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Nutrition Articles


Recently I was approached by a company to do a video on the role of exercise in cholesterol. My first reaction was excitement as anytime I can promote exercise in the general population I will. I have expounded on the benefits of exercise in previous articles. The theory with cholesterol is that cholesterol is bad and will lead to hardening of the arteries. We call this atherosclerosis and it is the major cause of heart attacks and strokes. If we can lower the blood cholesterol than there will be less build up in the arteries and you will be healthier. But, what is this cholesterol?

Cholesterol is as lipid or simply a fatty substance. It gets into your blood stream in two ways. Two thirds is made by your liver and the rest is from what you eat. Your body needs some cholesterol to build body cells but too much is a problem. When their is too much it is deposited on the walls on the arteries which we call a plaque. This narrows the artery the same as rust and debris build up on the inside of a water pipe to eventually block the pipe. When we have a bypass operation we are simply bypassing the arteries which have become totally clogged.

The picture becomes a little more confusing when I tell you that their are basically two kinds of cholesterol. Their is a ""good"" cholesterol and a ""bad"" cholesterol. The ""bad"" cholesterol is called LDL(low density lipoproteins) and this is the type that is deposited on the arteries. The ""good"" cholesterol is called HDL(high density lipoproteins) and actually reduces the build up of the cholesterol by picking up the excess debris on the walls of the arteries. You can think of this as a natural ""liquid plumber"". Ideally we want to increase our level of HDL and lower our LDL.

There are three important factors. They are 1/Heredity 2/Diet and 3/Exercise. HEREDITY It is difficult to choose your parents, and unfortunately this is probably the most important factor. DIET Your body probably makes enough cholesterol to do it's function in your body so anything you eat will add to your bodies cholesterol level. It is important o reduce your intake of not only foods that are high in cholesterol but also foods that are high in saturated fats. Do not be fooled by the fact that foods claim to have no cholesterol, as they may be high in saturated fats which may in fact be worse for you.

A few quick guidelines are 1/ Remove all visible fat from meat and the skin off chicken 2/ It is better to boil, bake, broil, roast, microwaving as opposed to frying. 3/ Choose more fish than meat or reduce your meat portions. Certain fish such as salmon can increase your HDL 4/ Choose low fat dairy products such as skim or 1% milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream. 5/ Use polyunsaturated or monosatured oils(sunflower, safflower, olive) for cooking and salad dressings. Generally you can lower your cholesterol 1-5% with these simple rules and up to 15% with a more strict regimen.

EXERCISE Several studies have shown that regular aerobic exercise as I described several columns ago will not only reduce your total cholesterol but also increase your HDL. As you can not change your parents it would seem prudent to alter your diet and exercise regularly to reduce your cholesterol. Remember this is only one risk factor in heart disease . If you are concerned about your cholesterol level or have a family history of heart disease associated with a high cholesterol than you should see your physician and even a nutritionist to advise you about good, safe exercise and diet.

Fluids And Exercise

The perennial water bottle is always visible on any sporting event that you see. Fluids go everywhere. They go on heads, over the body, in the mouth and over coaches victorious heads. This shows the importance of fluids in sports. The question is what is in those bottles and do they help performance. As you exercise, you lose fluids as you sweat. Eventually your body registers this and your thirst mechanism tells you to drink. Unfortunately this is a good mechanism if you are slowly dehydrating but not a very efficient system if you are exercising hard especially in a warm environment or are involved in more than one competition or training session on one day. By the time your body is telling you to drink you are probably almost 4% down already which can have a significant impact on your performance. Studies have shown that athletes only replace about 50% of their fluids when they are exercising.

Therefore athletes can not rely on their natural thirst mechanism to maintain fluid balance but must adhere to a more formal schedule. The best time to prevent dehydration is to start well before the event. If you start the event either dehydrated or even a t normal hydration you are starting at a disadvantage. Therefore you must start about two hours before the event with about 500 mls. of fluid. Once you start the event you should replace your fluids with about 150-300 ml of cool fluid every 10-15 minutes. This is a rough estimate of what you should drink. This varies with the type of exercise, the heat and humidity, and an individuals rate of sweating. The best way to determine how much you should drink for your particular event is to weigh yourself before and after the event. You should replace each pound of weight loss with about 500 ml of fluid. Another good indication is the amount and colour of your urine. A small amount of dark urine indicates a dehydrated state.

