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Drinking is “just a part of the culture” for many college athletes. The result is hung-over students who fail to train and compete at their best. To address the problem of alcohol abuse among student-athletes, many college campuses are educating students about social norms—the beliefs about what is normal and expected in social situations. For example, despite popular belief, “everyone” does not drink nor do “most students” get drunk all the time.


A 1999 survey at Southern Methodist University asked these four questions to students on a Friday about alcohol use on the previous night:

Did you drink last night?

Did you get drunk last night?

What percentage of SMU students do you think drank last night?

What percentage of SMU students do you think got drunk last night?


The answers showed major misperceptions about alcohol norms:

-Only 20% of students surveyed reported drinking the previous night, yet they believed that over half drank.

-Only 8% reported getting drunk, yet they believed at least one-third got drunk.

-Of students who drank, most reported consuming only a few drinks per week. Yet they believed most students were drinking 10 to 15 drinks per week.

-35% reported abstaining from alcohol, but very few believed that many of their peers were non-drinkers.



With ongoing social norm education, students will actually change their drinking practices. For example, a three-year social-norm education program targeted Division III athletes in a NY State college. It contributed to a 30% drop in both excessive alcohol consumption and the negative consequences of drinking. Among student-athletes with the highest exposure to the program, personal alcohol misuse dropped 50%. (1) Given that athletes are often role models, this change can have a positive impact on the entire campus and potentially (eventually) our entire sports society.


The bottom line: You can abstain from alcohol and not be the only one who does so!


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD



1. Perkins H and Crais D. 2006. A Successful Social Norms Campaign to Rreduce Alcohol Misuse Among Collge Student-Athlets. J. Stud Alcohol 67:880-889.

1,407 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: alcohol, college_students, getting_drunk, binge_drinking, social_norms

Some active moms were talking about this recipe on Twitter, and wondering where to find it. Rumor is, it’s one of the many tasty recipes in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook! ( Perhaps you would like to enjoy it as well.


Pasta with Turkey Sausage and White Beans

The recipe is versatile and allows for being creative: you can make it without the turkey sausage, without the beans, or with different protein sources, such as ground beef, diced chicken, tofu, or seafood.


When I make this, I remove the casing from the sausage by cutting it with a sharp knife and then scrambling the sausage meat. The alternative is to cook the sausage whole, then cut it into coins.


1 pound turkey sausage, casing removed

12 ounces uncooked pasta, such as shells, ziti, or rotini.

1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained

1 15-ounce can white canellini beans, drained

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed into

1 1/2 cups milk, low-fat

1/4 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese


Optional: 1 small onion, diced; 1-2 cloves garlic, minced; 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes; salt and pepper


1. Heat a large nonstick skillet and add the turkey sausage (and onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes) and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until done.


2. While the sausage is cooking, cook the pasta according to package directions; drain.


3. To the scrambled sausage, add the drained diced tomatoes and canellini beans. Heat through, then add the cornstarch-milk mixture. Stir until thickened, then add the parmesan cheese.


4. Add the cooked pasta; toss well and let set for a few minutes for the flavors to blend. Adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.


Yield: 5 large servings


Nutrition Information: Total calories: 2,500

Calories per serving: 500


Carbohydrate 75 g

Protein 25 g

Fat 11g

1,896 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: recipe, pasta, twitter, turkey_sausage

In one of the blog posts for new runners, a frustrated woman commented "And everyone said the weight would “fall off” when I started to run. Not true!"


I agree. Most novice runners start their exercise program believing undesired body fat will melt away. Not the case. If running contributes to a calorie deficit, body fat does dwindle away. But all too often, new runners eat a little bit more than usual, either because they are hungrierexercise can stimulate the appetite for women (more so than for men)or because they believe they deserve a reward of a cookie or two. The combination of hunger + desire for a reward = no fat loss, and often fat gain.


The other thing you have to look at is 24-hour energy expenditure. That is, some new runners become less active in the other parts of their day ("I ran today, so I'll sit and read instead of clean the house.”) A study with middle-aged people who added on an hour of brisk walking each day indicated they did they eat more, nor did they lose weight. They simply napped and slept more… In 24-hours, they did not burn additional calories.


I recommend you run for health and fitness, and pay attention to eating smaller portions at dinner to lose undesired body fat. Just chip off 100 to 200 fewer calories at night. For information on how to lose fat and maintain energy to exercise, you might want to read my Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right From the Start.


Regardless of weight, enjoy feeling proud of your running accomplishments!

