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Food & Health: Updates from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

Food & Health: Updates from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

 

Nutrition misinformation and food confusion surrounds today’s health-conscious athletes. To arm myself with knowledge to better educate my clients, I (along with 10,000 other registered dietitians) attended the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics annual convention (FNCE) to learn the latest food and nutrition updates. Here is some information that might help you on your health journey.

  • Stress fractures are a common sports injury. Among 42 Division-1 cross-country runners, 35% of the male and 41% of the female runners reported having had a stress fracture. Inadequate nutrition could have contributed to the problem. Their diets tended to be low in calories, calcium and/or vitamin D. If you are going to push your body to the limits, at least fuel it optimally!
  • If intestinal distress sidetracks you during exercise, try reducing your intake of apples, onion, garlic and broccoli —particularly for 2 to 3 days before a competitive event. These are just a few commonly eaten foods that are high in fermentable (gas-producing) carbohydrates; they might contribute to undesired pit stops. You could also meet with a sports dietitian to help you systematically discover triggering foods. The referral network at www.SCANdpg.org can help you find your local sports food expert.
  • Exercise increases harmful free radicals within muscles that can lead to oxidative damage and inflammation. Should athletes supplement with anti-oxidants to counter this? No. The better bet is to let the body adapt to these higher levels (and eat abundant anti-oxidant rich fruits and vegetables). Adaptation creates a change for the better in an athlete’s physiology.
  • Alcohol contributes to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) by suppressing the release of glucose from the liver into the blood stream. If an athlete hasn’t eaten much food (as can easily happen after an event), alcohol in an empty stomach can easily lead to hypoglycemia (a lack of glucose for the brain) and a drunken stupor. The same happens when a person with diabetes has low blood glucose; he or she can get mistaken for being drunk (when the brain just needs food).
  • In contrast to recreational marijuana, which is used with the intent to impair normal functioning, medical marijuana (MM) is used to relieve pain, reduce nausea and vomiting, and to overcome loss of appetite (as with cancer). If you have parents or friends who are new to using MM, caution them about using edibles. When MM is eaten, its pain relieving benefits are delayed for 30 to 120 minutes, as opposed to smoked MM, which offers immediate benefits. The problem with the delayed response with edibles is that a patient can easily overdose while waiting to feel an effect…
  • Meal timing affects circadian rhythms —as well as weight management. A study (Garaulet, 2013) with 420 subjects who ate an early lunch or a later lunch reports the early lunch eaters lost more weight, despite consuming the same number of calories and getting the same amount of sleep. Your best bet is to eat more food earlier in the day. As you have undoubtedly heard before: Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, dinner like a pauper.
  • We compromise our well-being every time we have a mis-match between the environment and our internal biological clock. (Think jet lag, shift work, sleep apnea, and watching late-night TV.) Every cell has a biological clock; all these cellular clocks need to be synchronized. If not, bodies become unhealthy. For example, shift workers experience more high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes than people who work 9:00 to 5:00. For athletes, jet lag means poorer performance. Sleep is restorative and helps synchronize cell’s biorhythms. If you have trouble sleeping well: Avoid caffeine at least 4 hours before bedtime and limit it to 2 mugs (400 mg. caffeine) a day. Turn off your computer screen/TV an hour before bed.
  • Consumers are self-defining “healthy food.” It needs to be organic, natural, non-GMO, free of dyes/additives/ colors, and have a “clean” label with no strange words. Will this trendy definition lead to unintended health consequences as food producers try to meet consumers’ demands? Likely yes. If you make your food decisions based on trends rather than science, you might want to take a step back and look at the whole picture. For example, enriched foods offer added nutrients that can make a label look “dirty” but the extra ingredients are good for your health. Added iron reduces your risk of becoming anemic; folic acid reduces the risk of birth defects; iodine reduces the risk of goiter. Preservatives that have been generally regarded as safe help bread stay fresh for longer, reduce the growth of mold on cheese, and reduce the amount of food you waste. These ingredients can be beneficial for you and for the environment.
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages are the biggest source of dietary sugar in the US diet. Hence, research on sugar and health has focused on soft drinks. The question remains unanswered: Is sugar added to nourishing foods a health hazard? That is, is sugar added to spaghetti sauce (to make it less acidic) bad for you? What about the sugar added to bread (to help make the dough rise) — Is that a cause for concern? Doubtful. Yet, too many consumers freak out when a product lists sugar on the food label. Please note: sugar is just one of many nutrients listed on the label. Please look at the whole nutrient package. For example, chocolate milk has sugar (that refuels muscles) but it also offers protein (to repair muscles), sodium (to replace sweat loss), calcium & vitamin D to enhance bone health.

