Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nothin' but Net with Good Nutrition

As the weather turns colder and the snow starts to fall, you can smell it in the air: basketball season.

Basketball is a unique sport in that most of a player's success depends on his/her skill set instead of cardiovascular endurance. While being in shape is of course a must, no matter how many gut busters a player can do, not being able to sink a shot is the real game-changer. But lest you think nutrition has no affect on skill, think again...

It's about focus
Any of you who play basketball know that without 150% focus, accuracy drops quickly. The ability of the brain to focus depends on whether it has energy. The brain can only - and I repeat, only - run on carbohydrate energy sources. Without adequate carbohydrate intake throughout the day, focus and decision-making is negatively affected - and rather quickly. To make sure your head is in the game, grab a pre-workout snack 45-60 minutes before practice. Try a bagel and peanut butter, a banana with one small handful of nuts, or a PBJ (half if you can't stomach a whole). This snack should be heavy on the carb with no more than 10 gm of protein. You don't want your snack coming back to visit in the middle of your 15th lay-up. If your stomach is super sensitive, sports drink is better than nothing. Don't skip the pre-workout snack.

It's about repeat accuracy
Basketball games are not short events, and the environment is often less than ideal - hot, humid, and stuffy. I'm not sure I've ever set foot on a "well-ventilated" basketball court. Accuracy and intensity needs to last the entire game - not just the first half. But extended playing time combined with hot and humid conditions is a set-up for another nutritional foe: dehydration. Dehydration as little as 2% has a profound effect on your performance. Thirsty? You're already 1% dehydrated. You should be sipping throughout the day. Check your hydration status by monitoring pee color (for real) - it should be straw-colored - and staying ahead of your sensations of thirst. Basketball players can sweat an impressive amount (think liters), so it's also important to drink during practice. Gulp (no sipping this time) at every water break you get. If practice is intense or will last more than an hour, switch to a sports drink instead for additional energy and electrolyte replacement. Aim to drink at least one regular sized sports drink bottle (about 20 oz.) per hour - at LEAST. Are you a heavy sweater? Basketball players are especially prone to electrolyte imbalances and muscle cramping. If you find that you are having muscle cramping during or hours after practice, switch to a higher electrolyte sports drink (such as Gatorade Endurance) or add one serving (normally half of a tab) of an electrolyte supplement to a regular sports drink. The third way to monitor hydration status is to use body weight to your advantage. Weigh yourself before and after practice - preferably in as few articles of clothing as possible. Drink 24 oz. (3 cups) of fluid for every pound lost during practice...which hopefully isn't many.

It's about every day, not just today.
Have a great day at practice or phenomenal game? Awesome! But make sure you can bring the heat next time by focusing on post-workout/game nutrition. You need to eat both carb and protein for proper refueling and recovery of muscles. You should eat a snack within the first 30 minutes after ending. Try to make it a fluid, such as low-fat chocolate milk or sports drink that has added protein. If that's not feasible - that's okay - use real food instead - PBJ (make it a whole one this time), yogurt with fruit or fruit & nut trail mix (heavy on the fruit) all work great. Stay away from "protein shakes" as they usually have far too much protein and not enough carb. Remember: your muscles can't use the protein if the carbohydrate isn't there to open the door.

Have a great season!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday Deals & Thanksgiving Tips

Hopefully by now most of you have checked out of school or work and are on your way to spend a great weekend with family and friends. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, here are three tips to help you stay focused on your goals while still enjoying the holiday.

1. Start the morning with a solid workout.
I'm not talking about an epic 15-mile run, 60-mile bike, or 2-hour lift (unless you're actually trying to get AWAY from visiting family). How about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity to get your heart rate up? Or perhaps sign up for a Turkey Day 5K or 10K race. Think of it as prepping your body for the "race of Thanksgiving dinner"....though hopefully it's not actually a race at your house.

2. Eat a normal breakfast and lunch.
That's right - eat normally throughout the day in preparation for the "big meal". Fasting all day so you can "eat extra turkey and stuffing" will do the opposite of what you hope. Fasting confuses your body, slowing down your metabolism and chewing up muscle. You'll arrive to the meal famished and end up overeating even more than you plan to. And don't worry about not being "hungry enough" because you ate during the day. Once you smell the turkey, I'm sure you will have no problem having an appetite for dinner.

3. Practice mindful eating during the main event.
What is mindful eating? It means being completely cognicant of everything you are seeing, tasting, and smelling at the table. It means enjoying the time spent with family as much as the food you are eating. It means being aware of your appetite - realizing when you're full enough to stop. But most of all, it means allowing yourself to enjoy the meal because this is a once a year treat. Choose foods that you don't get every day. Growing up, I used to never eat white mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving because I ate them all the time. I would instead only eat yams. Now the complete opposite is true. Sure, yams pack a more powerful nutritional punch, but big deal! I never get white potatoes! It's Thanksgiving!

