Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Is Your Snack Holding You Back? Tips for Packing a Snack Made for an Athlete

Athletes love to snack, but when speaking with young athletes about snacking, the first foods that come to mind are pre-packaged salty snacks and sweet treats. Instead of wanting to know which foods are healthy, which foods they should avoid, and what the healthier alternatives to their favorite snacks are, young athletes often get stuck in the habit of reaching for junk foods in-between meals - that's what everyone is doing! Most active people and young athletes know which foods aren't necessarily healthy without being told. When they're asked what snack foods they reach for, they're usually laughing over Poptarts or Cheetos, but even if that's what everyone else is reaching for, those junk foods aren't made to fuel an athlete's body. Putting the right fuel in our bodies helps us push harder and get stronger in our sport, so even though fruit and nuts aren't cool, those foods are going to make you a better athlete, while those junk foods might be holding you back.

Unhealthy snacking isn't uncommon - snacking has become much more popular and widely accepted, and many people (not just athletes) have moved from eating 3 main meals a day to 5-6 mini meals throughout the day or eating several smaller meals and several snacks per day.

An online poll found:
  • Snack food sales are increasing globally, not just in the U.S. 
  • Many people are snacking at least once per day, and the most popular snacks globally are chocolate and fruit
  • The most popular snack in North America is chips and chocolate
  • People are snacking to satisfy that between-meal hunger they get from 3 square meals...AND people are also eating more snacks to replace meals - instead of regular meals, they might just be grazing throughout the day.
Many athletes, people training for a certain event or race, and very active people may have higher calorie needs and snacking can help those people meet their calorie and nutrient needs...but they shouldn't be replacing a well-rounded vegetable-protein-starch meal with chips and chocolate candy. If athletes are hungry between meals, snacks should be more than just a package of junk foods - snacks are an opportunity add nutrition. Athletes should ask themselves, "How can I make this snack or meal more nutrient-dense?" because every eating opportunity is an opportunity to fuel your body for practice, competition, or recovery.

One athlete asked, "When does a healthy snack become unhealthy?" (Such as adding caramel to apple slices). 

This snack isn't necessarily unhealthy, but caramel, just like any sweet/candy/sugary treat is a "sometimes food". You could lower the amount of sugar in the snack and add some protein and healthy fats (which would make the snack a healthier option) by swapping out the caramel with a healthier side.

For example, you could make your own cinnamon dip with Greek yogurt, peanut butter and cinnamon. You could dip the apples in almond butter or have some cheese slices or hard-boiled egg on the side.

Snacking tips for athletes:

  1. Pairing carbohydrates with protein can increase satiety and keep blood sugar levels even.
  2. Eating protein throughout the day (including that post-workout snack) can help promote muscle protein synthesis. Don't forget the carbs, though! Adequate carbohydrate intake allows your body to spare the protein you eat to promote recovery and build muscle. 
  3. If there's several hours between the snack and your next meal, choose a larger snack with several different food groups, containing protein and healthy fats to hold you over, plus some carbs to give you energy.  
  4. If you just need to be held over for a short time before your next real meal (60-90 minutes), choose a smaller snack (100-200 calories). 
  5. For athletes with a weight  gain goal, larger snacks can act as "mini meals" to help them add calories to your day. Add high-calorie foods such as nuts/nut butter and full fat dairy to snacks and meals. 
  6. For athletes with a weight loss goal, eating smaller snacks and choosing crunchy vegetables and fruit, which have a high water and fiber content can help keep them full.
    •  Crunchy foods usually take a little bit longer to eat, too, so instead of reaching for a 100-calorie bar or packet of snacks, choose vegetables and/or fruit paired with some protein. 
½ - 1 cup Greek yogurt
Apple or banana
1 – 2 Tbsp peanut or almond butter
½ cup oatmeal
2 Tbsp – ¼ cup hummus
1 – 2 slices whole grain toast
10-30 almonds, cashews, walnuts, etc.
½ - 1 bagel
1 piece of string cheese
1 cup raw baby carrots
½ - 1 cup cottage cheese
Wheat crackers (Triscuits, Wheat Thins)
Beef jerky
1 cup berries
¼ - 1 cup edamame
Corn  tortilla
Hardboiled eggs
Sweet potato
Lean deli meat (turkey, chicken, ham, roast beef)
Whole grain cereal
Graham crackers


For more ideas, check out these smart snacking ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!

