Sports Nutrition News You Can Use
This post is provided by Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on sports nutrition. Nancy’s “how to” books on nutrition for sports and exercise, including her best selling “Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook” and food guides for new runners, marathoners, soccer players and bicyclists are popular resources.
SCAN, the nation’s largest professional group of Sports & Cardiovascular Nutritionists recently held their annual meeting. Here’s some of the latest news presented to help you eat to win!
• Bet on Beets: Beets, as well as rhubarb and arugula, are rich sources of dietary nitrates, compounds that convert into nitric oxide (NO). Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, lowers blood pressure, and allows a person to exercise using less oxygen. In a study, cyclists consumed pre-ride beets and then three hours later (when NO peaks), they rode in a time trial. Every cyclist improved (on average, 2.8%) as compared to the time trial with no beets. Impressive! The amount of nitrates in 7 ounces (200 grams) beets is an effective dose. How about enjoying beets—or a bowl of borscht—in your next pre-game meal?
• Fuel up while cooling down. Immediate replenishment of carbs and protein can decrease muscle soreness and inflammation, plus enhance muscle repair. What you eat before you exercise can also effectively reduce post-exercise recovery. In a study, trained athletes consumed two 10.5-oz. bottles per day of tart cherry juice the week before an excruciating exercise test. They recovered faster and lost only 4% of their pre-test strength, compared with 22% loss in the group without cherry juice.
Tart cherries (the kind used in baking pies, not the sweet cherries enjoyed as snacks) can help not only athletes but also individuals who suffer from the pain and inflammation associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Consuming tart cherry juice (two 10.5-ounce bottles/day for 10 days) reduced the muscle soreness associated with “fibro-flares” and enhanced recovery rate. Similar findings occurred in people suffering from osteoarthritis; drinking tart cherry juice for three weeks reduced arthritis pain.
Tart cherries have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Other foods that have high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity include raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries. Fruit smoothies, anyone?!
Research to date has studied the effects of drinking 21 ounces of tart cherry juice per day for 1 to 3 weeks. (That’s the equivalent of eating 90 tart cherries/day). More research will determine the most effective dose and time-course. Because 21 ounces of tart cherry juice adds 260 calories to one’s energy intake, athletes will need to reduce other fruits or foods to make space for this addition to their daily intake.
• A zzza-deprived Nation: Some 80% of teens report getting less than the recommended nine hours of sleep; nearly 30% of adults report sleeping less than 6 hours each day. Not good. Sleep is a biological necessity. It is restorative and helps align our circadian rhythms.
Sleep deprivation (less than five hours/night) erodes well being, has detrimental effects on health, and contributes to fat gain. When we become tired, grehlin, a hormone that makes us feel hungry, becomes more active and we can easily overeat. Sleep deprivation is also linked with Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease.
Sleep deprivation is common among athletes who travel through time zones. This can impact performance by disrupting their circadian rhythms and causing undue fatigue and reduced motivation. In comparison, extending sleep can enhance performance. A study involving basketball players indicates they shot more baskets and completed more free throws when they were well rested versus sleep deprived. For top performance, make sleep a priority!
• Lean to Love Your Body. Athletes, as well as those who are overweight or obese, often believe that their body is not “good enough.” In a five-year study with teens, low body satisfaction stimulated extreme and destructive dieting behaviors that led to weight gain, not weight loss. The same pattern is typical among many seemingly “healthy” athletes. If you want help finding peace with your body, please seek help from a sports dietitian. Use SCAN’s referral network to help you find someone local. What are you waiting for…?
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.