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3 Reason Why Dates Are The Perfect Pre-Workout Carb

It may sound crazy, but dates are actually the perfect pre-workout fuel. Grabbing a few dates before your training can take your workouts from “that was great” to “I completely dominated that sh*t”. That’s because our bodies need carbohydrates as fuel in significant amounts to be able to perform. Dates are high in carbs, contain potassium, and are a low volume to top off right before training.

You specifically want Medjool dates for their nutrient composition. These are large, sweet and sometimes contain a pit (so make sure to remove them before). They are dried, but not dehydrated, making them soft, sticky and sweet. They are often used to sweeten baked goods, protein bars, and smoothies.

Here are 3 reason why you should top off your next training session with Medjool dates.

  1. They are a carbohydrate powerhouse.

Your muscles and brain need and use carbs. Each Medjool date contains 15 g carbs and is perfectly portioned depending on how much carb you need. Dates quick energy for training and to recover post training. Having carbs with your post workout protein will aid in a faster recovery to perform harder again the next day.

Before training, having 1 to 4 dates (depending on your carbohydrate needs) 30 minutes before your session will supply working muscles with carbohydrates during training. Whether it is a strength workout, HIIT training, powerlifting or endurance, you needs carbs to compete. More strenuous prolonged training, longer than one hour, may require additional carbs during your workout. Unsure of you needs? Learning your needs from a Sports Dietitian will help you perform and feel your best.

2. They are a low volume and compact food.

Do you usually skip a pre-training snack or meal because your stomach feels heavy during training? Then dates can be your solutions. Just two of these small dried fruits are smaller than the palm of your hand with loads of whole food performance nutrition. They are also easily portable and can pop a few into a reusable container or snack bag to take with you on the go. Now you can head into your workout fully fueled without the worry you’re going to feel stuffed.

3. They contain potassium, an essential electrolyte.

Potassium is one electrolyte lost in sweat during training, in addition to the most abundantly lost electrolyte sodium. Both sodium and potassium important to replace. When potassium levels are low, muscles can fatigue and cramp, a total buzzkill to your training (and super uncomfortable). One Medjool date contains 167 mg of potassium, take two and that doubles to 334 mg potassium. BTW: Medjool dates have more potassium than some of the leading sports drinks!

Skeptical of noshing on a plain date? You can top it with a bit of almond butter or try these chocolate protein date ball bites for a pre-training treat. There are a variety of bars, like Rx Bar, that are made from dates and contain some protein and fat to keep you satiated during training.

While everyones specific needs are different, we all needs carbs to fuel your workouts. While some recreational athletes may need just 15-30 grams of carbs, some elite level athletes may need upwards of 60-90 g of carbs to fuel their training. It’s best to get a professionally developed game plan to ensure you are fueled to optimize your training, recovery and health.

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES OF UNDER FUELING: THE FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD

As females athletes and recreational exercisers, obtaining adequate nutrition is essential for our bodies to perform and function optimally.  We place a high demand on our bodies during training, expending high amounts of energy.  As higher performers our goals are to lead a healthy lifestyle. Yet if we are not adequately fueling our bodies we may be placing our own health at risk.

The Female Athlete Triad 

In 1992, the Female Athlete Triad was coined to describe the interrelationship between three components: low energy availability, menstrual dysfunction, and bone health.  This triad of health conditions exists on a continuum of optimal to dysfunctional bone and menstrual health. The state of their function is based on energy availability. Energy availability is defined as the amount of energy (or calories) left over for biological processes after accounting for exercise energy expenditure.  This can occur at any body size, with or without the presence of an eating disorder or disordered eating, though this may place someone at higher risk.  

To understand energy availability, for example, let’s say your total energy output for the day is 2500 calories.  Of that 2500 calories expended, 900 calories were burned during training and three classes you taught for the day.  During the day you only consumed 2000 calories, therefore your energy availability was only 1100 calories. If your resting metabolic rate is 1600 calories, you are 500 calories short of meeting your basic needs for the day.  Essentially, low energy availability is a failure to compensate for the increased energy demand for sport and exercise.   

Athletes and active women are at greater risk due to the high energy demand placed on their bodies.  High energy output coupled with under fueling, whether intentional or unintentional, can lead to low energy availability and therefore dysfunction.  While there is limited research on female fitness professionals, a review by Gibbs et al (2012) had shown that the presentation of all three components of the triad exists in up to 15.9% of various athlete groups and up to 60% of athletes have one or two components.  These high figures in athlete groups may be of concern to fitness professionals with similar energy outputs.

