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.

Advertisements




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.





How to Lose that Belly Fat

25 06 2010

When I meet with people who want to lose body fat, there are a few things that I focus on initially.  One of these is getting adequate fiber throughout the day.

A recently published study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Am J Clin Nutr 91: 329-336, 2010) looked at total fiber, cereal fiber, and fruit/vegetable fiber to see if there is a difference in how they affect weight and abdominal fat.  They found that those who ate the most fiber had the least amount of belly fat and weighed less. They also found that cereal fiber was the most effective at preventing abdominal fat gain.

Therefore, when picking a cereal, choose wisely.  One of my general rules for cereal selection is it should have at least 2 grams of fiber and protein for every 100 calories.  (Though, I prefer them to be even higher)

What is fiber? Dietary fibers are structural components of plants. The type and amount of fiber in plants vary from species to species.

How much do we need? A healthy adult should get 10 – 13 grams of fiber for every 1000 calories they eat.  Most women should aim to get a minimum of 20 grams per day and men should aim for 35 grams per day.  Unfortunately, most Americans only consume about 10 grams daily.  To get the appropriate amount of fiber, adults should include the following in their diets:

  • two to three servings of whole grains
  • three pieces of fruits a day
  • two cups of vegetables a day
  • one or two servings of legumes every week

Sources of Fiber

Food Amount Fiber (grams)
Kashi Go Lean Cereal 1 cup 10
Beans, cooked ½ cup 5-8
Peanuts ½ cup 6
Raspberries 1 cup 6
Whole wheat bread, 100% 2 slices 6
Harvest burger 1 burger 5
Apple or Pear 1 fruit 4
Blueberries or Strawberries 1 cup 4
Oats, uncooked ½ cup 4
Sweet potato w/skin, baked 1 potato 4
Brown rice, cooked 1 cup 4
Sunflower seeds ¼ cup 4
Broccoli 1 cup 3

Are there side effects to increasing your fiber? Yes. Some people experience gas and bloating.  But you can avoid these side effects by gradually increasing the amount of fiber you eat daily and drinking plenty of water.

Bottom Line: To help lose that belly fat, choose a high-fiber cereal and include fruits and vegetables daily.

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





5 Tips to Avoid Exertional Heat Illness

15 06 2010

It seems that every summer the media reports the same tragedy: another athlete has died due to the effects of exertional heat illness.  Coaches and athletes need to take precautions when training in the heat.  The following are simple steps to train smartly during the heat.

  1. Allow time to acclimate to the heat. Even top athletes are at risk if they are unaccustomed to the heat.  It can take the body 1-2 weeks to acclimatize to the heat.  Therefore, intensity and duration of workouts need to be reduced at the beginning and gradually increase over the first 14 days of the summer training program.
  2. Keep Hydrated:  Drink early and often. Staying hydrated allows the body’s cooling response to work effectively.  As the body loses water, if not replaced, it becomes more difficult to maintain a safe core temperature.  Sports drinks (i.e. Gatorade) should be encouraged because they will rehydrate better than water alone.  For strategies to maintain proper hydration, see my previous post on Inadequate fluid intake.
  3. Wear Appropriate Clothing. Wearing the wrong workout attire can make it more difficult for the body to dissipate heat.  Dark clothing absorbs heat.  So make sure to wear lightweight and light colored clothing.
  4. Monitor Weather Conditions. You should always check the weather forecast the morning of a workout day.  If the heat and humidity is predicted to be too high that day, if possible, change your workout to the morning or late evening when it is cooler.  Otherwise, shorten the duration of the workout or decrease the intensity that day.  Also, allow for longer and more frequent hydration breaks.
  5. Be Aware of how some Medications and Supplements affect the body’s ability to cool. One of the more common medication categories that can be dangerous when combined with exercise in the heat is ADHD medications.  If you are on one of these medications or as a coach you have an athlete taking this category, you need to pay extra attention to the warning signs of dehydration.  Some of the signs/symptoms are headache, dizziness, excessive fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and chills.  When the symptoms progress beyond thirst and/or fatigue, the safest strategy is to cool the athlete quickly and allow for rehydration.  As far as supplements go, the worst are stimulant-containing products, such as energy drinks, weight loss products, and others that promote giving you that “pump” like NO-Xplode.