Dietary guidelines say 10% of total calories can come from added sugar. That’s 200 to 300 calories a day for athletes. Do you really need to freak out about a little sugar that makes that spaghetti sauce taste better? I think you can find bigger things to worry about.

Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD has a private practice in the Boston-area (Newton; 617-795-1875), where she counsels both fitness exercisers and competitive athletes, teaching them how to eat to win. Her popular Sports Nutrition Guidebook, and food guides for marathoners, cyclists and soccer are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. For online workshops, see www.NutritionSportsExerciseCEUs.com.

Are you good enough?

Are you good enough?

Are you good enough? If you listen to the voice that rattles around in your brain and constantly reminds you that you are inadequate, too fat, too slow, and too dumb, you will never be good enough. For some competitive athletes, their drive to be not just good enough, but perfect (perfectly lean, a perfect student, a perfect employee, and of course, a perfect athlete) can drive them crazy, if not drive them into an eating disorder. At what cost will you achieve perfection, including having the perfect body? At what point will you become unhappy enough to seek help?

Speaking at the MEDA (Multi-Service Eating Disorder Association) Annual Breakfast on Nov 2, 2017, Kate Ekman, a plus-size model (that’s all of size 6, mind you) talked about her struggles to rise above her “I’m not good enough” voices. She heard that message from not only herself but also from many others in the fashion industry.

Today, Kate has overcome those negative thoughts and she reminds us that we can be happier letting go of perfection and instead striving to be “good enough.” We can spend our lives comparing ourselves to others and always come up short—to compare is to despair—or we can start each day by saying “thank you” to our bodies.

Your body is the home to your heart, your soul, your brain and all the wonderful things your friends truly like about you. Your friends don’t care if your hair looks great, or if you look phenomenal in a dress. That’s not why they like you. Your appearance does not determine your self-worth. An imperfect body is perfectly OK.

As a sports dietitian, I spend way too many hours helping athletes take better care of their bodies. I remind them: there is no proof the thinnest athlete is the best athlete. The best athlete is genetically gifted, well trained, well rested, and well fueled. The thinnest athlete commonly sits on the bench, injured again.

If you struggle to find the perfect balance of food, exercise and weight, please check out www.MEDAinc.org — and well as the books, excellent podcasts, and information at www.EDcatalogue.com. As Beth Meyer, executive director of MEDA, Inc. says, “Wouldn’t it be nice to wake up every day and not have food or your body make decisions for you?” Your body is indeed perfectly good enough the way it is. Enjoy the day!

Talking About Food…

Talking About Food…

 

Food is fuel and food is medicine. Food brings people together and is supposed to be one of life’s pleasures. Shared meals are a vehicle for building relationships, enjoying conversations, and nourishing the soul.

Unfortunately in today’s society, too many athletes and fitness exercisers alike report they have no time to enjoy meals. Sports parents struggle to gather their student athletes for a family dinner; practices and games inevitably interrupt the dinner hour. And even when seated at the same table, some family members may be eating just salad while the rest of the family enjoys steak. So much for eating out of the same pot.

