Using Nutrition to Boost Your Immunity

Last year around this time I touched on nutrition and our immune system. I just wrote an updated article for a Team Red White and Blue on the is subject, and I wanted to share it with you guys too. Here you go…let’s not get sick this winter!

As athletes, we put so much time and effort into training, that staying healthy is a big deal. Our immune systems must work harder than the average person as we are constantly bombarding it with stress hormones and pro-inflammatory proteins. While there is a fine balance between needing to have a stress response to create the desired adaptations from exercise, we can help to minimize the additional damage with healthy nutrition.

We’re moving into cold and flu season, so here are some nutrition tips to help maintain a healthy immune system. Remember, always consult with your physician before taking or adding in a supplement. Always try to consume your nutrients first with whole foods before supplementing.

  1. Consume enough carbohydrates and fats for your training: nothing depresses the immune system more than a diet too low in carbohydrates, or too low in fat. If you find yourself getting sick, look at your overall carbohydrate levels and make sure yours are adequate. Most endurance athletes require around 3-5g/kg of carbohydrate per day (during periods of moderate training). During long workouts, take in 30-60g of carb per day. Shoot to have daily fat intake levels around 20-35% of daily calories.
  2. Low levels of Vitamin D: athletes low in Vit. D have an increased incidence of illness. Vitamin D increases anti-microbial peptides and lymphocyte activation. Best sources: the sun (especially true for winter when we get less sun), oily fish, mushrooms, fortified foods. Aim for at least 600IU/day.
  3. Low levels of Vitamin C: Vit. C is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pathogenic properties. While some antioxidants have been shown to impede exercise induced adaptations, Vit. C has not. Runners that supplemented with Vit. C for 3 weeks prior to an ultra-marathon were less likely to develop a upper respiratory infection post run (33% vs 68%) than those runners that did not. Best sources: peppers, dark green leafy veggies, broccoli and citrus fruit. Aim for at least 75-90mg/day.
  4. Prebiotics/Beta-Glucan: Many athletes have heard of probiotics, but not prebiotics. Prebiotics are quickly becoming just as important though. These are specialized plant fibers that are non-digestible (soluble fiber) and feed probiotics. Beta-glucan is a prebiotic found in oats and barley that has been linked to a healthier GI tract and boosted immune system. Other sources include: beans, legumes and vegetables like asparagus and onions.
  5. Probiotics: While prebiotics feed probiotics, probiotics feed our GI tract’s healthy bacteria. There is a lot of great research coming out on the numerous benefits of a healthy gut. For athletes, one benefit is an increased immune system. Probiotics can be found in supplement and food form. Food sources: fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. Supplements can be in powder form or tablet. If taking a supplement, look for CFU (colony forming units) in the billions. If you see a supplement that touts CFUs is in the millions, keep looking.
  6. Zinc:  Evidence shows that zinc can increase the response rate of immune cells, so if taken at the onset of a cold, can reduce duration and severity of the cold. Unfortunately, there has been no clear data on how much zinc one needs to take to achieve this benefit. One study showed taking a zinc lozenge every few hours was enough to shorten a cold. Too much zinc taken for too long can lead to a toxicity. Best sources: beef, beans, seeds, dark leafy greens.
  7. Green Tea-EGCG: Epigallocatechin-3-gallage (EGCG) is a compound found in green tea. It’s been shown to fight inflammation and boost anti-viral activity against viruses like retrovirus, the flu and even hepatitis. Matcha green tea powder can be added to smoothies or yogurt, however the taste is acquired. Instead, drink green tea daily (5 cups have been shown to be the most beneficial, however give it a go by just adding in 1 cup).
  8. Quercetin: A flavonoid, which is a plant pigment found in many fruits and vegetables has been shown to be effective in reducing the inflammatory response from an upper respiratory infection, in addition to blocking the virus’s replication. Sources include: onions, capers, citrus fruits, apples, berries, and black and green tea.

More Controversial but with some good research:

  1. Bovine Colostrum: Yes, this one sounds a bit controversial. I’m including it here as there is some good research on it and the immune system. This isn’t as practical as the others due to no fresh food sources, however I wanted to include it. Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced in the mammary glands during the first 2-4 days after giving birth and contains numerous antibodies and immune factors. Bovine colostrum increases salivary IgA, which in turn helps prevent upper respiratory tract infections. Usually found in powder or capsule form from cows.
  2. Astragalus Root: This root has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for the past thousands of years. It is called an adaptogen, which means it helps protect the body from stress (physical, emotional, etc). Research has shown both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties with benefits to those with weakened immune systems. There is some evidence that shows if you have an auto-immune disorder, it will interfere with your medicine. Please consult your physician before taking this as there are no food sources that I can recommend.

