Not all Proteins are Created Equal

6 04 2011

New research has indicated that the amino acid, Leucine, is a key nutrient in stimulating muscle protein synthesis.  This is key to building new muscle and repairing any muscle damage present.  It appears that to maximize this muscle protein synthesis, people should eat 2-4 grams of leucine 3-5 times per day.  The following foods have leucine:

1 scoop of CytoSport Whey Isolate = 3.5 grams
1 cup of Cottage Cheese = 2.9 grams
3.5 oz Pork Loin = 2.5 grams
3.5 oz Lean Beef = 2.4 grams
3.5 oz Chicken Breast = 2.3 grams
3.5 oz Salmon = 2 grams
3 oz Canned Tuna = 1.7 grams
16 oz of Milk = 1.6 grams
2 Eggs = 1 gram
3 Egg Whites = 0.9 grams
6oz Yogurt = 0.9 grams
1 piece String Cheese = 0.7 grams

Bottom Line: It takes planning to maximize protein synthesis. We should try to get at least 2 grams of leucine multiple times during the day.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, 2011.



Healthy Fat Choices

23 02 2011

Research has shown the benefit of adding nuts to our diets.  Here are five nuts you should consider eating.

1. Almonds: Probably the most-studied nut for heart health.  The protein, fiber, and monounsaturated fatty acid components of almonds can improve cardiovascular function. The fiber in almonds can also block some of the fat calories from being absorbed.

2. Hazelnuts: Research shows that it is best to consume hazelnuts whole because many of its antioxidants are located in the hazelnut skin.

3. Pecans: Research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (June 2004) found that pecans rank highest among all nuts and are among the top category of foods to contain the highest antioxidant capacity.

4. Pistachios: Pistachios are suggested to have anti-inflammatory properties according to a recent study.

5. Walnuts: In addition to antioxidants and essential ALA/omega-3 fatty acids, a handful of walnuts are also a good source of magnesium (45 mg) and phosphorus (98 mg) – both important minerals involved the body’s processes and necessary for achieving optimal wellness.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, 2011.


Eggs as a Protein Source

16 02 2011

It is no secret that high-quality protein may help active individuals build muscle strength. One egg provides 6 grams of protein. Eggs provide the highest quality protein found in any food because they provide all of the essential amino acids our bodies need in a near-perfect pattern. While many people think the egg white has all the protein, the yolk actually provides nearly half of it.  Consuming eggs following exercise is a great way to get the most benefits from exercise by encouraging muscle tissue repair and growth.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS


Have Eggs Unfairly Gotten a Bad Rap?

14 02 2011

Decades ago researchers found that the cholesterol we eat really has no effect on the levels of cholesterol in the blood of most people. Yet, you will still hear people say that we should limit how many eggs we eat because of the level of cholesterol in them. Even if you are closely watching the amount of cholesterol you eat, one large egg only has 185mg of cholesterol. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people should eat less than 300mg of cholesterol daily. The two main nutrients that impact blood levels of cholesterol are Saturated and Trans Fat. It’s recommended that we eat less than 2 grams of trans fat and less than 10% of our calories from saturated fat daily. For most people, this averages to be less than 18 grams of saturated fat daily. The good news is one large egg only has 1.8 grams of saturated fat.

Bottom Line: You can safely enjoy an egg a day without worrying about your cholesterol.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2011.

Steroids found in products sold on

19 01 2011

It has been a little over a year since the FDA raided for selling products with steroids.  Last month, they issued a warning letter to manufacturers regarding the sale of supplements that contain pharmaceutical ingredients and steroids.  The number of these products are decreasing, but they are still available.  This post is to serve as a reminder to athletes to be careful what they buy.

The Washington Post reported today that products sold on were found to contain steroids.  Two of the steroids found were methasterone and maldol (desoxymethlytestosterone).  Maldol was one of the designer steroids discovered during the BALCO doping scandal.  Products like these have been tied to health complications such as liver failure.

Two of the products named were Competitive Edge Labs M-Drol & Competitive Edge Labs P-Plex.

Bottom Line: Know what you are putting into your body.  Discuss supplement use with a Sports Dietitian and look for products that are tested by a third party, such as NSF, BSCG, or Informed Choice.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS

Cranberries: Not Just for the Holidays

15 12 2010

Cranberries have compounds called phytonutrients that impart antimicrobial benefits. The six main phytonutrients in cranberries are proanthocyanidin, tocotrienols, quercetin, anthocyanin, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. These phytonutrients are what give cranberries the ability to help protect against urinary tract infections. However, these nutrients do so much more. They are all powerful antioxidants that help protect the body free radicals. In addition to that, studies have found these phytonutrients:
1. Improve heart health.
2. May protect against some forms of cancer.
3. Act as a natural anti-histamine.
4. Act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent.
5. Strengthen our immune system.
6. Increase endurance capacity.

Bottom Line: There are multiple reasons to eat cranberries throughout the year.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS


Cold Rx: Chicken Noodle Soup

13 12 2010

Winter is officially here, bringing with it cold and dry air. Cold viruses thrive in dry conditions. This is one reason colds are more common in the winter. I was reading a newsletter from the Mayo Clinic about cold remedies and it discussed why chicken noodle soup works. Chicken noodle soup has been used for decades to treat sick children. Now scientists have found two ways that it may work to relieve cold and flu symptoms. First, researchers at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, found that the soup acts as an anti-inflammatory specifically affecting immune system cells. Second, it helps maintain hydration. This will speed up the movement of mucus; possibly relieving congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the nose lining.

