Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tiffanyʼs Blog Entry #4 - Smoothie Sailing

Time is running away from me! I am now more than halfway done my sports nutrition rotation....I donʼt even want to think about it - it makes me feel depressed! Iʼm really starting to get to know the girls and how things are working for the team so I really feel like I need to see them through the whole season. Hey! Iʼm part of the team now! Iʼm in the team photo and I even had a head shot done (woot woot!).

In all seriousness though, the girls came back from a grueling 3 game week-end doing not too terribly. They ate the right things at the right times and despite a few hiccups with the post game meals - their eating went well. Of course, this was also an experimental week-end; the time to figure out during a game situation what works and what doesnʼt. Snacks in between periods, gatorade on the bench, etc - what helped them perform to 100% for 100% of the game? I think a lot of the girls learned quite a bit about themselves and how they react to proper fueling. Sunday being the biggest test of all - if they didnʼt refuel properly the night before, they were going to feel terrible for Sundayʼs game. Happily, I learned that many of them felt pretty good, so I think we are on the right track!

For this weekʼs get together, we had a bit more of an informal one. We had a smoothie night! Using some magic bullets, we separated into groups and made smoothies for different occasions! The girls were in charge of making them, tasting them and explaining to the entire team when would be the best time to have the smoothie (pre-workout, post-workout, etc) and why. As a bonus, I whipped up a black bean and roasted pepper dip to illustrate that healthy snacks do NOT have to take a lot of time. And also to prove to a few wrinkled up noses that a bean dip is very tasty (and not gross, like a lot of them feared!). Legumes are something we like to encourage them to try in general because they are a good carbohydrate source and can also be used as a meat alternative (when paired with other foods). We always talk about hummus so it was nice to have something similar but different. Before we packed up for the evening, I wanted to make sure the girls understood the point of this exercise. I had the groups create their own recipes for the magic bullet (some were smoothies, some were not) and explain when would be the best time to enjoy them. I was super glad to see that they have been paying attention and listening these past few weeks. Sniff...it makes me feel like a proud mother!

Stay tuned for next weekʼs adventure!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tiffanyʼs Blog Entry #3: Down with the carbohydrate restrictions!

This week we began the heavy stuff. Carbohydrates. This is where we begin to struggle. We have now ventured into carb counting country. And not for the reason that you think either. We are definitely NOT trying to restrict them, we are trying to make sure that the girls are getting enough. Hah! Got you there, didnʼt I? Not quite the answer you were thinking?
For athletes, carbohydrates are insanely important. Remember what I said last week about carbohydrates being the primary fuel source for exercise? Athletes are constantly burning up all their muscle glycogen and that will result in heavy legs, no power and no endurance. Well, we wanted to make sure that the girls knew exactly how much carbohydrate they were consuming in order to make sure they were always operating at a full tank. The girls need to know how much to consume for pre-workout AND post-workout. It can be quite a daunting task to try to figure this out. So, we provided the girls with some tools that will help them do this. Using some simple calculations and being realistic about what they would actually eat, they were able to figure out the grams of carbs that are necessary to keep them on top of their game.

The toughest test will be the week-end. They are playing three games in three days and traveling to boot. Hopefully, they would have processed some of this information and will refuel well. This is also where I step in. I have prepared a grocery list and have planned their snacks down to the minutes. After some juggling, I was able to compose a schedule that would allow them the proper amount of carbs at the right times. Hope it works!

Carbohydrates are our new best friend. Forget that high protein, low carb diet. Eat that potato.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tiffanyʼs Blog Entry #2: Things get a little bit more interesting.

Time goes by fast...but only after youʼve dug yourself out from underneath the mountain of questionnaires youʼve finished going through. Yep. The first week of information gathering is done and the results are in!

Drumroll please!

Well, looks like skipping breakfast is still something that needs to be improved. Mom wasnʼt wrong when she told us that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. For 6:30am practices, it might be tough to get in a big breakfast, but having something will definitely make a difference. It can mean you will be able to make it to the end of practice without too many problems as opposed to fading near the end of practice, decreased power and endurance throughout the practice and possibly injuring yourself. This completely correlates with a large number of the athletes also reporting feelings of fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating and trouble getting through practices. There can be several reasons why these women hockey players are feeling this way. So in order to get them out of their energy slumps, we have been doing workshops and presentations to get all the proper information out there. The importance of hydration and proper refueling is so huge for athletes that I canʼt emphasize it enough. Athletes can lose anywhere from 2-12 cups of sweat an hour if they are working hard! They need to replace all the fluid that has been lost in order to keep performing at a certain level.
Carbohydrates are also extremely important for power athletes such as hockey players, since carbs are the primary energy source during this type of high intensity start/stop exercise. If you aren't well-fueled before hand and then you donʼt top up with enough pre-workout or game, it will definitely be tough to get through to the end performing at your best. After a tough workout or game, your carbohydrate stores are low and the sooner you can load them back up, the better your performance will be the next day.

Whew! What a busy week! So far, itʼs been really interesting to work with these female athletes one on one to help them figure out some strategies to improve their nutrition and performance. Itʼs also been awesome to be able to see Beth give presentations as well - itʼs so easy to understand and really gives you something to think about. Well, I guess thatʼs it for my report this time! Stay tuned for the next update!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Sport Nutrition on Carleton University's Campus!

