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Sports nutrition 101

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09/02/2011

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My wife gets mad at me— as she should— when I judge her sweet tooth. The truth is, I also have a mean sweet tooth. I try and avoid the office M&M’s and the giant sized cupcakes being sold in trucks and bakeries on every street corner, but I’m only human. I try to keep sugar at bay with small portions and I opt for freshly baked goods as opposed to boxed goodies.

When people ask me how to avoid sweets, I have one simple answer for them, eat what you want, but only take a taste. And if you know you are going to have a heavy meal, a Specialty’s Bakery cookie (my favorite) or something else dangerous, make sure it’s a day you’re working out. My other big tip, log your food. Write down everything you eat for one week and you will have a good understanding of your diet.

If you want more nutritional advice, turn to the experts. (I’m always happy to recommend a good nutritionist.) Recently, I met with one, sports nutrition expert Deb Ognar. I was curious to see if my post exercise chocolate milk was a good choice or just a tasty one. Here is some of what I learned:

The best thing to eat/drink after a workout
Recovery doesn't start until you rehydrate and refuel after long intense workouts. The recovery meal may be the most important meal of the day. If you are consistently training hard or working out multiple times in day, rapid recovery is a must. Eating within 30 minutes of finishing an intense workout can help an athlete recover faster, minimize chronic fatigue, and help train your muscles to store more fuel.

Nutritional components of recovery should include: fluids (24 ounces for every pound lost during a workout), carbohydrates (about half your weight in grams of carbohydrates), and protein (10-20 g). The carb to protein ratio should be around 3:1. Basically carbs should be the focus with a little protein added. Great recovery food/drinks include:
• chocolate milk (I win)
• sports bars
• peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
• granola bar
• graham crackers with peanut butter
• trail mix
• yogurt
• crackers and string cheese

Energy drinks
Energy drinks can give more immediate energy due to the high level of caffeine and sugar content. However, many energy drinks contain substances and other stimulants in them that can be dangerous. They usually have multiple stimulants in them that when combined can be dangerous. A few hazards of energy drinks:
• decreased concentration
• heart palpitations
• nervousness
• increased blood pressure

Safe ways to boost energy
Healthy ways to increase energy are: make sure you are well hydrated (dehydration causes fatigue), make sure you are getting enough sleep, eat a balanced healthy diet, eat every few hours (avoid skipping meals and snacks), and consume enough carbohydrates to support your activity level.

Do I really need to take my Flintstones (multivitamins)?
A multivitamin can give a person extra coverage if they don't consistently eat a varied diet. Although a multivitamin shouldn't be a substitute for whole foods, it can fill in some nutrient gaps that might be missing in the diet. The US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee identified vitamin D, calcium, iron, B-12, and folic acid as some nutrients that many Americans consume too little of.

How do you know if a supplement is safe?
If a label carries a USP or NSF seal then the supplement contains what is stated on the label. Also, NSF Certified for Sport is another independent company that does testing on products to confirm content, purity, and identifies banned substances.

Recommended supplements
Working with NCAA athletes, supplements are always a tricky area. Since they are not regulated by the government there is no guarantee that supplements are not contaminated or tainted with NCAA banned substances. If collegiate athletes decide to take supplements, they do so at their own risk, and are ultimately liable if something comes up in the product.

That said whey protein, which is naturally found in milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other dairy products, is rich in branched chain amino acids (BCAA). Whey protein has a higher content of leucine compared to other proteins. Leucine has been independently shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Since during exercise the body uses a small amount of BCAAs, it would be helpful— as part of recovery nutrition— to replenish them. Bottom line—including a carbohydrate source and high quality protein (such as whey) post exercise (in a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein) in combination with resistance exercise can help with muscle mass gains and muscle recovery.

Creatine has been shown to increase lean mass, encourage strength gains, enhance recovery and increase endurance. Note that not only is it found in supplemental form, it can be also found naturally in meat, fish, and pork. Additionally, caffeine has been shown to aid performance in long endurance activity and might also improve performance in intense short duration exercise. Urinary caffeine levels exceeding (15ug/mL) is banned in NCAA athletics.

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