Strive for excellence in each meal - if you're putting in the work at practice and competition, put some thought into what goes on your plate throughout the day. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

3 Summer Nutrition Goals for Offseason Athletes

During the summer, athletes can go from having a hectic, crazy-busy schedule, to having more time off and less hours spent training. Summer is a great time to relax and recover from a hard year of training, but it is also a great time for athletes to pay closer attention to their diets, getting into a routine of healthy eating that will stick with them throughout the rest of the year.

1. Enjoy different foods by eating seasonally

Summertime fruits and vegetables are readily available at your local farmer's market, and they taste even better when they're in season.

Shopping at the farmer's market is also a great way to branch out and try a new vegetable this summer - pick out a new vegetable, find a recipe utilizing that recipe and make it! The offseason is the best time to do this, because you have more time to branch out and try new foods and recipes.

Athletes tend to fall into habits, eating the same foods during the season day in and day out, so it's important to add some variety to your diet while you can, trying out some new recipes you can fall back on when you're busier during the season.

2. Get in a habit of "food prepping"

One of the biggest complains busy athletes have is that they just don't have enough time to eat healthy throughout the week. Doing some "food prep" one or two days a week is one of the best ways to always have healthy meal and snack options on hand. Take one day to gather ingredients at the grocery store and a few hours to wash and cut vegetables, make grains, cook proteins, and bake will leave you with plenty of healthy options to make meals throughout the week.

Check out this beginner's food prep guide by Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean.

3. Set an off-season body composition goal: maintain, lose, or gain weight without sacrificing performance.

Summer is the off-season for many athletes, so many use this time as a vacation from their training and their  normal healthy diets, leaving them feeling a little sluggish and/or heavy once training starts up again.

The off-season should be a time for rest and recovery, but it's also a good time to make body composition goals without sacrificing training. Even those who just want to maintain weight shouldn't use the summer as an excuse to eat whatever they want, as a decrease in activity and an increase in food can result in unwanted weight gain.

Follow these offseason fueling tips for maintaining weight or making body composition changes, such as adding lean mass or losing weight, during the summer:

Maintaining weight

  • Less activity in the summer means you don't need as many calories or carbohydrates during this summer to reduce weight gain:
    • Reduce carbohydrates on off days, and eat a higher carbohydrate diet on high intensity days. 
    • Decrease portion sizes, especially from desserts, fast foods, creamy sauces and salad dressings
    • Hydrate with water instead of juice or sports drinks

Weight Gain

  • Gaining 0.5 to 1 pound per week is a realistic goal.
  • You add lean mass by increasing calories and providing an adequate training load, meaning you should have a plan to strength train throughout the summer.
  • Eat often throughout the day (every 2-3 hours)
  • Add calorie-dense foods, such as nuts, trail mix, peanut butter, granola, olive oil, avocado, full fat dairy and include beverages with calories, such as milk during meals to add calories to your day.

Weight loss

  • Losing 1-2 pounds per week is a realistic goal.
  • Including protein-rich foods (20-30 grams per meal through lean meat, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans) is a good way to stay satisfied throughout the day and maintain lean muscle mass
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks like sports drinks, soda and juice
  • Don't skip meals to cut calories - instead, front load your diet by eating a substantial breakfast, lunch and snacks during the day when you're most active vs. limiting calories during the day. You may get over-hungry by the end of the day and end up eating more at night than if you stayed satisfied by fueling yourself throughout the day. 

Meeting with a dietitian can help you meet your body composition goals, make a plan for during the season, brainstorm food prep ideas, and perform better during the season. 

Make an appointment to speak with a Sports Dietitian today by calling the Sanford Sports Science Institute Dietitian at 605-312-7878

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Staying Hydrated This Summer in 5 Easy Steps

Summer time is a great time to be active outside while it's sunny and warm...but it's important to stay hydrated!

