Monday, May 26, 2014

Rehab and Injury Prevention

I've been in a bit of a life slump that has affected my blog. I haven't posted in over two weeks despite having a request for a very important topic - Rehab & Injury Prevention. Therefore, I hope I can make up for my hiatus by writing a relevant post.

First off, if you're hurt, I know it can really mess with your psyche. Therefore, props to you for thinking about nutrition at all. The challenging part is balancing eating enough calories, and the right kind of calories, for healing and repair while still reducing overall calories to stay in balance with a lower energy expenditure. Eating the right kind of foods can expedite the healing process in two ways: 1) reduce inflammation by including foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and 2) include enough protein to repair damaged tissues as well as maintain lean muscle mass.

Omega-3 fatty acids contain a substance called EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) which is made into prostoglandins that signal the inflammatory system giving an anti-inflammatory message. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include:

  • Fatty fish like tuna, salmon, sardines, and herring (2-3 servings per week) 
  • Olive oil and canola oil
  • Flax seeds (Make sure to use ground flax seed. Otherwise the oils stay within the seeds.) 
    • Add to cereal, yogurt, smoothies, salads, 
  • Walnuts (Add chopped nuts to salads, oatmeal, trail mix, or munch on a handful for a snack.) 
If you find it hard to eat the recommended 2-3 servings of fatty fish per week, consider taking a fish oil supplement. I like the burp-free variety so I don't re-taste the supplement all day and personally take a multivitamin with DHA/EPA in it. 

Eating plenty of high quality protein helps you heal and maintain as proteins (amino aids) are building blocks for new tissue. It's also important to eat enough protein to keep as much muscle as possible during a reduced training period. Make sure to include ample carbohydrates (ie Atkins will not help an injury!) so that the protein can be used for growth and repair and not for energy. It's best to choose lean protein foods because higher fat meats can increase inflammation and be counterproductive to the healing process. Great sources of lean proteins include:
  • Eggs (Avoid butter and margarine for cooking and hold the high fat cheese or breakfast meat pairings.)
  • Beans and lentils 
  • Low fat yogurt or cottage cheese
  • Chicken
  • 93/7 ground turkey 
  • Fish
  • Soy (Edamame, tofu, tempeh - don't be scared! Try my fav marinated tofu recipe and experience a whole new side of soy.)
Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D can aid in bone healing and formation. Consider having your doctor check your vitamin D levels as many of us are deficient. I consider myself a very balanced eater and had well below normal levels. We don't get enough sunlight during the hours of 10am-2pm and there aren't enough food sources of vitamin D. Food sources of vitamin D are limited to the flesh and bones of fish (think canned salmon or sardines) and fortified dairy. Even meeting your recommended 3 servings of dairy a day gets you only 50% of the way to your vitamin D needs for the day. If you do find that your levels are low, plan to supplement alongside the fish oil; vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and is absorbed better when taken with a fat. 

Vitamin C and zinc are also important nutrients while healing. Zinc plays a role in protein synthesis and wound healing and is found naturally in most animal products (especially oysters if you're looking for an excuse to hit up the raw bar) as well as beans, legumes, oatmeal and yogurt. It's best to get your zinc from food sources because supplements in high doses can cause nausea and vomiting. Vitamin C helps make collagen, the structural protein of connective tissues. Get your vitamin C from:
  • Citrus fruits
  • Red bell peppers (Red peppers have almost twice as much vitamin C as green peppers.) 
  • Kiwi
  • Dark green leafy vegetables 
  • Broccoli 
  • Berries 
  • Tomatoes
  • Peas
Rehab diet for a day (portions and calories will depend on your height, weight, and altered activity levels):

Breakfast - 1-2 slices whole grain toast with almond butter, "Healing Smoothie" with berries, spinach, flax seed, plain Greek yogurt, and unsweetened soy milk 

Morning snack - hard boiled egg, red pepper slices

Lunch - salmon salad with whole grain crackers, orange slices, and cherry tomatoes with hummus 

Afternoon snack - cottage cheese with kiwi and flax seed

Dinner - Ground turkey and black bean burgers with baked sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli with walnuts

Basically by sticking to the same diet that helps fuel performance and recovery, you will be helping your body get back into the game before you know it. If you're nervous about overeating and gaining weight, consider reaching out to a Sports Dietitian (like me!) for more guidance with calorie recommendations and portion suggestions. 


