Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Save your summer training; Avoid these 3 common nutrition pitfalls

Ah summer - it's finally here! A time for revving up the outdoor training and really focusing on those competitive goals. But nothing ruins a great training season like stupid nutrition decisions. Here are 3 common pitfalls many athletes fall into when they get just a little too relaxed with their eating over the summer.

1. "It's so nice out, lets go eat/drink _______."
When the whether is finally warm after a brutal winter, it is easy to always want to be outside on a restaurant porch drinking a your favorite alcoholic concoction or out for ice cream with the kids. Set limits on this now so these habits do not get out of hand. Remember that one drink or small cup of ice cream can easily load on up to 400 Calories of very little useful nutrition. A good rule of thumb is that you are allowed to "treat" yourself twice a week. Just make sure to choose a treat that you truly enjoy. This will leave you feeling satisfied instead of wishing you didn't waste the calories. Instead of always meeting friends at the tiki bar, trying meeting at the park and going for a walk in the beautiful sunshine.

2. "It's really hot out - I must be dehydrated. I better grab a sports drink."
Sports drinks are only meant to be drunk during one activity...sports. Don't use sports drinks as a random hydration tool unless you have met with a sports RD or physician who has the specific knowledge to tell you to do so. Why? Because sports drinks offer little in terms of good nutrition when it comes to meals, snacks or even in between. They are purely created for rehydration during relatively intense activity, which doesn't include standing around outside. Too much sports drink when you don't need it is just as bad as too much pop, alcohol, ice cream, etc....just a lot of empty calories that are not helpful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Decrease Inflammation with these 3 Spices

Whether hurt, recovering or just looking to stay well, many athletes want to know what they can eat to decrease levels of inflammation in the body. While the typical go-to is berries for their antioxidant capacity, spices offer an anti-inflammatory punch of their own. Here are 3 of the best. And forget supplements; simply add them to dishes when cooking to reap the benefits.

1. Tumeric
Tumeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Most don't recognize this spice by name because it is actually found in curry powder. Indian dishes often rely heavily on curry powder - perhaps for the anti-inflammatory effect!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Four Fantastic Apps for Nutrition-Minded Athletes

It amazes me how many apps exist now for smartphones. I love when I find a good app that makes my life easier. Here are a few of my favorite sports nutrition apps. Whether you want to count calories, shop quicker, eat out easier or check supplements, there's an app for that.

*Disclaimer: I am not being paid by any of these apps to discuss them on this blog. As you will see, I freely discuss the pros and cons of each.*

1. MyFitnessPal - Free
There are lots of apps available for calorie tracking. I like this app because the database is HUGE, which makes it easy to find uncommon or specialty foods. For clients working with me, we can also become "Friends", which allows me to see their food diary. When entering food, be sure to pay attention to how many "confirmations" a given food has received. This will give you some indication as to how accurate the entry likely is. Because this is a user-entered food database, there will be error, but potentially not much greater than any error associated with food tracking. Another note: like all calorie counters, this app notoriously under-estimates calorie needs. However, to use a way to track patterns of mindless eating or general intake across the board, it is a great tool.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to Hydrate When You Hate Water

It's that time of year when the weather begins to warm and ruining your workout by being dehydrated is much more likely. Despite constant encouragement by sports professionals, many athletes find it difficult to hydrate during the day prior to or after a workout. Their reason is sometimes that plain water just isn't palatable. The truth is that many other fluid options hydrate...

1. Coffee or tea
In the past, coffee and tea were characterized as fluids that should be avoided by athletes at any cost due to caffeine levels. What we know now is that it actually takes a large volume of these (or any) caffeinated beverages before there is actually a dehydrating effect. So, keep that morning cup of joe, but try to limit yourself to a total of 4 cups or less of caffeinated beverages daily. Already way over that amount? Try half caff (you may not even notice) each time you drink coffee or tea. One caveat: realize that many energy drinks are much higher in caffeine than a basic cup of coffee or tea. Your caffeine intake should be no more than 500mg per day (at the most!) but ideally closer to 300mg. So check those energy drinks and adjust accordingly. Like chocolate-covered espresso beans? That caffeine counts too! And try to limit caffeine intake after ~3pm, as it can interfere with sleep.

2. Low-fat milk
This "milk" can be soy milk, lactose-free milk, organic milk....whatever you like. Just pick a low-fat, calcium-fortified version to cut back on unnecessary saturated fat and increase the nutrients you are receiving from that milk. If you only drink rice milk or almond milk, try switching to another type of milk if you consider this your protein source. Rice milk and almond milk have close to zero protein.

3. 100% fruit juice
Notice the percent: 100. So I'm not talking about Tang, Hi-C, or Fruit Punch. Check right above the food label and make sure it reads, "100% juice". Many juices appear to be 100%, but are actually fruit drinks. And stay away from the "low-calorie" juices, which are either watered down or pumped with artificial sweeteners. Because of these two facts, oftentimes you'll end up drinking more than you would have of the real stuff, which means taking in the same, if not more calories than the 100% juice. Regardless, limit juice intake to no more than 6-8 ounces daily.

4. Water + fruit
Here is a great way to give water some flavor without turning to artificial sweeteners. Try adding one or a combination of the following to your water: lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit, cucumber, strawberries, pineapple, mint leaves, or basil leaves - or whatever else sounds good to you! This can be very refreshing - particularly on a hot, sunny day. Why am I not a fan of artificial sweeteners? Sweeteners are chemically processed in a way that makes them sweeter than real sugar. That means that, over time, you may start to prefer foods sweeter and sweeter (which may be why some athletes don't like plain water in the first place). So, if you want to drink something flavored with one of these sweeteners, stick to one drink/can per day max (this includes drinks such as diet soda, Crystal Lite, etc.).

5. Sparkling water
If you're looking for a better alternative to diet soda, this is it. Sparkling water that comes in a can (such as Lacroix) is easy to take along with you, but contains more flavor than plain water. The key is to make sure no artificial sweeteners are added. Check the food label and look for simple ingredients. These often include carbonated water, sparkling water, natural flavor, mint, or even essence of cocoa. Flavors such as lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit are typically more likely to NOT contain artificial sweeteners. But beware: you may not want to drink anything carbonated right before a workout, as it can cause GI discomfort.

So choose your fluids wisely, and you may find that hydrating is much easier than you thought.

Be Extraordinary,