Biological Mechanisms of the Female Athlete Triad 

What are the mechanisms behind the Female Athlete Triad?  Inadequate energy availability disrupts the release of luteinizing hormone from the hypothalamus, which may lead to abnormal menstruation and decreased estrogen.  Oligomenorrhea (irregular menstruation, cycle >35 days) or amenorrhea (absence of menstruation >90 days) may occur. Both of these are seriously problematic and if you experience either, contact your physician and/or OBGYN.  

Low energy availability and menstrual dysfunction impact bone health, likely linked to decreased estrogen.  Our bones are dynamic, not stable, meaning they are constantly being resorbed (broken down) and remodeled (rebuilt).  Additionally, our bones are actually highly metabolically active, being the site of various biological functions such as the generation of red blood cells. 

For women, as we age, we are at greater risk for osteopenia and osteoporosis due to a decrease in estrogen.  Low estrogen leads to low bone mineral density, placing us at greater risk for stress fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis.  In addition, low energy availability, independent of low estrogen and menstrual dysfunction, can impact bone metabolism by suppressing bone formation due to a lack of adequate nutrition.    

A possible fourth component of the Female Athlete Triad could impact our blood vessels (Barrack et al, 2013) and lead to cardiac issues.  A correlation has been shown between menstrual dysfunction and dysfunction in the lining of our blood vessels known as the endothelium. Our blood vessels also have estrogen receptors which aid in increasing blood flow and oxygen throughout the body (Barrack et al, 2013).  These receptors have cardio-protective effects such as preventing platelet aggregation and the development of plaque. 

Understand and Minimize Your Risk 

How do you know if you are at risk?  First, it is important that you understand your caloric needs and meet those needs daily.  With a tight schedule, you may find it challenging to fuel throughout the day, therefore a plan may be necessary.  Additionally, exercise may blunt hunger cues and therefore you may need to fuel even when you are not physically hungry. Ensure that you are consuming adequate protein, carbohydrates, and fats that meet your energy needs, as well as vitamins and minerals that meet current recommendations.   If you are unsure about how to measure your needs, working with a Registered Dietitian who specializes in sports and exercise nutrition is ideal to help you determine your needs. A personalized plan can help you stay healthy, energized and performing your best. 

Second, monitor your menstrual cycle.  There are a variety of apps around to help you do this.  One of them is Moody where you can track various symptoms, hunger levels, and emotions.  If you notice irregularities in your menstrual cycle contact your physician and/or OBGYN.  Lastly, aspects of the female athlete triad can up to double your risk of stress fracture (Abbot et al, 2019).  If you have been experiencing stress fractures, this may also be a sign to seek professional help.

The greatest impact you can have on your health is to prioritize nutrition as fuel first, instead of one who eats to primarily support an appearance.  Sex sells, and there can be value to looking good. If we can support ourselves by keeping our future selves in mind, considering the impact of our behaviors 10, 20, 30 years from now, we’d be doing some powerful work for ourselves and our community.

References

Abbott, A., Bird, M.L., Brown, S.M., Stewart, G.m Mulcahey, M.K. (2019).  Part I: epidemiology and risk factors for stress fractures in female athletes.Phys Sportsmed, 7(11), 1-8. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2019.1632158.

Barrack, M. T., Ackerman, K. E., & Gibbs, J. C. (2013). Update on the female athlete triad. Current reviews in musculoskeletal medicine6(2), 195–204. doi:10.1007/s12178-013-9168-9

Gibbs JC, Williams NI, De Souza MJ. Prevalence of individual and combined components of the female athlete triad. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2012. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827e1bdc.

FitPros: A Guide to Working with Clients with Eating Disorders

As fitness professionals, we play a vital role in our clients health, especially for those with eating disorders.  I myself am a Registered Dietitian and Trainer, working with athletes and active women who struggle with disordered eating and eating disorders.  From my experience, I have found it is extremely important for fitness professionals to understand the signs and symptoms as well as some basic guidelines for working with this population.  

Eating disorders can often present as overexercising, undereating, and other behaviors intended to change body shape or size and/or to elicit certain emotions.  Eating disorders are a clinical mental illness and diagnosable in the DSM-V, yet many suffer unrecognized and undiagnosed.  Additionally, due to diagnostic criteria, many individuals fly under the radar of a classic eating disorder though exhibit many symptoms which are problematic.  This is also masked greatly by our societies obsession with weight loss, thinness and extreme dieting behaviors which are often normalized.

With this considered, it is important for fitness professionals to understand the signs, symptoms, and health risks of eating disorder clients.  Eating disorders can occur at any body weight, body shape, age, ability and gender.  It is important not to assume that someone who appears to be fat and overweight should be ruled out from an eating disorder.  Behaviors and mindsets listed below can be experienced by individuals of all sizes.

