“I don’t eat much before I compete because my coach told me a hungry dog fights harder. Right?” asked this high school cross-country runner who had made an appointment with me to figure out how to enhance his performance. The simple answer was: a hungry dog might fight harder, but a hungry teenage runner will drag through events and be in a bad mood. He agreed.
Too many people think exercising on empty is a smart idea. I have yet to see research that supports that belief. The studies consistently indicate that pre-exercise fuel enhances performance. Just as your car runs better with fuel, your body runs better when appropriately fed. Pre-exercise food boosts your energy, enhances your ability to focus and concentrate on the task at hand, enhances stamina and endurance—to say nothing of puts you in a better mood. Why be tired and grumpy when a pre-run granola bar, banana or pretzels could boost your energy and your spirits?
Granted, some people have trouble difficulty tolerating a full meal pre-run, but most active people can enjoy 200 to 300 calories of some fruit, bread or energy bar. Give it a try? Experiment, observe the benefits (or costs), and tweak your diet accordingly.
Many morning exercisers believe they should exercise on empty, so that they will burn more fat. While that may be true, burning fat differs from losing body fat. Losing body fat depends on your calorie intake for the entire day. That is, you can do a fat-burning workout in the morning but then erase that calorie deficit with a big scone and a latte, followed by generous meals the rest of the day. (You know, the hearty meals you “deserve to eat” because you had a hard workout earlier in the day…)
The benefits of eating before a morning workout include:
-You’ll have a better workout.
-You’ll feel more alert and have energy to enjoy the workout.
-You’ll provide your muscles with the fuel it needs to optimize performance.
-You’ll be able to train harder and get more from your efforts.
-You’ll help curb the hungry horrors after the workout.
If you want to lose body fat, I suggest you plan to do that when you are sleeping, not exercising! (Sleep, after all, is a fat burning activity--if you still thank that burning fat equates to losing body fat.) Your better bet is to fuel by day, have energy to enjoy an active lifestyle, and then diet (eat a little bit less) at night. Give it a try?
For more information on how to lose weight and maintain energy for exercise, take a look at the weight loss section in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook. The information will give a kick-start to your New Year’s Nutrition Resolutions.
“What should I do to jump-start my diet?” my client earnestly inquired. She was ready to get back on track after having gained three pounds over the holidays and was eager to lose that weight plus seven more “quick loss” pounds to get to her "happy weight.”
“Don’t bother jump starting your diet!” I responded. Here’s why:
Dieters who lose weight quickly by severely restricting their calories inevitably regain the weight, if not more. That's because the body overcompensates for extreme dieting (extreme hunger) with overeating. Just as you will gasp for air after having been trapped under water without oxygen, you will devour food after having been denied calories during a crash diet.
Hunger is physiological. Just as your body needs air to breathe, your body also needs fuel to function. Extreme hunger is simply an urgent request for fuel. Crash diets lead to binge eating (also called “blowing your diet”). This overeating has little to do with your "having no willpower" and lots to do with the physiology of hunger.
Yes, you can white-knuckle yourself to stick to your crash diet, but your well-meaning plan to quickly shed some pounds has a high likelihood of exploding into a demoralizing pattern of yoyo dieting. You’ll inevitably end up gaining more weight than you lose. Don't go there.... it’s depressing.
The average person makes 200 food decisions a day. No wonder grocery shopping can be mind-boggling and a source of overwhelming confusion! A trip to the supermarket requires thousands of food decisions.
If you are left confused about whether to buy organic or standard foods, fresh or frozen vegetables, or low-fat or fat-free milk, you might find solace in this new book, Read it Before You Eat It: How to Decode Food labels and Make the Healthiest Choice Every Time by Bonnie Taub-Dix RD. Bonnie has done a great job of explaining how to buy the best foods for your health.
Her first caution is: be aware of how the grocery store is set up. You will be greeted with freshly baked bread and fresh flowers—items that tend to be “unplanned purchases” … and that’s exactly what the store owners want from you. To their advantage, about 60% to 70% of food purchases are unplanned. So, this year, go shopping with a food plan for the week, a list of what you need to buy, your guard up!