Good nutrition is key to a healthy body, training and performance. Shoot for a balanced nutrition plan that includes proper calories and macronutrients, fruits, vegetables, whole grains with soluble fiber, fermented foods, lean protein and green tea. With just those suggestions, you’re on your way to a healthy and cold/flu free winter. Remember that sleep is also a key. Happy Training!

Performance Benefits of Beetroot (Updated)

There are few legal ergogenic aids for athletes. Beets, or more appropriately foods high in nitrates can give a big boost for athletes. There is an extensive list of research touting the benefits of nitric oxide for athletes and I just finished reading a few of some of the newer studies. So I wanted to update my info on beetroots/performance just to make sure I’m staying up on the latest info for my athletes. I’m not going to state my research sources in this article, but if you need them, I can give you them.

What is Nitric Oxide?

When we consume foods that are naturally high in nitrates, our body does a good job at converting nitrates to nitrite and eventually nitric oxide. This process begins in our mouth and we have nitrate reducing bacteria  on our tongue. This is important to note as if you’re an athlete that wants to gain benefits from nitric oxide, you have to be careful not to use mouthwash. While I’m not advocating for bad breath, when you use mouth wash it kills the nitrate converting bacteria.

Benefits of Nitric Oxide for Athletes:

I should start with: nitric oxide actually has some awesome benefits for all people, not just athletes. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it opens up our arterioles and makes them wider. This makes blood flow easier and reduces our blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, consuming one serving of beets (or similar foods) can reduce your resting blood pressure by 7-8mmHg. Pretty cool right. Other benefits include:

  1. Vasodilation/Increased blood flow to the vasculature (more blood flow to working muscles)
  2. Increased mitochondrial respiration
  3. Increased glucose and calcium homeostasis
  4. Improved muscle efficiency due to a lower ATP cost (exercise will feel easier at harder intensities)
  5. Performance enhancing-proven with endurance exercise and more recently seen in high intensity exercise/team sports and power sports

Where to find Nitrates?

  • Spinach
  • Argula
  • Bok Choy
  • Rhubarb
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • And others-the ones listed contain high levels of nitrates

Looking at this list, if everyone just consumed more dark leafy greens/veggies, we’d all be on our way to having naturally high levels of nitric oxide in our body.

How Much Should you Take?

Most research has been done using beetroot shots (liquid beetroot). This is because it is easily blended/juiced and the blending does not diminish the levels of nitrates. Unfortunately many methods of cooking beets and other foods high in nitrates will reduce the efficacy of the nitrates (boiling especially).

Research shows: 5-6mmol of nitrate given for several days pre-competition is the best amount. Well, how much is that? If you’re not into juicing and you’d rather buy a beet drink, this equates to 2 shots of beetroot juice. One popular company is called BeetIt. So you’d take 2 shots of BeetIt.

If you want to juice your own beets, you’d want to start with 1/4-1/2 of a whole beet mixed with other ingredients (water, coconut water, some spinach?) A few thins to note about beets-they can turn your urine red (normal and fine) and they can even cause a scratchy or sore throat. So start with a smaller amount to test it.

Just consuming this amount of beetroot juice can show a 15% increase in time to failure. You want to take the shot of beetroot juice at least 1 hour pre-competition, however it takes generally 2 hours to see the benefits. Your nitric oxide levels will return to baseline around 12 hours later.

Does this Benefit Everyone?

Yes and no. Consuming fresh veggies is always a plus for everyone. Unfortunately there are athletes who are non-responders. This means they can consume the beetroot juice and not see a benefit. Often times, research has shown that elite athletes do not show as much improvement as less well trained athletes. This could be:

  • Elite athletes already have higher baseline plasma nitrates (healthy diet?)
  • They have better oxygenation (more capillaries)
  • Have higher nitric oxide synthase activity (already better at converting nitrates)
  • Have a higher proportion of type 1 (slow twitch) fibers-these are less amenable to changes in nitrate
  • They might not be responders

All this means is that I’d recommend all who were interested in trying a nitric oxide supplement to try it. See what happens and then decide what you think.

How long should you take it?

There is no definitive answer, however Dr. Andrew Jones out of the University of Exeter (the leading researcher in nitric oxide) believes that while there is no evidence that consuming nitrates over a long period is detrimental, there is no need for constant supplementation.

Instead he recommends taking the supplement 4-7 days before your competition or intensive training periods. He also states up to 4 weeks of supplementation appears to be beneficial, but then to cycle off them after that. Plus, no mega doses as they will not help.

In what form should you take foods containing nitrates?

As mentioned earlier, the way you process the food does alter the nitrate content. Juicing the beets is the preferred method. At this point, beet root powder do not seem to contain the same levels of beneficial nitrates because in order to get the powder form, the beets must be boiled and ground.

If you don’t want to juice and want to try powder, go for it. Or if you want to roast beets, go for it. There is no harm in trying different methods of cooking, you might not achieve the full benefits.

