Amy Stephens

MS, RDN, CSSD, CDCES

Licensed dietitian

specializing in sports nutrition

and eating disorders

Best Protein Bars, according to a Sports Dietitian

Best Protein Bars,
according to a Sports Dietitian

Protein bars can be a convenient and portable option for adults and teens looking to supplement their protein intake, especially for those who are active in sports or physical activities. It’s important to remember that food is always the best option and protein bars are useful when food is not available. When choosing protein bars, it’s essential to consider factors such as the ingredients, nutritional content, and taste. Here are some tips for selecting the protein bars:

Look for Whole Food Ingredients: Choose protein bars with a short and recognizable list of ingredients. Opt for bars that contain whole food ingredients such as nuts, dates, egg whites, or honey. 

 

Incorporate Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates play a crucial role in recovery alongside protein. They aid in replenishing glycogen stores, allowing protein from food and bars to be utilized for muscle building. If your protein bar has a low carbohydrate content (<15 grams), consider supplementing with a fruit or another form of carbohydrate to ensure you meet your nutritional requirements. 

 

Consider Protein Content: Choose protein bars that provide a moderate amount of protein per serving, typically ranging from 10 to 20 grams. This amount of protein can help support muscle repair and growth, especially for active teens engaged in strength training or sports. The best sources of protein that contain all essential amino acids are from whey, casein, egg whites, or soy.

 

Pay attention to the Sugar Content:  Select bars sweetened with natural sources of sugar like cane sugar, honey, agave, or from real fruit like dates.

 

Check the Fiber Content: Fiber in protein bars can help promote satiety, support digestive health, and regulate blood sugar levels. However, too much fiber can lead to bloating and gastrointestinal discomfort which can negatively affect performance for an athlete. Aim for bars with about 3-5 grams of fiber per serving.

 

Consider Dietary Restrictions: Take into account any dietary restrictions or preferences you may have, such as allergies, intolerances, or dietary preferences (e.g., lactose intolerant, vegetarian or vegan). Choose protein bars that align with your specific dietary needs.

 

Consider Taste and Texture: Sample different protein bars to find options that you enjoy both in terms of taste and texture. Choosing bars with flavors and textures that are appealing can increase the likelihood that you will incorporate them into their diet. 

Best time to eat a protein bar​

The best time to eat a protein bar is following a strenuous workout or as a snack paired with a carbohydrate.

  • Post-Workout: Consuming a protein bar within 30-60 minutes after a workout can help kickstart the recovery process by providing your muscles with the necessary amino acids to repair and rebuild. Pairing the protein bar with carbohydrates can also help replenish glycogen stores and support muscle recovery.
  • On-the-Go Snack: Protein bars are ideal for on-the-go snacking when you don’t have access to a full meal or when you need a quick and convenient source of nutrition. They can be kept in your bag, car, or desk drawer when you feel hungry.

Here are a few of my favorite options

RX Bar – 220 calories, 23g carbohydrates, 12g protein, 4g fiber

GoMacro Bar – 270 calories, 39g carbohydrates, 12g protein, 3g fiber

Rise – 280 calories, 20g carbohydrate, 20g protein, 4g fiber

Perfect bar – 340 calories, 27g carbohydrate, 17g protein, 3g fiber

Aloha bar, 220 calories, 26g carbohydrates, 14g protein, 10g fiber*

*contains a significant amount of fiber

NUTRITION GUIDELINES FOR COLLEGE ATHLETES​

nutrition guidelines for college athletes

As a college athlete, proper nutrition is crucial for fueling your performance, supporting recovery, and maintaining overall health and well-being. It’s important to remember that your bodies are still developing and getting stronger. Nutrition has to be adequate to fuel you as a human, exercise, recovery and commuting to class. It’s important to pay careful attention to ensure you are fueling your body to stay healthy and prevent injuries. Additionally, as training volume and intensity increase over a training period, dietary needs evolve. Athletes must adapt their food intake to align with workout intensity and duration throughout the semester to avoid underfueling.

Here are some tips on how to nourish your body as a college athlete:

  • Eat on a Schedule: Establishing a regular eating schedule is essential for college athletes to maintain energy levels, support performance, and facilitate recovery. Eat meals every three-to-four hours and snacks as needed to ensure that your body has a steady supply of fuel to support athletic performance
  • Prioritize Balanced Meals: Aim to eat balanced meals that include a mix of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables. This provides your body with the necessary nutrients for energy, muscle repair, and overall health.

 

  • Fuel Before Workouts: Consume a carbohydrate-rich meal or snack 1-3 hours before workouts or practices to provide your body with the energy it needs to perform. Choose foods that are low in fat and fiber. Some easily digestible options include: oatmeal, whole grain toast with nut butter, or a banana.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for athletic performance and overall health. Drink water throughout the day and especially before, during, and after workouts. Carry a reusable water bottle with you to ensure you’re staying hydrated throughout the day.
  • Plan Ahead: With a busy schedule of classes, practices, and games, it’s important to plan your meals and snacks in advance. Pack healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, yogurt, or granola bars to have on hand between classes and workouts.
  • Optimize Post-Workout Nutrition: Consume a combination of carbohydrates and protein within 30-60 minutes after workouts to support muscle recovery and glycogen replenishment. Foods after a workout are especially important to prevent injuries. Options include chocolate milk, a smoothie, or a sandwich on whole grain bread.
  • Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods: Focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support overall health and performance. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats in your diet.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your hunger and fullness cues, as well as any signs of fatigue or sluggishness. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied, and adjust your nutrition plan based on your individual needs and training demands.
  • Practice Portion Control: While it’s important to fuel your body adequately, be mindful of portion sizes to avoid overeating. 
  • Seek Support: Take advantage of resources available to you, such as nutrition counseling services offered by your college or university. A registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance tailored to your specific dietary needs and athletic goals.
  • Balance Social and Dietary Needs: While it’s important to prioritize healthy eating habits, it’s also okay to enjoy occasional treats and meals out with friends. 