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Sports Nutrition Care Manual. Nutrition from Rehabilitation from Injury. Accessed May 26, 2014. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Eating Healthy While Traveling...or trying to

@KendraThornton reached out to me last month in preparation for her upcoming vacation. She came up with some suggestions for staying healthy while traveling and I thought I’d share some of my own.
Fit Vacation Tips for Anyone Who Struggles with Weight
Getting away from it all is an expression that typically means you can do whatever you want on vacation. I know that I have definitely gotten into this mode while on vacation especially on road trips. I find myself gorging at times, and then I realize there's a better way to stop myself. With some tricks, I have been able to keep my family and I fit even while we go on vacations. These are some of the simple ways that I do it.
Bring Water With You
If you're going on a road trip, one thing you have to pack is your own water. Buying a case of water and bringing it with you will save you time and money in the long run, but it will also mean that you're less tempted to stop for soda and sugary drinks along the way. It's important to stay hydrated, so keeping a bottle of water around works wonders when you're thirsty or when kids just need a pick me up in the car.
Stay at Health-Savvy Hotels
Many hotels are doing all they can to help their guests eat better and stay fit while on vacation. They are offering organic food, lighter fare menus and fitness centers. I find that hotels are also offering better options like fruit for breakfast rather than sugary cereals. Getting in a workout is pretty easy when it's just a floor down from you. I tend to go to the hotel gym in the morning or in between activities if I am feeling restless. For our upcoming trip to Orlando I was able to get a great hotel with a great gym. With so many hotels in Orlando, sites like Gogobot can be a great tool to sort through and read user reviews.
Buy Local Food
I love tasting different cuisine, and going to local restaurants offers great experiences. Typically these restaurants have a greater amount of organic, all natural food than chain restaurants, and they take time preparing wonderful dishes. I love the healthy options that I find at local restaurants.
Stay Sane at the Buffet
The word buffet in itself is exciting. It means you get to eat whatever you want, right? I found that's the best way to get a stomachache on vacation. Instead of gorging, I limit myself to one plate. On that plate, I can have a few treats, but I always make sure to follow up with lighter meals the next day. This is key to keeping weight off if you eat out a lot on vacation.
If you're heading out with your family this summer, remember to stay healthy and active no matter where you go. You'll feel better while you're on the beach and when you get home.
I’m getting just getting back from Boston after traveling this weekend to support my husband and his team for the Cape Cod Ragnar Relay. I brought Tarala along, which involves even more careful planning when it comes to food and timing. Along with Kendra’s suggestions, I have some go-to plans I always make when traveling that I thought I’d share.
Check with the hotel to see if they have a refrigerator and microwave. If they don’t have a fridge, ask if you can rent one. It usually costs around $10 and helps you get in a quick breakfast before a race or before a day of sightseeing. This also allows you to stock leftovers.
Pack some items for snacks and breakfast. I always bring instant oatmeal, bars (like Larabars and KIND bars, and protein powder. I’ll rely on the hot water from the coffee pot in the hotel to make the oatmeal and throw in some peanut butter if I’ve brought it along.
One of my go-tos while I was pregnant was jerky. While not normally in my repeteur, jerky is one of the few non-perishable protein sources out there (nuts work too), so it works great on the go. I keep a wheat-free diet, so I’ll throw in some gluten free crackers and/or bread to make sure I get in some starch at meals even if the menu doesn’t allow. I’ll pack in some yogurt pouches for the baby and whole wheat fig bars. My husband will probably snag a few of those for his racing snacks this weekend. I’ve also brought along small raisin packs and Annie’s bunnies in the past. I kept
reusable baggies with us to keep full of snacks. I definitely recommend renting a locker at an amusement park and keeping a cooler full of lunches and drinks to avoid high prices and heavy foods.