Quick Take Aways:

  1. Beets and other foods containing nitrates are beneficial for both athletes and those looking to be healthy
  2. Consume dark leafy greens as part of your diet
  3. For performance benefit, consume 2 shots of beetroot juice 1-2 hours before competition
  4. Consume beetroot juice or an equivalent food for 4-7 days pre-competition, but cycle off after 4 weeks
  5. Beets are beneficial for endurance athletes, but new research shows team/intermittent sports as well as high intensity and power sports
  6. Consume beets in the form of juice vs powder

 

Life: Ups, Downs, Challenges and Rebuilding

Over the past 5 months I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times, but couldn’t ever seen to bring myself to do it. I can’t qualify what it was, whether being pregnant (pregnancy fatigue, depression, hormones), short of time, short of energy, feeling deflated or what. I just knew it wasn’t in my heart to write, so I allowed myself the chance to not do something just because I thought I should. That’s hard because I generally do what I think I should do and I’m a type A person. You might be thinking, why do you need to write a blog? In reality you’re right, I don’t. And my opinion matters just about as much as the next persons, which isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. Since I’m trying to be a sound voice of science based nutrition/endurance reason, I feel compelled to keep pushing the fear mongering out. So that’s where the need to bring reason vs fear makes me feel compelled to write.

Pregnancy: Oh Boy…literally. I have a lot to tell other women who are athletes who want to become or will become pregnant, though this post won’t be about that. Pregnancy has been such a journey and I never could have imagined the ups and downs. And baby Caldwell isn’t even here yet. I know things will change again when that day comes soon. I will say it hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Stay tuned to those blog posts in the future.

Today though, I wanted to get some things off my chest that have been here for a while. This is of course my opinions, feelings, frustrations and mine only. You might not be interested since there won’t be anything sports nutrition or training related in this post, but for me I feel like I just need to get this out. Soon enough I’ll be back to what I love to do and hopefully what you like to learn about/read.

How many of you feel like you’ve ever gone through a period in your life where things move so fast or out of your control that you don’t really stop to see what’s happening for months later? This is kind of what the past year has been like. Looking back, so much has happened, good and bad. Most of the time I just keep pushing forward not stopping to think about what’s happening, just pushing forward. There is always a task at hand and something to be done. No need to stop and think too much. But sometimes when feeling a bit out of it I do… so I did.

We’ve:

  1. Moved from the East Coast and away from friends and family to Texas (Good and bad)
  2. Taken new jobs (Brett from school to a corporation/geology firm) and me from a corporation (PowerBar) to school and being an entrepreneur (Good and bad)
  3. Bought our first house (Good mostly)
  4. Recovered from hamstring surgery and began to train as an athlete again (Good)
  5. Developed Rhabdomyolysis and had to be in the hospital for several days (Bad)
  6. Got pregnant (Good mostly)
  7. Had to stop training as an athlete (Not great, but not too bad considering being the trade off of being pregnant)
  8. Started school full time while pregnant (Good and challenging)
  9. Lost one of our dogs (Bad)
  10. Fostered another dog and are in the process of adopting him (Good)

And this last one hasn’t happened to us as a couple, but for me personally. I was very affected by the election cycle. I’ll speak more to this later, but I guess I’m pretty sensitive to some things and the daily barrage of insults directed at supporters of both sides was a lot to bear.

So looking back, it has been a bit of change to process. For a good  bit of it I’ve felt in control. Some of it though, not so much.

Starting with….Losing Colt

rogue-and-colt-2

I’ve been staying off of social media more and more because of the amount of stress that it has been bringing me and I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone that we lost Colt. Colt is the darker dog on right. He came to us from a Ridgeback rescue and was such a sweet dog. He was a very fearful dog having come from an abusive situation, however he learned that he was loved and he loved us and Rogue. It was the hardest decision to make, but he had a tumor and once his quality of life went down, we knew it was time. It was the hardest decision we’ve had to make and one that I still cry about (I’m crying as I write this). What I do know is that he is running free in heaven and not scared or in pain anymore. I vowed no one would ever hurt him again, I was able to keep that promise and I know he had a happy life with us.

Somethings are super personal, and while I’m pretty open with many parts of my life, I just couldn’t bring myself to share this. I felt like I needed to grieve before saying it on social media. But I’m putting it out there now. Which leads me to… Lepp, our foster dog.

lepp

We wanted to give back to Ridgeback Rescue in honor of Colt. So about 5-6 weeks ago, Brett and I brought up bags of dog food. There is an awesome Ridgeback Rescue called Texas Independent Ridgeback Rescue (TIRR) about 45min away. We met Lepp, who is a 5 year old Ridgeback. He has skin allergies, but other than that, an awesome dog. We couldn’t figure out why someone would abandon him (just part of his story). I wasn’t ready to bring another dog home, but Brett and I grieve differently. The house was too quiet and Rogue was depressed. So after a few weeks of talking about it, we brought him home for a foster time period. He’s doing really well at our house and we’re going to move forward with adoption. My heart doesn’t ache any less for Colt, but there are so many dogs who need love. So I’m happy to be able to give a piece of my heart to Lepp.