Today’s food conversations commonly refer to good food, bad food, clean food, fattening food. We all know athletes who don’t do sugar, gluten, white flour, or red meat, to say nothing of cake on birthdays, ice cream cones in summer, or apple pie on Thanksgiving. We live with abundant food, but we have created a fearful eating environment with our words. This article invites you to pay attention to how you think and talk about food. Perhaps it is time to watch your mouth, so you can start to change the current culture that makes food a source of fear for many athletes.

Continue Reading

For people who teach sports nutrition…

For people who teach sports nutrition…

If you are asked to give a sports nutrition talk, don’t panic —and don’t re-invent the wheel. You can use my tried-and-true, readymade sports nutrition teaching materials. They are available on my website at an affordable price and will make your job easier.

A nice part about my ready-made presentations is you have my permission to tweak the content to suit your audience. That is, if you are giving a talk to the women’s cross-country team, you can insert photos of female runners. When talking to the football players, you can change the photos to football players. You can use school colors, insert some of your own slides, delete slides that may not fit for your audience, etc. You get a ready-to-use program with flexibility. Continue Reading

If you believe butter is back, think again

The American Heart Association closely follows the vast amount of research related to heart disease and provides authoritative and evidence-based information on dietary patterns that reduce cardiovascular risk. Here is a brief summary of 4 key points from their newly released advisory on Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease (Circulation, June 2017). Continue Reading

Suggestions for Summer Reading

Suggestions for Summer Reading

If you have time to kick back and read a few books this summer, here are a few recommendations that might suit your fancy. Of course, these are new nutrition books!

  1. The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club by Lauren Harris-Pincus MS, RDN http://nutritionstarringyou.com/protein-packed-breakfast-club/
  2. The Mom’s Guide to a Nourishing Garden by Jen Haugen RDN http://www.jenhaugen.com/book/
  3. Gluten Free: The Definitive Resource Guide by Shelley Case RD https://shelleycase.com/book/
  4. Food Truths from Farm to Table: 25 Surprising Ways to Shop & Eat Without Guilt by Michele Payn https://causematters.com/books/
  5. 365 Snacks for Every Day of the Year by Sarah Koszyk MA, RD http://www.sarahkoszyk.com/store/
  6. Body Kindness: Transform Your Health from the Inside Out – and Never Say Diet Again by Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN http://www.bodykindnessbook.com/the-book/
  7. Diabetes Meal Planning Made Easy 5th Edition by Hope Warshaw MMSc, RD, CDE http://www.hopewarshaw.com/books/diabetes-meal-planning-made-easy
  8. Expect the Best: Your Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, and After Pregnancy 2nd Edition by Elizabeth Ward MS, RD  https://betteristhenewperfect.com/books/

These new titles have been read, reviewed and recommended by Melissa Dobbins RD. She is the host of Sound Bites podcast. If you can’t sit still long enough to read a book, you can at least listen to her excellent nutrition information: http://www.soundbitesrd.com/podcast-2/

With best wishes for a happy, healthy and yummy summer,

Nancy

PS, Of course, you might also want to read Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. It’s a best-seller and winner that can help you reach your food, weight and exercise goals.

Confused by anti-sugar information?

Confused by anti-sugar information?

Nancy, I’m currently watching an anti-sugar documentary … Yikes! Sugar and high fructose corn syrup are in almost everything: bread, crackers, cereal, processed foods. I have this urge to go to my kitchen and throw away every processed food there! 

I’m floored at the information I’m getting from this and how horrible sugar is for you. I had to get your take on this…. Continue Reading

What I learned on my trip to the cranberry bog…

What I learned on my trip to the cranberry bog…

The friendly folks at Ocean Spray recently invited me (and a group of registered dietitians who were in Boston for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo) to take a tour of a cranberry bog. Mind you, I have lived in the Boston-area for many years now, but have never trekked to the bogs. I learned a lot about cranberries — and how they offer health benefits that are unique to this tart little red berry.

