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Chipotle, Panera or McDonald’s?

Chipotle, Panera or McDonald’s?

Chipotle and Panera are popular quick-service restaurants for many athletes. Their menus offer several items that fit well into a sports diet and are a step in the healthier direction than, let’s say, a burger & fries meal. But the “killer” with even Panera and Chipotle is the portion size.

If you are an athlete who eats three meals a day, you can appropriately fuel your body with 1,000 calories of a Chipotle burrito for lunch; it fits into your day’s 3,000 to 4.000- calorie food budget. But if you are a sedentary desk worker or petite fitness exerciser who might need only 2,000 to 2,400 calories a day, be cautious. You might want to split that burrito and enjoy half for lunch and the other half for dinner.

Hungry athletes who want to eat well commonly cannot afford to fill their tummies with the healthiest options because those items tend to be lower in fat, hence lower in calories. One solution is to plan ahead. If you know you will be eating on the road, pack into your gym bag or backpack some supplemental calories to fill out the meal: trail mix, fresh or dried fruit, Fig Newtons, pretzels, an energy bar or two.

The following chart identifies some popular fast food lunches, their calories, and some pointers on fitting them into your food plan. While a male athlete may require 1,000 calories for a lunch, an active female may need only 700. Your body is your best calorie counter, so be sure to stop eating when you feel content; no need to finish the whole meal. Just save the rest for later in the day. Don’t let it go “to waist”!

 

Restaurant Menu item Calories Comments
Chipotle

 

Good choice

Burrito made with tortilla, chicken, pinto beans, guacamole, cheese, salsa, lettuce 955

 

With 2,400 mg sodium, you’ll have no need for extra “electrolytes” from sport drinks!
 

Good choice

Burrito Bowl made with same ingredients as above, except brown rice instead of the tortilla 855

 

The tortilla is 300 calories; the rice is 200. Not a huge calorie savings.
 

Poor choice

 

Salad with chicken, black beans, vinaigrette dressing plus side of chips and guac

 

1,370

 

Yikes! The calories and fat equal 3 Bacon McDouble burgers. A burrito (with carbs for fuel), is preferable to filling up on high fat salad dressing and greasy chips.
       
Panera

 

Good choice

 

BBQ chicken flatbread

 

750

Both flatbread and regular sandwiches have similar calories from the bread. Cut calories by cutting fat (mayo).
 

Good choice

 

Black Bean Soup Bread Bowl

 

750

A healthful way to get 28 grams of protein to build muscles, along with adequate carbs to refuel muscles.
Fair choice 33% calories from fat Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich on Sesame Bread 700 Mayo easily jacks up calorie & fat content, but preferable to a burger and fries.
 

Poor choice for athletes

 

Chicken Caesar Salad (420 cals) plus dressing (170)

 

590

Protein and fat don’t fuel muscles for hard workouts. Add bread — or choose a sandwich with a side salad.
 

Poor choice for athletes

 

Macaroni & Cheese, large

 

980

Pasta sounds like a wise choice to fuel muscles, but only 30% of the calories are from energizing carbs.
       
McDonald’s

45% calories from fat

Big Mac (540 cals) + medium fries (340 cals) 880 Trade the fries for a grilled chicken sandwich? Wise Goal: only one fatty food per meal.
 

Even more fat! (50%)

Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (780 cals) + medium fries (340 cals) 1,110 Bigger burgers = more fat = a dubious investment in today’s performance and your future health.
Good choice but too few calories Grilled chicken sandwich (380 cals) + Fruit & yogurt parfait (150 cals) 530 Not enough calories for most athletes. Buy a second sandwich or supplement with trail mix brought from home.
       
Bring from Home

 

Best choice

1 or 2 PB&B sandwiches: Whole wheat bread (200 cals) + 3 T peanut butter (300 cals) + banana (100) 600 – 1,200 Nutrient-rich calories that are quick and easy to prepare, inexpensive, portable and a smart choice for athletes on the go!
Wishing for the perfect body?

Wishing for the perfect body?

Too many athletes spend too much time complaining about their bodies: I feel too fat.  •  I’m too thin.  •  I want a six-pack ab.  •  I hate my spare tire.

