Essential Sports Nutrition

3/14/19

Nutrition advice - what's true or false?

People are hungry for nutrition information but how do you know if you are being fed the truth?

There's a lot of conflicting advice when it comes to nutrition as the media is quick to report every nutrition study that comes out. Believe it or not, there was a time in the not-to-long past when research studies were read by scientists and collectively, only the most useful information, from the most useful studies, would make it into the newspapers.

While it's great to take your personal health into your own hands by making your own nutrition decisions, being too reliant on every nutrition "fact" can lead to information overload. With so much nutrition information on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter, websites, TV, magazines, radio, advertisements, friends and family, it's easy to feel confused and conflicted.

Accurate nutrition information is science-based, peer reviewed and can be replicated. Nutrition fraud is information that is not supported by science or is missing important details and information.

Because it can be rather difficult to recognize the difference between reputable and fraudulent nutrition advice, be aware of these red flags when reading the newest article, diet book, tip or advertisement (this information is collected from the Food and Nutrition Science Alliance).
  1. Recommendations that promise a quick fix.
  2. Dire warnings of danger from a single product or regimen.
  3. Claims that sound too good to be true.
  4. Simplistic conclusions drawn from a complex study.
  5. Recommendations based on a single study.
  6. Dramatic statements that are refuted by reputable scientific organizations.
  7. Lists of “good” and “bad” foods.
  8. “Spinning” information from another product to match the producer’s claims.
  9. Stating that research is “currently underway,” indicating that there is no current research.
  10. Non-science based testimonials supporting the product, often from celebrities or highly satisfied customers.
Sadly, with limited enforcement of laws and regulations on dietary supplements, research studies that go public before being published in a scientific journal, research with conflicting interests, and far too many individuals identifying themselves as "nutrition experts," fraudulent nutrition will never end.

To better recognize reliable nutrition advice from media sources, follow these tips:
  • Look for credible websites ending in .edu, .gov, or .org. Websites ending in .com (commercial) or .net (networks) should be read with caution. Be careful of clicking on the first few websites that appear after your google search. Many of which are not from reputable websites. 
  • Look for credible qualifications when reading nutrition advice/tips, especially online and in books and in magazine articles. RD, DTR, LD or PhD (in a nutrition related field) represent comprehensive and formal education in the field of nutrition or dietetics. 
  • Don't believe everything you see/hear on TV. Be critical and look for research to support claims. 
  • If you are promised immediate, quick or guaranteed results, it's too good to be true. Words like miracle, special or break-through are designed to appeal to your emotions and are not scientific terms. 

3/13/19

Happy RD Day!!


What a fantastic day to be a Registered Dietitian!

As part of National Nutrition Month, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day, which happens to be today!

When you have a nutrition question, where's the first place you go? Do you check the Internet, read a magazine or ask a friend? While you may find a quick answer to your question, it may not be the most accurate, useful or personalized response. Although many people have nutritional experience, a registered dietitian is your nations qualified food and nutrition experts. Do you need nutrition help? Find a RD who specializes in a field that can be of assistance to your personal health and/or performance goals.

As you may or may not know, the RD route wasn't originally in my career path. After obtaining a BA in exercise science and minor in psychology and then earning a MS in exercise physiology, I was focused on becoming a strength and conditioning coach. However, after getting involved in endurance sports, I wanted to learn more about nutrition. I took the extra step that many nutrition experts fail to achieve - I went back to school to pursue an education in dietetics.

My life has changed in so many ways because of my RD credential. I constantly find myself challenged, driven and excited about my career in sport nutrition. In June I will be celebrating eight years of having RD, LD/N behind my name. I am so honored to be recognized as a nutrition professional, among many other qualified dietitians.

Did you know that anyone can call themselves a nutritionist regardless of education, experience or background? But not every nutritionist is a dietitian. As you know, there are countless meal plans, books, articles, blogs, classes and seminars provided by nutrition experts who have no to little formal education on nutrition or simply hold a certification in nutrition.

Much of our public is confused and misled by the nutrition information and advice from nutrition experts, which ultimately devalues the qualifications and experience among RDs. Today is celebrating the many RD's out there who, by law, can legally provide nutritional counseling. 


"Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day was created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to increase the awareness of registered dietitian nutritionists as the indispensable providers of food and nutrition services and to recognize RDNs for their commitment to helping people enjoy healthy lives. Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day and National Nutrition Month® promote the Academy and RDNs to the public and the media as the most valuable and credible source of timely, scientifically-based food and nutrition information" - Eatright.org
 

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day Key Messages developed by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics:

  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are the food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into practical solutions for healthy living.
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists have degrees in nutrition, dietetics, public health or a related field from well-respected, accredited colleges and universities, have completed an internship and passed a national examination.
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists use their nutrition expertise to help individuals make unique, positive lifestyle changes.
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists work throughout the community in hospitals, schools, public health clinics, nursing homes, fitness centers, food management, food industry, universities, research, media, professional sports, and private practice.
  • Registered Dietitian Nutritionists are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world.
Looking for a Registered Dietitian?
When you need accurate, personalized, realistic and practical nutrition advice, it's highly recommended to use the services of a Registered Dietitian. If you are an athlete seeking daily and sport nutrition advice, pursue a RD who is a Board Certified Specialist in Sport Nutrition (CSSD credential).

To find a registered dietitian in your area, visit EatRight.org and click on “Find a Registered Dietitian.”

HAPPY RD DAY!
Don't forget to thank your favorite RD today.  

3/12/19

Food elimination to improve gut health?



You are not alone. Everyone has that day when your stomach feels blah and you just want to feel better in your own skin. It's important to acknowledge that your body will change shape throughout the day. Sadly, there's no instant fix that will immediately change the way that your body looks or feels. In other words - don't restrict food and overexercise in order to try to escape this uncontrollable feeling.

When you eat, the shape of your digestive tract changes. Your stomach may protrude and as your body breaks down food, you will retain water, develop gas and produce stool. This can all contribute to feeling bloated, "big" or heavy. Your physical weight (not body fat) can also increase due to constipation, sodium, water, hormones, exercise and medications.

To optimize digestion, we want to be in a relaxed state - rest and digest. For athletes, this can be rather difficult as our body becomes rather stressed during (or in the hours after) a workout - fight or flight. Couple this with life stress and anxiety, normal digestive processes can easily get out of whack.

As a sport RD, I often find myself in a complicated situation when dealing with athletes who suffer from digestive issues. On one hand, no person should feel uncomfortable after eating, which may mean recognizing what foods are not well tolerated and should be minimized or avoided. However, on the other hand, one of the worst things I can do for the athlete is give a list of foods that he/she should avoid when in reality, the underlying cause is not food related. It can be a very challenging situation. Sadly, in today's society, when someone has digestive issues, gluten, dairy and fructose are quickly blamed and avoided.

Because everyone is different, if an athlete comes to me with digestive issues, the athlete needs to know it's going to take some time to improve gut health. Food restriction is not always the first resort. While temporarily eliminating/reducing some foods may be needed, the diet will likely evolve and change overtime. Ultimately, my goal is to optimize digestive health with the least amount of food restrictions. In other words, I want my athletes to be able to eat as many foods as possible for physical, emotional and mental well-being, while also taking care of the gut.

Because gut disorders are extremely common among individuals with a current or past history with an eating disorder/disordered eating, a trusting relationship with my nutrition athletes is extremely important. Regardless of past history, athletes need to know that I may not be able to solve all GI problems but with a good relationship with food and the body, there's a good chance that the athlete will feel better about the foods in his/her diet and improve gut health.

Because not all GI issues are food related, here are a few reasons why your digestive system may not be functioning properly:
  • Stomach is full of food 
  • Constipation 
  • IBS, SIBO
  • You recently ate fermentable, gas-producing foods such as onions, garlic, beans, dairy, apples, honey, sugar alcohols and cauliflower. 
  • Dehydration 
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Inflammation 
  • Delayed gastric emptying (gastroparesis)
  • Endocrine responses to an extreme/chronic energy deficit
  • Shifts in fluids and electrolytes
  • Water weight
  • Shrunken stomach from chronic low volume of food
  • Change in gut bacteria/lack of healthy gut bacteria
  • Underlying medical issue
  • Food intolerance/allergy 
As mentioned above, digestive issues can make it very difficult for an athlete to (want to) change eating habits. If an athlete is already restricting food/carbs/calories in the diet or struggling with body image, more food elimination is not the answer. Yes, it's very difficult to try a new style of eating when you are struggling with gas, bloating, constipation or loose stools or you struggle with your body image, but to improve gut health, it can't just be about food elimination. At first, you may have some food intolerances but this doesn't mean that you will forever need to follow an off-limit food list. 