It's time to move activities outdoors. No matter what the activity is, if athletes are spending time outside being active this summer, they're probably going to get a lot sweatier, making it important that they pay close attention to hydration.

When our bodies get dehydrated, we lose the ability to regulate body temperature, making us susceptible to heat illness. Dehydration also has a negative impact on exercise performance, so starting a workout, practice or game in a dehydrated state means athletes aren't getting the most out of that session and are at a greater risk for heat illness.

If athletes are going to be active/exercising outside, they can follow the steps below to stay hydrated all day long and avoid performance deficits this summer.

5 Easy Steps to Stay Hydrated

1. Find out how much water you should be drinking in a day when you're not active. 

One basic equation for finding out how much fluid you should be drinking in a day is to divide your body weight in pounds by 2, and drink that much fluid in ounces per day. 

For example, a 150 lb. athlete would need 150/2 = 75 ounces of water per day, or 9.5 cups (8-ounce cups) per day. 

Fluids includes drinks other than water (including milk, juice, broth, etc.), but athletes should really be focusing on drinking at LEAST the recommended amount of fluid in pure water per day if they're not active, plus EXTRA for exercise. 

2. Monitor your hydration status.

At the Sanford Sports Science Institute, we encourage athletes to monitor the color of their urine to check on their hydration status. Lighter urine usually means an athlete is properly hydrated, so before going into a practice or game, athletes should make sure they are properly hydrated, especially if they're going to be outside on a hot day. 

3. Add extra fluid for the sweat lost during exercise. 

Athletes who follow the above recommendations will likely get enough water during the day on an inactive day, and go into their workout or competition adequately hydrated, but this doesn't mean they don't have to replace the fluid lost in sweat during their workout. When we sweat, we lose water and electrolytes, making it important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after exercise. 

One tip athletes can follow is to bring their water bottle to every workout and competition and take several large drinks of water at every break they get, or every 10-15 minutes. 

Athletes can also monitor how much weight they lose during a workout or competition by weighing themselves before and after - any more than 2% weight loss indicated inadequate fluid consumption.

After the workout, replace the water lost in sweat by drinking 16-20 ounces of water for every 1 lb. of weight lost. By neglecting to replace the fluid lost during exercise, athletes may go into their next session in a dehydrated state. 

3. Start drinking plenty of water early in the day. 

A great tip for athletes to follow is to drink water right when they wake up, especially if they have a workout later in the day. 

Some recommendations say to drink 2-5 cups of water, several hours before a workout or competition, especially if it is going to be outdoors in the heat.

For many busy athletes, starting the day off with several glasses of water becomes a healthy habit to promote hydration and start the day off on the right food. 

4. Make note of the signs of dehydration and take action early. 

Thirst isn't always the best indicator of when athletes should drink water - sometimes you don't get thirsty until you're dehydrated. Other signs of dehydration include headache, dry skin, dry/sticky mouth, constipation and feeling tired or less energetic than usual. 

If you're experiencing any of those symptoms, drink up! Carry your water bottle with you and refill it several times a day, especially on days where you'll be spending time outdoors in the heat. Some very intense or prolonged (>90 minute) workouts in the heat may require a sports drink or some sort of electrolyte replacement beverage. 

5. Load up on fruits and vegetables!

Summer is the perfect time to load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, which are not only rich in nutrients, but also have a high water content. The foods you eat during the way will contribute to your hydration status, but during the summer, seasonal fruits like watermelon, strawberries, pineapple, zucchini, etc. have a high water content, making them extra hydrating. 

Knowing how much you need to drink throughout the day, monitoring your hydration status, drinking plenty of water early in the day, knowing the signs of dehydration and loading up on water-rich fruits and vegetables are 5 easy steps you can take to stay hydrated, feel good and perform well all summer long!