And after you wake up from the "turkey coma", go to my website on Friday, November 25th for some big-time Black Friday deals. I'll be offering:

-30-50% off of one initial individual consult
-Buy one follow-up consult, get one half off
-50% off one supplement review

Have you been putting off scheduling a consult for yourself or perhaps referring an athlete who you know needs a nutritional overhaul? Here is your chance! Don't miss these deals - you won't see anything like this again soon!

May you and yours have a wonderful holiday and be thankful for the blessings of this past year.

Be Extraordinary,


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bonus: Immune-Strengthening Recipe!

Yesterday, my blog focused on nutrients that strengthen your immune system. To apply what you read, try this vegetarian-friendly, easy, quick....yet still delicious meal.

Rice and Beans a la Immune Defense 
Number of Servings: 1

¾ cup whole-wheat rice, cooked
½ cup beans (black or pinto) - rinsed if canned
2 tsp oregano (dried or fresh)
2 small or ¼ cup tomatoes, fresh
4 basil leaves, fresh
1/8 cup shredded cheese, Italian blend (optional)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (can also use canola oil)

1.    Place rice, beans, and oregano in a micro-wave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute.
2.    Remove bowl from microwave and add tomatoes, basil leaves. Heat for another 40  seconds.
3.    Remove bowl from microwave and generously drizzle with olive oil. Pair with baby carrots and an apple for an added antioxidant punch!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Prevent Illness, Eat Smart During Winter Training – Plus: Black Friday Deals!

How often do you get sick? As the cold season sets in, many of us will develop that annoying cough or sore throat. Is there anything you can eat to fend off illness during the winter training season? In fact – yes! But it may not include quite what you thought...

1.       Take in plenty of carbs throughout the day.
Following a low-carbohydrate diet results in elevated levels of cortisol in an athlete’s body. Cortisol is known as the regulator of the immune system. It functions to increase protein breakdown in muscles, inhibit uptake of glucose into the body’s cells, and increase breakdown of fat. Therefore, chronically elevated levels force your body into a constant state of muscle breakdown and suppressed immune function, increasing your risk for upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold). High levels also negatively affect sleep, mood, bone health, ligament health, cardiovascular health, and athletic performance. Follow a moderate to high-carbohydrate daily eating program and don’t go into a workout without first taking in carbohydrate.  This is particularly important for athletes trying to improve speed or training for greater than 3-4 hours (Seebohar, 2004).

2.       Don’t underestimate the importance of protein.
Just like carbohydrate helps decrease elevated cortisol levels before and during exercise, protein (and specifically branched-chain amino acids), help decrease cortisol levels post-exercise. This is another reason why that post-workout meal or snack must include protein (Seebohar, 2004).

3.       Minerals matter too.
Three minerals play a significant role in strengthening our immune system: Zinc, Selenium, and Iron. Before you run out and buy supplements, consider the fact that zinc supplements can interfere with the absorption of iron and copper and actually suppress the immune system.  Besides, research is mixed whether supplementing with zinc actually wards off illness. Instead, turn to animal foods and whole grains for zinc. If (and only if) you have been diagnosed with low zinc, consider 15mg of supplemental zinc daily (max!). Selenium deficiency is less common, but food sources include meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, and nuts. Discussion of iron deficiency could be its own blog, but know that it is very common in endurance athletes (especially females). Food sources include animal products as well as dried beans and legumes, green leafy veggies, and iron-fortified grains (Dunford and Doyle, 2008).

4.       Vitamin C is effective…sort of.
I’m sure many of you consider vitamin C your “go to” vitamin when you are trying to fend off a cold. I have good and bad news. A meta-analysis of studies revealed that routine vitamin C supplementation did not reduce the incidence of colds (boo). However, once the cold was present, duration was reduced by 8% and severity was also reduced (yay) (Douglas et al., 2004). Look to get vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes.

5.       Re-assess your training regimen.
While moderate exercise strengthens the immune system, more rigorous or prolonged training (such as that for marathon training) greatly increases risk for upper respiratory tract infections. If you are concerned about being sick for your favorite holiday party, perhaps scale back from a hard training regimen for a time and give your body a (likely) needed break (Dunford and Doyle, 2008).
Stay tuned! In honor of Black Friday, I will be offering coupons accessible only through my website on Friday, November 25th (24 hours only). If you enjoy savings of up to 50% off, then you won’t want to miss this! Make sure you are ready for the holidays with special performance nutrition savings.
Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Managing Stress in Veteran and Civilian Athletes

This morning I attended a wonderful business meeting with my local Chamber of Commerce showcasing three of our country's Veterans – two from Vietnam and one current Vet from Iraq. In observance of Veterans Day this Friday, we were honored to learn about the challenges they faced before, during, and after serving our country. One prominent topic of discussion was the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in soldiers after returning home. The Department of Veteran Affairs reports PTSD occurs in 11-20% of Veterans that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and 30% of Vietnam Veterans. While few of us will ever experience anything as crippling as PTSD, clearly we all go through times of negative stress – whether it’s as a result of school, work, family or friends. Stress can show its teeth in the form of headaches, exhaustion, or insomnia.

