Performance Nutrition Basics – Leg Three

Protein: Really the superstar?

Most Americans eat more protein than they need each day.  Intake beyond the body’s needs is unnecessary & can possibly have negative effects.  The big question is, what are the body’s needs?  Obviously, each person’s protein needs are different, and those needs depend on many factors.  Here are some guidelines:

Average adult (non-athlete):  0.8grams per kilogram body weight per day (about 55g/day for an average 150-pound person)

Endurance athlete (depends on training cycle): 0.8-2.0g/kg/day (55-135g/day for an average 150-pound athlete)

Other athlete with goal of building body mass: 1.4-1.8g/kg/day (127-163g/day for an average 200-pound athlete)

But here’s where the rubber meets the road: how do those numbers translate into actual food choices?

2 eggs–12g

4 ounces chicken breast–35g

4 ounces salmon–25g

1/2 cup black beans–8g

1/4 cup almonds–8g

various grains/veggies throughout the day (2 slices bread, 1 cup brown rice, 1 sweet potato)–13g

Total protein intake: 101g

This is, of course, more than what is necessary for average adults and even most athletes, except for endurance athletes during their pre-race cycle, and larger athletes looking to build mass.  All that would be required to meet any higher recommendation would be slightly larger portions.  The bottom line is, you can get all the protein your body needs to function properly, and satisfy the demands of athletic training and competition, from a healthy balanced diet. If, however you don’t have access to, or time to make, balanced meals, there are options for supplementation. At least now you will know how much protein you really need and can decide accordingly what to consume and when to consume it. Here are some of the healthiest sources of protein:

  • Chicken, turkey, ham, fillet steak, or seafood cooked in a healthy manner (grilled, baked, broiled; not fried)
  • Eggs
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Beans or legumes

Protein does, of course, have important functions in the body:

  • Maintenance & repair of body tissue (muscle, hair, skin, eyes, organs, etc.)
  •  Enzymes
  •  Hormones (insulin, secretin, etc.)
  •  Antibodies (read: immune system)

These functions are certainly important, but the functions of all the other nutrients (vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fat, water, fiber) should not be considered any less important.  Getting more protein than what you need is not going to enhance or increase any of these functions/processes.  Also, excess intake of protein can be stored as fat and, depending on the sources of protein, could lead to high intake of saturated fat (see “Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Two; Demystifying Fats”).

Just remember, all of the nutrients are important; we just need different amounts of them.  Finding a balance may be tough sometimes, but a little planning ahead can go a long way towards a healthy, balanced diet.

Janet Carter, MS, RD, LD, CPT, CLS
Dietitian/Sports Nutritionist
Endurance Athlete
dietjc24@yahoo.com
774-400-7566

Coming Soon: Performance Nutrition Basics, Leg Four; Vitamins, Minerals and Water

This blog is written using the most updated scientific information available.  The author has no financial stake in anything that’s discussed, nor is she benefiting financially from writing the blog article.  In other words, you are receiving un-biased, science-based sports nutrition information from an experienced professional who is also a seasoned endurance athlete.

5 Real life signs of overtraining or a need for a rest day

By Carrie Lester, Pro Triathlete and Coach

I am not a doctor, an exercise scientist, or any other scholar when it comes to identifying signs of overtraining or when we as athletes are simply in need of a few easy days. I am, however a coach and an athlete, and have years of experience racing as a professional athlete in my body and mind. It has taken a long time to recognize the clear signs that I am on the edge, and I see similar signs in athletes I coach as they are Age Group athletes managing work, kids, training, social commitments and basic life chores. These are my top 5 signs:

1. Mood.

This one for me is the screaming sign I am in need of some easier days.

Feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability, lack of motivation, low self esteem, low everything…it starts to become consuming. Why? Without getting into the science = HORMONES.  What we do places an awful amount of stress on our body and mind and eventually our hormones start flipping out. They control everything. When I find myself in tears for no apparent reason, its time for a rest.

