Friday, June 27, 2014

Clean Eating for Runners

You run for health. How can you easily eat clean for health—and performance? The answer is simpler than you may think: Clean eating starts with enjoying a hearty breakfast. That is, not just a banana, but also a banana + oatmeal + hard-boiled egg. This meal will keep you from getting too hungry mid-morning. We all know what happens when runners get too hungry – we not only eat but also over-eat—and we tend to choose foods with sub-optimal nutritional value, such as the chocolate chip muffin that your co-worked so nicely brought into the office. No comparison to your baggie of baby carrots, eh?

If you are like many weight-conscious runners (and most of my clients), you shudder at the suggestion to eat a hearty breakfast. After all, most weight-conscious runners start their diets at breakfast. Plus, you want to save up calories so you can enjoy a hearty dinner. Right?

Well, maybe it’s time to start being as nice to your body as you are to your car: Car + gas = GO! Body + food = Go BETTER! Yes, you will run better and feel better if you fuel by day, dampen your appetite, and then enjoy a lighter dinner. (You’ll actually find this smaller meal will be more enjoyable when you are not starving because you won’t be fretting about your urges to over-eat.)

When runners fuel by day, they tend to eat quality foods:
oatmeal + chopped dates + slivered almonds
eggs + spinach + cottage cheese
Greek yogurt + banana + granola
Whole wheat bread + peanut butter + honey + raisins
Nuts + dried fruit + string cheese

But when runners under-eat by day, well … you know what happens. You start to crave sweets and choose the wrong foods. Hopefully, in your efforts to eat cleaner, you will be willing to experiment with this fuel-by-day, eat-lighter-by-night fueling pattern. How much bad can happen if you try this for just two days?

With best wishes for good health, high energy, smooth running – and clean eating,

Nancy Clark MS RD
Sports Nutritionist

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor, consultant, speaker (Philly 1/24; Pitt. 2/7; online 24-7) (books, handouts, PowerPoint talks)

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook NEW Fifth Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists   iPhone app: Recipes for Athletes

1155 Walnut St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461
617.795.1875  Fax: 617.963.7408

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Friday, June 20, 2014

But isn’t chocolate milk filled with sugar…???

Nancy, I can’t believe you recommend chocolate milk as a good recovery food for athletes after a hard workout. It’s filled with refined sugar!!!!

My response: Yes, chocolate milk (or any flavored milk, for that matter) contains added sugar. For hard-working athletes, sugar is a form of carbohydrate that refuels depleted muscles and feeds the brain. Like the sugar in bananas and oranges, the sugar in chocolate milk comes along with a plethora of nutritional benefits. That makes chocolate milk a better option that chugging a sports drink that offers just empty calories.
A reasonable guideline for an athlete is to limit refined sugar intake to no more than 10% of daily calories. That equates to about 200 to 300 calories a day. The sweaty, tired athlete who recovers with a quart of Gatorade consumes 200 calories of refined sugar— and misses out on positive nutritional benefits that could have been provided by chocolate milk.

Despite chocolate milk's sugar content, the beverage remains nutrient-dense. When athletes refuel with chocolate milk, they get not just sugar that fuels their muscles, but also high quality protein that builds and repair muscles, calcium that strengthens bones, vitamin D that enhances calcium absorption, sodium that helps with fluid retention and replaces sodium lost in sweat, potassium that replaces sweat losses and helps maintain low blood pressure, B-vitamins such as riboflavin, that help convert food into energy, water that replaces fluid lost with sweat … and the list goes on. Plus, chocolate milk offers a desirable balance of carbohydrate and protein. (The muscles recover well with three times more carbs than protein).

Hence, I invite you to pay more attention to the nutritional value of the whole beverage rather than just the added sugar. Chocolate milk offers far more nutrients than the sports drinks that athletes commonly chug after a hard workout. Those sports drinks, as well as other commercial  “sports foods” (gels, chomps, sports beans, sports candies), receive little public criticism yet are generally 100% refined sugar with minimal, if any, nutritional benefits. In my opinion, those engineered sports foods are the bigger nutritional concern than the 30 to 40 calories of sugar added to 8-ounces of chocolate milk.
For more information, read the chapter on recovery foods in the new 5th edition of my Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD
Sports nutrition counselor, consultant, speaker (Philly 1/24; Pitt. 2/7; online 24-7) (books, handouts, PowerPoint talks)

Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook NEW Fifth Edition
Food guides for soccer, new runners, marathoners, cyclists   iPhone app: Recipes for Athletes

