Diet Myth or Fact - carbs, dairy, spinach, gluten. My responses to your questions

Last Friday I held another all-day chat with Oakley Women on Facebook. in honor of National Nutrition Month.
The topic was "Myths and Truths about diet, exercise and health"

Thank you for everyone for your great questions! Here are my responses below.

Q.  What is your take on not eating carbohydrates for dinner and sticking to lean protein and veggies. In order to minimize calories before bedtime/less energy expenditure at night. 
Breakfast being biggest meal and decreasing throughout the day based on training session timing.

A.  great question. There's two ways that I like to see food - for fuel and for health. There many great nutrients found in food that we never want to restrict a healthy food for fear of calories. It is important to think about the nutrients in food, throughout the entire day. Food for fuel means using the food that we eat to give us energy when we need it (or need to recover). If there is minimal working out in the evening (or movement throughout the afternoon/evening) I would focus on your protein and veggies but still include a healthy portion of carbohydrates for the brain needs carbohydrates just as much as the muscles do for exercising and daily functioning. Since veggies have carbohydrates in them, you are still getting some great nutrients with your dinner meal. But if you feel like something is missing from your dinner meal, I would add 1/2- 1 cup whole grains added to this meal (or small potato or 1 cup fruit) to make the meal a bit more balanced and to help you set yourself up for a great morning workout. If a person is working out in the evening, the meal after the workout can be similar to what I mentioned above but I would also recommend a small post workout snack to prevent overeating/cravings in the late evening (ex. 8 ounce milk + 1 cup cheerios post workout before meal OR 10-15g protein powder + piece of fruit). But I do feel it's a great idea to focus on when your body is going to use the energy in carbohydrates the most and starting your day with a satisfying carb + protein rich breakfast is a great idea. The body is constantly using energy and we use a lot for sleeping (liver glycogen) so I always encourage individuals to think about the day as a whole so that every day sets you up for a better next day. Hope this helps.

Q. I wanted to ask about Spinach. My parents keep telling me to stop having spinach smoothie every day as Spinach messes up the uric acid levels in people. I dont understand that.

A. great question. For individuals suffering from gout (a form of arthritis), a diet rich in purines may overproduce uric acid. This is why it's really important to focus on an overall healthy and balanced diet for too much of any one thing can often be a possible health concern. For individuals who are otherwise healthy, our kidneys do a great job of eliminating excess uric acid and our liver does a great job to help with dextoxification, metabolism, immunity and digestion. When it comes to our human body, there's a lot going on and often times we do not appreciate how much it does for us when we are in good health. my suggestion is to vary your greens and veggies - aim for a variety of color throughout the day. Hope this helps.

Q. What are your thoughts on dairy, Marni? I've been seeing a trend of dairy products getting a bad rap in some circles. Can it be healthfully included in an athlete's daily diet?

A. thanks for asking. I do not feel that low fat dairy is unhealthy. As a clinical RD, I do find that many people overeat dairy and that can increase the risk for health problems (PCOS,respiratory issues, several type of cancers) but when consumed in a portioned controlled manner, it also can be helpful for overall health due to the probiotics and nutrients found in milk. I would recommend for any individual, to aim for 2-3 servings of low fat dairy a day - it adds up quickly: 1 ounce cheese, 8 ounce milk and 1 cup yogurt. But if dairy is removed from the diet for dietary/clniical, personal or other reasons it is important to address the nutrients that were in dairy (Ex. B vitamins, potassium, iron, calcium, etc.) to ensure they are being consumed elsewhere in the diet or in supplemental form. I am a fan of milk post workout because of the great amino acid profile (plus it is very accessible and affordable) along with calcium, vitamin D and potassium.

Q. Part 1: Everyone says you shouldn't eat after a certain time. Not including fueling after a late evening workout...what about a "bedtime snack" if you find yourself waking up at night due to hunger? Is it better to have something light before bed or tough it out?

A.  great question! One of the most important parts of mindful/intuitive eating is to always honor your biological hunger which is different than eating out of boredom, emotions or stress. If you are truly hungry, I would recommend a small snack before bed. What eat depends on many situations (what you had for dinner/early that day, morning workout, issues with blood sugar, sleeping habits, etc.) but the easiest thing to start with is something that makes you feel good when you go to bed but also when you wake up you don't feel any feelings of regret of what you ate last night. Many times, people will overeat in the evening due to not spreading out calories and macronutrients properly throughout the day and end up overeating before bed and then feeling a bit off the next morning. My favorites are 1 ounce dark chocolate with a few berries or small piece of fruit or 1/4 cup cottage cheese or 1 glass of milk with small handful cheerios.