Are you looking for a useful gift for your friends or relatives who are also parents? Look no more!
The Meal Makeover Moms (www.mealmakeovermoms.com) have created "No Whine with DInner", a cookbook filled with 150 family-friendly recipes that are healthful, kid-approved, and easy to prepare. What more could any busy Mom want to help resolve the “what’s for dinner” crisis?
Here’s a recipe that will both boost your sports diet and please your palate:
Potato Carrot Soup with Goldfish Croutons
Your family might ask “Is this soup healthy? It tastes too good.”
1-tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced celery
½ cup diced onion
1 32-ounce carton chicken broth
2 pounds (5 cups) diced potato (1”cubes)
1 cup shredded carrot
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 cup frozen corn
½ cup shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese
Salt, pepper as desired
½ cup whole grain Goldfish crackers
1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes.
2. Stir in the broth, potatoes, carrot and thyme. Cover, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook at a low boil, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Remove the thyme, and let the mixture cool slightly. Transfer to a blender and puree in batches until very smooth and creamy. You can also use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
4. Place the soup back in the saucepan over low heat. Add the corn and cheese and stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper. Top each serving with about 9 Goldfish crackers.
Yield: 6 servings (as a side dish)
210 calories per serving
35 grams carbohydrate
8 grams protein
5 grams fat
Reprinted with permission from Janice Bissex and Liz Weiss, "No Whine with DInner: 150 kid-tested recipes from the Meal Makeover Moms.
Whether you are a health professional who works with active people or an athlete, here’s your chance to learn how to eat to win!
Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD and exercise physiologist/protein researcher William Evans PhD will share their knowledge and experiences with helping active people of all ages enhance their performance, health, and weight management skills.
Here's the International Olympic Committee's official statement about sports nutrition. Eat wisely; perform well!
IOC Consensus Statement on Sports Nutrition 2010
Diet significantly influences athletic performance. All athletes should adopt specific nutritional strategies before, during and after training and competition to maximise their mental and physical performance. Evidence-based guidelines on the amount, composition, and timing of food intake have been defined to help athletes perform and train more effectively, with less risk of illness and injury. Athletes will benefit from the guidance of qualified sports nutrition professionals who can advise on their individual energy, nutrient and fluid needs and help develop sport-specific nutritional strategies for training, competition and recovery.
Energy demands depend on the periodised training load and competition program, and will vary from day to day and across the season. A diet that provides adequate energy from a wide range of commonly available foods can meet the carbohydrate, protein, fat and micronutrient requirements of training and competition. An appropriate diet will help athletes reach an optimum body size and body composition to achieve greater success in their sport. Careful selection of nutrient-rich foods to reduce the risk of developing nutrient deficiencies that impair both health and performance is especially important when energy intake is restricted to reduce body and/or fat mass.
During high-intensity training, particularly of long duration, athletes should aim to achieve carbohydrate intakes that meet the needs of their training programs and also adequately replace carbohydrate stores during recovery between training sessions and competitions. Dietary protein should be consumed in daily amounts greater than those recommended for the general population, but a varied diet that meets energy needs will generally provide protein in excess of requirements. Foods or snacks that contain high-quality proteins should be consumed regularly throughout the day as part of the day’s total protein intake, and in particular soon after exercise, in quantities sufficient to maximise the synthesis of proteins, to aid in long-term maintenance or gain of muscle and bone and in the repair of damaged tissues. Ingestion of foods or drinks providing 15-25 g of such protein after each training session will maximise the synthesis of proteins that underpins these goals.