. • Cranberries can help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)— a problem commonly encountered by women. Components in cranberries (proanthocyanidins) make the bacteria less able to “stick” to the surface of the infected tissues. This can significantly decrease bacterial adhesion and reduce the frequency of recurrent UTIs.

• Fewer UTIs means we use fewer antibiotics to treat the infections. Reducing use of antibiotics is very important because antibiotics kill not only the “bad guys” that cause infections but also the ”good guys” that live in our gut (our microbiota) and contribute to optimal health.

• Reducing the intake of antibiotics also reduces the risk of creating antibiotic resistance and the fear of “super bugs” that antibiotics do not kill. Cranberry compounds might reduce the “stickiness” of these drug-resistant “super-bugs.” Fingers crossed that forthcoming research will uncover a positive answer.

But aren’t cranberry juices loaded with sugar? Most cran-juices do have added sugar; it’s needed to counter the tart flavor and make the juice more palatable. Keep in mind that dietary guidelines suggest that 10% of your calories can come from added sugars. Consuming that sugar in the form of cranberry juice and craisins is a far more nutrient –rich way than to spend your sugar-budget on sweetened iced tea and jelly beans.

Don’t wait until Thanksgiving to enjoy that once-a-year dollop of cranberry sauce with the turkey dinner. Rather enjoy cranberry products frequently as a smart investment in your good health. Ocean Spray offers many cranberry products. How about some craisins (dried cranberries) in your spinach salad?

Four wishes for you for the Holidays—and Beyond

Four wishes for you for the Holidays—and Beyond

In this day and age of nutrition confusion, I have four wishes for you, my sports-active readers. May these wishes help guide any New Year’s Nutrition Resolutions you are pondering…

  1. Be as nice to your body as you are to your car. Fill up with premium nutrition before you embark on a busy day. Be sure to notice the benefits that come with eating a dinner-like breakfast: plenty of energy, highly productive all day, no obsessing about food, able to walk past the office candy jar, feeling happier, and not overeating at night. When you live well-fed (and not feeling hungry all the time), your body functions better. And fear not: if you eat a dinner-like breakfast, you will want just a breakfast-like dinner. Trust me.
  1. Make time to properly fuel your body. You might want to think twice about why you have time to work, workout, watch TV, etc., but “no time” for breakfast or lunch. You can make time to do what you truly want to do. The majority of my clients who have “no time” to eat well commonly believe that by skipping meals and snacks, they will lose weight. False! Skipped meals lead to extreme hunger, which then leads to over-eating. If weight loss is your goal, you want to fuel by day, and then diet by night. Lose weight when you are sleeping, not during the busy part of your day.
  1. Think twice before going on a diet that might interfere with your quality of life. Paleo? Ketogenic Diet? No Carbs? Intermittent Fasting? Only start a food plan that is sustainable for the long term. Do you really never want to enjoy a piece of birthday cake ever again? Or eat pizza with your pals? Your better bet is to learn how to eat (not how to diet). Talking with a sports nutritionist can help you create a sustainable food plan. Check out the referral network at www.SCANdpg.org to find a local food professional. You don’t know what you don’t know.
  1. Do not feel guilty if you enjoy an occasional treat: a chocolate chip cookie, some birthday cake, fried clams. There is not a bad food, just a bad diet. Eating a little nutrient-poor food will not negate all the nutrient-rich foods you put in your body. Eating is not cheating.

Best wishes for a nourishing 2017,

Nancy

Your Future: It’s In Your Gut!

Your Future: It’s In Your Gut!

When I think about eating, I think about the yummy taste of food and the pleasure of feeling satiated. But after attending a Harvard Medical School conference on Gut Health, Microbiota and Probiotics Throughout the Lifespan, I now realize I am not feeding my body but rather the 100 trillion bacteria that live in my gut – my microbiome. We have about 3 to 4.5 pounds of microbes that outnumber human cells by a factor of 10 to 1.

