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Nutrition 101 for Student-Athletes

29 Oct

School days are often long days for student-athletes — early mornings, late evenings, and lots of activity during the day.  This can present some challenges, as it relates to nutrition.

The “3 square meals” philosophy is an antiquated notion for everyone, most of all active individuals and athletes.  It takes a little planning and preparation, but it’s important to keep your body adequately fueled throughout the day, and that means eating (meals and/or snacks) frequently and avoiding prolonged periods between meals and/or snacks.  (Please refer to my blog post, 6 Simple Nutrition Rules for Athletes)

There are two times of day that are especially important to ensure that you’re fueling your body:

  • Mid-morning, between breakfast and lunch.  Many student-athletes have 5-6 hours between breakfast and lunch — too long.  A mid-morning snack can help bridge the nutrition gap between the first two meals of the day.
  • After-school, between lunch and dinner.  Many student-athletes eat lunch between 11 AM and 12 Noon.  Because of after-school practices, games, etc., they may not have the opportunity to eat dinner until 6 PM or later — way too long.  An after-school snack (or small meal) can provide the body with the energy it needs for rigorous, high-intensity after-school activity, while bridging the nutrition gap between lunch and dinner.  (Please refer to my blog post, Bridging the Nutrition Gap Between Lunch and Dinner for the Scholastic Athlete)

Set yourself up for success and take care of your body by eating smart.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Fat is not the Enemy

22 Oct

A few decades ago, “low-fat” and “fat-free” were all the rage.  The “experts” decided that dietary fat reduction would reduce obesity and heart disease.  Even the American Heart Association got behind this initiative.

Ironically, obesity rates and heart disease prevalence did not improve with a low-fat diet and, in fact, got worse.  That’s because eating fat doesn’t make us fat, but carbs and sugars do.  And, unfortunately, words like “low-fat” and “fat-free” often translate to “loaded with sugar.”

Additionally, our “super-size” mentality doesn’t help (nor does a sedentary lifestyle).  Portion control (or lack thereof) — overeating — remains a significant challenge in our country.

I’m not suggesting that we should increase our fat consumption, especially people who have health risks like high cholesterol, but certainly awareness and education are warranted.

Here’s an article — 5 Reasons why you need more fat in your diet — that provides some perspective.  Ultimately, fats and carbs have a different effect on the body and its propensity to store fat, and eating fat won’t necessarily make us fat; all fats (saturated, unsaturated) are not created equal; and moderation is still the key.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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7 Coffee Facts You Need to Know

8 Oct

Apparently, Saturday, September 29 was National Coffee Day.  I missed it.

I’ve touted the benefits of coffee and caffeine in past articles and blog posts (Please see Coffee, Caffeine, and Exercise, among others).  Here’s an informative article from The Ladders’ Meredith Lepore.  Read it with your daily cup of java.

It seems like every day there is a new study telling us either that coffee is slowly killing us, making us healthier, making us smarter, making us dumber, helping us grow wings, etc., However there are a number of studies that have come out recently that reveal some very interesting facts about your daily cup of joe. In honor of National Coffee Day, this Saturday, check out these 7 facts about coffee.

It can make everyone you work with so much more appealing

A recent study that appears in the Journal of Psychopharmacology finds that if you have coffee before a conversation it will actually make you focus better and feel better about the people you are talking to. “The study was conducted using people who consume coffee regularly,” said study author Vasu Unnava. “For these people, it looks like coffee does make them feel more alert, focuses their thinking on the topic or task at hand, and has them participate more in group tasks. So, if you are a coffee drinker, it looks like coffee helps you do better in group tasks.”

The ideal time to drink coffee is actually four hours after you wake up

Though many of us can only get out of bed on the basis of knowing that a hot cup of coffee will be running through our bloodstreams within the hour, that is not actually when you should drink it if you want to maximize the benefits of caffeine. According to Laura Cipullo, registered dietitian and author of Women’s Health Body Clock Diet, you should have your first cup about four hours after you wake up. You are actually naturally alert when you wake up (even though it doesn’t feel like it) because your cortisol levels are high. So drinking caffeine on top that status is just going to make the drop even harder a few hours later.

It will extend your lifespan

In a study of 9 million British male and female adults, coffee drinkers had a slightly lower risk of death over 10 years (10 to 15%) than those who didn’t drink it regularly according to study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. Another study that took place over 10 years found that people who had four cups of coffee per day had a 64% lower risk of dying during the study than those who never drank it.

It won’t dehydrate you

Though coffee gets a bad rap it will not dehydrate you! Caffeine can keep you more hydrated than other liquids because you are usually drinking it with a volume of fluid like iced coffee or tea. A 2014 study found that there was zero evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake.

