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Carbs, Protein & Performance

What percentage of my diet should come from carbohydrates? … Should I exercise on empty? … How much protein should I eat after I lift weights? … Is whey the best source of protein?

These are just a few of the questions addressed at the annual meeting of SCAN, the Sports And Cardiovascular Nutritionist’s practice group of the American Dietetic Association (www.SCANdpg.org). Over 400 sports dietitians gather to learn the latest news from prominent sports nutrition researchers. I hope this information will help you choose a winning sports diet.

Carbohydrate Update

Louise Burke, PhD, Director of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Institute of Sport, addressed the following questions:

• What’s the best percentages of carbohydrates, protein, and fat for a sports diet — 40-30-30 or 60-25-15?

mealNeither! A better approach is to define nutrient needs according to body weight. For example, the International Olympic Committee developed these guidelines:
Intensity of exercise gram carb/kg body wt gram carb/lb body wt
Low intensity 3-5 g 1.5-2.5
Moderate (~1 hour/day): 5-7 g 2.3-3.2
Endurance (1-3 hours/d): 6-10 g 2.5-4.5
Extreme (>4-5 hours/d): 8-12 g 3.5-5.5

• How much should I eat during exercise?

During exercise that lasts 1 to 2.5 hours, you want to target 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrate (120 to 240 calories) per hour. That’s about 1 to 2 gels or 16 to 32 ounces of a sports drink per hour (after the first hour, if you ate a pre-exercise meal or snack)

During endurance exercise, 60 to 90 grams of different sources of carbohydrates (such as sports drink, banana, gummy candy) per hour is appropriate, as tolerated. Consuming the higher end of the range (90 g, as compared to 60 g) is associated with greater stamina and endurance.

• How long does it take to refuel from exhaustive exercise?

If you eat a carb-rich sports diet, you can replenish depleted glycogen stores in 24 to 36 hours post-exercise (with no exercise during that time). While it’s important to pay attention to your recovery diet, most athletes do not need to eat immediately after exercise unless they are doing double workouts. (Within an after exercise, yes; immediately, no.)

• What can I do if I cannot tolerate any food during exercise?

Try mouth swishing with a sports drink. This sends a message to the brain that energy is forthcoming and you’ll feel more energetic. Swishing can enhance performance by 2% to 3% if you are exercising on empty and have not eaten pre-exercise—as often happens with morning exercisers. (Swishing seems to be less beneficial after a pre-exercise meal, but more research is needed to verify those findings.)

• Should I train with poorly fueled muscles, as a means to teach my body to burn more fat, so it spares the limited glycogen stores?

Active seniorsTraining with low glycogen stores (“train low”) drives up the metabolic adaptations to burn more fat. By burning fat instead of glycogen, you’ll spare the limited glycogen stores. Theoretically, this should enhance stamina and endurance because glycogen depletion is associated with fatigue. To date, “training low” has been most effective in research with untrained individuals. Athletes who exercise with depleted glycogen are unable to exercise at high intensity and that may hinder performance.

Training with low glycogen during lower intensity workouts might be one way to stimulate the muscle adaptations to burn more fat (and thus spare the limited glycogen stores). But athletes should do their high intensity workouts when they are fully glycogen-loaded.

Exercise physiologist and researcher John Hawley, PhD of Melbourne, Australia acknowledged that train low/compete high is receiving a lot of attention among serious endurance and ultra-distance athletes. Hawley suggests “train low” should be defined as “train at 50% of resting muscle glycogen, 50% of the time”—and only for selected sessions. Training with low carbohydrate availability can be achieved by exercising with 1) low blood glucose, or 2) low muscle glycogen stores. Both generate adaptations that promote the training response and might be advantageous to competitive endurance athletes. Hawley cautions serious athletes that “training low” compromises training intensity and may lead to inferior performance during an event, particularly if the athlete needs to do a competitive sprint to the finish. That final sprint often determines who wins…

Protein Update

Stuart Phillips, PhD, professor of kinesiology, McMaster University in Ontario, Canada presented an update on protein, answering these questions:

• Do athletes need more protein than non-athletes?

eggsWhile the recommended protein intake for the average American is 0.4 gram protein per pound body weight (0.8 grm protein per kg), most exercise scientists agree that athletes need a more to optimize muscular development: 0.5 to 0.8 grams protein per pound (1.2 to 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram) body weight per day. However, most young women and men generally consume about 0.55 to 0.65 g protein/lb (1.2 g and 1.4 g protein/kg) body weight per day, respectively. They can appropriately meet their higher need without supplements.

