Monday, July 25, 2016

The Top 5 Problems with Alcohol Consumption and the Athlete

Alcohol has been shown to make up to 5% of an athlete’s calorie intake, and consumption in any volume can interfere with performance, recovery, muscle building, vitamin function, and hydration. As an athlete, your goal is to improve performance. Here are some important factors that are affected when alcohol is involved:
·         Hydration
o    Alcohol can dehydrate your body; altering your body’s ability to regulate its temperature. A small change in body temperature will affect your reaction time, motor skills, balance, and even your memory during performance.
·         Recovery
o    Alcohol can cause muscle cramps, pain, and hypoglycemia. Having sufficient glucose allows your muscles to heal and stimulate growth after a workout. Recuperation time is vital in making sure your body is able to rejuvenate itself post-workout.
·         Growth hormone (GH)
o    Plays a huge role in recovery. This is an important hormone that stimulates cell and bone growth and development. GH is secreted within the first few hours during sleep, but if you’re not sleeping well or getting enough sleep, this process is disrupted. Alcohol often disrupts sleep cycles, thus affecting growth hormone and therefore, cell development and overall performance.
·         Calcium (Ca) and vitamin A
o    Alcohol inhibits absorption of these vitamins. Ca is stored in your bones, teeth, and in your bloodstream. A lack in either vitamin D or Ca can lead to Osteoporosis, Liver disease, and increased risk of fractures. Your bones need to be strong and healthy in order to perform. If you have brittle bones, you’re at risk of fractures and possibly ending your career as an athlete.
·         Calorically
o    There are 7 kilocalories (kcals) per gram in alcohol. Anywhere from 7-14 drinks per week can tack on an easy 600-1800 extra calories which can lead to a long-term weight gain. Here’s a table to show the calorie intake of different drinks.

12oz beer
12oz Light Beer
3.5oz Red or White Wine
6oz Martini
0.5 oz Hard Liquor
10oz Margarita
Pina Colada
Long Island Iced Tea
Rum and Coke
Vodka and Cranberry Juice

               When it comes down to it, alcohol doesn’t have any nutritional benefit when it comes to performance. If you want to feel your best and perform your best, staying away from alcohol is encouraged. Being an athlete means you need to treat your body like the temple that it is. So next time you’re out with friends or encouraged to have a drink before a game, think twice.


"Alcohol Alert." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism 26.352 (1994): n. pag. Web.
Emanuele, Mary Ann, and Nicholas Emanuele. "Alcohol and the Male Reproductive System." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (n.d.): n. pag. Web.
Vella, Luke D., and David Cameron-Smith. "Alcohol, Athletic Performance and Recovery." Nutrients 2.8 (2010): 781-89. Web.
Weaver, Cameron C., Matthew P. Martens, Jennifer M. Cadigan, Stephanie K. Takamatsu, Hayley R. Treloar, and Eric R. Pedersen. "Sport-related Achievement Motivation and Alcohol Outcomes: An Athlete-specific Risk Factor among Intercollegiate Athletes." Addictive Behaviors 38.12 (2013): 2930-936. Web.

Bio: Kristen Peterson is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist currently working in nutrition counseling and studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. She aspires to work with weight loss and help clients reach their goals. She also maintains a personal blog filled with nutrition information and healthy, tasty recipes for anyone who’d like to try new foods:

Monday, July 18, 2016

Packing in the Protein with Pancakes

My alarm clock buzzes and I immediately start preparing myself to get an active start to the day.  This involves blasting “Bombastic” by Bonnie McKee and one (or two) cups of coffee. While these things get me to stretch my legs and drag myself out of bed, it is not until I have had a hearty breakfast that I am revved up and ready to go.

My go-to breakfasts are oatmeal with a scoop of chunky peanut butter or greek yogurt with fresh berries, granola, and raw nuts. But, today I’m excited to share my new obsession, one that warms the hearts of many. Pancakes. The extremely delicious recipe found below is made with almond meal which I have made a staple in my kitchen. Almond meal is a great substitute for your typical wheat flours due to its high protein and fiber content. A quarter-cup of almond meal contains a whopping 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Pancakes have never sounded so good! A stack of these are guaranteed to boost your performance.

Banana & Almond Meal Pancakes
1/2 cup almond meal
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup bananas or berries, sliced (optional)
dash of cinnamon

1. In a mixing bowl, combine almond meal, egg, and milk.  Mix well.
2. Add cinnamon. Stir.
3. Spoon batter onto a hot skillet.  As the flapjacks start to bubble, lay a few slices of banana onto the uncooked side, then flip! Let cook until golden brown.


Jaime Ruisi is an MSCN Candidate in Human Nutrition with Oregon Health and Science University

Monday, July 11, 2016

Did you get enough Vitamin D today?

Studies show that 77% of the population is vitamin D deficient.  Without vitamin D, your body can’t respond accurately to physiologic and pathologic processes. It allows calcium to be absorbed efficiently, prevent bone breakdown, improve muscle building, and regulate our cell’s functions. You’ll likely experience muscle weakness, pain, impaired balance, increased risk of fractures, and decreased physical performance if you’re deficient.