The election:

Boy oh boy…There is so much to say, and I’m going to try not to really say a lot. Part of the problem is there has been too much being said. Everyone has an opinion and being computer warriors (being able to hide behind the computer) means that they feel they have the freedom to say whatever they want, be rude, vicious, repeat untruths, etc. Seriously stop everyone!

I’ve had to really step away from social media for the past 6 months or so because of the vicious comments from both sides of the aisle. I have good friends and family who are supporters of both sides and the constant daily posts demeaning each other (even if not directed at one person) was a lot to handle. Every day checking Facebook was a reminder of how much hate, discord, disrespect and untruths are out there.

Now that the election is over I had hoped that we’d be able to come together to rebuild as a country. But it doesn’t seem to be that easy. Instead now we have people protesting an election that was won fair and square. No matter what side you are on, I can’t remember there ever being protests like this against a president elect. If you were not for Bush, you dealt with it. If you were not for Obabma, you dealt with it. Life is hard, realize things won’t always go your way and be able to grow and better yourself. The president/government should not be in charge of making your life better. Go out, work hard and make your life better. We need to have a bit more autonomy in this country.

I am proud to be an American and no matter who is in charge of the country, I know we will prosper. I think there are a lot of hurt feelings and too many people not listening to each side of the debate. All I’d ask is to really try to be informed about both sides of the aisle (don’t make assumptions and if you read something you aren’t sure is true, look it up from as much as an unbiased news source as  you can), to all grow up, stop name calling and know that there are bad apples on both sides of the aisle.

School/Fueled and Focused:

I’m very passionate about helping athletes to succeed whether it’s from an endurance coaching area, sports nutrition area or a combo of both. After completing my Sports Nutrition Cert and 2 year IOC sports nutrition diploma, I knew it was time to finish my Master’s degree. Texas Women’s University has a great dual exercise physio/sports nutrition masters and I’ve been in school since Sept. It’s hard work, but great to be in school learning, to help better those around me. I won’t say it’s been easy to be in grad school full time, coach and be pregnant. It’s a challenge, but I’m the kind of person who generally thrives on a challenge. If I’m not busy enough I’m not sure what to do. Plus there are women who are in school with me who are single mothers. Wow, that’s hard work!

I’ve kept a stable number of athletes for 1:1 coaching and nutrition (thank you!), but the project I’ve spent the past few years on (Fueled and Focused) has lately been on the back seat. I’m a risk taker and I have always believed that I can achieve what I set my mind to. So after having numerous athletes tell me they need help with recipes/meal plans, I created the idea for F&F. Hundred of hours and thousands of dollars later, it was nearly complete. Complete enough to launch it. After spending years and a lot of effort and money on something, it’s really disheartening for something you love so much to not be as successful as you’d hoped. I had hoped that I had created something that many endurance athletes could use and love and that I could help to create a more stable financial environment for our family.

At this point, it’s not where I want it to be. Over the past year I scoured over business blogs, read books, joined women entrepreneur groups all to figure out how to really be a good business women. I have to say, I just ended up sad, deflated, frustrated and mad. Here’s why:

Do you know there are (probably) thousands of people who call themselves life coaches, health coaches and nutritionists who have literally zero education (other than life skills and maybe a weekend certificate) who charge $500-$1000/month (you read that right!)? I had know idea this segment of the working population existed until I joined the business groups. It’s not an anomaly, there are many of these “coaches.” Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out how they can do it. How can they charge such large sums of money and be OK with it? How can people trust them and listen to them when they don’t understand what they are teaching? How can I, as someone who is educated and has spent years in school, not charge 1/4 of that? I had other “health coaches” say I should be charging those fees. I can’t imagine what my athletes would think or how I would feel if I charged prices like that. I do know some tri coaches and nutritionists charge that much and it has made me re-evaluate some of my prices, but I can’t even fathom the thought of it. I have to be comfortable at the end of the day and those numbers are not it.

