Friday, March 6, 2015

Bite Into A Healthy Lifestyle, National Nutrition Month


National Nutrition Month is celebrated every year in March. It' s main focus is to help educate people on the importance of healthy eating habits as well as a healthy lifestyle. This years theme is "Bite into a healthy lifestyle". The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains: "consuming fewer calories, making informed choices and getting daily exercise are key to maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your risk of chronic disease and promoting your overall health".

As athletes, you have the exercise part down (unless you are sitting around and doing nothing during off season, which I doubt). In addition, some of you may need more calories to help with weight gain. Nonetheless, here are some tips to promote overall health:

  • Focus on more vegetables and fruits. Consume at least 5 servings a day but try to reach 7-9 servings. More produce will help fight inflammation and promote immune function. Refer to previous article on how to incorporate more vegetables in your diet.
  • Make at least 50% of your grains whole grains. Whole grains help us feel fuller for a longer period of time. It helps lower cholesterol as well as prevent certain cancers. Moreover, it helps keep us regular and contains most of the B vitamins. Good examples are: quinoa, farro, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, rye, wild rice, bulgur and more. 
  • Limit or avoid concentrated sweets such as soda, cookies, cakes, candy, etc. Concentrated sweets promote inflammation. Chronic inflammation will hurt recovery and can even cause injury. Moreover, chronic inflammation has been associated with multiple risk factors including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and more.
  • Stay hydrated. Roughly, you should consume half your weight in oz (example; 180 lbs athlete should consume at least 90 oz fluids). This does not include the losses from exercise. Weigh yourself before and after practice, for every pound lost, drink about 20-24 oz. Prefer water but based on your day and practice time/intensity, it may be necessary to consume sports drinks. Remember, everything that is liquid counts including: tea, coffee, water, juice, sports drinks, soup, milk and smoothies.
  • Snack wisely. Choose healthy snacks to help you meet your goals. It helps to plan ahead if you know you will have large gaps between meals, practice and classes. Healthy snacks can be: trail mix, cheese sticks, fruit, yogurt, jerky, etc. 
  • Don't eliminate nutrients. As an athlete, all nutrients are important. Whether its carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vegetables, fruits or dairy. They all serve an important purpose for performance, recovery and health.
  • Focus on healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and tahini. 
  • Limit or avoid fried fatty foods such as: fried chicken, fries, pizza, wings, etc. Similar to concentrated sweets, they promote inflammation. 
  • Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation (=1 serving for women and 2 servings for men). There are many detrimental effects of alcohol on performance as well as health. Refer to previous article for more information. 

Whether many habits need to be changed or just a few, don't do it temporarily. Healthy habits should be for life. For assistance, refer to your local registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Help celebrate this month by also saying thank you to any RDN you know on March 11th, which is RDN day.

Happy & Delicious National Nutrition Month!


Friday, February 27, 2015

Did You Know?! We Do Many Things At SSSI

The Sanford Sports Science Institute offers many services besides just research and nutrition consults. We have state of the art facilities that allow us to work as a multi-disciplinary team to help athletes of all levels and ages as well as active individuals reach their goals. Whether its achieving a new PR or getting back to exercise post injury, we can assist.
Here are the services we provide, with a full description:

This is a comprehensive functional and biomechanical evaluation, as well as a rehabilitation and consultation service, for anyone who is looking to improve his/her running performance or with lower body musculoskeletal injuries. The analysis is performed on a Zebris® Force and Pressure Distribution platform that is integrated on a high-end h/p/cosmos® treadmill to analyze foot pressure, impact forces, roll-off and other gait parameters during walking and running. High-speed video cameras (100 fps) are used in conjunction with the Simi Aktisys automated motion-capture system to provide precise, quantitative biomechanical assessments for real-time biofeedback and off-line evaluation. Each athlete receives a personalized performance plan, including specific stretching and strengthening exercises, shoe/orthotic recommendations and corrective exercise techniques. Our expert professionals work one-on-one with the athlete to develop an individualized program to help achieve his/her specific performance goals.

Cyclists and triathletes can optimize their pedal stroke via a comprehensive computerized analysis on their bikes using the RacerMate® CompuTrainer™. The spin-scan evaluation calculates bi-lateral cycling efficiency of the leg musculature, as well as left vs. right power split and average torque angle. The individualized analysis also includes instantaneous, average and peak power output, revolutions per minute and speed.