Nancy Clark MS RD

Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD)

1,694 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: weight, body_fat, new_runner, food_guide_for_new_runners

This is an exciting week in Boston! Thousands of runners are making their final preparations for the Boston Marathon. If you are one of those anxious marathon runners, here are a few words of nutrition wisdom.


--Don’t make any drastic dietary changes that might upset your intestinal tract. The biggest change should be in your training—train less, so your muscles have time to refuel.


--No last-minute efforts to lose body fat. That will result in poorly fueled muscles. You may actually gain two to four pounds of water weight! For each one ounce of carbs you store in your muscles as glycogen, you store about three ounces of water. Thisis a sign you are well fueled.


--Eat wisely and well this week. Focus each meal on carbs (grains, fruits, veggies) with a little protein (meat, nuts, eggs, beans, milk, yogurt) as the accompaniment to each meal.


--Eat breakfast on marathon morning … this food will help maintain a normal blood sugar level so your brain is adequately fed. If your blood sugar drops, you’ll have trouble concentrating and enjoying the event.


During the marathon, your nutrition job is to:

-- prevent dehydration (by drinking 8 ounces of sports drink and/or water every 15-20 minutes during the marathon)

-- maintain a normal blood sugar level (by consuming 150 to 300 calories of carbohydrates every hour after the first 60 to 90 minutes of running).

Some popular energizers for during the marathon include sports drinks, gummi bears, raisins, hard candies, gels, Tootsi rolls, defizzed cola, diluted juice, bites of a sports bar--all of which you should have experimented with during your long training runs.  


Here are some high carbohydrate meal suggestions that will cummulate into a high carbohdyrate diet that will help fuel you to the finishline!


Breakfast ideas:

cold cereals--with banana and lowfat or skim milk

oatmeal and other hot cereals--with raisins and brown sugar

Bagels and english muffins--with jam or honey

Pancakes or french toast--with maple syrup

Fruits and juices


Lunch ideas:

Sandwiches--with the bread being the "meat" of the sandwich

Hearty broth-based or beany soups--minestrone, split pea, lentil, noodle

Thick-crust pizza


Dinner ideas:

Pasta--with tomato-based sauce

Potatoes and rice--double portions

Vegetables--double portions

Breads, rolls


Snack ideas:

flavored yogurt

pretzels, crackers,

fig bars, zweiback, lowfat cookies, animal crackers

frozen yogurt

dry cereal

leftover pasta

canned and fresh fruits and juices, applesauce


For more complete information about fueling before, during and after a marathon, refer to .


Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathoners; Tips for Everyday Champions


Have fun!


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,575 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marathon, boston_marathon, carbo_load, carbohdyrate_load, hit_the_wall

Question: Should I use L-glutamine to reduce muscle soreness after a hard workout?

Answer: Supplementing with L-glutamine is an expensive way to get an amino acid .... you can get it in any protein-rich food. While L-glutamine might enhance recovery of patients in the hospital who have cancer, AIDS, or bowel problems and are not eating, the chances are that you, as a healthy athlete, can consume a  multitude of amino acids (not just L-glutamine) through your diet.


Certainly, the best way to enhance recovery is to fuel up before exercise with a carb-protein snack (recovery can actually start pre-exercise, so the "tools" to recover are already in your system) and then to refuel afterwards, again with some carbs + protein. The carbs provide fuel and the protein heals and builds.


Some popular pre- and/or post-exercise options include yogurt, a little cereal/milk, half a sandwich, or lowfat chocolate milk--all in portions that settles well. You really don't need to buy engineered foods. Simply pay more attention to having the right foods readily available; don't let nutrition be your missing link.


What you eat pre-exercise should last you about 60 to 90 minutes, and then you want to target about 200 to 300 calories per hour. Some athletes choose gels because they are convenient, but you need not spend your money on engineered foods. They are more about convenience than necessity. Other athletes enjoy banana, gummy candy, dried fruit, rice crispie treats, twizzlers ... and carb-based food that tastes good and settles well. Experiment to figure out what foods and fluids work best for your body. By staying well fueled, you will be able to recover more easily.


My Sports Nutrition Guidebook offers abundant information and food tips about how to best fuel before, during and after exercise, so you can get the most from your workouts.


Eat wisely and well, and enjoy less muscle soreness and better workouts.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

2,215 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: carbs, recovery, protein, muscle_soreness

What's for lunch?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Mar 23, 2009

Lunch logistics tend to be a hassle:

     - If you pack your own lunch, what do you pack?

     - If you buy lunch, what's a healthful bargain?

     - If you are on a diet, what's best to eat?

The following tips may help you improve your lunch intake.