Bottom Line: Your mother was right. Chicken soup can make you feel better.

A Plan for Healthy Snacks

16 09 2010

College athletes have busy schedules.  To be properly fueled, athletes should eat every few hours.  Classes, workouts, and practices can interfere with this goal.  Because of their busy schedules, planning is necessary.  When it comes to eating healthily, I frequently use a modified quote of Benjamin Franklin:  “A failure to plan is a plan to fail.”  Athletes should strive to plan their food into their schedule.

Snacks are a vital part of an athletes food “plan”.  Snacks are meant to maintain blood glucose levels, stabilize hormones, maintain energy levels, and prevent overeating later.  What I look for in a snack are carbohydrates, protein, and occasionally some healthy fat (depending on calorie needs).  As stated in “Common Mistakes #4”, I like to see fruit or vegetables with every meal or snack.

Some good snack options are:

Whole wheat bread with peanut butter and a banana.

Chewy granola bars, string cheese, and an apple.

In a Ziploc bag, combine ¼ cup of Almonds with 2 tbsp Raisins.

Whole-wheat tortilla, 3oz of tuna with Dijon mustard and side of baby carrots.

How is Fish Oil like a Football Helmet?

8 07 2010

Mouth guard, check.  Shoulder pads, check.  Fish oil, check…wait, what?  Yes, that’s right, fish oil.  New research is showing that fish oil (and its Omega-3 fat) may be useful for treating and preventing damage to your brain sustained from a concussion.

New research from the West Virginia University School of Medicine examined whether DHA (an omega-3 fat) could be used as a treatment after traumatic brain injury.  Rats were given either 10mg/kg/day or 40mg/kg/day of DHA for 30 days after brain injury.  Both quantities were successful at increasing DHA levels in the blood.  But the higher dosage was more effective at reducing the damage to levels similar to uninjured animals.

We can’t be sure if humans would see similar benefits from DHA until more research is conducted.  But since DHA is safe, affordable, and readily available worldwide, people who regularly engage in activities with a higher risk of head injury could benefit from taking it.  Dr. Julian E. Bailes, lead researcher in the WVU study, recommends taking 3g of DHA each day for the month following a concussion.

There is potential for DHA to be used to limit brain damage in sports that are more prone to concussions, like football.  Taking 1g of DHA daily may protect brain axons from damage.  To get this amount from fish oil, you will need to take 4 soft gels of double strength fish oil (ex. Nordic Naturals ProOmega or Nature Made Double Strength Fish Oil).  If you are vegetarian and do not want to use fish oil, Martek makes omega-3 oils (Life’s DHA) from algal oil.

Fish oil already has the proven benefits of improving your cardiovascular health and reducing inflammation.  Now those of us who engage in contact sports can add another good reason to get our daily dose of Omega-3’s.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.

Can tea help you lose weight?

6 07 2010

In 2009, Americans spent 3.64 billion dollars on food, beverages, and supplements that were marketed for weight management.  Obviously, people are searching for something to help them lose weight.  What if it was as simple as drinking tea with meals?

Let’s look at two popular varieties of tea, green and black.

Green tea has been getting a lot of publicity for its health benefits over the past few years.  The part of green tea that has been studied the most is a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG).  According to a recent study in European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, EGCG was found to increase fat oxidation by 33 percent.  This is the reason a lot of supplement manufacturers add this green tea extract to their products.  But I always recommend that you try to get what you need from food first before turning to supplements, so…

How much green tea do you need to drink to see benefit?

According to Dr. Josh Lambert, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at Penn State, the effective dose is a minimum of 3 cups per day.  It is most likely you will need to drink 3-6 cups per day.  I am referring to tea that you have brewed either using tea bags or loose leaf tea with an infuser.  So, this means bottled green tea, like Arizona Tea, doesn’t count.  As bottled teas sit on the shelf, the polyphenols degrade and you lose the benefit you are looking for.  In addition, most have a lot of added sugar, which would counteract any weight loss effects.  There are many varieties of green tea.  Personally, I like “Gunpowder Green Tea” (loose leaf).  If you live in Lawrence look for it in a Hyvee grocery store.

And now let’s look at black tea.

Some new research in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that black tea may be as effective in weight management as green tea.  This research study used mice, so it still needs to be repeated with humans.  But the results are intriguing.  The researchers fed mice a high-fat, high-calorie diet.  The mice that were given black tea extracts did not see the body weight and fat gain.  These benefits were linked to reduced fat absorption.  So if you are looking to lose weight, you may benefit by drinking some black tea with your meal.

As a reminder, I promote food first.  There are real concerns with a lot of supplements, especially those marketed for weight loss.  Green tea is safe.  However, green tea extracts in the form of a supplement may cause toxicity.  Another point for consideration; tea can inhibit iron absorption.  So, if you tend to have low levels of iron, make sure you separate the consumption of iron-containing food and tea by at least an hour…

Bottom Line: Tea may be beneficial in weight loss.  Drink it with meals (unless iron deficient) and as part of snacks.

© Randy Bird, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS and Randy Bird Sports Nutrition, 2010.