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Monday, April 13, 2015

Fast Food after a Workout?

Despite everything we know about healthy eating, sometimes it’s nice to enjoy a mouth-watering burger, crispy fries, and an ice-cold carbonated beverage. Even after exercise. That’s right, fast food can actually help you recover from a workout according to a study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism.

The Details

Researchers compared sports supplements to fast food on glycogen recovery and exercise performance. The subjects were 11 well trained men who performed a 90-minute glycogen depletion ride followed by four hours of recovery. The subjects consumed approximately 230g of carbohydrates, 27g of protein, and 35g of fat as either sports supplements or fast food at zero and two hours. Following muscle biopsies, a 20k (124 mile) time-trial was completed. Tables 2.1 and 2.2 show what the athletes ate.

I’m Lovin’ It

Blood samples were analyzed at seven, 30-minute intervals after exercise for insulin and glucose. The researchers found no differences in the blood glucose or insulin responses. Additionally, the rates of glycogen recovery were similar among both groups and there was no difference in the 20k time-trial performance.

Not So Fast

The results of the study does not mean you should visit your local burger joint after each workout. In fact, this study is of little relevance to the majority of athletes. Few are willing to perform steady-state cardio for 90-minutes and then perform a 20k time-trial. However, in terms of recovery following a long steady-state bicycle ride, the source of your carbohydrates, fats, and proteins does not appear to matter. When analyzing this study, I think it’s also important that you do not combine the idea of health and performance. This study did not look at the effect of long-term fast food consumption on health. It simply looked at the effects of glycogen restoration and performance.
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a freelance writer on topics of fitness and nutrition, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RDN, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential. Gavin can be reached at  

Cramer MJ, Dumke CL, Hailes WS, Cuddy JS, Ruby BC: Post-exercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance is Not Signifantly Different Between Fast Food and Sports Supplements. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2015.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Gluten-Restricted Athletes: Are They At A Disadvantage?

It is estimated that 1 in 133 people in the United States have celiac disease, and 6% of the population is gluten intolerant. Whether due to a diagnosis of celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), the gluten-restricted athlete faces possible threats to their performance.

Gluten consumption in the case of a celiac diagnosis will damage the small intestinal villi and interfere with the absorption of nutrients. Failure to comply with a gluten-free diet will result in a lack of energy and diminished performance capacity. Nutrients of primary concern are iron, calcium, vitamin D, folate, zinc, and vitamin B12. Those newly diagnosed with celiac disease may need temporary supplementation as their intestinal lining heals.

Gluten may further impede performance as it can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, indigestion, and chronic fatigue if not eliminated from the diet when necessary. Long-term complications include anemia, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and bone mineral loss (which can lead to osteoporosis and further bone damage).

The gluten-free athlete must ensure adequate carbohydrate intake to fuel activity. Non-gluten grains include: amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, chickpea, lentil, corn, millet, potato, quinoa, rice, and sorghum.

A drawback of gluten-free carbohydrate sources is their lower fiber content. Athletes need ~25-35 g fiber/day, which can be met by incorporating gluten-free fiber sources from other food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. Fiber should be introduced into the diet slowly, with adequate water consumption and physical activity to support motility.

It is important to maintain an overall balanced diet, including protein, fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. Fresh fruits and vegetables are naturally gluten-free. Canned products are acceptable if packed in water, rather than syrup or other substances, as these products may contain gluten.

Meals and snacks should be planned ahead of training and competition, especially if on the road. It is advised to always have a snack handy. Some convenient options include dried fruit/nut trail mix, rice cakes with peanut butter, a piece of fruit, or gluten-free sports nutrition bars.

Athletes should notify team health care members (dietitian, athletic trainer, physician, etc.) of their dietary restriction. Gluten may be present in sports foods, supplements, and catering at group meals. Alerting the staff can help avoid possible contamination.

It is advisable to check food labels on all sports foods and gels, and to seek out items marked gluten-free. Safe brands and products include: Gatorade, PowerBar Protein Plus Powder, PowerBar Gels, Gu Energy Gels, Ensure, Lara Bar, KIND Bar, PURE Bar, Clif Builder’s Bar, and Odwalla.

With the appropriate planning, support, and education, the gluten-free athlete can meet all of their nutritional needs and avoid any detriment to their performance.

Jessica Pearl, MS, RD, CSSD, CSCS, CLT is a Registered Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist in private practice in New York City. She has a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from the University of Michigan and a Master of Science in Applied Physiology & Nutrition from Columbia University. For more on Jessica visit or email her at

Monday, March 30, 2015

Fit Fashion: The Smart Belt

There used to be a time when your belt or pants would get tight and you’d think, “I’d better cut back.” Now, there’s a belt out there to keep our waistlines in check.  “Belty” is a motorized belt that automatically adjusts to the user’s waist depending on how much they have eaten (and also can track activity).  It then syncs via Bluetooth to an app on the user’s smartphone.  It was recently released during the Consumer Electronics Show this past January.  The maker Emiota, a French company, has not released a sale date.  Looks like you’re stuck with your FitBit for a while longer!

Read the full article here:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Are 5 Minute Workouts Hype?

