With Spring upon us and National Nutrition Month coming to a close, I wanted address the myth that athlete’s can just eat whatever they want when it comes to diet. “MyPlate doesn’t apply to me…I burn through so many calories, can’t I eat anything I want?” While it’s true that athletes have a lot more leniency when it comes to discretionary calories, MyPlate is still an important guideline to help athletes stay fueled, repair their body and maintain that competitive edge. Here are my tips for athletes on how they can make MyPlate work for them:
- Pile on the fruits and vegetables – Yes, fruits and vegetables are important for everyone, but even more so for the day-to-day athlete. Repeated exercise breaks down the body via oxidation and inflammation. The answer to help clean up the system is antioxidant-packed fruits and vegetables. No other portion of MyPlate can provide the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants necessary to restore the body after a tough workout.
- Expand the size of your plate -While most people can get away with the guidance of using a 9 inch plate to helpmaintain portion control, that is unlikely to be sufficient for an athlete. The amount of calories an athlete needs to sustain training and muscle repair is highly variable, but most athletes exercising at least 6o minutes a day will need to expand the size of their plates while keeping the five food groups in check.
- Carbs rule the world – Hopefully it’s no surprise to athletes that their primary fuel needs to be carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates provide quick energy while complex carbohydrates can sustain athletes for longer workouts. While a detailed, individualized training plan will have periods of increased (during training) and/or decreased (during race prep) carbohydrate intake, most athletes can fill up the grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy portions of their MyPlate to meet their requirements.
- Protein for muscle repair – Again, the literal wear and tear that exercise puts on an athlete’s body makes the protein portion of MyPlate essential. Athletes do typically need some extra protein compared to the average joe, so strive to pack protein into snacks, leverage protein from dairy selections and even eek out some extra in protein-filled carbs and vegetables like quinoa, whole grains and soybeans.
- Plan snacks around pre-fuel and post-workout recovery – To maximize a workout, it’s important to be deliberate about the timing of meals snacks. Frankly, athletes need think of meals and snacks as pre-fuel and post-workout recovery tools. Pre-fuel meals and snacks need to focus on hydration and carbohydrates to sustain the workout. Post-workout meals and snacks need to have a mix of carbohydrates and protein to replenish glycogen and repair muscle. Great recovery snacks include smoothies, chocolate milk, yogurt, a peanut butter sandwich, nuts and dried fruit and/orcheese and whole fruit.
- Don’t forget oil and fats – Depending on your training regimen, it might be difficult to meet daily calorie requirements. No big deal right? Wrong! Calorie deficits lead to muscle breakdown, fatigue and impaired performance. The easiest way to make up discretionary calories is by adding oils and fats to your diet. Athletes can help meet their caloric needs by adding oils to pasta and salads and eating foods rich in healthy unsaturated fats. Focusing on omega-3 fatty acids from ground flax seed, walnuts, salmon, grass-fed beef, soybeans and chia seeds will also provide extra calories that have anti-inflammation affects.
If you are an athlete reading this post, I hope I have at least conveyed that you need to take your diet seriously. You need to think of food as your fuel and recovery prescription. MyPlate is a wonderful tool to guide athletes to eat for performance and frankly Eat2Win!
Need additional inspiration? Here are some “performance-enhancing” meals from the pros and Outside Magazine – 11 Athletes Share their Favorite Meals.
Have a favorite pre-workout or recovery meal that you would like to share? Need help finding a nutrition plan that meets your Spring training needs? Let me know and we can work together to build a fuel plan tailored just for you and your upcoming training season.
I frequently get asked what my approach is to nutrition counseling so with the New Year approaching, I wanted to layout my philosophy for any new clients that might be looking to get help making their healthy resolutions for 2013 a reality.
My Eat2Win Approach
Food = Fuel. I prefer to focus on what foods I should be eating versus those I shouldn’t eat. Your body is like a race car and it needs special fuel to perform at its very best. It requires protein to build and repair muscle which you get from lean meats and legumes. It requires carbohydrates to give you energy and support your workout routine which you get from whole grains. It especially requires antioxidants which work to repair your body’s daily build up of oxidation (think rust on a race car) and ward off disease which you get from maximizing your fruit and vegetable intake. If you spend your time focusing on what you need to eat fuel your body, you’ll feel more satisfied, feel less deprived and have more energy to get through your day.
