GAME DAY NUTRITION

GAME DAY NUTRITION

The idea for this blog came about from a call I got from a professional athlete this week who told me their “nutritionist” recommended fig newtons, vanilla wafers, and carbo-loading with pasta when suggesting things for this professional team to eat. WOW!

The average American consumes 20 pounds of pasta noodles each year — and most of it is the refined white stuff.

Most athlete’s  eat close to 10 times this much with their generic “pre-game” and “post-game” pasta dishes that have become common place in many athletic diets. In my experience in collegiate and professional hockey, we were served processed-white noodles 5 times during a weekend series! (Thursday night, Friday pre-game meal, Friday post-game meal, Saturday pre-game meal, and Saturday post-game meal). Looking back it is no wonder why sometimes I felt bogged down or felt like I had a tough time recovering. It’s obvious to me that “refueling” and “preparing” my muscles with starchy and processed-white noodles, that are stripped of almost all their nutrients and minerals due to the amount of processing they go through. probably wasn’t doing the trick. To top it all off(literally) I would dress these noodles with high sugar/high sodium/artificial sauces that spike your blood sugar and send your insulin levels on a roller coaster ride. My question is, why do athletes continue to “carbo-load” with these types of food?

Key Points

  • Glycogen is the key energy source your muscles use during most sports activities. These glycogen levels are filled up and stored up to 48 hours before your event. What you eat the day prior and night prior to your game or event is as/more important than what you eat on game day. Your game day meal is intended to supplement glycogen levels, keep you satiated, and stabilize blood sugar levels.
  • What you eat means nothing if your muscles aren’t properly hydrated. Again, the day before is just as important. Aim for 1/2  your body weight (lbs) in ounces from just water.
  • Allowing time for digestion is vital but eating too far an advance will cause you to feel hungry before/during the game. My suggestion is to aim for a medium to large meal 4 hours before game.
  • Your meal should consist of 50% carbs, 25 % protein, 25% fat.
  • 60-90 minutes before the game consuming a simple carbohydrate such as a piece of fruit will help provide extra energy that will be available during the game.

Typical Pregame Meal

The Problem

1. The Size: Processed carbohydrates like pasta noodles don’t keep you satiated. In order to feel full from pasta you have to eat a lot. This problem is amplified in athletes  because they generally have a huge appetite and require mounds of pasta consumed to meet their needs.

2. The Composition: Standard pastas are made with refined wheat flour. During the refining process, the nutrient-rich outer bran shell and inner germ layer are removed from the grain, leaving just the starchy endosperm. This process strips the wheat of much of its fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, leaving you with a much weaker product, nutritionally speaking. Some nutrients, including iron and a handful of B vitamins, are added back during manufacturing (hence the term “enriched flour”), but these represent only a fraction of what is initially removed from the grain.

3. The Carbohydrate Complex: Pasta is a simple carbohydrate. It breaks down to sugar in your body quickly and often does not satisfy your appetite as long as a more complex carbohydrate such as sweet potatoes. Whole wheat pasta takes a bit longer and some has a protein content that keeps you satisfied longer. This is why many athlete’s who eat pasta find themselves getting hungry before or during the game. Yes, a carbohydrate is a very important macro-nutrient  supplying your body with glucose, which is the favored fuel for your muscles, brain, and central nervous system. Choosing a carbb that will deliver a steady stream of glucose to your body will help regulate your energy levels.

4. The Toppings: Most Pasta is cooked in unhealthy vegetable oils and topped with a canned Alfredo or marinara that is loaded with sugar, sodium, and other artificial ingredients.

5. Your Body’s Ability To Adjust: Most conscious and high level athletes try and eat a clean diet made up of lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. Filling your body with refined pasta noodles for an entire weekend can send your body into shock and cause digestive issues. Your digestive system can react negatively to the amount of processed food that has been consumed because it is used to otherwise whole/natural foods. This can cause bloating, stomach issues, and have lethargic implications.

What To Eat Instead

Complex Carbohydrates From Unprocessed Sources

Quinoa-A healthy complex carb that is actually a seed and can be made a complete protein when paired with other foods.

Amaranth– Technically, it’s not a grain; it’s the fruit of a plant. And that’s the reason it contains a more complete protein, and more of it, than other traditional grains.

Barley & Steel Cut Oats– A great option in the morning of a game day that will deliver a steady supply of glucose throughout the day.

Legumes– Black beans, chickpeas, and lentils are all great options for complex carbs that also provide a steady supply of protein and fiber.

Starchy Vegetables- Foods like sweet potatoes and squash that are usually shunned by low-carb lovers are  acceptable for athletes who will use the large amounts of carbs from these whole foods as energy for game time.