Brown bag lunches

People who make their own lunch commonly end up packing the same food every day, and end up with yet-another turkey sandwich, yet-another salad, or yet-another bagel. As long as you are content with this repetitive diet, fine; just be sure to get more variety in the other meals. But if you're tired of the same stuff, consider these suggestions:


• The best lunches, nutritionally speaking, include at least 500 calories (even if you are on a reducing diet) from THREE types of food at lunch. This means bagel + yogurt + banana, or salad + turkey + pita. Just a bagel or just a salad is likely too little fuel.


• Enjoy peanut butter. Peanut butter is a great food for active people (even those on a diet) because it “sticks to the ribs” and keeps you fueled for the whole afternoon. Yes, peanut butter may be have more calories than does a turkey sandwich, but the satisfying PB sandwich allows you to nix the cookies and other afternoon snacks. You’ll end up saving calories in the long run.


• Pack planned-overs from dinner and heat them in the microwave oven. They're preferable to the cup-of-noodles that cost more than they're worth.


Fast food lunches.

When you're grabbing lunch at a quick service restaurant, look for the lower fat options, such as––

• the BK Broiler chicken sandwich (without mayo) + lowfat milk + apple (brought from home)

• McDonald's grilled chicken (w/o mayo) + vanilla shake

• two of Taco Bell's bean burritos + diet soft drink

• 2 slices of veggie pizza (blot off the grease with a napkin)


Cafeteria lunches

If you are lucky enough to have a cafeteria at work, or are eating a business lunch in a restaurant, take advantage of this opportunity to have a well balanced hot meal. Enjoying a nice dinner at noontime:

1) fuels you for a high energy afterwork exercise session,

2) simplifies your evening meal––you'll feel less hungry and may be content to enjoy a bowl of cereal or a sandwich,

3) reduces afternoon hunger and vending machine raids.


Lunch for dieters:

Overweight people commonly hesitate to eat much lunch when other people are around. Sad statement, but never-the-less true in our society––and a big mistake. A good lunch can help you be more effective at work, feel less hungry in the afternoon, and be less likely to raid the refrigerator the minute you arrived home. Lunch helps you lose weight. Do not skip it!

1,686 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: fast_food, lunch, cafeteria, brown_bag

More than ever, Americans are confused about what to eat. Many active people, in particular, try hard to feed themselves and their families healthfully. They often wonder--

What are the best foods to eat? To avoid?

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

How can I cook for my friend with cancer?

What’s the best way to end family food-fueds?

How can I lose weight healthfully?

What’s best to eat before I exercise?


If you are looking for a list of books that address these and a multitude of other nutrition questions and concerns, please visit the American Dietetic Associations’ Good Nutrition Reading List:

Go to

Click on “Food and Nutrition Information”, and then

Good Nutrition Reading List.

Or, more simply, click here: 


Good Nutrition Reading List


The books are all based on sound nutrition information. Many are written by registered dietitians or other nutrition professionals.


Have a good read!


Nancy Clark MS RD

1,872 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition_books, recommended_reading

Nancy, I am training for my first marathon and am starting to get to the point where I am out on my runs for over an hour. I am trying to figure out what products I should be consuming to keep up my energy levels and keep me hydrated at the same time.


Answer: First off, congrats on your hard work and dedication to your training program.


I am glad you asked about how to fuel during long runs, because fueling is an important part of your training program. You need to train your intestinal tract, as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. Too many marathons are needlessly lost in the porta-potties…


You can experiment with standard foods (gummy candy, twizzlers, dried pineapple, rice crispy treats, fig newtons, pretzels) or “products” like gels, bloks, or sports beans. There is nothing magic about the engineered foods, other than convenience and portability.


Before the long run, you want to eat a small meal that will settle well during the long run (oatmeal, bagel, pasta). That food will keep you energized for about 60 to 90 minutes. Then, you want to target about 200 to 300 calories per hour (depending on your body size). While some (or all) of those calories can come from a sports drink, you can also drink plain water and get carbs with the suggestions listed above.


You might want to go to the website of your event and see what food/fluids they will offer on the course. By training with them, you'll know what ones work for your body.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD




1,645 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marathon, fueling_during_a_run, sports_drink

The Jellybean Diet

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Feb 25, 2009

Nancy, I’m a new runner who is hoping to lose weight but I’m not having much success. I’m fighting bad cravings for sweets and end up eating The Jellybean Diet. Help!