 Interestingly enough, the most documented cause of deficiency is from a lack of sun exposure. The sun is our greatest source of vitamin D which can be a problem during the winter months. Fortunately, there are some food sources of vitamin D:
·         Natural sources:  salmon, fatty fish, egg yolks,
·         Fortified Sources: cereals, milk, and orange juice.
Keep in mind, absorption is only about 50% effective from diet. Much of the vitamin is lost during digestion. Due to this, a combination of supplementation, diet, and sun exposure is recommended.

So how much is too much?
·         Consult with your doctor first and follow their recommendations for supplementation.
·         Toxicity of vitamin D is rare and often unlikely.
o   Because your body is constantly using it, it doesn't build up quickly in the body.
·         It's been stated that taking 10,000IU a day would take months or even a year to cause toxicity.

How can it help an athlete?
·         Promotes muscle growth and strength.
·         Minimization of stress fractures.
·         Keeps bones strong and less likely to break with any stress put on them during a workout, game, etc.
·         Reduces the risk of cancer, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and any autoimmune or infectious disease. 

Vitamin D is embedded in a lot of our body functions. Since it's not a vitamin we readily get in our diet, it really should be supplemented. It's good to maintain an adequate baseline since vitamin D is used up very quickly in our bodies. Remember that toxicity is rare, so as long as you stick to a maintenance level, you'll be optimizing your body's performance.  It’s important to get vitamin D from your diet and sun exposure, but to make sure you get enough, be sure to supplement! 

Ogan, Dana, and Kelly Pritchett. "Vitamin D and the Athlete: Risks, Recommendations, and Benefits." Nutrients 5.6 (2013): 1856-868. Web.
Hamilton, Bruce. "Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle." Asian Journal of Sports Medicine Asian J Sports Med 2.4 (2011): n. pag. Web.

Bio: Kristen Peterson is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist currently working in nutrition counseling and studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. She aspires to work with weight loss and help clients reach their goals. She also maintains a blog filled with nutrition information and healthy, tasty recipes:

Thursday, July 7, 2016

MONTHLY SCAN Twitter chat TONIGHT at 8 PM EST: Food Allergies

Are you interested in learning more about food allergies?  Do you have information or experiences to share?  Feel free to jump on our monthly Twitter chat at @SCANdpg tonight at 8 PM EST!

Monday, July 4, 2016

WATER You Doing About Your Workout?

                             Making sure your hydrated before a workout seems simple, but there are some dangerous implications if you’re not.  Keep in mind, you won’t feel thirsty until you’ve already lost 1-2% of your body weight, so it’s important to make sure you’re drinking frequently. Not being hydrated can lead to impaired physical and cognitive performance, compromised circulation, and inefficient thermoregulation. Athletes who are acclimated to the heat tend to dissipate heat better and sweat more. Due to this, they need to drink more since they are losing more fluid.

Pre-workout Hydration:
ü  Make sure you drink plenty of water the night before so you’re off to a good start in the morning.
ü  Immediately before a workout drink 400-600ml of fluid which is about 1.5 cups of water.

Mid-workout Hydration
ü  1.5ml of water for every calorie burned during a workout is needed.
ü  1 pint of water is needed for every 1lb of body weight lost as sweat at a minimum.
ü  Drinking 150-250ml of fluid every 15 minutes will keep you hydrated.

Post-workout Hydration
ü  Water intake after a workout stimulates the body’s ability to relax.
ü  Once you start to relax your body goes into recovery mode.
ü  The sooner you start to drink water post-workout, the sooner your body will be able to recover from it.

                The type of beverage you decide to hydrate with is another important choice. Stay away from diuretics like coffee, alcohol, or soda the day before or leading up to a workout. Drinks like this can dehydrate you quickly due to their diuretic effects. Water is always a great choice when it comes to rehydrating, but what about Carbohydrate and Sodium-enhanced drinks like Gatorade? They have shown to allow greater fluid retention, which is great when you’re working outside for an extended period of time in the heat. This is a good defense mechanism against dehydration in the heat; just be sure not to drink too much. It can cause cramping or sugar overload, and can also add a lot of calories to your diet. This is why water is usually seen as a better choice for rehydration, as there is no limit as to how much you can have.
Not only should you pre-hydrate, but hydrating during recovery is important as well. How you perform during your workout will always depend on how much you hydrated before and after your workout from yesterday. Just remember to always stay on top of your water intake and your performance won’t suffer!

Bio: Kristen Peterson MPH, RDN, LDN is a Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist currently working in nutrition counseling and studying to become a Certified Personal Trainer. She aspires to work with weight loss and help clients reach their goals. She also maintains a blog filled with nutrition information and healthy, tasty recipes: Instagram @kpcreations.dietitian

Monday, June 27, 2016

Recipe Post: Fast On The Go Energy Bars For Your 4th of July Road Trip

For this recipe, I substituted the all natural honey I originally used with pureed dates.   The last recipe resulted in slightly crumbly bars acting more like a granola than an energy bar.  I learned my lesson here because I had used only a quarter cup of honey versus a half cup recommended in several other energy bar recipes.   The buttery smoothness and subtle sweet taste of the pureed date butter ended up making a delicious addition to these energy bars.  I hope you enjoy them as much I as did!