All Vegetables- Getting your carbohydrate sources from whole foods such as vegetables will ensure you are receiving the adequate vitamins, minerals  and nutrients that accompany natural-base carbohydrates. Unlike refined flours and pastas,which are stripped of most of the essential vitamins and nutrients that provide your body with energy, vegetables are natural foods from the earth that are identifiable for our digestive system and wont cause any gastrointestinal problems that are associated with many processed foods.

Lean Meats– While protein takes longer to digest, it will keep you satiated during the game and provide your muscles with a steady influx of protein to help with muscle recovery and muscle maintenance.

Great Examples

1. Chicken Breast with baked sweet potatoes and green salad.

A Pre-Game Meal for the Phillies

2. Chicken breast with Quinoa and asparagus.

3. 2 pieces of cod over a mixed green salad with carrots, parsnips, and potatoes.

Conclusion

Many athletes still dont understand what they need to properly fuel their bodies. Unfortunately many of the nutritionists and chefs that cook or prepare meals for this demographic don’t understand macro-nutrient profiles of foods either. My suggestion to all the athlete’s and people I talk to is ask questions and do your own research. If a nutritionist recommends to eat pasta on a game day ask them why and see what kind of answer you get. Unless you are running a marathon or playing a double header soccer game I never recommend “carbo-loading” with pasta. Most sports, like hockey, require shorts bursts of energy over a 2 hour time period. Eating 200 carbs in the form of pasta for a pregame meal is excessive for most athletes who wont even come close to tapping into all that stored glycogen from a large pasta meal. Keep it moderate and substitute some of my suggestions listed above. Remember, each athlete has their own individual preferences and requirements. Adjust your needs as you see fit and experiment with different foods to see what makes you feel the most energized and helps you recover the fastest.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions.

From South Bend,

Nutrition In Sports

Nutrition In Sports

My blog this week comes in the form of an interview I did regarding nutrition in youth sports and for professional athletes. Take a look and enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_G8zkT5HpQQ&feature=youtu.be

Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Pre-workout Meals

Pre-workout Meals

 

There are a few important things to consider in the pre-workout meal discussion. Timing, size, and content are the three key factors in choosing a great meal that will give you optimal performance levels.
Timing– Ideally, a meal should be eaten between 2 and 3 hours before a workout in order to give your body time to fully digest the protein, carbohydrates, and sugar that will be converted to fuel to power you through those grueling last few reps. For all you earlier birds, I don’t expect you to wake up at 3 Am to make an omelette. So your meal and portion size will be much different.
Size– Portion size is extremely important because you don’t want to feel bogged down or bloated during a workout. On that same token ensuring your muscles are properly fueled is vital to prevent muscle degredation. The preworkout meal and time before workout are directley correlated. The farther away you are from a workout (say 3 hours) the bigger your meal (probably full size). If you are grabbing something 15-20 minutes before it should be much smaller and generally in liquid form so it is easily digestable.
Content-An ideal pre-workout meal should consist of 20-30 grams of protein to keep your body in an anabolic state to prevent muscle breakdown during your workout. Along with the protein, 20-30 grams of low glycemic carbohydrates is also advisable.

A 2-3 hour prior example 

A turkey/chicken breast, spinach & tomato omelette with a small serving of steel cut oats. Low glycemic carbohydrates such as spinach and steel cut oats will be converted to energy and used as fuel during your workout. Low glycemic carbohydrates will keep your insulin from spiking which can lead an energy crash mid-workout. This meal is also low in fat and fiber which will make it easy to digest.

Ingredients

  • 2 whole cage free eggs
  • ½ cup spinach
  • ½ turkey/chicken breast
  •  ¼ cup dice tomatoes
  •  ½ cup cooked steel cut oats with cinnamon and blueberries

Nutritional Facts

  • Calories-400
  • Protein-30 grams
  • Carbohydrates-30 grams
  • Fat-6 grams
  • Fiber-8 grams

I like to workout in the late mornings so the first thing I do when I wake up is start off with a great breakfast that has an adequate source of protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and fat. The protein will ensure there is no muscle breakdown and give your body a steady stream of fuel and amino acids through your workout. The carbs will be converted to energy while the fiber and fat will keep you feeling full throughout the pre-workout/workout period. Adequate hydration is also vital to prepare you body for a successful workout. Ensuring your muscles are hydrated will prevent cramping and optimize performance.

Now, for the early birds. (15-45 minutes before workout)

 

Home made protein shake

My protein shake is very generic but an effective, homemade recipe. I shoot for a 1:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio made with the following ingredients.