The microbiome is a signaling hub. Gut microbes produce neurotransmitters that talk to the brain. This ultimately impacts our immune system, brain, weight, and mood. Genetics, diet, and environment influence these microbes.

Gut microbes can be our best friends or our worst enemies. Thanks to antibiotics, we no longer suffer from infections and illnesses such as pneumonia. But, the antibiotics that kill the bad bacteria also kill the good guys. Animal studies suggest antibiotics can kill off 80% to 90% of the total microbiome. Does this have a lingering effect? For example, in humans, is the overuse of antibiotics related to the dramatic rise in autism, anxiety, diabetes, asthma, Crohn’s disease , MS, and yes, obesity? (The highest rates of obesity are seen in the states with the highest use of antibiotics.)

We have much to learn about the microbiome. Perhaps these conference highlights will encourage you to eat well to invest in having the healthiest possible gut. That, ultimately, will help you be the healthiest athlete you can be.

 

  • Babies born via cesarean section are not exposed to the microbes living in the mother’s birth canal. As a result, their microbiome differs from babies born vaginally. Will this have an impact on their immune system (more allergies, asthma) and future health?
  • Research with mice indicates a maternal diet high in saturated fat (think “junk food”) affects the microbes that will live in her infant’s intestinal tract. These microbes affect behavior, particularly the behavior of the males (both male baby mice and humans). They become more anxious, and less social. Tips for pregnant women: Eat less junk food—and breast-feed your babies—to help create a healthy gut for a happier babe!
  • Gut microbes seem to affect genders differently. Do these bugs explain why five times more males than females have autism? And why, when a male mouse’s microbiome is transplanted into a female mouse, does the female generate more testosterone?
  • When microbes from a fat mouse are transplant into a lean mouse, the lean mouse gets fat – and vice versa. Lean microbes transplanted into a fat mouse help the fat mouse lose weight.
  • Firmicutes and Bacteriodes are two prevalent types of microbes. Having a high amount of Firmicutes is associated with obesity. Obese women who altered their gut microbiota, lost fat, improved their blood sugars, and reported less hunger. Questions arise: Does this imbalance explain why some people gain weight easily more easily than others, and why others stay lean? Does the microbiome contribute to obesity? Or does obesity change the microbiome? Stay tuned.
  • Intestinal motility (think constipation, diarrhea) is controlled by the brain via microbes that send signals to the brain. While many intestinal issues start in the gut, others start in the brain. For example, the mental stress that occurs pre-event (more so than microbes) explains to the long lines at the porta-toilets before a competition.
  • Mice fed Bifidobacteria became less anxious and were better able to solve problems (such as get out of a maze) compared to the control group. Humans fed Bifidobacteria had lower levels of morning cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and perceived themselves as being less stressed. Does this mean, in the future, we might be taking psychobiotics instead of drugs?
  • Processed foods tend to be low in fiber. This results in a less diverse microbiota and can lead to inflammation and pre-diabetes. Emulsifiers such as Polysorbate 60 are found in some processed foods (such as coffee creamers). They can change the microbiota and create a low-grade inflammation that can be associated with colitis and other inflammatory bowel diseases.

What to do

Much more research is needed to determine if the results of microbiome studies with animals hold true for humans. We also need to learn about proper use of probiotic supplements. In the meanwhile, the probiotic industry is booming—and it is unregulated by the FDA. Hence, a note of caution: The quality of a probiotic is not guaranteed.

Your best bet is to feed your gut microbes (and your muscles) generous portions of quality carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts and whole grains. You’ll naturally do this when you eat, for example, fewer cookies and instead snack on dried fruit. Yogurt, kefir, blue cheese and miso are also smart choices.

In the future, dietitians will be able to offer personalized nutrition based on your microbiome. Until then, stay tuned, and know that a high-quality sports diet is the same diet that will support your good health as well as top performance.

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