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Apple Crisp Recipe: Perfect for tailgating!

It’s apple-picking season, so pick a few extra to make this yummy Apple Crisp. This recipe will be a big hit when tailgating before a game, or for players who want to refuel after game.

This just one is one of many popular sports-food recipes in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Enjoy it! Continue Reading

What about the Paleo Diet…?

Q. Nancy, should I go on the Paleo Diet? I’m an avid fitness exerciser who wants to eat healthfully and take good care of my body.

A. I am sure many readers will think that I am “old school” by not jumping on the Paleo and anti-carb bandwagons, but I do pay close attention to the science regarding how to best fuel your muscles and your mind. The Paleo Diet, in my opinion, is unbalanced, unsustainable for more than a few years, and may well trigger binges on cookies and treats. The Paleo Diet is not the best food plan for active people.

I am a bigger advocate of eating a balanced variety of wholesome grains, lean meats, protein-rich beans and legumes, fresh fruits and veggies, and lowfat dairy. I teach my clients how to choose a winning variety of foods (and nutrients) from all food groups in a pattern they want to maintain for the rest of their lives. Paleo dieters, in comparison, have to “cheat” and “blow their diets” if they want to eat something yummy like pasta, bagels, birthday cake or holiday treats. Not a good plan or mindset. My clients learn how to incorporate some treats into an overall well balanced diet.

Many folks go on the Paleo Diet as a way to eliminate junk food and “bad carbs.” The hype about “bad carbs” should actually be targeted to overfat, underfit majority of Americans. Because you are athletic, you should get at least half of your calories from fruits, veggies and grains – the wholesome, quality carbs that fuel your muscles and invest in your good health. With well-fueled muscles, you can then train hard, lift heavy weights, and feel great.

Your food plan can also include some sweets and treats. Your overall diet should be 85-90% “quality calories” and 10-15% “whatever”. Some days “whatever” is blueberries, and other days “whatever” is blueberry pie with ice cream. No need to feel guilty for having a little dessert from time to time as long as you routinely eat a foundation of wholesome meals.

For more information on how to choose a sustainable, high quality sports diet:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

For athletes who just can’t seem to eat normally….

Many of my clients come to me, wishing they could just eat normally. They see their chaotic or restrictive  eating as being a problem that creates issues with their weight, energy, and performance. Weight issues tend to be “I’m not good enough” issues. Feeling imperfect or out of control is an unhappy place to live. An athlete might distract himself from feeling that discomfort by keeping himself busy tracking calories, exercising to burn fat, and obsessing about what, when and how much to eat. Food-thoughts can occupy 99% of the day, leaving little time or energy to deal with the real issue: poor self-esteem and why he doesn’t feel good about himself.

To every athlete’s detriment, dieting/restricting food can hurt the body’s ability to function normally (as commonly noted by feeling cold and tired all the time, and in women, ceasing to have regular menstrual periods). Bones become weakened, stress fractures occur, and osteoporosis appears too young. Future infertility can be a sad consequence.

If any of this sounds familiar, please stop procrastinating and get some help! Seeing a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in sports nutritionist is a good place to start on your journey to find peace with food and your body. To find a local sports RD, use the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org.

Another resource is the section on weight management in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Whatever you do – meet with an RD or read a self-help book, do something so you can stop struggling and have more fun. Don’t let shame or embarrassment block you from getting the help you need so you can reach your performance goals.

Why do some athletes eat more than others?

Some athletes are less active than others –even if they do the same amount of exercise. In their non-exercise hours, they tend to be sedentary. They look forward to finishing their workout, settling into their Laz-y-boy chair, putting their feet up, turning on the TV, and vegging-out for hours on end. Sound familiar? If so, you may believe you have a “slow metabolism” and that is why you cannot eat as much as your friends.

Sedentary athletes commonly have undesired body fat, and many believe something is wrong with their metabolism. The truth is, they barely move their bodies during the day—other than during their five mile run or one hour spin class. To their detriment, sedentary athletes (who are good at sitting) tend to burn fewer calories than they realize over the course of the day. They may think they are active – but their one-hour of exercise does not compensate for the other 23 hours of sedentary behavior the rest of the day.

In comparison, other athletes rarely sit, and when they do, they can’t sit still. They shift and wiggle in their chairs, and are very good fidgeters. Their desire to fidget is genetic; it starts at birth and explains why these fidgeters prefer to relax by puttering (as opposed to sitting and reading)—and why they eat far bigger portions than their sedentary teammates. They have a “fast metabolism” and can out-eat their friends.