Sweat testing at the Sanford Sports Science Institute
Find out more by calling 605-312-7878!
Athletes of all ages and from every sport who have access to the Sanford Fieldhouse can get their sweat fluid and electrolyte loss evaluated to receive individual-specific hydration and nutrition recommendations. These recommendations help athletes prepare for, manage, and recover from sweat fluid and electrolyte losses incurred during training or competition. Call today at 605-312-7878 to find out more on how this test would benefit you or your athlete. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Vitamin D for Athletes: Why Athletes Need It to Perform and How to Get Enough

It definitely feels like summer outside, and while the sun is out and shining, it's important to talk about a vitamin we actually get more of by spending time outside - Vitamin D!

Vitamin D comes in 2 forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol), and can be found in foods, supplements, and we get it from sun exposure.

Vitamin D is often known for its important role in bone development and maintenance and deficiency has serious health consequences for bone health. Rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults are the two bone-related diseases caused by severe vitamin D deficiency. Severe deficiency and rickets has become rare in children after milk starting getting fortified with Vitamin D in the 1930's.

Vitamin D plays other roles beyond bone health, though - it has functions in gene expression, muscular function, immunity, wound healing, and cardiovascular health. 

Most people are getting enough Vitamin D to prevent severe deficiency and bone health issues, but modest deficiency is common, and some people who are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency include:
  • People who spend a lot of time indoors during the day
  • People who cover their skin or wear sunscreen at all times when outside
  • People with darker skin
  • People who live in the northern states of the U.S. or Canada (fewer hours of sunlight, and further from the equator)
  • Older people
  • People who are obese

Very few foods are naturally high in vitamin D. 

On the last blog, we mentioned that vitamin D will be listed on the new Nutrition Facts Label in the future because people really aren't getting enough of it. Many foods, such as milk, orange juice, yogurt, and ready-to-eat cereals are actually fortified with vitamin D, meaning it is added during processing, but the foods that are naturally high in vitamin D are rare. 

Those naturally vitamin-D rich foods include fatty fish (salmon, mackeral, tuna), fish liver oils, egg yolks, beef liver, cheese, and some muschrooms.

For many people, sun exposure is their primary source of Vitamin D. 

Ultravoilet-B (UVB) radiation stimulates vitamin D3 to be produced in the epidermis of the skin, but factors such as season, time of day, cloud cover, smog, skin color and sunscreen use effect vitamin D synthesis from UV exposure. 

Some vitamin D researchers have recommended exposing face, arms, legs or back without sunscreen for 5-30 minutes during peak sunlight hours (between 10AM - 3PM) several times per week. This doesn't mean tanning or burning your skin, and less time outdoors is needed in the summer, and this goes against the the Skin Cancer Foundation, who cautions against this sun exposure in order to get Vitamin D - using sunscreen, covering up and limiting sun exposure and UV radiation from tanning beds is important for preventing skin cancer. 

At the end of the day, you can always get Vitamin D through vitamin D-fortified foods and vitamins. 

A blood test for serum concentration of 25(OH)D is the best indicator of vitamin D status, and the Institute of Medicine claims that:
  • People are at risk for deficiency if serum 25(OH)D levels are <30 li="" ml="" ng="" nmol="">
  • Levels ≥50 nmol/L (≥20 ng/mL) are suffient for good bone healthy for almost all individuals

Vitamin D for Athletes

It is estimated that about 1 billion people of all ages are vitamin D insufficient or deficient, and athletes aren't immune to vitamin D deficiency. Studies examining vitamin D status in NFL players have shown that a significant number of players had deficient or insufficient vitamin D levels (especially amongst African American football players), making vitamin D intake a focus for many teams.

Many collegiate and professional sports teams are supplementing their athletes with vitamin D, and providing foods such as fortified cereals to their diets to prevent Vitamin D insuffiency.

We know that  vitamin D plays a role in muscle and cardiovasular function, helps keep bones healthy and strong,  and helps keep immune systems working effectively, so if making an effort to keep vitamin D levels high can keep athletes healthy, it might be worth looking into.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Nutrition Facts Label Got a Makeover: Check Out What's New!

Have you every looked at the Nutrition Facts Label on a product and scratched your head over what it listed as a serving?

For example, who listed a serving of ice cream as ONLY half a cup? Why are there more than one servings listed in a seemingly "snack sized" bag of chips, soda, or granola bar, when a person would likely open the package and eat it all at once?