Get up and move. Making healthy eating choices is only half the battle. You need to exercise or find someway to add motion to your life. Everyone is on their own pace here. Add more to what you are doing if you want to see change. If you are starting at zero then anything counts – take the stairs or walk around the block a few times after dinner. If you are more of a recreational athlete, then it’s about consistency and cross-training to stay healthy and prevent injury. Also don’t forget to fuel your workouts. You wouldn’t drive your race car around on empty and you shouldn’t be exercising without pre-fueling, eating post-exercise for recovery and hydrating to maximize your workouts.
Self-accountability. When you solicit my services, we join in a professional and personal relationship. I’m here to help you meet your goals. Over the course of our relationship my role may shift from nutrition expert to counselor to cheerleader to coach. I will give you the knowledge and tools to help you be accountable to your goals. However, I can’t make you change. No matter how much I might want to “will” you to change, you’re the only one who can decide to get out of bed at 5:30 am to get your workout in or keep yourself honest when you are eyeing the portions on your plate. You need to be ready for change. Change has to come from within yourself. You need to be accountable to yourself to make change happen.
Small, lasting changes. Making healthy lifestyles changes is a commitment, but it isn’t one that requires drastic, body-shocking changes when the clock strikes midnight. It starts with a nudge here and there…maybe eating out one day less a week or going meatless on Mondays. Then you lean in a little more by drinking less soda and more water or signing up for the yoga class you been meaning to try. Once these changes feel more routine, you can turn things up even more by cooking at home more or working to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. The bottom line is that we are talking about small, sustainable changes that don’t scare your body into retreat, have nothing to do with dieting and have a chance of becoming habit.
Moderation versus deprivation. My approach is also NOT about extremes. It’s not about cutting something out of your life completely. There is always room for your favorite crutch, it just requires portion control and self-accountability. Working in extremes typically means the change in not sustainable (think No Carb) and then you end up beating yourself up or overindulging when you fall off the wagon. Having something you really enjoy in moderation and being mindful when you indulge will mean you feel satisfied and not guilty at the end.
If you like what you have read and need some help reaching your healthy goals, we would probably make a good team. Give me a call or drop me a note and let’s discuss how we make 2013 the year you made your health and well-being a top priority!
As a student member of the Northern District Virginia Dietetics Association, I had the pleasure of touring Open Book Farm located in Myersville, Maryland. Mary Kathryn (MK) and Andrew Barnet started Open Book Farm in 2011 after gaining experience in sustainable and healthy livestock practices while apprenticing and volunteering at several farms across the country. They grow a little of everything including a variety of tomatoes, onions, eggplant, melons, peppers, herbs, garlic, a variety of potatoes, kale, cabbage, leeks and whatever else MK decides to experiment with. When we toured last weekend they had rows and rows of seedlings started in the greenhouse and numerous nutritional gems taking root in the field including potatoes, lettuce and leeks.
In addition to the produce, Open Book Farm also pasture-raises chickens, turkeys and pigs. I know many of you out there are vegetarians or vegans, but the looks on the faces of these “happy pigs” might just make you reconsider.
For those of you swearing to only feed your family organic, Open Book Farm awakens you to the challenges and costs local farmers face when trying to meet organic standards and opens your mind to alternative practices that might even been better than organic and help everyone’s pocketbook along the way. The following highlights a few of their farming practices:
- They continually rotate the land where they pasture their animals. Without rotation even eggs claiming to come from pastured chickens could be eating from the same plot of land with little to no new grass. Next time you are at your local farmer’s market, it’s not a bad idea to ask how frequently they rotate the animals they pasture.
- They use NO pesticides, fungicides or herbicides on their crops. Isn’t that what you think about when you think organic? The truth is there are a few of pesticides and fungicides that are permitted under organic standards.
- They also don’t use antibiotics, growth hormones, or parasiticides (“de-wormers”). Instead they concentrate their efforts on keeping their animals healthy and happy.
- They use no GMO (genetically modified organisms) seeds. While many of the seeds they buy are organic, they prefer to keep their options open and buy seeds based on price and variety preferences.
Bottomline is that their growing and farming practices are, like their name. an “Open Book”. Don’t take my word for it, read more about their practices on their Open Book Farm website. They know they may not be for everyone, but take a look, give them a call and/or plan a visit to learn more.
I had two major takeaways from this whole experience.
- The first is to follow your passion. I still can’t get over that this couple found something they loved and put a plan in motion to make it a reality. While they get some help from neighbors and volunteers, they primary run their modest farm and CSA by themselves.
- Secondly, get to know your food. It’s clear that our disconnection with our food has got us all into more problems than we bargained for. We have let others make decision about what we eat without any accountability. It’s time to reconnect with our food!
Even if Open Mind Farm isn’t for you, ask more questions at your local farmer’s market, do research on your favorite supermarket brands or simply start reading your food labels to know what you are putting into your body – and your family’s bodies. The sooner we do a better job of getting to know our food and farmers, the sooner we start giving our health and nutrition the priority it deserves.