  1. An obsessive fear of weight gain or obsession with losing weight which consumes a large amount of their time and energy.
  2. Constant weight fluctuations which may be labeled as “yo-yo” dieting.
  3. Constantly talks about calories, carbs or fat in foods; refuses to eat foods they deem unhealthy due to the content of these nutrients and calories.
  4. Engaging in ritualistic eating patterns, such as cutting food into tiny pieces, eating alone, or hiding food.  Refuses to go out to eat or eat in front of others. 
  5. Fixation with food, cooking, baking, buying food.  They may cook or bake but not partake in eating it.  They may force others to eat it.
  6. Avoidance of social functions, family, and friends. May become isolated and withdrawn.
  7. Switching between periods of overeating and fasting.
  8. Discusses eating and feeling out of control.
  9. Fatigue, lethargy, loss of period, gastrointestinal issues. 
  10. Extreme guilt, anxiety or anger around missing a workout; excessive exercise beyond workout prescription, both cardio and strength.  

If you believe your client may exhibit some of these signs and symptoms, it is absolutely imperative you refer out and require your client to seek medical attention, counseling and work with a professional like a dietitian.  Continuing to work with such a client, without a clinical team, can pose a risk for the client who may be training with low energy availability.  This can cause health issues as seen in Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S), which impacts bone health, reproductive health, cardiovascular health, musculoskeletal health and more.  Please educate yourself on RED-S to be a well rounded, informed trainer.  The International Olympics Committee (IOC) consensus statement will provide you with an in depth overview of RED-S and its impacts.

If a client is in recovery, there is a key role you can play in ensuring they have positive outcomes while engaging in exercise.  It is important that all persons engage in physical activity, but for this population who once used exercise to fuel their disorder, it can be challenging to adopt a healthy routine.  Follow these tips to ensure your client is safe and to promote a healthy relationship to exercise.

  1. NIX the Activity Tracker Calorie Count!  Depending on one’s state of recovery, seeing calories expended can be triggering to clients.  Unfortunately, there is no way to remove calorie goals from popular devices, so it may be best to avoid them until the client decides with their treatment time if it is appropriate.  Focus on other ways to track progress like monitoring rate of perceived exertion, pounds lifted, time under tension, mobility, speed and power.
  2. Question Your Client on their Meals of the Day.  Make it a part of the contract of working together that the client must come fueled to their training session.  This means adequate carbohydrates to perform at the level of intensity prescribed for the day.  No fueling? No training.  Regardless of the client’s weight.
  3. Set Up Boundaries on Movement.  Help your client create a comprehensive workout plan for outside sessions with you.  Create this as part of the contract of working together and methods to check in and adhere to this.  Limit cardio sessions to an appropriate time and encourage adequate intake to match with 
  4. Set the Focus AWAY From Aesthetic Goals.  They may tell you their goal is to have visible abs, but it is your job to ensure their health is at the forefront of each session.  This includes their mental health and relationship with their body.  Depending on the clients progress in recovery, they may still be battling recovery ideals versus body image ideals.  It is important to set non-aesthetic based goals that are performance and behavior driven.
  5. Shy away from weight talk, weighing in, or inquiring for weight goals.  While this may be a given, your client may talk about weight.  Other clients may be able to do well with weight based goals, but it’s best to stick to non-weight, non-aesthetic based goals regardless of what the client states her overall goal is.  Stick to behaviors and actions that are behavior based from a healthy approach.

Not everyone feels comfortable working with clients with eating disorders or histories of eating disorders.  There are individuals though who are open and willing to cultivate healthy relationships with exercise and food for their clients.  If you are ready to learn more about how to work 1:1 with a client or want mentorships with a specific client, please feel free to reach out to me at nutritionbygabby@gmail.com.  Together we can help you and your client achieve a new mindset and attitude towards their training goals and make you a vital part of the treatment team.

Tempeh Tacos with Jicama Pico de Gallo

Tempeh Tacos

1 tsp coconut oil

1/2 onion

1 package tempeh

3 small tomatoes

2 tbsp liquid smoke

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp Trader Joe’s taco seasoning

Jicama Slaw

1 cup chopped tomato

1/2 cup jicama, chopped in cubes

2 tbsp each red onion and cilantro, finely chopped

1 tbsp jalapeño, chopped

1/2 lime, juiced

pinch of salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

For the pico de Gallo, combine all ingredients in a bowl and set aside in the fridge. For the tempeh taco “meat”, heat a large sauté pan at medium-high heat. Add coconut oil and melt it completely. Add in onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Crumble the tempeh with your hands into the sauté pan to resemble ground meat. Sauté for 1 minute then add chopped tomatoes, soy, liquid smoke, and taco seasoning. Cook for additional 4-6 minutes on medium heat until tomatoes are cooked.