Again to social media: In addition to the past year with politics, I just feel that social media has become way too much about me me me. Truly there are not enough pictures of dogs, kids, travel and heart warming stories. Instead it’s “look at me, listen to my opinion, read this thing I’m sharing that isn’t true (but you don’t know it), etc.” There are things I’ve heard people say about (really about everything) nutrition on social media that are so false it’s crazy. Every day I’d see these false statements made, the fear mongering perpetuated and people really eating up the falsehoods. Every day I’d want to counteract what is being said with the truth, but after a while I realized it’s not popular to bring science to the table. It’s more popular to fear monger and claim things are true when there really isn’t proof. I have a hard time not correcting something that is false and making a counter point. After so many times of trying to help though, I realized that most didn’t want to hear what I was saying.  Side note: It’s like the day in Oregon where I was the pool and this man was trying to swim butterfly. He was really struggling in the water and his timing was really off.  I thought I could help to tell him that if he did this one drill it could help his timing. I said it very politely, but he was really offended and just swam off. Oops. Last time I’ve given swimming advice when not asked. So that’s part of what’s made me take a step back and re-evaluate my goals, passions, hopes, business practices, etc. After months of watching this and realizing that I do not want to be the kind of person or business who is like them, I know I need to change and re-adjust. Fueled and Focused doesn’t fear monger now, but I’m trying to make things better and more user friendly. And at least figure out how those of us that are science based can coexist with those who believe having “life experience” is the same as having studied a subject for years. Some days I’d feel like I should change career paths, just so I didn’t have to compete with these types of “coaches.” I realize that’s not the answer though. I love what I do and want to continue to do it.

I’m not sure how to exactly change Fueled and Focused to make it more user friendly, to help others in the best way possible, so I’m going to take a step back. I’ve already gone from taking a step back on social media, newsletter, etc. But I’ll be re-evaluating what I offer athletes, pricing, etc. I want to help others and I just have to determine what the best way to do that is. Maybe a paid meal plan membership isn’t the answer. Maybe it is. Either way, I’m not going to sink to fear mongering, nutrition fads, pushing products on people (sorry all you MLMers, but I am tired of seeing your Rodan and Fields, Beachbody, Advocare, etc.) or charging crazy prices. I’m a big believer of women going for their dreams, working hard and making money for their families. But I’m sorry, multi level marketing companies are extremely frustrating to those of us that are inundated with their daily ads. Clearly that type of marketing must work or they wouldn’t be on FB every day pushing it. But as a nutrition and exercise professional, when you hear the things some of these MLMers are pushing that are not science based, it makes you cringe. When you see others jumping on the products or companies and repeating the nutrition nonsense, it makes you (or at least me) frustrated.

I’m going to go back to square one and look at what athlete needs are. My goal is to help athletes. Of course I want to succeed in helping both athletes to train and race better, but also be a provider for my family. I’d love it if you wanted to share ideas that you might have or what you want to see.

In the meantime, I’m opening up F&F to everyone for free. I have over 500 recipes on the site and I do think they are pretty tasty if I do say so myself. For everyone on a paid membership, I’ll just cancel it and you if you’re interested, use the code to “rejoin” for free. I want to feel like my product is representative of me, and it doesn’t currently. I’m in the process of finding someone to help me with the site to make it really feel like me. So until then (maybe Jan1) I’ll keep the code active.

The free code is: Fueled

It will give you access to the whole site. At this point, I don’t feel 100% about charging for something that I’m not super comfortable with. So I hope you’ll take advantage if you’d like to. By doing this it will help me feel like I’m still being authentic and this will help to relieve some general stress. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me, believed in me and encouraged me. Thank you! You all mean so much to me and I wish there was a better way to expressive it then just thank you. Then, in the meantime I’ll continue to work hard to make the site better and come back revamped better than ever.

To gain access to the Fueled and Focused site with recipes and nutrition info, click here:

www.fueledandfocused.com

then, go to buy “bronze” and use the code: Fueled

That should allow you to have access. I will note, you’ll need to put you height in using inches. If you put feet in, it will mess up and you’ll have to re-enter/try again as the info will not be correct.

 

 

 

If you’ve wondered where I’ve been…

Yikes, has it really been 4 months since I posted a blog? I’m afraid to say it, but yes, it’s true. I’ve had to take a bit of a personal hiatus from most things social-social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogging), being social outside of the house, in addition to a break in my sports nutrition business. It’s not because I got tired of it or needed a break. The opposite is true. I’ve missed being me and providing helpful sports nutrition tips and recipes.

I’ve always prided myself on being a type A person, a go getter, a “nothings going to stop me” kind of person. But I’ve found the one thing that stopped me. It wasn’t that I was too busy, it wasn’t that I was recovering from another hamstring surgery, it was…I’m pregnant! And boy, do I have a whole new respect for mothers and pregnancy. This has been a rough ride. I am now 17.5 weeks pregnant (due the week of Christmas), so almost half way.  I thought I was going to be one of the lucky 25% who didn’t get morning sickness since I thought it started before 8 weeks. The joke was on me though. Mine started at 8 weeks and lasted through 16 weeks. Longer than some, but shorter than others. And don’t get me started on the word “morning” sickness. Mornings only would have been a blessing.