• How much protein do I need after I lift weights?

Consuming 20 grams of protein-rich food (Greek yogurt, tuna sandwich, 16 oz. chocolate milk) after resistance exercise is plenty to optimize the rate of muscle synthesis. Athletes should then continue to eat protein and carbs at meals and snacks throughout the day.

The highest rate of protein synthesis is 3 to 5 hours post-exercise. This raises the question: Should athletes who work out twice a day plan to avoid exercising during that time frame? The “good stuff” (building muscle) happens during rest and recovery and the “bad stuff” (muscle damage) happens during exercise. Remember: rest is an essential part of a strength training program!

• Should I buy whey protein supplements?

Probably not, unless you are a frail, elderly person with a limited food intake. Drinking milk (20% whey, 80% casein) and eating a balanced sports diet with adequate protein from many sources can be as effective as whey supplements. Hard, hard work is the basic trigger for bigger muscles!

From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, April 2011

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) helps both casual and competitive athletes win with nutrition. Her private practice is in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook and her food guides for new runners, marathoners offer additional information. They are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also sportsnutritionworkshop.com.

Who Really Ends Up Being The Biggest Loser?

After watching some episodes of The Biggest Loser TV show in school recently, my 6th grade son has started talking about how cool it would be if HE could get on the show someday. My son is not obese, is healthy and athletic, and the fact that he thought this crying, screaming, extreme dieting, working-out-six-hours-a-day-until-you-collapse spectacle might be good for him renewed my long-time concerns about the messages this show is sending, not only to impressionable kids but to everyone who wants to lose weight as quickly as possible.

For anyone unfamiliar with the show, it gathers about 16 morbidly obese individuals, divides them into 2 competing teams led by well known personal trainers, then follows their weight loss efforts for 12 weeks. During the 12 weeks, which culminates in 1 winner receiving a large monetary prize, the contestants who lose the least amount of weight are at risk of getting “voted off” the show each week, Survivor style. While the premise of the show is motivating people to lose weight, it is no more than a reality game show at its core and needs to be balanced with some discussion about healthy ways to make positive, lasting lifestyle changes.

exercise-86200_640Of course, everyone’s diet/fitness level can always use improvements, and there’s no denying that America has a weight problem. Although The Biggest Loser can prompt some good discussions about diet and exercise, it promotes unhealthy, unrealistic methods of weight loss. The contestants’ diets are severely restricted to around 1,200 calories a day. Using this barely minimal caloric intake as fuel, they exercise for 4-6 hours a day until people frequently collapse or get physically sick. Then the trainers scream at them to shake it off, shaming them into believing they can – and should – push through the pain and exhaustion. As if they really wanted to lose weight badly enough, their will power would prevail over their body. Contestants are expected to lose several pounds each week, when a healthy rate is 1-2 pounds a week at the most. If this doesn’t encourage eating disorders, I don’t know what would. Off camera, it’s rumored that contestants will do anything to get the numbers on the scale lower, like dehydrating themselves or using laxatives or other methods to lose weight faster.

biggest-loserThe most recent Biggest Loser winner, Rachel Frederickson, ended the show dangerously thin. According to an article on CNN, Frederickson went from 260 pounds to 105 pounds, losing 59.62% of her body weight. At 5 feet, 5 inches tall, that puts her body mass index at 17.5. Anything under 18.5 is considered underweight and can have serious health repercussions.

Even if it was done for the sake of the cash prize, the damage it has done to her body is unmistakable. What’s more, the message this show sends season after season by rewarding someone for losing a lot weight in a very short time using unhealthy methods is disheartening. I’m not sure if The Biggest Loser is the “winner” of the show or the millions of people watching and thinking this represents the gold standard in health and physical fitness.