Serve with avocado in corn tortillas with Jicama Pico de Gallo.

Eat to Train: Tactical Tips to Recovery

What you do between your last and your next training session can make all the difference in your gains. It’s the time outside of the gym when the actual change happens: muscles repair and remodel, the nervous and vascular system adapt, the cardiovascular system strengthens, rehydration of tissues occur, inflammation subsides. The nutrition practices you take between trainings can optimize these adaptations to their greatest potential.

During the post training period, your muscles are more ready than ever to take in nutrition. Muscle sensitivity to protein, carbs, fats and vitamins is heightened for 24-72 hours. 1 This means more nutrients to your tissues to heal and repair stronger than before. Therefore, what you do in-between sessions is just as important of what you do inside training. And nutritionally speaking, what you can make all the difference in how your training enhances you. Next time you hit your post-training recovery session, remember these key three habits to add into your nutrition plan.

Pace your protein: While your post workout protein shake is helpful, research shows that consuming protein rich foods throughout the day should be your main focus.2 Getting adequate protein at properly spaces times during the day provides your body with the building blocks to muscle repair and growth to facilitate recovery. A recent study had shown protein rich breakfast, with protein evenly spread throughout the day at meals and snacks, induces greater muscle adaptations versus a low protein breakfast and a higher protein dinner. 2 This concept of pacing protein has been supported and researched topic in sports nutrition.

How much protein you need depends on your training goal. For most strength training athletes and exercisers, a range from 1.2-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram is generally recommended. For a 140 pound adult this would translate to having 25-35 grams of protein at each meal. You can easily meet your protein needs with food, but a supplement can be helpful post workout if needed. As for food, animal sources of protein such as eggs, chicken, beef, fish, and dairy contain all the essential proteins you need to recover. If you prefer a plant-based diet, combine foods, such as rice and beans or tofu and rice, in order to consume all the essential amino acids needed. This will ensure you have all the different types of proteins you need to keep muscles recovering throughout the day.

Count in the carbs: A controversial yet vital nutrient, carbohydrates are key to recovery from hard training so make sure your include enough. Carbohydrates in the form of glycogen are stored in the muscle and liver for later use. Glycogen is converted to glucose to be used for energy in the muscle, tissue and in the blood stream. During and after training, we want an ample amount of carbohydrate available to produce energy to do work. Inadequate carbohydrate intake post training can impact your recovery, muscle mass, and performance in future training sessions. It also can result in muscle breakdown if you are depleted, therefore protein and carbohydrates are both important post training, especially during hard training sessions.

In the post training period, your muscles are sensitized to take in carbohydrates and restore the supply that was used during training. This will enable you to recover and not use muscle proteins to refuel your muscle and liver with carbohydrates. It can take 24-48 hours to restore carbohydrate stores (side note: your programing and recovery days should take this into account).3 Like protein, having carbohydrates throughout the day will also help in properly restoring fuel for your training.

Different types of training require different amounts of carbohydrates to perform and recover. Long distance endurance training will require more, anywhere from 5 to 10 grams/kilogram, while pure strength trainers will require less, like 2 to 5 grams/kilogram. The large variations of needs of carbohydrates will depending on the amount of training you do per week, the intensity and your performance goals. It is best you meet with a Sports Dietitian to understand you unique needs.

Rehydrate effectively: Sweat losses are not to just be wiped off into a shirt or towel and forgotten. Being hydrated is more than just drinking enough water. In involves having ample fluid, sodium and other electrolytes for tissues to function as they should. Sweating depletes fluids and mainly sodium. Research suggests that training dehydrated, as little as 2% of body weight loss of fluid, may have negative affects on performance and health.4 This is particularly true when training in hot and humid conditions.

How much should you be drinking and what types of fluid should you be drinking? The amount of fluid needed is highly individualized and based on how your body regulates fluids and sweat. Some people are heavy sweaters, some barely sweat much, others have sweat that is heavier with salt (hello white marks on your skin and clothes). For most average exercisers, training for 30-60 minutes in room temperature, water should be suitable and aggressive rehydration may not be necessary.

For those enlisted in a more intense, prolonged training sessions, trainers teaching multiple classes, and athletes, understanding how much you sweat and what you need to replace will be helpful. A sweat rate calculator, like this one from the Gatorade Sports Science Institute can help you determine your fluid losses and how much you need to replace. Additionally, using an electrolyte based supplement like Skratch Labs and UCAN (use code “coachgabby”) will provide you with sodium and other electrolytes to maintain fluid balance.