For events lasting an hour or more, the athlete should aim to begin competition with body carbohydrate stores sufficient to meet their needs by consuming carbohydrate-rich foods in the hours and days beforehand. Ingestion of even small amounts of carbohydrate during exercise can enhance cognitive and physical performance in competition lasting one hour. As the duration of the event increases, so does the amount of carbohydrate needed to optimise performance. To achieve the relatively high rates of intake (up to 90 g/h) needed to optimise performance in events lasting more than about 3 hours, athletes should practise consuming carbohydrate during training to develop an individual strategy, and should make use of sports foods and drinks containing carbohydrate combinations that will maximise absorption from the gut and minimise gastrointestinal disturbances. Dehydration, if sufficiently severe, can impair performance in most events, particularly in warm and high-altitude environments. Athletes should be well hydrated before exercise and drink sufficient fluid during exercise to limit dehydration to less than about 2% of body mass. Chilled fluids may benefit performance in hot conditions. Athletes should not drink so much that they gain weight during exercise. Sodium should be included when sweat losses are high, especially when exercise lasts more than about 2 hours. During recovery from exercise, rehydration should include replacement of both water and salts lost in sweat. When athletes must compete in several events in a short time-period, strategies to enhance recovery of fluid and fuel are important.
Low energy availability should be avoided, as it can impair performance and adaptation to training and may be harmful to brain, reproductive, metabolic and immune function, and to bone health. Dieting in young athletes should be discouraged. Robust immunity and reduced risk of infection can be achieved by consuming a varied diet adequate in energy and micronutrients, ensuring adequate sleep and limiting other life stress. Athletes should be particularly aware of their needs for calcium, iron and Vitamin D, but the use of large amounts of some micronutrients may be harmful. Athletes at risk of disordered eating patterns and reproductive disorders should be promptly referred to a qualified health professional for evaluation and treatment.
The use of supplements does not compensate for poor food choices and an inadequate diet, but supplements that provide essential nutrients may be a short-term option when food intake or food choices are restricted due to travel or other factors. Vitamin D may be needed in supplemental form when sun exposure is inadequate. Of the many different dietary ergogenic aids available to athletes, a very small number may enhance performance for some athletes when used in accordance with current evidence under the guidance of a well-informed professional. Athletes contemplating the use of supplements and sports foods should consider their efficacy, their cost, the risk to health and performance, and the potential for a positive doping test. Supplement use in young athletes should be discouraged, and the focus should be on consuming a nutrient-rich, well-chosen diet to allow for growth while maintaining a healthy body composition.
To enjoy all the benefits of sport, athletes, whether they compete at the elite level or exercise on a recreational basis, should adopt specific nutrition strategies that can optimise mental and physical performance and support good health.
I’m looking forward to my upcoming workshops in Atlanta at the end of this week. I will be speaking at a runners’ clinic at Phidippides Running Store on Thursday Dec 2nd, and then on Friday at St. Joseph’s Hospital, I be leading a Nutrition & Exercise Workshop for health professionals who need CEUs. Serious athletes who want to learn more about sports nutrition are also welcome to attend.
I’m always impressed by the folks who come to nutrition workshops. They have good questions and care about what they eat. We all have a good time and I love learning from the participants. I’ve picked up interesting tidbits at clinics …. Like beef jerky tastes really good during ultra-runs, as does nibbling on a boullion cube.
If you live in Atlanta and are able to come to either event, I’ll look forward to meeting you. And if you want to buy a copy of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook for a gift for yourself or your friend, I’ll be glad to personally autograph it!
More than 10,000 members of the American Dietetic Association recently convened in Boston for their annual meeting. A highlight was “The Great Fat Debate.” While most of us left the debate more confused that when we entered, some of the key points were:
• In terms of body weight, we need to pay attention to total calorie intake, and not grams of fat. That is, “eat fat and get fat” is not true. The true statement is, “eat excess calories and get fat.”
• Pay attention to the kind of fat you eat, and choose more fish and plant fats, such as in salmon, nuts, peanut butter (and other nut butters), olive oil, and avocado. These poly- and mono-unsaturated fats are beneficial to our health. Dip your bread in olive oil, instead of spreading it with butter!
• “Low fat” foods (such as fat-free frozen yogurt and lowfat cookies, muffins and other baked goods) can a negative impact on American’s health because they are often high in sugar and refined carbs. People tend to fantasize that lowfat means low calorie, and low calorie means you can eat as much as you want!!!!! Not true. Calories count.
The bottom line:
Limit your intake of fats that are hard at room temperature (butter, beef fat, shortening used in baked goods) and choose more of the fats that are soft or liquid at room temperature: olive and canola oil, fish-fat, avocado.