  • 1 cup unsweetened Almond Milk
  •  1/2 serving plain unflavored greek yogurt
  •  1 tbsp chia seeds
  •  ¼ cup of blueberries
  •  ½ banana
  •   1 scoop of unflavored 100% whey isolate protein powder (20-30 grams)
  •  3 grams of glutamine
  •   Ice cubes

Nutritional facts

  • Calories-300
  • Protein-25 grams
  • Carbohydrates- 30 grams
  • Fiber- 12 grams

A 2:1 or 1:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio is ideal for refueling your muscles and replacing glycogen levels. Drink this shake within 30 minutes of your workout, or 30 minutes prior, to ensure your muscles receive healthy carbohydrates and protein from natural sources to rebuild muscle tissue that has been broken down during a workout. A liquid meal, such as a protein shake, is absorbed more quickly than solid food. The addition of fruit will help you restore your glycogen levels and transport protein to your muscles. Using natural foods such as fruit and unflavored yogurt will stabilize blood sugar levels and not cause a severe insulin spike that you get with most “store-bought” shakes due to the large amount of processed sugars and additives that are present.  The combination of chia seeds, fruit, yogurt, and almond milk provides an excellent source of fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. With such a wide array of products and additives that are present in many supplements and shakes, I always recommend people make their own, using unprocessed ingredients, to ensure your muscles receive the most bang for your buck. Here is a tip: Make your shake the night before and store it in the fridge to save yourself the hassle and cleanup in the morning.

Generally a medium-sized meal is recommended 2 hours before your workout to give your body a chance to digest and convert the food before you lift. With that being said, every person is different. Finding out what works best for you in terms of energy levels, muscle growth, and recovery is the most important thing. Whatever you do make sure you have a steady stream of energy to you can power through a tough workout.

Sorry about the recent hiatus and thanks for reading. Let me know if you have any comments or questions.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Why Our Society Is Fat?

Approximately 72.5 million American adults are obese and 42% of Americans Will Be Obese By 2030.

Obesity, diabities, and other weight related issues have become an epidemic in today’s society. Trans fats, artificial sweeteners,  and sugar loaded foods are partly to blame. Laziness, time restraints, and abundant resources are also major contributors. But how about our ancestors and genetics? What if some of our genes and bodily make up were predisposed towards storing fat? One theory suggests this could be a contibuting factor to the obesity epidemic that has taken over the US.

Thrifty Gene Hypothesis

Background

In 1962 geneticist James Neel proposed the thrifty gene hypothesis to partially explain the rise in diabetes in the world. The central premise of this theory is that through natural selection we evolved to be efficient at food storage and utilization. In Neel’s original hypothesis, he stated that ancient humans went through a cycle of feast and famine. The people who had bodies that were better at fuel storage or utilization were more likely to survive during the famine portion of the cycle. Thus over many generations, we developed genetically to be exceptionally efficient at the intake and utilization of fuel as these were beneficial adaptations throughout the majority of human life.

Relating To Obesity

This theory suggests that humans have genes which predispose them to obesity and fat storage.  Essentially, our bodies have evolved as a product of our ancestors whose primary goal when they ate was to store food as fat. This ‘thrifty’ genotype would have been advantageous for hunter-gatherer populations, especially child-bearing women, because it would allow them to fatten more quickly during times of abundance. Fatter individuals carrying the thrifty genes would thus better survive times of food scarcity. However, in modern societies with a constant abundance of food, this genotype efficiently prepares individuals for a famine that never comes. The result is widespread chronic obesity and related health problems like diabetes.

Why Weren’t Our Ancestors Fat?

In the hunter-gatherer society, food was gotten largely through physical activity. Our ancient ancestors have been estimated to have hunt for food for 1-4 nonconsecutive days per week, while women gathered food 2-3 days per week. Needless to say, they were a little more active than the average American who spends anywhere from 10-12 hours a day seated.

 ‘Stone Age’ genes and ‘Space Age’ circumstances

A 2 minute drive in a car with leather/reclined/heated seats to the grocery store is not the same as several miles of hiking and scavenging to find food and resources. We have theses genes which have been inherited from our “stone age” ancestors in these “space age” circumstances where resources are over-abundant almost to fault, and everything is convenient and easy.

Opposition And Problems

  • What about other sociities such as asian cultures where obesity rates are not even close to what they are in America?
  •  The field of epigenetics has shown that the body can manipulate the degree of transcription, or activation, a particularly gene has. Even more astounding is that environmental factors can impact the epigenome within a lifetime, thus altering how a gene functions. This suggests that our genes could recognize certain environmental factors available and adapt as a result which would poke holes in the thrifty gene hypothesis.

