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EVERYTHING you need to know about sport nutrition


At the ISSN conference in Clearwater. Dr. Graves was one of my graduate professors and played an instrumental role in my education, especially how to become a better public speaker.

Sports nutrition is a fascinating topic. As a professional in the field, I find it absolutely intriguing and challenging, in terms of understanding the metabolism and physiology of the body during exercise. As an athlete, I know it is one of the few determining factors that can make or break a race (with the other factors being proper training, pacing, attitude and gear/clothing). From an outsider’s perspective, I’m sure sports nutrition is challenging alongside confusing, overwhelming, stressful and unclear.
One of the most difficult parts of "sport nutrition" is the battle between health and body image. According to Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter (July 2012, vol 30, number 5), your cardiovascular health improves if you meet at least 6 of the 7 heart-health lifestyle factors:
  • not smoking
  • being physically active
  • having normal blood pressure
  • normal blood glucose
  • normal total cholesterol levels
  • not being overweight or obese (BMI less than 25)
  • eating a healthy diet
Funny - no talk on eating organic, not eating carb, avoiding dairy, not eating meat or being gluten-free. Just a few simple suggestions to improve overall health.

As a RD specalizing in sport nutrition, the most popular questions I receive are “how many calories do I need before and during training, what’s the best pre and post training snack, how can I recover faster and of course, how can I lose weight while training."
I find active individuals fit into two categories:
1) Believe as if they are not worthy of sport nutrition… or better said, overlook the importance of sport nutrition to support their active lifestyle.
2) Obess about sport nutrition but neglect the importance of consuming a balanced, healthy daily diet.

So, is sport nutrition needed for every active individual? No. However, more cases than not, it may be one of the missing links to reaching your body composition and performance goals. Secondly, you don't have to be a triathlete or runner to live an active lifestyle.

I think you’d agree with me that there are a large handful of people in the world that feel they are “too good for” or don’t need sport nutrition. These are the ones who choose to either just drink water during training and racing or eat a large amount of solid food (jerky, sandwiches, candy bars, etc.) during training to “fuel” workouts. I hesitated to even put training in the above sentence because in my mind, a body that is training (and not “exercising) is working to become stronger and faster and without proper "scientifically formulated" nutrition, would have a hard time tolerating and benefiting from the “nutrition” that people choose to consume before, during and after training.
Perhaps this is where the confusion begins for as science evolves in the modern world, many athletes are able to succeed in sport by blowing off science and let a large ego prevail and choose to “fuel the natural way”. However, I wouldn't recmmend this strategy for when we are exercising we are placing a large amount of stress on the body and the body needs to be fueled properly in order to reap consistent gains.

In my opinion, any athlete or fitness enthusiast that is driven to succeed should seek out suitable methods in order to become better at their sport or activity of choice. Thus, the reasoning for sport nutrition - products to be used during (and sometimes before and after) training and racing. Thus – this  is the clear difference between daily nutrition and sport nutrition. If you want to improve immunity, improve performance, decrease risk for injury and illness and get stronger - you must prioritize sport nutrition.

So, do you have to be an Olympian or Elite athlete in order to justify your need for supplements, sport drinks and recovery drinks?

When it comes to sports, there are no prereqs as to how fast you need to be in order to call yourself an athlete nor are there any rules as to the approach you need to take in order to reach your goals. In understanding the many types of active individuals in this world, I believe this is where sports nutrition becomes so intimidating.
Ethically speaking, would you consider it beneficial to “Supplement” with well-researched, safe and effective  “Sport Nutrition” if it would give you the competitive edge? Or, do you feel as if it is not natural to reward your body with nutrients before, during and after training in order tot support the physiological processes that are needed to help keep you consistent, injury free and energized with your workouts and training routine?

Well - this is a tough area and the questions that I feel many of you are asking yourself. Do I need supplements and sport nutrition if I am not winning races, qualifying for world championships or not even racing?

When it comes to the idea that we should be consuming a more “natural, wholesome, real-food diet” this is where I have to put on my exercise physiology hat just slightly over my RD hat. Although I believe health first, performance second, there is nothing natural about a 140.6 mile race and no research supports a triathlon, running or cycling training plan in order to “be healthy”.

