Protein

Chicken and Avocado Salad

An easy salad rich in protein, healthy fats, probiotics and green goodness. This recipe is low in carbohydrate, but could be adapted for training needs by adding some cooked quinoa or brown rice. Leftover salad also makes a tasty lunch option or sandwich/wrap filling.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

1 continental cucumber, thinly sliced

2 stick of celery, finely chopped

200g mixed lettuce leaves

1 roast chicken, skin removed OR 800g lean chicken breast,grilled/BBQ’ed

3 tbsp mayonnaise

3 tbsp Greek yoghurt

2 spring onions, finely sliced

Pepper

 

Method

Combine cucumber, celery, 1 of the spring onions and lettuce leaves in a large bowl. Remove chicken from the bones and chop roughly, or slice pre-cooked chicken breast.  Mix through salad.  Combine mayonnaise and yoghurt, mix well and dollop on top of salad.  Sprinkle with remaining chopped spring onion.

Fresh Tip

For a portable lunch on the go, use leftover salad as a delicious filling for a wholegrain sandwich, roll or wrap. Line the bread with lettuce leaves that have been washed and dried to create a barrier between the filling and bread to avoid a soggy lunch.

 

Recipe from Super Food for Performance in Work, Sport and Life

10 of the best restaurant meal choices for athletes

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Sleep, train, recover, eat, work/study, eat, train, recover…..the life of an athlete can be super-structured and this repetition can also apply to meals and snacks. Some athletes feel it is too difficult to eat out at restaurants when they are trying to meet their performance nutrition needs, so end up avoiding eating out, or find it quite difficult and stressful to make choices when they do venture away from home.    

But looking after yourself doesn't mean you have to lock yourself in an altitude tent for a month and live on steamed chicken, broccoli and rice! There are a feast of nutritious eating out options around that contribute to athlete health, nutrition and performance goals. Here are 10 of the best choices to help you enjoy eating out with friends and family, while keeping your training goals on track:

  • Eye fillet steak with vegetables

Dinner at the pub should never be a problem - you can always find a grilled steak on the menu. Order with steamed vegetables and baked/roast/sweet potato instead of chips for a meal rich in lean protein, iron, zinc and vitamins. You may need to add some extra carbohydrate to help meet your training needs.

  • Thai beef or chicken salad

With plenty of fresh herbs, garlic, chilli and fresh vegetables for vitamins and antioxidants, a Thai salad is terrific choice. Vermicelli noodles will provide some fuel, while the meat or chicken provides high quality protein and minerals.

  • Prawn and vegetable stir-fry

Seafood is a great eating out option, but it’s often served deep fried. Prawns in a stir-fry give you extra vegetables, and by ordering the rice or noodles separately you can vary the amount of carbs to your needs.

  • Poke bowl

You can get just about anything in a bowl these days, even smoothies (which I still don’t quite understand!). Poke bowls originate from Hawaii but are now widely available and traditionally contain plenty of fresh vegetables, rice, pickled vegetables, seaweed, edamame, rice and raw fish.

  • Steamed fish and greens

Most menus these days will offer a grilled or steamed fish options, and it will often be served with green vegetables and soy/ginger/garlic/chilli style sauce. Check out my Instagram for some examples of these, it’s one of my favourite choices when I go out for dinner!  If you don't eat much fish at home, choosing it when you are out will help to boost your omega-3 intake.

  • Grilled haloumi and vegetable stack

For a vegetarian option, grilled vegetable stacks can be a great choice, just make sure there is a decent source of protein like haloumi or ricotta cheese or tofu.

  • Fajitas

Fajitas are the perfect Mexican dish to share with friends. Everyone can pick their own favourite fillings - lean meat or chicken, plenty of vegetables and soft tortillas make for a well-balanced and filling meal.

  • Lamb Greek salad

Protein, minerals, healthy fats, vitamins – lamb and Greek salad are the perfect match.  Like many salad meals, you may need to serve with some bread, rice, quinoa or sweet potato for extra energy, depending on your goals and needs.

  • Vietnamese Pho

Asian-style vegetable/noodle soups are a great eating out option, containing lean protein like beef or chicken, plus fresh herbs, vegetables and noodles.  Soup is hydrating and assists with recovery and fuelling. 

* You may have noticed some common elements to all of these meals - vegetables, herbs, good quality protein, healthy fats and adjustable carbohydrate according to individual needs.  Go for nutrient-density and quality for health and performance benefits                 

* Of course, if you don't eat out too often and are heading out for a celebratory dinner you can throw all this advice out the window and just choose what you really feel like! You never know though, it could still be one of the options above.....

If you are interested in more sports nutrition info, recipes and tips, please add your details for my free newsletter, at the bottom of any page on my website.  You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter and Instagram and look out for my new book Super Food for Performance available for pre-order now, due to arrive in December 2017!

Recovery smoothie

Image courtesy of  Bec Doyle Photography

Image courtesy of Bec Doyle Photography

This smoothie is the perfect option post-exercise, containing carbohydrate, protein, antioxidants, electrolytes and fluid for recovery.  Rice milk is great to include in smoothies after training for fast recovery, due to its high glycemic index, but dairy milk could also be used.  Rice milk doesn’t contain any protein, so we have added protein from yoghurt, almond meal and skim milk powder.  You can use a whey protein powder if you like, but you can get enough high quality protein for recovery using real food.  This smoothie contains banana and berries, but you can vary the fruit you use to suit your individual tastes.

Serves 1

 1 cup/250ml rice milk (calcium fortified)

100g/3.5 oz protein-rich Greek yoghurt

1 medium ripe banana, chopped

¼ cup/40g frozen berries

1 tbsp ground almonds

1 tbsp skim milk powder

Combine all ingredients and blend, pour into a tall glass to serve.

 

 

 

Can jelly heal tendons? Maybe.....

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Much hype surrounds the role of gelatin in the repair of connective tissue injuries, but can it really make a difference, or is it just another nutrition fad? Nutrition trends like this can quickly grow wings and before you know it every injured athlete is making jelly for dessert.  Unfortunately in the case of gelatin it’s not as simple as daily bowl of jelly – the dose and timing are critical if it’s going to have an impact. 

Should home-made jelly concoctions be the new norm pre-training in the rehab gym, or are we all getting a bit carried away? 

Collagen and tendons

Connective tissues like ligaments and tendons are made up primarily of collagen fibres. It is the amount of collagen and cross-links within collagen that can impact on performance. Stiffness in the tendon allows for greater force production and subsequent strength, power and speed, but an imbalance between the strength of the muscle and the strength of the tendon or ligament can increase injury risk. 

Following a tendon injury, repairing the crosslinks is a high priority. Both training and nutrition can influence the number of collagen crosslinks.

 The role of gelatin

Glycine and proline are the common amino acids in collagen, and are both found in gelatin.  Vitamin C is also important for the process of collagen synthesis. Making these nutrients available in the bloodstream prior to exercise can promote absorption into the tendon.

A recent study by Shaw et.al. (2016) demonstrated that the increase in amino acids one hour after consuming a gelatin supplement was sufficient to increase collagen content. They showed a doubling of collagen synthesis by doing exercise that loads the tendon, and a further doubling of collagen synthesis with the addition of 15g gelatin pre-exercise (vs minimal impact of a 5g gelatin dose). Further research is required to determine effective dosages of both gelatin and Vitamin C, and whether doses should be scaled to body size also.   

These data suggest that adding gelatin with Vitamin C to an intermittent exercise program improves collagen synthesis and could play a beneficial role in both injury prevention and tissue repair. This has implications for reducing time to return to training, improved tendon functionality and potential performance outcomes.

Palatability problems

Consuming 15g of gelatin pre-training is easier said than done! The Shaw study mixed gelatin powder into Ribena for immediate consumption. Gelatin can be mixed with juice, made it into home-made ‘firm’ jellies/lollies or even used to create gelatin-rich pancakes! Whatever works....but just be prepared that 15g gelatin can be pretty heavy going.

Is gelatin worth the effort?

The problem when interesting research appears is that everyone suddenly becomes an expert and wants to jump on the bandwagon. There is still much to learn about dosages of both gelatin and Vitamin C and expected outcomes. On the other hand, if it does no harm and may speed up return from injury, which is ultimately the goal of an injured athlete, then it becomes an attractive option.