It can help you lose weight

According to a study out of the Netherlands, caffeine can increase your metabolic rate by as much as 11% and only three hours after you consume it.

It helps with memory

In addition to making you more alert, it can help you improve your memory according to a French study. But the best way to reap the memory benefits are by drinking it black (no sugar, creamer, etc.,) In addition to helping with memory it also can make you more intelligent, cleanse your gut, help your heart, improve your workouts, etc.

It can fend off diseases

A new study from the Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center found that consumption of coffee (both regular and decaf) is associated with a lower risk of developing colon cancer. Another study found that coffee can have some preventative qualities against type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It can even fight against the onset of Parkinson’s.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What Constitutes a Healthy Diet?

10 Sep

When it comes to healthy dietary recommendations, there’s a lot of conflicting information from the world of medical science.  To complicate matters, there are about a zillion books, documentaries, and news reports that attempt to provide us with nutritional “advice.”

Despite a plethora of differing opinions from the “experts,” there is an issue on which they agree: Our country has an alarming obesity problem.  About 1 in every 4 health care dollars are spent combating the resulting side effects of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.

Physical activity is a big part of the solution.  Regular exercise is good medicine, both as prevention and treatment.

Diet and nutrition are the complement to exercise.  Here’s some sound nutritional advice for the masses (and about as close to a consensus as the experts get):

  • Eating fat doesn’t make you fat.  The importance of reducing fat intake is a myth, and was never supported by any good evidence.  All it did was make people rush to replace fat with carbs.
  • Some fats are better than others.  Unsaturated fats — like those found in olive oil, nuts, and legumes — are good choices.  Too much saturated fat (red meat, cheese, butter) can be bad.  Trans fats, sometimes listed on food labels as “partially hydrogenated oils,” should be avoided.
  • Choose your calories wisely.  Some forms of calories make you store fat more readily than others, and refined carbohydrates — white rice, pasta, crackers, cookies, candy — are at the top of that list.
  • A protein-rich diet may or may not be good for you.  If you’re physically active and eat lean protein sources (chicken and fish), it’s a good thing.  If you’re sedentary, it’s just a lot of extra calories from another source.
  • Sugar is bad, especially when you drink it.  Sugary beverages — even one a day — raise your risk of diabetes and obesity.  Sugar has adverse metabolic effects and virtually zero nutritional benefit.
  • Your body needs variety to function properly.  Every day, you should eat an assortment of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole-grains, and healthy fats.  Whole foods are better than supplements.  Aim for balance.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Upgrade Your Diet With Blueberries

20 Aug

Several months ago, I published a blog post encouraging readers to Eat Protein and Produce at Every Meal.  Eating lots of produce — fruits and vegetables — is beneficial to our health and wellness.

Some fruits, such as blueberries, are higher in nutrients than others.  Blueberries actually contain more antioxidants than any other fruit.  Antioxidants help prevent damage to the body’s cells and strengthen its immune system.

Some of the health benefits of eating blueberries include:

  • Very rich in vitamins C, B complex, E, and A
  • Also rich in minerals like selenium, zinc, and iron
  • May help reduce belly fat and risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome, according to a new University of Michigan study
  • Helps promote urinary tract health
  • Proven to help preserve vision, and prevent or delay macular degenerationcataracts, and myopia
  • Improves brain health by preventing degeneration and death of neurons, brain-cells, and also by restoring health of the central nervous system
  • The vitamins, sodium, copper, fructose, and acids improve digestion
  • They contain compounds that can inhibit cancer cell proliferation and reduce risk for certain cancers

In season, fresh blueberries are great — in cereal, oatmeal, salads, and blended into smoothies and shakes.  I keep a big bag of frozen blueberries (from the local wholesale club) in my freezer all year-round.  They’re every bit as nutritious as fresh blueberries, according to the experts, and convenient to use however and whenever you choose.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s In Your Protein Powder?

13 Aug

Protein powder is a great way to supplement your daily protein intake.  Most protein powders promise about 20-25 grams of protein, per serving, give or take.

Unfortunately, the supplement industry is not appropriately regulated (the FDA doesn’t stipulate how manufacturers report a product’s protein content) and, as a result, you may or may not always get what the label promises.

Independent testing confirms that some protein supplement brands use added ingredients to “spike” their protein test results, making it appear that the product contains more protein than they actually do.

Here’s an informative article, originally published in Nutraceuticals World, that provides the “how to” as it relates to calculating a product’s protein content.

Look for independent, third-party quality control and purity testing when choosing your protein supplement.

As a general rule, if it takes more than one scoop of protein powder to get the 20-25 grams promised on the label, find another protein powder — it’s got too much unnecessary “stuff”  in it.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Training Table 101: Protein and Complex Carbs

9 Jul

Fall sports season is just around the corner, which means training camp time for football, soccer, and volleyball players, among others.