By following these tips and prioritizing proper nutrition, you can fuel your performance as a college athlete and support your overall health and well-being.

5 TIPS TO build MUSCLE

5 TIPS TO build MUSCLE

Building muscle is a process that requires strategic nutritional and workout practices. Rather than focusing on losing body fat, focus on what you can do to increase muscle growth. Here are some helpful tips that can help you achieve your muscle-building goals more effectively. 

1. Eat Enough Calories

You need to be in a calorie surplus to gain muscle. This means you need to consume more calories than your body burns throughout the day. It might be helpful to pack extra snacks to fill in gaps between meals. This ensures you consistently have the energy to fuel your workouts and promote muscle growth.

2. Eat Often, Every 3-4 Hours

In order to maximize muscle growth, it’s recommended to spread out your protein intake throughout the day. According to a study by Schoenfeld (2018), aim to eat three meals and a couple of snacks each day to reach your nutrition targets. This ensures your body always has the nutrients it needs to repair and build new muscle tissue.

3. Target 20-40 grams Protein per Meal

Protein is key to muscle growth. That’s about 3-5 oz of chicken, fish, turkey, 3 eggs, 6 oz of tofu, or a serving of Greek yogurt with nuts. Use a food-first approach and incorporate protein supplements only when reaching your targeted protein amount is not feasible. Aim for .2 grams protein per pound per meal and .1 per pound for snacks.

4. Eat Carbs & Protein After Workouts

After a workout, your muscles are primed to absorb nutrients. Include 20-40 grams of high-quality protein within the first hour after a workout to improve muscle growth and recovery. Additionally, carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores, further promoting recovery and growth. Aim for a 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

5. Take Recovery Days

Muscle growth happens outside the gym. In order to gain muscle, your body needs time to recover and repair damaged muscle tissue. Therefore, it’s crucial to schedule recovery days into your workout regimen.

 

 

Common Questions:

To grow muscle, do I need to use pre-workout protein drink?

Pre-workout drinks can give you an energy boost because many contain caffeine however, they aren’t necessary for muscle growth. The keys to growing muslce is a consistent workout regimen, proper nutrition, and adequate rest.

When is the best time of the day to eat to build muscle?

Eat high-quality protein within one hour of finishing a workout to maximize muscle growth. Then continue to eat every 3 hours to facilitate muscle recovery and growth. Remember that protein supplements are more effective when your calorie balance is correct.

I’m a runner, should I take creatine?

The American Pediatric Association does not recommend use for individuals under 18 years old. Creatine works by converting carnosine in muscle at a faster rate, resulting in increased muscle strength. For runners, creatine can aid in short, high-intensity sprints and lifts lasting 0-30 seconds. Currently, creatine is being studied for use with endurance athletes. For more information on creatine such as dosing, click here.

What protein supplements are the best?

When food isn’t readily accessible, such as at a gym, field or track, protein supplements are a convenient option to meet protein needs. Along with a balanced diet,  protein supplements are a great way to fill in the gaps to reach protein targets. However, the “best” supplement varies based on individual needs, dietary restrictions, and preferences. Protein supplements derived from animal protein tend to be complete proteins. This means they contain all essential amino acids in which the body cannot make. Some examples are whey, casein, and egg.  A great plant-based option that are also complete proteins are soy and pea protein.

Follow @amystephensnutrition for more tips on how to effectively build muscle and improve your athletic performance.

References

Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10.

The Illusion of Perfect Eating: Why Celebrity Diets Are Unrealistic

The Illusion of Perfect Eating: Why Celebrity Diets Are Unrealistic

In today’s age of social media, it’s nearly impossible to scroll through our feeds without encountering a celebrity-endorsed diet plan or the latest trend in healthy eating. From Hollywood stars to Instagram influencers, everyone seems eager to share their secrets to achieving the perfect body through diet. But behind the glossy facade lies a harsh truth: many of these eating plans are not only unrealistic but also potentially harmful.

It’s no secret that celebrities and public figures face immense pressure to maintain a certain image. Whether it’s for a movie role, a photoshoot, or simply to keep up appearances, the pressure to look a certain way can be overwhelming. As a result, many turn to extreme diets or restrictive eating plans in an attempt to achieve the unattainable standards set by society. 

The problem with these celebrity-endorsed diets is that they often promote unrealistic expectations and unhealthy habits. From juice cleanses to extreme calorie restriction to eliminating carbohydrates, these plans may promise quick results but rarely deliver sustainable long-term benefits. Be skeptical of celebrity endorsed plans, especially if they promote quick results. What’s more, they perpetuate the harmful notion that thinness equals health, ignoring the importance of nourishing the body with wholesome, balanced meals. 

Dangers of celebrity diets

Celebrities have an opportunity to promote healthy eating behaviors however many do not. Recently, I was asked to review Kelly Ripa’s diet that was posted on Yahoo. After reviewing her typical day of eating, here’s what I discovered; she consumes about 1,600 calories and less than 50 grams of carbohydrates. The rest of her diet consists of green juices, nuts, and microgreens. This is not an appropriate amount of food for anyone, especially for an individual exercising one hour a day, as she claims. The average female that exercises one hour a day requires at least 2,200 calories and 300-400 grams of carbohydrates to meet nutrition needs. This amount is necessary to prevent injuries, optimize hormone production, keep up energy levels and prevent cravings. Consuming too few calories and carbohydrates can trigger increased hunger, cravings, moodiness and fatigue. 

