What's in your nutrition?


A common theme I hear among triathletes is the importance of nutrition.  It’s a weakness in all of us whether we’re athletes or not.  Did you know that you can burn 6,500-7,000 calories during a 10-11 hour Ironman?  So what’s the worry about what to eat and who would have thought the most critical piece to training and race day performance is what we feed our body?  Joe Friel, author of the Triathlete’s Training Bible points out that nutrition can make or break us in our performance on race day.  Let me translate, poor nutrition planning = do not finish (DNF).  If you could imagine training hard and long for months and all of a sudden on race day (and it really does happen) your GI says, “sorry, I don’t like what you just fed me so you’re not allowed to finish your race.”  Eeek, right?  Needless to say, my focus is not only gaining bike strength but really studying what I should be eating and drinking before, during and after training days and race day.
Great resource for triathletes in training! 
It’s not just for athletes
Good nutrition for our bodies is not just for enhancing athletic performance, but it’s also good for fighting off bad diseases/illnesses/infections, improves our cognition, strengthens our muscles and bones, and gives us the energy to perform our daily activities.  We always hear about healthy eating, the food pyramid, and diets galore! It is overwhelming!  Well, I have taken on a nutrition project for part of my apprenticeship.  This led me to think, “how am I going to provide nutritional health education for kids if I don’t know much about it as an athlete?”  I certainly know the basics and what my stomach cannot tolerate but it’s not the same for everyone.  However, as I research and develop a nutritional presentation…it’s all coming together and finding myself enjoying learning from great resources and even family members.  

Simple nutrition tips (sugar, salt, & fat)
I have eliminated high fructose corn syrup from my diet long ago, but something new I learned during my research, is that there are more added sugars to eliminate or eat less of:  maltose, fructose, glucose, lactose, syrup, sucrose, brown sugar, corn syrup, sugar, molasses, etc. Don’t let those 100% juices fool you!  My husband is not too fond of juices in general, but when I do get them once in a blue moon, he has me reading the ingredients and then I find out it’s not what we think it is.  Reading the ingredients is a key factor in purchasing the right stuff.  Too much sugar can rob you of energy, your health and even sneak in those extra calories you don’t really need from the drinks.

Fun Fact:  Sodas, energy and sports drinks are currently the largest source of added sugars among the U.S. population from ages 2 and older!! (NHANES 2005-2006).  There are about 16-17 teaspooons in a 20oz bottle of soda, specifically 7up...scoop it out to see what that looks like.

Sodium (or salt) is another ingredient most health professionals will tell Americans to keep a close eye on.  We have heard the negative outcome of sodium: high blood pressure thus leading to secondary problems such as heart disease.  Sodium is actually a nutrient for our body but it’s not something my taste buds enjoy.  Taking in sodium during training and race day will be crucial for me to balance out my electrolytes.  You can have too much water and not enough sodium causing something called, hyponatremia.   So you can see it’s important to have enough sodium especially when you’re sweating or during hot weather, but too much can be consumed if we don't sweat it off.  It’s recommended by the American Heart Association and the American Dietary Guidelines to eat less than 1,500mg/day. 

Fun (crazy) Fact: Americans ages 2 years and older consume approximately 3,400mg of sodium a day…Holy Cow!!  (2010, American Dietary Guidelines)

Fat is tricky.  Let me just keep it simple.  Fat is actually good for us and good sources of fat come from fish, lean meats, certain nuts and more.  What we want to pay attention to on labels is the saturated and trans fats because it can certainly sneak its way into our foods.  I have learned that our bodies need fat for endurance performance so there is some benefits of having that good fat.
Fun Fact: “Because products containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can be labeled as having 0 grams trans fat, checking the Ingredient List is important to avoid all artificial trans fat” (CDC Nutrition Basics).  Like I said fat is tricky!
Disclaimer: Again, please note I'm not a certified dietician...just a triathlete in training learning and sharing the benefits of basic nutrition.  To explore beyond the basics I have provided, please check out the credible resources below by clicking on the links:

1.     Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) – very helpful and if it’s too much to read all at once, go through sections at a time…it’s quite interesting and based on scientific evidence! 
2.     American Heart Association on How to Read the Label – there are also many other helpful nutrition information to check out on this link 
3.     BAM! Bodyand Mind! – CDC’s fun nutrition info for kids 
4.     The President’s Challenge 8 Ways to Eat Healthy 
5.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Nutrition for Everyone – provides information on various topics from carbohydrates to fats and vitamins and minerals 

Quote of the day: The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.  
~ Thomas Edison

Bible verse of the day:  “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”  ~ 1 Corinthians 10:31 

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