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.



Common Mistake #1: Recovery after training and competition is not taken seriously

24 05 2010

I would like to take the 5 mistakes mentioned in my previous post from May17th, 2010 and expand on each one.  The first mistake concerns not focusing on recovery.  One definition of recovery is returning to a normal and better condition.  For athletes, this is getting their body back to how it was prior to the training session or competition.  The quicker someone recovers, the sooner they can train or compete at an optimal level again.  What changes occur during training and competition that bodies need to recover from?

First, carbohydrates are stored in the muscle in the form of glycogen.  Your body uses this glycogen for energy during activity.  Think of this as refueling your muscles.  One analogy I hear used all the time is comparing our bodies to cars.  Think of carbohydrates as the gasoline you put in your cars.  One role of eating carbohydrates after a workout is refueling – like putting gas in a car after a long trip.  Another role of carbohydrate is limiting the damage caused by exercise.  Exercise can cause an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can lead to the breakdown of muscle.  Eating carbohydrates will decrease the amount of cortisol in our blood, thus decreasing the amount of muscle that is broken down.  Depending on the intensity and length of exercise, you should multiply your body weight by 0.4 to 1 gram to calculate the amount of carbohydrates needed.

Second, but no less important, is protein.  Our bodies also need protein after workouts and competitions to repair the damage that occurred.  Exercise puts our body in a catabolic state.  This means that our bodies are breaking down muscle.  If we don’t get the right food in after a workout, we won’t gain all the benefits from the hard work just completed.  People make the false assumption that exercise builds muscle.  Instead, it is the combination of exercise and proper fueling that stimulates our body to repair and build muscle.  The type of exercise and your body weight dictate how much protein you need.  A good target to aim for is at least 20 grams of protein.  Generally, I recommend multiplying your weight by 0.2 grams for optimal recovery.

Third, we need re-hydration.  This is simply replacing the water used during the exercise.  To know how much you should replace, you should weigh yourself in minimal clothing before and after the exercise bout.  This weight loss represents the water loss that needs to be replaced for your body to function optimally.  General guidelines are to drink 20 oz for every pound you lose.  This can be water, a sports drink to provide the necessary carbohydrates, or a drink that contains protein.

The last thing I would recommend is having some food that has anti-inflammatory properties.  This can also allow for quicker recovery.  Foods that have anti-inflammatory properties include cherries, berries, pineapple, and foods that contain Omega-3 fats (ex. salmon and walnuts).

By focusing on these four areas after workouts, you will optimally recover from your workout and see the improvements you desire.

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

Vitamin D, Muscle, and Fat

13 05 2010

Most people realize that vitamin D assists the body in absorbing calcium.  This assisting role helps the body have strong bones.  What most people don’t realize is that this role only represents 15% of what vitamin D does.  There are over 200 genes in our body that have vitamin D receptors.  This means that having adequate vitamin D levels allows our body to function correctly at the genetic level, enhancing many things from immune function to muscle strength.

A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism looked at the relationship between vitamin D status and fat content of muscles.  Our muscles naturally store fat as an energy source.  But a higher muscle fat content is associated with lower levels of strength and performance.

This current study measured blood levels of vitamin D and, using a CT scan, measured the amount of fat in muscles.  What the researchers found was an inverse relationship between the two measurements.  The lowest vitamin D levels were associated with the highest amount of fat in the muscles.  A reasonable assumption is that vitamin D insufficiency is associated with a decrease in muscle strength.

I always encourage people to get their serum Vitamin D levels checked.  Once you know that number, you will know how much vitamin D is best for you to take.  I generally recommend between 1500 and 2000 IU per day.  It is very difficult to get this amount from food.  And although it is possible to get such a level from sun exposure, I don’t recommend forgoing sunscreen.  So personally, I take 2000 IU per day combined between my multivitamin and a vitamin D supplement.  I typically recommend the Nature Made brand to clients because they submit to strict quality testing by the United States Pharmacopeial; this way you know you are getting exactly what is on the label.

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

How you cook or store your food can affect the nutrient content…

11 05 2010

The longer food is exposed to light, air, temperature, or water the more nutrients are lost.  Consuming raw foods will allow maximum nutrient content.

1. Store fresh vegetables at coldest temperature without freezing
2. Allow fresh fruit to ripen at room temperature then refrigerate
3. Buy in smaller quantities to use quickly

Some cooking methods are better than others.

1. Frozen foods are a better choice than canned
2. Steaming and microwaving are better methods than boiling or deep fat frying because vitamins and minerals can be lost in the cooking liquid
3. Leaving skin on during cooking of fruits and vegetables when possible will decrease nutrient losses
4. When cooking, avoid cutting food into very small pieces.  Larger pieces lose less nutrients

Grilling at high temperatures can produce compounds that show increased risk for DNA mutation and some cancers.