Younger individuals who are in the midst of their growth and development can be particularly susceptible to the influence of such information, which has the potential to cause even greater harm. They may try to mimic this type of eating despite being at a different stage of development. Calorie restriction can have both short and long-term consequences for this population. In the short term, younger individuals may experience mood swings, low energy and have trouble focusing in school. Longer term consequences can cause delayed or poor growth, hormonal changes and negative impact on mental health.

Social media

One needs only look at the rise of social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok to see the influence these diets can have on impressionable followers. By posting inappropriate diet messages, celebrities and influencers can reach millions of people, many of whom may be susceptible to the allure of quick-fix solutions for weight loss or improved health. But the reality is that these diets are often based on pseudoscience or anecdotal evidence, rather than sound nutritional principles. Celebrities have an opportunity to promote healthy eating and lifestyle.

It’s important to remember that what works for one person may not work for another, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to healthy eating. Being healthy is about nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods, staying active, and prioritizing your mental health and overall well-being. The number on the scale does not equate with health or athletic performance.

 

Where to seek reliable information

As consumers, we must be critical of the content we consume and question the validity of so-called “expert” advice. Just because someone has a large following or appears on a talk show, doesn’t mean they’re qualified to dispense nutritional guidance. Instead, we should seek out reputable sources and consult with registered dietitians or qualified healthcare professionals for evidence-based information on healthy eating. 

The best way to determine a reputable source is to check an individual’s credentials and look to see if they have proper training or a license to give nutrition advice. Merely offering advice doesn’t guarantee that the individual is properly trained or qualified to do so. Untrained “experts”  can delay treatment or worsen a medical condition.

Registered dietitians (RD) hold a master’s degree from an accredited university and complete a 1,200 hour internship. Dietitians are governed by the certification on dietetic registration and can specialize in areas which require additional training for example, diabetes, sports nutrition, oncology, etc. 

Medical doctors (MD) attend an accredited four year medical school and then train for a minimum of four years in a speciality area. Medical doctors are licensed and take multiple board examinations during training. They hold the highest level of education and training of any healthcare professional. The American Medical Association (AMA) is the governing agency. Doctors have privileges to prescribe, diagnose and treat medical conditions in their area of specialty. 

It’s important to note that chiropractors are not MD’s and they cannot prescribe medications to treat medical conditions. Chiropractors treat bodily aches, pains, and conditions by using their hands and small instruments. They attend a four year chiropractic school and train for an additional 2-3 years. Chiropractors typically sell supplements.

In conclusion, the next time you come across a celebrity-endorsed diet or the latest trend in healthy eating, be skeptical. Ask yourself if the information is from a reliable source. Remember that being healthy is about balance, moderation, and nourishing your body —not deprivation or self-denial. Let’s shift the focus away from unrealistic expectations and toward sustainable, realistic approaches to nourishing our bodies and living our best lives.

UNDERSTANDING EATING DISORDERS: INSIGHTS FOR COACHES, FAMILIES AND FRIENDS​

Understanding Eating Disorders:
Insights for Coaches, Families and Friends

Eating disorders are complex conditions influenced by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, psychological, and sociocultural factors. It’s important to note that these factors interact in complex ways, and not everyone with risk factors will develop an eating disorder. Additionally, eating disorders can affect individuals of any age, gender, socioeconomic status, or cultural background. An eating disorder is not visibly apparent. An individual may appear healthy but may be struggling. It’s important to note that eating disorders are a mental illness.

Addressing eating disorders early can improve the likelihood that individuals will be able to pursue their academic career and physical goals. A comprehensive approach to treatment that addresses physical, emotional, and psychological aspects is crucial for recovery

Prevalence

Among the general population, an estimated 9% of the U.S. population, or 28.8 million Americans, will have an eating disorder in their lifetime (Deloitte, 2020).

95% of people with an eating disorder are between the ages 12-25 years old (Bratland-Sanda, 2013).

Eating disorders are a mental illness with the highest death rate, higher than depression, bipolar or schizophrenia (Arcelus, 2011).

Among athletes, eating disorders may be particularly hard to detect due in part to secretiveness, stigma, and symptom presentation (Eichstadt, 2020).

Athletes may be less likely to seek treatment for an eating disorder due to stigma, accessibility, and sport‐specific barriers (Flatt, 2021).

13.5% of athletes have a diagnosable eating disorder (Goch, 2013). 

Up to 47% of female athletes, versus 19% of male athletes have an eating disorder (Brantland-Sanda, 2013). 

Causes

There is no single cause for eating disorders, but several factors may contribute to their development:

Genetic Factors:

  • Research suggests a genetic predisposition to eating disorders. Individuals with a family history of eating disorders may be more susceptible.

Biological Factors:

  • Abnormalities in brain chemistry and neurotransmitter imbalances, such as serotonin and dopamine may play a role in the development of eating disorders.

Psychological Factors:

  • Personality traits, such as perfectionism, low self-esteem, and high levels of anxiety or depression, are associated with an increased risk of developing eating disorders.

Environmental Factors:

  • Societal pressures, cultural ideals of beauty, and exposure to thinness-promoting media can contribute to body image dissatisfaction, leading to disordered eating behaviors.

Traumatic Experiences:

  • Traumatic events, such as childhood abuse, bullying, or other significant life stressors, may contribute to the development of eating disorders as a coping mechanism.

Dieting and Weight Concerns:

  • Strict dieting or extreme focus on weight loss can trigger disordered eating behaviors. Dieting may disrupt normal eating patterns and lead to the development of unhealthy relationships with food.

Athletics and Performance Pressure:

  • Athletes, especially those in sports that emphasize leanness or specific body types, may be at increased risk. The pressure to perform and meet certain body standards can contribute to the development of eating disorders.

Family Dynamics:

  • Family factors, such as dysfunctional family relationships, communication problems, or a history of parental eating disorders, can contribute to the development of disordered eating patterns.