2. Food choices.

Where’s the sugar?? I want it ALL the time. Hormones are out of whack, mood is down, what is going to make me feel better…SUGAR! Most of the time I eat a balanced, healthy diet. But when I am at a low point, I make bad choices. Then feel worse because I made the bad choice. And turns out it didn’t make me feel better.

3. Strength & Power.

I have none. Just deep fatigue. In any discipline I am fighting myself in whatever I do. My legs, arms, everything is heavy, and no matter how much time I give myself to “clear the pipes” in sessions it just doesn’t happen and usually ends in tears (a little over exaggerated but known to happen). 80% efforts are capped at 60% if I am lucky because I can’t go any faster, my heart won’t let me. Hills become mountains and I scramble up them.  The list goes on.

4. Sleep.

It’s restless. And not enough to recover and feel rejuvenated. I always wake feeling I want more and am usually in a pretty deep brain fog. Don’t talk to me until I have had a cold shower and coffee (which at these times you should try and avoid!)

5. The scientific signs.

As I said, I’m no scientist, but it doesn’t take one to know that what we do creates inflammation within us. At times, this will create inflammatory conditions that will show as red flags should you have blood tests or ASI tests done. THIS DOESN’T MEAN A DOCTOR PUTS YOU ON MEDICATION. I REPEAT, YOU DO NOT NEED MEDICATION. Most of these conditions WILL stabilize with the correct diet, rest and lifestyle. If they don’t, then you should seek professional help and consider other options.

If you start noticing any or all of these signs communicate with your coach (if you have one) and plan a few easy days until your signs start to turn around.  Note, I said easier days. NOT days OFF.  Sometimes taking full days off is not what we type A people need, but in extreme cases may be ok with doing so. Consider it a time of adaptation to come back stronger.

It’s important to recognize the signs and not take it out on others or ourselves. Don’t beat yourself up, but instead treat your body and mind to a few days of R&R. Eat well, sleep as much as you can, back the training off, take a mini break, go out with friends and have a good laugh. Your body & mind will thank you!

One Bad Habit at a Time

By Scott Turner

In endurance sports, there is no shortage of amazing stories. At every turn, we are surrounded by stories of people overcoming incredible challenges through the discipline of endurance sports. Be it mental health, addiction, physical limitations or personal tragedy, many people have turned to endurance sports for help. I love hearing these stories as they remind me that all this splashing, pedaling, and running around I do can be so much more than simple exercise. It makes me feel as though the sport I love so much is part of something larger.

However, I have occasionally felt that a certain effect is lost when viewing these stories from a distance. The inspirational feeling that results from hearing someone tell their amazing story can fade quickly after reading or viewing their presentation. Often, we don’t know these people personally, so while their story is immediately impactful, those feelings aren’t reinforced beyond the initial telling.

This is where I have had an incredible privilege over the last three years or so. I have been part of an inspirational story happening right under my own roof. My Mom, Dorald “Dee” Turner, has undergone a life altering transformation that truly must be seen to be believed, and I am so proud to have even had a small role to play in this story.  I sat down recently to interview her to get her thoughts on where she’s come from and where she’s going. This story begs to be told, and while it may seem similar to so many others you have read, it has some very subtle, yet important, lessons to teach about the power of personal effort.

The roots of this story lie, perhaps unexpectedly, not in endurance sports. In the early part of 2015, my Mom’s weight sits about four hundred and twenty pounds. She cannot run due to extensive damage to her knees, her body prevents her from getting onto a bike, and her lack of self-confidence bars her from getting into a pool. That number, four hundred and twenty pounds, bears remembering, because it’s going to become important very shortly.

My Mom began this journey with very little supports in place to guide her. She simply decided that enough was enough, and this was something she was going to take on. She wanted to live a healthier life and take on the weight problem that had plagued her since early adulthood.  She stressed to me that she knew that change wasn’t going to happen overnight, and she had to be realistic about her goals. Her only driving force behind this undertaking was, “focus on one bad habit at a time.”