What sounds like a late night TV infomercial might actually be true.   Research is showing that short bouts of exercise a few times per day can do a whole host of things.  From reducing blood pressure to blood sugars, research is showing that intensity versus duration plays a role. 

Researchers looked at participants (read the full study published in Diabetologia here) who exercised for thirty minutes continuously per day versus exercise ‘snacks’ or higher intensity exercise for a shorter duration (about ten minutes) before a meal.  Exercise is known to lower blood sugar so any bit is beneficial, but those that had the “exercise snacks” per meal had lower blood sugar throughout the day.  Another key point to consider is the level of fitness of the individual. 

The Journal of the American College of Cardiology published research regarding jogging as little as 5 minutes per day may increase one’s lifespan.  There is also research for a one-minute workout which has 3 intense 20 second intervals. 

So…there is a catch to all of this.  The exertion in all of these short workouts is intense.  The goal is to push the participants out of their comfort zone.  The psychological benefits of exercise range from improving brain health for individuals at risk for Alzheimer’s disease to buffering against stress and depression. 

Gina Volsko, RD, LD, SCAN blog coordinator.  Find her at

Friday, March 13, 2015

31st Annual SCAN Symposium Registration Now Open!

Are you guilty of being dogmatic in your practice?  It’s not uncommon that as practitioners we cling to our ideologies, despite contrary accumulating scientific evidence.  It doesn't help that research and recommendations tend to be contradictory and often leave us in a state of confusion.  We hear evidence that refutes a deeply held practice and while we will internally acknowledge its significance, somehow we dismiss it and revert back to the familiar.

Challenge those dogmas!  Join Sports, Cardiovascular & Wellness Nutrition (SCAN) at our 31st Annual Symposium, Nutritional Dogma Vs. Data: Take a Closer LookMay 1 – 3, 2015 at Cheyenne Mountain Resort in Colorado Springs, CO.

  • 24 educational sessions and 30+ speakers will explore, challenge and debate the recent paradigm shifts in sports nutrition, cardiovascular health, wellness and eating disorders/disordered eating. 
  • Earn up to 24 CPEUs by attending educational sessions and visiting exhibits and poster sessions.
  • Trending research will focus on dietary supplements, proteins, hydration, sodium intake, diabetes, carbohydrates, eating disorders, athletic performance and more.
  • Learn more & Register at

Monday, March 2, 2015

All In A Day's Nutrition

It is a well-known fact among dietitians that the general public fails to meet nutrition recommendations. Athletes, whose endurance and performance are critically affected by nutritional status and food intake, are no exception.  Surprisingly, studies have consistently shown that athletes, male and female, adolescent to collegiate to elite level, and across various athletic activities, all consistently under-consume carbohydrate foods and consume more than necessary levels of protein and fat. Additionally, intake of calcium, iron, B-vitamins, vitamin D and Vitamin A fall short of recommendations. 1, 2, 3

Most athletes seek to perform at their greatest level, yet after successive daily training sessions, this inadequacy and imbalance can lead to significant decreases in energy levels and athletic performance.  Studies have shown that most athletes have inadequate nutrition knowledge, another contributing factor; specifically, athletes are unaware of specific carbohydrate needs, carbohydrate use in the body, vitamin storage, protein (and its relation to muscle gain vs. energy), and low-fat and weight loss diets. 4 Fortunately, for the athlete who wants to perform at his/her best, intervention studies have shown that with proper knowledge and guidance, athletes increase nutrition knowledge and self-efficacy and thus make positive dietary changes which can increase or improve performance. 5, 6

It’s not enough to give an athlete a daily carbohydrate, protein, calorie and fat number to reach, based on the recommendations in the Nutrition and Athletic Performance Position Paper  from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the American College of Sports Medicine and the Dietitians of Canada 7.   

It is difficult for an athlete to translate those numbers into real food choices within a daily food plan.  What does 1.2 to 1.7 g/kg protein, 6 to 10 g/kg carbohydrate and 20-35% fat (intake from total calories) really look like?  

Below is a visual representation and breakdown of what one day’s worth of food looks like for a 140-pound, very active, 20-year-old female athlete, based on the aforementioned recommendations (2,880 calories, 384-640g carbohydrate, 77-109g protein, 42-49g fat).  It’s a lot of food and it’s a lot of carbohydrate.  

Remember, most athletes consume enough protein (optimizing protein intake by spreading it throughout the day, however, is more of a challenge but that’s another blog post) but most athletes under-consume carbohydrates.  Coincidentally, in writing this meal plan, it was most challenging to reach target carbohydrate levels—reaching protein was easy.  Looking at it this way, it is easy to see why many athletes themselves are finding it difficult to meet carbohydrate needs, especially in today’s carbo-phobic society, when even as a nutrition professional, I find that most challenging, too.   

Many foods chosen in this meal plan were selected because they provide high doses of nutrients that are typically lacking in an athlete’s diet—calcium, iron, Vitamins A and D, B-vitamins and antioxidants.  Please keep in mind that a larger athlete, such as a 200-pound active male, will have much higher needs (closer to 5,000 calories, 540-900g carbohydrate, 108-153g protein and 111–167g fat). 