So, maybe the question should be “is it healthy that I put my body through so much training and I DON’T prioritize sport nutrition to keep my body healthy?”
Kona 2011 - Ironman World Championship

30-60 minutes a day is what most researchers are promoting in order to improve overall health. Certainly, something many of you are striving for but for others, a simple warm-up to a 1+ hour workout. So next time you feel guilty that you had to shorten your 2 ½ hour workout or weren’t able to work out twice in one day, perhaps before fearing a loss of fitness you should be evaluating your “sport nutrition” which can help to maximize the time spent in training and to ensure consistent performance gains with all the stress that you put on the body – both during the day and during exercise without having to do more than is necessary to reach your athletic goas.

As you read my condensed recap of the 2012 International Society of Sport Nutrition conference, I encourage you to consider your current fueling routine alongside your desire to live a more healthful and active lifestyle.  I took notes during the conference but did not write down the recent and credible research by the professionals (primarily PhD’s and a few RD’s and MD’s), however, the slides will be posted on the ISSN website and you can check them out for more details and information.

As a professional in this field, my job is to give you practical, safe and effective methods to improve quality of life – both with your health and with exercise/training. Obviously, this is a tremendous amount of research and it is not practical to assume that everyone can take all this information and make it work to your competitive advantage. It is recommended to work with a RD who specializes in sport nutrition to help you find what works best for you, your health and your performance goals.

If you don't feel like reading my condensed yet long summary - here are my suggestions: simple and effective and certainly these guidelines are to enhance your training. To maximize gains in performance, an optimal daily nutrition plan and adequate training regime must FIRST be in place.
1) Have a small snack (or mini meal) 1-4 hours before training. Aim for at least 30g of carbs (~120 calories) + a little protein. Keep it simple and think "race ready" - easy to find, easy to make, easy to digest.
2) Stay hydrated during the day with water and include 8-12 ounces of water w/ your pre-training snack. Coffee or tea is encouraged pre-workout (8-12 ounces).
3) During training lasting longer than an hour (or intense workouts 45+ min), experiment with different sport nutrition products to provide you calories, liquids and electrolytes. At minimum, consume 30g of carbs per hour, sipping every 10-15 minutes (small sip) - aiming for 20-28 ounces consumed per 60-70 minutes. If workouts last 1-2 hours, 30-60g of a maltodextrin drink is encouraged. For 2+ hour workouts, you may consider trying a 2:1 blend of glucose/maltodextrin: fructose containing drink if you feel you need to consume more than 60g per hour (if tolerated).
4) Postworkout recovery is essential: the window for recovery is open for 24 hours but the sooner the better. So whatever ratio you choose of carb: pro that is fine (4:1, 3:1, 2:1) so long as you are consuming the nutrition post workout. Make it simple and see what works best for you:
-8  ounces skim milk post workout if you need something quick and easy to digest to recover and a meal is soon after. Also, this will help if you tend to overeat post workot or crave sweets later in the day.
-Whey protein (or for vegans: brown rice + pea) - 20g of protein is ideal - recommend mix in a smoothie and consume as a meal (w/ carbs)
-Chocolate milk (low fat) - post intense or long duration workout where you need something quick and easy to digest (for some) or tend to crave something sweet (and indulge) later in the day.
-Many companies (like Hammer) offer ready-to-consume products like Recoverite to make it easy to obtain your carbs and protein quickly post workout (especially if traveling or no cooling system for milk - however, likely a gas station is nearby).
5) Spread out your protein throughout the day, aiming for around 20-30g per meal. Recovery is enhanced is you consume a bolus of protein post workout rather than small amounts here or there throughout the day. Don't neglect carbohydrates throughout the day - always consider the workout to best identify how you will vary your carbohydrates (ex. refueling/fueling) on a day to day basis.
6) Focus on good sleep to gain the competitive edge. Yoga, strength training and periodized training are encouraged.
7) Prioritize a whole-food diet and focus on your individual nutritional needs to enhance training. Give yourself a prescription with your food depending on the intensity and duration of the workout.
8) Talk with a RD (specializing in sport nutrition) to determine what supplements are right for you and the ideal nutrition strategy throughout the day.
9) Don't let the scale affect your style of eating - especially around workouts. Eat to get stronger and faster not to purposely lose weight or get lean/skinny.  With this approach, the body will change in a favorable way because it will receive the nutrition it deserves.

