Wednesday, May 30, 2012

A Shopping List to Fuel Summer Activity

Summer brings competitions for many athletes; a well-stocked pantry/refrigerator is critical. It is hard to follow my advice of building your "plate" at meals if the right food is not available to do so. Use this list to help you get started at the grocery store. This is not all-inclusive, but is a great base. Choose options from each group each time you shop. Happy shopping!

Breads, Pasta, Rice, & Other Grains
Brown rice
Whole wheat pasta
Couscous, quinoa, wheat pilaf
Whole wheat tortillas
Whole wheat breads, bagels, rolls, pita bread, English muffins (store in the freezer)
Ready-to-eat whole grain cereals: Raisin Brand, Frosted Mini Wheats, Kashi
Granola Bars: Kashi, Lunabars, Larabars
Whole-wheat toaster waffles
Whole-grain crackers: Triscuits, Wheat Thins, TLC’s 

Fruits & Veggies
Potatoes or sweet potatoes
Frozen or canned veggies (rinse canned to reduce sodium content)
Bags of prew-ashed salad greens
Bags of mini carrots
Pre-chopped veggies/fruits
Canned fruit in own juice (not in heavy syrup)
Frozen berries
Oranges, apples, bananas (store in frig)
Dates, raisins, cherries, cranberries and other dried fruit 

Milk & Milk Products
Low-fat milk (regular or soy)
Low-fat yogurt (regular or greek)
Low-fat cheese (lighter vs. darker)
Low-fat cottage cheese 

Meat & Meat Alternatives
Boneless, skinless chicken breasts (store in freezer in single-portion bags)
Lean ground meat (ground round, sirloin, turkey breast – store in freezer in 1/4 pound-portion bags)
Cubed meat (anything lean) for kebabs or stir fries
Cooked shrimp
Lean deli meats (turkey, ham, roast beef)
Packets or cans of tuna (packed in water) & chicken
Edamame (ready-to-eat or frozen), soynuts
Canned beans: any kind (rinse to reduce sodium content)
Frozen veggie/garden burgers
Egg or egg substitutes
Peanut or other nut butters (ideally containing only "nuts" in the ingredient list)

Healthy Oils
Soft (tub) or liquid margarine: Olivio, Smart Balance, etc.
Oil for cooking and baking: canola, olive
Low-fat salad dressing: vinaigrettes or oil-based
Low-fat mayo: olive or canola oil-based
Nuts and seeds: lightly salted or no salt

Seasonings such as onion and garlic powders (vs. salts), dried herbs
Spaghetti sauce (4 grams of fat or less per 4 ounces/125 grams)
Pretzels, low-fat chips (baked), low-fat popcorn (air-popped is best)
Low-fat frozen yogurt

Be Extraordinary,


Source: Endurance Sports Nutrition by Suzanne Girard Eberle MS, RD. 2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Supplement Series Part Four: 5 Supplements to Avoid

This weeks closes the Supplement Series with perhaps the most important topic: 5 supplements to avoid. These supplements and supplement ingredients are easily found over the counter and online. However, they are not just banned by most sports governing bodies, they are downright dangerous.

1. NO (Nitric Oxide)
NO is produced naturally in the body either from L-arginine or nitrites and nitrates. In the body, NO dilates blood vessels and decreases vascular resistance. This increases blood flow throughout the body. One can see, therefore, that athletes would be interested in this ingredient that claims to increase oxygen and nutrient delivery to exercising muscles, effectively increasing tolerance of exercise and better recovery. In fact, NO is a main ingredient in two currently very popular supplements: NO Explode and Jack3d. However, the research is inconclusive as to the actual effectiveness of NO. In addition, most research has only been conducted with young, healthy males. Of most concern are the many adverse side affects associated with using NO. Because NO causes vasodilation (widening) of the blood vessels, there is a potential for a quick decrease in blood pressure, resulting in dizziness, headaches, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, or even fainting. NO may also increase the risk of bleeding, as well as effect the body's electrolyte balance (especially dangerous if you have kidney or liver disease). These affects have been seen even when following the label's recommendations for dosing. Bottom line, NO's effectiveness and safety are unproven. Combine that with the fact that this ingredient is banned by most sports governing bodies and the message is clear: don't take it.

2. DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone)
DHEA is not an anabolic (muscle building) steroid, but is an androgen/testosterone precursor sold over the counter in many stores. However, it is also produced in your body by the adrenal glands. Because it is a precursor to the production of testosterone, it is marketed as having an anabolic steroid effect. However, research involving supplementation of DHEA showed no resulting increases in testosterone levels; no changes in strength or body composition were found. Reported adverse effects of taking DHEA include hair loss, hirsutism and voice deepening in women and irreversible gynecomastia in men. There is also concern for an increased risk of uterine and prostate cancer. Therefore, DHEA has not been proven safe or effective. In addition, this ingredient has been banned by many sports governing bodies.

3. Adrostenedione
Androstenedione is an "androgenic" steroid that has not been proven to be anabolic, or muscle building. Like DHEA, it is an androgenic prescursor. However, research has shown that supplementing with Androstenedione is not actually effective at increasing and maintaining levels of testosterone in the body, nor does it have any positive affect on body composition or strength compared to a placebo. One study actually showed that its supplementation led to muscle breakdown instead of building.  What research does show, however, is adverse effects on high-density lipoprotein (the good cholesterol) and coronary heart disease risk. This ingredient is banned by many governing bodies; the Anabolic Steroid Control Act of 2004 classified androstenedione and 48 other prohormones as controlled substances. Therefore, the lack of evidence as an ergogenic aid combined with its adverse effects and illegal status in sports make it a poor choice for athletes.

4. HGH (Human Growth Hormone)
HGH is also actually synthesized in the body. The anterior pituitary gland produces HGH, and its metabolic effects are mediated by the hormone insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1). HGH is often prescribed in men over 60 years of age to increase lean body mass, decrease fat mass, and slow the thinning of skin. You can see why this particular product eventually caught the attention of athletes, despite that fact that it is essentially unstudied in younger populations. It is theorized that HGH in athletes enhances amino acid and glucose uptake in the muscle, stimulating protein synthesis and potentially allowing the body to use more free fatty acid as energy during exercise. However - again - that has not been proven. HGH is a drug only available to the body via injection (i.e. not when taken from a product bought over the counter or on the internet); it is too large of a molecule to be absorbed if taken by mouth. Therefore, any over the counter products labelled as precursors, secretagogues or releasers of HGH are simply false advertising. However, there are adverse effects even when taking the injectable, prescription HGH. These include insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, oedema, and decreased endogenous HGH secretion, as well as cardiovascular concerns with long-term use. Bottom line, this is a supplement full of claims and speculation with no research to back it up in the young, athletic population. In addition, this too is banned by most sport governing bodies.

5. Ephedrine
Ephedrine, classified as an herb and sold as a dietary supplement, is known for its stimulant properties. Therefore, athletes are often tempted to use it to ward off fatigue and increase energy. Ephedrine is also marketed as an appetite suppressant, making its use rampant by wrestlers attempting to "make weight". It has been proposed that Ephedrine is ergogenic via a glycogen-sparing mechanism, but this has not been proven in research. The most concerning part of this supplement are the reported adverse effects with this type of drug (sympathomimetic drugs). Shockingly in the early 2000's, 64% of all adverse reactions to herbs in the US came from ephedra-containing products, despite representing only 0.82% of sales. There is a high incidence of cardivascular and central nervous system effects, including an increased risk of haemorrhagic stroke. In a 22-month review, 140 adverse events related to its use were found- 10 involved death and 13 resulted in permanent disability. Dosages were not high, but actually in the range of most over the counter products sold today. Therefore, while it is theorized that this supplement may be ergogenic due to a stimulant effect, safety reasons alone warrant avoiding this; Ephedrine is banned by most sport governing bodies.

Don't take any chances. Regardless of the claims, avoid these 5 supplements at all costs!

Be Extraordinary,


Source: Juhn, M. Popular sports supplements and ergogenic aids. Sports Med. 2003;33(12):921-939

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Supplement Series Part 3: Five Common Ergogenic Aids

Welcome to Part 3 of the Supplement Series. Last week I discussed how to evaluate whether or not to use an ergogenic aid. This week, I'm going to present 5 ergogenic aids that I see commonly used across different sports. Remember, I evaluate these based on safety (are they harmful), effectiveness (do they do what they claim), and legality (does your level of sport allow them). I won't talk much about legality today because of the range of athletes who read this blog, but know that you need to check with your staff if you are taking ANY supplements. I will repeat what I mentioned in last week's blog: if you are under the age of 18, you should not be taking any of these supplements. There is not enough evidence to support use in athletes this young or is there enough research on long-term effects on growth and development when supplements of this nature are used.
Lets get started!