Conclusion

As can be seen, the genetics of obesity and the thrifty gene hypothesis are a complicated subject. It is easy to accept or dismiss portions of the hypothesis based on select data, but when taken in full it is clear that we simply do not understand everything that goes into the relationship between genetics and obesity.

Regardless, the important thing to remember is that environment and activity levels play a very large role in obesity problems in America.  Sure we all have different body types and some of us are more likely to put on weight, but the good news is that with proper dietary and exercise practices, you pretty much control your destiny.

Thanks for reading and I will be interested to here comments about this theory and post.

From South Bend,

Kevin

The Best Additions For A Healthy Salad

The Best Additions For A Healthy Salad

The term “FAT FREE” is misleading because excess carbohydrates in your diet end up as excess body fat.

Dressings

This is the BIGGEST mistake people make when eating a salad. Picking the wrong dressing can transform a typical healthy dish into a saturated fat/sugar-loaded nightmare. Here are 2 things to be aware of when picking a dressing:

  • Serving Size– Don’t load up dressing on your salad. Measure out a serving size with a tablespoon to know exactly how many calories you are taking in.  Most people are shocked when they realize how small”1 serving size” is.
  • Ingredients– Dont be mislead by labels and disclaimers such as “reduced-fat” when choosing a dressing. These labels are not regulated by the FDA and the marketing gurus will say anything to promote their brands and products. Look for hidden ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and fructose the are artificial alternatives to sugars.  As a general rule stay away from dressings with a long list of ingredients or additives.

What To Choose:

Balsamic Vinegar– 2 tbsp (which is all you need) of balsamic vinegar has 50 calories. Balsamic vinegar contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can protect the body from heart disease and cancer and has enzymes that break protein down into smaller amino acids that can be more easily absorbed by the body.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil–  A moderate serving of olive oil has the healthy monounsaturated fats that can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) and has been proven to help promote healthy skin and hair.

Alternative Oils- Alternative oils such as coconut,  macadamia, or walnut oil will provide a healthy source of Omega 3’s and give you a variety from traditional olive oil.

Make your own– If you get tired of the balsamic vinegar and oil combo try this.

½ cup Greek yogurt
1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 Tbsp red onion, finely diced
Juice from 1 lime
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp cumin

What to Stay Away From

Any pre-made salad dressings from the store like:

Ranch- One serving of ranch dressing contains approximately 140 calories and 14 grams (mostly saturated) of fat. Of the 140 calories, 130 are from fat. Don’t be deceived by the “low-fat” or “light” alternatives as they boast more unhealthy additives and sugars that are equally as bad.

Blue Cheese-Blue cheese dressing is a quick way to ruin a healthy salad. The average brand contains 152 calories and 15.6 grams of fat making blue cheese a diet blunder.

Italian-  With more than 14 grams of fat per serving and a hefty load of processed ingredients, Italian can be a real detriment to your diet.

Thousand Island– Another cream-based, fat-laden topping, Thousand Island dressing will cost you 140 calories and 14 grams of fat and  a long list of unknown ingredients.

French-French dressing is one of the worst salad additives around. Though it is technically a “vinaigrette”, French dressing still has an overwhelming 14.2 grams of fat and unnecessary sugars.

Caeser- The average brand contains more than 165 calories and 18 grams of fat. Even some of the “light” brands still pack more than 12 grams of fat per two tablespoons.

Great Additives 

Avacado- Many people dismiss the health benefits of avocado simply due to its high calorie count. However, avocados have 54% of your recommended daily value of fiber which gives this fruit much of its fat burning abilities. Just one avocado provides your body with vitamins A, C, E, K, and B6, along with  1000 mg of potassium. (About twice as many as a banana)

Flaxseed- 1/2 tbsp of flaxseed gives you your complete recommended daily amount of omega 3’s and can help lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Flaxseed will help regulate digestion and contains 3 grams of fiber/serving. 

Eggs- Eggs are a great source of protein that are loaded with vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium, and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin. Very few foods share the same diverse nutrient makeup available in a single egg.

Walnuts- A handful of walnuts contains almost twice as much antioxidants as an equivalent amount of any other commonly consumed nut. Walnuts are a great source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats. 

Black Beans- Black beans are very high in fiber, folate, protein, and antioxidants, along with numerous other vitamins and minerals.

Edamame-These legumes pack as much protein as most animal products, without the unwanted saturated fat. Being loaded with fiber makes them filling, refreshing, and great a alternative source of protein too add in your diet.