Improving endurance w/ strength training and cardio

-To improve endurance, VO2 max, fat burning and increase lean muscle mass, intervals are recommend during cardio training. Strength training as another component of training, is encouraged but should NOT be done on the same day as intense cardio unless the cardio workout is short (ex. in a study 4-5 x 30 sec sprints w/ 4 min rest) and recommended less than 20 minutes. Research shows cycling or short sprinting is better on strength training days if you have to do both in one day. However, to maximize endurance, strength training should be done as the primary workout in order to improve endurance (ex. it’s not recommended to strength train in the morning or in the evening and do a separate workout of an hour running or an intense 2 hour group bike ride. You should allow at least 24 hours to recover from intense exercise, like strength training. To increase endurance and lean muscle mass and NOT muscle hypertrophy (speaking to endurance athletes/triathletes primarily) , power lifting is encourage such as plyo’s or 40-60% 1RM (explosive).


-What are they? Enzymes, scavengers for free radicals and oxidative stress. Many studies study antioxidants in vitro and NOT in vivo. In other words, research is not food-related but rather test tube/plates and not always helpful to compare to the human body.
-Glutathione is a great antioxidant and L-carnitine has some promising outcomes for use by athletes.
-Many research studies with antioxidants are done for a specific duration of time and diet is often not controlled. Although oxidative stress will increase inflammation in the body, antioxidant supplements are not recommended.
-Many supplements include nitric oxide as a supplement and when consumed in high amounts, peroxinitrate results and can increase oxidative stress. Additionally, high fat meals (especially high in saturated fat) can increase oxidative stress because during beta oxidation (fat metabolism) , electron carries in the electron transport chain can increase the production of free radicals. High Sat fat increases triglycerids which can increase RONS generator and too many electron carries at one time which can increase stress in the body.
-Research shows that it can be harmful to consume antioxidant supplements when exercising (ex. vitamin C and/or E) and can decrease defense and performance.
-There is trivial research showing that quercetin is effective as an antioxidant during training, to help with workouts.
-If you want to reduce inflammation, focus on whole food as the first line of defense. The ultimate goal is to train more frequently and to adapt more favorably to training.
-If you are to supplement with antioxidants (although for overall health, research is not supportive of supplementing), it is encouraged to do so with meals and not during exercise. Wine and grape juice also have antioxidants as well as dark chocolate.
-Many research studies with antioxidant use during exercise involve untrained subjects. Oxidative stress appears to be less in women compared to men.
-Final thoughts: Why are you supplementing? Your eating/supplementation strategy should be a prescription based on your lifestyle – every individual is different but food is the first-line of defense as well as a practical training routine that allows an athlete to train more frequently.

Clean nutrition

-Clean eating is a marketing term – organic, ethical, healthy, local, sustainable. Lots of definitions.
-There is no basis/criteria for “Whole Foods Market” “black list” of ingredients not allowed in products on shelves.
-Organic foods are not healthy or better than non organic. Organic foods only prevent use of synthetic pesticides, not from natural pesticides. There are no studies (not one!) on organic diet to improve exercise and performance or to improve the health of athletes. Evidence lacks in consuming an organic diet to improve overall health. Research study by Schuldt (2010) “Organic path to obesity”
-Goal of nutrition is to feed athletes to win. As science moves forward, companies are getting better at understanding who needs what supplements/sport nutrition/foods and how to market for it.
-“if you don’t eat, you don’t compete”
-Weather and soil make it hard to control pesticides and keeping foods organic in a large farm. Research actually shows broad spectrum synthetic pesticides appear better for producing more nutritious and sustainable foods.
-food choices are all about how you feel – for if you feel good when eating it (organic or not), you will improve your well being and performance will likely increase.
-Supplements are necessary and practical but should never contravene doping regulations. Recommend to review supplements and use supplements that are approved by the BSCG, NSF and HFL to control purity.
-There is a major component to feeling healthy which is well-being. If you feel better when eating something, you will likely improve training and performance as well as immune system health.
-Guidelines: food should work for you, Depend on whole foods, processed w/ a purpose (Ex. cereal fortified with iron, bars for traveling, etc.), choose organic if it makes you feel good, supplements w/ third party guidelines.
-You have a personal responsibility to plan, shop and cook.

