Thursday, May 16, 2019

Athletes: Take these 4 steps before using protein powder

Protein powders have really gained popularity in the last 10-15 years. But walk into any supplement store and you will see there are many to choose from. So, how do you decide which one to buy and how to begin using it? Follow these tips:

Step 1: Determine the need
Are you trying to lose weight? Bulk up? Lean out? Are you a vegetarian or vegan needing to up your daily protein intake for overall health? Figuring out why you think you need a protein powder is an important step before you buy a powder. Which foods have you tried first? Is there a way to get your protein at each meal and snack from food instead of powder? It is possible to meet your entire dietary protein needs from food. So, while some athletes do use protein powder, not all athletes need to or should use protein powder. Protein powder doesn't contain the same nutritional benefits that foods offer, because they are often low in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber. So, before you reach for a powder, try what you can first with protein-based foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, nut butters, dairy, beans, soy/tofu and legumes.

Step 2: Buy a good product
If you determine there is a need for using protein powder, you want to be sure to buy a good product. Good products are not only processed well, but are also free of fillers you don't want. Pick a product that is certified as clean and safe.  Visit to view certified supplement products. These products are third party certified to be free of illegal and banned substances and to actually contain what the label says. Whether or not you are an athlete being drug-tested, it is nice to know that you are using a product that has what you want and doesn't have what you don't want. I also recommend buying a pure protein powder (meaning, no carbohydrate or fat calories). This allows for the most versatility with the product as well as the motivation to find carbohydrate and fat calories from whole food.

Step 3: Type might matter
Studies have shown that different types of protein powder are metabolized slightly differently in the body. Whey protein is a quick-digesting protein and would be most ideal post-workout for recovery of muscle tissue. Casein is a relatively slow-digesting protein, so is better suited to be taken before bed for recovery and body composition changes overnight. Soy protein is a moderate-digesting protein. I generally only recommend soy protein powder post-workout to those athletes who are vegetarian or vegan; whey protein is my first choice. There are lots of other protein powders now on the market: pea, oat, rice, cranberry, egg, etc. Except in cases of allergies or intolerance, I recommend sticking with whey, casein or soy protein, as these three are the most extensively researched and provide the best package of not just protein, but also essential amino acids.

Step 4: Don't go overboard

When it comes to protein powders, many athletes believe that more is better. However, I have had athletes put on body fat instead of muscle because they were using protein powders 3 or 4 times a day with double the dosage recommended. Too much protein intake can just as easily lead to body fat gain as too much fat or carbohydrate intake. Use protein powders no more than once daily to leave room for protein intake from real food. Protein powders should only be used for convenience; there is nothing magical about protein in powder form. Limit total grams of protein to no more than 20-30gm per meal or snack (that is grams of protein not the weight in grams of the powder). Check the label to determine how much this would be, but for most products, it is 1-2 scoops. Also note that typically in a post-workout setting, it is best to consume carbohydrate with protein. Drinking protein shakes during workouts is not beneficial to performance or body composition changes. 

Your Nutrition Coach,


Tuesday, April 16, 2019

6 Tips for Planting a Performance-Enhancing Garden!

In the Midwest, it is almost outdoor vegetable garden time! While those who start seedlings inside have already begun the process; outside planting generally begins around Memorial Day Weekend. While you wait, now is a great time to plan your garden. If you have never gardened before, here are some tips to help you plant a successful and performance-enhancing garden.

1. Determine your garden location
Here is a great resource for choosing a smart site for your garden. In short, choose a spot with plenty of sunshine and with access to a water source. Don't plant next to a large tree or shrub, as the plant will not only create shade but also take nutrients from the soil. Once you have determined your spot, the soil quality makes a huge difference. However, to best know what to add to the soil to make it great for planting, do a soil test. Soil testing is the best way to know where your soil falls short in nutrient content. It also will make the actual gardening part easier since you have already perfected the soil. If you want to do a soil test, it needs to be done ASAP.

2. Find your planting zone calendar
To know when each vegetable can be planted or transplanted, find a planting zone calendar for your location. A quick internet search for "garden planting zone" will bring up many links that allow you to enter your zip code to find your zone number. Once you have your zone number, you can find a planting zone calendar like this one

Monday, March 4, 2019

Athletes: Meatless Meals for the Win!

For many people, the term "meatless meals" makes them cringe while they imagine a block of tofu slapped between two pieces of bread. But going "meatless" doesn't have to mean sacrificing on flavor. Read on to get some great ideas to make meatless cooking delicious.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

FUELING soups and chowders for the winter season

There is nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day. Here is a collection of recipes from across the internet. These soups and chowders are not only delicious but performance-enhancing too.

What makes a good soup?...A source of protein, complex carbohydrate and a bit of healthy fat too - plus don't forget lots of veggies! I have noted any healthy modifications to a recipe below each recipe link. Stay warm!

White Bean Chicken & Chili - Giada De Laurentiis

This soup is loaded with inflammation-fighting fat, lean protein and antioxidants. Love! Yes I know it has a lot of ingredients, but that is where you get the flavor. I recommend you cut out the added salt (you'll get enough in the broth). If you are a spicy wimp like me, cut out the red pepper flakes as well. Pair with a salad and a piece of fruit and you have a yummy meal.

Friday, June 29, 2018

How To: Creating a Plan for Hydration During Workouts

While athletes are often aware of the importance of hydration, few have a plan for how they will hydrate based on their individual needs. What I observe is that the majority of athletes either only drink when they are thirsty or take a few sips when the coach tells them they can. But, the thirst mechanism lags behind the body's hydration level. This means that by the time an athlete feels thirsty, he/she is already 1% dehydrated. At 2% dehydration, performance can be decreased by as much as 10%. Thirst is also often stunted during activity due to the intensity of the training. Luckily, there is an easy way for every athlete to get an idea of where their fluid needs range...