Hey Athletes, Don’t Fear Fat

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I can’t even count how often I hear athletes discuss ways to reduce fat in their diet. I am here to debunk the myth that fat in your diet will make you fat. In fact, the opposite is true—fat can make you stronger, leaner, more alert, and a better overall performer. Fat is your friend, not your enemy!

This does not give you free reign to go eat a bacon cheeseburger every day. Let me discuss the fats you should welcome into your diet daily!

Let’s start by discussing omega-3 essential fatty acids; these are found primarily in fish like salmon and tuna. They are also found in walnuts and flaxseed. Study after study has proven that omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation to the point of helping to prevent chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and even some forms of cancer. They also help with cognition—some studies have even proven that they delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. What does this mean for you as an athlete? It means that omega-3s will help you be more alert on the field and will also help you to recover quickly and be on your best-game more often.

In addition to omega-3 fats, I highly encourage you to incorporate dairy into your diet. I have heard of athletes avoiding dairy because of the fat content, but truly, dairy is so awesome for you to include in your day-to-day life and right after your workouts.

One dairy product I encourage you to consume every day is yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt is the best because it is high in protein and doesn’t have a lot of added sugars like many yogurts on the market. The probiotics in yogurt help increase the healthy bacteria in your gut, which optimizes your digestion. You need optimal digestion in order to absorb the antioxidants that help you recover from tough workouts. Athletes need more nutrients than the average person and these needs are best met with optimal digestion. Go for yogurt every day!

Dairy is excellent for your recovery as well. Milk will rehydrate you after a workout—did you know that it is 90 percent water AND it has electrolytes? Milk is an excellent source of carbohydrates, which replenishes the glycogen that your muscles lose during a workout. Milk is also a great source of protein, which helps your muscles to recover. Studies show that milk may help reduce muscle damage and improve muscle recovery, which can help you perform better during your next workout.

Personally, I am a strong proponent of chocolate milk for a post-workout drink—it has that perfect ratio of 3 to 4 grams of carbohydrate for every gram of protein. This is the ratio you want for optimal recovery.

Eat your fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and the healthy fats I described here and you will come out a winner on the field, court, pool, or track!

 

 

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Beat the Heat with Hydration!

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It’s been HOT lately so the topic of hydration couldn’t be any timelier. Hydration is a popular topic in sports nutrition; they need to be concerned that they replenish their electrolytes as so many are lost through sweating.  Hydration is not just important for athletes though; it is important for everyone who gets out in that hot summer sun!  You can become dehydrated by an hour stint of gardening for example.

Did you know that 2/3 of your body weight is water? Water is critical to all the body’s systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and muscles. Water is necessary for your body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It also detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries away waste from the body.  A two percent drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking.

If you are dehydrated, your blood is literally thicker, and your body has to work that much harder to make it circulate more efficiently. As a result, the brain becomes less active, more fatigued, and leads to exhaustion. This is precisely why you feel so tired after a day in the sun, but guess what?!

Water alone is not going to cut it when it comes to preventing dehydration in the summer. You need ELECTROLYTES! Some people think that electrolytes are simply salt, but there are actually seven different electrolytes and they are: sodium (“salt”), chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate.

I like to have coconut water as my drink of choice when I am out in the sun; it contains a high amount of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Some of my favorite hydrating foods are cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes. Your craving for salty foods may increase as you become dehydrated, but don’t reach for chips; instead choose something like GimMe Seaweed Snacks; they’ll fulfill that salty craving; they are so healthy for you, and the bonus is that they are loaded with electrolytes!

So how do you know if you are dehydrated?

Check out your urine! A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.

You can also use the pinch test! Dehydration often reduces skin elasticity, so doctors often use this skin test to quickly check for dehydration. The best part is that you can do it yourself: Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it upwards. Your skin should snap back rapidly. If your skin maintains its pinched shape for a few seconds and drops slowly, you may be dehydrated.

I beg you to please protect yourself from dehydration all the time, but especially in this heat; the side effects are brutal! You’ll overheat, which feels even hotter than the intense heat that the sun is already emitting! You’ll also want to watch your alcohol and caffeine intake because both are naturally dehydrating.

Have fun in the sun, the healthy way!