Building a solid recovery plan: As someone who is committed to their training, when you adapt the idea that recovery is always occurring process, you can see the importance of including protein, carbohydrates and fluids into each meal. The sample below can start you off with a few ideas to get you started:

BREAKFASTLUNCHSNACKS/WORKOUTsDINNER
Greek yogurt
with blueberries
and ground flax seeds,
coffee with creamer,
water
Turkey sandwich
on whole grain bread,
avocado, tomato;
side salad with dressing;
sparkling water


During Training: Skratch Labs hydration with water

AM: Post workout protein
shake with a banana;

PM: hardboiled eggs,
rice cakes, hummus; UCAN hydration with water

Skirt steak,
grilled vegetables,
farro salad;

chocolate and strawberries for dessert

Note: Personal portions may vary depending on age, size, gender and activity level; number of meals and timing of meals may vary as well. Please use this as a sample.

Your approach to training, recovery and nutrition should mimic each other. Understanding how these three elements function in your training and recovery will help you elevate their importance in your nutrition plan. Once you start implementing these practices into your daily routine, your adaptations from training will begin to really impress you. Even you won’t know it’s you out there.

For more information on your own needs, feel free to message me here.

References

1. Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J, Arent SM. Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front Nutr. 2018;5:83. Published 2018 Sep 11. doi:10.3389/fnut.2018.00083

2. Jun Yasuda, Toshiki Tomita, Takuma Arimitsu, Satoshi Fujita, Evenly Distributed Protein Intake over 3 Meals Augments Resistance Exercise–Induced Muscle Hypertrophy in Healthy Young Men, The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 150, Issue 7, July 2020, Pages 1845–1851, https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa101

3. Alghannam AF, Gonzalez JT, Betts JA. Restoration of Muscle Glycogen and Functional Capacity: Role of Post-Exercise Carbohydrate and Protein Co-Ingestion. Nutrients. 2018;10(2):253. Published 2018 Feb 23. doi:10.3390/nu10020253

4. Evans GH, James LJ, Shirreffs SM, Maughan RJ. Optimizing the restoration and maintenance of fluid balance after exercise-induced dehydration. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017;122(4):945-951. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00745.2016

Top 3 Supplements to Tackle Your Strength Goals

Got strength goals? Then some these supplements may need to be in your arsenal. Protein, creatine and caffeine may be the game changers you need in your nutrition plan. You put in a ton of time, effort and sweat into your grind, and you want to get the most out of it. To build strength, we need a combination of training and proper nutrition to gain muscle and tissues that support your goals. Adequate carbohydrates, proteins, fats and nutrients are the base of a solid nutrition plan to get you results. While your foundation nutrition and balanced meals are key, these three may take your training from just good to great.

1. Protein Supplements: When it comes to protein and strength supplements, whey protein isolate is the gold standard. Compared to plant based proteins, whey protein is higher in leucine, a protein needed to stimulate muscle synthesis (aka building muscle). It should be on all athletes and strength trainers shelves. Countless studies show its efficacy on increasing strength and muscle mass gains.1 Currently, total daily protein recommendations for strength training athletes span from 1.6-2.8 grams per kilogram per day. 2 Generally, I recommend people who strength train for health and leisure to consume the lower end of 1.6 grams per kilogram per day and more serious athletes at around 2.0 grams per kilogram. (To get kilograms, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2)

If this sounds high, then a protein supplement is a simple way to get in 20-40 grams of extra protein per day in a single drink. It is recommended to consume a protein supplement right after a workout to maximize protein synthesis. A great option for whey is Thorne’s Whey Protein Isolate. While whey protein isolate is queen, a sport formulated plant based protein can be an option for those who prefer non-animal based sources. Orgain’s Sports Plant Based Protein is a reputable vegan option.*

2. Creatine: Creatine is one of the most studied supplements for strength and muscle growth, and it’s results show it’s worth. Creatine is a naturally occurring compound in muscles, available through consumption of animal based foods like milk, meat, fish and seafood. Muscles with high energy demand use creatine in the form of phosphocreatine to create energy. Explosive movements, like a powerful swing, jump, sprint, or clean will use phosphocreatine to create energy in a short amount of time.

Studies have proven that athletes and strength trainers supplementing with creatine have seen greater increases in strength, muscle mass, and power. 4 I recommend Thorne’s Creatine supplement, taken pre or post workout. A loading phase of 20-25 g per day to increase creatine stores for 5-7 days and 5 g per day to maintain stores. 4 How long you take creatine for will depend on your goal, sport, and phase of training. Studies have shown it can be safe to take for up to five years. 4 Creatine supplementation would be best served to athletes in a performance driven sport. Recreational exercisers would gain benefit from creatine, especially if you have a performance driven goal. If you are interested in including creatine in your nutrition plan, it is important to consult with a Sports Dietitian on appropriate dosage and usage.