1. Creatine
While this supplement has been around for quite some time, it is still the most common supplement I see male athletes taking. The claim is that creatine improves high power performance lasting less than 30 seconds and increases lean body mass (i.e. muscle). Studies have shown that this is in fact true when taken in the correct form, the correct dosage, paired with the right macronutrients, and ingested at the right time with respect to time of resistance training (that's a lot of variables!). While no studies have addressed long-term health effects of creatine, it has been shown that supplementation lasting 1 to 4 years typically does not result in adverse health effects (though there are a few caveats to this if you have certain medical conditions). Short-term creatine supplementation (5-7 days) has been shown to increase max power/strength by 5-15%, single effort sprint performance by 1-5% and repetitive sprint performance by 5-15%. With long-term supplementation (~30 days), studies have shown increases in fat free mass and muscular strength. But, as mentioned above, this is only when the supplement is taken correctly- which is where most athletes fail. In addition, creatine is only effective with anaerobic training (weight lifting, sprints, etc.) vs. endurance training (running, cycling, etc.).

2. Caffeine
Caffeine has gotten lots of press over the last few years as a performance enhancer. However, like creatine, it is not beneficial for all athletes. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system (CNS), but provides NO actual energy in the form of calories. Caffeine taken before or during endurance exercise increases performance because of the CNS stimulation, but also because it enhances the release free fatty acids from adipose tissue during exercise. In studies that used a time-trial test, there was on average a 3-4% improvement in performance when taking caffeine vs. not. Its effect in anaerobic exercise is less clear at this point. To have the greatest ergogenic effect, it is best for athletes to abstain from caffeine intake for 7 days prior to competition. Also, the ideal dosage is based on weight; taking too much caffeine (often in the form of caffeine pills) can lead to adverse side effects such as GI distress, dehydration and headaches.

3. Whey Protein
This is one of those ergogenic aids that is a good idea in theory, but can get out of hand very quickly when used inappropriately. The claim is that whey protein increases lean body mass and strength and enhances immunity. It is said to do this because it has a high biological value and rapid digestion rate; it also elevates glutathione levels, reducing oxidative stress. Whey protein is actually 20% of milk protein (i.e. you eat it in milk products). When taken in the right dosage at the right time, whey does in fact lead to gains in lean mass, decreases in fat mass, and improvements in strength. However, claims of enhanced immunity remain speculative; the research has not exclusively shown this to be true. But be careful: more is not necessarily better. Athletes can easily take "whey" too much whey protein powder, resulting in huge intakes of protein calories, leading to gains in fat mass instead of muscle.

4. Arginine
The claim is that arginine increases lean body mass and improves muscle strength because it promotes vasodilation by increasing nitric oxide production. This vasodilation supposedly increases blood flow, oxygen transport, and delivery of nutrients to the muscle. The research is inconclusive; there is no proof that arginine influences nitric oxide levels in muscles. In addition, a few studies reported adverse side effects, including GI distress. More research is needed before arginine's effectiveness as an ergogenic aid can be determined.

5. Beta-Alanine
The claim is that beta-alanine increases aerobic and anaerobic performance because it is a non-essential amino acid which buffers lactic acid build-up, thereby increasing performance. Studies of long-term supplementation (at least 4 weeks) in untrained young women and men showed improved submax cycle performance and improved time to exhaustion during max cycle performance in women and an increased total work and exercise capacity in the men. However, beta-alanine has some pretty uncomfortable adverse reactions, including dose-dependent flushing and paresthesias, which can spread to most of the body. Beta-alanine seems to beneficial mainly in high-intensity exercise, strength training, and weight lifting, where more lactic acid build-up will be present. It seems safe when used short term, but there is insufficient evidence with respect to rate effectiveness.