Check out local restaurants and grocery stores before hand, especially if following a special diet. As soon as I know the tentative schedule, I will scope out local trendy, healthy, special-diet-supporting dining spots and peruse the menus. I’ve found some delicious spots this way and it helps save time when it comes to mealtime. If possible, make a reservation ahead of time, especially with a big group. I’ve made a few reservations for our July Disney trip already and always rely on a reservation the night before a race. This also helps us stay within nap constraints.
Fitting in exercise on vacation has never been very challenging for me. Running around Rome on our honeymoon allowed us to see more than we could have! Even when it hasn’t been convenient, I’ve gotten the run out of the way before the day starts. When we were in Punta Cana, we did 16 miles around the 1 mile resort. I don’t think I’ve ever run in such humid weather in my life. In most cases, I will adjust the long run to be before or after the trip instead, but you gotta do what you gotta do. For my readers that are not as avid exercisers, take a walk to see where you’re staying or take advantage of the hotel gym. You’re paying for it anyway, so you might as well use it! The time in the gym will help balance the eating out and help you resume your exercise routine when you come back from vacation.

My number one tip for traveling is to order groceries before you go. Then when you come home after eating out every day to a full refrigerator. My favorite is Harris Teeter Express Lane but you can also look into Safeway delivery or Peapod. This was especially helpful today so we could have lunches and a homemade dinner before we head out of town again on Thursday.
So with all my planning, I have to admit Tarala still ate pretzels, raisins, and peanuts for dinner on Thursday when our plane was delayed. I still didn't get nearly as many vegetables as I would have liked, so today I made two different veggies at dinner and had a bunch of raw veggies at lunch to make up for it.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

FIBER and all its wonderful benefits

As athletes, I’ve encouraged you to choose more whole grains. I’ve helped you add protein for recovery and satiety. I’ve pushed fluids before, during and after workouts for hydration. But have I spent enough time touting everyday wellness? May is a crazy month for us with traveling 3 out of 4 weekends, listing our house, writing proposals, finishing school work, picking up odd jobs, and in our spare time being parents. Normally that would leave us short-changing dinners and too tired to pack a wholesome lunch, but after a recent overnight trip to the ER for my husband left us with 1 hour of sleep, I have remained strong in my commitment to include more fiber in both of our diets. While everyone may not be as passionate about fiber as I am (it’s admittedly one of my interests on Facebook), it should be something we all strive to include in our diet.

Why do we need fiber?1

Fiber is a type of food the body cannot digest. Unlike most carbohydrates, it isn’t broken down into sugar. Therefore, it doesn’t provide us with energy but what it does provide us with is so much more:
  • Lower risk of heart disease (even as athletes, we can develop heart disease)
  • Manages cholesterol (soluble fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol)
  • Regulation of blood sugars (energy maintenance and balance)
  • Regularity (gotta keep the BMs moving, but not too much - fiber helps both ends of the spectrum)
  • Prevents diverticular disease (risks rise as we age)
Even more, foods high in fiber like fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and flax provide us with multiple other benefits:
  • Antioxidants (repairing damage done from intense or long workouts)
  • Phytonutrients (preventing cancer and disease)
  • Vitamins (helping meet the high demands of an athlete)
  • Healthy fats (providing anti-inflammatory properties)
Therefore, your next challenge is….wait for it, wait for it… increase the fiber in your diet!! And here’s how you can accomplish it:
  • Add beans to a salad, pasta, or rice dish or blend into your own veggie burger (LOVE these burgers, plus they freeze well)
  • Add nuts or flax seed to oatmeal, yogurt, or cottage cheese
  • Scoop nut butters onto fresh fruit as snack
  • Add lentils or beans to a soup (check out my fiber-filled soup ideas here). Smashing some with a potato masher or immersion blender makes the soup thick and creamy without adding extra fat.
  • Blend beans into your own hummus or bean dip (Tarala knows how to work the food processor we make this hummus so often)
  • Add spinach or kale to smoothies, sandwiches, and salads
  • Use ground oats or whole grain cereal in place of bread crumbs
  • Add an extra vegetable or salad to lunch and dinner. Lean on steam in a bag veggies if nothing else.
  • Grab single serve carrot sticks or munch on mini sweet peppers or cherry tomatoes
  • Make homemade sweet potato fries in less than 20 minutes for a side dish with a lean burger or sandwich instead of chips
  • Buy pre-chopped squash and roast at the beginning of the week to add to salads and pastas or for a quick side dish
  • Have baked or refried beans as side dish at dinner (We smash our own with cumin, onion, and garlic or rely on Harris Teeter’s Fat Free Lime Black Beans).
  • Add sauted veggies (mushrooms, carrots, onion, pepper, shredded zucchini) to tacos or chopped veggies to a meatloaf
What are your sneaky ways to fit in more fiber?