Jaclyn Chadbourne, MA is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Co-Owner of the Medically Oriented Gym (M.O.G.) in South Portland, Maine. With a passion for sustainable healthy living and desire to advocate for patient-centered care, Jaclyn works to help the M.O.G. support community resources for all special populations and to implement and oversee clinical protocols. Read more from the MOG on their website, themoggroup.com/blog

Why Can’t I Simply Lose a Few Pounds? 5 Dieting Myths & Gender Differences

Despite their apparent leanness, too many active people are discontent with their body fat. All too often, I hear seemingly lean athletes express extreme frustration with their inability to lose undesired bumps and bulges:

  • Am I the only runner who has ever gained weight when training for a marathon???
  • Why does my husband lose weight when he starts going to the gym and I don’t?
  • For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin. Why can’t I simply lose a few pounds?

Clearly, weight loss is not simple and often includes debunking a few myths. Perhaps this article will offer some insights that will lead to success with your weight loss efforts.

MYTHS: You must exercise in order to lose body fat.
To lose body fat, you must create a calorie deficit. You can create that deficit by
1) exercising, which improves your overall health and fitness, or
2) eating fewer calories.

Even injured athletes can lose fat, despite a lack of exercise. The complaint, I gained weight when I was injured because I couldn’t exercise” could more correctly be stated, I gained weight because I mindlessly overate for comfort and fun.

muesli with fresh fruits as diet foodAdding on exercise does not equate to losing body fat. In a 16-week study, untrained women (ages 18 to 34) built up to 40 minutes of hard cardio or weight lifting three days a week. They were told to not change their diet, and they saw no changes in body fatness.(1) Creating a calorie deficit by eating less food seems to be more effective than simply adding on exercise to try to lose weight.

Athletes who complain they “eat like a bird” but fail to lose body fat may simply be under-reporting their food intake. A survey of female marathoners indicated the fatter runners under-reported their food intake more than the leaner ones. Were they oblivious to how much they actually consumed?(2) Or were they too sedentary in the non-exercise hours of their day?

runMYTH: If you train for a marathon or triathlon, surely your body fat will melt away.
Wishful thinking. If you are an endurance athlete who complains, For all the exercise I do, I should be pencil-thin, take a look at your 24-hour energy expenditure. Do you put most of your energy into exercising, but then tend to be quite sedentary the rest of the day as you recover from your tough workouts? Male endurance athletes who reported a seemingly low calorie intake did less spontaneous activity than their peers in the non-exercise parts of their day.(4) You need to keep taking the stairs instead of the elevators, no matter how much you train. Again, you should eat according to your whole day’s activity level, not according to how hard you trained that day.

MYTH: The more you exercise, the more fat you will lose.
Often, the more you exercise, the hungrier you get and 1) the more you will eat, or 2) the more you believe you “deserve” to eat for having survived the killer workout. Unfortunately, rewarding yourself with a 600-calorie cinnamon roll can quickly erase in a few minutes the 600-calorie deficit you generated during your workout.

The effects of exercise on weight loss are complex and unclear—and depend on the 24-hour picture. We know among people (ages 56-78) who participated in a vigorous walking program, their daily energy needs remained about the same despite adding an hour of exercise. How could that be? The participants napped more and were 62% less active the rest of their day.(3) Be sure to pay attention to your whole day’s activity level. One hour of exercise does not compensate for a sedentary lifestyle

MYTH: You should exercise six days a week to lose weight.
Research suggests exercising four times a week might be better for weight control than six times a week. A study with sedentary women (ages 60 to 74) who built up to exercising for 40 minutes of cardio and weights suggests those who did four workouts a week burned about 225 additional calories in the other parts of their day because they felt energized. The group that trained six times a week complained the workouts not only took up too much time, but also left them feeling tired and droopy. They burned about 200 fewer calories in the non-exercise parts of their day.(5) Yes, they were ages 60 to 74, but the info might also relate to you?