Now we know how much we should drink, the next question is what we should drink. The advertisers bombards us with what they think we should drink but what are the facts. The first thing is taste. Numerous studies have shown that people will drink more of a sweetened and coloured drink than plain water. The faster the fluid is absorbed from the stomach into the system the faster it can work. Factors that affect the absorption are temperature, volume and composition. The maximal effect is a cool liquid that has a small percentage of carbohydrate(less than 8%) in large volumes. Carbohydrates not only increase the absorption of the fluid, but also provide important energy to the body in events that last longer than an hour. Ingesting either fluid or carbohydrate alone can improve performance about 6% but when both are taken by athletes together performance can be improved by up to 12%. So the final analysis is that for short events cool water which is usually free is a very effective fluid. For longer events most of the marketed sport drinks that contain between 4-8% carbohydrate in the form of glucose, sucrose, or maltodextrins carry a definite advantage. The amount of fluid consumed should be between 600-1200 mls per hour. Drink to perform. Use your brain and put the right amount of fluids in your mouth and not on your head and body to reach peak performance.

Eat Eat Eat! When What During Exercise
There is nothing more important to people than food. It perhaps our biggest preoccupation. The question for athletes is when and what to eat before, during, and after exercise. How can they optimize their performance by their food intake and how soon can they replenish their energy. THE PREGAME MEAL The foods we eat before competition will vary on an individualized basis on past experience and other cultural differences. There is certainly a trial and error method to determine what will work for you. Long gone are those large steak meals that I was fed when I was playing hockey. We now know that this is not the best pre game meal, although it sure made us feel strong in those days. This just shows you the power of the mind. The purpose of the pre game meal is to provide a relatively empty stomach and yet prevent you from feeling hungry during the event.

The meal should provide a steady flow of energy to your muscles and not let your blood sugar drop where you feel weak, tired and dizzy. Food should be easily digestible to avoid stomach cramps or excess gas. Hydration (the topic of future articles) is important so that you are not starting the event dehydrated. The popular misconception is that the food you eat just prior to exercising will provide the energy you need. Unless you are in an endurance event which will last greater than three hours this is not the case. The food you eat just prior to competition simply can not be digested in time to be utilized. Your energy you use is from your regular daily diet. Therefore the purpose of the pregame meal is to give you physical comfort and mental alertness. The next question is what to eat in the pregame meal and when should you eat it.

Carbohydrates are the most easily and most rapid digested food. Therefore the meal should be high in complex carbohydrates. This includes things like pasta, rice, potatoes and breads. You should limit the protein and fat in the meal. The larger the meal the longer it will take to digest. A large meal should be eaten 3-4 hours before the event while a snack can be eaten 1-2 hours prior to the event. Remember that if you are particularly nervous about the event it will slow your digestion. Drink plenty of fluids . Although an athlete has never starved to death during exercise there have been many whose performance has suffered due to dehydration. Another common misconception is that sugar will give you a quick burst of energy for performance. Your body uses mainly the stored energy. Eat foods that you are familiar with an know how your body to respond to. The pre game meal is not the time to try new foods

Tournament Energy

You are in the middle of a weekend tounament. One game is finished and you are feeling a little tired. What and when should you eat to get the most energy for the next game. What should you drink during the game and what should you eat tonight to prepare you for the games tomorrow. A lot has been written on the pre game meal. In fact I wrote an article about this last year. Basically, the pre game meal should consist mostly of carbohydrates such as pasta, rice, breads and potatoes. A large meal should be eaten 2 1/2 to 3 hours before the game. A smaller snack can be eaten within 1-2 hours before. This column will talk about what to ingest during and between games. DURING EXERCISE There are two situations that are important to discuss here. The first is for someone in an endurance event which will last more than 21/2-3 hours.

For these events it is important to consume some energy to help your performance. Your body should have been prepared by eating diet high in carbohydrates the week prior to the event. If you are doing continuous exercise such as a triathlon or marathon the best way to ingest energy is with high energy sport drinks or bars. These are quite readily available at sporting good stores or at the event itself. It is important to experiment with the same drink or bar you are going to use prior to the event to see how your body will react. You do not want any surprises on the day you are competing. The other situation is for people in tournaments. This is a common question at this time of year as we head into the hockey tournament season. Again, prepare yourself prior to the tournament by eating a lot of high carbohydrate foods the week before.