I detest complaining and boy do I feel like I have been complaining a lot lately. Waaa, I don’t feel well, I’m nauseous, I’m going to vomit. And so on. Since I work from home, it’s mostly my dogs who hear it. Brett’s been traveling a lot for work, so in a way, he got to miss out on a lot of my bad days. Lucky guy!

But this past week I have seemed to turn a page with nausea and fatigue, so I’m looking forward to feeling a bit more normal again, in addition to eating more than just watermelon, cheese and crackers. Seriously. I have been eating a whole watermelon every few days (just myself). It’s one of the only foods that tasted good and didn’t upset my stomach. I’m also looking forward to making new and delicious recipes. Another benefit for Brett is that he was gone so much that he didn’t have to suffer with making his own dinner of plain pasta or frozen pizza. Though writing that, he enjoys those. For someone who truly loves making new recipes and cooking, It has been strange to not even be able to handle the thought of food.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, the nausea has seemed to pass. I’m getting back to normal and while the fatigue is still there, it’s not too bad. So I’m planning on getting back to regular blogging  and I’m looking forward to sharing an athlete’s perspective on being pregnant. For men, women who have kids, women who never want to have kids or anyone not interested, I apologize now. I will still be doing general sports nutrition as well, however my main reason for starting this blog was to help others suffering with challenging athletic injuries and to outline my journey back to help others. Along those same lines, if I can help a pregnant athlete to feel more comfortable with being pregnant, I’m excited about that. I had so many questions that I wish I had answers too. Mostly on what I was feeling, what I could really do athletically, how to not hurt myself or the baby, etc. Thankfully I have a wonderful OBGYN who was a former Div1 runner. I chose her partly for that reason.

I am by no means an expert in pregnancy. This is baby #1 and I’ve only been at this for 17.5 weeks. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone is different and not one pregnancy seems to be the same. That’s ok. My hope is to share my experiences (good or bad), my learning as I go and maybe some funny stories too.  I’ll never claim to have all the answers, but it’s bound to be a fun and wild ride. I’m still training, though that will be several other blog articles. Here’s my first public pregnancy pic: (We haven’t shared on other social media we’re pregnant yet)

FullSizeRender(2)

(This pic was a few days ago after I had to buy a new swim suit-I sized up one size).

Unfortunately I don’t have a before swim suit pic, though I can tell you I’m bigger. Brett’s fascinated with my new stomach and likes to poke it and laugh as I walk by. Kind of like the dough boy poking his stomach and giggling. Though Brett’s giggling 🙂

Similar to sports nutrition, there are many different views on pregnancy and athletics or pregnancy and weight. Having had an eating disorder part of my goal as a sports nutritionist has always been to help prevent eating disorders and to teach healthy views around food and exercise. I have to admit that the thought of gaining weight and not being able to lose it was kind of scary. That’s one thing I’ll cover. Another big issue that bothers me is so called fitness experts and bloggers who seem more concerned with not gaining any baby weight or as soon as they have their baby their proudly exclaim 1 week later that they are back to normal weight. Of course that’s great, but remember, we’re/you’re growing a human life. This isn’t all about us now. It’s about them too.

I’m excited to share my experiences (hear some of yours), some current research, some nutrition and of course to keep sharing some sports nutrition research as well. It’s already been quite a journey and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.

 

 

 

Nutrition Buzzwords, Part 2

We talked about Organic food and GMO’s, now I’ll move onto some other buzzwords that are just as controversial as Part 1, and will invoke both positive and negative responses from a lot of people. Out in the field, I hear about these a lot. So I want to give a bit of info on each. Today’s post is about vegan, gluten free and the Paleo Diet. And I want to say, I am coming for the standpoint of an athlete. For the average person, things might be a bit different. Athletes do have different nutritional needs at times.

Vegan– Being a vegan means you don’t eat, or use anything that was made with animal products. Some vegans are vegan for health reasons, others are ethical and want to promote animal rights/environmental issues and some are a combination of both. In fact, I have never met a vegan who wasn’t vegan due to both health and ethical reasons.

Being a vegan, or veganism really seemed to take off in the early 200o’s. I would say I hadn’t met one vegan until 2006/2007. I knew many vegetarians, but being vegan was more extreme. It has gotten a lot easier in the past 5 years to be vegan and this is shown through the popularity of vegan foods, websites, restaurants, etc. I won’t go as far as to say it’s easy to be vegan, however it’s certainly easier to be vegan now then it was years ago. Where you live can also make it more or less challenging. In larger cities, and in states like Oregon and California, it’s quite easy to find a large assortment of restaurants catering to vegans. In rural towns, or in cities devoted to say the cattle industry, it can be a bit tougher. So, do you want to be vegan?