Of interest, people who are overweight or obese tend to be very good at sitting. They may sit 2.5 hours more each day compared to their peers and that can save them about 350 calories a day. A good fidgeter, in comparison, can burn an extra 300 to 500 calories per day. So a question arises: does obesity foster sedentary behavior? Or does the tendency to be sedentary foster obesity? Whatever the answer, the smart person builds activity into his or her day by parking the car further away, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and planning walking meetings

Coconut oil: Good or Bad?

In the past year, my clients have become very curious about coconut oil. “What about coconut oil?” they ask. “Is it good or bad?”

My answer is there is not a good or bad food. That is, an apple is a good (healthful) food but a diet of all apples is a bad diet. The same concept applies to coconut oil. A little bit can fit into a balanced diet—but frequent consumption is likely trending to the dark side.

To date, there is too little research to make a firm health claim about coconut oil. But my question to you is, “Why would you want to swap out olive oil, a mono-unsaturated fat which is known to be health-promoting, and replace it with saturated fat that is known to be health erosive?”

Yes, coconut oil does contain some types of fatty acids that can have positive health attributes.  But it also has a signifiicant amount of the negative saturated fat that contributes to heart disease.

Why has coconut oil become so popular recently? Perhaps because the coconut industry has been busy promoting the positive aspects of coconuts. Quite likely, many food companies want to remove trans fats (a particularly bad saturated fat) from processed foods. Yet, trans fats, like all saturated fats, offer a nice texture to cookies and baked goods. (There’s a reason why cookies are made with butter instead of olive oil!)

If the food industry is stopping the use of trans fats—and consumers are educated enough to avoid saturated fats—the industry needs to come up with a new way to make food appealing. Enter coconut butter, coconut oil—and also a hyped-up by-product called coconut water. (You know, the “all-natural” sports drink…)

The bottom line: Before you invest in a vat of coconut oil, think twice and wait for better research on its long term effect on your health. Perhaps a little dab will do ya?”

For more information on how to choose a heart-healthy diet: Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, new fifth edition.

Too fat to exercise (or so he says)

“I know I should exercise to lose weight, but I’m so fat. I feel too embarrassed to be seem exercising in public” reported Tom (not his real name), a 35-year-old sports fan who wanted to lose about 50 pounds. He was an avid sports watcher, but he himself had never enjoyed playing sports because of his size. “You know, my knees ache when I walk more than 10 minutes. I’ll never be able to lose weight…” Continue Reading

The Athlete’s Omelet: Not for breakfast only!

Given that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, your chances of eating breakfast improve when you plan a meal that is both yummy and offers nutrients that will help you perform well.  Continue Reading

Upcoming Workshops on Nutrition for Sports, Exercise & Weight Management

NUTRITION for SPORTS, EXERCISE & WEIGHT MANAGEMENT: What Really Works and Why

At this information-filled, 1.5 day workshop, you will enjoy the opportunity to:

–boost your sports nutrition confidence when counseling active clients.

–network with your peers.

–learn from two internationally respected professionals. Continue Reading

Electrolyte replacement: Do you need a sports drink for sodium?

The food industry is again duping many active people. Just today I met with yet-another recreational exerciser who reported buying “electrolyte replacers” to drink after her 10-mile run. The run took her about 90 minutes – way too short to deplete her body of electrolytes. But more critical than that, she had no idea that food – good old-fashioned food – is an excellent source of electrolytes.

Electrolytes are generally referred to as sodium, potassium, and calcium—among other minerals. We all know the typical American Diet offers way too much sodium. That’s why public health messages encourage us to eat less sodium (salt). Even most athletes are unlikely to need extra sodium (unless they are heavy sweaters who are working out for extended periods of time in the heat, like during a tennis tournament, three-hour run, or a 100-mile bike race.)

Rather than needlessly spend your money on a sports drink for extra sodium, just sprinkle some salt on your pre- and/or post-exercise meal. Or have pretzels and a banana for a pre- or post-exercise snack. Or drink chocolate milk instead of a sports drink. You’ll get more sodium (yes, milk contains sodium, as well as potassium and calcium) as well as far more nutrition than in sugar-water (a.k.a sports drink). Or, if you prefer the sports drink, at least buy it as an educated consumer, knowing what it is, and what it is not.

For more information:

Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Food Guide for Marathoners

Cyclist’s Food Guide

Super Foods vs Standard Foods: Is one better?

Do you ever get tired of reading yet-another headline about The 10 Best Super Sports Foods, only be instructed to buy exotic fruits, ancient grains, and other unusual items?

Do you really need to spend a lot of money on chia, spelt, and quinoa?

Is anything wrong with old-fashioned peanut butter, broccoli and brown rice?

Continue Reading