MYTH: Couples who exercise together, lose fat together.
Not always. In a 16-month study Senior couple on country bike ridelooking at exercise for weight loss, the men lost 11.5 pounds and the women maintained weight, even though they did the same amount of exercise.(6) In another study, men who did an 18-month marathon training program reported eating about 500 more calories per day and lost about five pounds of fat. The women reported eating only 60 more calories, despite having added on 50 miles per week of running. They lost only two pounds.(7)

What’s going on here? Well, a husband who adds on exercise will lose more weight than his wife if he’s heftier and thereby burns more calories during the same workout. But, speaking in terms of evolution, Nature seems protective of women’s role as child bearer, and wants women to maintain adequate body fat for nourishing healthy babies. Hence, women are more energy efficient. Obesity researchers at NY’s Columbia University suggest a pound of weight loss in men equates to a deficit of about 2,500 calories, while women need a 3,500-calorie deficit.(8) No wonder women have a tougher time losing weight then do men….

The bottom line
If you are exercising to lose weight, I encourage you to separate exercise and weight. Yes, you should exercise for health, fitness, stress relief, and most importantly, for enjoyment. (After all, the E in exercise stands for enjoyment!) If you exercise primarily to burn off calories, exercise will become punishment for having excess body fat. You’ll eventually quit exercising—and that’s a bad idea.

Instead of focusing on exercise as the key to fat loss, pay more attention to your calorie intake. Knocking off just 100 calories a day from your evening snacks can theoretically result in 10 pounds a year of fat loss. One less cookie a day seems simpler than hours of sweating…?

From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark, MS, RD March 2013

Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels casual and competitive athletes in her private practice in the Boston-area (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist’s Food Guide all offer additional weight management information. The books are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com. See also www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.


1. Poehlman, E., W. Denino, T. Beckett, K. Kinsman, I. Dionne, R. Dvorak, P. Andes. Effects of endurance and resistance training on total daily energy expenditure in young women: a controlled randomized trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 87(3):1004-9, 2002.
2. Edwards, J, A. Lindeman, A. Mikesky, and J. Stager. Energy balance in highly trained female endurance runners. Med Sci Sports Exer 25:1398-404, 1993.
3. Goran, M. and E. Poehlman. Endurance training does not enhance total energy expenditure in healthy elderly persons. Am J Physiol 263:E950-7, 1992.
4. Thompson, J., M. Manore, J. Skinner, E. Ravussin, M. Spraul. Daily energy expenditure in male endurance athletes with differing energy intakes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27::347-54, 1995.
5. Hunter, G., C. Bickel, G. Fisher, W. Neumeier, J. McCarthy. Combined Aerobic/Strength Training and Energy Expenditure in Older Women. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013 Jan 30. [Epub ahead of print]
6. Donnelly, E., J. Hill, D. Jacobsen, et al. Effects of a 16-month randomized controlled exercise trial on body weight and composition in young, overweight men and women: the Midwest Exercise Trial. Arch Intern Med 163:1343-50, 2003.
7. Janssen, C., C. Graef, W. Saris. Food intake and body composition in novice athletes during a training period to run a marathon. Int J Sports Med, 10:S17-21,1989.
8. Pietrobelli, A., D. Allison, S. Heshka, et al. Sexual dimorphism in the energy content of weight change. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 26:1339-48, 2002.
Todays Dietitian1

Statin Use Associated With Reduced Risk of Prostate Cancer Recurrence

Men who begin taking statins after prostate cancer surgery are less likely to experience a recurrence of their cancer, according to a retrospective analysis led by researchers at Duke Medicine.

“Our findings suggest that beginning statins after surgery may reduce the risk of prostate cancer recurrence, so it’s not too late to start statins after a diagnosis,” says lead author Emma H. Allott, PhD, a postdoctoral associate in the division of urology at Duke and the Durham VA Medical Center.

A secondary analysis revealed that this protective association was significant only among men who aren’t black, although this possible racial disparity requires further investigation. The study appears online in BJU International (formerly the British Journal of Urology).