1155 Walnut St, Newton Highlands, MA 02461
617.795.1875  Fax: 617.963.7408

Monday, June 16, 2014

At the Crossroads: Food Decisions

To remain motivated, committed and disciplined to train for triathlon or any bigger-than-life event requires characteristics commonly recognized in Type “A” personalities. These characteristics are great for completing to-do lists, setting and attaining goals. When it comes to diet and food decisions, these characteristics can be helpful or they may create parameters that limit our chance of success.
Almost all of us, experience a moment in time each day, when a decision is made to commit or stray from a diet, or eating plan we consider ‘healthy.’ I refer to this as the “Crossroads.” For some of us it’s simple: Should I eat the slice of banana chocolate chip bread after my long run? I didn’t work out today, but I’m hungry and couldn’t resist two bowlfuls of tortilla chips. Is eating two scoops of peanut butter/chocolate frozen yogurt acceptable if I biked 50 miles?
For others, this moment in time, when a choice to eat a handful of M&M’s or a piece of fruit, can somersault into a cascade of ‘bad’ food decisions the rest of the day. The danger in this cascade effect is not the actual consumption of unhealthy food, but the mental judgement that begins and becomes difficult to turn off. Making one bad decision, can quickly elicit feelings of failure, and instead of brushing the instance off, a little voice in their head, continues the conversation, reminding them of their bad judgement and daring them to falter again.
Join me in this “day in the life” of a typical person on a typical day, at the crossroads.
It is Monday morning. You woke up early with your day mentally planned, and ready to execute. You completed your 75 minute bike trainer workout, which in itself is cause for a pat on the back and then ate a well deserved breakfast. You have snacks and lunch packed for work, and plan on getting in an afternoon swim. As long as things go as planned, the day should be easy and the world will be bright.
Driving to work you are feeling ready for the day. Workout one is behind you and now its time to focus on what lies a head. Your plan is to get to the pool after work for a short swim and then call it a day. You arrive at work, and it is status quo until lunch. Work crosses your desk but you are able to manage and re-prioritize it, keeping on schedule to leave work on time. You ate your lunch and are looking forward to your afternoon snack to fuel your swim. Your eyes are on the clock. Lap hours are limited at your pool and getting there after 6:00 pm isn’t enough time for the workout.
It’s 3 pm and you get a call from your supervisor explaining that one of your clients is unhappy which requires you to schedule a phone call at 4 pm to discuss. The phone call lasts 45 minutes during which time you commit to revamping the portfolio for them before tomorrow morning. You hang up the phone, look at the clock, and sigh. You knew this would happen; regardless of how much you try to get in your workouts, something always gets in the way.
This is the gray moment; right here and now. You woke up and exercised, which made you feel good about yourself, motivating you to eat a healthy breakfast and stick to your planned meals for the day. Then, the curve ball comes – beyond your control, but it still comes and forces you off your planned routine for the day. Prevents you from feeling the sense of accomplishment from completing your plan – completing two workouts for the day.
This is when the cogs in your mind begin to turn and for some people it is the make or break part of your day. You begin to recalibrate the day with new outcomes. There are only two options: success and failure. You enter that place in your mind that you know too well. It’s the place in your psyche where you aren’t your usual, rational, purposeful self. It’s the place where you feel irrational, a bit out of control, anxious, and vulnerable.
You have been here before, so you should have it figured out by now. You should have a strategy in place, or a plan “B” for these situations. You’re smart and you know yourself well. Then why can’t you get through these slices of time, maintaining control; not feeling like you succumbed to your old habits and defaults? You know if you just got in that second workout you would have been motivated to eat a healthy dinner instead of the take-out which has become too frequent. You are at the crossroads.