Q. Part 2: what if you aren't hungry when you go to bed? But it's that you wake up around 2-3am hungry? ...yes, this has been me the last 2 nights! 

A. If this is happening just recently, it could be due to the time change and the body/hormones resetting itself. If your training routine has increase in volume/intensity, the body could be continuing to repair itself through the diet. I would recommend to add a tad bit more fat/protein to your evening meal. Typically I would recommend around 20-30g of protein (aim for around 30g) and at least 10-15g of fat at your meal. This may help slow down digestion a bit more and help with tissue repair.

Q. I need help with breakfast on the go!! Any ideas except yogurt? I don't have access to a microwave.

A. This answer will depend on where you are eating as well for some options in the car will be different than behind a desk due to use of utensils. You could do a cold dish - like milk, muesli, fruit and chia seeds or a dish that was cooked ahead of time like rice, veggies and your choice of protein (something unconventional). Wraps are great for the go, just be sure to read ingredients and nutrition facts for the wrap. You could also make your own crepe or pancakes or waffles or get some bread and dress it up to eat when you get at work with whipped cream cheese and fruit, cheese your choice of protein and veggies. Another option is to make a quick stop at a gas station if you do need to warm-up a meal. Typically they have microwaves so you could heat oatmeal or a leftover breakfast casserole for 90 sec and be good to go until you get to work. I find that individuals who need a meal on the go in the morning often benefit from a snack (like a mini meal) 2 hours later to keep from overeating/cravings later in the day. I recommend something like fruit and nuts for a mid morning snack to help you balance out that meal on the go before lunch time. There are a lot of unconventional options - ex make your own bars, popcorn, smoothie, etc. so instead of thinking of the meal that it has to be a standard "breakfast" looking meal, think about a combination of carbs, protein and fat to make it a balanced and yummy meal.

Q. What do you think of the gluten free diet Marni?

A. For individuals with celiac disease or gluten intolerances, it is necessary and essential to follow a gluten free diet due to not risking further damage to the intestinal tract or risking malabsorption of vitamins/minerals. I do not feel that the otherwise healthy individual needs to worry about gluten being bad but instead how meals that have gluten are being consumed (food types and quantity) Rather than choosing, let's say a sandwich on wheat bread (gluten) on the go (possibly eating behind the wheel of the car), we should be turning that sandwich inside out, sitting down and eating a plant strong meal with utensils. There are many countries who consume rye and gluten containing whole grains but also have a different lifestyle than we do in the US - dedicating more time for meals and meal planning/eating. Certainly this isn't going to be possible all the time but I do not feel that simply avoiding gluten is going to improve overall health because gluten isn't what we need to blame why many people struggle with optimal health these day. Myself including, I eat gluten and consider myself healthy. Also, before excluding the diet of any one food/group, I always address if a person can develop a healthier relationship with food and the body first. If a person does choose to not eat gluten, I do recommend to choose gluten free grains and to ensure the individual is not lacking on carbohydrates as well. Many gluten -free processed foods on the shelves are not fortified very well (and often high in sodium) so the thinking may be to get healthy without gluten but instead, create another issue of relying too much on processed food. Choosing a real food diet as much as possible will help the individual who is seeking health changes consume more vitamins and minerals that the body is equipped to digest and absorb. Lastly, everyone digests food differently so if you feel better not eating one food, meet with a RD to address individual needs. there's nothing wrong with having intolerances or likes/dislikes with food, but just be sure whatever nutrients are in a food you are not eating (if a healthy food) can be found in another food or in supplemental form. 

Q. I'm also a fan of milk post-workout, but have looked at soy protein as an alternative. From a recovery standpoint, after a long workout would you consider dairy or soy as the more complete option?

A. Soy is a fine alternative. It is a complete protein so it contains all essential amino acids and also contains many great antioxidants as well to help the body that experiences oxidative stress during workouts. Soy does have a slightly slower digestion rate compared to cow's milk or whey protein. Also there is some research that the isoflavones in soy may disrupt hormonal balance after workouts but if you are not likely to drink whey protein (the gold standard of proteins) post workout, either organic cow milk or GMO free soy milk are fine (8-12 ounces)\to ensure you are getting in at least 10g protein post workout. Another option for those who do not do animal proteins or soy is almond milk mixed with 10-15g brown rice + pea protein powder. And I also have to mention that we can not overthink post workout nutrition for many athletes are not fueling properly before/during workouts that no amount of protein/post workout nutrition can help a body that is too broken done from not being fueled/paced properly during a workout. It's best to work with a RD specializing in sport nutrition to figure out the best strategy for an active body who is training for an event.