Fast forward to a date that she marks very specifically, October 18, 2015. She explains to me that this was the date of her first information session. Having already made drastic diet and lifestyle changes, she decided that her next steps were inside a selective weight loss program through Holy Cross Hospital. At this meeting, she learns all the requirements she will have to meet to qualify for her ultimate goal, a gastric bypass surgery. This surgery would decrease the size of her stomach allowing her to attain the drastic weight reduction that was needed to safeguard her health. In addition to further weight loss as a requirement of this program, she would be required to attend two ninety-minute weight loss courses, two three-hour infoormation sessions, several mental health screenings, numerous nutritionist appointments, and submit detailed food journals for her six to nine month attendance in the program. At the end of which, her case would be presented to a panel of doctors to ultimately decide whether to approve her for the surgery.

The ferocity with which my Mom took on this challenge was astounding. She underwent what she described as a, “total lifestyle change both physically and mentally.” She attended her first official meeting in November of 2015, and she was off to the races. She passed all her initial screenings with flying colors, and she managed to lose eighty more pounds during her time in the program even before the surgery.

At the end of the program, she was given some amazing news; she was approved for her surgery, and the date was set. She remarks, with a big smile, that they gave her July 5th, 2016, “my Independence Day.”

After recovery, she made quick use of her independence; she continued and even built on the lifestyle changes made within the program, completed three five-kilometer races, and became a spokesperson for her program. She has been invited to numerous meetings to speak to potential members and offer her story as a beacon of hope. She’s quietly made herself a resource to the other alumni of the program and helps to keep wavering members from losing their way when the post-surgery life gets more complicated.

All this progress still rings through today. At the time of writing, my Mom sits at one hundred and thirty-eight pounds. A total weight loss of about two hundred and eighty pounds. As we sit together in her kitchen in Western Maryland for the interview, she informs me proudly that she has logged two years straight in her food journal app as of that date. She tells me with an unmistakable glimmer in her eye about her plans for the future. She has already registered for several more five-kilometer races, an all women eight-kilometer race, and she will make her outdoor triathlon debut this June as her and I race together at the Escape the Cape Triathlon Series in Cape May, New Jersey.

I asked her what made her story different from all the other inspirational stories that we are told about in endurance sports. She thinks for a moment, and she tells me that her story stands out because it’s a victory on two fronts. She explains that she overcame her physical limitations in the weight loss, but the harder fought battle was the mental one. She had to overcome all the feelings of self-hatred and self-doubt, and she had to “know, really know, that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I stuck my mind to it.”

For my final question of our evening interview, I asked my Mom which steps of a race did she think were the most important, the first ones or the last ones. True to form, she picked the last ones. She remarked that the last ones are where you learn the most. I would contend that they are also where you have the greatest opportunity to teach. This, I believe, is the true power of my Mom’s story. There have been so many finish lines for this journey of hers, many opportunities for her to be “done,” and yet she continues to use her journey to teach and inspire. She has recognized that while a journey may end at some destination, the echoes of that final footfall ripple into something so much larger than can be seen. I think that her story teaches that the true power of endurance sports, or any undertaking for that matter, come from mindful participation, deliberate effort, and an awareness of the effect we can have on others.

A Busy Mom’s Secret Weapon for Getting Through the Day

When I became pregnant recently, my professional athlete’s training load was greatly reduced, and along with it my consumption of XRCEL…or so I thought.

I quickly found that with my body working in overtime to grow a human, even the shortest of workouts demanded the proper pre- and post-workout fueling that XRCEL provides. And what surprised me the most is that on my off days of exercise, I was still reaching for XRCEL to power me through days of parenting while pregnant.

I started always keeping a bottle or two in my car, in case I started feeling low on energy while stuck in a traffic jam or if I needed a boost before going grocery shopping. Those may sound like easy tasks, but at 8 months pregnant with two other little kids to wrangle, it feels like running intervals!

I also now always keep an XRCEL in my purse. It has saved me a few times recently – most notably while touring elementary schools (with lots of stairs) for my older daughter and while chaperoning a pre-school field trip. 

 So my theory is, if it’s good enough to fuel you through a grueling 12 hour race, why not use it to fuel you through a (just as hard) day of parenting? 

Bec