One note of caution - gelatin is increasingly being sold as a commercial product by supplement companies, posing a potential risk of contamination, so athletes who fall under any anti-doping code should be cautious. 

If you are interested in gelatin, and nutrition for injury in general, a session with a sports dietitian can help to ensure you are meeting your specific needs. 

For more sports nutrition info like this, I would love to send you free updates and recipes, just leave your details here. You can also follow my pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, or check out my Thoughts page for more articles.

 Want to learn more:

 Shaw, G., et al. (2016) Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr.

 Sigma Nutrition Podcast:

SNR #143: Keith Baar, PhD – Tendon Stiffness, Collagen Production & Gelatin for Performance & Injury http://sigmanutrition.com/episode143/

 

Dairy vs soy vs almond vs other milks - how to make the best choice for your nutrition needs

Non-dairy milk options are well and truly mainstream these days. While soy milk has traditionally saved the day for many dairy intolerant individuals as a milk substitute, today there is a wide range of milk choices that allow food and drinks to be enjoyed that may not otherwise be well tolerated.  But while you enjoy your almond or soy milk latte, it’s worth a fleeting thought about the nutrition quality of your milk.  Just because a milk might look the same or be used in the same way, it doesn’t make all milks equal from a nutrition perspective.  There are significant nutrient differences across the various milk options and these are important to consider (in conjunction with our overall nutrient intake from foods).

How do the milks differ?

The nutrition composition of a milk will depend on the source. For plant-based milks, the nutrition composition of the wholefood is not automatically translated to the milk.  For example, almonds are rich in a range of vitamins and minerals and provide protein, however almond milk is far lower in protein and minerals like calcium.  

Small differences in carbohydrate, sugars and fats between the different milks aren’t generally too much of a concern, other than perhaps the higher fat content in some coconut milk products and the higher sugar content of oat and rice milk.  More important is the protein and calcium content.

Protein

Most alternative milk options contain little or no protein, and the protein present is often low quality.  Soy milk is the exception - it has a similar protein content to dairy milk and it is high quality.  The quality of protein becomes particularly important if you are using milk in a recovery smoothie or shake after exercise. 

If your preference is rice or almond milk over dairy for example, ensure to add in a high quality protein source eg. try adding protein powder, almond meal, chia seeds to a smoothie with an almond milk base.

Calcium

The other nutrient to look out for is calcium, although many commercial products are now fortified with calcium up to a similar content as dairy milk.  If you choose organic non-dairy milk varieties, these are the ones less likely to be fortified with calcium, a quick check of the label should tell you.

Milk facts and figures (based on a selection of brands available in the supermarket, please read the label to determine the specific nutrient content of the brand of milk you use).

*Milk and low-fat milk refer to dairy varieties

*Milk and low-fat milk refer to dairy varieties

Dairy foods are a rich source of high quality protein and calcium.  If you can’t tolerate dairy or choose not to eat dairy, check your milk’s nutrition profile and adjust your daily food intake if necessary to fill some of the gaps for protein and calcium.

If you are interest in performance nutrition updates, please leave your details here for my newsletter and recipes.  You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and keep an eye out for my new book due out later this year.

 

 

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise salad is one of my favourites, light but protein-rich and great for an easy dinner on a hot night or a portable and filling lunch.  The dressing works well for other salads too.  This recipe is from my book Eat Right For Your Life.

Nicoise Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

500g/1 lb baby new potatoes, quartered

200g/7 oz green beans, topped and tailed

1 medium red (Spanish) onion, sliced thinly

150g/5 oz mixed lettuce leaves

250g/9 oz cherry tomatoes

400g/14 oz canned tuna in oil, drained, flaked

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarters

½ cup/90g seeded black olives

3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and cut in half lengthways

 Dressing

Combine ¼ cup/60ml of lemon juice with one crushed clove of garlic and 2tsp of Dijon mustard (add 60ml olive oil also if desired).

Method

  1. Steam potatoes and beans until just tender, drain and allow to cool.
  2. Combine onion, lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Top with potatoes, beans, flaked tuna, eggs, olives and anchovies. Serve with dressing on the side.

 

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Sushi rolls vs rice paper rolls – what you should choose for energy levels, weight and performance

The first time I ever ate a sushi roll was in Sydney - tuna and avocado as I was a bit wary of anything raw at that stage!  It would have been over 15 years ago and I remember how excited I was about this ‘new’ take-away option that was nowhere to be found in Melbourne back then! 

Sushi rolls and rice-paper rolls are easy to buy and easy to eat for a quick lunch or snack on the run.  Sushi rolls are a combination of rice, seaweed and protein/veg filling while rice-paper rolls are based on rice noodles, vegetables, herbs and protein. 

Although they are a similar shape, size and cost, sushi and rice paper rolls can be different nutritionally:

Carbohydrate

It’s all about rice for both sushi and rice paper rolls, great news for those who follow a gluten-free style of eating. 

Sushi rolls – Although white rice is often high glycemic index (GI), the combination of the rice with vinegar and protein/fat in the filling help to reduce the GI.  However, sushi rolls pack A LOT of rice into each little roll.  Choose brown rice when it’s on offer – not lower GI but boosts fibre and nutrient content.

Rice paper rolls – Rice noodles are lower GI and the amount of carbohydrate is usually a lot lower than sushi rolls. Rice paper rolls are also available in a lower-carb varieties, with more vegetables packed in, increasing the fibre and nutrients and reducing carbohydrate. 

Protein

Both types of rolls commonly contain fish, chicken, tofu, duck or beef for protein.  Rice paper rolls often fit in a bit more protein serve, but it depends where you get them and exactly how they are made.

Fat

Both varieties of rolls are generally quite low in fat, but fillings like avocado and fish will provide some healthy fats.  A salmon sushi roll doesn’t take the place of having a fish fillet meal however .  If the filling is crumbed and deep fried, or combined with mayonnaise, this will bump up the fat also.

Kilojoules

Sushi rolls range from 150-200 calories each, depending on filling and size, while rice paper rolls are general a lot lower and often under 100 calories per roll. This is without sauces – which can be high in sugar and salt, so keep sauce to a small serve.

So which is best?

Overall nutrition

Please remember that both sushi and rice paper rolls are decent take-away food options!  But if we are comparing, rice paper rolls most likely take the prize for the most nutritious, especially those packed with fresh vegetables, herbs and fish.  HOWEVER – brown rice sushi, with the iodine-rich seaweed, brings sushi up a couple of rungs on the nutrition ladder.

Energy levels

Rice paper rolls may be lower GI but they contain a lot less carbohydrate, so although they may theoretically help blood glucose levels, they may not keep you going for quite as long as sushi handrolls.

Exercise performance

Sushi rolls contain more carbohydrate so may keep you going for longer as a pre-exercise lunch or snack.  Rice paper rolls can contain more vegetables and herbs however, which are important for day-to-day health and performance, but not so much a fuel source. 

For more pre-exercise snack ideas, go to High performance snacks you should be eating at 3.30pm to get the best out of your post-work workout.

Weight management

Rice paper rolls are a clear winner with significantly less kilojoules, especially if packed with more vegies vs noodles.  Sushi rolls are still a great option however, and will likely fill you up for longer if you need to keep going for a busy afternoon ahead.  For more weight management tips 5 secrets of the French - how to eat the foods you like and not get fat.

In perspective

Both sushi and rice paper rolls are delicious and nutritious options to enjoy as a quick take-away choice….there are slight differences in carbohydrate and nutrients but either are going to be better than many other high-fat, high-sugar take-aways.

 

I would love to send your free performance nutrition updates, recipes and news about my new book I am working on about super food for performance, please add your details on my Thoughts page.

High performance snacks you should be eating at 3.30pm to get the best out of your post-work workout

Do you sometimes feel like you are working super hard at the gym, but not seeing the results you are after?   If you head straight to training after work, you may not have eaten since lunchtime, or maybe since breakfast!  Your fuel stores will be low, and heading into your session hungry and depleted will make it difficult to get the best results from your training.