Prostate cancer is the most common nonskin cancer in men, according to the American Cancer Society. For men with localized disease, radical prostatectomy is a common treatment option. However, approximately 30% of men experience a recurrence of their prostate cancer within 10 years of surgery.

Read the full article at Today’s Dietitian…


Clarity at Base Camp

Sunday morning 9 am…..My eyes are focused on the snow in my driveway as I step onto my treadmill that sits in my garage….my ears filled with the sounds of the song “Afterlife” by Switchfoot. I slowly move the treadmill from 4.0 to 6.0 mph – my feet move faster – my breathing begins to increase – and I focus….It was in this moment that I realized I’m beginning the ascent from base camp to my new summit.

chadbourne-basecampOver the past 15 years I have successfully summitted many mountains – metaphorical of course. Unlike MOG’s very own Bill McCormick, I have yet to actually climb a mountain like Everest or Rainier. But I have overcome many obstacles – I have felt the desire to quit – I have been challenged by unfavorable conditions – and I have persevered. At the age of 21, I successfully completed my first marathon – the Maine Marathon, all while completing my senior year of collegiate soccer. I was competitive, driven and trained like a madwoman. It was one of the most gratifying times in my life… second of course to marrying my husband and starting our family.

In my mind I have always felt that unless I get back to that place, than what is the point of my exercise? If I was not training for something, I lost my focus. Those of you that have had children know how that can affect your body in so many ways. It has been years since I have felt like myself physically – constantly challenged by the changes that have occurred from carrying my children.

treadmillAt this very moment, it is not envisioning crossing the finish line at the marathon that pushes me to continue running on the treadmill. It is the face of my 5 year old son who comes around the corner and smiles at me with his sneakers on and asks me “Mom! Are you almost done so I can exercise!?” It is the vision of all of our MOG members who inspire us in their daily dedication to walking through our doors and changing their lives. It is the passion that every one of my co-workers embodies in our daily quest to have a positive impact on one person’s life.

We all have mountains to climb within a day, a week or a year. Today I found clarity at my base camp as I stepped onto my treadmill and hit start. I could not be more excited about beginning one of the most important climbs of my life. Today, in this moment, I exercise for me and for my family. I am a better mom when I exercise. I am a better wife when I exercise. I am a happier person when I exercise. It is not easy. The days are filled with the endless pursuit to make it through my massive to do list – but alas, I realize that mountain I will never summit. But it does not matter for I am dedicated as I write this today that I will summit this mountain I call exercise one day at a time – and realize that each day I climb will get easier and more exciting. I will be invigorated to challenge myself in ways I never thought I could – and then peacefully descent into my life with confidence and a renewed sense of self because of the one thing that will always make me better……Exercise.

Jaclyn Chadbourne, MA is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Co-Owner of the Medically Oriented Gym (M.O.G.) in South Portland, Maine. With a passion for sustainable healthy living and desire to advocate for patient-centered care, Jaclyn works to help the M.O.G. support community resources for all special populations and to implement and oversee clinical protocols.

Water: A Wonderful Performance Enhancer

woman-drinkingWater is a wonderful performance enhancer. When a star UConn basketball player took the advice of his sports nutritionist Nancy Rodriguez RD and started drinking enough to consistently void a light-colored urine, he was amazed at how much better he felt all day. Unfortunately, too many athletes overlook the power of this essential nutrient. Perhaps it’s your turn to give water a try? This article offers droplets of information to enhance your water IQ, optimize your water balance, and help you feel & perform better.

• You don’t have to drink plain water to get adequate water into your body. All fluids count, as do foods that have a high water. For example, oatmeal is 84% water; low fat milk, 90%; coffee, 99.5%; lettuce, 96%; tomato, 95%; broccoli, 89%; low fat vanilla yogurt, 79%; and ice cream, 60% water.

water-glass• Water is the solvent for biochemical reactions. Your body cannot function without sufficient water, as noted by the fact that athletes die from dehydration.

• Your body needs water to moisten food (saliva), digest food (gastric secretions), transport nutrients to and from cells (blood), discard waste (urine), and dissipate heat (sweat). Water is a major component of the cells in muscles and organs; about 60% of a young male’s body weight is water, as is about 50% of a young woman’s body weight.