Scenario #1: recognize that the situation is beyond your control, and continue on with your day. You have your emergency stash of somewhat healthy snacks in your drawer that should hold you until you get home for dinner. You decide to get a tall decaf latte with whipped cream to feel better. If you have the energy after dinner, maybe you will do some stretching at home to feel like you did “something.”
Scenario #2: recognize the situation is beyond your control, but even knowing this does not make it any better. You had been eyeing the chocolate muffins sitting on the table in the employee kitchen all day, but purposefully did not eat one because you had the confidence and motivation not to. Now, your day has completely derailed as expected, so you might as well have a chocolate muffin. At this point, what difference does it make?
The chocolate muffin is tasty and a nice reward for the aggravation that lies a head. Back at your desk, the taste of chocolate still on your mind, you begin to feel tired and distracted. The lightbulb in your mind flashes – you need to wake up and focus to get this project done as quickly as possible! You might as well get a venti mocha latte with whipped cream. After the client call, while you work on the project, you snack on a bag of tortilla chips and without even realizing it, the bag is empty. Seeing the empty bag on your desk, you are in disbelief and angry with yourself for eating so mindlessly. You get a diet coke from the vending machine, clear off your desk and finish the project.
Its 8 pm and you are driving home tired and aggravated. You know the 7-eleven has Dunkin’ Donuts and you could use a pick-me-up from the sour mood you are in. You decide that you will buy a dozen, but only eat one and bring the rest to work tomorrow. At home, you heat up leftover chicken, toss it in mixed greens, and bake french fries. You eat the chicken and french fries and push the salad greens around the plate. When you walk into the kitchen, the donuts catch your eye. You are still hungry, your day went down the tubes, so why not have another donut? An hour later during a commercial on TV, you walk into the kitchen for a glass of water, and only see six donuts left. Enraged, you throw them in the trash, have a glass of wine, and then go to bed.
The two scenarios’ above are very realistic and common for anyone trying to revamp their diet, or lose weight. The stressors (causes) may be different, but the consequences/effect (stress, derailment of plan) are the same. The scenarios themselves are not individually good or bad, and neither of the subsequent reactions are better than the other. If the reactions to the situations are labeled generally as success/good or failure/bad, then it makes it extremely difficult for anyone to move on and start fresh the next day. However, the person in the scenario itself usually cannot think this way. They are standing in the middle of the forest within their own mind full of created realisms and judgement. I as the dietitian have an advantage because I am free of the judgement, and can place a client’s situation in a different perspective; instead of being in the forest with them, I am overhead.
The scenarios above target two very strong emotions related to self-worth: a) sense of accomplishment and control we feel when we exercise regularly and/or complete workouts as planned, and b) the effect of “A” on our food choices that day. In this particular example, the focus is on the close relationship between exercise and our ability to follow through on the second goal (eating well). For people who experience scenario #2 more often than #1, having a Plan “B” usually helps. It may not always work or be feasible, but creating a pre-set mental plan in advance is better than not having one at all.
If you work with a triathlon coach, and trust the workout plan, simply knowing that the missed workout is not going to ruin your training cycle can be sufficient reassurance to not feel like your day has ‘gone off the rails.’ If you don’t feel like your day has ‘gone of the rails’ then you may not feel compelled to sabotage your diet. If the reassurance from your coach will not penetrate your own mental rationale, planning a form of exercise that usually gets skipped due to lack of time (e.g. Bosu ball, Swiss ball, foam roller) are good alternatives because they work on weaknesses without expending a lot of energy. If your goal of training is performance, I would not recommend substituting a workout at the gym at 9 pm to compensate because this would most likely affect the quality of workout the following day. If your goal is weight loss I would still not recommend a workout at 9 pm, so that you do not get overly fatigued the remainder of the week. If you became overly fatigued or stressed the rest of the week, this could lead to more potential options for failure if you do not complete a workout. The goal is to prevent a ‘landslide’ effect of one bad day ruining an entire week.
As much as planning in advance (having healthy foods on hand) and having a plan “B” ready to mentally switch to, can relieve anxiety there is another reality. Even though we may not like our choices (eating pattern in #2) and wholeheartedly want to change, there is comfort in our identity and what we expect from ourselves. I explain it as a form of subconscious self-fulfilling prophecy, which is by no means a scientific definition. A person does not ‘want’ to derail their day; they do not want to lose control; they do not want to eat a box of donuts, and if they do, they will be upset with themselves. BUT they do like eating chocolate muffins and doughnuts and maybe they deserve to eat them considering the situation?
As a dietitian, not a psychologist or therapist, part of my job is to understand where a client has been in their weight loss journey and the implications of that. The amount of self-awareness varies greatly between people, and where they lie along the Stages of Change Model, may be different for mental goals and physical goals. One person may already be at the ‘preparation’ or ‘action’ stage of change, implementing an exercise program into their normally sedentary lifestyle when I begin to work with them, showing they are very motivated to become active. However, their readiness to face mental obstacles that include identity, self-perceptions, judgement and permission to change, may be at the ‘pre-contemplation’ stage. It is completely fine to be at different stages of change, and actually may be advantageous so that a person is not overwhelmed with taking on excessive personal changes at once. Often, starting with a physical change can provide the self-confidence —> to fuel the motivation —> to develop healthy coping strategies, needed to face mental obstacles.
Inner beliefs we may not even be aware of, take time to come to the surface and from my experience, this happens when the time is right and the person is ready. The difficulty for a dietitian comes when a person does not see or is not willing to see obstacles, and become defensive at any suggestion of such. Respecting where a person is at in their own journey is a priority and the goal is to provide the support and guidance to help them move forward.
Getting back to the scenario’s above, just like implementing a new exercise routine takes deliberate focused effort, so does changing our mental concept of ourselves. Implementing new mental mantra’s and recordings, to change the same familiar theme we hear when a bad decision is made, is crucial to getting over the hurdle between success and failure.
Good luck on your food and nutrition journey!