Decrease formation of compounds by:
1. Choosing leaner meats
2. Marinating meats
3. Lowering grilling temperature
4. Preventing flare ups (open flames)

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

Grapes are Good for Your Heart

26 04 2010

Grapes come in more than 50 varieties in black, blue, blue-black, golden, red, green, purple, and white colors.

All varieties, no matter the color, have health benefits.

Grapes have high concentrations of phytonutrients

The three polyphenols that are linked to their health benefits are:

1. Flavonoids

2. Phenolic Acids

3. Resveratrol

Protection against Heart Disease

Eating grapes leads to:

1. Increased levels of Nitric Oxide in the blood, which dilates the blood vessels.

– This leads to lower blood pressure.

2. Reduces inflammation

3. Reduces harmful blood clots

4. Reduces potential artery damage from LDL (bad cholesterol)

Antioxidants and Athletic Performance

Grapes are a good source of antioxidants.

1. Regular and prolonged exercise causes an increase in free radicals, leading to muscle damage.

2. The antioxidants in grapes can assist in fighting this free radical damage

Grapes are 80% Water

This makes them an excellent low-calorie snack or dessert.

One grape only has 4 calories.

Eating grapes will also aid in hydration.

Add grapes (any color) to your normal weekly meal plan.

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

Vitamin D deficiency can make you weak…

21 04 2010

Approximately 75% of Americans are deficient in Vitamin D.

Inadequate levels of Vitamin D lead to:

1. Weak Bones

2. Weak Muscles

3. Weakened Immune System

Our bodies can make vitamin D from the sunlight, but this reaction can be stopped.

1. Sunscreen blocks Vitamin D conversion.

2. Windows also block Vitamin D conversion.

3. Height of the sun in the sky affects the conversion. Vitamin D production is highest between 10am & 3pm.

4. Time of year also affects the conversion. Where we live, vitamin D can only be made during the months of March through September.

We should aim for 1500—2000 IU of vitamin D daily.

1. Food is not a great source of vitamin D, but try to select foods that have vitamin D.

2. Supplements will be the easiest way to get vitamin D.

Food Amount of Vitamin D
3.5 oz Wild Salmon 980 IU
3.5 oz Farm-Raised Salmon 250 IU
8oz Milk 100 IU
Whole Egg (Vitamin D is in the yolk) 18 IU

Bottom Line: Still use sunscreen to protect your skin, but make sure you take your multivitamin and vitamin D daily.

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

What you eat can affect your joints…

16 04 2010

Maintaining and regenerating cartilage and synovial (joint) fluid helps to avoid frictional damage to your joints.

Adequate daily intake of protein and water can be essential to maintain good levels of synovial fluid.
1. For protein, get at least 0.5 gram per pound of body weight.
2. For water, get at least 0.5 ounces per pound of body weight.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids can help joints by reducing inflammation.
Good sources are:
Salmon, Tuna, Sardines, Fish Oil, Walnuts, Canola Oil, & Flaxseed.

Both vitamin D and vitamin C are important as well.
1. Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack.
2. Take your multivitamin daily.
3. During the Fall & Winter, take your vitamin D supplement daily.

Weight  | Protein (g/day) | Water (oz/day)
130 lbs  | 65—104 grams   | ≥ 65 ounces
160 lbs  | 80—128 grams   | ≥ 80 ounces
180 lbs  | 90—144 grams   | ≥ 90 ounces
200 lbs  | 100—160 grams | ≥ 100 ounces
220 lbs  | 110—176 grams | ≥ 110 ounces
250 lbs  | 125—200 grans  | ≥ 125 ounces
300 lbs  | 150—240 grams | ≥ 150 ounces

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

Eating Fish is Good For Your Brain…

7 04 2010

Some fish are great sources of the Omega-3 Fatty Acid, Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA).  This fatty acid is a component of the brain.  Adequate amounts in the diet help promote optimal brain function.

Another Omega-3 Fatty Acid found in fish, Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), has other benefits.  This fatty acid aids in reducing inflammation.

Potential Benefits of Omega-3 fats:
1. Improved brain function
2. Reduced inflammation
3. Reduced joint pain
4. Improved cardiovascular function (circulation)

Best Sources of DHA & EPA:
1. Salmon
2. Sardines
3. Mackerel
4. Tuna Steaks
Canned Tuna has 1/5 the amount of omega-3 as the tuna steak.

Eat fish at least 2-3 times per week.

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