The jellybean diet ... sounds to me like you are getting too hungry. That is, craving sweets means you have gotten too hungry and your body is screaming for quick energy. The solution is to prevent hunger by eating more quality food at breakfast and lunch. Target about 500 calories at each of those two meals, and you’ll find you feel better, have more energy, run better, are in a better mood throughout the day, are more productive, and are not hankering for jelly beans in the afternoon.

If you want to lose undesired body fat, your goal should be to fuel adequately during the day, and then eat a little less at the end of the day. The best time to lose weight is when you are sleeping, not when you are trying to run and function during the day.

If you want some more specific guidance on how to lose weight and have energy to exercise, I recommend my Food Guide for New Runners: Getting It Right the First Time. You might find helpful the strong section on weight, sweets cravings, and dieting. Or better yet, meet with a sports dietitian for personalized advice. You can find a local RD by using the referral network at


Nancy Clark MS RD

4,373 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: sweets, food_guide_for_new_runners, jellybeans


I am a novice runner and I got woken at 3:00 a.m. with muscle cramps in my calves. How can I avoid these in the future?



While some people think muscle cramps are due to low potassium and recommend eating potassium-rich bananas as the solution, I question if that is the only answer. Certainly, eating bananas is always a good idea. But I doubt if the muscle cramp is due to low potassium. That would require an incredible amount of sweat loss. Novice runners usually cannot exercise long enough to deplete themselves of potassium.


Here's how a few popular sports foods compare in potassium content:

Potential potassium loss in a two hour workout: 300 to 800 mg

Potassium in 8 ounces of Gatorade: 30 mg

Potassium in one medium banana: 450 mg

Potassium in 8 ounces of orange juice: 475 mg.

Potassium in 8 ounces yogurt: 520 mg.


You might want to try:

-- stretching more after you exercise.

-- drinking enough fluids so you are urinating every two to four hours of the daytime (a sign you are well hydrated). \

-- consuming at least two to three cups of milk or yogurt a day. (That's the amount you need to get adequate calcium for your bones, to say nothing of for your muscles.)

Some people anecdotally report calcium helps resolve muscle cramps.


Hope this helps,


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

Certified Specialist in Sports Dietietics

Author, Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

2,030 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: muscle_cramps, potassium, calcium

Spinach and Iron

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Feb 13, 2009

In comparison to red meat, which is among the best sources of iron, spinach is a fair source of  iron. The recommended daily intake for iron is 8 milligrams for men and 18 milligrams for women. A half-cup serving of cooked spinach contains about 2 milligrams of iron. Because cooking has minimal effect upon the iron content in spinach, the equivalent amount of uncooked spinach offers the same amount of iron. (That is, you need to eat about 2 cups of raw spinach to equate to 1/2 cup of cooked spinach)


Due to the presence of oxylates (organic acids that naturally occur in foods), the iron in both raw and cooked spinach tends to be poorly absorbed by the body. However, if you eat spinach with some type of animal protein, such as putting turkey in a spinach salad or serving cooked spinach along with a chicken dinner, your body can better absorb the iron.


To boost your iron intake, I also recommend you eat a source of vitamin C at each meal, such as —

-drink orange juice with breakfast

-adding tomato slices to your lunch-time sandwich

-and enjoying broccoli with dinner.

Cooking in a cast iron skillet can also boost your iron intake--especially if you cook an acidic food, such as tomato sauce, in the skillet. Another option is to choose iron-enriched breakfast cereals, such as Wheaties. Non-meat eaters have many ways to consume adequate iron, and reduce their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.


Perhaps more remarkable than it’s iron content (of which only 3% is absorbable), spinach is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, folic acid, magnesium, potassium and several other nutrients that are an important part of your sports diet. Pop-eye was strong to the finish for several reasons--the least of which was the iron in spinach! Yet, I do encourage you to keep eating your spinach for the other nutrients is contains.

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Muscle soreness

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Feb 1, 2009

I received an email from a new mom who is getting back into shape after having had her baby. She is now lifting weights, doing sit-ups, crunches, and some squats, and jogging on the treadmill. After her first day of exercise, she reported she felt every muscle in her body! Poor woman; I think she didn’t know the soreness would be even worse on the second day, and then recovery would set in and the muscle soreness would start to dissipate.

One trick to reducing muscle soreness is to refuel right after the workout with a carb-protein combination, such as a yogurt, glass of chocolate milk, sandwich, bowl of cereal with milk, etc. The carbs refuel and the protein helps heal.

In fact, eating a carb-protein combo before you exercise is also a good idea, because that pre-exercise snack gets digested and is ready and waiting to get used when the exercise stops.  So if plan to do a hard work out first thing in the morning, plan to grab a yogurt on your way to the gym, and then refuel with some cereal and milk when you return--hopefully within a half hour after the exercise ends. The sooner you refuel, the happier your muscles will be.