For most of these athletes, August will be the most active and physically demanding few weeks that they have.  One of the challenges facing these athletes is that many of them have not maintained healthy eating habits needed to complement their energy expenditure.

During training camp, many players actually struggle to keep weight on, rather than off.  Understanding the importance and impact of appropriate calorie consumption — as well as specific intake of fats, carbs, and proteins — is a must.

Basically, calorie consumption should take (at least) two factors into consideration: Body weight (desired) and physical activity (duration, frequency, intensity level, ambient temperature).

A typical meal or snack should be pretty simple:

  • Protein, such as steak, chicken, or fish
  • Vegetable
  • Healthy starch, including sweet potato, brown rice, whole grain pasta, etc.

The focus should be on protein and complex carbohydrates.  Additionally, adequate fluid intake — before, during, and after physical activity — is critical to prevent dehydration.

Athletes burn a lot of energy during training camp.  Most of these players have invested considerable time and effort training during the off-season to prepare themselves for the rigors of the upcoming season.  Proper nutrition is important to prevent weight loss, and loss of muscle mass.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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3 Essential Steps to Build Muscle Strength and Size

4 Jun

Straight Bar Deadlift

The fastest way to build muscle strength and size is good old-fashioned strength training, done right. Over time, strength training challenges your muscles by breaking them down so they repair and recover bigger and stronger than before.

To be optimally effective, strength training must be combined with proper nutrition and rest. Although there are some strategies to accelerate the process, there are no shortcuts. You have to do the work and follow the plan.

Nutrition

Without proper nutrition, you will compromise any muscle strength and size gains you hope to achieve. Simply stated, your body needs the raw material that food provides for growth.

It’s essential to eat sufficient calories, as well as carbs and protein, 30 to 90 minutes before and after working out. For every pound you weigh, aim for 0.8 grams of lean protein per day; whole grain and high fiber carbs; and healthy fats, like those found in olive oil, nuts, and salmon.

Weight Lifting

You’ll need to work out three or four days per week to reach your goal. Here are some guidelines to get you on your way:

Favor compound movements over single-joint movements: compound exercises, like Squats, Deadlifts, Bench Presses and Inverted Rows, involve more than one joint and engage multiple muscle groups. Triceps Extensions and Biceps Curls are single-joint isolation exercises. Compound exercises require greater muscle activation, recruit larger muscle groups, and stimulate strength and size gains.

Lift heavy weights: if you want to build muscle fast, you need to push your body to use as many muscle fibers as possible during exercise. Lifting heavy weights allows you to challenge your muscles, which is the key to making strength and size gains.

For any given exercise, build strength and power by using a weight that you can lift no more than 4-6 repetitions per set; build muscle size by using a weight that you can lift 8-12 reps per set; and build muscle endurance by using a weight you can lift 15+ reps per set.  If you can perform more repetitions than that, the weight is too light and you will fail to make gains.

Try supersets: we emphasize supersets at Athletic Performance Training Center. By pairing push and pull exercises, you are able to work twice as many muscles in a time-efficient manner to help build overall muscle strength and size.

Rest

Several different rest factors must be considered in your training:

  • Get a good night’s sleep, seven to eight hours each night.
  • Do not rework a muscle group until it has the chance to recover for 48 hours.
  • Rest between sets to allow your muscles to recover so you get the most out of each set. As a general rule, the higher the intensity of your workout (the more weight you lift) the longer your rest interval should be.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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What’s More Important — Diet or Exercise?

30 Apr

Your genetic “blueprint”dictates a lot about your fitnesshealth, and wellness.  But we all have a window of opportunity within which we can have an impact.

And, while diet and exercise are both significant contributors, you can impact your metabolism to a greater extent through exercise.

Simply stated, pound-for-pound, muscle burns more calories than fat.

The best way to build muscle and burn fat is high-intensity interval resistance training (HIRT).  HIRT continues to build muscle and burn fat even after you have left the gym.

In one recent Italian study, lifters doing HIRT burned 18% more calories 22 hours after exercising than individuals who did traditional strength training.

Next time you’re in the weight room, try this approach:  Choose three exercises.  Start with the first exercise and, using 80-85% of your 1 rep max, do 6 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps and rest 20 seconds; do 2-3 reps.  That’s one set.  Do 7 sets of all three exercises.

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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Nutrient Timing — It’s More Important Than You Think

23 Apr

We all know that what you eat is important, but so is when you eat, especially if you’re active. In this infographic, John Berardi, Ph. D., and founder of Precision Nutrition, shares his thoughts regarding what to eat before, during, and after exercise.

This informative resource breaks down workout nutrition based on body type and composition, portion sizes, and protein and carbohydrate consumption.

Check it out!

Get STRONGER, Get FASTER!

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