Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mix a Little Halloween in your Drink

It’s always a welcome site to see pumpkins popping up everywhere as summer weather makes its exit and cool breezes bring fall. This fall, I have seen pumpkins not only at the grocery stores and craft stores, but in recipes touting its nutritional properties.

Why Pumpkins?

Remember, when choosing foods to eat, that fruits and vegetables with vibrant color are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. The bright orange color of a pumpkin is attributed to an antioxidant called beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is transformed into Vitamin A once it enters the body. Vitamin A won’t necessarily enhance your sport performance, but it will help maintain eye health, promote a healthy immune system, and it is essential for cell growth and development. A well balanced diet full of nutrient rich foods supports a healthy body and healthy immune system…that in turn will help your sport performance when intense training may weaken your defenses.

How can an athlete include pumpkins in their diet?

Pumpkin is paired excellently with milk. Think pumpkin spice latte…or cinnamon spice smoothie with pumpkin…fall in a glass. By now, athletes are learning of the power that milk and yogurt can have after a workout. Milk contains high quality, complete proteins that support growth and repair of muscle, bone and other body tissues. In addition to protein, milk and yogurt contain 8 other essential nutrients that are important for active individuals. To add even more…milk and yogurt also contain carbohydrate that is necessary to help refuel muscles after exercise. If you are an athlete that uses training to help maintain weight, eating a higher protein diet can increase feelings of fullness and help maintain muscle. Enjoy your pumpkin during this fall season and maximize your recovery by mixing it into a smoothie or latte. Happy sipping!

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Makes approximately 4 servings (1 cup)


1 can (15 oz) pureed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups skim milk (add more to adjust consistency)
1/2 cup vanilla Greek yogurt
A dash of Cinnamon
A pinch of nutmeg
Sweetener of choice to taste (try a Stevia blend for lower calories!)

Preparation Instructions

Scoop the pureed pumpkin, milk, and Greek yogurt into a blender. Blend on high until smooth. Add more milk if you would like a thinner consistency. Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and sweetener to your taste preference and blend once more to mix in the flavors. Enjoy 30 minutes to 2 hours after a workout for maximum results!
*Adapted and healthified from the Pioneer Woman
At Home Pumpkin Spice Latte
Makes 1 to 2 servings


2 cups skim milk
2 tablespoons canned pumpkin
1 to 2 tablespoons sweetener of choice
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup of strong brewed coffee or two shots of espresso

In a saucepan whisk together milk, pumpkin and sweetener and cook on medium heat, stirring, until steaming. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla and spice. Using a hand blender or wire whisk, blend the pumpkin mixture until smooth. Stir in brewed coffee, pour into mugs and enjoy! Excellent after a cool morning run. Tip: make the pumpkin and milk mixture ahead of time and store for 1-2 days in your fridge. Heat on low in the microwave before adding coffee.
*Adapted and healthified from

Caroline Sullivan, MS, RD, CSSD, LD is the SD-USA assistant chair for social media. She is a health and wellness program coordinator for Dairy MAX and lives in Houston. Her expertise include sports nutrition, eating disorders, and wellness programming. For those interested in being a part of SD-USA social media, please contact her at

Sources of Information

Protein Summit 2007: Exploring The Impact Of High-Quality Protein On Optimal Health: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2008;87(suppl):1551S–1583S.
University of Illinois Extension. (2013) Pumpkin Nutrition. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from
Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. (2012) Vitamin A. Retrieved October 17, 2013, from

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Mother Was Always Right!