Sport-specific nutrition interventions can help an athlete maximize power and endurance, as well as overall health and performance. The intervention begins with a 3-day dietary analysis, including an assessment of daily eating patterns, training dietary habits and nutrition tactics used during training and competition, including preparation and recovery. Through a one-on-one consultation with our sports dietitian, individualized strategies to maximize training and performance are developed. The dietitian also helps the athlete accommodate any specific allergies or chronic health conditions he/she may have. The goal is to help each athlete effectively fuel his/her body for optimal performance and health.

Determining an athlete’s REE, or roughly the minimum number of calories the body needs each day to function properly at rest, is extremely important when trying to personalize one’s nutrition and fitness strategies. Body composition (relative percentage of body fat and lean body mass) and REE are closely linked to one another and provide a foundation for establishing an athlete’s nutrition and fitness goals. Body fat percentage is estimated from multiple skin fold measurements and REE is determined from measuring oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange while at rest.

This is an individual evaluation of an athlete in a specific environment using a temperature, humidity, and exercise intensity that elicited performance or health problems (for example, premature fatigue, heat exhaustion or muscle cramps) or to simulate upcoming training or competition conditions. Sweat fluid and electrolyte (sodium, potassium and chloride) losses are determined and cardiovascular and thermal strain (heart rate, core body temperature and physiological strain index) are evaluated. Individual-specific hydration and dietary strategies are provided, so that each athlete can more optimally prepare for, manage and recover from sweat fluid and electrolyte losses incurred during training or competition.

This is an evaluation of an athlete’s current tolerance to exercising in the heat. Athletes should consider having this test performed if he/she has had a heat-related illness, especially exertional heat stroke, or a long period of no exposure to the heat. This test can also be used to evaluate an athlete’s thermal and cardiovascular responses while wearing a particular clothing or uniform configuration during physical activity.

One or more athletes are evaluated during training, practice or competition for hydration status (pre- and post-session), fluid intake and sweat fluid and electrolyte (sodium, potassium and chloride) losses.
Individual-specific hydration and dietary strategies are provided to help each athlete more optimally prepare for, manage and recover from fluid and electrolyte losses incurred during training and competition. Thermal strain (core body temperature, heart rate and physiological strain index) can be monitored in selected individuals.

VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake) is the best measure of an athlete’s cardiorespiratory fitness. Also referred to as aerobic capacity, VO2max reflects the body’s ability to deliver and use oxygen to meet the energy demands of exercise. A high aerobic capacity is especially important in endurance-type activities (for example, distance running, cycling and swimming); however, it is also important to enhance recovery between brief intermittent bouts of high-intensity activity in other sports (such as soccer, tennis, basketball and football) during practice and competition. This is a progressive incremental exercise test using a treadmill or exercise bike, depending on the athlete’s primary sport or preference.

Lactate threshold (LT) reflects the exercise intensity at which the concentration of lactate in the blood increases sharply. LT is a very good predictor of sustained endurance capacity and performance and is also helpful in determining an athlete’s appropriate training intensity zones. A high LT is especially important in endurance-type activities (e.g. distance running, cycling and swimming). Tracking changes in LT can assist an athlete in assessing the effectiveness of his/her training over several months. This is a progressive, incremental workload exercise test using a treadmill or exercise bike, depending on the athlete’s primary sport or preference.

The Sanford Sports Science Institute can meet with coaches, support staff (e.g., athletic trainers and administrators) and teams to discuss sport-specific training and competition challenges and nutrition/hydration needs that can help athletes optimize training, performance and recovery. A particular emphasis is placed on the challenges and solutions to training and competing optimally in the heat, while reducing the risk for heat- and fluid/electrolyte-related problems (e.g., muscle cramps, pre-mature fatigue, exhaustion and hyponatremia).

