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Sports Nutrition: Eat to Compete

Sports nutrition: Fueling the athlete

Making smart food choices can be challenging for all of us, but athletes face a particularly unique set of challenges. They’re balancing the demands of school or work, as well as friends and family, all the while trying to maximize their energy, performance, and recovery.

Here are the top four sports nutrition strategies, that actually work.

Timing is everything.

Frequent fueling is the name of the game when it comes to effectively optimizing athletic performance. The concept of frequent fueling typically starts with breakfast, followed by meals or snacks every two to three hours.

Greek yogurt, whole-grain bagels with peanut butter, string cheese, hummus, beef jerky, fresh fruit, P3 Protein Packs (a pre-packaged combo of nuts, cheese, and lean meat), and energy bars like Power Bar, Clif Bars, PRO Bars, and Honey Stinger bars.

For athletes with intense training demands, sandwiches, trail mix, ready-to-drink protein drinks, nutrition bars like Nature Valley Protein and Kashi’s Honey Almond Flax or Peanut Peanut Butter. On the go, think Smoothie King, Subway, Jimmy John’s, or even just a grilled chicken sandwich (or two).

It takes a little planning, but it doesn’t have to take much time.

Maximize glycogen reserves.

Simply put, glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates in our bodies. These carbs power our muscles during exercise, providing an ideal fuel source. And while most of us have more than enough carbs stored for our regular workout sessions, athletes that  train for hours at a time, for multiple days in a row, their carbohydrate stores can quickly be challenged, if not depleted entirely.

So when fueling every few hours throughout the day, look to include a source of carbs. But be selective in your carb choices, opting for carb-rich foods that are also good sources of nutrients like electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

One of the common themes of most of the foods at the collegiate fueling stations is that they’re loaded with smart carbs. From Greek yogurt to whole grain bagels, fresh fruit and granola bars, these foods not only provide energy-boosting carbs, they’re also packed with fiber, electrolytes, and antioxidants.

Refuel efficiently

One of the most important elements of effective sports nutrition is optimizing recovery. This process of rehydrating and refueling efficiently starts immediately post-workout; ideally within 20 to 30 minutes.

A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein has been shown to be most effective when it comes to replenishing glycogen stores — a meal or snack that provides 60 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein, for example.

It doesn’t have to be protein powder or supplements, especially if real foods are available. Chocolate milk is a favorite among athletes, as is peanut butter and jelly on a bagel with a cup of Greek yogurt — and they each provide the optimal ratio of carbs to protein.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Staying well hydrated is essential for sustaining optimal energy levels, as well as preventing muscle cramping and maintaining a safe core body temperature.

Aim for half of your body weight in ounces of fluid as a baseline (remembering that fluid from any type of non-alcoholic beverage “counts,” as does the fluid from many foods). Step on the scale before and after practice and events several times to get an idea of how much sweat you’re losing, and tack on an additional 16 to 24 ounces for every pound lost.

The bottom line: 

Keep it simple. Nutrition is a science, but we don’t need to make it harder than it really is. Experiment to find simple, safe, and sustainable tactics that leave you feeling energized and powerful.

Julie Mahler, MS, RDN, CD

Categories: Wellness
Tagged In:
Posted on July 14, 2017

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Sports Nutrition: Eat to Compete

Sports nutrition: Fueling the athlete

Making smart food choices can be challenging for all of us, but athletes face a particularly unique set of challenges. They’re balancing the demands of school or work, as well as friends and family, all the while trying to maximize their energy, performance, and recovery.

Here are the top four sports nutrition strategies, that actually work.

Timing is everything.

Frequent fueling is the name of the game when it comes to effectively optimizing athletic performance. The concept of frequent fueling typically starts with breakfast, followed by meals or snacks every two to three hours.

Greek yogurt, whole-grain bagels with peanut butter, string cheese, hummus, beef jerky, fresh fruit, P3 Protein Packs (a pre-packaged combo of nuts, cheese, and lean meat), and energy bars like Power Bar, Clif Bars, PRO Bars, and Honey Stinger bars.

For athletes with intense training demands, sandwiches, trail mix, ready-to-drink protein drinks, nutrition bars like Nature Valley Protein and Kashi’s Honey Almond Flax or Peanut Peanut Butter. On the go, think Smoothie King, Subway, Jimmy John’s, or even just a grilled chicken sandwich (or two).

It takes a little planning, but it doesn’t have to take much time.

Maximize glycogen reserves.

Simply put, glycogen is the stored form of carbohydrates in our bodies. These carbs power our muscles during exercise, providing an ideal fuel source. And while most of us have more than enough carbs stored for our regular workout sessions, athletes that  train for hours at a time, for multiple days in a row, their carbohydrate stores can quickly be challenged, if not depleted entirely.

So when fueling every few hours throughout the day, look to include a source of carbs. But be selective in your carb choices, opting for carb-rich foods that are also good sources of nutrients like electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

One of the common themes of most of the foods at the collegiate fueling stations is that they’re loaded with smart carbs. From Greek yogurt to whole grain bagels, fresh fruit and granola bars, these foods not only provide energy-boosting carbs, they’re also packed with fiber, electrolytes, and antioxidants.

Refuel efficiently

One of the most important elements of effective sports nutrition is optimizing recovery. This process of rehydrating and refueling efficiently starts immediately post-workout; ideally within 20 to 30 minutes.

A 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein has been shown to be most effective when it comes to replenishing glycogen stores — a meal or snack that provides 60 grams of carbs and 15 grams of protein, for example.

It doesn’t have to be protein powder or supplements, especially if real foods are available. Chocolate milk is a favorite among athletes, as is peanut butter and jelly on a bagel with a cup of Greek yogurt — and they each provide the optimal ratio of carbs to protein.

Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate

Staying well hydrated is essential for sustaining optimal energy levels, as well as preventing muscle cramping and maintaining a safe core body temperature.

Aim for half of your body weight in ounces of fluid as a baseline (remembering that fluid from any type of non-alcoholic beverage “counts,” as does the fluid from many foods). Step on the scale before and after practice and events several times to get an idea of how much sweat you’re losing, and tack on an additional 16 to 24 ounces for every pound lost.

The bottom line: 

Keep it simple. Nutrition is a science, but we don’t need to make it harder than it really is. Experiment to find simple, safe, and sustainable tactics that leave you feeling energized and powerful.

Julie Mahler, MS, RDN, CD

Categories: Wellness
Tagged In:
Posted on July 14, 2017

Upcoming Events & Classes

See More Events

Physical Therapist Tips

As Americans anxiously await the arrival of spring’s milder temperatures, many are also looking forward to springing back into the garden. Common gardening tasks, such as digging, planting, weeding, mulching and raking c …

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