                Time after time, mothers have insisted and in some cases made you eat your fruits and vegetables. And for good reasons! Foods high in polyphenols, such as fruits and vegetables, have been known to demonstrate anti-inflammatory, and anticarcinogenic properties. Well, recently researchers in Italy have provided you with another reason to consume and promote foods high in polyphenols, and that is longevity.
What are Polyphenols?               
                Taking you back to the “loved” days of chemistry classes, polyphenols are characterized by multiple (poly) benzenoid (phenyl) structural units that contain at least one attached hydroxyl group (-OH) similar to alcohols (“ol” suffix).  Polyphenols originate from plant-based foods such as beans, vegetables, fruits, and grains. Common examples include dark chocolate (cacao beans), red wine (grapes) and tea (tea leaves). There are more than 8,000 phenolic compounds identified, most of which are powerful antioxidants which can neutralize free radicals and reduce inflammation.
Foods to Note
                If you have ever steeped your tea too long (like me), you may notice the added astringency. This added “bite,” is mostly due to polyphenols. Below I have provided you with foods and drinks that contain a rich concentration of polyphenols per serving.
Fruits- strawberries, apples, cherry, raspberry.
Vegetables- Spinach, broccoli, red onion.
Seeds- Flaxseed
Nuts- Almonds, walnuts, pecans.
Beverages- Red wine, black and green tea, cocoa.
(Of course for those of age, moderate alcohol consumption is recommended. Meaning two drinks for the gentleman, and one for the ladies)
Dried herbs- Parsley, rosemary, sage, oregano, basil, peppermint.
Oils- Canola oil, extra-virgin olive oil.
***It is essential that you talk to a Registered Dietitian or your physician if you are trying to rebuild your body’s iron stores. Certain polyphenols such as those found in tea or coffee are known to reduce non-heme iron absorption. 
Longevity and Polyphenols
                Nutritional studies in the past that have focused on dietary intake of selected foods are mostly limited to the participant’s memory through questionnaires. That recently changed as researchers in Italy directly measured the dietary intake of polyphenols using a nutritional biomarker (urinary output). The research was published in The Journal of Nutrition, which took approximately 800 men and women ages 65 years and older and had their total urinary polyphenol (TUP) concentration compared for 12 years. Of the approximate 800 participants, 34% died. The participants who survived had significantly higher amounts of total urinary polyphenol. (>650 mg/day) verses participants with lower polyphenol intakes (<500 mg/day). Raúl Zamora Ros, first author of the study, stated “results corroborate scientific evidence suggesting that people consuming diets rich in fruit and vegetables are at lower risk of several chronic disease and overall mortality.” Thus, it is suggested that those whom consume foods high in polyphenol compounds can be associated with decreased mortality and increased longevity.

About the Writer
Gavin Van De Walle is an ISSA Certified Fitness Trainer, a NANBF Natural Competitive bodybuilder, and a dietetic student at South Dakota State University. Following graduation, Gavin will pursue his Ph.D. in nutritional sciences while aiming to make a positive impact on the over well-being and nutritional status of the American people along the way.

1.   Universidad de Barcelona (2013, October 9). High dietary intake of polyphenols are associated with longevity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 12, 2013, from­/releases/2013/10/131009111025.htm
2.   R. Zamora-Ros, M. Rabassa, A. Cherubini, M. Urpi-Sarda, S. Bandinelli, L. Ferrucci, C. Andres-Lacueva. High Concentrations of a Urinary Biomarker of Polyphenol Intake Are Associated with Decreased Mortality in Older AdultsJournal of Nutrition, 2013; 143 (9): 1445 DOI:10.3945/jn.113.177121
3.   Wardlaw, Gordon M., and Carol Byrd-Bredbenner. Wardlaw's Perspectives in Nutrition.New York: McGraw-Hill, 2013. Print.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Not so Rhad: A Rhabdomyolysis Primer

Rhabdomyolysis caught a lot of attention after an article, CrossFit’s Dirty Little Secret, came out from a blog irritating an already polarized fitness population on the popular sport.  But what is the condition and what do exercise and sport enthusiasts need to know?

WebMD defines Rhabdomyolysis as “ a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury.”  Muscle fibers basically breakdown and spill out their contents into your blood stream.  Ouch.  It gets worse.  Your kidneys filter your blood and basically end up in renal failure due to the overdrive. 

What causes rhabdomyolysis?
*illegal drugs
*extreme muscle strain
*a crush injury (auto accident for example)
*high doses of  steroids (prednisone not whatever A. Roid juiced with)
*viral infections like HIV, Herpes Simplex or sepsis  
*muscular diseases/trauma: muscular dystrophy for example or burns (lightning strikes too)

Signs and Symptoms

Muscle weakness, painful, swollen areas of the body, dark-colored urine, confusion, fever should land you in the ER waiting room.  

Treatment includes lab work (creatine kinase) to diagnose the condition and a stint in ICU.

How do you go from sore to the ICU?  Several articles outside of the CrossFit post have been cropping up with the recent trends in intense exercise.   The key is INTENSE.  Not just, "I really pushed myself here" followed by post-workout soreness glory.  

Just last year 6 Ohio State women's lacrosse players had rhabdomyolysis.
From the article, 

"That type of injury is 100 percent avoidable," said Jay Hoffman, president of the National Strength and Conditioning Association from 2009-12. "That should never have happened. That’s absurd. People need to understand that rhabdo is not inherent with training. It’s a good indicator of a training program that is inappropriate."

Also a recent case study from the National Strength and Conditioning Association details a wrestler's battle with rhabdomyolysis:  

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Whey and the Gym

You have been going to the gym for a few months now and are becoming a regular.  Lifting weights is enjoyable for you.  You feel it's time to take your workout to the next level and are planning to either change your body composition, gain muscle mass, or increase your strength.  Now, if you think you can't eat enough protein consistently throughout the day, or are planning to start taking your first supplement - this article is for you!