Regina Hammond is the Director of Nutrition at Trismarter Triathlon Coaching and Nutrition ( When she isnt running up Pikes Peak Regina is creating custom hydration and fueling plans for triathletes racing in 1/2, & full IM distance races and  ultra running events. Her interests include: the female athlete triad, disordered eating & eating disorders, bone mineral density, hormonal imbalances and the physiological effects 
of overreaching/overtraining. With a background in competitive swimming, biking and running, she understands what it takes to be a competitive triathlete and works with clients on performance fueling plans, periodized nutrition plans, weight loss, and behavior change.  Follow her on twitter (/reginahammondMS), facebook (/trismarter), or email her at

Friday, June 13, 2014

Beta-alanine and Exercise Performance

                Few dietary supplements have received as much attention as beta-alanine for its ability to possibly augment exercise performance. With such popularity, the research and interest in beta-alanine supplementation continues to rapidly expand. But is beta-alanine an effective ergogenic aid or only hype?

source: wikipedia
                Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is a rate-limiting precursor of carnosine – a contributor to lactic acid buffering during high-intensity exercise. During high-intensity bouts of exercise – such as sprinting or weight-lifting – the dominant energy source is anaerobic glycolysis; a process where glucose is broken down without oxygen. As exercises continues, the bodies buffering capacity is overcome by hydrogen ions and the pH of the muscle drops causing intramuscular acidosis. Athletes are no stranger to this burning sensation, which is believed to be one of the primary causes of fatigue during high-intensity exercise. Supplementing with beta-alanine is thought to increase the time to fatigue during high-intensity exercise by increasing muscle carnosine content.

                A recent systematic review published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism found supplementing with beta-alanine may increase athletic performance, but there is not enough evidence examining the safety of beta-alanine supplementation and its side effects.1 A similar update on beta-alanine supplementation for athletic performance was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The review referenced several studies in stating chronic beta-alanine supplementation (1.6-6.4 grams per day for 2-10 weeks) can greatly increase muscle carnosine concentration.2 Beta-alanine also seems to be promising according to a 2012 meta-analysis published in Amino Acids. The meta-analysis examined the available literature on the ergogenic effect of beta-alanine supplementation on exercise performance. The analysis concluded that beta-alanine supplementation elicits a large ergogenic effect on high-intensity exercise, where the exercise lasts between 1 and 4 minutes. Exercise lasting less than 60 seconds is not improved by beta-alanine supplementation according to the meta-analysis.3  

                While the current body of research on beta-alanine supplementation looks promising, further well-controlled studies in an applied sporting setting may be required.2 Always consult with a registered dietitian prior to taking any dietary supplement.

1.       Quesnele J, Laframboise M, Wong J, Kim P, Wells G. The Effects of Beta-Alanine Supplementation on Performance: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2014, 24, 14-27.
2.       Bellinger P. β-alanine supplementation for athletic performance: An update. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun; 28(6): 1751-70. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000327.
3.       Hobson R, Saunders B, Ball G, Harris R.C., Sale C. Effects of β-alanine supplementation on exercise performance: a meta-analysis. Amino Acids. 2012; 43(1): 25-37.  10.1007/s00726-011-1200-z

Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a NANBF Natural Competitive bodybuilder, a nutrition columnist for “The Collegian,” and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Once Gavin becomes an RD, he will aim to achieve the distinguished Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) credential.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Eating Disorder Awareness and DEED

Trials and tribulations are dealt differently by all.  With varying perspectives and experiences, coping skills vary especially dependent on the situation.  However, one method of coping, disordered eating and/or eating disorders can lead to adverse effects.  Thankfully, the Disordered Eating and Eating Disorders (DEED), a subunit of the Sports, Cardiovascular and Nutrition (SCAN) dietetic practice group (DPG) provides real time information on disordered eating and eating disorders for patients as well as to the general public.

