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,
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The Truth About Nutrition Bars

The Truth About Nutrition Bars

In a recent study published by consumerlabs.com 30 nutrition bars were broken down/analyzed and over 60% of the bars failed to meet labeling claims! What is really in your “health or nutrition bar”?

Thank you to Rachel for the suggestion on this topic.

Meal replacement bars, snack bars, weight loss bars, energy bars, and protein bars are a convenient and easy way for people to get a quick snack or meal when they are on the go. The problem is that 99% of the products out there are loaded with carbs and sugars that spike insulin levels and promote fat storage. Despite the hidden ingredients and artificial additives, marketing gurus have duped consumers into thinking that these “nutrition bars” are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals when in reality this is far from the truth. The FDA claims that it currently does not have any formal guidelines for nutrition bars or the labeling on nutrition bars.

The Breakdown

“Protein Bar” is an extremely deceptive term.  Most bars contain more carbs than protein. The consumer labs study found that a typical bar is made up of

  • 49% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly from sugars)
  • 29% of calories from protein
  • 22% of calories from fat
What To Stay Away From 
Clif Bars
The concern here is the 45 grams of carbs and 21 grams of sugar (for comparison a snickers bar has 35 grams of carbs and 28 sugars). If you are not an endurance athlete than that amount of carbs in the form of a small snack is way to high. Ever notice how the Clif Bar rapper conveniently covers the ingredient list. Here is why. With over 30 ingredients, it is hard to decipher what exactly the bar is made up of.  Organic rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, organic evaporated can juice, organic date paste, are all fancy names for sugar that make up this so-called “nutrition bar”. While ingredients like evaporated cane juice are not as detrimental to refined sugar, it is close enough.
The Take Away– Stay away from Clif bars
Atkins Advantage Bar
With Atkins Advantage you get more bang for you buck because the lower carb and sugar levels. You also get a solid 15 grams of protein with only 210 calories. The unfortunate part is the saturated fat and ingredients. With over 50 ingredients, there are several hidden land mines such as glycerin, sucralose, cellulose, artificial flavors, which are all code names for SUGARS!
The take away- Eat only if there is no whole/unprocessed foods available like fruit or nuts.
Nature Valley Bar
I commend General Mills for their bold and forthright honesty. They are not trying to hide anything. The second ingredient is SUGAR! With high levels of carbohydrates and sugar, nature valley bars have nothing “natural” about them. High fructose corn syrup and brown sugar syrup are two ingredients that have single handily added to the obesity problems in the US.
The take away- Don’t even think about it
Power Bars
This label is also very informative as it provides the disclaimer that the FDA has no regulation over these “health bars”. With 45 carbs,  27 grams of sugar, ingredients such as evaporated cane juice, glucose syrup, and fructose, a power bar is basically a glorified candy bar. At least they have less than 30 ingredients as opposed to some of the other examples listed right?
The take away- If you are going to have something with the nutritional equivalent of a candy bar why not actually have a candy bar that tastes great? Opt for a snickers or twix instead.
Why so much sugar?

In their early development, nutrition bars were bland and primarily eaten by fitness enthusiasts. However, the bars underwent a transformation to appeal to general consumers. The bland, stiff, and protein packed bars didn’t necessarily appeal to the general population. To compensate, manufacturers made their products more flavorful by adding corn syrup, sugar, sugar alcohols, artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, colors and hydrogenated oils, which are all bad for your health.

What To Eat Instead

Kind Bar

Definitely the best nutrition bar out there. The calorie, carbohydrate, protein, and sugar content is a well-balanced mixture that can provide an adequate snack  in between meals. What I love about these bars is the simplicity of the ingredients and the natural additives. Unlike the rest of the bars, you don’t see a list of 30 ingredients with names that are too long to pronounce.

The take away– A good snack that offers a variety from eating nuts or dried fruits by themselves or with trail mix.

Conclusion

As a general guideline, the less ingredients the better. Eating something in its most natural state is always your best bet. The best example I can think of is a product like peanut butter. When buying peanut butter look for one ingredient, PEANUTS! Avoid products with ingredients other than peanuts like what you see in most commercial products.  For example, Jif regular peanut butter’s list of ingredients includes peanuts, salt, sugar, fully hydrogenated vegetable oils, and diglycerides. I never encourage people to eat anything processed like nutrition bars but I understand there or some times when nothing else is available. If that is the case, choose something like a KIND Bar where there are only a few ingredients or prepare ahead and always carry around some nuts and fruits.