Sports Nutrition Roundtable

-15g essential amino acids before exercise (if tolerated) has been shown to improve performance during endurance exercise.
-Thermogenesis with weight loss pills? Appetite control pill ingredients are not as effective as they seem. Caffeine appears to be the best way to increase metabolism and the other ingredients are not shown to be as effective. However, with appetite suppressant pills, if used, they may be best utilized by individuals who have lost a great amount of weight and to help with weight maintenance rather than for helping with the weight loss journey. Most pills show an increase burn of 5-20 kcal per hour however this does not last forever. Omega-3’s have also been shown to help with weight loss.
-In order to increase lean muscle mass you need to increase MTOR which increase muscle synthesis. To do this, eat a little protein before bed and get proper sleep and rest.
-Creatine continues to show amazing health and performance benefits (2-3g/day is recommended, loading is not necessary) for neuroprotective benefits, to delay disease and to improve strength. Creatine monohydrate is the best form and if you take it, it is best to split up your dosage twice a day (once post workout and the other late in the day).
-Post workout, 20g protein is the “magic” number with 6-10g essential amino acids. As you age, more protein may be needed.
-Leucine is the hot supplement (branch chain amino acid – BCAAs) and 2-3g/day are recommended. Most researchers study it in a recovery drink post workout.
-Glutamine to help with recovery and digestion – 5g/day
-Beta alanine + creatine are best combined and consumed post workout to improve endurance and performance. Recommended to consume 800mg as a minimum for 1 month, then cycle off for a week.
-To improve endurance – the top “supplements” or strategy’s are: caffeine before and during activity, water (all the time) and creatine post workout (to help optimize glycogen during training) and BCAA’s .
-Do not overlook the importance of physical fitness and mental focus when focusing on your sport nutrition. Everyone is different in terms of how you fuel and how you will perform.
Understanding Sport Nutrition
Source: HERE

-Prevent, build, fuel and protect = nutrition for athletes. Your food
-Omega 3’s recommended (Nordic Natural is a recommended and popular brand) 2-4g EPA + DHA per day.
-Macronutrient recommendations:
Daily: 1.2 – 2g/kg per day of protein
Daily: 3-7g/kg day of carbohydrates
Daily: .5-1g/kg of fat
post workout: .3-.4g/kg protein
post workout: .4-1.2g/kg carbs
(research shows that a 4:1, 3:1 or 2:1 ratio of carbs: protein can help with recovery post workout).
To find your BMR: Harris Benedict x activity factor (ex 1.5-1.6).
-Nutrient timing – focus on foods with high biological value to stimulate protein synthesis (ex. whey protein, milk or chocolate milk). Post workout your body will remain in a negative net protein balance unless you feed it. Carbs + protein post workout will increase muscle protein synthesis.
-The rate limiting step in translation for protein synthesis is MTOR – which helps to signal protein synthesis. You want to active MTOR which can be done with amino acids from protein.
-Chocolate milk post workout can increase glycogen synthesis and help improve subsequent exercise performances, increase myofibrillar protein synthesis.
-Nutrient window is open for up to 24 hours…you are always recovering from exercise and body is sensitive to nutrition for up to 24 hours. However, a little protein before and after workouts and before bed can help with performance. Protein post workout provides the greatest delivery and muscle protein accretion. Phosphorylation of signaling proteins is best 1 hour post workout. Post workout carbs has a direct use for muscle glycogen storage (refueling) and does NOT inhibit fat oxidation and can actually increase the burning of fat.
-The major limiter of endurance is carb depletion and dehydration, which lead to fatigue.

