When it comes to nutrition and sports performance, it can be hard to know what works and what doesn’t. Research studies are critically important to dissect out such issues as how best to hydrate, how to delay fatigue, and the role of genetics in eating for peak performance. But what really matters is what happens in real life.
“There are no gold medals for gene expression.” — Ron Maughan, PhD, Emeritus Professor of Sports and Exercise Nutrition, Loughborough University, England
Ron was a keynote speaker at the recent SCAN (Sports, Cardiovascular, and wellness Nutrition) annual meeting. SCAN is the largest dietetic practice group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), with more than 6,500 members, including Registered Dietitians (RDs), Dietetic Technicians, and others with nutrition expertise in the areas of sports, physical activity, cardiovascular health, wellness, and the prevention and treatment of disordered eating and eating disorders.
The gathering provided real world context; these experts are where the rubber meets the road, and where the food meets the fork. Here are three simple tips from the meeting that you can immediately apply to your life.
Do you ever catch yourself mindlessly eating? Do you grab a bag of chips while watching TV, or keep reaching for the bread basket while dining out with friends? What if you took a photo or sent a text message of everything you put in your mouth. Would your habits change?
Nancie H. Herbold, EdD, RD, LDN, and Allison Mulvaney, MS, of Simmons University, had collegiate swimmers record food intake in real time via text and picture messaging before, during, and after a swim meet. Use of technology resulted in more detailed and accurate records, as compared to traditional pen and paper recording. The athletes captured before and after photos to document how much they ate (a plate of nachos was provided as an example).
A picture may be worth 1,000 calories as well as 1,000 words!
If you’re an athlete, taking photos of pre- and post- event meals may also help you make connections between your nutrition and sports performance and help you determine where to make adjustments.
Note: Massive Health makes The Eatery app where users can snap photos of what they are eating and invite friends to comment. Massive Health recently released infographics of the data obtained from more than 7.68 million food ratings of half-a-million foods.
Size matters. This was perhaps best illustrated by some of the great giveaways from the exhibitors at the conference. California Almonds provided small tins (example shown above) that contained one serving size of almonds (about 2 dozen), which is the equivalent of a generous handful. (The tins can be ordered online).
Chobani yogurt provided single serving cups of their latest flavors and Cherry Bay Orchards handed out single serving packs of dried cherries. All these foods offer quick, easy, healthy, portion-controlled snacks. Pick up some snack size plastic baggies or food storage containers, so you can tuck healthy snacks in your briefcase, purse, or desk drawer. Size really does matter.
When it comes to self-tracking calories out, as well as calorie in, don’t overlook the K.I.S.S. Principle. While it may be tempting to purchase the latest bright, shiny gadget, don’t overlook simple, affordable pedometers.
The beauty of pedometers is that step counts are irrespective of a person’s level of fitness, according to Lynn Umbreit, MS, RD, LD, past-chair of the WM (Weight Management) and SCAN dietetic practice groups (and finisher of over 50 marathons). Lynn may set a goal of 1,000 steps for a client who is extremely obese, with a subsequent goal to increase the number of steps. It doesn’t have to be all about 10,000 steps.
Sometimes it’s those first few baby steps that get us up and out the door that are the most important!
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