Those numbers are about to change, as the FDA just finalized the new Nutrition Facts Label, giving a makeover to the 20-year-old Nutrition Facts Label design.

The Sanford Sports Nutrition Blog previously wrote about the proposed new food label when it was developed in 2014, but now the label is finalized, and most food manufacturers will have until July 2018 to switch over to the new label.

Updates to the New Label

  • The calorie count is bigger, and the serving size will be in bold.
  • The serving size is changing reflects a serving that Americans are actually eating (Again, have you actually ever measured out 1/2 a cup of ice cream? Or drank only 1/2 of a bottle of a beverage that says it contains 2 servings?)
  • Added sugars will be added to the label, which shows how much sugar is added to the food during processing (versus sugar found naturally in fruit and dairy products).
  • "Calories from Fat" will be eliminated, as more people need to be focusing on the types of fats they're consuming, not just the amount. (Focus more on healthy fats, avoiding trans fats). 
  • Different daily value percentages for sodium, fiber, and vitamin D to reflect the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines amounts. 
  • Actual amounts of vitamins (versus the old label that only listed percentages) and changes to WHICH vitamins are listed. Vitamin D and Potassium are now listed (instead of Vitamin C and Vitamin A) because the majority of people aren't getting enough of those key nutrients. 
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
In addition, foods that contain between 1-2 servings, or could be eaten up in one sitting (such as a whole bag of microwave popcorn or a pint of ice cream...) will have a dual column label to show the nutrition for one serving and for the whole package.

Old label (Left) vs. New Label (Right)
The Food and Drug Administration

The Nutrition Facts Label is important for active people and athletes, and this "Athlete's Guide to the Nutrition Facts Label" goes through what you should be looking for on the label. The new design should make healthy eating a little easier by being able to choose between comparable products with different nutrition.

Note: As a dietitian who works with athletes, I am excited to see the "Added Sugars" on the label. Many athletes need a diet rich in carbohydrates, but sometimes they're relying on that quick energy from sports bars and drinks to fuel their training and performance, and get stuck in the habit of eating those high-sugar foods all the time, when they should be eating more vegetables, fruits and whole grains and lean protein to fuel themselves outside of training. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 have emphasized how much sugar Americans are eating, including sugar in seemingly "healthy" foods like whole grain cereals or yogurts. This added part of the new label makes it easier to compare packaged products and choose more nutritious options!

What do you think of the new label?

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Beetroot Juice: Can it Help You Perform Better?

It seems as though the newest trend in the exercise community is drinking beetroot juice as a supplement to improve exercise tolerance.

What are the benefits of drinking beetroot juice before competition?

Beetoot juice (and beets in general) are rich in nitrates, which are commonly found in many vegetables, fruits and grains. Nitrates can also be found in cured meats like salami, bacon, and hotdogs, as nitrate is added to preserve color and prevent growth of bacteria, but the danger in these cured meat nitrate sources are that the nitrate is more likely to be turned into nitrite and then nitrosamines, which are cancer-causing chemicals. (This is probably where you heard that nitrated are harmful!) The reason nitrate-rich fruits and vegetables are a better option is because most of them are also rich in Vitamin C, which is an inhibitor to the nitrosamine conversion.

Endurance athletes like runners, swimmers, divers, rowers, triathletes and cyclists are finding that drinking beetroot juice supplements as a form of nitrates may be able to give them a competitive edge. When we drink beetroot juice or take nitrate supplements, the nitrate is converted into nitrite and ultimately nitric oxide (NO) in the blood.

Nitric oxide plays an important role in blood flow regulation, mitochondrial efficiency, and other physiological functions, so beetroot supplementation can have positive effects on exercise performance through:
  • Decreasing blood pressure
  • Reducing workload of the heart
  • Increasing oxygen delivery throughout the body (muscle oxygenation)
  • Increasing power output
  • Improving time to exhaustion and time trial performances
With this decrease in aerobic energy cost, athletes should be able to physically exert themselves longer before fatigue sets in, which is good news for athletes who want to gain a competitive edge in a safe way.