• Different body parts have different water contents. For example, blood is approximately 93% water, muscle is about 73% water, and body fat is about 10% water. Water constantly moves between the inside and the outside of cells. About 4% to 10% of your body-water gets replaced every day with “fresh” water.

• Note: Bioelectrical impedance (BIA) methods of measuring body fat actually measure body water. From that, a formula estimates the ratio of water to muscle and fat. Hence, if you use a Tanita Scale or Omron device, be sure to maintain adequate hydration. If you are dehydrated, you’ll end up with an inaccurate (higher) estimate of body fatness.

• Your body produces about 8 to 16 oz. (250-500 ml) water per day during normal metabolic processes. During a marathon, a runner’s muscles can produce that much water over 2 to 3 hours. When muscles burn glycogen, they simultaneously release about 2.5 units water for each one unit of muscle glycogen; this helps protect against dehydration.

coffee• Coffee is a popular source of water. Although once thought to have a diuretic effect, current research indicates coffee (in amounts normally consumed) hydrates as well as water over a 24-hour period. That is, after drinking coffee, you may urinate sooner, but you will not urinate more than you consume. Army research on caffeine and dehydration confirms coffee is an acceptable source of fluids for athletes, even during exercise in the heat. Hence, coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as tea or cola count towards your water intake.

• An increased concentration of particles in your blood triggers the sensation of thirst. If you are a 150-pound athlete, you’ll start to feel thirsty once you’ve lost about 1.5 to 3 pounds of sweat (1% to 2% of your body weight). Sweat loss of more than 10% body weight is life threatening.

• Body water absorbs heat from the working muscles and sweat dissipates the heat. That is, the evaporation of a liter (about 36 ounces) of sweat from the skin represents loss of about 580 calories. Sweat keeps you from overheating during exercise and in hot environments.

• To determine how much water you lose when you sweat, weigh yourself (with little or no clothing) before and after an hour of hard exercise with no fluid intake. The change in body weight reflects water (sweat) loss. A one-pound drop in weight equates to loss of 16 ounces of sweat. A two-pound drop equates to 32 ounces—that’s one quart. Drink accordingly during your workouts to prevent that loss!

• When you sweat, you lose water from both inside and outside the cells. The water outside the cells is rich in sodium, an electrolyte that works in balance with potassium, an electrolyte inside the cells. Sweat contains about 7 times more sodium than potassium; hence sodium is the more important electrolyte to replace during extended exercise.

• Moexercise-Sclerosisst athletes who lose more than 2% of their body weight (3 lbs for a 150-pound athlete) lose both their mental edge and their ability to perform optimally in hot weather. Yet, during cold weather, you are less likely to experience reduced performance, even at 3% dehydration. Three to 5% dehydration does not seem to affect muscle strength or performance during short intense bouts of anaerobic exercise, such as weight lifting. But distance runners slow their pace by ~2% for each percent body weight lost by dehydration. That means, if you weigh 150 pounds and lose 3 pounds sweat (2% dehydration), your 8-minute mile slows to an 8:19 pace. That’s preventable!

• Adequate fluid intake can reduce problems with constipation and urinary tract infections. There is no scientific validation of theories that excessive water intake will improve weight loss, remove toxins, or improve skin tone.

• Should you plan to drink “eight glasses of water a day”? No scientific evidence supports that rule, so you can simply drink in response to thirst. You can also monitor the volume of your urine. If your urine is scanty, dark, and smelly, you should drink more! If you have not urinated during your work or school day (8:00 a.m.- 3:00 p.m.), you are severely underhydrated.

tap-water• Is bottled water better for you than tap water? Doubtful. According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, nearly half of bottled waters come from municipal water supplies—not from the mountain streams pictured on the labels. This suggests standard municipal tap water is high quality. Rather than spend money on bottled water, turn on your tap! This will help stop the flood of 95 million plastic water bottles that get discarded each day, of which only 20% get recycled. Drink plenty of water—but think “green.”