Social Influences:

  • Peer pressure and the desire to fit in with a particular group may contribute to the adoption of unhealthy eating habits.

Signs and symptoms

Recognizing if someone has an eating disorder can be challenging, as individuals with these disorders often try to conceal their behaviors. However, there are signs and behaviors that may indicate the presence of an eating disorder. It’s essential to approach the situation with empathy and sensitivity, avoiding judgment. Here are some common signs that someone may have an eating disorder:

Changes in Eating Habits:

    • Frequent dieting or a sudden switch to restrictive eating patterns.
    • Excessive focus on calories, fat content, or specific food groups.
    • Eating alone or avoiding meals altogether.
    • Consuming an inadequate amount of food before or after a workout.
    • Denying or minimizing behaviors related to food, body image or weight.
    • Evidence of binge eating, like finding large amounts of food wrappers.

Physical Signs and Symptoms:

      • Significant weight loss or fluctuations in weight.
      • Noticeable changes in appearance, such as a pale complexion or brittle nails.
      • Fatigue, weakness, or dizziness.
      • Frequent fluctuations in energy levels.
      • Evidence of self-induced vomiting, laxative use, or excessive exercise.

Emotional and Behavioral Changes:

    • Preoccupation with body image, weight, or food.
    • Avoidance of social events that involve food.
    • Anxiety or distress around mealtime.
    • Frequent comments about feeling fat or expressing dissatisfaction with one’s body.

Social Withdrawal:

    • Isolation from friends and social activities.
    • Desire to be alone.
    • Changes in relationships, especially if they involve food-related activities.

Mood Changes:

    • Increased irritability, mood swings, or signs of depression.
    • Emotional distress before, during, or after eating.

Denial of the Problem:

    • Dismissing concerns about weight loss or changes in eating habits.

Physical Health Issues:

    • Menstrual irregularities or the absence of menstrual periods in females.
    • Digestive problems, such as constipation or bloating.
    • Frequent complaints of feeling cold or wearing layered clothing to hide weight loss.

The presence of one or more of these signs does not necessarily confirm an eating disorder. However, if you notice several of these behaviors persisting over time, it may be an indication that further evaluation is needed.

How to help

Early intervention has been shown to improve outcomes. Treatment provides an opportunity for individuals to learn and adopt healthy eating habits, coping mechanisms, and stress management skills. If you suspect an individual has an eating disorder, express your concern in a nonjudgmental and caring manner. Encourage them to seek help from a healthcare professional, therapist, or dietitian who specializes in eating disorders. Remember that though eating disorders share commonalities, everyone is unique. You might need to bring up this issue several times before the person is willing to seek help. 

References

Arcelus J, Mitchell AJ, Wales J, Nielsen S. Mortality Rates in Patients With Anorexia Nervosa and Other Eating Disorders: A Meta-analysis of 36 Studies. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2011;68(7):724–731. doi:10.1001/archgenpsychiatry.2011.74

Bratland-Sanda S, Sundgot-Borgen J. Eating disorders in athletes: overview of prevalence, risk factors and recommendations for prevention and treatment. Eur J Sport Sci. 2013;13(5):499-508. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2012.740504. Epub 2012 Nov 13. PMID: 24050467.

Deloitte Access Economics. The Social and Economic Cost of Eating Disorders in the United States of America: A Report for the Strategic Training Initiative for the Prevention of Eating Disorders and the Academy for Eating Disorders.June 2020. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/striped/report-economic-costs-of-eating-disorders/.

Eichstadt, M., Luzier, J., Cho, D., & Weisenmuller, C. (2020). Eating disorders in male athletes. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, 12(4), 327–333. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738120928991 

Flatt, R., Thornton, L., Fitzsimmons‐Craft, E., Balantekin, K., Smolar, L., Mysko, C., Wilfley, D. E., Taylor, C. B., DeFreese, J. D., Bardone‐Cone, A. M., & Bulik, C. M. (2021). Comparing eating disorder characteristics and treatment in self‐identified competitive athletes and non‐athletes from the National Eating Disorders Association Online Screening Tool. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(3), 365–375. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23415 

Ghoch M, et al. Eating disorders, physical fitness and sport performance: a systematic review. Nutrients. 2013 Dec 16;5(12):5140-60. doi: 10.3390/nu5125140. PMID: 24352092; PMCID: PMC3875919.

Paul A. Krebs, Christopher R. Dennison, Lisa Kellar, Jeff Lucas, “Gender Differences in Eating Disorder Risk among NCAA Division I Cross Country and Track Student-Athletes”, Journal of Sports Medicine, vol. 2019, Article ID 5035871, 5 pages, 2019. https://doi.org/10.1155/2019/5035871




BEST SUPPLEMENTS FOR RUNNERS​

Best supplements for runners

About the authors: Amy Stephens, RD CSSD is a sports dietitian that works with NYU XC team and Empire Elite professional running team. 

Liam Dee is a local elite distance runner and running coach with NY Run Academy. Liam is based in Brooklyn, New York.

The Importance of Supplements

 The use of supplements within the world of sports and fitness is relatively widespread, being a means of addressing the various metabolic and dietary requirements of individual athletes. 

Supplementation of nutrients is not seen as a replacement or alternative to a complete and balanced diet. Further, the degree to which a supplement is effective is varying given the range of products available in today’s market. However, if an athlete is following a well-rounded diet, comprehensive studies have shown some supplements to stimulate modest improvements in sports performance, muscle strength and injury prevention. 

It’s important to note that not all products marketed as supplements are safe and effective; some can be ineffective at best and harmful at worst. Athletes are tempted to use any product that can give them an edge, so it is incredibly important to consult a professional and conduct appropriate research. 

We’ve included the supplements that are most commonly used by the NY Run Academy staff. With the exception of creatine, the staff regularly uses the supplements listed below.

