way to boost your intake of health-protective omega-3 fats that help fight inflammation. If you enjoy one salmon meal a week, along with another fish meal (such as tuna for lunch), you'll be able to consume the American Heart Association's recommended intake of omega-3's -- without taking fish oil pills!
This winning recipe is one of many that you might enjoy in my newFood Guide for Soccer:Tips and Recipes from the Pros, co-authored with Gloria Averbuch. The easy-reading, how-to bookanswers the questions soccer parents and soccer athletes have about what and when to eat for high energy and top performance.
Keeley Dowling’s Barbeque Salmon
When Sky Blue FC Defender Keeley Dowling worked at a sports complex in Tempe, Arizona, the chef cooked this recipe. That chef taught Keeley to cover the entire piece of salmon with barbeque sauce, so it completely blankets the fish; the thicker the better!
Keeley strongly recommends Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce. It blends very nicely with the salmon, so much so that folks who normally don’t like fish will enjoy this meal. This recipe goes nicely with asparagus and rice.
½ to 1 cup Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce
1 lb. salmon
1. Preheat oven to at 400º F.
2. Place salmon in a baking dish lined with foil (to simplify clean-up).
3. Cover the salmon entirely with Sweet Baby Ray’s Original BBQ Sauce.
4. Bake uncovered for 20-25 minutes. The fish is done when it flakes easily with a fork.
Q. The label says 2 tablespoons of Skippy peanut butter has 3 grams of added sugar. Isn’t that bad?
A. Three grams of sugar equates to 12 calories of sugar. This is far less sugar than is in the jelly that comes along with a PB&J sandwich! It's also a fraction of the sugar in sports drinks, gels and jellybeans. I would not blink an eye at three grams of sugar for an active person (or even an inactive person, for that matter.)
A standard nutrition guideline is that 10% of calories can appropriately come from refined sugar. That equates to about 240 to 300 calories (60-75 grams) of added sugar per day for most athletes. You can choose how you want to spend those sugar-grams. Some athletes like frozen yogurt, others like sports drinks, and some like Skippy peanut butter along with some jelly. Take your choice! Sugar fuels your muscles; it is not bad for you nor will it negate the healthfulness of other food you consume.
If you prefer all-natural peanut butter with no added sugar, that's fine. But I wouldn't choose it because it has less sugar. You might just end up adding more jelly, jam or honey?