On our website you can find all this information as well as videos explaining some of the tests more thoroughly. Moreover, we have great education materials you are welcome to print and/or share with your coaches, teams, children and friends. For more information and/or to book our services, feel free to call us at (605)-328-4750. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Leek

The leek is a vegetable that is a part of the onion and garlic family. In fact, it's one of the more subtle tasting versions of the onion. It looks like a wide light green stem which is actually a cylinder shaped bundle of leaf sheaths. It can be steamed, sauteed and even eaten fresh. However, its most commonly used to make broth. The season is between October and May

Nutritionally, leeks are low in calories and rich with polyphenols which are potent anti-oxidants that help protect against oxidative damage. Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin K (the vitamin that is involved with blood clotting) and a very good source of folate, B6, copper, manganese and iron. Moreover, leeks are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, magnesium and calcium. All these micronutrients help keep a healthy immune system as well as help with multiple metabolic processes that relate also to physical performance. Since leeks taste sweeter than onions, many people once they try it, prefer leeks over onions. Leeks are typically cut into rounds (see picture above). White areas and light green areas are the ones that are typically eaten, however, you can eat the dark green areas as well. The dark green areas are just thicker and might require slightly more cooking.
Here are some ideas of what to do with leeks:
  • Leek and potato soup
    1 Tbsp butter or olive oil
    3 leeks sliced into rings
    5 medium sized red potatoes peeled and diced
    5-6 cups of chicken or vegetable broth
    1 tsp thyme (or 0.5 tsp dried)
    1 tsp marjoram (or 0.5 tsp dried)
    Salt and pepper per taste
    1-2 bay leafs

    1. In pot put oil or butter and melt on low heat. Add leeks and stir for about 8-10 minutes or until soft
    2. Add diced potatoes and all seasonings and continue to stir for about 10 minutes
    3. Add broth and bring to a boil. Cover partially and let cook on low heat for about 30 minutes
    4. You can serve as is or puree in a food processor/blender
    5. Feel free to garnish with creme fresh, heavy cream, basil, dill or scallions
  • Sauteed leek and green beans
    1 Tbsp olive oil
    2 leeks sliced into rings
    1 tsp of minced garlic
    3 cups of fresh or frozen green beans
    Salt and pepper to your liking
    1 tsp of dried Italian seasoning

    1. In a deep pan heat oil on medium heat and add leeks. Stir for 5-10 minutes or until leeks are soft and almost translucent
    2. Add garlic and stir for 3-4 minutes
    3. Add green beans and seasonings. Saute until green beans are soft and ready to eat
    4. Serve warm
  • Here are some interesting recipes that are not just leek soup
  • You can add leeks to your omelette, grits or hash browns in the morning 
  • Leeks can also be put on pizza and in a quiche. Here is a simple & healthy quiche recipe
Hope this gives you great ideas to just pick up a leek from the grocery store. Its fairly cheap and located next to the refrigerated root vegetables and herbs. Happy cooking and let me know below how it goes.

Pic from

Friday, February 6, 2015

Good Websites or Blogs to Get Recipes

Many people go on to college with no skills in the kitchen, or limited skills such as making a sandwich and scrambled eggs. Even in college, we may have a food plan so we go eat at the dinning halls 2-3 times a day or/and have random microwave meals, eat out or bake hot pockets/pizza. As athletes, we need to take care of our bodies to help heal and recover from our activities with food and/or drinks, which at times can be missed due to the lack of ability or willingness to cook. Some think it is really hard to cook or that it's too time consuming. However, I believe that if you can read, you can cook and it can be easy and simple. To help out, here is a list of websites and blogs that have easy, healthy and simple recipes:

  • I am a big fan of the Nutrition Blog Network - they have a list of many different blogs written by registered dietitians. Every blog concentrates on something else such as sports nutrition. Moreover, the majority of them have great and easy recipes to follow. Find one you like and follow. Here is just one example: I.Run.On.Nutrition - She has many recipes you can try. 
  • Minimalist Baker - Is a new find for me and I love it. This couple basically created a website with many recipes that are easy and very simple to make with most of them taking less than 30 minutes. They also have a section of recipes with 7 ingredients or less. I actually bought the recipe book which is great.
  • NR website - has really great simple recipes with minimum amounts of ingredients with stunning visuals to show you how each step is made. Most of the recipes are also quite low budget. Note; the website has a lot more to offer but I can not attest to the quality of the other areas in this website as I have not examined it yet.
  • Cooking Light - This is also one of my favorites, mainly because you just need to decide what ingredients you have and tada, you get multiple ideas of what to do with those ingredients.
    The issue is that sometimes a recipe can be complicated and contain multiple ingredients that you can't even pronounce. Here is an actual article on healthy budget recipes. 
  • Interestingly enough the United States Department if Agriculture (USDA) has a cool "Whats Cooking?" website with MANY recipes and you can choose based on what you need to get more of (e.g. more vegetables....), the course, type of cuisine, type of equipment and even if you need low budget (SNAP program). The recipes are very simple and easy to make. Some of these recipes were even created by children.
  • My Sports Nutrition - A great resource to get sports nutrition information in general that also has a collection of cheap recipe eBooks (as cheap as $9.99) that you can choose
    based on the meal you desire (breakfast, lunch or dinner) as well as a full shake recipe book. All books and My Sports Nutrition are written and run by fellow registered dietitians that specialize in sports. 
  • Poor Girl Eats Well - Is a blog written by a young woman that has medical issues that require her to eat healthy but is on a very tight budget and yet finds a way to eat and cook healthy. She shares her $25 week grocery cart as well as multiple easy recipes. She also puts a price tag on each one of the recipes, which is quite helpful if you are on a tight budget. 
These are just a few that you can use but i'm sure there are many more. Remember, all you have to do is just buy the ingredients and follow the recipe. Once you figure out some basic dishes you like, you can start playing with the ingredients and experimenting. Don't fear the kitchen! it's actually quite pleasant once you get the hang of it. Whats cool is you will benefit from it the most, not only in your wallet but also with your health and energy levels.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

"How Dieting Makes the Lean Fatter" (Article Review)

In athletics, there is much focus on body fat percentage and weight. Whether it's to lose weight, gain weight or maintain weight everyone puts a lot of emphasis on these numbers, especially in the weight sensitive sports (wrestling, gymnastics, etc.). Many athletes restrict their diet to lose weight so they can possibly run faster, jump higher or push harder but do they really need to lose weight? Are they doing more harm than good? Are they losing the weight the right way?
A recent review published in Obesity Reviews found that lean people that restricted eating (dieting) to lose weight ended up not only gaining back the weight, but actually gaining more fat and weight compared to where they started. Interestingly, the leaner the person the more effect it had on fat and weight gain. Moreover, a single episode of dieting or more in adolescents increased the risk of becoming overweight by 3-5 times by the time they reached young adulthood when compared to non-dieters. So, if someone was dieting or "weight cycling", the leaner they were the more odds they had of gaining weight and possibly becoming overweight or obese. Gaining more fat and weight compared to what was initially lost is defined as "fat overshooting".
weight loss, Dr Gary Mendoza, LEAN Man System, diet, mens health, nutrition
Taken from

The article notes that as the energy intake decreases (semi-starvation) and there is loss of fat mass (FM), there is also a loss of fat free mass (FFM = muscle, water and bone). When re-feeding occurs and weight is gained back, it takes more time to regain FFM compared to FM. This in turn causes what we call hyperphagia (abnormal increase in appetite to help reach previous levels of FFM). However, at that point FM is back to where it was before weight loss. By the time FFM is completely restored, FM has increased significantly. The leaner the individual is initially, the higher the fat overshooting will be (more FM). Higher FM is a result no one would want from "weight loss".
This article is a wake up call to those who are trying to lose weight when they shouldn't or to individuals that are over restricting their intake, especially if they are at a normal weight. Dieting or weight cycling can be detrimental not only to your body composition but also to your health. If weight loss is needed or if you are considering it, consult with a sports registered dietitian or a medical professional.

Dulloo AG, Jacquet J, Montani JP, Schutz Y. How dieting makes the lean fatter: from a perspective of human body composition autoregulation through adipostats and proteinstats awaiting discovery. Obes Rev. 2015 Feb;16 Suppl 1:25-35      