Believe it or not, nutrition can be an effective part of relieving stress. Stress takes a toll on your immune system, increasing your body’s need for certain nutrients. In addition, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin or dopamine) play a huge role in how we experience emotions. Deficiencies of these chemicals may increase irritability, depression, and sleeplessness. Giving more attention to what you are eating may help you stay focused, alert, and energized during times of stress.

The next time you or someone you care about is suffering from stress (either low-level or high-grade), consider these nutritional remedies:

1.       Don’t skip meals or over-indulge in high-calorie foods. These poor habits are often brought on by the stress we feel. High-calorie foods in moderation are fine, but constantly skipping meals (especially breakfast) and then grabbing fast food on the way home may lead to weight gain and affect long-term health.
2.       Go easy on the caffeine: The idea is to calm the central nervous system, not to further stimulate it. Stick to less than 2 cups (16 fl. oz.) per day of caffeinated beverages.
3.       Focus on complex carbohydrates: These foods contain serotonin, which helps boost mood as well as calm you and help you sleep. Food sources include whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and whole wheat bread products, and whole fruits and vegetables (the fresher the better!).
4.       Protein matters: Eating protein foods with those whole grains helps to effectively slow down how quickly your blood sugar rises as a result of eating carbs. Keeping blood sugar stable means metabolism and energy levels will also be stable, preventing headaches or exhaustion that often accompanies very high or very low blood sugar levels. Protein foods include dairy, poultry, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, tofu and legumes (beans or lentils).
5.        Don’t forget your healthy fats: Studies show that low omega-3 fatty acids intake correlates with increased rates of depression and depressive symptoms. Food sources are oily fish, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), canola or flax oil, and pumpkin or flax seeds.
6.       Some research has shown a relationship between vitamin D level and incidence of depression. Have your vitamin D level checked to assess if you are deficient. Food sources of vitamin D are few, but include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified foods (cereals, orange juice, yogurt, milk and other foods).
7.       Never underestimate the power of staying hydrated. Drink enough fluids to create straw-colored urine.

Be Extraordinary and please remember our Veterans this Friday,


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Football: Fueling for the Playoffs

Happy November!

One of my favorite fall sports has got to be football. Whether it’s high school, college, or professional-level, I just can’t say no to the smell of burgers at the tailgate, the sounds of crunching pads, and seeing amazing plays in person like The Little Giants in 2010’s infamous MSU-Notre Dame game (sorry - had to throw in my alma mater there - click on the link to watch).

This time of year, most high school and collegiate players are looking toward regional and state or conference and bowl games. It’s not too late to use performance nutrition to play your best during these important games. Here are some tips to help you arrive at these last practices and games ready to finish the season strong:

1.       Drink up! No matter what your position, you’ll be more focused and energized if you are properly hydrated. Try carrying your own water-filled sports bottle during day, then fill with your preferred flavor of sports drink during practice so you know you will actually drink it. Take at least a couple gulps of fluid on each break or whenever it is offered by your staff. Weigh yourself before and after practice and drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during practice (and with all those pads on – total weight loss through sweat can be high!). Your goal should be straw-colored urine THROUGHOUT the day.
2.       Eat at regular intervals. Many football players go to class all day and don’t practice until the afternoon or evening. Don’t arrive to practice with hungry muscles. Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Your plate should be 1/3 filled with sources of carb such as bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes; 1/3 filled with sources of carbs such as veggies and fruits; and 1/3 filled with lean proteins such as poultry, lean beef, tuna, soy, fish, eggs, nuts, and protein. Be sure to eat a snack consisting of carb and protein prior to practice (try a bagel with peanut butter, yogurt with a banana, or handful of pretzels and a cheese stick) and eat within 30 minutes of finishing practice: try an energy bar, banana, or tortilla chips with a sports drink.
3.       During games, along with following pre- and post-workout guidelines before and after games, be sure to refuel at halftime – even if it’s just a sports drink. If you can take in food, stick to foods you tolerate – good ones often include crackers, pretzels, bananas, or raisins.

Think a supplement will give you the extra edge? Think again! Most supplements have shown no performance edge in clinical studies and some may actually cause harm due to dangerous ingredients not always indicated on the label. Before you reach for a pill or a powder, make sure you are following the guidelines above.

Be Extraordinary,