Pre, during, post nutrition
Source: HERE

-Prior  – exercising in a fasted state may decrease performance. Best to consume a meal 6 hrs to 75 min before a workout. There is no difference between high GI vs low GI carbs – it’s all about gut comfort and hydration. Best to record and monitor your foods and workout performance.
-During – the limiting step to prolonged endurance and reducing fatigue is intestinal absorption and sodium transportation.
 -Sport drinks: glucose can be absorbed around 1g/min due to SGLT1 and fructose uses GLUTS (different pathway) and has been shown (when combined with glucose/maltodextrin) to be absorbed at 1.5g/min. A 2:1 ratio of glucose/fructose has been shown to improve absorption rate. But this higher dosage of carbs (more than 30-60g per hour) may not be well tolerated by everyone and that can affect performance.
-Many athletes are dehydrated before they start training. Sweat loss can be 1.5-3L/hr (1L = 1kg loss in body weight). Gastric emptying is around 1.1 – 2 L/hr.
-Best strategy for preventing dehydration is a regimented drink protocol for better performance.
-Post – recovery is dependent on glycogen restoration, especially if you are exercising within the next 24 hours. Recommend a mix of protein + carb post workout to increase glycogen synthesis and reduce muscle damage. Caffeine post workout can help with glycogen storage.
-The goal of sport nutrition is to meet the demands of training, to meet individual goals, to refuel quickly and to be best tolerated for each circumstance of training (ex. environment, pacing, etc.).

(proud to provide this research on milk, especially after this article was published in th NY Times by Mark Bittman)
-There is no credible research that organic milk is healthier or better than non organic. Raw milk is not encouraged and most milks are free of rBST hormone (although research shows that this still hasn’t been proven to cause cancer).
-Milk is an effective recovery drink – it has protein, carbs, electrolytes (sodium, calcium, potassium, magnesium), fluids, ca + vit D, B vitamins and 10 essential nutrients.
-Milk is a quality protein – it has amino acids (leucine), contains niacin, riboflavin, B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and phosphorus as well.
-There is a tremendous amount of research showing the benefits of consuming Ca + vitamin D in milk to help develop peak muscle mass in kids and to prevent osteoporosis throughout aging. Without milk, individuals show a greater risk for bone fractures at earlier ages.
-Milk protein is 80% casein and 20% Whey. Casein is slow digesting, whey is quicker digesting. When consumed separately, casein and whey show different metabolic responses. Casein takes longer to plateau whereas the whey helps with protein synthesis immediately post workout. Before bed, a glass of milk can help with recovery during sleeping. 1 glass (8 ounces) skim milk is a great post workout drink.
-Chocolate milk (8 ounces) is a suitable recovery drink but if wanting to lose weight and increase lean muscle mass, calories should not be added to daily diet from chocolate milk so adjust calories to accommodate for this recovery drink. Chocolate milk also has iron in it.
-Purpose of recovery nutrition is to be able to train hard the next day and to stay on your training program.
-No significant difference between 2:1 ratio of carbs: protein vs 4:1 however more carbs are encourage post workout after higher volume or intense workout (ex. chocolate milk for more carbs compared to skim milk after more intense and high duration workouts).
-Milk has been shown to improve fat loss, increase lean muscle mass, increase vitamin D and decrease parathyroid hormone
Talks I attended at ISSN:

Michael Ormsbee PhD CSCS CISSN
Topic: "Chronobiological Eating: Do You Really Know What to Eat Before Bed?"

Jacob Wilson PhD CSCS
Topic: "Exercise and Nutrition Strategies to Prevent the Negative Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Resistance Training

Jim Stoppani PhD
Topic: "Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: Marrying Science with Real World Application"
Sponsored by the ISSN and

Rick Bloomer PhD
Topic: "Antioxidant use by active individuals: Rationale, benefits, and potential consequences"

Tim Ziegenfuss PhD FISSN, Richard Kreider PhD FISSN, Hector Lopez MD, & Rob Wildman PhD FISSN
Roundtable Discussion: "Supplements that promote fat loss, muscle gain,, and performance enhancement"

Amanda Carlson MS RD CSSD CISSN
Topic: "Taking Knowing to Doing – Meal Planning Tools, Strategies, and Systems"

Paul Cribb PhD CSCS
Topic: "The Best of Nutrient Timing"

Topic: "Milk Protein – Why You Should Love it!"

Sharlene Cribb B Ed.
Topic: "Fast, Delicious, Nutritious (FDN)- Cooking Demo for the Lean Physique"

Topic: "Power Eating Clean"

Michael Stroka JD MBA MS CNS CCN
Topic: "Who Can Legally do Nutrition Counseling?: The Credentialing and Licensing Landscape"
I could write a LONG blog about this one. This talk got me steamed up!