Food first

Supplements are intended to supplement a healthy diet, not take the place of nutrients from food. Obtaining nutrients from food can offer other health benefits such as fiber, micronutrients and other phytochemicals, and helps regulate satiety. Supplements, unlike food, are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and bypass the gut. The gut is our natural defense that helps to excrete toxins. If this step is missed, concentrated amounts of the supplement are delivered directly to the bloodstream and broken down by the liver. The liver has a significant role breaking down other foods and medications and supplements can interfere with these other important processes.

Supplement safety

Unlike prescription medications, supplements are not regulated by a governing body. Third party testing ensures supplements contain what is listed on the label and do not contain harmful ingredients. However, they do NOT test the efficacy of the supplement. Look for these seals that indicate third party testing – NSF or USP

This is especially important for athletes that are drug tested, such as collegiate, professional and Olympic-level athletes. A positive drug test can disqualify an athlete from competition and result in a suspension or ban in the sport. See below for more information on banned substances.

NCAA banned substance list

WADA anti-doping list

Supplements are intended to supplement a healthy diet, not take the place of nutrients from food. Obtaining nutrients from food can offer other health benefits such as fiber, micronutrients and other phytochemicals, and helps regulate satiety. Supplements, unlike food, are absorbed directly into the bloodstream and bypass the gut. The gut is our natural defense that helps to excrete toxins. If this step is missed, concentrated amounts of the supplement are delivered directly to the bloodstream and broken down by the liver. The liver has a significant role breaking down other foods and medications and supplements can interfere with these other important processes.

Strength supplements

Creatine is one of the most researched and effective dietary supplements to improve muscle strength (Antonio et al., 2021).  Creatine works by increasing intramuscular creatine which is a necessary step for energy production. Supplementing creatine increases muscle contraction and exercise training capacity for repeated high-intensity exercise (e.g. team sports) as well as resistance or interval training. This leads to greater gains in lean mass and muscular strength (Burke et al., 2023). It has also shown positive effects on bone mineral strength compared to placebo. 

Dosage: The most common form is creatine monohydrate.

Loading phase: 20 g (divided into four even doses) x 5-7 days Maintenance phase: 3-5 g /day for the supplementation period

*According to the American Pediatric Association (APA), creatine is not recommended for athletes <18 years old. 

Food sources: milk, steak, tuna, salmon, cod, herring (best source of creatine).

Protein powders are a convenient way to obtain protein when food is not available. Protein is composed of amino acids that are important for the growth of muscle, ligaments, tendons and support for the immune system. Our bodies require 20 different amino acids, of which nine are essential and we need to obtain them from food.

Animal-based protein powders that are made from whey, casein, and egg whites contain all the essential and non-essential amino acids. 

Plant-based proteins such as soy, hemp, rice, and pea are complete proteins and contain essential and non-essential amino acids. Other complete sources of plant proteins are edamame, tempeh, quinoa, or buckwheat. 

Dosage for protein powders: Studies show that 20-40 grams of high quality protein every three-to-four hours will promote muscle growth (Morton, et al, 2020).

Collagen powder is a type of protein derived from bovine (cows and pigs) that contains all nine essential amino acids. Collagen supplementation, along with adequate Vitamin C, has shown to strengthen ligaments and tendons. 

Food sources: bone broth, sardines, and organ meats.

Dosage: 15 grams of collagen supplement one hour before workout (Shaw, et al, 2017).

Performance Supplements

Iron is an important nutrient for endurance athletes because it carries oxygen to produce energy. Low levels of iron mean that fewer red blood cells are available to carry oxygen. Oxygen is essential to power muscles and to remove metabolic waste so the body can function at peak performance. Many studies have reported the prevalence of iron deficiency in endurance athletes to be as high as 50% in females and 30% in males (Koehler, 2012).  During a training block, iron can drop 25-40%. Populations are at risk for low iron menstruating females, endurance athletes, altitude training at altitude, those who under fuel or have a low calorie intake (RED-S), and those following vegan or vegetarian diet, as well as anyone with a history of low iron stores. 

Symptoms of iron deficiency include lightheadedness, fatigue, irritability, and difficulty finishing a workout. 

Food sources: beef, chicken, fish, lentils, beans, and tofu.

Dosage: RDA for men and postmenopausal women is 8 mg/day. For all other women the recommendation is 18 mg/day. Speak with your healthcare provider about iron supplementation.

 

Vitamin B12 is an important nutrient for healthy nerve functioning, metabolism, and prevention of a type of anemia in red blood cells (pernicious anemia). Vegans and vegetarians are at the highest risk for low B12. Signs of deficiency include extreme tiredness, fatigue, weak muscles and low energy stores.

Dosage: RDA  2.4 mcg

Food sources: salmon, cod, milk, cheese, meat, eggs, fortified breakfast cereals and nutritional yeast (vegan diet).

Dietary nitrate improves oxygen uptake during prolonged exercise. The ingestion of dietary nitrates leads to a higher concentration of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. Once in the bloodstream, nitrates help to deliver oxygen faster, delay fatigue and improve performance. Beet juice contains a high amount of nitrates and works by increasing oxygen delivery to muscles. 

 

Dosage: At least 400 mg nitrate for at least five days. This can be accomplished by using the supplement Beet It. Drink one bottle of Beet It daily leading up to a race, then two bottles on race day. If you take it sporadically or less than five consecutive days, beet juice won’t be as effective. 

 

Food sources: spinach, beets (fresh, roasted or added to a smoothie), celery, lettuce, and watermelon.