Even if you are trying to lose weight, it can still be useful to have some fuel on board for energy, so you can work harder during your session.   If you are trying to gain muscle then you also need energy to lift, pull, push and build.  Regardless of your specific goals and whether you work out at the local gym or train as an elite athlete, nutrition can make a difference to training results and performance.

What to include in your pre-exercise snack

Protein

Protein is often the neglected nutrient when it comes to snacking, as many of our typical snacks are carbohydrate based (think fruit, biscuits, bars, etc.).  Including protein in a snack will keep you full for longer, help keep blood glucose levels stable, and assist with muscle growth and repair.  You can read more about protein in another post of mine Back to Basics Protein.

Carbohydrate

Carbohydrate provides fuel for muscles to work hard and for your brain to focus and get you through your session. Low GI foods are sometimes recommended before exercise for sustained energy levels, however many low GI foods are rich in fibre which can cause gut problems pre-running for some people.  Play around with it to work out the best types of nutrient-dense carbohydrate foods that sit well for you. Amount is important too - if your goal is to get fit and lose weight you won’t need as much carbohydrate as someone in heavy training for a marathon. For more on carbohydrate for exercise please click here.

Healthy fats

It's important to include healthy fats in your diet, however fat takes a while to digest, so it may be best not to over-do it pre-workout.  

Snacks for pre-exercise

Below are some pre-exercise snack ideas that will help to keep your energy levels high and your muscles firing.

* Fruit salad with natural/Greek yoghurt and chopped almonds         

* Rye or corn based dry biscuits with cheese and sliced tomato

* Fruit smoothie, made with dairy or soy milk, yoghurt and fruit (note – rice, oat, almond, coconut milks are low in high quality protein)

* Sushi roll

* Mountain bread wrap with turkey and salad

* Natural muesli with Greek yoghurt

* Vegetable sticks and wholegrain crackers with hommus dip         

* Rice paper roll

* Soup eg. chicken and vegetable or minestrone

* Chia pudding made with milk and topped with fruit

* Banana and a handful of nuts

If you love reading about nutrition for exercise and performance, I would love to offer you free nutrition updates and recipes, just leave your details on my Thoughts page and feel free to have a read of some of my other articles while you are there.

Need some help planning the best meals and snacks for you? Look up an Accredited Sports Dietitian near you at Sports Dietitians Australia.

Why juice is not as bad as you might think - tips for making a top choice

I am the first to admit that I am one of those dietitians who was never a big fan of juice.  My standard line was always to ditch the juice and eat a piece of fruit with a glass of water instead.  You have probably heard that one before!  Over time my views on juice have changed.  This is because juice has changed.  No longer is juice just the bottled reconstituted supermarket variety, or the sugary juice box that would be a school lunch order ‘treat’.  Today more and more juice is fresh.  Juice bars provide a range of juiced and blended options, which contain a whole lot more than just the liquid extracted from fruit.   With the variety of juice options out there, it’s possible to make fresh, smart choices that can help you meet your nutritional needs.  

Many dietitians are likely to recommend you keep juice intake to a minimum.  The Australian Dietary Guidelines suggest a maximum of 125ml of 100% juice as an occasional substitute for a piece of fruit.  This is based on the fact that many juices (sugar-added or not) contain over 10% sugar, just like soft drink.  It’s easy to drink that sugar and just a 300ml glass can give you over 6 teaspoons.  With obesity being a national health concern, public health messages to reduce sugar intake are warranted.  Many people consume too much from drinks that are loaded with sugar but low in important nutrients - these don't fill you up at all, making it easy to drink and drink and drink.

But with the age of the whizz-bang super blenders and superfood smoothies, a new variety of fruit and vegetable-based drinks has emerged.  Unlike old-school bottled juice, the new-age juices are more than simply sugar, water and a sprinkle of vitamin C.

Blended fruit drinks, with the inclusion of whole fruits and vegetables, herbs, spices, milks, nuts and seeds have seen traditional juice turned on it’s head.  Coconut water is now apopular base for fruit and veg drinks, along with dairy, soy, rice and almond milks.  Juice is often not ‘juice’ at all.

Nutrients such as protein, healthy fats and fibre are becoming more prominent in blended juice drinks as a result, providing health benefits and fullness.  A blended fruit drink can really become more of a meal or snack rather than just something to drink.

One criticism of regular juice is that the fibre and pulp are removed during the juicing process.  Many of the nutrients in fruit are found near the skin.  When whole fruit is blended, the skin is included, boosting fibre and nutrients.  Blending is best! 

Yes, there is still sugar in blended fruit drinks or smoothies.  But when the sugar comes from fresh fruit or milks, it brings with it other beneficial nutrients, an important point of difference compared to soft drink and other high sugar, empty-calorie beverages.  The presence of a wider range of nutrients replaces some of the sugar, which ends up reducing the overall sugar content of the drink (especially if vegetables are incorporated).  If you know your vegetable intake needs a boost, a blended fruit and vegetable smoothie is a great way to sneak a in a few extra serves to help you reach your 5 per day.

A recent study by the University of New South Wales* compared a range of on-the-go drinks for their overall nutrition quality and found the drinks that contained blended whole vegetables or fruits to be the most beneficial for nutrients overall.  It's important to consider the overall nutrition value of a drink rather than just focusing on one nutrient or the kilojoules.  By keeping informed about the nutrient balance of on-the-go drinks, you can make an appropriate choice of drink, serving size, frequency and timing of intake to meet your individual needs and preferences.

For example, someone looking for a lower-kiojoule but nutrient-dense refreshing drink may choose a green smoothie with plenty of blended vegetables and a coconut water base.  Someone who is super-active and trying to gain some muscle mass may benefit from a dairy based smoothie higher in protein with some fruit, nuts and seeds providingextra nutrition and energy.  Everybody's needs are different.

One concern about juice is that it can be acidic, creating an environment for potential damage to teeth. A number of factors contribute to your likelihood of dental issues, including the acidity, sugar content, 'stickiness' and frequency that foods and drinks are consumed.  You can reduce your risk by drinking fruit/vegetable based drinks through a straw to reduce contact with teeth, and make sure to always rinse and swish with water after drinking higher acidity drinks.  Incorporating dairy with whole fruit to make a smoothie can be protective for teeth compared to drinking juice on its own.  

Water is important for daily fluid needs (tea is right up there for hydration too), but if you are looking for a nutritious and tasty choice, a blended fruit and vegetable drink can provide a range of important nutrients, keep you full and put a smile on your face!

For more nutrition info, recipes and tips, sign up to my free newsletter below or check out my other blog posts on my Thoughts page.

* Reynolds, R & Lin, S. (2016) Nutritional analysis of a selection of on-the-go drinks, Full Analytical Report, UNSW Australia.

 

Best post-run breakfasts for recovery vs weight loss

What do you eat after your Sunday morning run?  I pondered this question a few weeks ago as I ran along a beachside track on the Mornington Peninsula.  An amazing mix of different people were out and about that morning, from elite runners who had their energy gels strategically placed along the route, to holiday-makers working hard on their new year's resolutions to get fit.  I thought about the different goals of the various runners and wondered what they had in mind to eat after their run. 

From walking down the main street during the days prior it was very obvious that many of the holiday makers had no hesitation in choosing the full cooked breakfast, as you might well do when you are in relaxation mode and someone else is preparing it for you.  Other runners may have been going home to a bowl of cereal, or perhaps home-made pancakes as a holiday special.  Or just a quick piece of toast before heading out to their next activity.

With so many breakfast choices, what are the best options to meet health, recovery and performance goals? 

The biggest mistake I see people make when it comes to breakfast is the bias towards carbohydrate and a relative lack of protein.  Have a quick think about typical breakfast foods - it's a carb-fest of cereal, bread, fruit, juice and maybe even a muffin or pastry.  Where is the protein??  Add some milk to your bowl and you will bump up the protein, or a spoon of yoghurt with fruit or muesli, but a token portion with your brekky may not quite cut it.  If you are doing a decent run, and you run regularly for fitness, or are training for an event, then protein post-run should be high on your agenda.  Ideally you should be squeezing in at least 20g of protein into your post-run breakfast for muscle recovery.  Protein is sometimes considered the nutrient most important for strength training, but endurance type exercise such as running can increase protein requirements too.  And don't think protein is only for elite runners doing lots of kms and hills.  Regardless of your speed or distance, if you are working hard you need protein due to increased muscle damage and the need for repair.

