Saturday, March 24, 2007

Water, Sport Drinks and Exercise

Last week, I was asked “what should I drink while I exercise”. This is an important question that I get frequently. The answer is it depends on how long you exercise. If it is less than 1 hour, water will suffice. There is little evidence that consuming a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink (such as Gatorade, PowerAde, Cytomax, etc.) versus plain water during exercise that lasts less then 1 hour improves performance or fatigue. Consuming a carb-electrolyte drink if you are exercising less than 1 hour is only suggested if you are trying to gain weight or if it’s a morning work-out and you did not eat breakfast. If you are exercising for more than 1 hour, studies have shown that a drink containing carbohydrates and electrolytes will delay fatigue and may enhance performance. The sodium added to the drink may improve palatability, promote fluid retention, and possibly prevent hyponatremia in individuals who drink excessive quantities of fluid. Studies recommend that the percentage of carbohydrate in the drink is 4%-8%. Although recently disputed, some studies have shown that a combination of carbohydrate and protein in a 4:1 ratio improves the muscle's fuel efficiency and spares muscle glycogen contributing to an improvement in endurance.

With so many options of fluid replacement drinks, what should you drink? I have tried Gatorade, Cytomax, Amino Vital, Accelerade and many more. You may want to try Accelerade which contains a 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. I know athletes who love it and others who cannot stomach it. If you have problems digesting or drinking any fluid replacement drink, do not force it on yourself. You’ll just feel sick and uncomfortable which will hinder your work-out. Try something else and you’ll eventually find the drink that is right for you. (Note: Never try a new food or drink on a long ride, event or race day – it will ruin the day if you have problems digesting it.)

How much should you drink? The best answer is to determine your hourly sweat rate. Your size, gender and fitness level influence sweat rate. So don’t expect your friend’s fluid needs to be the same as yours. Weigh yourself before and after a one hour work-out. For each pound of weight you lose, your fluid shortfall is about 16 ounces (2 cups). For example, if you lose one pound, you have sweated away 16 ounces (1 lb x 16 oz) more of fluid than you have consumed. Add in the amount of fluid consumed during the work-out. If you drank 16 ounces, then your hourly sweat-rate is 32 ounces (16 ounces of fluid + 16 ounces of sweat). This means you should consume 8 ounces of fluid every 15 minutes.

On long bike rides, unless you drink Gatorade which you can purchase on the road, don’t forget to bring a supply of your fluid replacement powder to mix at the lunch spot. I do not recommend buying Snapple or other juices because they do not contain the recommended amount of carbohydrates and electrolytes.

Eat well to feel strong!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Weight loss for Athletes

March in New York is the beginning of spring training for outdoor recreation athletes, particularly cyclists, runners and triathletes.

The number one rule for weight loss if training for an event or race is lose the weight during the winter when you are not in serious training mode. But now it is too late and you want to lose 5-10 pounds. What do you do so that you can train without bonking, properly recover from the ride and lose weight?

Weight Loss Facts
Here are a few weight loss facts to consider. To lose one pound, you must have a deficit of 3500 calories. Sounds like a lot, but if you stretch the calories across one week, that is a reduction of 500 calories a day. Do not try to lose more than 1 pound a week, otherwise you will be sacrificing the nutrients necessary for training.

Weight Loss Tips
How do you reduce your caloric consumption of 250-500 calories a day when you are trying to maintain your glycogen stores?
1. Cut down on liquids and foods that is high in processed sugar and fat. Some examples are soda, sweetened drinks, potato chips, candy, regular salad dressing, mayonnaise, pastries (cookies, cake and cinnamon rolls) and ice cream. For that sweet tooth, consume fruits which have natural sugars.
2. Do not consume anything fried or sautéed in large quantities of oil. Preferred cooking methods are baked, broiled, steamed or sautéed lightly oil.
3. Eat low-fat dairy and protein foods. Drink one-percent or non-fat (skim) milk. Eat low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt and cheese. Eat fish, chicken or turkey without skin, and lean cuts of meat. Trim all fat off of meat before cooking meat.
4. Eat foods that are high in fiber. Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grain foods (such as whole wheat bread), beans and legumes. These high fiber foods are healthy and may give you a feeling of fullness. This may help you to avoid overeating at or between meals. Add high fiber foods to your diet slowly if you have not been eating high fiber foods. Adding many high fiber foods to your diet too quickly may cause bloating, gas and stomach discomfort. Avoid eating high fiber foods before a long ride if you are worried about bloating, gas or other stomach discomfort.
5. Cut out alcoholic drinks. Alcohol contains empty calories and increases the appetite. 12 ounces of beer is 150 calories, 4 ounces of wine is 77 calories, an ounce of hard liquor (gin, vodka, rum, whiskey, or scotch) contains 64 calories for 80 proof varieties, and 80 calories for those that are100 proof. If you add a mixer, the calories may soar. One cup (8 ounces) of orange juice contains 111 calories, regular cola or lemon-lime soda has about 100 calories, and regular ginger ale, tonic, or quinine water has around 80 calories. And you don’t usually drink just 4 oz of wine – that’s a small pour. Nor are you getting just 1 oz of hard liquor. Think of all the calories that you can save by not drinking those beers, in addition to the nuts and pretzels that go along with the drinks.

Do you really need to lose weight?
But what if you don’t drink alcohol, eat a high fiber, low-fat diet, and need to lose those 5-10 pounds? First of all, congratulations because eating healthfully may be more important than losing those stubborn pounds. I would like you to determine if your goal weight is realistic – have you ever been at that weight as an adult. If not, I recommend that you continue eating healthfully and focus on training. You may want to get your body fat measured to determine your body composition. You don’t want to risk losing muscle.