Friday, January 16, 2015

The Rutabaga

The majority of people have no idea what a rutabaga is. In fact, they may even have a hard time pronouncing it (pronounced root-a-bayga). A rutabaga is actually a cross bread between a turnip and a cabbage. It is a root vegetable that can be eaten raw or cooked. Originally, it was used to feed cattle, however, today it is used by many in salads, stews, pastries or just as a baked side dish. Rutabaga is in season from October to April but you can probably find it year round.
Nutritionally, rutabagas are high in fiber, have no fat or cholesterol, are low in calories, are an excellent source of vitamin C and are a good source of potassium, zinc and vitamin A which are all important for performance. Rutabagas taste slightly sweet and peppery. They can be stored for a long time in the fridge (about 2-3 weeks) or about 1 week in the pantry. They have a waxy exterior and that is mainly to keep the moisture. This exterior needs to be peeled off before eating. Many people will use rutabagas instead of potatoes since they contain more fiber and slightly less carbohydrates per serving. Meaning, you can mash it, bake it, boil it, stir-fry it and even fry it.
Here are some ideas of what to make with these lovely roots:
As you can see it is very versatile and can be a part of your main entree or as a side dish. With so many health benefits and uses as well as the ease of buying it and its price, I highly suggest trying this great vegetable. 

Friday, January 9, 2015

Paleo Diet for Athletes (Article Summary)

Not long ago I heard this great presentation from a fellow RD (Steve Hertzler PhD, RD) about the Paleo diet (caveman diet) for athletes. Since the Paleo diet has been such a popular topic in the past several years, I decided why not share the wealth of information with you. Here is a summary of his talk and article from SCAN's Pulse. He reviews and references The Paleo Diet for Athletes by Loren Cordain and Joe Freel as they paved the way for this diet in the past decade.

First lets try and define the paleo diet: It's typically defined as the diet that was available in the paleolithic era which was in the pre-agricultural period between 2.5 million to 10,000 years ago. However, different regions had different diets during those times which means there was no one paleolithic diet. Books on Paleo state that humans should not have dairy products nor grains/legumes, since they did not exist in that era, but have a diet rich with meat/fish, vegetables and fruits, low in starches and only natural sources of sugar. The theory is that our "human genome was developed based on this diet" and by sticking to it we decrease risk of multiple chronic diseases and improve human performance. However, some of the science shows otherwise; anthropologists have evidence that during that era there was more reliance on starches and tubers. Moreover, research shows that our guts have evolved and continue to evolve since 10,000 years ago allowing us to digest many foods not present during that era. Lastly, to replicate that exact diet is quite impossible since most of the foods we currently have (meats, produce, fats) are very different than what they had back then. 

Pros about the diet and book:  
  • The diet promotes eating less refined carbohydrates and more fruits and vegetables
  • Lean meats (including game) are recommended
  • Adequate fish (containing omega 3) is highly encouraged
  • Healthy fats are important
  • Timing is important when it comes to performance
  • For recovery, combination of carbs and protein is important post exercise
Cons about the diet and book:
  • Elimination of several food groups (e.g. grain, dairy) leads to limited variety which in turn could cause defeciencies
  • Interestingly, alcohol in moderation is permitted (I wonder what caveman drank alcohol?!)
  • The book itself only addresses endurance athletes, not power nor strength athletes
  • To date, there are not many studies on the Paleo diet in athletes. The studies that have been done were done on mainly obese and sick individuals (heart disease, diabetes) which have seen improvements in body composition and health markers (blood lipids, blood sugar). Athletes are very different than obese individuals
  • In the book there are multiple exceptions to meet the high carbohydrate demands of the endurance athlete. If there are so many exceptions are they really eating Paleo?!
  • "The diet is nutritionally inadequate, expensive and impractical". Studies show that the diet would lack calcium, Iron and fiber recommendations as well as cost 9.3% more annualy
  • "Acid ash theory states that by eating a diet high in grains and dairy we produce a high acid load on the body and the body must remove calcium from the bone to buffer the load." The more the food is acidic the more we are supposed to see calcium in the urine. However, urine pH does not represent blood pH as it stays more or less the same. Moreover, there is no evidence indicating that high calcium levels in the urine mean that there is less calcium in the bone or a decrease in calcium balance
  • Some of the research quoted by the authors for "avoiding certain foods such as potatoes, peanuts and canola oil are misinterpreted and taken out of context"
  • The authors mention that the Paleo diet is the best. However, currently, the people that live the longest (to about 100 years of age) eat meat infrequently and their diet is based on grains or starch
In summary, the Paleo diet promotes certain healthy habits that are worth keeping such as limiting processed foods, eating fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and lean meats. However, by adding dairy, legumes and grains in your diet you can have a more complete varied and healthy nutrition plan to promote your activity.