Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cookies & Wings

Watching everyone eat after today’s RRCA Club Challenge race made me realize I should have made me made a post earlier this week. Better late than never. Howard County had a wide spread of bananas, bagels, coffee, cookies, peanut butter and chips. I cringed when I saw a guy (not from our team) chomp on a cookie sandwich. Maybe I shouldn’t call it a sandwich; that implies there was something in between the cookies. Well, there was. Another cookie. Three cookies later, that gentleman ate himself out of recovery. I sit here writing this post knowing much of the team is indulging in wings and beer, also far from ideal recovery fair.
A few weeks back I posted about recovery for weight lifting and the importance, but overemphasis, on protein. With this morning’s demonstration of lack of knowledge, I’ll highlight recovery for endurance athletes. Since I always try to have a positive spin on things, we’ll do “eat this, not that.”
Cookies – Now I don’t know where they got their cookies, but they reminded me of Subway’s cookies so we’ll use those for comparison sake. Subway’s cookies pack 220 calories, 10g fat, and 5g saturated fat. They have 30g carbohydrates and 2g protein. Not our ideal 4:1 (carbs:protein) ratio recovery food. Notice when we use this ratio, fat is not part of the picture. That’s because fat impedes carbohydrates and protein from doing their job in recovery (glycogen repletion and muscle repair, respectively). The 10g of fat makes up the majority of the calories found in the cookie (90 out of the 220). Ideal recovery foods are majority carbohydrates with a tidbit of protein. Instead, try a bagel with a layer of peanut butter or banana and yogurt.
One runner drinking chocolate milk gets an A+ in recovery. The added sugar in chocolate milk bumps up the carbs aiding in fast recovery. The fast acting, simple carbohydrates found in bagels and chocolate milk are actually ideal for post-race or post-workout. With the help of increased insulin sensitivity after working out, glucose and amino acids are quickly shuttled into muscles. Note, the low fiber, far from whole grain starches are not great for everyday use.
Chips – While the high salt content can aid in electrolyte balance, the high fat is not as helpful. Although chips do have a fair dose of carbohydrates (15g for 1 ounce), the fat still outweighs the majority of the calories (10g fat, 90 calories out of the total 152). Multiply this over the actual serving size eaten (1 ounce is about 15 chips, who eats 15 chips?) and you’ll realize you ate back the calories burned during the run from entirely potato chips.
A better option would be pretzels or a granola bar. Pretzels actually supply double the sodium (359mg compared to 170mg in chips) with barely any fat (0.8g). The carbohydrate count is 23g per ounce and about 3g protein. This brings us a lot closer to our 4:1 ratio. Bring along an ounce of low fat cheese and you’re in good shape. A granola bar or sports bar with a hint of protein (see my last post on sports bars) will do the same thing for you. You could also try a trail mix with some pretzels, raisins, and nuts.

Wings – Wings might be your worst pick of recovery foods. Usually wings arrive at the restaurant
having been fried at the manufacturer’s plant. Then the line cook will throw them in the deep fryer and coat them in a super sweet (sweet as in sugar) sauce that usually has butter in it to aid in coating the chicken. So wings are a small amount of protein coated in fat on top of fat on top of fat with a hint of sugar. Then dip them in your choice of fat (ranch or blue cheese). Pretty much a dietitian’s worst nightmare. They should also be an athlete’s worse nightmare.
The 15-20 minute window right after working out is very important, but what you eat the rest of the day should also be emphasized. You’ll want to aim for 0.5 g carbohydrate per pound of body weight taken in 30-minute intervals for 4-5 hours.1  This is 300 calories coming from carbohydrates for a 150# person. This could be a turkey sandwich and a side of fruit, a yogurt parfait with low fat granola, bowl of cereal with low fat milk, or glass of juice or soda with that bagel. Not finding yogurt parfaits on the Kisling’s menu? Get a chicken sandwich, soft pretzel (easy on the crab dip), or get there in time for breakfast and order some pancakes or French toast. The grilled cheese wouldn’t be half bad either. Or you can do what I usually do: eat lunch before going and enjoy the company while you’re there. I’ve also been known to order a salad and bring my own bread, but that might be going too far for most of y’all.  
Instead of beer with your wings, try a bloody mary, preferably virgin. The tomato juice packs potassium and sodium for fluid retention and still helps us celebrate with something besides water. The effect of alcohol on recovery (not a helpful one at that) is a whole other post on its own.
So hopefully everyone thinks of me when their legs are sore tomorrow and realizes the error of their ways. Still wondering why you didn’t recover well? Time to call your favorite dietitian for a little sit down. First 15 minutes are on me for not making this post in a pre-emptive fashion.

1.      Clark N. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2003.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bars Decoded

We all eat them. But do we read the nutrition facts? I’d like this post to be a spreadsheet resource, so send me your bar favs and I’ll update. I chose to compare bars best suited for runners. You'll also find bars with a lot more protein, not necessary for post-workout recovery and likely to cause GI distress if eaten too close to or during a workout. What's your favorite?