Artichokes- The artichoke is a low-calorie, nutrient-rich vegetable that is a great natural source of antioxidants. According to the USDA, one medium artichoke is an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, and a good source of folate and magnesium.

 Conclusion

Create your salad base with some sort of healthy/dark green leaf such as spinach, kale, arugula, or mixed greens. Add some of the ingredients listed above with some lean protein and top it off with a healthy dressing to create a great meal that will provide essential vitamins and minerals. Incorporating meals like these are crucial to a well balanced diet and will help contribute to a healthy lifestyle.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions or comments.

From South Bend,

Kevin

Get Your Pasta Fix The Healthy Way

Get Your Pasta Fix The Healthy Way

The Problem

For those who have participated in a moderate level of competition or athletics you’re probably familiar with the term “carbo loading” with pasta. Complex carbs, like pasta, break down slowly in your digestive system and can help you sustain energy through a game, match, or workout. The problem is that 99% of the population doesn’t burn enough calories to require a high intake of complex carbohydrates from pastas and other carbohydrate-dense foods. However, people still love to eat pasta because it tastes great and easy to make.

The Solution

My recipe for a “pasta substitute” not only tastes better, but is lower in carbohydrates and made up of more vitamins and minerals. This pasta recipe can also curb hunger, increase energy levels, and deliver superior vitamins, minerals, and nutrition levels to your body.

The Ingredients (Makes 4 large servings or 6 medium servings)

  • 2 whole spaghetti squashes
  • 1 lb of shrimp
  • 4 cups of spinach
  • 4 cups of mushrooms
  • 2 whole tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 ounces of white wine
  • 1 tbsp. of soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp. of balsamic
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil

The Nutritional Breakdown (per large serving)

  • Calories-400
  • Saturated Fat-1 gram
  • Protein-47 grams
  • Carbohydrates-27 grams
  • Sodium-800 mg
  • Sugar-11 grams
  • Fiber-10 grams

For those looking to take in more calories, top the pasta with avocado and brussels sprouts.

Nutritional Breakdown (with 1 serving of brussels sprouts and avocado)

  • Calories-520
  • Saturated Fat-1 gram
  • Protein-55 grams
  • Carbohydrates-37 grams
  • Sodium-900 mg
  • Sugar-11 grams
  • Fiber-17 grams

How This Recipe Compares To Competitors 

Olive Garden’s Fettuccine Alfredo

  • Calories-1220
  • Saturated Fat-47
  • Sodium-1350
  • Carbohydrates-99
  • Fiber-5
  • Protein-36
Olive Garden’s Chicken Parmesan
  • Calories-1090
  • Saturated Fat-18
  • Sodium-3380
  • Carbohydrates-79
  • Fiber-27
  • Protein-83
Olive Garden’s Seafood Alfredo
  • Calories-1020
  • Saturated Fat-31
  • Sodium-2430
  • Carbohydrates-88
  • Fiber-9
  • Protein-50
The Comparison 
Honestly, I shouldn’t even need to give a detailed explanation of the difference in nutrition as the results above are pretty staggering.  I will point out that besides having about 1/3 the amount of sodium and significantly lower carbs, calories, and saturated fats, the vitamins and minerals you get from the spaghetti squash itself is far superior to what you will obtain from traditional pasta noodles served at most restaurants. Spaghetti squash is loaded with vitamin C, B-6, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, folate, pantothenic acid and vitamin K… to name a few.
Cooking Instructions
Spaghetti Squash
1.Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the spaghetti squash in half length wise and clean out seeds and excess leftovers.
2. Lightly drizzle the inside edges of the spaghetti squash in oil to soften the insides. Cook for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.
3. Place the sliced mushrooms in the oven half way through squash cook time and cook for 15 minutes.
4. Remove from the oven and fork the squash into spaghetti strands until the squash shell is bare.
Shrimp and Toppings (while squash cooks)
1.  Remove tails from shrimp.
2. Lightly coat a pan with canola oil and turn on a high temperature. Add the chopped garlic clove.
3. Add shrimp and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.
4. Add white wine to the edges of the pan.
5. Cook shrimp for 10 minutes or until most of the liquid is disolved.
6. Add spinach and tomatoes.Cover and simmer on low.
7. Add cooked mushrooms, spaghetti squash, and seared shrimp, spinach, and tomato to a large bowl.
8. Top with avocado and add brussel sprouts. (optional)
This is a great alternative to generic pasta with meat. Also, this is just a foundation. If you are looking to add more protein or calories, mixing in other great stuff like chicken and black beans is highly encouraged. I hope you enjoy this recipe and I appreciate all the great feedback and questions I have been receiving. Thanks.
From Naples,
Kevin