1.      What is it?
Whey protein is the liquid part of cow's milk that separates from the curds – it happens when we make cheese, for example.  Whey is highly bio-available, digestible and rapidly absorbed by our body.  For those reasons, whey protein easily increases the production of new proteins in our blood and tissues.  In 100g of whey, you may find 414kcal, 80g of proteins, 7g of fats, and 8g of carbohydrates.  But it varies, click here to read more about its composition.  The isolated version doesn't have carbohydrates, fats and lactose.  The hydrolyzed version has a similar composition, but its particles are pre-digested.

2.      What is it for?
Whey proteins are used in a great variety of industrialized foods, such as ice cream, bread, and infant formula.  This supplement is also popular among those who want to not only increase muscle mass, gain strength or improve performance, but also those who look for prevention or treatment of some conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, terminal cancer, colon cancer, allergies, lactose intolerance, obesity, non-induced weight loss, acne, and bone diseases.  Moreover, whey protein has antimicrobial functions and it regulates your immune system.  Although, some of the functions of whey protein related to the prevention or treatment of conditions may require additional in-depth research.  Check this 2011 review here.

3.      Why and how much protein do I need?
Whey is rich in amino acids, such as lysine, tryptophan, cysteine, and isoleucine.  The benefit of muscle mass gains is related mainly to leucine.  If you now exercise regularly, you probably need a greater amount of protein than before.  Protein is used as a source of energy and as a building block for your muscles.  The addition of whey protein to your diet will increase the level of available amino acids in your blood and improve the repairs of your tissues.
Besides, intense exercises, such as lifting weights for hypertrophy, may negatively affect your immunity.  In addition, intense resistance training may also increase the production of toxins (free radicals) in your body and promote the breakdown of your own proteins.  Whey protein will stimulate your immune system and promote antioxidant function, while preserving your proteins – due to its rapid absorption and use by your body.
Research shows, here, that, for maximum muscle hypertrophy to happen, weight lifters need to consume between 1.2-2.0g/kg of body weight of protein every day and 44-50kcal/kg of body weight daily.  It is also recommended, here, to eat between 25-30g of protein in every meal.

4.      What time should I take this supplement and how much of it?
The timing of whey protein consumption have been considered important in research focusing muscle hypertrophy and strength of weight lifters.  In general, whey supplementation before and/or after your workout will increase performance, recovery post-workout, muscle mass, muscle hypertrophy, and strength!
Tipton et al. lead a study with 23 men and women.  The participants took either 1) 20g of casein, 2) 20g of whey, or 3) sweetened water one hour post intense resistance training of their legs. Increases in muscle mass occurred in both groups who took protein, but not on the water group.  This study showed that milk proteins (casein and whey) post intense workout increased protein synthesis (formation).
According to Stark et al, once protein is taken, anabolism (muscle mass gain) is increased for up to 3 hours after the consumption, with a peak of 45-90 minutes.  After 3 hours, this result falls back to the base level.  With this in mind, a protein supplement would have been ideal if taken right after your resistance training to promote the beginning of muscle formation.  It is known that the combination of protein with maltodextrin or glucose is needed, since leucine (present in whey) cannot control muscle synthesis efficiently without the presence of insulin (insulin works by picking up blood sugar and putting it inside the cells to give us energy).  The sooner your ingestion of whey protein after your workout, the better and faster your anabolic response to the exercise.  Take 20-30g of whey with 8.5-10oz of water, skim milk or another type of milk.  Add 50-80g de maltodextrin or dextrose to your drink.

5.      Is this supplement safe?
Whey protein is probably safe for most adults when utilized adequately.  High doses may cause some side effects, such as increase in bowel movements, nausea, thirst, swelling, cramps, appetite reduction, fatigue, and headache.
There is no guaranty of the purity and security of supplements available in the market.  Read more here.  So you must read nutritional labels and look for recommendations by registered sports dietitians.  
Also, if you have any medical condition, or are taking medications, such as those that reduce cholesterol, herbs or other supplements that affect your immunity, you have to talk to a health professional before starting whey protein supplements.  Finally, talk to your doctor immediately if you have any side effects.

Stark et al. Protein timing and its effects on muscular hypertrophy and strength in individuals engaged in weight-training. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition 2012, 9:54

Tipton K, Elliot T, Cree M, Wolf S, Sanford A, Wolfe R: Ingestion of casein and whey proteins result in muscle anabolism after resistance exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc 2004, 36:2073–2081.

​Livia Ly
I'm a health enthusiast and a wellness activist. I'm a dietitian trained in Brazil and also a nutrition grad student in Chicago. Ѽ