3. Caffeine: Who doesn’t love coffee? Of course there are some who don’t, but the caffeine in coffee can help your training take off. Caffeine has ben shown to be a powerful aid in strength, endurance and power exercise performance.5 It provides alertness, focus and energy to tap into your strength while lifting. Caffeine appears in the blood stream 15 minutes after ingestion and peaks at about an hour after intake.6 Current general guidelines recommend 3-9 mg of caffeine per kilogram of bodyweight 60 minutes before exercise.6 For perspective, an average 8 oz hot coffee from Starbucks has between 130-180 mg caffeine. For a 65 kg person, this would translate to 195-585 mg of caffeine 60 minute prior to exercise.

Individual responses to caffeine and its impact on performance may be genetically predetermined. Those with genes which make them fast metabolizers of caffeine have shown in studies to exhibit a greater effect of caffeine on performance versus genetically slow metabolizers.6 Other factors such as habitual caffeine intake, training status, nutrient intake, menstrual cycle stage and source of caffeine may also impact its efficacy.6 Therefore, caffeine dosage and response has many factors that will impact it’s effect on your training performance.

Should you take a supplement with caffeine? Caffeine is available in various forms from coffee to energy drinks to caffeine pills. Most people can reach their caffeine needs through coffee or adding a hydration supplement like Nuun Hydration + Caffeine. Energy drinks often have other compounds in them such as taurine. Studies have shown there is a potential cardiovascular risk taking energy drinks with various compounds that can increase heart rate and blood pressue.7 Highly caffeinated drinks and supplements may pose a risk, so monitor your totally daily caffeine intake and response. Please note that college athletes that fall under NCAA regulations are prohibited from taking caffeine supplements to enhance performance.

The main factors in making strength gains are a training stimulus, nutrition and recovery. Having a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables with various vitamins and minerals is key first. If you are new to supplements or just a recreational exerciser, starting with a protein supplement would be suffice to get started and maintain training. Enhancing your training and athletic abilities with creatine can helpful additive to an already solid nutrition foundation. Caffeine has its advantages. When choosing a source, be mindful of other ingredients that can interact.

As always, when beginning any supplement or nutrition plan, it is important to speak with a Sports Dietitian to get started. There are many factors to consider when taking supplements such as training status, goals, nutrition, health status and current medications that can interact. Strength training should be a fun, transformative process to makes you better at what you do each day. Enjoy the process and fuel for your intention.

Please note this blog is intended for educational purposes and is not to be used to treat or diagnose. These are general guidelines and may not be applicable to you. Nutrition is not innocuous so please contact me to set up a consult if you are interested in personal recommendations.

References

  1. Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med. 2018;52(6):376-384. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608
  2. Szedlak, Christoph MSc1; Robins, Anna PhD2 Protein Requirements for Strength Training, Strength and Conditioning Journal: October 2012 – Volume 34 – Issue 5 – p 85-91 doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e31826dc3c4
  3. Valenzuela, P.L., Morales, J.S., Emanuele, E. et al. Supplements with purported effects on muscle mass and strength. Eur J Nutr 58, 2983–3008 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-018-1882-z
  4. Butts, Jessica et al. “Creatine Use in Sports.” Sports health vol. 10,1 (2018): 31-34. doi:10.1177/1941738117737248
  5. Grgic, Jozo et al. “Effects of caffeine intake on muscle strength and power: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition vol. 15 11. 5 Mar. 2018, doi:10.1186/s12970-018-0216-0
  6. Pickering, Craig, and John Kiely. “Are the Current Guidelines on Caffeine Use in Sport Optimal for Everyone? Inter-individual Variation in Caffeine Ergogenicity, and a Move Towards Personalised Sports Nutrition.” Sports medicine (Auckland, N.Z.) vol. 48,1 (2018): 7-16. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0776-1
  7. Grasser EK, Miles-Chan JL, Charrière N, Loonam CR, Dulloo AG, Montani JP. Energy Drinks and Their Impact on the Cardiovascular System: Potential Mechanisms. Adv Nutr. 2016;7(5):950-960. Published 2016 Sep 15. doi:10.3945/an.116.012526

*use AMBASSADOR0016 for sweet discount on Orgain.

** Disclosure: I do receive a small commission as a result of sale of certain items from Orgain and Thorne.

Rehydrate like a Goddess this Summer ☀️

The 2020 fitness industry has turned from a virtual fitness obsession to the outdoor workout of the week. It’s a great experience: you get to see people again, your fav instructors, you get to be one with nature (and a dumbbell). But no one will deny the excessive sweat dripping from every possible sweat gland from their body.

