Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Fight Fatigue: Four Facts

We live in a society where being over-committed and over-involved is normal. So it's no wonder that so many of my athletes come to me complaining of fatigue. Whether they are students, professionals, or parents, fatigue is a common link. What might not be common, however, is the cause of that fatigue. Here are 4 facts about fatigue that might just help you figure out the cause of yours...

1. A dehydrated body = a tired body
Because our bodies are made up of mainly water, not having enough on board is pretty detrimental. Fluid assures that the nutrients we eat are able to be transported to muscles and organs that need them. Fluid is also crucial for your body to perform basic metabolic processes. A dehydrated individual often suffers from headaches, lack of focus, and - of course - fatigue. Drink fluids until your urine is lemonade-colored throughout the day. This will assure you are drinking enough to meet your individual fluid needs.

2. A hungry body = a tired body
Many athletes tell me that they don't get hungry during the day; they often go 6-8 hours between meals. Keep in mind, however, that whether you sense hunger signals is affected by things such as stress, dehydration, and distraction. So just because you don't feel hungry doesn't mean waiting 8 hours between meals is okay. In addition, our bodies adjust to what we throw at them. This means if you consistently skip meals, your body will stop signaling hunger even if you in fact need more nutrients. Aim to eat at least every 3-4 hours. If you're not hungry, choose something light like a piece of fruit or yogurt. This will tell your body that it should expect food regularly from now on.

3. A deficient body = a tired body
Many athletes - particularly females involved in endurance events - are susceptible to iron-deficiency anemia, or low blood iron level. The body uses iron to form hemoglobin and myoglobin. Hemoglobin transports oxygen throughout your body; myoglobin combines with oxygen inside the muscles to store it. Lack of oxygen in your muscles = more lactic acid build-up = earlier fatigue during exercise. Athletes lose iron during exercise inside the GI tract, through sweat and urine losses, and from chronic injury to red blood cells from repetitive hard foot strikes. Those who are vegetarian or simply don't eat a lot of animal foods - particularly red meat - won't easily take in iron through their diet. The best-absorbed sources of iron are found in animal meats and animal products, including fish. Iron is found in plant sources such as beans and dark green vegetables and in fortified foods, such as cereals or bread, though this iron is not as well absorbed. If you think you might be deficient in iron, make an effort to eat an iron-containing food at every meal. At that same meal, combine that food with a food high in Vitamin C, which will enhance the absorption of the iron in the food. Many fruits, vegetables and juices are great sources of Vitamin C. Don't ever self-supplement with iron without first asking your doctor to test your blood for iron-deficiency anemia.

4. A tired body = a tired body
Many of us underestimate the most important thing we can do all day: sleep. Lack of sleep has been associated with increased risk of obesity, as well as increased cravings for fat and sugar. Besides that, when you don't sleep enough, you feel....tired. As an athlete, sleep is imperative to give your body time to recoveryand prepare for the next day. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

3 Tips for Home-Run Nutrition from the Clubhouse to the Field

Nutrition and hydration demands of baseball and softball players are quite unique. Like many sports, position being played matters. However, many other variables specific to baseball/softball can affect performance nutrition requirements. Here are 3 nutrition tips to assure you don't strike out at the plate.

1. Hydration starts before you step on the field.
In this game, hydration status can be affected by temperature, humidity, travel, game delays, and actual amount of time spent playing. Start hydrating as soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning - put a glass of water next to your bed if that helps. At meals, include foods high in water content (think fruit!). During games, water may not be enough. Innings can last for many minutes, resulting in increased sweating while standing in the open sun. Add some flavored electrolytes (try Nuun tablets) to your water if you sweat enough to have salt crystals on your skin or leave a yellow ring around the neck of your jersey. This is especially important if you are prone to muscle cramping.