Reducing calories during spring training
To lose those stubborn pounds gained during the winter, on the non-training or light training days, reduce your caloric intake by 250-500 kcal. This will be accomplished by reducing portion size and following the suggestions listed. I do not recommend caloric restriction on a day of a race or a long training ride. Since your body requires adequate carbohydrates and protein, now it is time to determine your minimum needs. Carbohydrates intake should range from 7-13 grams per kilogram bodyweight. Protein intake should range from 1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight. (To calculate kilogram bodyweight, divide your weight by 2.2.) Calculate your minimum needs using the lower end of the range. To determine carbohydrate and protein calories, multiple the number of grams by 4 (there are 4 calories in a gram of carbohydrate and protein, and 9 calories in a gram of fat.) The remaining calories should come from fat which should range from 0.8 to 1.0 grams per kilogram bodyweight. Avoid foods high in trans-fats and saturated fats. “Good” fats are in foods such as fish, nuts, olive oil, and avocados.

Body Composition
You may notice at some point you stop losing weight, or you may have possibly gained weight. Get your body fat measured now so that you can see changes in your body composition. If you belong to a health club, ask a trainer for a body composition measurement. If your body fat has decreased, the extra weight is muscle weight. Remember, you are exercising more and your muscles are getting larger while you are losing fat as you improve your diet. Do your pants fit you better? If so, you may want to reconsider your goal weight. The number is not as important as how you look and feel.

It is not recommended to go below 5% body fat for men and 12% for women. Elite male cyclists’ body fat range from 5-12%, and elite women from 8-15%. If you are too thin, you will be at a disadvantage. Excessive leanness (below essential body fat levels), and the processes of maintaining an unrealistically low body fat level through calorie restriction and excessive training can predispose an athlete to eating disorders and increase the risk for muscular injury, stress fractures and menstrual irregularities. The ranges of body fat for optimal health and fitness are 16-25% for women and 12-18% for men.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Not for kids only - Healthy, fun snacks and desserts

I am frequently asked “What should I give my child for a snack?” That is a great question because snacks are important, particularly for our busy children who participate in after-school activities and weekend sports. Snacks are essential because they re-fuel our bodies and add nutrients that are needed for growth and health. With that in mind, we should feed our body with foods that prepare us for the next activity. For example, if your child is going from school to sports class, you will want to give them a snack that contains whole grains and a little protein. Whole grains are carbohydrates that provide sustained energy for our body. Protein is necessary for growth and development. Examples are peanut butter and all-fruit jelly sandwich on whole wheat bread or hummus on whole wheat pita bread. However, if your child is going to a less strenuous activity, you may want to give them something that is nutrient dense. A nutrient dense food is one that is loaded with nutrients but not calories. Examples include raw vegetables with hummus, salsa or bean dip, fresh fruit or low-fat or non-fat yogurt. Potato chips and corn chips are not nutrient dense. They are “empty calories” loaded with fat and no nutritional value. Your child deserves the best so that they can be successful in their daily activities.

But what if you are not around to give your child a freshly made snack? I created two sections of snacks and desserts. One section is fresh or refrigerated (if your child can carry a freezer bag with an ice pack) and the other is “backpack ready”. Backpack ready are prepared items that will stay fresh all day without refrigeration.

What about desserts? Yes, desserts can be fun and healthy. Instead of cookies or cake, try our family favorite, a fresh fruit parfait with yogurt. Sometimes we add chocolate sauce and other times granola. Pudding made with low-fat or non-fat milk is always fun and provides much needed calcium. Fruit flavored milk shakes made with your child’s favorite fruit and low-fat or non-fat milk are also calcium boosters. (Note: If you use soy milk, be certain that it is calcium fortified.)

Some of these snack items are packaged items that you will find in the supermarket. Read the label and avoid items that contain high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils/trans fat, sugar listed as the first ingredient, or fat, cholesterol or sodium daily value greater than 10%.

Fresh snacks (to be made at home and/or place in a freezer bag with an ice pack)
· Raw vegetables, such as celery, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green pepper, green beans,
cucumbers, mushrooms or zucchini with hummus, salsa or bean dip.
· Whole wheat bread/pita with nut butter or hummus.
· Whole wheat crackers with low fat cheese
· Whole wheat wrap with chicken breast, turkey, vegetables, nut butter or hummus.
· Low fat or nonfat yogurt with fruit (total 1 cup)
· Low fat (1%) or non-fat (Cabot brand tastes good) cottage cheese with fruit (total 1 cup)
· Shakes with low fat or nonfat milk or yogurt and fruit (1 cup)
· Pre-portioned low-fat or non-fat pudding (1 individual serving)
· Pre-portioned oatmeal made with non-fat or low-fat milk and ¼ cup raisins
· Mozzarella “string-cheese”
· Hard boiled egg

Backpack Ready (will stay fresh all day without refrigeration)
· Raw vegetables
· Fresh fruit such as apples, oranges, bananas, peaches, grapefruit, grapes, melons, pears,
plums or strawberries.
· Pre-packaged all natural applesauce
· Pre-packaged unsweetened fruit juice (1/2 cup)
· Dried fruit (1/4 cup) or dried vegetables (1/2 cup)
· Nuts (1 oz)
· Pretzels (1 oz)
· Rice cakes (2)
· Whole grain fig cookies (example, Fig Newmans) (2)
· Graham crackers (2)
· Whole grain cereal (3/4 cup)
· Whole grain granola bars (example, Kashi brand)