So I fully admit stealing this idea from Sweetgreen (an awesome chain of healthy food with many vegetarian/vegan options), but I needed my fix at home one day. I’m always looking for meat-free lunch and dinner options that are also filling and I was excited to find Veggie Patch Falafel Chickpea Balls at my grocery store. These things are super tasty, easy to bake and a good source of protein. Throw in another favorite snack food of mine, Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips, and you are going to have a crunchy salad with tons of protein and at least 3 servings of veggies that is going to keep you feeling satisfied for hours to come.
Here’s my at-home version:
1 serving Veggie Patch Falafel Chickpea balls (4 balls) (bake in a toaster oven according to instructions and quartered)
1 oz Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips (crushed or use the ones at the bottom of the bag like I did!)
1 oz fat-free feta cheese (like President Herbed Crumbled Feta)
1/2 chopped red pepper
1 chopped roma tomato
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1 cup spinach
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
Combine all your dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Combine all your salad ingredients in a larger bowl and toss. Pour in dressing and toss again to coat evenly.
This salad is only 445 calories, 53 g CHO, 17 g fat (almost all mono- and polyunsaturated fat) and a whopping 19 g protein!
The best thing is that you can scale up or down to meet your energy requirements. You can make the recipe work for you and your partner without too much fuss.
- You can add another two chickpea balls for only 80 calories.
- You can dial down the pita chips to 1/2 ounce and save 65 calories.
- You can add another ounce of cheese for only 35 more calories and 7 more grams of protein.
This salad is tasty, filling and ensures you Eat2Win!
One thing Eat2Win Nutrition is not about is depriving yourself. I don’t just eat oatmeal every morning! One thing I have a weakness for is peanut butter. So when I found this recipe for Peanut Butter Banana Bread I just had to try it out. It’s from my favorite magazine, Cooking Light. I get their magazine off the rack a few times a year, but my favorite thing to do is search their recipes on their website (for free!). They combine several magazine recipes on MyRecipes.com so you have to filter if you only want to see those for Cooking Light. I’ve had so much success with their recipes and they all have nutritional information at the bottom of the page so you know exactly what you are putting into your body. Another of my favorite features is to look at the reviews for each recipe which are comments from regular readers who have tried the recipe and give you their take. I always find great hints or substitution that help you prepare the recipe to your liking. It also helps to remind me that it’s fun to experiment in the kitchen!
I did my own adjustments to make things a little easier. I used 1/3 cup of crunchy peanut butter and then skipped the 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts. I must also admit that I skipped the 1/4 cup of group flaxseed since I didn’t have a grinder. However, ground flaxseed is high in fiber, healthy omega-3 fatty acids and phytochemicals called lignans so definitely add it if you can. I used to 3/4 cup of white flour and 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour to boost up the nutrient profile a little. I’m not a fan of overly sweet breads so I skipped the glaze, but indulge if you have a sweet tooth.
All that healthy goodness and as published, 1/16 of a loaf has 198 calories, 7.4g fat( 2.3g saturated fat, 2.7g monounsaturated fat, 1.8g polyunsaturated fat) and 27 mg of calcium. The secret to success is going to make a loaf to share and properly portion your share so that you keep it to around 200 calories as published.
Finally, I’d recommend heating it up for 20-30 seconds in the microwave and enjoying it with a cold glass of fat-free milk!
Enjoy your breakfast!
I’m on a journey. I’m a 39-year-old career changer who went back to school with the dream of becoming a Registered Dietitian to help people to live longer and healthier lives. Healthy living is my passion and I’ve finally decided to put that passion to work in my blog and upcoming dietetics business. I have one more year left in my dietetics program at Eastern Michigan University, but don’t want to wait until then to share what I know. When I was trying to come up with a name for my blog and business, I came across this quote from Steve Young,
“The principle is competing against yourself. It’s about self improvement, about being better than you were the day before.”
It resonated with me because we are always so focused on the endgame that we rarely take time to celebrate all the accomplishments we achieve on our journey to get there. As a result, too many of us find ourselves giving up on our goals because the finish line seemed unreachable.
Thus, I’ve started Eat 2 Win Nutrition. It’s about winning in everyday life. It’s about beating your battle with the scale. It’s about competing to be the best YOU that you can be. It’s about fighting the obesity epidemic we face in this country. It’s about fueling yourself to win the game of life.
My goal is to share my nutrition and exercise knowledge with you in hopes of inspiring you to start your own journey to be the best YOU that you can be!