You probably need some carbohydrate also after longer runs to assist with recovery, but the amount you need will vary according to training and body composition goals, and the timing of your next training session.  If you are heading off to a busy day after your run, you most likely will benefit from some fuel for energy during the morning, in combination with your protein.

Don't forget the vitamins and minerals!  It's not all about protein and carbs.  By including some fresh fruit or vegetables, maybe some nuts and seeds, and choosing carbohydrates that are wholegrain you will be boosting your overall recovery nutrients.  Some healthy fat is beneficial at breakfast too.

Here are some suggested high performance post-run breakfasts that meet the above criteria and importantly contain at least 20g protein:

- 200g Chobani natural yoghurt with fruit salad and 2tbsp nuts/seeds

- 2 poached eggs with spinach, mushrooms, tomato and 2 multi-grain toast

- Small bowl of natural muesli with milk, topped with a few big scoops of Greek yoghurt and berries

- Large banana and berry smoothie (use milk, yoghurt and almond meal for protein, or maybe add some whey protein)

-  1 small tin of tuna, with sliced tomato, avocado and fresh basil on rye toast  

- Leftovers eg. beef/vegetable stir-fry with quinoa

1 cup home-made baked beans on rye toast, sprinkled with cheese

- Chia pudding made with milk and topped with blueberries and macadamias

- Omelette with herbs and crumbled feta (may need to add some carbohydrate)

- Bowl of porridge made with milk, topped with yoghurt and chopped almonds

- Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and grilled asparagus (may need to add some carbohydrate)

If you are trying to lose weight, remember that you don't need to go low-carb all the time.  For recovery it can be helpful to include some carbohydrates in the immediate recovery period.  Always eat a good post-run meal, then you can adjust food and portions later in the day to meet body composition goals.

If you need help in planning your nutrition for your health and performance goals, please get in touch, or find an accredited sports dietitian close to you at Sports Dietitians Australia.

I would love to send you free nutrition updates and recipes, just leave your details on my Thoughts page.  You can also follow me on Facebook and I have just set myself up on Instagram too!  

 

 

Five reasons why red meat is good for athletes

By jules (ginger beef stir fry) [CC BY 2.0 ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 )], via Wikimedia Commons

By jules (ginger beef stir fry) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I remember my first sports nutrition lecture at university, where sports nutrition at the time was compared to what athletes may have been eating centuries ago.  Red meat was clearly on the menus of our athletic ancestors with ancient Greek marathon winners awarded cattle for their endeavours, and a hearty steak pre-race may not have been uncommon.  The science of nutrition has come a long way since then, and although steak may not be a pre-race meal of choice, the nutrition benefits of red meat for athletes continue to be recognised. 

Nutrition fads come and go, and the popularity of red meat has catapulted from one extreme to another.  Current dietary guidelines suggest a prudent intake of red meat, however not everyone follows these guidelines, with the recent jump onto the Paleo bandwagon keeping the grass-fed beef farmers in business.  Regardless of the style of eating, when it comes to sports nutrition, red meat is a winner.  We don't always talk about meat as a food on it's own, often you hear about the importance of nutrients like protein or specific minerals for athletes, but when we break it down, meat is amazingly rich in a range of nutrients.

Here are my top 5 reasons why red meat is good for athletes:

Number 5 - Healthy fats

Discussions around red meat and health usually focus on saturated fat content, or more recently cancer risk.  If you look closely at the fat composition of Australian beef and lamb you will find that they do in fact provide omega-3 fats.  Not as much omega-3 as fish, but meat isn't all 'bad' fat. If you are concerned about your body fat levels, you can reduce the calories of meat by choosing lean cuts or trimming fat from meat, or cooling casseroles after cooking and skimming fat from the top. 

With regard to the impact on cancer risk, it is the cured and processed meats that seem to be the main concern.  It is still wise to vary your protein foods and not eat red meat all of the time, but for most people you don't need to omit fresh meats. 

Number 4 -  Minerals

Beef and lamb are a great source of zinc and Vitamin B12, important for athletes.  Zinc is important for muscles and immune system, and may play a role in testosterone levels in males. 

Vitamin B12 is important for a range of body systems and may impact on immune function and energy levels.  Vitamin B12 is only found in animal products, and a small-medium size steak will provide your daily RDI.

Number 3 - Satiety

Do you usually find you are still hungry after a meal of steak and vegetables??  No, most likely not.  Red meat is filling due to the high protein content, and is broken down slowly in the digestive system so can keep you full for longer.  You don't need a huge serve either.  Protein in a meal can also lower the glycemic index, helping to keep blood glucose levels stable.  Red meat can help to manage hunger, as do other protein-rich foods, if you are an athlete trying to manage your weight or body fat levels.

Number 2 - Iron content

Iron is an essential nutrient for athletes.  Red meat contains haem iron, which is more easily absorbed than the non-haem iron found in plant sources. The easiest way to meet your dietary iron needs is to eat small serves of red meat regularly (x3-4 per week), plus include a range of other iron-rich foods.  Don't forget to add a food containing Vitamin C to your iron-rich meal for optimal iron absorption.

For more information about why iron important and a table of different foods and their iron contents, have a read of my article on the 2XU website, Iron Tough or Rusty.

Sports Dietitians Australia also have a great Fact Sheet Iron Depletion in Athletes.

Number 1 - Protein

Probably the best thing about red meat is the quality and amount of protein.  Red meat contains all the essential amino acids, making it high quality.  This includes leucine, the critical amino acid for stimulating muscle protein synthesis to promote muscle recovery and growth.  Meat is also protein-dense, so you only need a small serve for a big dose (lean beef contains approximately 30g protein per 100g, this can vary according to cut of meat).

For more information about protein and other foods that are great protein options, Back to Basics Protein - Foods That Contain the Most and Best Protein for Recovery and Training

If you choose not to eat meat for ethical reasons there are other foods such as dairy, eggs, nuts and seeds.  For athletes who follow a vegan style of eating it can be very difficult to meet needs for nutrients such as protein, iron, calcium and Vitamin B12.  It's not impossible, there are plenty of vegan athletes out there, but it takes significant time, effort and planning, as well as supplementation, to get nutrition intake spot on.

If you are an athlete who does eat red meat, then it's worth making a special effort to eat small amounts of fresh red meat regularly, in combination with other high quality protein sources,  for energy levels, recovery and performance.

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Best snacks for before exercise to perform at your best

Is fruit on its own the best pre-exercise snack?

Is fruit on its own the best pre-exercise snack?

Performance nutrition is a topic I am lucky enough to talk about pretty much every day.  I love talking about exercise and nutrition, and helping people get the best out of their training efforts, whether they workout at the local gym or train as an elite athlete.  I find a lot of people feel like they have their nutrition mostly under control, but don’t seem to be getting the best out of their training.   A lack of appropriate nutrition before and after training may be contributing to this, and may especially be a problem if you train in the late afternoon.  I see a lot of clients who head straight to training after work or school, but haven’t eaten for 4 or 5 hours since lunchtime.  By then, your body will have digested and absorbed many of the nutrients from lunch and there may not be much left to fuel your training session.  If you are trying to lose weight, it can still be useful to have some fuel on board to provide the energy to train harder and burn more kilojoules.   If you are working hard in the gym to put on weight, then you need energy to lift, pull and push.  If you are going into your session fatigued and low on fuel, you can’t expect to get the best results from your training (unless you have a planned strategy to complete some sessions lower on carbohydrate, but I will save that for another post).

 So what should you look for in a pre-exercise snack?

Protein

Protein is often the neglected nutrient when it comes to snacking, as many of our typical snacks are carbohydrate based (think fruit, biscuits, flour-based products).  Including protein in a snack means it will keep you full for longer, but can also help manage blood glucose levels, and is an essential nutrient for muscle growth and repair.  If you are doing a lighter cardio session then the protein is probably less important and you may be fine with a small carbohydrate snack (if anything), but for longer, heavier sessions there are benefits from including protein.