From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, Feb 2012

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and soccer players offer additional information. They are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com and www.sportsnutritionworkshop.com.


Armstrong, L., A. Pumerantz, M. Roti, et al. 2005. Fluid, electrolyte, and renal indices of hydration during 11 days of controlled caffeine consumption. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 15:252-265
Koslo, J. “Water, hydration and health: What dietetics practitioners need to know” in SCAN’s Pulse, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012 31:1 (Winter)
National Academy of Sciences. Institute of Medicine. Food and Nutrition Board.
Dietary Reference Intakes for Water. http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/DRI//DRI_Water/73-185.pdf
Wilmore, J and D. Costill. Physiology of Sport and Exercise, Human Kinetics, 1994.




These powerful compounds may help prevent CVD and cancer and boost cognitive function. Many dietitians are well aware of the benefits fruits and vegetables provide, but few may know the actual names and types of the disease-fighting compounds they contain that are so important for good health.

Chocolate and Your Sports Diet

choc-chipsChocolate—Is it a bad food for athletes, an addictive drug, and the instigator of dietary disasters? Or is it a health food, dieter’s weight loss aid, and effective recovery food for tired, hungry athletes?

I vote for the latter! Personally and professionally, I like to think of chocolate (in moderation, of course) as one of life’s pleasures. Here is some research that might be of interest to active people who love chocolate.

Chocolate Cake—or Breakfast?chocolate-breakfast
Chocolate cake for breakfast enhances weight loss. Really? Yes, according to researcher Prof. Daniela Jacubowicz (1). The subjects were 193 obese, non-diabetic adults who ate either a 300-calorie low carbohydrate breakfast or a 600-calorie breakfast that included protein plus chocolate cake (or another sweet dessert). Both groups were instructed to eat the same amount of total calories: 1,400 for the women and 1,600 for the men. In the first 16 weeks, both groups lost an average of 33 pounds per person. But in the second half of the study, the no-cake group had poor compliance and regained an average of 22 pounds per person while the cake-eaters continued to lose another 15 pounds each. By 32-weeks, the cake eaters had lost about 40 pounds more than their peers.

Prof. Jacubowicz noticed that those who had cake for breakfast had fewer cravings for carbohydrates and sweets later in the day. By frontloading their calories, they were less hungry and less likely to stray from their food plans. They had curbed their cravings for sweets and treats, in comparison to the group that ate the smaller breakfast.

So what does this research mean for you?

  1. Eat a satisfying breakfast that leaves you content. Do not stop eating breakfast just because you think you should.
  2. If you want a treat, such as chocolate cake, enjoy it earlier in the day, as opposed to indulging at 9:00 p.m. when you are tired, too hungry, and lack the mental energy needed to stop yourself from overeating. Think of it as having dessert after breakfast instead of after dinner.
  3. Even on a weight reduction diet, you should eat what you truly want to eat, without deprivation of your favorite foods. Otherwise, you’ll end up doing “last chance” eating. (You know, “I just blew my diet by eating cake, so I might as well keep eating it because this is my last chance before my diet starts again…”)

Note: Even people with diabetes can substitute chocolate cake for grains at a meal without creating blood glucose problems. Just eat the cake instead of—not in addition to—the grains!(2)

Dark Chocolate—A “Health Food”?
It’s not a secret: a candy bar contains primarily nutrient-poor calories from sugar and fat. For example, a Hershey’s Bar (43 g) contains 210 calories—of which 46% are from sugar, 55% from fat. Hence, you want to enjoy milk chocolate in moderation, not in binges….

dark-chocHowever, less-processed dark chocolate can be considered a healthier choice. Chocolate is made from cocoa, a plant that is a rich source of health-protective phytochemicals (just like you’d get from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains). Two tablespoons natural cocoa power (the kind used in baking) offers the antioxidant power of 3/4 cup blueberries or 1.5 glasses red wine. Unfortunately, dark chocolate has a slightly bitter taste and most people prefer the sweeter milk chocolate, a poorer source of phytochemicals. (We need to raise our children on dark chocolate, so they will they learn to prefer it!)