Q. I do not eat red meat, however, I do try to incorporate other good sources of protein into my diet. What is the best way to know if you are getting enough protein to support a challenging training schedule?

A. great question. For active individuals or those who are trying to lose weight, it's very important to space out protein throughout the day to ensure that bone density is not being lost. The best way to absorb protein is to aim for around 20-30g per meal although this number can be slightly higher at times but this is a good range to aim for. we also want to focus on the quality of protein that we are eating (ex. animal or plant based instead of processed food like a protein bar) to ensure that we are receiving all essential and non essential amino acids. 1ounce animal protein = 7g protein so aiming for around 3-4 ounces of animal protein or choose a plant based protein instead. Typically I recommend for active individuals to aim for at least 1.2g per kg of body weight as a good start to ensure you are getting enough protein. So for a #130lb female this would be around 70g per day. However, we also want to focus on protein w/ carbs to help with muscle/tissue repair so I would tack on an additional 5-10g protein pre longer workout (with around 40-60g carbs for 2+ hour workouts) and around 15-25g protein (+ around 45-70g carbs post workout). Also keep in mind as training load increases, the more emphasis on making sure you are not only repairing tissues with protein but maintaining adequate carb stores in the muscles, liver and brain. all reccs are suggestions, best to meet with a RD specializing in sport nutrition to determine your individual needs. For individuals who do not eat a lot of meat or looking for a varied protein diet, here's a helpful link of protein choices (however, for athletes just be sure you are not missing essential amino acids from specific plant based proteins so be sure to vary your diet as much as possible):
The easiest place to start is just being more aware of what you are eating at your meals. This can be an easy place to either over/under eat on protein. Also once you get into that range you may find yourself more satisfied and with blood sugar better controlled which will help with energy and eating the rest of the day.  The funny thing is that we know more and more about the science of nutrition today but our society is more and more confused. Best to not overthink it - there's no perfect diet but rather one that is balanced and varied and of course, one that you actually enjoy and can enhance your lifestyle and quality of life.

Q. What a wonderful option to be able to chat with you today! Myself and others have struggles with knowing just how much to eat around their activity level. Some people say to not count calories. Other people to say completely eliminate carbs, or sugar, or even meat- as you know. Personally, Ive always loved eating and used to carry 30 more pounds than I do now. Calorie counting has worked for me in the past, with incorporating whole foods a majority of the time, and of course making sure I enjoy it as I go- somehow no matter what I like to eat, and feel full/satisfied, so calorie counting helps me stay in check (measurements etc). When trying to cut fat, however, which is many an active woman's goal, how do you recommend approaching that fat loss? Also, how does one truly know how much to eat depending on their workouts? How do we know what and how much to eat post workout (anything from a 30 minute weight lifting sesh to an hour long intense HIIT class). Where would one start in understanding how much they should eat to accomplish a healthier lifestyle and tackle fat loss goals, obviously replenish oneself while still targeting fat loss? THANKS! Miss all you Oakley ladies!

A. A lot of great questions. When it comes to figuring out what works best for you, it's always best to work with a professional, like a RD and to visit a physician for blood work to discover what's really going on in the body. I feel this is why many people struggle with healthy living is because much of their information comes from the internet, blogs and magazines instead of professionals treating the person as an individual with unique needs. I do not encourage individuals to avoid fat but like any macronutrient, it's important to focus on enough - not too much/not to little. In a real food emphasized diet I recommend around 50-55% carbohydrates, ~30% heart healthy fats and around 1.2g-1.5g/kg/bw protein based on daily recommended caloric needs (ex. harris benedict formula). It's important to include fat/protein with carbs at each meal to help with blood sugar but also to keep the body satisfied. By doing this, there will be more consistency with energy and eating, thus a healthier relationship with food and the body and hopefully workouts will be consistent and that brings changes in body composition. We need consistency for results to happen. Post workout, I recommend to have a small snack or meal that includes protein and carbs. We discussed in the last chat (which is also on my blog about reccs for amounts) but typically around 10-15g protein post workout for a snack and then meal with around 20-25g protein or go for the meal with around 25-30g of protein. For carbohydrates, I recommend around 45-70g of carbs per meal with some of that being included in a post workout snack for individuals seeking weight loss, depending on the individual health/activity goals. Hopefully this helps.