Nancy Clark MS RS CSSD

1,704 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: recovery, muscle_soreness

Is sugar evil?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Jan 28, 2009

Nancy, is eliminating all sugar (except for natural sugar in fruits) from your diet safe? In normal grocery stores, it's almost impossible to find anything outside of the vegetable section that doesn't have sugar. I switched to soy milk but even that still has sugar….


Answer: Why would you want to eliminate all sugar? Sugar is a source of fuel for active muscles. All fruits, veggies and grains digest into sugar, the fuel that feeds your muscles as well as your brain. Milk also naturally contains sugar (lactose).


The concern should  not be "sugar" but the source of the sugar. For example, sugar in soda pop is "empty calories" -- with no nutritional value. Sugar in oranges comes along with lots of vitamin C, potassium, folate and other health-promoting nutrients. Enjoying sweet oranges is a smart food choice, nutritionally preferable to drinking orange soda.


Processed foods often have a little sugar added. For example,  the sugar in jarred spaghetti sauce adds to an enjoyable taste -- but it does not negate the nutrient content of the sauce. Don’t worry about it! Nutrition guidelines say that 10% of calories can appropriately come from refined sugar. As an active person, you likely need at least 2,000 calories a day. That means, you could enjoy 200 calories of refined sugar, if desired. That's 50 grams -- a quart of Gatorade, or a ton of spaghetti sauce!


Rather than getting hung up on sugar, look at the balance of your whole diet. You want to eat a diet with 85 to 90% nutrient-dense foods. But you need not eat a "perfect diet" (for you, this sounds like a sugar-free diet) to have a good diet.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,728 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sugar, nutrient_dense

As I mentioned in my previous blog, too many active people starve by day, in their efforts to lose weight, and then blow their diet by night. They think they lack "will power" when they overeat at night. Wrong. They lack nutrition "skill power."


Hunger is physiological—as is the need to urinate. That is, if you need to pee at 11:00 a.m., do you make yourself wait until noon to go to the bathroom? Doubtful. But if you are hungry at 11:00 a.m., do you make yourself wait until noon to have lunch? Likely. And when the skimpy lunch does not fill you up, you then make yourself wait until dinner to eat, at which time you are too hungry to have control over food. You overeat, and that is physiology of hunger!


Once you understand that hunger is physiological and allow yourself to eat adequately during the day, life is easier and more enjoyable, and weight loss become more successful.


Think of it this way: if you were babysitting and the child was crying because it was hungry, not feeding that child would be called child abuse. Yet, if you under eat all day and are hungry, you are simply "on a diet." Wrong, you are abusing your body.


You can lose weight by eating just a little bit less at night. There's a big difference between being "starving" and "not quite full." Chip away at weight loss by eating just 100 to 200 calories less at night, and you’ll be more successful in the long run than trying to live hungry all day. Give it a try!


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,523 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: weight_reduction, hunger, starvation, binge

"I am a bad evening eater even though I do quite well during the day. I'm trying to keep busy in the evenings so I'm not sitting around and snacking which is my downfall!"


When my clients report their eating is "good by day but bad by night", I notice they are  "too good" by day-- that is, they are eating way too few calories. That is why they are starving at the end of the day and "being bad" in terms of snacking and overeating. The solution is to fuel by day (so you have the energy to exercise) and then eat just a little bit less at night.


Theoretically, if you create a small calorie deficit by knocking off 100 calories at the end of the day, you'll lose 10 pounds of body fat a year. If you create a 200 calorie defict at the end of the day, you'll lose 20 pounds of fat. To their demise, too many active people knock off 500 to 800 calories during the day, and then get too hungry, overeat at night, and then end up gaining weight. I recommend their eating be "bad" by day and "good" by night! That is, that they eat enough during the day to feel satiated, and then eat just a little bit less at night ... not to the point of being too hungry to sleep, but just enought so they are not quite full.


My Sports Nutrition Guidebook has a strong section on how to lose weight without starving yourself. The information teaches active people:

- how many calories are OK to eat,

- how to maintain energy to enjoy exercise while losing undesired body fat,

- how to manage snack attacks, and

- how to find peace with food.

In addition, you might want to meet with a sports nutritionist for personalized advice. This food expert can help you create a personalized food plan that's sustainable and will help you reach your goals. Use the referral network at to find a local sports nutritionist.

Eat wisely and well,


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,465 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: weight, dieting, _loss
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Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

View Nancy Clark RD CSSD's profile