Sodium Bicarbonate is typically used by sprinters and mid-distance athletes. Sodium bicarbonate acts as a buffer for lactic acid build-up from anaerobic bursts of exercise. During intense exercise, lactic acid is a byproduct of energy production. As lactic acid increases in the muscles, muscle fatigue and soreness tell our bodies to slow down. Sodium bicarbonate acts as a base and prevents a buildup of H+ (acidic), thus, raising the pH during high-intensity exercise. The most common side effects from supplementation are GI symptoms (i.e. nausea, vomiting, stomach cramping). If you’re able to tolerate it, sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) can be effective for shorter, high-intensity exercises lasting 1-10 minutes. Maurten brand has a product that seems to be better tolerated. Research is being conducted on efficacy for longer distances such as half and full marathon distances.

Dosage (three options): 

  • Single acute sodium bicarbonate dose of 0.2–0.4 g/kg BM, consumed 60–150 min prior to exercise (Maurten product)
  • Split doses (ie, several smaller doses giving the same total intake) taken over a time period of 30–180 min
  • Serial loading with 3–4 smaller doses per day for 2–4 consecutive days prior to an event (Maughan, 2018)

Caffeine has been shown to boost sports performance by reducing perceived exertion (delay fatigue), increasing endorphin release, and mobilizing fat for energy and sparing glycogen. The ingestion of caffeine blocks adenosine reuptake and promotes calcium release from sarcoplasmic reticulum which can help with muscle contractions. Caffeine ingested before and during an endurance event improves overall endurance capacity. Too much caffeine can cause GI issues, jitteriness, shakiness and nervousness, all of which are harmful to sports performance.

Dosage: One hour before a workout or race, 3-6 mg/kg caffeine to improve performance. Most individuals can drink a tall Starbucks or two shots of espresso (100-300 mg caffeine). Performance benefits were not shown with caffeine doses 7 mg/kg or greater.

Notes: Due to variability in caffeine content in brewing, consider standardized caffeine supplements like RunGum that have 50 mg caffeine per piece. Caffeine is most effective if all caffeine is stopped a couple days prior to “washout” caffeine from the body. 

Beta-alanine acts as a buffer during intense exercise. Beta-alanine fights muscle fatigue by increasing carnosine concentration in the muscle, which is needed for rapid muscle contractions. The most common side effect is tingling in lips and fingers, but not as common with sustained release (SR) dosing.

Dosage: 3-6 grams per day x 4-8 wks

Klean athlete brand SR

Supplements for Bone health

Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin crucial for bone health and immune function because it regulates calcium absorption. When Vitamin D levels are low, the body does not absorb as much calcium. It’s common for athletes to have lower Vitamin D levels in the winter when there isn’t as much sun.

Dosage: RDA recommends adults >19 years 600 IU per day and adults >70 years 800 IU.

Food sources include: dairy (yogurt, cheese, milk), orange juice fortified with vitamin D, salmon and mushrooms. Sunlight activates natural vitamin D in our skin and accounts for most of the Vitamin D in our bodies.

Calcium, along with consuming a diet with adequate calories, carbohydrates, and eating an adequate amount of calcium is critical to bone development. Calcium plays a crucial role in hardening and strengthening bones. Requirements are higher for athletes to replace calcium lost in sweat. 

Dosage: The RDA for ages 9-19 is 1,300 mg, 19-50 is 1,000 mg /day and 1,200 mg for individuals 50 years and older. Some data has shown that athletes consume 1,500 mg a day. A combination of supplement and food can achieve calcium targets.

Food sources: milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified orange juice, and tofu.

Magnesium is a nutrient that improves sleep and helps build strong bones. Magnesium functions as an electrolyte to maintain blood pressure.  In addition, magnesium helps regulate blood sugar control and acts as a cofactor that helps many enzymatic reactions take place.

Dosage: RDA 320-420 mg/day

Food sources: Whole grains, spinach, nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), quinoa, avocado, dairy.

 

Several other supplements are important to consider, namely, a multivitamin, Vitamin C, and omega-3 fatty acids. These become particularly relevant when meeting nutritional needs solely through food proves challenging.

References

Antonio, J., D.G. Candow, S.C. Forbes, B. Gualano, A.R. Jagim, R.B. Kreider, E.S. Rawson, A.E. Smith-Ryan, T.A. VanDusseldorp, D.S. Willoughby, and T.N. Ziegenfuss (2021). Common questions and misconceptions about creatine supplementation: What does the scientific evidence really show? J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 18:1–17.

Burke, R., A. Piñero, M. Coleman, A. Mohan, M. Sapuppo, F. Augustin, A.A. Aragon, D.G. Candow, S.C. Forbes, P. Swinton, and B.J. Schoenfeld (2023). The effects of creatine supplementation combined with resistance training on regional measures of muscle hypertrophy: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Nutrients 15:2116.

Jones AM, Thompson C, Wylie LJ, Vanhatalo A. Dietary Nitrate and Physical Performance. Annu Rev Nutr. 2018 Aug 21;38:303-328. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-082117-051622. PMID: 30130468.

Kaviani, M., K. Shaw, and P. Chilibeck (2020). Benefits of creatine supplementation for vegetarians compared to omnivorous athletes: A systematic review. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 17:3041.

Koehler K, Braun H, Achtzehn S, Hildebrand U, Predel H-G, Mester J, Schänzer W (2012) Iron status in elite young athletes: gender- dependent influences of diet and exercise. Eur J Appl Physiol 112(2):513–523.

Maughan, R. J., Burke, L. M., Dvorak, J., Larson-Meyer, D. E., Peeling, P., et al. (2018). IOC Consensus Statement: Dietary Supplements and the High-Performance Athlete, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 28(2), 104-125. 

Morton RW, Murphy KT, McKellar SR, Schoenfeld BJ, Henselmans M, Helms E, Aragon AA, Devries MC, Banfield L, Krieger JW, Phillips SM. 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 Mar;52(6):376-384. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-097608. Epub 2017 Jul 11. Erratum in: Br J Sports Med. 2020 Oct;54(19):e7. PMID: 28698222; PMCID: PMC5867436.

Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, Wang B, Baar K. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 Jan;105(1):136-143. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.138594. Epub 2016 Nov 16. PMID: 27852613; PMCID: PMC5183725.

Stellingwerff, T., Bovim, I. M., & Whitfield, J. (2019). Contemporary Nutrition Interventions to Optimize Performance in Middle-Distance Runners, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 29(2), 106-116.

​​Wylie, L., Bailey, S., Kelly, J., Blackwell, J., Vanhatalo, A., Jones, A., Wylie, L. J., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., & Jones, A. M. (2016). Influence of beetroot juice supplementation on intermittent exercise performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 116(2), 415–425. 

Wyss, M., and R. Kaddurah-Daouk (2000). Creatine and creatinine metabolism. Physiol. Rev. 80:1107–1213.



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5 Myths You Hear as a College Athlete

5 Myths You Hear as a College Athlete

TW: This content mentions eating disorders and body image.

1. Thinner = faster

It is crucial for an athlete to fuel their body for performance. A stronger athlete is a better athlete. Many athletes believe that in order to be in peak condition performing  as fast as possible, they need to sit at a very low body fat percentage or lose weight. Being in a state of low energy availability is extremely harmful to an athlete’s physical and mental well being. 

When an athlete focuses on weight loss and the external “aesthetics” of their body, they may believe that weight loss is always a good thing. Unfortunately, that same athlete may be in an unnecessary state of low energy availability due to malnourishment, causing their body to focus its metabolic and physiological energy primarily on survival, rather than its other natural processes. In a study by Melin, Heikura, Tenforde, and Mountjoy, an athlete training for over 90 mins per day can even fall into a low energy availability state of survival if they are consuming less than 2,300 calories a day (depending on the athlete/training session). Prolonged weight loss or maintaining a low body weight that inhibits the body’s ability to carry out its processes can be dangerous. Low energy availability results in hormonal imbalances, menstrual dysfunction, decreased bone mineral density, immune system dysfunction, and threatens cardiovascular health and organ function. 

 

2. I have to be strict about my nutrition to achieve my goals  

 A balanced diet is a healthy diet. When you are eating enough, every food fits. Athletes do not need to miss out on social experiences to stick to a strict nutrition regimen. Due to societal ideas of a positive correlation between low body weight and increased success in sports performance, many endurance athletes are subject to low energy availability, developing eating disorders, and further damaging their health. In a survey by Tenforde et al. in 2015, out of 748 runners surveyed, 23% of females and 8% of males reported skipping meals or dieting to lose

weight during their youth, or early years in the sport (Watson, 2017). This suggests that false ideals around body weight and performance are instilled in athletes at a very young age, who may then grow and become entrenched in the mindset that they need to be extremely rigid around their nutrition. Rigid or restricted manipulation of caloric and nutrition intake may sacrifice an athlete’s long-term health. 

3. I should eat the same as my non-athlete friends

Your friends may not be putting in 7+ hours a week of training like you are. Most people eat intuitively, listening to their own body’s hunger cues. If they don’t feel like eating breakfast, they won’t. If they are not hungry within 3-4 hours of eating a meal, they will not force themselves to eat a snack. Everybody’s needs are different, but it is important for athletes to note that they should absolutely not compare their own eating habits to their non-athlete peers. For an athlete, even a sustained energy deficit of ~300 calories per day can lead to a variety of health issues (Cialdella-Kam et al., 2014). While athletes absolutely do not need to constantly be thinking about food or how to fuel their training properly, comparing themselves to their peers and attempting to follow an eating pattern that doesn’t fit their personal goals may result in low energy availability, hindering their health and ultimately their performance as an athlete.

4. Not having a regular period is normal for high intensity female athletes  

Even if your teammates talk about their irregular menstrual cycles, this is not normal. Healthy hormones are crucial for an athlete’s overall health. Exercise related menstrual dysfunction is associated with compromised bone health such as risk of osteoporosis and stress fractures. Additionally, exercise related menstrual dysfunction is also associated with a variety of other health issues, such as cardiovascular dysfunction, endothelial dysfunction, increased cortisol levels, and higher risk for muscular injuries (Ciadella-Kam, 2014). Although it sounds convenient, a missing period poses the risk for many health consequences.

5. Sleep is not important

While it is hard to balance college sports, academics, and a social life, it is crucial not to neglect sleep. Sleep is an integral part of recovery and many studies suggest evidence that sleep deprivation negatively affects performance. Sleep deprivation raises the risk of injury and illness in addition to hindering recovery from practices or workouts (Watson, 2017). Athletes need at least 8-10 hours of sleep per night.

References

Cialdella-Kam L, Guebels CP, Maddalozzo GF, Manore MM. Dietary intervention restored menses in female athletes with exercise-associated menstrual dysfunction with limited impact on bone and muscle health. Nutrients. 2014 Jul 31;6(8):3018-39. doi: 

10.3390/nu6083018. PMID: 25090245; PMCID: PMC4145292. 

Melin, A. K., Heikura, I. A., Tenforde, A., & Mountjoy, M. (2019). Energy Availability in Athletics: Health, Performance, and Physique, International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 29(2), 152-164. Retrieved Jun 19, 2023, from 

https://doi.org/10.1123/ijsnem.2018-0201 

Watson AM. Sleep and Athletic Performance. Curr Sports Med Rep. 2017 Nov/Dec;16(6):413-418. doi: 10.1249/JSR.0000000000000418. PMID: 29135639.