And that can spell trouble for hydration status. We know how important it is to stay well hydrate for over health, cognition, nervous system, cardiac health and performance. When you sweat you lose water, and the main electrolyte is sodium. Sports drinks are cool, but often carry other ingredients you may not need and make your stomach feel bloated and your gastrointestinal system not so happy.

I know coconut water seems like a great option as well, but it does not have enough sodium (mainly potassium that is not lost so much in sweat). That’s why I make this one my at home. Think of it like a cocktail, for your workout (just wait to add the alcohol on your second glass after you’ve eaten! And of course if you’ve 21 yo or older).

So here’s the simple, single serve recipe that takes less than 3 minutes to make:

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

1/4 cup pineapple juice

1 cup water

1 pinch salt

Ice cubes

Place all the ingredients in a shaker bottle together (I love this stainless steel one). Shake for ~20 seconds for the salt to dissolve. Drink immediately or save for post sweat session.

Contains:

15 g carbs (you need them!)

~100 mg sodium

~200 mg potassium

Rehydrated and feeling good.

OATMEAL PANCAKES : Eating Carbs at Breakfast Ain’t a Bad Thing

One of the first thing you’re told to do when dieting is the cut carbs. But what I see happen is a cascade of less than favorable feelings and behaviors. Late night binging, craving carbs, constantly thinking about food, irritability, tired, hunger, poor workouts, increased risk of injury, low calorie intake, disruption of hormones, impacted bone health. The list can go on, and on. So my solution: eat carbs, drop the guilt, your body will thank you. Carbohydrates are our main source on energy; they fuel your muscles for training, your brain for thinking, and your body for living.

These pancakes have some great, fiber rich carbs that are light, filling, slightly sweet and perfectly paired with fruit and eggs for protein. I made these with sliced banana bc I love when the bananas caramelize in the pan and drizzled with some peanut butter for a complete, balanced meal.

Heres the recipe:

1.5 cups whole, rolled oats

2 tbsp ground flax seeds

1.5 cups milk of choice

1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tbsp maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/4 tsp cinnamon

Butter or coconut oil or spray for the pan.

Soak the oats, flax seeds and milk in a large bowl for 10-15 minutes. Gather your other ingredients while this is going on. Heat a pan to medium heat. Add whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt, maple syrup, and cinnamon to the oat mixture. Stir until completely combined. Add oil or butter to the pan. Use a quarter up to scoop batter onto the pan, cook on each side ~2-3 minutes or until slightly browned and flip. Add sliced banana on one side prior to flipping if desired.

Serve with syrup, fruit, nut butter or Nutella. Complete the meal with protein like eggs or yogurt.

How Disordered Eating Broke Me, Then Built Me Up

I don’t know exactly why I decided I wanted to write this.  Sometimes I don’t really  know what I am doing.  Often I ask myself, am I helping people? Am I sending the RIGHT message?  Is my message or content triggering to someone? I don’t know the answers to those questions.  But I do know I express myself how I feel I am, but sometimes that may come off differently. And the last thing I want to do is mislead or misrepresent who I am.

I was scrolling through pubmed.gov like a good practitioner looking at research on stress, B-vitamin status and gut health.  I’ve seen this research before but when this article popped up I found hit me differently in that moment. A study on Dietetic students in Greece had shown that 68% of students had orthorexia, an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with healthy eating.  From my experience, these statistics seem very true, especially for myself. Between my own personal issues with body image, diet culture, wellness culture, and lack of security and esteem, I fell victim to disordered eating. Yes a victim, because disordered eating, eating disorders and mental illness are not a CHOICE.  The obsession with health, healthy food, thinness and beauty stole so much from me. And quite frankly, I looked and felt like shit.

Now realize in nutrition school, many of us are there because we have an obsession with food (not all but many).  I mean let’s look at the Ancel Keys starvation experiment, they all became obsessed with food when food was restricted.  So my journey into nutrition and fitness wasn’t based on a passion, but off a personal, unhealthy obsession.  I used to say, “Well I was athletic as a kid and I like cooking and then I just ended up here”, which we all know is really 90% BS.  I was insecure, hated myself and how I looked, was in bad relationships with many things (men, food, exercise, money, myself, alcohol).  There was no peace within, there was no self love. It was a consistent comparison of me to others and never being adequate enough, inside and out.

And reality is, none of this changed until the inside changed: spiritually, mentally, emotionally.  I can sit here and cry and mope about all I missed out on: dinners with friends, birthday cake, holiday meals, joyful occasions, nights out, nights in.  I missed a this because there would be nothing healthy enough on the menu or at the dinner for me to eat. Others felt the effect of it too, they needed to make sure I had something to eat. 