Fat/Sat fat
Healthy fats
gluten free, Kosher
High carb
Clif Mini also available, 70% organic ingredients
Luna protein and Luna fiber also available, 70% organic
Picky Bar

gluten and dairy free, all natural ingredients
Power Bar - Triple Threat
higher protein bars available
Power Bar - Harvest

Hammer Bar
gluten free, 100% organic, vegan options available
Honey Stinger Protein Bars
some products caffeinated
Honey Stinger waffles
Low protein
good option during workout
ProBar Bolt
Fat free
Low fiber

Fat free and low fiber  work great during workout,
ProBar Meal
High cal
High fat/low sat fat
Meal replacement, higher fat makes a poor recovery and pre-workout bar
KIND Healthy Grains
100% Whole grains
Low sugar


Great pre-workout snack, Fruit & Nut variety are higher in fat , best for snacks during the day, all natural, Gluten free
High pro
Lower carb/higher protein

  • Lower protein bar is better for pre- and during workout
  • Higher protein (~10 grams) is good for recovery
  • Trial different types - consider gluten free, fiber, and fat content for digestibility and GI tolerance. For longer, ultra-endurance events, have more than one type ready; you’ll get sick of the taste of one after 8+ hours of eating it.
  • Try different bars in different temperatures ie chocolate will melt and dried fruit is hard to bite when frozen.
  • Save higher fat options for in between meals or 2+ hours before working out. Most bars use nuts or nut butter as an ingredient, which is a great way to get some healthy fats in. Just consider that fat takes longer to digest than carbs and protein, respectively, and does not encourage recovery.
  • Post other bars that you eat so that I can add them to the spreadsheet.
Pros & Cons of bars:

+ portable
+ easy to stomach after/before a run
+ no thought, easy to plan
+ many have 4:1 carbs:protein ratio ideal for recovery
+ good way to pack in calories

- most have LOTS of ingredients
- highly processed *some exceptions which tend to be higher in fat from nuts
- most use soy protein isolate as protein source (processed soy is not great for us, a whole blog post on its own)
- easy to pack in calories, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your goals

Conclusion: Eat real food when you can. Plan ahead and bring real food snacks in mini cooler or lunch bag as much as possible. Think chocolate milk, fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, low fat cheese and crackers, yogurt or smoothie. Eat a bar when you can’t get to real food.

PS Anyone know why it's cutting off my table?!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Clean Out the Fridge Soup

Last night I came home to thawed chicken and a sick husband. I threw together a delicious soup from the remnants of my fridge and pantry which means this can be made on the fly with whatever you have on hand. While slurping up the last spoonfuls, I got to thinking a soup is a great recovery meal. Or it can be. Throw together a food from each category and you have yourself a one pot wonder (my recipe is bolded):

Carbohydrates (Try something new; it won't go wrong in this stew!)
Energy and glycogen stores

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Barley
  • Buckwheat
Muscle growth and repair
  • Chicken (breast, thighs, sausage)
  • Beans (garbanzo, black, white)
  • Lentils
  • Lean ground turkey
Potassium for electrolyte replacement & other vitamins for health and immunity
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Mushrooms
  • Peas
Season each ingredient
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Sage
  • Thyme
  • Bay leaves
Broth (This was the secret to our meal)
Helps replete fluids and replace electrolytes
  • Beef
  • Vegetable
  • Chicken (flavored like ours, Thai style
  • Mushroom
  • Bouillon 
Let me know your favorite combos! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recovery Post Weight Lifting

Protein after weight lifting is important: it helps repair muscle damage and help build new muscle. Timing is important as well. After exercise, the body is more sensitive to insulin, a hormone that helps shuttle amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and glucose into muscle cells. We have a 45 minute window of opportunity, but the first 15-20 minutes are ideal.

Athletes have a greater need because of greater lean mass, greater need for tissue repair, and some modest amounts of protein used as energy. Strength athletes do need more than an endurance athlete (1.6-1.7g/kg per day compared to 1.2-1.4g/kg per day) and definitely needs more than the average joe (0.8g/kg per day), but meeting those elevated needs is rarely a problem for strength athletes. Strength athletes often consume multiple servings of protein powders and supplements thinking this can aid in muscle gain.

In actuality, only 1.5g of additional protein is needed for every kilogram of muscle mass desired. An additional 30g carbohydrates/kg desired is required for energy. If not enough carbs are consumed, protein is used for energy instead of muscle building. This breaks down into 4.5g additional protein for a 6.6lb muscle gain; that’s less than the amount of protein in one large egg and the number of carbs in a piece of toast.

Most protein powders have 25-30 grams per scoop and packages encourage 2 scoops multiple times per day. Extra calories, including calories from protein, is used for energy or stored as fat. Using protein for energy is not only inefficient but creates an extra tax on the kidneys to filter the protein waste product, nitrogen. This can even lead to dehydration. Most studies comparing the effects of protein powders on weight gain conclude that they may help but mostly in the role of accomplishing sufficient calories for muscle gain. Therefore, less expensive sources of protein such as eggs, beans, tuna, quinoa, etc., are just as if not more effective.

Benardot D. Advanced Sports Nutrition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2006.
Clark N. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2003.

Maughan RJ. Nutritional ergogenic aids and exercise performance. Nutr Res Rev. 1999 Dec; 12(2): 255-80.