How to increase blood nitrate levels

Fruits and Vegetables that are High in Nitrate:

  • Vegetables are much higher in nitrates than fruits, and include lettuce, beets, carrots, green beans, spinach, parsley, cabbage, radishes, celery, collard greens 
  • Some fruits that contain higher levels of nitrates includes strawberries, currents, gooseberries, raspberries, cherries
Beetroot juice may be a better option for athletes to drink before performance rather than eating hundreds of grams of nitrate-rich vegetables (huge spinach, carrot, beet smoothie, anyone?), mostly because the juice doesn’t have all that dietary fiber that the whole vegetables do, so it decreases the chances of GI distress and feeling overfull before  a competition.

~300 mg of nitrates

When compared to other nitrate-containing foods, though, drinking beetroot juice seems like the way to go!

In order to maximize on the beetroot juice’s effects, it is recommended that 5-7 mmol of nitrates (500 mL or ~2 cups of beetroot juice) be consumed 3-4 hours before exercise to allow plasma nitrite to be at its peak during exercise performance. They also make 70 mL beetroot shots, which are condensed down to contain the same amount of nitrates as a larger portion of beetroot juice.

This high nitrate state lasts for the next 6-8 hours and blood levels return back to normal after about 24 hours. Many studies have shown that even short-term supplementation (around 5-6 days of drinking the juice) will give the results that athletes are looking for!

Written by: Ashley Beaner, SDSU Dietetics Student

Have you tasted beetroot juice? 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Guest Post: Coffee’s Place in the Workout Regimen...Yes, Has a Place!

Coffee drinkers in the US are averaging about 2 cups of coffee a day (~200 mg caffeine), with 10% of the population consuming more than 1000 mg of caffeine per day.

Coffee, and caffeine in general, has had a bad reputation in the past...but research shows that it can have many benefits during exercise, such as:  

  •  Ability to train at a higher power output (train harder)
  •  Increased speed
  •  Ability to train for a longer period of time (more endurance)
  • Ability to resist muscle fatigue
Common coffee-alternative forms of caffeine ingestion are pre-workout formulas or caffeine pills. Many of the ingredients in the pre-workout supplements are used to increase blood flow, heart rate, and focus, which is intended to help athletes feel energized before going into a workout. Unfortunately, the claims made on the supplement label are often times just a bunch of hype: 
  • There are no direct energy sources coming from the B-vitamins packed into a pre-workout formula and the excess that is being consumed is excreted from the body. 
  • All of the amino acids, vitamins, and minerals in these supplements can be obtained naturally through the diet and will prove to be an inexpensive way to get the same results. 
  • If you are trying to supercharge your workout, the safest and best option is always to choose natural sources first!
Another downside to excessive caffeine intake is that it can cause gastrointestinal issues, nausea, tremors, and over-stimulation that affects sleep cycles, and can cause anxiety. Therefore, some things to carefully consider for optimal performance results are: timing, form, and amount of caffeine consumed.

In addition, for student athletes, it's important to know that caffeine is actually a banned substance by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and consuming it in great amounts (if amounts in urine exceed 15 micrograms/mL) can result in a positive drug test. Many of those pre-workout supplements contain the same amount of caffeine in 4 cups of coffee, so it's important to be aware of how much athletes use. 

Some nutrition supplements do not disclose the amount of caffeine in their product or may contain other illegal/detrimental stimulants that you are not aware of, so make sure to do you research on what you put into your body.

This is the general rule for ALL dietary supplements - there is no government regulation on supplemental facts like there are on a food product's nutritional facts, so it is important to do research on any dietary supplements.

If you choose to drink coffee/caffeine to impact performance, be smart and use these helpful hints:

·         Consume about 1-3 mg of caffeine per pound of body weight
·         Consume caffeine 1 hour before cardiovascular endurance training
·         Caffeine can be consumed up to 20 minutes before high-intensity training
·         Find natural caffeine sources first!
                     Photo by SCAN/CPSDA Registered Dietitians

Thank you!

Ashley Beaner
Dietetics Student at SDSU