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





Common Mistake #5: Inadequate fluid intake

9 06 2010

Water is the largest single component of the body.  Approximately 75% of muscle is made up of water.  Besides oxygen, it is the most important nutrient in our bodies.  Water plays an important role in nearly every major bodily function: it aids in digestion and absorption, carries nutrients and oxygen to cells, regulates body temperature, removes waste, cushions joints and protects organs and tissues.

Water is the most important supplement we have:  USE IT!

Hydration is overlooked by most athletes, with more than 50% living in a state of dehydration.  Try not to wait until you are thirsty.  By this time, you have already lost ~1% of your body weight.  Losing as little as 1% body weight can impair performance and make it difficult for your body to cope with exercise and warm weather.  A loss of 2-4% of your body weight causes a 20% decrease in strength and a 40% decrease in aerobic capacity.

Dehydration can be prevented!  Drinking the proper amount of fluid before, during, and after exercise will keep you well hydrated.

Tips for Proper Hydration:

  • Pre-Hydrate – Drink 16–20oz of water 2–3 hours before practice/competition.  Drink 8oz of water or Gatorade 10–20 minutes before practice/competition.
  • Hydrate – Drink water or Gatorade during practice/competition, not waiting until you feel thirsty.  One simple strategy is to drink 4-8 oz during every break.  On gulp is approximately an ounce.
  • Re-Hydrate – Drink 20–24oz of water or Gatorade for every pound of weight lost.

Plan ahead and carry a water bottle with you.  To calculate approximately how much water you need daily, divide your weight in half.  This is the minimum amount of fluid in ounces you should strive to drink daily.  Alcoholic beverages do not count.  In fact, you need to drink additional water for every alcoholic beverage you have.  The more you sweat, the more you need to drink in addition to this amount.  Also, remember that muscle is 75% water.  So, if you are trying to gain muscle, you need to drink additional water to aid in building that new muscle.

Bottom Line: Carry a water bottle with you and drink often throughout the day.

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





Common Mistake #4: Inadequate consumption of fruits and vegetables

7 06 2010

Fruits and vegetables provide the vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that help your body function optimally, fight inflammation, and ward off illness.  Athletes are under tremendous stress.  You not only endure physical stress from training and environmental conditions, but also emotional stress.  Worrying about your position on the depth chart, upcoming competitions, academics, or your job can significantly contribute to your stress level. In addition, you may have stress in your personal lives. Stress can be overwhelming, and can build up over time during the long grind of the season.

If your diet is lacking fruits and vegetables, you will be more vulnerable to stress.  This vulnerability to stress weakens your immune system, lowering your work capacity and could knock you out of training. You cannot afford to have unnecessary downtime because of a weak immune system.  By focusing on getting adequate fruits and vegetables, you can minimize down time. Being taken down for a day or two is much better than missing a week or more.

By eating a fruit or vegetable at every meal or snack, you are helping to protect your body from the effects of stress.  It is essential to get a colorful variety of fruits, vegetables, and nuts into your diet daily.  The more “colors” you eat, the more essential vitamins and minerals you are providing your body.

Red Yellow/Orange White Green Blue/Purple Brown
Cherries

Craisins

Cranberries

Raspberries

Red Bell Peppers

Red Cabbage

Strawberries

Tomatoes

Watermelon

Butternut Squash

Canola Oil

Cantaloupe

Carrots

Grapefruit

Oranges

Peaches

Pineapples

Pumpkin

Sweet Potatoes

Tangerines

Yellow Bell Peppers

Apples

Bananas

Cauliflower

Onions

Pears

White Peaches

White Potatoes

Asparagus

Avocado

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Collards

Green Bell Peppers

Green Olives

Guacamole

Kale

Mustard Greens

Romaine Lettuce

Spinach

Black Olives

Blackberries

Blueberries

Plums

Prunes

Purple Grapes

Raisins

Almonds

Brazil Nuts

Cashews

Olive Oil

Peanuts

Pecans

Pumpkin Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Walnuts

Wheat Germ

Bottom Line: Eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal or snack.  Strive to eat from every color throughout the week.

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