Carbohydrate

Low-glycemic index carbohydrate foods are those that are more slowly absorbed over time, resulting in more stable blood glucose levels and potential benefits for energy levels.  However many low GI foods are also high in fibre, and too much fibre pre-exercise can cause stomach upset for some people (especially runners).  Include carbohydrate in pre-exercise snacks, and choose low-GI if you tolerate it.  But the total amount of carbohydrate is potentially more important than the glycemic index, so it is a matter of working out which carbohydrate foods sit best for you before you train.

Healthy fats

It's important to include healthy fats in your diet if you are fit and active.  Fat can take a while to digest, so you may be better to add more of your healthy fats and oils to meals after exercise rather than before .  Avocado, nuts, seeds, olives, olive oil and fish all provide healthy fats.  

Snacks for pre-exercise 

Below are some pre-exercise snack ideas that will help to keep your energy levels high, contain some protein but not too much fat.  The serving size that is best for you will vary according to your goals, the type of training you do, and individual needs. 

* Soup eg. chicken and vegetable or minestrone

* Chopped fresh fruit with natural yoghurt and chopped almonds         

* Quinoa tabouli with chickpeas

* Rye or corn based dry biscuits with low-fat cheese and sliced tomato

Fruit smoothie, made with low-fat dairy or soy milk, yoghurt and fruit (most other milks are low in high quality protein eg. rice, oat, coconut, almond)

* Bean and rice salad

* Sushi handroll

* Greek yoghurt with berries

* Mountain bread with turkey and salad

* Tuna with rice and vegetables

 Natural muesli with low-fat natural yoghurt

* Vegetable sticks and wholegrain crackers with hommus dip         

 * Home-made popcorn (mix in some almonds)

 * Fruit/grain toast spread with ricotta cheese

* Rice paper roll

* Corn Thin with smoked salmon, low-fat cream cheese and dill

Trail mix - almond, walnuts, cashews and sun-dried apricots

Chia pudding made with milk and topped with fruit

* Toast or wholegrain crackers with avocado and salmon

 If you are unsure about the best type of snacks and amounts for your needs, talk to an Accredited Sports Dietitian who can help you plan your daily meals and snacks to meet your nutrition and training requirements.  To find a dietitian in your area, go to Sports Dietitians Australia.

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition for exercise, training and sport, please sign up for my free newsletter at the bottom of this page, and you can also follow me on Facebook and Twitter for more nutrition updates.

 

 

 

Energy For the Mountains - Tour de France Nutrition

TdF2009

If you love sport, then July is possibly your favourite month of the year.  In Australia we are in the middle of our busy winter sports seasons, but we are also spoilt for choice with international events, meaning lots of late nights and bleary-eyed mornings for armchair spectators! 

I have developed an interest in the Tour de France over the years, although I must admit I haven’t seen too many live stages this time around.  As I get older the timezones don’t seem to work so well for me!  I do love watching the amazing TV coverage of this gruelling endurance feat, and being a sports dietitian I take great interest in what the cyclists eat and drink, as well as when and how.  Juggling food and fluids on two wheels is a skill in itself! 

Getting the food and fluid right on multi-stage events like the 21-day Tour de France can impact on how the athletes feel on the bike, how they recover and how they perform.  Extreme sporting events present a number of challenges, with fuelling and hydration being critical for overall success. 

I had initially planned to write a detailed piece about nutrition for the Tour de France, however over the recent two weeks I have seen plenty of great content already published on other sites.  So rather than re-writing,  I will highlight the nutrition priorities below and provide either my own thoughts or link back to other experts. 

So much food, so little time:

When you are on the bike for a fair chunk of the day, plus all of the travel, preparation and commitments, it can be difficult to find time to eat enough.  A recent post from Asker Jeukendrup, exercise physiologist and sports nutritionist,  highlighted some of the research on multi-stage cycling and predicted energy requirements. The amount of energy expended per day for the major cycling tours is estimated to average 6,000 calories.  On the big hill stages, expect up towards 9,000 calories per day.  There are a number of factors that contribute to energy expenditure and there will be wide individual variation, however these figures are a good indicator of how hard to body is working during these events.  The calorie requirement can be 2-3 times what the average male needs to eat in a day! When you consider that 5-6 hours of the 15 or so awake hours is on the bike it doesn’t leave a lot of time to consume that amount of energy.  Particularly when you think that riding up a mountain at altitude (sometimes in the wind and rain) does not make eating an easy task.

For a short but detailed read on how much energy is needed to fuel an elite professional cyclist go to Asker Jeukendrup’s blog, which also provides a visual comparison of what 9,000 calories looks like in burgers!  Can you guess how many?

Food on the bike:

As mentioned, eating while riding is a practiced skill in itself.  Different types of foods and fluids suit different individuals.  Professional teams these days have support staff including dietitians, sports scientists and chefs who help the athletes to achieve optimal performance nutrition during tours.  For more information about the carbohydrate requirements of cyclists during stage events, go to the Premax blog 'Sugar for Cycling Performance. Part 1: How Much is Enough?'.  I have recently started writing for the Premax blog as a guest nutrition contributor, excited to be involved!.

For some practical ideas for home-made snacks on the bike, The Feed Zone website is a great resource, plus they do some great recipe books about the food the pros eat that you can also do yourself at home.  I have the Feed Zone Portables book at home and it’s great.

Food off the bike:

After a day’s racing is when nutrition really needs to step up.  Recovery goals are similar to other sports, with a focus on protein, carbohydrate, electrolytes and fluid.  Elite cyclists working at such high intensities burn a lot of carbohydrate, particularly during hill stages.  Although carbohydrate and protein are essential, it’s important to also think about overall nutrition and incorporating vegetables – not just endless bowls of spaghetti bolognaise.  If you want an insight into see what professional cyclists REALLY eat, follow Orica-Greenedge’s chef Nicki Strobel on Twitter……definitely not just endless bowls of pasta!

 Hydration:

If you have been watching the Tour this year, you would have noticed that some days are raced in the heat of the day with the European sun beating down on sweat-soaked jerseys, while other days jerseys are drenched by the soaking rain, wind and cold.  Hydration is important in all conditions, but fluid losses are likely to be higher in the heat.  The big challenge for multi-stage events is that you only have overnight to recover before you do it all again, so rehydrating strategies are essential to ensure athletes are hydrated on the starting line the next morning.  Sweat means fluid loss, but also potential salt, or electrolyte, losses.  No room for low-salt diets on the Tour trail, with savoury snacks on the bike also being important rather than predominantly sweet options which seem to be popular with cyclists.

Immune system:

Fuelling and recovery are priorities, but with the stress on light and lean bodies at their physical peak, there is also the risk of illness during an unpredictable event such as the Tour de France.  Food options shouldn’t just focus on protein, carbohydrate and fluid, but also the overall nutrient density of foods.  Intake in the lead up to multi-stage events is also important for preparing the body to be in the best condition prior.

 

This is just the base of the mountain when it comes to Tour de France and endurance nutrition.  Each team and individual athlete will have their own specific nutrition strategies.  Even with the best support team and planning, endurance events are unpredictable, so nutrition plans need to be flexible, and a plan B is always handy.  By the end of the Tour, cyclists will be physically and psychologically exhausted and often a bit lighter on the scales.  Sports nutrition strategies can help throughout a Tour, but are also important in transition periods between events in preparation for the next physical challenge.  

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Best 10 foods if you love going to the gym

Back cover of my new bookazine, photo courtesy of Bec Doyle Photography

With my new book 'Eat Right For Your Life' being released earlier this week, I thought it was timely to share with you a snippet of what it's all about.  If you love going to the gym and enjoying the health and fitness benefits that regular exercise provides, then this postis particularly relevant for you.  Not that the book is all about sports nutrition - it covers a range of lifestyle stages, but of course I had to include reference to nutrition for active people.

It's amazing how much time and effort goes into producing a small book, from research, to writing content to developing recipes, to photography.  It was a pleasure to work with my good friend and talented photographer on the images (a busy weekend at my place last September cooking, styling and snapping).  The book looks at different life stages and lifestyles and provides nutrition tips and a list of some of the 'best' and 'beware' foods for each, followed by recipes based on the needs of each particular group. 

