1/12/15

Pre-workout fueling - it's not healthy eating


Within a "healthy" diet, a high-fiber diet has its many benefits such as controlling blood sugar levels, lowering high levels blood cholesterol, normalizing bowel movements and keeping the intestines/gut healthy. 
Furthermore, a high fiber diet has been shown to assist in weight loss and maintenance because fiber is associated with satiety. 

In today's society, we are heavily educated about"healthy" eating and certainly, fiber has an important role in our diet. 

High-fiber diet
Recommendations for daily fiber are:
21-25g/day for women
30-38g/day for men
Most individuals receive around 15g of fiber in the daily diet. 
How easy is it to meet recommendations with a real food diet?
1 cup rraspberries- 6 grams
1 cup cooked barley -8 grams
1 cup lentils - 15 grams
Total: 29 grams fiber

Because fiber (along with adequate fluid intake) moves through the digestive tract quickly and relatively easily for most healthy individuals, you can see why we need fiber in the daily diet. 

Healthy eating vs. fueling
When working with athletes on daily and sport nutrition, many athletes complain about GI issues in training/racing as well as stool-related problems during workouts/races (ex. loose stools, diarrhea, bloody stools, constipation, etc.)

As athletes, we must see food differently than the normal population. Certainly, healthy eating is extremely important to us athletes because we place an incredible amount of stress on our immune system, muscles, joints, organs and heart . Therefore, it is imperative that we eat a "healthy" diet to keep our body in good health. 

But when it comes to eating for performance, athletes need to recognize that certain foods can help/hinder our workouts if they are/are not timed appropriately.
Athletes, you probably understand that fiber plays a role in a healthy diet but when it comes to fueling for performance, it's ok to eat some proclaimed "unhealthy" foods before our workouts/races.

And why do I use the word "unhealthy"? Because to the average fitness enthusiast (and even some athletes who have yet to appreciate/understand sport nutrition), the foods that we want to eat before a workout are typically not encouraged in a healthy, high fiber diet. 

As a former clinical RD, I would never recommend juice, raisins, white rice or honey to a diabetic or to anyone who is struggling to control blood sugar or to lose weight. 

Why?
Because these foods digest rather quickly and above all, choosing an orange, raspberries, brown rice or lentils would pack a whole lot more valuable nutrients and sustainable fiber.
But for an athlete, the low-fiber options provide so many benefits to our soon-to-be, body in motion. 

Low-residue diet
If you ever have gastric surgery or you are diagnosed with diverticulitis, ulcerative colitis, IBS or Crohn's, it's likely that you will be temporarily placed on a low-residue diet.
A low-residue diet provides foods that are very easy to digest. Residue is the undigested food (ex. fiber) that composes stool so that essential goal of the diet is to have fewer and smaller bowel movements throughout the course of the diet. This will often ease symptoms like diarrhea, bloating, gas and stomach cramping in individuals with clinical issues. 

Think back to when you have a stomach virus or the flu. 
Certain comfort foods like applesauce, saltines, broth, white toast with jam, rice or cream of wheat with honey may come to mind instead of a veggie and fruit packed protein smoothie, chicken or steak with a salad or trail mix. 

As athletes, a low-residue diet in the 24-48 hours before a race can certainly help to minimize your GI issues on race day without compromising energy. However, when it comes to pre-workout fuel, the options on a low-residue diet list may look "unhealthy" in the daily diet but they are absolutely perfect for pre-workout fueling. 

In my next blog, I will discuss what foods to emphasize before workouts as well as how much/when to time them with your workouts.