Without a doubt, you will perform better if your body is the correct size for your sport—not too fat, not too skinny. If you have excess flab to lose, you will run faster if you are lighter. If you are scrawny, you will be more powerful if you can build some muscle. Agreed. Continue Reading

True or False: Having dessert with breakfast can help you lose weight?

True or False: Having dessert with breakfast can help you lose weight?

Believe it or not, the answer can be true – at least, according to research with about 200 healthy (non-diabetic) people with excess body fat. The study compared half the subjects, who had a 300-calorie high protein breakfast (egg whites, tuna, cheese, milk), with a second group who ate the same breakfast but followed it with 300 calories of dessert (cake, cookies, chocolates).

The total calories per day were limited to 1,600 for men and 1,400 for the women — but divided into different sized meals. That is, one group of women ate 300 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 600 for dinner, while the other group ate 600 calories for breakfast, 500 for lunch and 300 for dinner.

Four months later, both groups had lost about 30 pounds per person. But in the next four months, when the subjects were in the “maintenance phase” of the study, the 300-calorie-breakfast group regained 22 pounds, while the dessert-with-breakfast group continued to lose, on average, another 15 pounds

The dessert-eaters reported they were less hungry throughout the day. Plus they reported they were better able to resist sweet temptations later in the afternoon. They didn’t crave sweets because they had already satisfied their sweet tooth.

So what does this mean for you, a hungry athlete? It does not mean you should stuff your face with donuts and Danish pastries at breakfast-time! Trans fat and excess junk food is not conducive to optimal health. But it does mean, if you enjoy a sweet treat, you can balance it into your front-of-the-day food plan, accompanying it with a meal balanced with protein and other quality foods. This could offer you weight management benefits over succumbing to an (out-of-control) sweet-treat at night.

Makes sense to me, given the brain has limited energy to make wise food decisions. By the end of the day, low energy can easily overpower your best intentions to eat, let’s say, only one or two cookies …Give it a try?

Taking Your Diet to the Next level

Taking Your Diet to the Next level

 

Some athletes are still on the “see-food diet”. They see food and they eat it. Others are a bit more mindful about how they nourish their bodies; they put thought into selecting high-quality foods that invest in good health, quick healing, and top performance. They commonly report they have taken their diets to the next level. For some disciplined and dedicated athletes, the next level is a perfect diet with no sugar, no processed foods, no desserts, and no “fun foods.” Continue Reading

Sports drinks, sodium & steamy summer sports

Sports drinks, sodium & steamy summer sports

Staying well hydrated is key to being able to survive steamy summer exercise. Athletes who fail to drink enough end up feeling needlessly tired, grumpy, headachy and irritable. The goal: Drink enough so that you need to urinate at least every four hours. That means, you should need to go to the bathroom before each meal (breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner).

Should you drink water or sports drink to maintain proper hydration? Here’s what you need to know: Continue Reading

Early morning summer runs

Early morning summer runs

Dear Nancy,

I am preparing for a Fall marathon. I live in South Carolina. I struggle with the heat and humidity. I typically run early in the morning, but the weather can still be hot and humid then.

When my running club meets at 5:00 a.m. for long runs, I have trouble getting in enough fuel. I take energy tablets beforehand, and gels at 2, 4 and 6 miles, as well as drink water until my stomach is loaded, But I am still dizzy the last two to three miles. I sweat more than others, so I worry about getting dehydrated. Suggestions?

Continue Reading

Do you spend too much time obsessing about your body?

Although you might think you know what you look like, think again. You likely have a distorted view of yourself. Your “fat thighs” might not really be so fat, after all. And your frizzy hair may look nicely curly to someone else. You just don’t know what you don’t know. And does anyone else even notice (or care)? Maybe your relationship with your body is the true problem, and not your body itself? Continue Reading

Do you feel too tired, too often?

Do you feel too tired, too often?

If you feel too tired, too often, you might want to learn from this case study. Tom, a 45-year-old hard-core gym-rat met with me because he wanted to have more energy, eat better, and ideally lose a few pounds of excess body fat. Here is his spreadsheet for a typical day of food and exercise:

Continue Reading

Muscle cramps: Do they cramp your style?