I thought I would share part of the introduction and the ten 'best' foods from the 'Gym Junkie' chapter, which focuses on nutrition for individuals who go to the gym regularly with the goal of building fitness, strength and improved body composition (I dont' love the word 'junkie' but it does get the idea across as to who that chapter may appeal to):

.....'In order to help build muscle you need adequate protein.  This doesn’t necessarily mean spending your weekly pay packet on fancy supplements, but you will definitely need to eat protein-rich foods regularly, and extra kilojoules to support muscle gains.

Protein is made up of individual amino acids, and it is likely that you will be able to achieve adequate amino acid intake from a carefully planned and timed dietary intake.  Protein supplements may be useful in a number of situations and they are formulated to meet the specific amino acid needs of training.  Perhaps the main benefit of supplements is the convenience factor, considering most high-quality protein sources require an esky to transport. 

Sure, protein is important, but you also need to make sure you have some nutritious, low-GI carbohydrates to keep you energised, as well as including some healthy fats.  Vitamins and minerals are critical for energy levels and recovery from training, so don’t neglect your daily fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

10 best foods

Milk

It’s in everybody’s fridge, but few of us realise the amazing potential of milk.  Milk is a naturally high biological value protein supplement, containing all of the essential amino acids the muscles need to repair and grow.  One 300ml glass of milk contains about 10g of high quality protein.  In a smoothie, milkshake or just on its own, milk is great for pre- and post-exercise or as an extra source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  Milk also contains more electrolytes than many sports drinks, making it a terrific option as a rehydrating fluid. 

Turkey

Chicken has long been a favourite food for body builders because of its high protein content but it is not the only poultry option to help build muscle.  Remove the skin and turkey is a super-lean way to meet your amino acid needs.  Versatile and quick to cook, turkey makes the perfect sandwich filler or post-gym meal. 

Greek yoghurt

If you are serious about your health and fitness, yoghurt will be a staple on your weekly shopping list.  Sure, yoghurt is rich in protein and is a convenient pre- or post-gym snack, but it will also help to keep your insides healthy.  Yoghurt contains ‘good’ bacteria, important for optimal digestive health.  Aim for at least 1 cup of good quality yoghurt every day.  Natural or Greek yoghurt is lower in sugar and additives than fruit yoghurts, and make sure you read the label because some Greek yoghurts are higher in protein.  

Bok choy

If you are working on your muscles, the focus is often on protein rather than the importance of variety for optimising fitness and performance.  Green vegetables are a perfect example, rather than just cooking up chicken and rice, add in some Asian greens such as bok choy, pak choy, wom bok (Chinese cabbage), choy sum (Chinese silverbeet) and gai lan (Chinese broccoli).  These delicious vegetables are brimming with nutrients including calcium, iron and folate. Why not try including one new green vegetable every week. (To find out whether kale is king, visit my previous Thoughts article  Green Leaf Goodness: Kale vs Spinach vs Rocket, and the winner is.....)

Oats

Low in fat, high in fibre and low glycemic index, a delicious bowl of porridge will keep you going all morning, the perfect start to a busy day.  Make with milk and add some extra yoghurt or chopped nuts/seeds for extra protein.  If you are not a porridge fan, oats are just as nutritious in natural muesli or made into homemade Bircher muesli (such as the one pictured at the start of this post, recipe featured in 'Eat Right For Your Life').

Eggs

Eggs have fallen in and out of favour over the years, but current research shows that eggs can be enjoyed regularly, even if you do have high cholesterol.  For an active person, eggs are one of the highest biological value proteins you will find.  The egg white is practically pure protein, but don’t neglect the yolk!  Egg yolks are rich in minerals and important fat-soluble vitamins, which are often lacking in active people who keep to a low-fat way of eating.  If your cholesterol is on the edge you may need to be careful beyond six yolks per week, although you may be able to enjoy more.  Eggs are a tasty and nutritious option if you are active.

Rice milk

You may not have tried rice milk, but it is one of the best fluids to mix with your protein powder after the gym.  Why?  The carbohydrate in rice milk has a high glycemic index, which can aid in in recovery and promote absorption of the amino acids from protein powder post-exercise.  Rice milk does not contain much protein itself, but mixed with a protein supplement it provides an effective stimulant for muscle synthesis.

Herbs (including garlic and chilli)

If you are serious about improving your health, you should be eating herbs. Herbs add flavour to foods and contain negligible kilojoules when used in a mixed dish, but pack a concentrated nutrient punch.

Many fresh herbs have been found to contain vitamin, mineral and antioxidant concentrations many times that of standard vegetables, and using a range of herbs will provide a variety of health (and taste!) benefits.  Common herbs that you can be grown at home include basil (great in salads and with tomato based sauces), parsley (use with omelettes and fish), coriander (terrific in Asian style dishes, especially with chicken and seafood), rosemary (lean lamb and potatoes) and mint (both sweet and savoury dishes). 

Kangaroo

One of the leanest meats around, and packed with iron and zinc, kangaroo will help you meet your protein needs and keep you energised. It is also an economical option if you are watching your budget.  If you haven’t tried it, have a go but be careful not to overcook or the meat will become tough (marinate prior if possible).   Beef is a great choice too for quality protein and minerals.

Oranges

It is widely accepted that oranges and other citrus fruits are good for our immune system due to their Vitamin C content (one orange contains double the recommended daily intake).  But this isn’t the only benefit of eating oranges.  Oranges contain antioxidants (including vitamin C) that can help the body recover from exercise.  Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron.  If that’s not convincing enough, oranges are often recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis due to their anti-inflammatory effect.  The anti-inflammatory potential of oranges may be due to flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin C itself or something else entirely, but this effect may potentially play a role in reducing the risk of a range of chronic diseases that are related to inflammation.

You can learn more about the best and beware foods for different life stages and lifestyles in 'Eat Right For Your Life', available now at bookstores, newsagents and various online retailers.

P.S. If you are a keen gym-goer, it may be useful to consult with an accredited sports dietitian to discuss your food and supplement requirements in more detail, and work with an exercise physiologist or appropriately qualified personal trainer to develop a training program for best results.

Back to basics protein - foods that contain the most and best protein for recovery and training

steak question mark.jpg

Following on from my recent post about recovery meals, I have been asked by a few people if I could provide some more information about protein, what it is and specifically how much is found in different foods.  Protein is one of those nutrients that receives a lot of attention for a range of reasons.  People who are training want to know about protein for recovery and muscle mass.  People trying to lose weight want to know about protein for its effect on satiety and reducing hunger.  People who are low in iron want to know about protein foods for iron.  Some people just love meat and don't want to know anything about protein, they just want to get the BBQ started and eat a juicy steak! 

Following is a brief run-down as to what protein is, which foods provide protein and how much and the best options and timing of protein for training.

Proteins of varying composition are found in a wide range of plant and animal foods.  You may have heard the term 'high quality' or 'high biological value' protein, and this relates to the composition of amino acids within a protein.  A variety of amino acids makes up a protein, and it is the amino acids which are the important building blocks for muscle and other body structures.  Some proteins contain all of the essential amino acids and are considered to be higher quality than those with some lacking.

Active people need protein to build and repair muscle. To achieve muscle mass gain you need to eat enough protein and overall kilojoules, but you also need a carefully planned training program to stimulate the muscles to develop and grow.  Unfortunately there are not too many shortcuts when it comes to getting your best results - training and eating should be  specific to  your needs and goals.

Resistance training seems to be synonymous with protein supplements, and the bigger and more expensive the bucket of powder, the greater the perceived effectiveness for building muscle.  Having protein powder after gym is far less important for recovery and overall muscle mass gain compared to eating enough protein and kilojoules and overall nutrients in the hours and days post-training.  It's great to get the immediate post-exercise recovery nutrition right, but if you don't back it up for the rest of the day then you won't be maximizing your results.

So do you need to take a protein supplement?  Supplements are extremely popular as a guaranteed way to get the right type and amount of protein for the initial recovery phase.  Whey protein is a complete protein, rich in essential amino acids, including leucine, that will promote muscle synthesis.  There is certainly a time and a place for appropriate protein supplements, however don't forget that many everyday foods are high quality protein sources too.  If you are training hard and want results, you need to have a plan in place with regard to food first and supplements if necessary.  Be careful how much you spend on the latest whizz-bang powders though.  Those with lots of added extras, that you pay for, are often filled with unnecessary ingredients which your body may not need.  Sometimes it is best to keep it simple, and stick to a pure whey protein product, or a food option.  