2. Assess those dug-out snacks.
While it is important to have snacks available in the dug-out for replenishing energy, take a close look at what you currently choose. While sunflower seeds are a popular dug-out pasttime, they contain little carb, which is important fast energy for your muscles and brain. This means better focus and reaction time out on the field. Add some dried fruit to those sunflower seeds to get the necessary carb you need. Also, while salty snacks such as potato chips or Cheetos may replenish sodium lost in sweat, they are high in fat and low in nutrients. Fat sits heavy in your stomach and prevents fuel from quickly reaching muscles; this can make you sluggish out on the field. Some great dug-out snacks include peanut butter crackers, granola bars, energy bars (NOT ultra high protein bars), bananas, any other kind of trail mix combination, water, and Gatorade. Be careful choosing trail mix or granola bars with chocolate, which can melt and be messy in the heat.

3. You're not done when the game ends.
After your body plays nine innings, muscles are more than ready for a good post-game meal. Even with snacking during games, refueling within an hour after the game finishes should be your number one concern. As soon as possible, eat an actual meal, consisting of 1/4 plate of each: carbs, protein, fruit, and veggies. If you can get home within an hour, smoothies are a great option, as they both replenish fuel and hydrate. Make sure your smoothies include milk or juice + fruit + spinach (you won't taste it) + tofu or protein powder (EAS is a good protein powder brand). Additional add-ins might be include ground flaxseed, nut butter, honey or agave nectar.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Top 3 To-Do's for Your Summer Triathlons

With April already upon us, triathlon competitions will start as early as this month (wetsuit, anyone?). Whether you're planning to do a sprint triathlon or take a leap into the work of 1/2 or full ironmans, there are 3 key nutrition "to-do's" that you need to take care of ASAP to ready your body for competition.

1. Start focusing on your daily plate: breakfast, lunch, & dinner
Triathlons aren't won in only the days leading up to the race, but in the weeks and months of preparation and training. Along with the effort you put into your workouts, put effort into making sure your meals meet all of your body's needs.
-If you are planning to do mainly sprint-distance triathlons this summer, your plate should consist of 1/4 carbohydrates, 1/4 protein foods, and 1/2 fruits/veggies. Add a glass of water on the side and incorporate healthy fats into the three areas of the plates (think olive oil on your veggies, nut butters for protein, and omega-3 enhanced butters on your whole wheat rice or pasta).
-If you are training for Olympic-distance or longer triathlons, the increased training calls for an adjustment from a sprint-distance plate. Your plate should consist of 1/3 carbohydrates, 1/3 protein foods, and 1/3 fruits/veggies. Add a glass of water on the side and incorporate healthy fats into the areas of the plate (see above).

2. Start training your exercising stomach
Many triathletes complain that they get to race day and can't tolerate gu's, gels, chomps, or sports drink. The problem is often a lack of training...of the stomach. Decide now how you are going to meet your body's carbohydrate and electrolyte needs during the race. Pull up the race course and check out where the aid stations are and what will be handed out. If you know you can't tolerate what they are providing, it is time to invest in a good-quality fuel belt so you can carry your own fuel. Your race plan should include a nutrition plan too. This can be as detailed as you want, but you gotta have one. Remember, you need and typically can metabolize ~60gm carbohydrate per hour of endurance exercise. With training, some athletes can metabolize up to 90 gm of carbohydrate per hour. Most gels and chomps are ~25gm/pkg; mini Clif bars are ~20gm each; sports drinks are ~15gm/8oz. Create your nutrition plan and start using those products in training now.

3. Address special issues
Do you experience muscle cramps the last few miles of the run or the bike? Do you suffer from indigestion or diarrhea during the race? Do you often experience a drop in energy in the afternoon on a daily basis? Do you frequently get headaches or have trouble sleeping more than a few hours at a time? These are just a few of what I call sports nutrition special issues. Their causes are often rooted in poor nutrition habits; their solutions are often an easy fix or tweak. If you have a special issue that is affecting your training, see myself or another sports RD ASAP and address it. Don't wait until two weeks before your big race. By then you have already wasted good training time.

You spend a lot of money and time to be a triathlete, so don't sell yourself short by not tackling that final area of training: nutrition.

Be Extraordinary,