You will have noticed that in order for these supplements to be effective, they must be taken in the right dose, with the right food, at the right time. If you are taking these or any other supplement, meet with a registered dietitian who is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics (CSSD) who can evaluate if those supplements are safe, effective, and legal for your level and type of sport performance!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Supplement Series Part 2: How to Evaluate Ergogenic Aids

Last week I listed a variety of commercial sport food supplements that athletes often use to provide fluid, energy, and electrolytes. Using these types of products correctly leads to relatively little risk with respect to safety and legality for the athlete. However, another category of supplements poses huge issues: ergogenic aids. Ergogenic aids are defined as any external influence created to enhance sport performance. So, while this can mean anything from an oral product to those spiffy new running shoes, today I'm going to focus on the powders and pills that so many athletes know and experiment with. So, going forward, any time I use the word "supplement" in this post, I'll be referring to ergogenic aids in the form of powders, pills, capsules, or tablets (also known as dietary supplements).

The Nutrition Business Journal estimated that sales of all nutritional supplements (including vitamins and minerals) in the United States in 2010 was somewhere around $28.7 billion. Supplements sales have steadily increased 6-7% per year since 2009, which is higher than the 5% growth the industry saw yearly from 2000-2009. Sales were highly driven by dietary supplements such as vitamin D, probiotics, fish oil, and CoQ10.

With the multitude of products on the market today, how do you know if what you're taking is safe (won't affect your short- and long-term health), effective (actual does what it claims to do), and legal (doesn't contain banned substances for your sport)? Before I go any further, let me be clear on one point: If you are under the age of 18, you should not be taking ANY ergogenic aidsThe long-term effects of most supplements on growing athletes has either not been studied or is unfavorable. So, until you are 18, don't even think about it! 

Under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA), "the dietary supplement or dietary ingredient manufacturer is responsible for ensuring that a dietary supplement or ingredient is safe before it is marketed. The FDA is responsible for taking action against any unsafe dietary supplement product after it reaches the market" []. Did you read that correctly? The manufacturers of dietary supplements can essentially put anything they want on the market without prior approval or testing. The FDA will only monitor that supplement if people complain/file grievances. Does that sound backwards to anyone else? The FDA also states that manufacturers have to provide a truthful label, with all ingredients listed on that label. However, we know from countless studies that this often is not the case, leading to many positive drug tests in athletes who thought they were taking one thing, but actually were ingesting something quite different. In addition, claims can be made on the label based on the manufacturer's interpretation of the scientific literature, but these are often misleading. For example, a claim made on the label could be based on studies done on mice taking doses too high for human consumption.

While some companies do follow good manufacturing practices (GMPs), too many others do not. In a study conducted by the International Olympic Committee, of 634 supplements tested from 13 different countries, 94 supplements (14.8%) contained prohibited substances. Another 10% showed possible presence of steroids. That means that 1 out of every 4 supplements contained prohibited substances. Products that tested positive were from all over the world.

As an athlete, it is your job to know what you can and cannot take. Sports governing bodies (i.e. the NCAA, IOC, etc.) publish lists of banned substances every year. That means if you test positive for those, you are done competing. Note that they don't list specific supplements that contain the banned supplements, which is why working with a sports dietitian is so important. Saying "I didn't know" is not a good defense. Note also that just because a product is "Natural" does not equate to safe. 

Safety and legality aside, also realize that supplement companies do not have to prove a supplement's effectiveness or potency before placing it on the market. That means you could be ingesting mainly flour with a little caffeine for effect (a common ingredient included in pills so athletes feel like the supplement is "doing something").

How do you evaluate the safety & effectiveness of supplements?
Meet with a registered sports dietitian, who is qualified to assess your supplements. You can also check out the National Institute of Health Office of Dietary Supplements website to do your own research.

How do you assure the quality of your supplements?
Look for NSF-certified products. NSF International ( are products that are certified to be clean. Go here and you can actually search by supplement name to determine if it is NSF-certified. You can also check as well as . However, realize that even when using certified products, you are still risking a positive drug test. Any product can be contaminated since there is nothing in place to prevent this.

If you choose to take a supplement, make sure you do not take more than the recommended dose (sometimes even this dose is unnecessarily high). If you are in college, semi-pro, or pro sports, inform your team sports dietitian, sports doc, or athletic trainer about what you are taking. If you are feel you are having a reaction to the supplement such as headache, upset stomach, dehydration, etc., stop taking the product immediately!