Complete proteins, such as whey protein, contain the full range of essential amino acids.   Plant sources of protein, other than soy protein, tend to be lacking one or more essential amino acids and are considered incomplete proteins. This can be a challenge for vegetarians, but all it really takes is some additional planning to achieve the key amino acid balance from non-animal sources.  I have listed below a range of foods and that are often considered as good protein sources, with the amount of protein listed per average serve and per 100g.  Note that values are approximates only, and will vary according to the specific variety of the food.   These are in no particular order:

                                                                                Per serve                        Per 100g

Medium chicken breast, 160g cooked                    44g                                 28g

Medium beef steak, 150g                                         47g                                  31g

Lamb fillet, 150g cooked                                          48g                                  32g

Medium fish fillet, 120g cooked                               38g                                  32g

Small tin of tuna                                                        20g                                  28g

Eggs, 2 medium                                                         10g                                   10g

Cow's milk, 300ml                                                     10g                                   3.5g

Greek yoghurt, 200g                                                10g                                     5g

Cheese,20g                                                                 6g                                   30g                          

Almonds, 30g                                                              6g                                   20g

Cottage cheese, 2tbsp                                               4g                                    10g

Tofu, firm, 100g                                                           13g                                   13g    

Dried beans, 100g cooked                                         7g                                      7g

Soy milk, 300ml                                                          10g                                    3.2g

Whey protein powder                                            ~22-30g                           75-90g+

(the content of supplements varies greatly depending on whether whey protein concentrate or isolate is used and any other ingredients, check labels)

As you can see from this list, the animal-based proteins are particularly rich in protein.  Meat, chicken and fish are all around 30% protein, so if you think about achieving regular protein intake spread over the day, only small portions of these foods are required to achieve adequate intake.  Dairy and eggs provide great quality protein, but you need to eat more of these to get the same amount of protein.  I have not included grain foods in this list as most of them contain quite small amounts of protein, although it all adds up over a day.

You may look at the chicken, meat and fish and automatically think that because they contain more protein they must be better choices.  But just because tuna contains a lot more protein per serve than eggs, this doesn't mean it is the preferred option.  Massive serves of protein aren't required to get results....regular intake at the right times will make the difference.

It is also clear that vegetarian foods are relatively low in protein, and if you combine that with the lower quality of non-animal proteins you can run into trouble.  But if you plan carefully you can ensure amino acid intake to support your recovery, training and performance needs.  Leucine is a particular amino acid that has been identified as important for stimulating muscle protein synthesis and can be a little bit hard to find for vegetarians, especially those who don't eat soy products.  This is where vegan-friendly supplements can be of great use, but always be careful with supplement use in terms of their safety, actual benefits and cost.   

Active people should try to include high quality protein in all of their meals, and potentially snacks also, and should plan the type and timing of protein around specific training sessions.  It is a good strategy to spread protein intake over the day, ~20-25g is all you need to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.  Taking in more than this will not provide any further benefit, but won't hurt you either (unless you have a particular medical condition where protein intake needs to be limited).  Saying this, many people eat a lot more protein than they need....especially the animal sources.  You don't need 1/2 a chicken or 2 steaks at each meal, and research is showing that you are potentially better to stick to smaller protein serves more frequently over the day.  Over-consumption of protein can lead to excess kilojoules, which is ok if you are trying gain weight, but if you want to condition your muscles and stay reasonably lean then you may need to consider your protein portions.  More protein does not = more muscle. 

If you are trying to lose body fat, protein can help keep you full for longer and help keep blood glucose levels stable, reducing hunger and cravings.  You will need to consider your overall portions and nutrient intake related to your overall goals.  Sometimes protein supplements are useful for people trying to lose weight, as they give a good dose of protein with minimal calories.  It might be worth seeing an Accredited Sports Dietitian (www.sportsdietitians.com.au) if you need more specific advice and assistance with reaching your body composition, training and performance goals.

There is still much to learn about protein and its importance for recovery and muscle mass.   Researchers are still interested in the ideal amount of protein around training and timing of intake, the importance of leucine or other amino acids and specific recommended intake, and the variety of protein requirements for different individuals, based on specific characteristics such as gender, body size and shape, genetics and activity levels.

Oats vs quinoa for health, energy and performance

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I am officially over superfoods.  They are over-promoted, over-priced and over-done.  Take quinoa for example.  Sure, it's a nutritious grain.  Actually it is not really a grain, the part we eat is the edible seed of the quinoa grain crop, although the nutritional composition is similar to that of other grains so it tends to get lumped into the grain family. Quinoa is a great gluten-free option for those who have a true allergy or intolerance to wheat protein, which many people do (but don't get me started on the fad that 'gluten-free' has become).  Quinoa is nutritious, as many of the labelled superfoods are.  But there are hundreds of other foods NOT awarded the title of superfood that are equally, if not more nutritious.  

I like quinoa, but it is not always a staple in my kitchen cupboard.  I have some at the moment as I am trialling some quinoa recipes for my book.  Part of this inclusion relates to my fear that as a dietitian my integrity will be questioned if I don't include quinoa or some sort of other ancient grain somewhere in the book.  Saying this, my quinoa recipes are awesome (thanks to Justin Moran from Just In Time PT for his quinoa soup contribution, delicious)!  Don't worry, I have totally succumbed to peer pressure and included kale in a couple of recipes too.   

So, I was thinking about the whole superfood super-saturation and I got the quinoa packet out of the cupboard for a direct comparison to the homebrand oats (of which my family eat over 1kg per week).  You may be surprised by the results, based on 100g:

                                 Quinoa    Oats

Kilojoules                1590kJ    1590kJ

Protein                     12.9g       12.8g

Fat                             5.7g          9.3g

Carbohydrate          67.2g      54.8g

Fibre                          2.7g        12.1g

I was actually hoping that quinoa might prove me wrong and live up to the hype, but sadly no.  Quinoa and oats contain similar kilojoule and protein content per 100g, less fat in quinoa, less carbohydrate in oats and just over four times more fibre in oats.  Sometimes people are concerned about the fat content of oats, however they are  still relatively low in fat, based on serving size, so don't be mistaken that oats are fattening (we need some good fat).

I must give credit where it is due, and hail quinoa for it's vitamin and mineral content (which is similar to oats in terms of iron, calcium and magnesium content), amino acid profile and taste, I do love the taste.  Quinoa has great value for vegetarians and athletes due to the higher protein and nutrient content compared to standard rice, pasta and noodles - you don't see stir-fry and oats served too often.  Quinoa has a wide range of amino acids, and although often promoted as a complete protein, the total amount of protein in an average serve is quite small, around 6g per serve (50g dry).  Particularly when we consider athletes, who need adequate essential amino acids from ~20-25g protein for the immediate post-exercise recovery period.   Quinoa doesn't quite cut it for recovery protein on it's own, but combined with a high biological value protein source such as meat, fish, eggs or dairy it is a highly nutritious choice, and a great option as part of meals over a training day.

Oats are not considered a complete protein, but the amino acid profile comes pretty close.  It lacks lysine, an amino acid which is low in many grains, but which quinoa does contain in small amounts.  As per quinoa, oats should be served with an additional high quality protein source if consumed as a recovery option. 

An additional tick for oats relates to the beta-glucan they contain, which may be beneficial for those trying to reduce blood cholesterol levels.  Porridge or muesli for breakfast looks all that more attractive.

If you are trying to lose weight, both oats and quinoa are low-glycemic index, great for sustained energy levels and improved satiety - a small amount goes a long way.  Have you tried quinoa porrdige, not too bad!

Quinoa is gluten-free and a great option for those who have a gluten allergy, oats are not quite gluten-free but come pretty close, and are tolerated well by most people with an intolerance to wheat and wheat products.

So without labelling, both quinoa and oats can be considered 'super' 'foods' (note the differentiation from 'superfoods').

If I had to choose one over the other......I think the real clincher would be the price.......homebrand oats work out at around $1.60/kg, compared to over $20/kg for quinoa.  You pay 12 times as much for quinoa.....is it 12 times as nutritious??   Think about your overall dietary patterns, what YOU need and how you can enjoy both/either oats and quinoa to bring you health, energy, and performance benefits.