Making pureed dates into a sweetener was surprisingly easy; you simply do just that, puree it!  You first want to make sure the dates are pitted, and if not, I found that is incredibly easy too.  You can gently slice them down the long way and pull the pit out.

Before putting the dates in the blender or food processor, you will want to soak them in hot water for softening.  After a few minutes I then threw them in a food processor with a quarter cup of water.  Most recipes either included water or just the dates alone to puree; I used a 2:1 ratio for the whole dates to the amount of water used as I played around with the pureeing part.  For example, I used half a cup of whole dates (pitted) and a quarter cup of water in the food processor.   One simple recipe I found most helpful for making date puree was via the  food blog

In addition to the honey sweetener substitution, I also used steel cut quick-cooking oats instead of the rolled oats which I had run out of in my kitchen.  The steel cut version came out just as great in this recipe and the shape held together well.

No-Bake Energy Bars with Dates
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
9 bars
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1/4 cup dried unsweetened cranberries
3 tablespoons chia seeds
1/4 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup toasted (or raw) almonds, chopped
1/2 cup unsalted sunflower seed butter

1. Line with parchment paper (or grease with cooking spray), a shallow square baking pan.
2. Place the dates (originally soaked in water) and the water in a food processor or blender. Puree and set aside.
3. Stir together the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
4. Add in the pureed dates and sunflower seed butter.
5. Once thoroughly mixed, pour evenly into the pan and press down firmly.
6. Cover with foil or plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator for at least two hours to harden.
7. Enjoy these bars for up to one week if kept in the fridge.

Two hours total time includes the time bars are kept in the fridge. This recipe couldn't be any simpler!

About the Author:
Kathryn Pfeffer is an RDN in Boston and writes her own blog at where she shares her culinary adventures bite by bite.  She is an experienced clinical dietitian in an acute and rehabilitation hospital in the Boston area and recently completed her first marathon in May. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Weight Loss and Health Trackers, Why Am I Not Losing Weight?

There it was on my food log tracker, I had an “extra” 200 Calories from walking the trail at work for 40 minutes.  Those magical ‘net Calories’ make me feel like I’ve gotten a bonus in my nutritional paycheck and was entitled to eat an extra 200 Calories…
This mentality occurs frequently in dieters and fellow food log aficionados.  “I burned an extra 7 Calories from making the bed!”
Unfortunately, all this food/activity logging can backfire.  Calories don’t always act like cash in your bank account.

The Nutrition Diva—Monica Reinagel (MS, LD/N, CNS), has a great article on her blog and podcast: “How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.” 

Logging exercise or having a reminder to workout can build a great habit.  However, it’s not an incentive to eat more (unless your goal is to gain weight). 
Reinagel reports different ways that logging exercise can mislead your overall Calorie needs.
“If you use a wearable fitness tracker like a Fitbit or Jawbone or even a low-tech pedometer or step counter, you can use that to help you select the proper category for your lifestyle.
  • Fewer than 1,000 steps a day is sedentary.
  • Fewer than 10,000 steps or about 4 miles a day is Lightly Active.
  • Ten to 23,000 steps or 4 to 10 miles a day is considered Active.
  • More than 23,000 steps or ten miles a day is Highly Active” (Reinagel, 2016).
Currently, smart phones will track your movement (e.g. iPhones have the health app that can work well enough to give you a baseline or motivation to move more). 
In addition to getting a solid ballpark on your daily Calorie needs, the Calories burned from logging activities are frequently overblown (or they can get logged twice). 
Elle Penner, MPH, RD, is the Food and Nutrition Editor at MyFitnessPal.  She answers the common question “Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?”

Penner recommends the following mindful tips:
·         “Start with a hydration check.  Hone in on your hunger cues.  Don’t get stuck on the number.  Focus on high-quality protein and wholesome carbohydrates” (Penner, 2016). 

Let’s take fitness trackers and food logging habits with a proverbial grain of salt.  We know we can overestimate our exercise or portion sizes at times (and essentially cheat a little) but logs and trackers give us a picture of our eating habits and activity habits.  

Checking your steps may get you to take more short walks during the day.  Tracking your Calories may give you an idea of where you can add additional produce or other healthy foods into your diet.   

Your weight or body measurements may provide a more accurate or consistent measurement of progress outside of Calorie algorithms.  Consistency is key to starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

Penner, E.(January, 2016).   Ask The Dietitian: Should I Eat Back My Exercise Calories?  Retrieved from:
 Reinagel, M. (April, 2016).  How Diet Trackers Sabotage Weight Loss.  Retrieved from:

Gina Volsko MS, RDN, LD is a Registered Dietitian and Health Data Analyst.  Follow her antics in health and technology on Instagram at gina.koko.