When you've been limiting the foods in your diet, eating a nutrient-poor diet and/or dealing with anxiety and stress (life and/or training), the body/stomach is going to be a bit out of whack. It's going to take time to "heal" the gut through a change in lifestyle choices.  The answer is not a strict off-limit food list. Of course, if there is an underlying health/medical issue, it makes sense to avoid certain foods but for the common digestive issues that most athletes suffer from - specifically bloating and gas - it's important to identify the root of the problem instead of assuming that a restrictive diet will "heal" your gut. 

3/11/19

GI issues and sport nutrition

                                       A throwback to Kona '18 and Acai bowls - yum yum.


Wowzer - five weeks until IM 70.3 Haines City. I'm so excited to race I can hardly contain myself.
My training is slowly increasing in training volume - specifically bike and run. My typical swim distances are between 3800-4600 yards (~1-1:15hr swim) and I swim five times per week. I also bike about five times per week and there's never an easy bike workout. As for the run, I also run about 4-5 times per week and while I have some solid brick run sessions (my favorite - I love love love running off the bike), my other runs are all about efficiency right now (around 45-65 minutes). With a long season ahead (20 weeks until Ironman Canada and 30 weeks until IM Kona), I'm being patient with my run volume/intensity (per the methods of my coaches).

I'm lucky that I don't suffer from GI issues in training and on race day. Neither does Karel. I believe much of this relates to the daily diet, always fueling before our training sessions and always using sport nutrition during workouts. There's also a proper application to using sport nutrition products and I find that many athletes struggle with knowing what products to use (and when) and are very inconsistent with when/how products are consumed.

GI (gastrointestinal) problems are very common in athletes, specifically endurance athletes. It's probably one of the most common reasons why athletes reach out to me for sport nutrition help. Although many athletes suffer from GI issues in training, the prevalence for GI distress is amplified on race day, especially as racing duration continues and in hot environmental conditions.

GI issues may be due to several causes including physiological (reduced blood supply to the GI tract), nutritional (pre-race diet and race day fueling methods) and mechanical (ex. bike fit, jostling of organs while running, breathing issues).

From my professional experience, athletes describe many different types of GI issues that are bothersome in training/racing and many of which can disrupt the ability to train normally.
Flatulence or belching are two very mild lower and upper (respectively) abdominal symptoms that probably won't impair your physical performance. For most athletes who complain of gas and burping during racing, these symptoms are typically uncomfortable and annoying, but tolerable.  
However, heartburn, lower abdominal cramps, side stitches, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, stomach pains, bloating and bloody stools will not only affect your race day effort (if you make it out of the port-o-potty) but are extremely health threatening. I've worked with several athletes who have experienced the above issues, only to end up in the medical tent or hospital after the race. It's certainly not the way you'd imagine finishing your race.

Keep in mind that GI symptoms during exercise are highly individualized and often circumstantial. However, the gut is an organ that can be trained, just like your muscles. 

Many athletes are predisposed to GI issues, relating to genetics, biomechanics, anatomy, age, diet and health issues (to name a few). For the athlete who has a long (or on and off) history of GI distress, it’s quite possible that you are not adapted to fluid/calorie ingestion during training, you do have an ideal formulation of carbohydrates, electrolytes and fluids for your fueling strategy, your fueling timing is off or you are racing at too high of an intensity to properly fuel and meet your planned (or perceived) effort. Menstruation, breathing issues and dehydration can also be blamed for GI distress.
To reduce the risk of GI issues on race day, do not wait until last minute to formulate your perfect concoction of liquids, electrolytes and carbohydrates to meet your race day effort needs.  Once you have the right fueling products (flavors taken into consideration for your taste buds), it can then take at least 4-6 weeks to feel "less full" when fueling and exercising and improve intestinal absorption - both of which correlate to improved tolerance of sport nutrition during training. This is why it's important to use sport nutrition products during training sessions, especially high intensity and longer distance sessions. 

As a reminder, a sport drink (or fueling strategy) is only effective if it is emptied from the stomach and can be quickly absorbed through the walls of the small intestine. Additionally, electrolytes (ex. sodium) are needed with water as they will encourage retention of fluids, reduce urine output and promote absorption from the intestine.

Happy fueling athletes!