Dark chocolate also contains flavonoids, health-protective compounds found in many plant foods including tea, apples, and onions. Epidemiological surveys of large groups of people indicate those who regularly enjoy chocolate consume more of these health-protective flavonoids than non-chocolate eaters. This reduces their risk of heart disease. For example, in the Netherlands, elderly men who routinely ate chocolate-containing products reduced their risk of heart disease by 50% and their risk of dying from other causes by 47%.(3) Maybe a daily (preferably dark) chocolate fix can be a good idea?

Chocolate Milk—for Recovery?
If you’ve just had a killer workout and want to rapidly refuel and repair your muscles, boost your blood sugar, and replace sweat losses—as well as reward yourself with a tasty treat—reach for some low fat chocolate milk! Research indicates refueling with chocolate (or any flavored) milk enhances recovery of both fluids and muscles better than the standard carb-only, sugar-based sports drink.(4)

choc-milkAnyone responsible for stocking the recovery food table for tired, thirsty athletes who want to rapidly refuel after a hard workout will tell you chocolate milk is an all-time favorite. Weight-conscious female athletes, in particular, let themselves enjoy this treat “guilt-free” and meanwhile boost their intake of nutrient commonly missing in their diet, such as high quality protein, riboflavin, calcium, and vitamin D. What a positive change from their embattled relationship with chocolate! This is good.

But shouldn’t we be staying away from sugary foods? The World Health Organization recommends a limit of 10% of calories from refined sugar per day; that’s about 200 to 300 sugar-calories for most athletes. Getting sugar from chocolate milk is nutritionally preferable than from sports drinks. Milk’s high quality protein, calcium, vitamin D, riboflavin and a host of other important nutrients is far better than sugar water with a dash of salt!

For those of you who happen to read the Boston Globe (3/13/12), you might have caught my answer to a healthwriter’s criticism of USA Swimming for choosing chocolate milk as a sponsor. My response: “Kudos to USA Swimming for choosing to be sponsored by a whole food as opposed to an engineered sports food. To have role-model athletes touting low fat chocolate milk is preferable to the alternative of them touting sports drinks. I only wish more “real food” companies would do the research needed to counter the influential engineered sports food industry.”

The bottom line
By no means is chocolate the key to a healthy sports diet, nor is eating lots of dark chocolate preferable to snacking on apples and bananas. We all need to eat chocolate in moderation so it does not crowd-out other nutrient dense foods. But chocolate can be balanced into an overall wholesome sports diet and add pleasure to the day—even if you are dieting to lose weight. For chocolate lovers, deprivation of chocolate may create more problems than it solves.

From The Athlete’s Kitchen
Copyright: Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD, April 2012

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and food guides for new runners, marathoners, and soccer players offer additional information. They are available at www.nancyclarkrd.com and sportsnutritionworkshop.com.


1. Jakubowicz D, O Froy, J Wainstein, M Boaz. Meal timing and composition influence ghrelin levels, appetite scores and weight loss maintenance in overweight and obese adults. Steroids 77(4): 323-331, 2012.
2. Peters, AL, MB Davidson, K Eisneberg. Effect of isocaloric substitution of chocolate cake for potato in type I diabetic patients. Diabetes Care 13(8):888-92, 1990.
3. Buijsse B, Feskens EJ, Kok FJ, Kromhout D. Cocoa intake, blood pressure, and cardiovascular mortality: the Zutphen Elderly Study. Arch Intern Med. 27;166(4):411-7, 2006.
4. Lunn WR, Pasiakos SM, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Carbone JW, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk & endurance exercise recovery: protein balance, glycogen and performance. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 44(4):682-91,2012.
on diet

For Skinny Athletes: How to Gain Weight Healthfully

If you are among the few skinny folks who have a hard time bulking up, you may be feeling frustrated you can’t do something as simple as gain a few pounds. For underweight athletes, the struggle to bulk up is equal to that of overfat people who yearn to trim down. Clearly, genetics plays a powerful role in why some athletes have so much trouble gaining weight (and keeping it on).