Come back next week for Supplement Series Part 3. I'll discuss the 5 most common ergogenic aids and evaluate their effectiveness with respect to athletic performance.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Supplement Series Part 1: 5 Categories of Commercial Sport Food Supplements

This is the 1st in a 4-part Supplement Series where I will explore the often confusing world of sports supplements. This week, I will talk about commercial food supplements. Come back weeks 2-4 to learn how to evaluate ergogenic aids (pills & powders), explore 5 commonly used ergogenic aids, and finally be warned of 5 ergogenic aids to avoid at all costs. This is a series you don't want to miss!

Endurance and anaerobic athletes alike often wonder which supplements are "the best". Which ones will give them the speed, power, energy they want as quickly as possible? When it comes to commercial supplements, should they choose sports drinks, gu's, gels, or bars? Here I provide available products from each of 5 categories of what I call these Commercial Sport Food Supplements. Which work best for you comes down to your sport, taste preferences and GI tolerance, so start training with these now to determine your best bets. Note that there are MANY products out there, so this list is not all-inclusive, nor am I recommending you use a specific one - or any. To determine your best nutrition training plan, set up a consult with me today. Together we can discover which, when, and in what amount you should be using these in your training and competition.

Category 1: Sports Drinks
These are typically not necessary until training extends beyond one hour.

Products with sodium & other electrolytes (for those practicing for over 1 hour): Gatorade, Powerade, CytoMax, etc.

Products with extra sodium (for those prone to cramping or planning to exercise in hot, humid weather for over 2 hours): Gatorade Endurance, Powerbar Endurance, Clif Shot Electrolyte Drink, GU Brew Electrolyte, Powerbar Ironman Perform

All natural products (i.e. without dye or food coloring): Carb BOOM! Electrolyte Drink, First Endurance EFS, HEED, Clif Quench

Added protein (may reduce post-exercise muscle soreness, but may cause GI discomfort during exercise): Perpetuem, Accelerade, UCAN

Low-calorie sports drinks (for dieters): G2, Powerade Zero, Propel, Nuun

Real food alternative: Try 100% fruit juice diluted with water; add a pinch of salt = homemade sports drink!

Category 2: Gels
Always take gels with water to avoid GI discomfort. Experimenting with different brands and flavors is very important for this category!

General gels: Gu, Carb-BOOM!, Clif Shot, Honey Stinger

Extra sodium: Powerbar Gel, EFS Liquid Shot, Gu Roctane

Added caffeine: GU (most), Rocktane (most), Clif Shot Gel (some flavors), Powerbar Gel (some flavors), HoneyStinger (Ginsting & Strawberry)

Real food alternative: Try honey, which can be found in easy to carry straws.

Category 3: Sports Snacks
There are so many of these, but a few include Jelly Belly Sport Beans, Gu Chomps, Clif Shot Blocks, and Sharkies

Real food alternative: Try dried fruit such as raisins or gummi bears/Lifesavers

Category 4: Energy Bars
These are often used either during endurance exercise (such as long-distance cycling) or as snacks between meals. Note: these should NEVER replace a meal!

All natural (typically means they have no added vitamins/minerals; some are organic): Clif Mojo, Odwalla Bars, PowerBar Nut Naturals, KIND Bars, Zing Bars, Kashi Bars, and Raw Revolution Bars.

Dairy-free: Clif nectar, Pure, Gnu Bar, Fit, Perfect 10, Larabar, and AllerEnergy Bar

Fructose-free: JayBar

Gluten-Free: Larabar, Hammer Bar, Zing Bar, and Extend Bar Delight

Vegan: Larabar, Clif Builder's Bar, Pro Bar, Vega Whole Food Raw Energy Bar

Grocery Store Bars: Natural Valley Granola Bars, Fig Newtons

Real food alternatives: How about real fruit, such as bananas & apples, or PBJs!

Category 5: Recovery Drinks
These all contain carbohydrate plus some protein. A few include EAS Endurathon, PowerBar Recovery Drinks, Endurox R4, Gatorade Nutrition Shake, Clif Shot Recovery Drink, and Gatorade Series 3

Real food alternative: Good old low-fat chocolate milk!

Be Extraordinary,


Blog resource: Clark, Nancy. "Commercial Sport foods: A Source of Confusion?".