The DEED’s goals and statement include aiding in the prevention of harmful eating behaviors, promotion of recovery from DEED and the development of lifelong healthy attitudes.   Accessing the DEED fact sheets are a great starting point to familiarize oneself with the signs and symptoms of anorexia, bulimia, body image, amenorrhea and a description of the role RDs play in the treatment of DEED.
Don’t hesitate to use the professional and public resources, as well as the treatment providers listed on the website.

The member’s only section provides additional educational materials and access to the “Ask the Doc” Forum.  Take advantage of one on one answers from Dr. Ed Tyson.  

If you’re not a member of SCAN, joining is quick and simple. If you’re already a Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) member.  Simply ask to join SCAN, which will gain access to DEED’s resources and provide a broader system of networking contacts.

In addition, becoming more involved in DEED can be done by contacting any of three volunteer coordinators: Amanda Kirpitch, MA, RD, LDN, CDE; Sarah Gleason, RD or Gena Wollenberg MS, RD, CSSD.  Their contact information can be located here

Monday, June 2, 2014

SCAN Presenter Interview: Dr. Steve Hertzler

The 30th annual SCAN Symposium is quickly approaching! Why should an RD be interested in attending? What will they get out of it? Cutting edge sports nutrition information is one thought to consider. See what presenter, Dr. Steve Hertzler, has to say about his session: The Paleo Diet: From Stone Age to Today’s Athletes.

What topic will you be presenting about at the SCAN symposium this June?
I will be presenting the “Development and Implementation of a Sports Performance Team in a Division 1 University Setting.”  One of my colleagues, Amy Morgan, who is the coordinator for the Exercise Science Program at BGSU and specializes in body composition measurements, will be presenting with me.  We have been involved in the development of a Sports Performance Team at BGSU, which utilizes the services of various professionals on campus.  It began in the fall of 2010 and continues to grow.  It is exciting to work with exercise physiologists, strength and conditioning coaches, sports psychologists, and other professionals to help the athletes compete at a higher level.  The athletes have been great to work with and seem to be open to the information we are providing.  One of the challenges is having regular meetings with the coaches to get them to better understand what all we have to offer as well as the message we are sending to the athletes.

Why do you feel it is essential for sports dietitians to hear the information in your presentation? 
We will be discussing strategies for dietitians who would like to get more involved with sports teams in their area as well as provide some ideas for protocols for sports dietitians who are already working with sports teams at the university level.  From a nutrition standpoint, the Nutrition Coaches, along with dietetic interns, have created many resources for the athletes, including newsletters, brochures, grocery store tours, dining hall tours, and Twitter posts on good refueling ideas in the dining halls.  This session will be a great opportunity for all to share best practices in their schools or universities. 

Can other health professionals who are not dietitians benefit from the information? If so, who?
Amy Morgan, will be presenting with me and she has a lot to offer on body composition as well as exercise physiology support services that her department has provided to athletics.  We are really emphasizing a team approach in order to promote the health and optimal performance of the athletes at BGSU. 

Overall, what is the number one reason you think dietitians should attend SCAN symposium?
Over the years, of all the conferences I have attended, I believe SCAN offers the most useful, practical, science-based information for health professionals.  By empowering people to take control of their lives through health and wellness initiatives, we, as the nutrition experts, help to promote longer and healthier years of living.  What better job is there?

Carrie Hamady is a registered dietitian and is licensed in the state of Ohio.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Community/Medical Dietetics from Viterbo University in La Crosse, WI.  She then attended Slippery Rock University (SRU) in Slippery Rock, PA for graduate school and earned a Masters in Health Promotion with a minor in Exercise Physiology.  This began her work and research with college athletes through her duties at the Sports Nutrition Education Resource Center at SRU.  After leaving SRU, Carrie worked as a clinical dietitian for the majority of her career.  She is currently a full-time instructor at BGSU as well as the Director of the Undergraduate Dietetics Program.  She teaches clinical classes, sports nutrition, and seminar classes for freshmen and senior students.  She is also working on her doctorate in Leadership Studies at BGSU.  Her research interests are in sports nutrition, technology integration in dietetics education, and the use of programmatic learning outcome e-portfolios. Carrie is one of the Nutrition Coaches for BGSU Athletics.  She works with teams and individual athletes at BGSU with a recent focus on low ferritin and vitamin D levels in female runners. 

Join your fellow nutrition professionals at the 30th Annual SCAN Symposium from June 27-29, 2014 at the Sawmill Creek Resort in Huron, Ohio.