FUELING AN INDOOR WORKOUT: A GUIDE

FUELING AN INDOOR WORKOUT: A GUIDE

Providing your body with the essential energy for powering through exercises is crucial during a gym or indoor track workout. This guide provides tips on how to effectively fuel and hydrate your body during indoor workouts. The focus is on the right timing and type of nutrients to avoid energy crashes or gastrointestinal issues, and to keep energy levels up.

before

One-to-two hours before your workout, it is important to have a pre-workout snack that is rich in carbohydrates and protein to give you the energy you need to perform at your best. Some great pre-workout snacks include a banana with peanut butter, toast with peanut butter, rice cakes or a nutrition bar such as Clif, Nutrigrain or Maurten bar. If you need a quick snack right before you start your workout, opt for quick acting carbohydrates. Excellent choices include fruit snacks, sports drinks, or energy gels.

Target about 40-60 grams of carbohydrate and 8-12 oz fluids.

during

During your workout, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking water or a sports drink to replace the fluids lost through sweat. Consider adding electrolytes if you find yourself sweating excessively. If your workout lasts longer than an hour, consider having a small snack such as an energy gel, fruit, or sports drink to keep your energy levels up.

Hydration needs during the workout depend on its duration and intensity. A common recommendation is to drink about 4-10 ounces (about 100-300 milliliters) of water every 10-20 minutes during the exercise.

after

After your workout, it is important to refuel your body with a post-workout snack or meal that is rich in protein and carbohydrates. This will help to replenish your energy stores and aid in muscle recovery. Some great post-workout snacks include chocolate milk, a piece of fruit with a protein shake, trail mix and dried fruit, a turkey and avocado wrap, hummus wrap, or fruit and granola.

Rehydrate after the workout by drinking fluids (water or sports drink). A general guideline is to consume about 16-24 ounces (about 500-700 milliliters) of water for every pound (0.45 kilograms) of body weight lost during exercise.

Remember, fueling and hydration requirements can vary from person to person based on individual preferences and dietary restrictions. It’s essential to listen to your body and find what works best for you. Proper fueling before, during, and after your indoor workout is key to achieving your fitness goals and maintaining a healthy body.

Fueling for winter training

Fueling for winter training

During the winter months, nutrition priorities shift towards hydration, foods that generate body warmth, and those that boost the immune system.

 

Hydration

1. Hydrate even if you don’t feel thirsty. Your body loses water through both respiration and perspiration. This becomes particularly crucial during winter months and even more so if training at altitude. Performance can be impacted by dehydration, so maintain hydration by consistently sipping fluids throughout the day. If you tend to sweat heavily, consider incorporating electrolytes as well.

2. Layer your clothing to avoid overheating. Aim to dress for temperatures that are 10-20 degrees warmer than the outside temperature. If the temperature is 32℉ (0 ℃), dress for 40 or 50℉ (4-10℃). As your body temperature rises during activity, you can gradually remove layers to prevent overheating. Wearing too many layers can lead to increased sweating, potentially hastening dehydration.

3. Replenish fluids immediately after a workout. Kickstart recovery and hydration by choosing warm fluids like soups, teas or hot chocolate. 

4.  Do not let the need to remove layers for restroom breaks lead to intentional fluid restriction. Stopping and removing extra layers to urinate can be time-consuming and inconvenient. Nevertheless, athletes should be mindful that dehydration can significantly impair sports performance. 

Fuel

  1. Take advantage of food’s thermic effect, eating can increase body temperature and help the body warm up before a workout. Along with warm fluids (coffee or tea), eat a banana or a warm bowl of oatmeal 30-60 minutes before a workout to help your body warm up. 
  2. Refuel after a workout to continue to experience the thermic effect of food. Refueling will also help replenish glycogen stores and repair damaged muscle tissue. Choose meals that have plenty of complex carbohydrates, proteins and fats. 

Recovery foods

  1. Be conscious of Vitamin C consumption to keep the immune system working at peak level. Include seasonal foods such as frozen fruits, beets, broccoli, avocado, sweet potato and citrus fruits.
  2. Incorporate foods with Vitamin D. Sunlight is our bodies natural form of Vitamin D however in winter months, we don’t get nearly enough sunshine to activate Vitamin D. Best foods to choose are salmon, sardines, herring, eggs, and yogurt. 
  3. Choose warmer meals that are rich in carbohydrates and protein. Some great choices are soups, stews, hot chocolate, warm sandwiches, pasta with meatballs and bowls. Eat enough to replenish glycogen and promote recovery. 
  4. Eat the same amount of food in colder temperatures. Energy expenditure doesn’t change too much in winter months unless you are carrying extra gear (i.e. skis, hiking gear, or large hydration vests).

Sample winter meal plan

Breakfast 

Oatmeal made with frozen blueberries, topped with sliced banana, nut butter and cinnamon 

Snack

Trail mix with dried fruit and salted almonds

Lunch 

Homemade soup or stew

carrot ginger, winter vegetable and farro, chicken noodle, lentil, beef stew 

Snack 

Homemade muffins (apple and carrot superhero muffin recipe)

Chamomile or turmeric tea 

Dinner 

Salmon with roasted sweet potatoes, and a kale salad with feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries and lemon vinaigrette dressing



Move Over, Gels. Heinz Wants Runners to Refuel With Ketchup.

 

You can put ketchup on a burger or fries, sure. It’s a key ingredient in Russian salad dressing and meatloaf. Ketchup was once even declared a vegetable by the U.S. Agriculture Department under President Ronald Reagan.

Now a new video from Heinz insists that “runners everywhere are using Heinz ketchup packets on their runs.” The company has also created running routes in the shape of its branded keystone logo in several cities, including New York, marking restaurants where ketchup packets are available for eager runners to grab.

But are runners in fact suddenly consuming ketchup? So much of it that they need to stop at fast food joints to reload? And if so, is that really a good idea?

Nutritionists are dubious.

“I’m totally skeptical,” said Amy Stephens, a sports dietitian for the New York University track team.

Click HERE for full NY Times story.

 

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