Have you have ever wondered which is the best energy bar? The answer is the best choice is the product that pleases your taste buds and settles well in your stomach. You simply need to experiment to determine which products (if any) work best for your body.
A multitude of businesses have jumped on the bandwagon to create sports foods that appeal to a variety of athletes, including those with special diets (such as gluten-free or vegan) and athletes who are just plain hungry and want a “healthier” cookie (most energy bars!).
While busy athletes enjoy the ease of using pre-wrapped sports foods, these commercial products tend to be more about convenience than necessity. Certainly, there is a time and place for these products, but “real” food can do the same job at a lower price. Please don’t underestimate the power of peanut butter, bananas, and honey!
Below is an extensive (but incomplete) list of various types of energy bars. Perhaps the information will help you untangle the jungle of choices.
ENERGY BARS(for extra energy, not a meal replacement):
All natural/organic ((have no added vitamins or minerals):
Clif Nectar, Clif Mojo, Lara Bar, Optimum, Honey Bar, Odwalla Bar, PowerBar Nut Naturals, KIND Bars, Zing Bars, NRG-Bar, Honey Stinger Bars, Kashi Bars, Peak Energy, Perfect 10, Gnu Bar, Raw Revolution Bar, Olympic Granola Bar, Pure Bar, Pro bar, Sun Valley Bar, Bonk Breaker Energy Bar
Caffeine-containing bar: Peak Energy Plus
Dairy-free: Clif Nectar, Clif Builder's, Olympic Granola, Pure, Bonk Breaker Energy Bar, Gnu Bar, Fit, Perfect 10, Larabar, AllerEnergy Bar, Soy Rocks Bar
Grocery store options: Nature Valley Granola Bar, Nutri-Grain Bar, Quaker Chewy Bars, Fig Newtons
Gluten-free: Perfect 10, Hammer Bar, EnvirKids Rice Cereal Bar; Omega Smart Bars, Extend Bar Delight, Zing Bar, BoraBora Bar, Wings of Nature Bar, Elev8Me. Wheat-free but may not be gluten free (due to cross-contamination with wheat products in the manufacturing plant): Larabar, Odwalla Bar, Clif Nectar, Clif Builder, Bonk Breaker
Kosher: Pure Fit, Larabar, Extend Bar, Balance Bar, HoneyBar
Meal replacement bar (with 10-15 g protein): Kashi Go Lean Bar, MetRx Mr. Big, MetRx Big 100 Colossal, Balance Satisfaction
Nut-free: AllerEnergy Bars, Metaballs
Peanut-free: Soy Rocks, AllerEnergy bar, Larabar
Protein bars (soy, whey, egg, or blended protein source):
PowerBar ProteinPlus, EAS Myoplex Delux, High 5 Protein Bar, Maximuscle Promax Meal, Tri-O-Plex, Clif Builder's Bar, Detour Bar, Honey Stinger Protein Bar, Pure Protein
Raw food: Raw Revolution, Pure Bar
Recovery bar (4:1 carb:pro ratio): PowerBar Performance
Soy-free: Larabar, Perfect 10, Clif Nectar, KIND Bar, Bumble, Gnu Bar, Raw Bar, Zing
Bar, NRG-Bar, AllerEnergy Bar
Vegan: Pure Fit Bar, Larabar, Hammer Bar, Clif Builder's Bar, Pro Bar, Vega Whole Food Raw Energy Bar, Perfect 10, Soy Rocks Bar
Vitamin+protein-filled candy bar: Marathon Bar, Detour Bar
I ‘m just back from the American Dietetic Association’s Annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. What a state-of the art event!
I attended one session about inflammation and it’s contribution to heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other so-called diseases of aging. Inflammation is created by the typical American diet (high in saturated fat, refined sugars, excessive calories). Hence, there’s no secret why the nation is plagued with diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Whole foods (especially whole grains, fruits, and veggies) contain powerful anti-inflammatory compounds, such as phenolics and flavinoids. These compounds are not in vitamin supplements, so you are missing the boat if you think a vitamin pill can compensate for sub-optimal eating! Choosing a “closer to the earth” menu with mostly whole foods and less highly refined products is a wiser investment.