If your first game is first thing in the morning either eat a high carbohydrate meal a little later the night before you wake up early enough so that you can digest the meal in time before you play. Between events snack frequently on high carbohydrate foods which are low in fat and protein. Hydrate well between events. Sports energy drinks and bars are also very beneficial to provide energy between events and are easy for the body to digest. AFTER THE EVENT After an event it is important to immediately replenish your fluids. As soon as possible replace your lost fluids and electrolytes with sport drinks, water and juices. If possible weigh y ourself before and after the event and replace every kilogram lost with 1 litre of fluid.

Carbohydrates your main energy source has been shown to be most effectively replaced if consumed as soon as possible after exercise. Therefore eat a meal again high in carbohydrates within three hours after exercise to maximize your replacement of the energy stores you have just used. Last year in the playoffs, when the Leafs was playing every other night we had the players on a strict program. As soon as the players got off the ice they were given a special post competition sports drink which they drank in the dressing room and in the bus. They were then fed a pasta meal in the hotel or in the plane back to Toronto. This maintained as much as possible their fluid and energy stores. In summary what you consume will have a large impact on how you perform. Play close attention to these important concepts in this article to maximize your performance.

Drink Drink Drink

Drink, drink, drink!!!! This is what Sport Physicians and Sport Nutritionists are constantly telling athletes. Athletes are bombarded with information from professionals and now with the media from the makers of all those sport drinks on the market. But what is the truth? How much should athletes drink and why are everyone encouraging them to drink so much and so often? It was not that long ago that common thinking was that fluids were not important during exercise. In fact in the marathons more than 20 years ago not only were fluids not encouraged they were actually forbidden and thought of as a form of cheating. Since the 1970's we have become to realize that not only are the appropriate fluids important for maximal performance they are important in the prevention of serious illness caused from dehydration and heat disorders. Studies have shown that performance in the athlete starts to decrease when the athlete has become 4% dehydrated.

The important thing here is that the bodies natural thirst mechanism does not kick in until this has already occurred. Therefore if you wait until you are thirsty before you start to drink, it is already too late. During prolonged exercise the body can lose 1-2 litres per hour. This corresponds to 2-4 lbs. of body weight. When exercising in the heat this fluid loss will have significant effects on the body. For every litre lost the heart rate will beat 8 beats per minute faster than it normally would. The cardiac output or the amount of blood the heart can pump out to fuel those exercising muscles is reduced by 1 litre per minute. Furthermore the core temperature rises by 0.3 degrees celcius. The serious consequences of not drinking enough come from the combination of dehydration and the elevation of the bodies core temperature.

This can range from heat cramps which although very painful will not kill you to the life threatening problems associated with heat stroke.(refer to previous Jock Doc column). Some people are more prone to developing heat problems. Besides individual variation children and the obese are more prone. There is also an acclimatization period in that athletes adapt to the heat after being exposed to it. The ideal scenario is that you would ingest a liquid which would have the identical make up to the sweat you are losing and you drink it at the same rate as it is being lost. This could be done by weighing yourself before and after your exercise. The only change in weight will be from the fluid lost. Therefore by knowing your body you should drink the appropriate fluids the next time you exercise at the same intensity in the same climate under the identical conditions.

This is not an easy thing to do and in fact it has been shown that even athletes who are conscious of replacing their fluids only replace half of what they actually lost. So what is the bottom line. How much and what should you drink? The first thing is to not start an event already down in your fluids. Drink on a regular basis throughout the day. A good way to monitor if you are drinking enough is to look at your urine. If your urine is always relatively clear and not dark then you are probably drinking enough. Nutritionist have long promoted the 8 glasses of water a day theory. The next think is to decide what you are going to drink. Some sport drinks have proven to be effective to prevent dehydration and to improve performance especially in events longer than an hour. Start to drink 15-20 minutes before an event. For an average size person(150 lbs) you should drink 650-1,250 ml. (11/2 -5 cups)per hour of a drink containing 4-8% carbohydrate. After the event keep drinking to make sure you have replaced all the fluids lost. Learn your own body by weighing in and out and replacing the fluid loss with 2 cups for every pound lost. Optimize your performance by drinking to win.

The Best Foods For Sports

Every athlete is always looking for the competitive edge. The most obvious way is simply hard work, but there are other things you can do to optimize your performance. Perhaps the most important thing is the food you eat. Every athletes from your high school player to your professional has their own reasons why they can not eat their optimal diet. Time knowledge and your body's desires are the most common reasons why we do not always eat the optimal foods. With this in mind athletes fall easy prey to the vitamin and nutritional claims by those marketing those products. It seems that we would rather spend money on vitamins and supplements than eat properly. The fact of the matter is that it is not that hard to eat properly to maximize your training and performance.