Muscle cramps: Do they cramp your style?

     What causes muscles cramps? How can we prevent them? And why, when a group of athletes are doing the same amount of exercise in the same conditions, do some athletes cramp and others do not?

Speaking at the American Medical Athletic Associations’ Sports Medicine Conference prior to the Boston Marathon, exercise physiologist Bob Murray PhD reported those questions are hard to answer because studying spontaneous muscle cramps is difficult. It’s hard to make a muscle cramp on demand. Plus, cramps generally dissipate within seconds or minutes, before they can be studied.

We do know there are different types of muscle cramps: some are associated with exercise, others happen at night. Some cramps “twitch,” others as “stiff.” But all are painful and accompanied by a knotting of the muscle. About 68% of triathletes and 30% to 50% of runners complain about muscle cramps during exercise, and 50% of runners complain about leg cramps happening at night, at least once a week.

We also know that exercise-associated muscle cramps tend to occur in active muscles that are fatigued, hyperthermic (overheated), and dehydrated. The nerves that control muscle contractions seem to stop functioning normally. Hence, the current thinking is cramps are related to the nervous system failing to tell the muscle to contracting.

What are some ways to get muscle to stop cramping? In some people, some of the time, relief is found with stretching, better hydration, increased salt intake, massage, pinching the upper lip, and spicy/bitter/pungent foods like pickle juice, mustard, kimchi, apple cider vinegar, and quinine. How pickle juice and other pungent foods work is unknown, but believed to trigger an inhibitory neural (nerve) reflex that reduces activity in the cramping muscle.

Research with a product called #itsthenerve (www.itstheneve.com) suggests this combination of pungent foods can abate muscle cramps (fewer cramps, shorter duration). Cramp-prone athletes who have taken the product offer positive testimonials. Whether reduced cramping is due to placebo or the product, who knows! But the cramp-prone athletes they don’t care; their cramps are gone!

Hydration Update: Sports drinks, Sweat Rate & Caffeine

Hydration Update: Sports drinks, Sweat Rate & Caffeine

I always like to attend (and present at) sports medicine conferences. Before the Boston Marathon, I enjoyed the American Medical Athletic Association’s sports medicine meeting and particularly liked the hydration talk presented by Brendon McDermott PhD ATC, assistant professor at the University of Arkansas.  Here are some key pointers:

• The main audience for sports drinks is not athletes but the average person, especially kids. The selling of sports drinks is a big business, targeted to a much larger audience than athletes to get many more sales. Yet, proper hydration is indeed an issue for athletes. McDermott, who is chair of the upcoming National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s Position Statement on Fluid Replacement for the Physically Active, reported that 65% to 85% of athletes come to a game or practice underhydrated.

• Athletes, particularly those who sweat heavily, learn their sweat rate by weighing themselves (nude) before and after a one-hour workout. Any weight loss reflects water (sweat) loss. Normal thirst prompts athletes to replace only 2/3 of what gets lost during exercise.

• If your weight drops two pounds during a workout, you have lost 32 ounces (one quart) of sweat. Some athletes may lose only half a quart (16 ounces) of sweat during an hour-long workout; others may lose four quarts. Your goal should be to lose less than 2% of your body weight during exercise (three pounds for a 150-pound athlete). Weighing IN and weighing OUT is a good way to learn how well you balance your fluid intake.

• The problem with inadequate fluid replacement is, as you get dehydrated, you feel worse, slow down, and perform worse. While many people think that dehydration causes internal body temperature to rise, McDermott said that is not always the case. The intensity of exercise is the main predictor of body temperature. You can be well-hydrated but still get over-heated.

• Caffeine is not dehydrating. Yes, caffeine increases short-term urine production, but it does not lead to dehydration. Here’s why: Caffeine stimulates the bladder to contract; this increases the urge to urinate. This water (urine) in your bladder has already been used by your body. Hence, coffee stimulates the bladder to empty sooner —but you do not need more fluid than if you had consumed a caffeine-free beverage.

 

For more information, read the chapter on Fluids in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook

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