Blueberries and strawberries are just two examples of powerfully health-protective fruits. Their protective effect lasts for about six hours, so eating some colorful fruits and/or veggies at every meal invests in long-term health. If you are concerned about pesticides in fruits, such as strawberries, relax. You’d need to eat 1,500 servings of non-organically grown strawberries in one day to even approach a level of concern!
“I don’t keep peanut butter in the house”, reported Sarah, a working mom and fitness exerciser who wanted to lose about 10 pounds. “If peanut butter is there, I eat way too much of it.”
The solution I offered Sarah was scary – eat peanut butter EVERY day for the next week. Eat it three meals a day, if desired, and two snacks a day, as well.
Sarah left my office fearful she would gain several undesired pounds of body fat. When she returned a week later, she was amazed that her weight was the same. She had eaten a lot of peanut butter, but also had eaten less and less of it as the days went by. Peanut butter no longer “called to her” and no longer “invited her” to eat the whole jar. She knew she could eat it whenever she wanted, so it was no longer “forbidden.”
The best way to take the power away from a binge-food is to eat it more often— every meal, every day until you get sick of it. Knowing you can have it as often as you want makes it less appealing. Think about it. Do apples have power over you? Doubtful—because you give yourself permission to eat apples whenever you want. But what would happen if you were to ban apples? You’d likely start to binge on them when given the opportunity.
This week, how about surrounding yourself with a food that has power over you and make peace with that food? … Ice cream anyone?
For more information on how to find peace with food:
One reason why restaurant foods can taste soooo good is they have a high fat content. Fat—butter, olive oil, beef lard—adds both flavor as well as a nice texture to foods. French fries, chocolate chip cookies, Fettuccine Alfredo‑these all have an appealing taste and texture, thanks to their high fat content.
The trouble is, excess calories of fat can very easily turn into undesired body fat. Yet, you can enjoy an occasional temptation without it becoming a dietary disaster. The trick is to balance the rest of the day’s meals with lower fat and lower calorie choices.
You also might want to first visit the tempting food’s website to learn the nutrition facts. Calorie and fat info might ruin your appetite! For example, did you know…
• A Cinnabon has 880 calories, of which more than a third are from fat (36 grams fat).
• A Big Mac has 540 calories, of which almost half are from fat.
• A Pizza Hut Personal Pan Pepperoni Pizza has 610 calories, of which 43% are from fat (26 grams fat).
• A Mrs. Field’s Chocolate Chip Cookie has 210 calories, of which 43% are from fat (10 grams fat).
• One slice of a Cheesecake Factory Original Cheesecake has 710 calories. My guess is more than half the calories are from fat. Their website nutrition information lists fat data as “not available.” Perhaps it is too scary to post!
If you are hankering for high fat food, the smarter choice is to indulge in healthful fats from nuts, peanut butter, salmon, avocado and olive oil. How about peanut butter on a banana?
As an entrepreneur, I like to support other entrepreneurs who have their own businesses. Hence, I am writing this blog in support of Dan O’Rourke and his NRG Bars. Dan is a former US Marine, an Ironman Triathlete and a competitive runner. He’s also a good guy who loves to cook, has consumed a lot of calories in his lifetime, and knows what tastes good.
I learned about his NRG Bars from a triathlete who was raving about them. “The Pumpkin Ginger NRG Bar is delish!!!” she reported as she gave me a taste. I agreed!
Very tasty, nice texture, satisfying—and also made from real organic foods. The bars are wheat-, dairy- and soy-free. They are perfect for vegetarians/vegans and are based on oats and figs, with brown rice syrup as a sweetener. They are perfect for an in-between-meal snack or a pre-exercise energizer. Give them a try?
In New England, you can buy NRG Bars in Whole Foods Markets. (Dan plans to expand to other areas of the country.) You can more easily order a case or two of them at http://www.NRG-Bar.com. They cost $2.50 per bar (17 bars/case), come in four flavors, and are worth the calories and the money.
Disclaimer: I have nothing to disclose, other than I like to support other hard workers who have created a good product. I hope you will want to support Dan as well.