The formulas for a good balance for most athletes is a high percentage of complex carbohydrates(60-70%) a moderate amount of protein(12-18%) and low fat(15-30%). Depending on the athlete they may fall deficient in one or more of these. An endurance athlete who believes that they should almost only eat carbohydrates, may be low in protein. A strength or power athlete who is trying to consume a diet high in protein may ingest too much fat in their diet. There are many simple foods which are easy to eat and prepare that can fill the majority of an athletes diet. Not only are these foods very healthy they will help the athlete fulfil their daily needs. The mainstay of the diet is complex carbohydrates.

You usually think initially of pasta, with good old tomato sauce. Avoid cream, high fat oil, and heavily cheese based sauces. Thick crust pizza is a great fast food at home or on the road. Load it up with lots of vegetables and single cheese. Potatoes which are baked or microwave are a better source of carbohydrates than rice or pasta as they have more nutrients. This can be ruined by a high fat sour cream topping. Be creative and use low fat yogurt or other toppings such as salsa if you desire. Whole grain breads are another excellent source of carbohydrate. Protein is important for all athletes and not only those who are trying to increase strength. Good sources of protein are ones that provide all the essential protein without a lot of fat.

Low fat dairy products provide a good source of protein and calcium(most protein supplements are made with skim milk powder and egg albumin). Although skinless chicken, fish are excellent sources of protein you do not have to eliminate lean beef and you also get the iron and zinc. Tuna is excellent but can be ruined by the high fat mayonaise4 with it. Prepare it yourself and use minimal and low fat mayonnaise. Don,t forget bananas, the official food of triathletes, high in complex carbs, B6, and potassium. Last but not least you must get some vitamins. Oranges, broccoli, other dark green vegetables, cantaloupe, carrots, strawberries and squash provide the most vitamins for the buck. Fruits and vegetables provide antioxident vitamins as well as fibre and important minerals such as potassium. The important thing is to eat a variety of foods to obtain all the nutrients you need to maximize your performance and stay healthy. I have given you a simple guide to eating to win. If you still require advice, time spent with a qualified sport nutritionist can prove invaluable.

Sports Foods

If only we could take something that would guarantee that we would go faster, jump higher, or go longer. There are many supplements on the market today that makes these claims. The number of sport foods have increased dramatically over the last couple of years, but what actually works ? What can we spend our money on that we will not simply be wasting our money? While there is nothing that beats hard work and dedication, there are now sport foods that will help you perform better in specific events. ENERGY DRINKS This is the traditional sport food and have now been around so long they are ingrained into our society. Just as many people will wear high performance running shoes for walking to the corner store, many sport drinks are consumed as a simple thirst quencher as apposed to a performance sport drink.

They are comprised of a low concentration of carbohydrate and electrolytes and are designed to act as fluid replacement and energy for events lasting longer than 45-50 minutes. The fact that these drinks have more flavour and are sweeter than plain water will encourage an athlete to drink more and help prevent dehydration and the onset of any heat disorders. They are also very beneficial after exercise to help replenish fluids and carbohydrates. HIGH CARBOHYDRATE ENERGY DRINKS These drinks have approximately 20-25% carbohydrate as compared to the 6-8% in sport drinks. They can be useful in very long competitions such as full ironman triathlons, long distance cycling races or things such as echo challenges. Their biggest use for most athletes is carbohydrate replenishment after exercise or competition.

It is sometimes easier to drink carbs than eat carbohydrates to replenish those carbohydrates as soon as possible after running the stores down. ENERGY BARS The use of sport bars during exercise is really only beneficial for events lasting longer than two hours and want an easy to ingest carbohydrate. They are probably best utilized as a pre event source for energy and as a post exercise replenishment. ENERGY GELS Gels are an easy effective way to get easily digestible carbohydrate into your system for extended events longer than an hour. They should be taken with water to enhance the absorption into your system. They can be easier to take during an event or used by athletes between events on the same day.Some people are too nervous to eat even a sport bar and do not want to feel full or bloated.

This is a summary of the most reliable and effective supplements to improve your overall performance. Be wary of all the products offered in various health and supplement stores. Most products while making great claims regarding their effectiveness offer no solid scientific basis about their claims. Be especially wary of products that make peudo-medical jargon such as detoxifying your body, balancing your chemistry, oxygenating your blood and so on and so on. Utilize the appropriate products that match our sport and event schedule and remember that there is no replacement for simple hard work and dedication.