Giant Yogurt & Cereal Bowl -- 2/3 cup 2% plain Greek yogurt, topped with 2/3 cup Bob’s Red Mill All-Natural granola, 1 tablespoon ground flax seed, 1 tablespoon slivered almonds, 2 chopped dates, 1 sliced banana and ¼ cup light vanilla soymilk (638 calories, 115g carb., 10g fat, 2g sat. fat, 27g protein)
Mid-Morning Bagel Snack

1 Pepperidge Farm Whole Wheat bagel spread with 2 tablespoons hummus and topped with ½ cup baby spinach, ¼ cup shredded carrots, 1 hard-boiled egg (chopped) and 2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese (459 calories, 60g carb., 15g fat, 5g sat. fat, 23g protein)
NOTE: If an athlete has an afternoon workout, he/she may consume half the bagel snack mid-morning and the other half in the afternoon (prior to the workout), paired with 8 ounces 100% fruit juice.


Salmon Sandwich - 2 slices Pepperidge Farm Ancient Grains bread, 1 slice Sargento Natural baby Swiss cheese, 2 ounces Chicken of the Sea pink salmon, ½ tomato (sliced), ¼ cup shredded cabbage mixed with ¼ cup coleslaw
Pasta Salad - 1/2 cup prepared pasta salad tossed with 1 cup steamed broccoli, ¼ cup cherry tomatoes, ¼ cup steamed snow peas and 2 tablespoons shredded carrots
Homemade Trail Mix - 1 ounce Newman’s Own Spelt Pretzels mixed with ¼ cup dried cherries
paired with 1 medium orange and 1 cup baby carrots
(830 calories, 150g carb., 13g fat, 4g sat. fat, 37g protein)

Cherry-Banana Smoothie - 1 cup frozen unsweetened cherries, 1-½ cups 1% milk, 1 medium banana, ½ scoop vanilla whey protein powder and 1 tablespoon honey
(390 calories, 75g carb., 1g fat, 0g sat. fat, 23g protein)


Smothered Chicken - 3 ounces roasted chicken breast topped with 1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms and ¼ cup chopped onion (sautéed with 1 teaspoon olive or canola oil)
Paired with 1 ½ cups steamed broccoli and cauliflower (topped with 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese), 1 medium baked sweet potato (topped with 1 teaspoon chopped pecans and a dash of cinnamon)
Strawberry Parfait: 1 cup sliced strawberries with ¼ cup low-fat vanilla yogurt and 1 Lindt Dark Chocolate Square
(550 calories, 77g carb., 14g fat, 4g sat. fat, 32g protein)

A Day's Worth of Food

Note the smoothie in the picture, intended to be a post-workout snack, eaten before dinner:
Total Day’s Nutrition: 2,867 calories, 477g carbohydrate, 53g fat, 15g sat. fat, 142g protein

1. García-Rovés, Pablo M., et. al. “Nutrient Intake and Food Habits of Soccer Players: Analyzing the Correlates of Eating Practice.” Nutrients. 6.7 18 Jul 18 2014: 2697-717. Web. 15 Jan. 2015.
2. Nogueira JA, Da Costa TH. “Nutritional Status of Endurance Athletes: What is the Available Information?” Archoivos Latinoamericanos de Nutricion. 98.4 (1998): 419-425. Web. 15 Jan. 2015
3. Beals, Katherine A., Manore Melinda M., “Nutritional Status of Female Athletes with Subclinical Eating Disorders.” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 98.4 (1998): 419-425
4. Yelverton, Jherrica. “Differences in Collegiate Athlete Nutrition Knowledge as Determined by Athlete Characteristics.” The Sport Journal. 14 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Jan. 2015. <>
5. Torres-McGehee, Jour Toni M., et. al. “Sports Nutrition Knowledge Among Collegiate Athletes, Coaches, Athletic Trainers, and Strength and Conditioning Specialists.” Journal of Athletic Training. 47:2. (2012): 205-11. Web. 20 Jan. 2015.
6.  Abood, Doris A., “Nutrition Education Intervention for College Female Athletes.” Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. 36.3 (2004): 135-139.
7. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance.” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109.3 (2009): 509-527 Web. 27 Jan. 2015.

About the Author
Kym earned her Bachelor of Science degree in nutrition and dietetics and minored in food science at Dominican University, River Forest, Illinois. She completed the clinical component of her dietetic internship with Iowa State University at Great River Medical Center in Burlington, Iowa. Her previous experience working as a nutrition educator at Scott County WIC provided her with additional focused training in several areas including pregnancy, postpartum wellness, breastfeeding and infant and child nutrition. In June of 2009, Kym completed the CDR Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management.  Kym is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association) and the Iowa Dietetic Association.  Additionally, she is also a member of several dietetic practice groups, including the Dietitians in Business and Communications, Food and Culinary Professionals dietetic practice group and the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition dietetic practice group. She has a particular interest in culinary nutrition and enjoys cooking, baking, recipe modification, and learning about food and wine. She played varsity volleyball at Dominican University and continues to enjoy an active lifestyle jogging, biking and weight training.
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