Pro:

  • Being vegan has been shown to reduce heart disease, diabetes, cancer, lower blood pressure, cholesterol and more
  • You’ll generally have a higher intake of fiber, lower calories, saturated fat, cholesterol, and take in a greater amounts of folic acid, Vit C and E and phytochemicals.
  • You’re doing something you feel is positive to help out the environment, animal rights and your health
  • Healthy weight-I don’t have the research on this, but I have never met an overweight vegan.

Con:

  • It can be a challenge to figure out which foods to eat to make sure you are getting all the correct nutrients
  • Vegan diets can be lower in omega 3’s, Vit D, Calcium, Zinc, B-12 and protein and need to eat fortified foods, or take supplements to get some of these key nutrients.
  • You could have a tougher time with restaurants, travel, eating out, etc.

There are some famous vegans today, and the one that a lot of people know, is Bill Clinton.  Today vegans make up an estimated 1-3% of the population. And thankfully, because of the increased demand of being vegan, there are more choices in foods, supplements, protein powders, restaurants, etc. There are even a large number of endurance athletes that are vegan, or have at least dabbled in it. If you aren’t careful, and just decide to be vegan without exploring books, website, blogs or a doctor, you could become deficient very quickly in needed nutrients. So please, before you just jump into veganism, do some research. A good resource is my friend and cardiologist Heather Shenkman. Heather is also a vegan triathlete who resides in LA. She has a very helpful blog called Theveganheartdoc.blogspot.com that includes good recipes and chronicles her life as a vegan triathlete.

Gluten Free

This term has quickly gained a stronghold in the endurance community, and while I do think there are some people with true gluten sensitivities, I also do think it’s a fad. I want to explain a few different terms, then give some pros and cons.

What is gluten: Gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat. Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of dough, which in turn affects the chewiness of baked wheat products (and makes them yummy).

Wheat Allergy:  This is an allergy to wheat where there is an overreaction of the immune system to the wheat protein. When the food protein is ingested, it can trigger an allergic reaction that may include a range of symptoms from mild symptoms (rashes, hives, itching, swelling, etc.) to severe symptoms (trouble breathing, wheezing, loss of consciousness, etc.). A food allergy can be potentially fatal. Approximately .4 % of kids, and less than .1% of adults have a wheat allergy.

Celiacs Disease: This is an actual disease where the small intestine is effected, and is caused by an abnormal immune reaction to gluten. Celiacs disease can be very hard to diagnose, and must be done by a doctor, most likely a gastroenterologist. If someone with Celiacs eats wheat, they can have intestinal damage, or even malnutrition. Approximately 1/133 people or .007% of the population has Celiacs Disease.

Gluten Sensitivity: This is a wide category and people can have varying levels of gluten sensitivity or intolerance. This is the area I come across most in the endurance world. There are definitely people that are gluten sensitive, but I do believe others are using it as a way to eat low carb, or to just jump on a fad. There is no known number of people with gluten sensitivity as with the varying levels of sensitivity and with little way to collect data, we don’t have a number. Scientists can approximate that 5-6% of the population has a gluten sensitivity. If you need further understanding please read the article cited below. One of my professors from Scotland shared this with us.

The lowdown on celiac disease, gluten sensitivity and celebrity wheat-bashing: In conversation with Dr Alessio Fasano

At the end of the article, Dr Alessio explains and rebuts the argument that our bodies can not handle wheat gluten. Critics are saying that since we have only been eating wheat for 6-7000 years, our bodies can’t properly digest the wheat, causing inflammation. This just isn’t the case. Go to pubmed to find further articles.

There are two other things that I want to mention here. There are two possibilities for athletes who think they might be gluten sensitive, to really be not. Here they are.

1. The first one is kind of hard to swallow. People use the excuse of, “when I exercise and I eat sports nutrition containing gluten, I get sick.” While yes, this might be the case, what also might be happening is that you are pushing your body too hard and trying to take in sports nutrition. I see this a lot. People need to take in nutrition during training, at the same intensity they plan to race at. That way they know they can handle it.

2. FODMAP-One believe starting to take hold is that people who think they might have a gluten sensitivity might actual have FODMAP. What is this?  The acronym FODMAP stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols. These short-chain carbohydrates are incompletely absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and can be easily fermented by gut bacteria. This will lead to GI distress, gas, pain and diarrhea. What foods are considered FODMAP?

  • Lactose from dairy products, fructose from certain fruit, coconut products, and sweeteners, fructans from fibrous vegetables, and polyols from fruit and sugar alcohols

So, let’s look at the Pros:

  • Most people who are on gluten free diets have eliminated processed foods like breads, pasta, cookies, cake, this is good.
  • They instead focus on very healthy carbohydrates like fruits and veggies, this is also good.
  • If they have a GI disorder or sensitivity, this can eliminate it

Cons:

  • Most people don’t need to go gluten free. So, they are cutting out all grains. Not all grains are bad. 100% whole wheat, barely, oats and many more provide many heart healthy and training benefits.
  • It’s expensive to eat gluten free
  • When you’re not eating things like fortified 100% whole wheat bread, you might be missing out on ingredients like folate and insoluble fiber.