If you enjoyed this article you will find more on my Thoughts page and please subscribe to my free newsletter, just leave your details below.

My book Eat Right for Your Life is out now too, available at bookshops, newsagents and online retailers, including recipes with both oats and quinoa respectively!

Paleo, prawns and potato for athletes

prawn tomato dish

Here is a photo of last night's prawn and tomato dish, a recipe I am trialling for my new book, and guess what, it is Paleo!  Well almost....it would be if I hadn't melted the feta cheese through it, or served it on top of rice!!  But it could be a tasty Paelo dish. If only it were a child-friendly dish in my house too, (my boys are two of the fussiest eaters I know, but I will leave that discussion for another day).  Or budget-friendly, I can't imagine it would become a weekly regular in most houselholds, but it was delicious!  Would it be a meal I would recommend for an athlete?  Yes and no.

Consdering I am a sports dietitian, I thought I should follow up on my previous post about caveman style eating and consider whether Paleo is suitable for acitve people.  My initial response would be 'no', but there is probably more to it.  There are a number of high profile athletes who follow a Paleo style of eating and seem to do ok.  Gary Ablett Jnr for example.  I have heard and read in the media that he follows a Paleo style of eating, although I don't know what exactly that entails for him.  I would love to know a little bit more about what he eats on training days and pre-game to give him the energy to run all day.   Sweet potato three different ways for breakfast, lunch and dinner?  It seems that he must be doing something right with his preparation, I am hearing Andrew Demetriou in my head right now at the Brownlow medal count, 'G. Ablett.....3 votes', 'G. Ablett.....2 votes', 'G. Ablett.....3 votes', etc.

The main concern about Paleo for active people is meeting carbohydrate fuel needs.  Although I am still a little confused about 'true' Paleo and exactly which vegetables and fruits are ok, as sources vary.  Carbohydrate requirements depend on the type of training and competition week-to-week, as well as individual body size and physiology.  You always hear about carbohydrate being important for athletes, which it is, but the amount required can vary significantly between athletes and for individual athletes at various stages of the week and season. 

In practice, I see a lot of athletes who are eating more carbohydrate than they need, as are much of the general population.  Perhaps not intentionally, but sometimes people can underestimate the amount of carbohydrate in foods and fluids or forget to consider fluids entirely. 

There are also athletes who do not eat enough carbohydrate for their specific needs and often there are obvious symptoms such as fatigue, but sometimes there are not and although the athlete may feel they are performing ok, they could be performing a lot better with well timed carbohydrate intake.  Athletes are equally exposed to the media promotion of low-carb diets, but for many active people low-carb is not appropriate. Low-carbohydrate may be a useful strategy at particular times of the year in conjunction with specific body composition goals, but the definition ad degree of 'low-carbohydrate' is different for everyone.  Cut down carbohydrate too much when you are training hard and you are likely to experience fatigue, impaired recovery and increased risk of muscle soreness, accident and injury.  You may also end up losing muscle if kilojoules are particularly low, which will effect performance and potentially metabolism, which can lead to faster weight gain once carbohydrate intake increases.

So, is Paleo suitable for athletes??  I would still say 'no' to a super rigid Paleo style plan.  It's not just all about the carbohydrate but the potential for inadequate intake of other nutrients, for example calcium which is an important mineral for athletes. In particular female endurance-type athletes who are lean, have low energy intakes and often menstrual dysfunction, as their bone density can be compromised and may have increased risk of stress fractures.

There are, however, particular athletes who definitely benefit from a reduced carbohydrate intake, specific to their individual needs and performance goals.  As per my previous post, I love many of the concepts associated with Paleo, but others I am not so excited about .  Athletes should be extra cautious of any type of 'popular' generic dietary plan or rules and would be better off addressing their own individual health and performance (and other) needs and planning and choosing foods accordingly.  Each athlete will be different.

Would I recommend the prawn dish to athletes?  Yes!  But probably not the Paleo version, it tastesmuch better with feta!  If an athlete had particular goals that required a reduction in carbohydrate then I may recommend serving it with salad, or a very small serve of rice.  For an athlete with a heavy training session the next morning I would still suggest some salad but with a larger serve of rice.

G. Ablett, if you are reading this, I would love to hear exactly how you do Paleo seemingly so well? I would love to learn more.....

 

 

What I love about eating like a cavemen

CavemanClipArt.jpg

Perhaps like you, I have been quite fascinated at the to-and-fro in the media between various individuals about the merits, or otherwise, of following a Paleo style of eating.  I love a bit of healthy debate, and I think everyone has a right to their opinion, but the thing that disappoints me most is the tone of recent discussions and the use of blatant or insinuated negativity directed towards individuals and their opinions.  Present your arguments, based on science and fact, but please don't ridicule others to promote your own opinions.  Credibility is built on honesty, transparency and results, not by personal attacks to try and make your opinions appear superior.  At least the fiery debate has put nutrition into the spotlight and inspired many of us to think about, and discuss, how, what and why we eat.

So what is 'Paleo' anyway?  I think there is plenty of confusion about Paleo, low-carb, gluten-free, clean eating, etc.  The Paleo approach promotes gluten-free, but is not completely carbohydrate free, and is based on the eating patterns of our caveman ancestors from Paleolithic times.

The brief in a nutshell:

Include - fresh meat, poultry, fish/seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, vegetables, herbs, occasional fruit

Avoid - everything else, including dairy, grains (especially wheat apparently), legumes and all processed foods.

Things I love about Paleo:

- food in as close to natural state as possible

- high quality protein from meats, poultry, fish/seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds

- plenty of fresh seasonal vegetables 

- use of herbs and spices

- not much sugar

- no additives

- sustainability

Things I don't love about Paleo:

- avoiding dairy and grains completely, even minimally processed varieties

- not  much fruit 

- unlimited type and amount of fat

- potential expense

- preparation time

- not family friendly, inappropriate for children with regard to nutrient inadequacy and restrictive nature 

I seem to have  more positives on my list than negatives BUT the negatives are deal-breakers.  A positive relationship with food involves flexibility with choices, and the option to incorporate any type of food (obviously some more regularly than others).  It also is important to enjoy food without guilt, and I think this could be challenging with any style of eating that prescribes long-term rules and restrictions.  

How about 'partial-Paleo' or even 'lacto-graino-Paleo' as an alternative to full-on Paleo?  Just like there are various options for vegetarians (eg. lacto-ovo-vegetarian follow a vegetarian style of eating, and don't eat meat but include dairy and eggs), there could be different options for Paleo, which allow for our modern lifestyles, preferences, cooking options and nutrition needs?  Lacto-graino-Paleo could include some nutritious options within the dairy, grain and legume families.  Perhaps some A2 milk, some natural/Greek style yoghurt, a delicious tasty cheese, and some nutrient-packed oats or rye products.  Or even sometimes, shockingly, enjoying delicious fresh-baked white bread or a crunchy and gooey chocolate brownie! 

I am certainly not endorsing a Paleo style of eating, or any other specific style of eating,  across the board, because everyone is different and different things work for different people.  I do believe that it is everyone's individual choice as to what, how and why you eat and how you live your life in general.  Food serves a purpose in keeping your body energised and healthy, but is also a big part of our lives to be shared, appreciated and enjoyed.  Many of our most wonderful food memories involve foods that would not be considered to be 'healthy'.  I can still smell the home-made sausage rolls, an infrequent but much loved and anticipated lunch order from the local general store next to my old primary school.  Or Mum giving my brothers and I a few coins (no doubt silver ones, that we often pooled together for maximum value) to spend at the supermarket on snacks to take into the movies.  We weren't in the fresh produce section that is for sure.  Who would want to deny children these experiences and memories?  Being a dietitian I am obviously interested in health and eating well, but I also love to enjoy special food occasions.

If you like the idea of Paleo, or any other particular style of eating, make sure it is right for YOU.  Think about how it fits your lifestyle, the demands, pressures and costs involved, whether there is good nutrient balance for your particular health needs, potential for nutrient inadequacies and if it really makes you feel good.....you may have to make some modifications to come up with something that suits your unique needs.  Above all, work towards eating choices that you can live with long-term and that allow you to eat well, widely and without ongoing deprivation or guilt.