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

From South Bend,

Kevin

The Truth About Fruit

The Truth About Fruit

Fruits are a summer staple and excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Whether it’s the antioxidants from berries, the cold preventing properties of citrus fruits, or the hydration benefits of water based fruits like watermelon, each fruit has a unique set of benefits. The recommended daily amount of fruit  is dependent on total calorie intake but can lie anywhere between 3 and 7 servings. Here is an example of what you would be looking at to meet these requirements.

  • 1/2 cup (4 fluid oz.) 100% fruit juice
  • 1 medium fruit
  • 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit
  • 1/4 cup dried fruit
Now Comes The Point Of This Article
With summer right around the corner, people start to become more concerned with their body image and composition. Being cognizant of  foods you are putting in your body is essential to a lean physique. Fruits are no exception. Believe it or not, too much fruit or the wrong fruits can lead to increased body fat due to an excess amount of sugar ( in the form of fructose and glucose). Especially for those that aren’t as active as they should be, (you know who you are) limiting carbohydrate and sugar intake is important to keeping body fat off.
What To Eat

Choose 3-4 low carb fruit servings
  • Berries– Blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries are a staple in my diet. They are loaded with antioxidants, provide a great source of fiber, have a low glycemic value, and taste great. Add 1/2 cup to your oatmeal or breakfast in the morning (1/2 cup)
  1. Calories- 42
  2. Carbs- 12 g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 1 g
  5. Sugar-8g
  • Grapefruit– Grapefruits  have high amounts of water content which helps boost metabolism as well as containing numerous antioxidants. Grapefruits have a low glycemic value and contain soluble fiber which will help fill you up while being low in calories. (1/2 medium grapefruit)
  1. Calories- 40
  2. Carbs- 9g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 1g
  5. Sugar-5g
  • Watermelon– One of the main health benefits of watermelon is its status as a powerful antioxidant, found in vitamins A and C. Watermelons are moderately high in sugar with a glycemic value of 72, but small amounts, especially after a workout can be part of a healthy diet.  (1 wedge- approximately 1/16 of the watermelon)
  1. Calories- 86
  2. Carbs- 22g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 2 g
  5. Sugar-18g
  • Kiwi– Kiwifruits are an excellent source of vitamin C, as one large kiwifruit contains about as much vitamin C as 6 oz of orange juice. They are also a very good source of vitamin K, and a good source of potassium and copper. (1 medium sized fruit)
  1. Calories- 46
  2. Carbs- 11 g
  3. Fat- 0g
  4. Protein- 1g
  5. Sugar-7 g
When To Eat Fruit
  • In the mornings-A low glycemic fruit in the morning before breakfast will kick-start your day with powerful antioxidants and soluble fiber that will keep you feeling full. The sugar in the fruit will be burned off throughout your daily activities and workout as well. NOT AT NIGHT.  A midnight snack is OK but don’t reach for the fruit and think it’s a healthy choice. Fruit digests out of the stomach in 20-30 minutes. If fruit is consumed at night, it will sit on top of the slower digesting foods and cause indigestion/excess fat storage.
  • Before a workout– A simple carb (fruit) 30-60 minutes before a workout  will be converted into glucose and used by the body as energy during your workout.
  • After a workout– A simple carbohydrate within  30 minutes after your workout will help restore glycogen levels and raise insulin levels which will help  muscle growth. This is the only time of the day when a high glycemic fruit is acceptable such as a ripe banana or a dried apricot. Make sure you don’t overdo it on portion size and try to pair the simple carb with a protein source for an optimal recovery source.
Have an orange. Not orange juice

Fruits are essential to a well-balanced diet. Like all food, moderation is key. Whenever possible, stay away from fruit juices as most contain artificial sweeteners and loads of added sugars. Fruits like apples, bananas, and dried fruits have high amounts of sugars and carbohydrates and should be timed appropriately around your workout. Eat fruits that you will give you the most bang for your buck. Things like berries, which are loaded with antioxidants but relatively low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugars will help contribute to an optimal diet and ideal body composition.

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

From South Bend,

Kevin

An Oatmeal Recipe You Will Love

An Oatmeal Recipe You Will Love

Studies have shown that regularly skipping breakfast increases your risk of obesity by 450%!

This week’s blog can be found at http://www.builtlean.com/. This is another great health-orientated website and one that I will be writing for once a month. My article is the headline article on the homepage.

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

Kevin