I replaced a social life with exercise. I replaced the joy of eating with eating to fix my body and how I felt about me. None of this worked, all of it backfired.  It was such a miserable existence and I did not realize HOW miserable it was until I broke out of it. BUT the journey of discovering who I am, feeling every single emotion, and not hiding behind my defense was a humbling experience.  And I’m grateful for that.

I am still changing.  The voice in my head is there but it’s very very quiet.  Sometimes it gets loud and I tell it to leave me alone (easier said than done).  I do not believe there is a “cure” or people become “cured”. I know there comes a point where all of a sudden your aren’t making choices based on a set of rules that literally have no weight to them.  I believe there is a reprieve and there is recovery.  

With recovery there is relapse, which I am highly aware and cognizant of.  I am in an industry that makes me highly susceptible to it.  Sometimes I am triggered (so please stop commenting on my body).  I define what I do as a Dietitian and Trainer much differently now than I did when I started.  It went from marketing thinness and only healthy foods to strength (physical and emotions) and healthy relationships with food.  I don’t feel phony in my practice, I am genuinely serving what I know is right.

I love who I am today.  I’d be lying if I told you I don’t care how I look, it’s no where close to being as important as my mental and physical health.  And about how I dress.  I dress how I dress because I like the look.  I’ve always dressed liberally whether I loved or hated my body, so that has zero bearing on how I feel about myself.  So yes, I wear crop tops, short shorts and revealing clothing because that is what I’ve always liked. I enjoy expressing myself that way, I love fashion (especially fitness fashion).  I also do like feeling beautiful, doing hair and make up. It is not to show off or to obtain compliments. That is who I have always been. The difference today is that it doesn’t make or break who I am, how I feel about myself and how/what I eat that day.

I do not share this for attention, applause, “wow you’re so brave”, likes on social media (because we know unless I’m in a bra that’s not happening because #dietculture), because I’m really not.  I’m not special. There are millions of stories like mine. I just don’t find the use of hiding who I am or projecting an image out there that I’m something I am not. I am doing this for YOU to know you are not alone, I am not alone, WE are not alone.  Stop stigmatizing yourself and others, we need love and compassion for all.

 

 

Why BANANAS 🍌 are the Best Pre-Workout Fuel

Fueling before a tough workout will improve your performance, time to fatigue, and overall recovery.  Whether it is a strength workout, a skills session, or endurance training, fueling your brain and muscles for the challenge ahead is essential.  While many people may find that their stomachs cannot tolerate food, properly timing and picking easily digestible foods can help.

Fruit is an excellent pre-workout food.  Consuming ~ 1 cup of fruit about 30 minutes before exercise can give you the energy your need to push and make progress.  Of all fruits, bananas are one of the best pre-workout foods to fuel your next session.  Here are a few reasons why:

Actual serving size of a banana.png

  1. The perfect blend of carbs: A ripe banana contains the carbohydrates sucrose, fructose and glucose.  Why is this important?  Your body has different enzymes and transporters that breakdown and absorb these different types of carbohydrates.  This is advantageous to improving absorption and usage of carbohydrates during training.  One medium banana contains ~28 g carbs, perfect right before training.
  2. They contain essential vitamins and minerals:  Especially potassium, one of the important electrolytes our body needs.  It also contains B6 which is necessary for carbohydrate metabolism.  They also contain antioxidants, which can help combat free radicals produced during exercise (this is a normal occurrence and is part of adaptation).
  3. Easy to grab and go: It legit has its own, biodegradable wrapper.  You can eat one quick, in just a few bites while you walk, drive, run or cycle.  What more can you ask for?
  4. Easily digestible: Especially when ripe, bananas are more easily digestible.  This  is due to the breakdown in pectin, a water soluble fiber, that softens the bananas.

While most fruit will work pre-workout (i.e. melon, grapes, pineapple, etc), bananas win for its nutritive qualities and portability.  Regardless of what you chose pre-workout, it’s important that it is high in carbs, easily digestible, and consumed ~15-30 minutes prior to training.  A small amount of protein can also be added if needed for your specific training (think small protein shake or BCAAs).  Training under-fueled tends to have more risk than reward and is generally not advised.  Why put in all the effort to train hard and not optimize your time and performance?  

NOTE: Needs are different from athlete to athlete, so please use this as a general guide.  If you are interested in understanding and learning your specific needs, please reach out to me at nutritionbygabby@gmail.com.

Where do you stand with you relationship with food and your body?

 

Evaluate your relationship today! 

Let's get stronger together.

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