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Nine Nutrition Tips for (Boston) Marathoners

Nine Nutrition Tips for (Boston) Marathoners

Training for a marathon includes training your intestinal tract as well as your muscles. Here’s how to enhance your ability to enjoy both the long training runs and the marathon itself. Be sure to start experimenting with these winning nutritional strategies. Continue Reading

Carbohydrates: Yes? No? Friend? Foe?

Carbohydrates: Yes? No? Friend? Foe?

 

Ever since I stopped eating carbs, I’ve been feeling so much better.

The keto-diet works fine for me. It keeps me from having cookie binges!

I tried giving up carbs and my workouts tanked. I had no energy and felt horrible.

Athletes’ opinions about carbohydrates range from evil to essential. Some anti-carb athletes rave about how great they feel; others complain about weakness and fatigue. Abundant research supports eating a sports diet based on grains, fruits and vegetables—the wholesome kinds of sugars and starches that feed the brain and fuel the muscles during hard exercise. If anti-carb anecdotes leave you wondering what’s best for your sports diet, keep reading.

Continue Reading

The Bathroom Scale: Friend or Foe?

The Bathroom Scale: Friend or Foe?

Dear Nancy,

   I recently bought a really good scale and I weigh myself every morning. Some days, when I think I should have lost weight, the scale says I gained two pounds. This puts me in a really bad mood … what’s going on? Continue Reading

Fearful of Food-filled Holiday Festivities?

Fearful of Food-filled Holiday Festivities?

I received this holiday letter from Carolyn Costin, the founder of Monte Nido Eating Disorders Treatment Centers (Montenido.com). Her thoughtful words captured all that I want to say to my readers who struggle with food, weight, and finding a peaceful balance with exercise. Perhaps this will give you a few tips to enjoy the season and not dread it.  Nancy

Carolyn wrote: If you suffer from an eating disorder it is important to take stock of how you can make the holidays meaningful for you. Aside from getting help from others on how you can handle all the food, you can turn this season into a time when you learn more about the seasons and the original reason for celebration during these times. For example, learn about the original reasons for the celebration of the fall harvest and winter solstice.

At this time of year I offer these useful tips in hopes they can make your holidays better:

Tip # 1: Don’t focus on the food.  Make a list of all the other things that you can pay attention to at holiday parties or family gatherings such as, seeing old friends, singing together, decorating things, making gifts.

Tip # 2: Put things in perspective.

  • Remember that a holiday party, and the holiday gatherings in general, are really just a short period of time. There is an end in sight.
  • Be aware that things do not have to be perfect
  • Even if you feel like you make mistakes, over eat or don’t handle things well, you can use these incidents as lessons to learn from.

Tip # 3: Balance is key.             

  • There are no “bad” foods, just bad eating habits.
  • Don’t deny yourself, but don’t ignore body signals such as fullness.
  • Plan to indulge some. Take some risks, eat things you usually don’t “allow” yourself to, but take small steps in doing so.
  • Take/make the time for fun activities, invite friends to decorate, go to the tree farm, or go caroling.
  • Bake with your kids or friends and bring the goods to homeless shelters or others who are need.

Tip # 4: Plan ahead.

  • If you are going to attend a party, plan your food accordingly if you know it will be a problem, for example you might be able to skip your afternoon snack and have dessert at a party instead.  If you are in treatment be sure to check this out with your dietitian or therapist.
  • Plan special time for yourself to “get away” from the holiday stress. Get a manicure, go to the park, take a bubble bath.

Tip # 5: Be on the offense not the defense.

  • If your relatives are coming to you, you can be responsible for having food that you feel comfortable with and you can plan activities.
  • Let the people you love know what a gift they are to you already.
  • Instead of going commercial, make your own cards.
  • Spend time spreading good will and showering people with love.

These tips won’t ensure that there will be no problems or that your holidays will be exactly as you would like, but they can help things be more enjoyable and less stressful. It’s important to figure out what works for you and to remember that you have a part in making your holiday all that it can and is supposed to be.

Love,

Carolyn and all of us at Monte Nido 

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

Nutrition News from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics

 

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is the nation’s largest group of registered dietitians (RDs). This year, over 12,000 RDs convened in Boston (Oct 15-18, 2017) to learn the latest food & nutrition news. Here’s a taste of some topics of discussion that might be of interest to hungry athletes. Continue Reading

Alcohol and Athletes

Alcohol and Athletes

Athletes are competitive. Unfortunately, too many competitive athletes are also competitive drinkers, not to be outdone by their teammates. Excessive alcohol intake is associated with injuries, poor grades in school, arguments, sexual abuse, loss of memory, driving under the influence, and trouble with the law—to say nothing of vomiting, hangovers and poor athletic performance. Continue Reading

Fruit Juice for Athletes: Yes or No?

Fruit Juice for Athletes: Yes or No?

Many athletes and sports-active people shy away from fruit juice, believing it has “too much sugar.” Can 100% fruit juice fit into a sports diet? For certain!

True, almost all of the calories in juice come from sugar, but that sugar

1) fuels the muscles and replaces depleted glycogen stores.

2) is accompanied by a multitude of health-protective vitamins (such as C), minerals (such as potassium) and bioactive compounds. Continue Reading

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.

Recipe for No-Bake Peanut Butter Bites

Recipe for No-Bake Peanut Butter Bites

Here’s a tasty treat that’s easy to make — and popular with athletes who don’t like to cook. These no-bake peanut butter bites fit nicely into an afternoon snack. They are perfect for hungry kids coming home from school, or hungry athletes after a workout. I’ll bet you can’t eat just one! This recipe is just one of many family favorites in my Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

1/2 cup (130 g) chunky peanut butter

1/3 cup (30 g) powdered sugar

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 cup granola cereal

1/4 cup (30 g) graham cracker crumbs (1 sheet of graham cracker, crushed

Optional: 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips

  1. In a medium bowl, using a spoon, combine the peanut butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Mix well.
  2. Stir in the granola (and chocolate chips).
  3. Shape into a large ball. Pinch off pieces and shape into 15 balls, about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
  4. Crush graham crackers and place the crumbs in a shallow bowl. Lightly coat the balls (and discard any remaining crumbs).
  5. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.

Yield: 15 peanut butter bites

Nutrition information: 1,125 total calories; 75 calories per peanut butter bite; 6 g carbohydrate; 2 g protein; 5 g fat

Developed by Smart Balance, this recipe is one of many at http://www.smartbalance.com. Reprinted with permission from Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook.

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