So, my take is, the majority of people do not need to go gluten free. In fact, there are some foods with gluten that are wonderful for you. I’ve mentioned them above, but cutting out whole grains just isn’t necessary. If you think you have a sensitivity, please go talk to your doctor. There could be a myriad of different things occurring and you don’t want to assume it’s gluten. Please don’t just jump on the gluten is bad bandwagon. If you want to eat low carb, just eat low carb. Yes, highly processed white bread, pasta, cookies, cakes, etc are not good for you. But even those on occasion are ok. Birthday cake anyone?

And last but not least, The Paleo Diet.

I am one of those athletes that is also a science nerd (if you couldn’t tell). So, whenever something new comes onto the market, I like to read everything there is about it, to find out if I should include it in my, or my athletes training. So, in 2004 or 2005, I found a book called The Paleo Diet for Athletes. I thought to myself, what is this, and should I try it? At that time, there wasn’t a lot of data on it, and to be honest, I didn’t know one single athlete on it. So, I decided to use myself as a guinea pig. And that was hard. I learned very quickly I was not going to be a Paleo convert. There are many reasons, but mainly things like whole grains, dairy, and legumes. These are not allowed, and I think they provided many wonderful benefits (unless you have an allergy of course). Currently while injured I have cut back on my carb intake, so I am making more paleo type foods. Once I can resume 15 hours a week of training, I’ll be eating more grains again.

What is The Paleo Diet? The Paleo Diet was created by Dr. Lorain Cordain. This is a diet, or way of eating that eliminates any food that our paleolithic ancestors did not eat. If you are a paleo convert, there are a number of studies that show you are right in doing what you are doing. There are other studies (many more in fact) that show diets filled with whole grains, dairy and legumes are very healthy for you. These are the things that the paleo diet has eliminated. Ok, what can you eat on the paleo diet?

Allowable foods:

  • Lean meats
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Some oils and fats

What can’t you eat:

  • Grains
  • Legumes
  • Dairy
  • Any processed foods- but of course, no one should be eating these anyway.

So, if the argument is we should only eat what our ancestors ate, here is a biological anthropologist’s reasons why to not believe the Paleo Diet:

Barbara J. King, a biological anthropologist at the College of William and Mary, reported on NPR in October 2011: “Here’s where science most forcefully speaks back. First, ancient hunter-gatherer groups adapted to local environments that were regionally and seasonally variable — for instance, coastal or inland, game-saturated or grain-abundant (eating grains was not necessarily incompatible with hunter-gatherer living). Second, genes were not in control. People learned what worked in local context for survival and reproduction, and surely, just as in other primates, cultural traditions began to play a role in who ate what. In short, there was no single hunter-gatherer foraging strategy, and genes no more “designed” our eating behavior than they designed our language or our ways of relating between the genders.”

There are many other evolutionary biologists that concur with Dr. King above. People could debate for hours about the Paleo Diet. So, I’ll just give my pros and cons.

Pros:

  • The diet cuts down on processed foods- this includes white bread, refined flours, artificial products, packaged meats, sugary cereals, cookies, cake, etc. These are bad in any diet
  • The diet emphasizes eating lots of vegetables, which is very important
  • They emphasize natural meat, no hormones, no steroids, etc

Cons:

  • Any diet that eliminates whole food groups is not a diet to stick with. Whole grains, dairy and legumes provide fiber, proteins, photochemicals, vitamins, minerals and many more important nutrients
  • Founded on pseudo science, not fact based science
  • Can be harmful to eat large quantities of protein for prolonged periods
  • It is a very expensive diet to follow
  • It can be a hard diet plan to stick with, and a bit unrealistic for the majority of people

Any diet that emphasizes natural food, with a large emphasis on vegetables is good. Where I think they go wrong is believing that our bodies can not process foods like dairy, grains and legumes. This just isn’t the case. Please do more research if you think what I am writing isn’t true. Or, reach out to your doctor or a local sports dietician.

There will always be people that believe one thing, and others that believe another. I try to make informed decisions based on the current research available. Research is always changing, that’s one thing that makes science so interesting. If you want to try any of the diets or ways of eating that we talked about, please speak with your doctor or a sports dietician. The diet might work for you, or it might not. If you’re curious as I was with the Paleo Diet, give it a try. I might add I think one of the ways the Paleo Diet lost me was when they said I had to make my own things like ketchup. And they advocated for eating organ meats, especially for breakfast. Personally, I just couldn’t and didn’t want to do it. But if you want to try it, go for it. Hopefully you will have a bit more info about each.