Part of my “volunteer” work here at Peak Performance is to train up and coming nutrition professionals in the science and application of clinical sports nutrition/dietetics. Each year a McGill University Dietetic intern is placed with me to get up to speed on the practice of sport nutrition. These interns also get me involved in their interests – a few years ago an intern and I worked with high altitude mountain climbers to determine optimal nutrient needs to help reduce risks of injury and cerebral/pulmonary edema. The experience involved some fascinating research of putting science into food-based practice for successful summits of the highest peaks in the world. Another intern just happened to be related to Lance Armstrong’s mechanics - so I got the inside scoop on the most famous of cycling machines!
Last week Tiffany, my McGill dietetic intern, started to work with me to implement the sport nutrition program for Carleton Ravens Women's Hockey Team. These are pretty exciting times to be involved with Carleton University Athletics as the organization is keen on introducing state of the art programs for their student athletes. For w omen's hockey things are even better - Carleton was successful in hiring the uber-dedicated and talented, former elite Canadian hockey player, Shelley Coolidge, to coach the w omen's hockey team. Shelley, the consummate professional, has recruited a top notch band of performance coaches to round out her program and Tiffany will be helping to build the sport nutrition for peak performance side of the equation for these women hockey players.

Here is Tiffany's feedback from day #1:

Riding the O-train into Carleton for the first time, I was as excited as a new student on the first day of classes. I was on my way to the Ice House to meet the Carleton Ravens women’s hockey team. My final dietetics internship revolved around my sports nutrition (community) rotation that would last 6 weeks. I had been anxiously awaiting to start this internship for several months. This season, with the full support of the athletics department and the encouragement of the coaching staff, Beth and I would be implementing a new sports nutrition program at Carleton with the girls to ensure that they would be eating and performing their best this season.

Wait! Let’s pause for a moment here. Maybe I haven’t emphasized just how exciting this really is. Normally most sports teams would be followed by an athletic therapist (yay therapists!) and maybe a strength and conditioning coach. If they are very lucky, they may get some advice on eating well from someone who might know a thing or two about nutrition (but still may not be specific for athletes). However, MY job as a sports nutrition intern for the next six weeks would be to educate the girls to not only eat well, but to eat enough, proper pre and post workout fueling, hydration status, assessing body composition, designing meal plans, planning grocery store tours...well, you get the idea. It is rare that a sports program will include ALL the necessary pieces to perform at the top so the fact that such a comprehensive program is being implemented is an amazing opportunity - for me AND the girls. Whew! Ok, back to my story.

As I finally entered the Ice House (wandering around the campus looking lost is soooo unbecoming of me!) there it was. That...feeling.

Yes! I belonged here!

I see Beth and we go in to meet Shelley and the team. Today is the first day, so I will be trying to figure out my schedule and get a feel for the dynamic of the team. I also meet Brigette - the team’s athletic therapist. She will be my eyes and ears when I am not around, I surmise. I decided to tag along for their cool down after the afternoon practice.

“Wow, I’m starving.” I hear one of the girls say. “I’m going to go to McDonalds after and...”

Hmmm. This is definitely going to be an interesting 6 weeks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What is the real key to longevity? Exercise? Diet?

The conversation around the dinner table this evening concerned our observations of humans' eating habits. We eat too much, we keep eating when we're full AND we are (as a society) quite overweight. Many of us seem to make other choices than those that revolve around our eating behaviors and subsequent body composition and health. But what are the eating habits of those people that live long (and healthy)lives? Numerous studies using animal models (mainly rats and mice) suggest that calorie restriction, without malnutrition, leads to longevity - but is there any evidence to show that this is the same for humans? A quick visual test on our Canadian population would be suffice to let us say with some conviction that Canadians have not heard about this research on animals OR if they have heard about it then they are in frank disbelief and/or they are not doing anything about what they have heard. The sad fact is that a large proportion of Canadians of all ages are overweight, even moving up to morbid obesity with age related weight gain.

It has been suggested that a diet rich in green leafy vegetables and yellow root vegetables, soy, small amounts of fish and meat, resulting in adequate amounts of nutrients (including vitamins and minerals) in combination with regular physical activity levels promoting a lifelong stable body composition AND little age-related weight gain play an important role in long lives. All this based on centenarians living in Okinawa, Japan.

It is difficult to imagine that positive energy balance (e.g., overweight) promotes longevity. Your overall lifestyle is an equally important indicator of health, and weight needs to be examined in context with other issues such as diet and physical activity. All the more reason to look at the eating habits and physical activity behaviors of Canadians in a little more detail.

As part of my PhD research in the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University I am conducting research on the eating habits, physical activity levels, body composition and health of Canadian women runners who participate in organized running races of at least 10 km in distance (including running as part of duathlons and triathlons). This nutrition-focused research will help further our understanding of food choices and eating habits that are essential for women involved in regular vigorous physical activity to maintain healthy weights and attenuate age-related weight gain.

Quick Facts about the iRunWomen Survey
. This is a web-based survey for ALL women runners, including:
o low-to-moderately physically active women runners, o ! recreationally competitive women runners, AND o elite competitive women runners.
. The survey is anonymous.
. The survey needs to be completed all at once.
. The survey will take approximately 25-35 minutes to complete.
. The survey is available online from May until October 2009 www.irunwomen.ca

Over 900 women runners from across Canada have completed the survey but we need more women runners to know about the survey so that they may add their input. Please pass this information on to any women that you know who run regularly!