Monday, October 27, 2014

Improve Your Endurance Performance with Pre and Probiotic Foods

Many athletes complain of fatigue, upper respiratory tract infections and digestive upset when the stress of training increases through changes in training volume and or intensity. By paying attention to your ecosystem and harnessing the health benefits of pre and probiotic foods, you may jolt some improvements in your athletic performance and over all well-being via enhanced recovery, improved immune function and the maintenance of a healthy gut. Prebiotics foods are those foods with fructans or resistant starches (inulin) that trigger the ongoing growth and performance of the probiotics (also known as your “good” bacteria) in the gut. Work prebiotics into your diet by regularly including plant based foods that are sources of fructans or inulin (see table below). You can also check the ingredient list of packaged foods such as cereals, cookies, breads, and yoghurts to see if inulin has been added. Probiotics are the live micro-organisms contained in the food we eat. They survive the process of digestion so that they can flourish and multiply in the large intestine to maintain a healthy digestive balance (West, N.P., Pyne, D.B., Peake, J.M., Cripps, A.W. Probiotics, immunity and exercise: A review. Exer Immunol Rev. 2009: 15-107-26). Probiotics are found in fermented foods and foods containing active or live cultures of yeasts or bacteria (see table below). Some of these are carbohydrate:protein combinations (e.g. buttermilk, yogurt, kefir) making them important potential contributors to post workout refueling. Pre- and probiotics work best together so develop and maintain their synbiotic relationship in your gut by including dietary sources of both on a regular basis. Examples include sourdough bread with peanut and banana; honey sweetened yoghurt with muesli; steamed asparagus spears with a tempeh spinach salad; home-made vegetarian pizza; vegetable stir fry with beans and rice; wheat crackers with fermented pickles and slices of gouda.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Paleolithic Diet vs. Eating for Endurance

While humans living in the Paleolithic and even earlier (pre-fire) times appeared to have been relatively healthy, their life span was not very long. Since those times we have adapted to a rather different pattern of eating – a higher carbohydrate intake from the addition of grains, cereals, starchy vegetables, milk products, and a variety of fruits in fresh, dried and juice form. This pattern is associated with the long life span we now have AND this pattern of eating fuels endurance athletes to train hard, recover and repeat on a daily basis (See Table below). While the Paleolithic diet may give you enough fuel to maintain your cross country skiing and other endurance training note that it is a high volume diet; that is, you have to eat a lot of vegetables and fruits to get a sufficient amount of carbohydrate INTO your muscles to ski, run, cycle or swim fast and far. These types of plant foods have a tendency to fill you up and quash your hunger BEFORE you actually have sufficiently refueled. It might take you a few days of training to realize that you haven't been refueling adequately – and you will know because your endurance performance will be negatively affected and even easy workouts will feel hard. Make some slight adjustments to the Paleo diet by including some non-Paleo foods before, during and after your training. Start by including dried fruit and/or high glycemic index fruits in your pre-workout snack and then add potatoes (roasted, mashed, baked or boiled) to your post workout meals. If you are going to be using sport drinks and gels during your race then you should get used to them in your longer distance training sessions. These slight adjustments to your dietary intake on your training days should help to optimize your energy level during your training sessions. Top Nutritional Mistakes Made by Endurance Athletes


Food Origin




Animal Foods


Lean meats (especially grass-fed animals) like chicken, turkey, pork, lean beef, and buffalo

Fish and seafood, eggs


Lean red meats, chicken, turkey, pork, etc

Organ meats for iron

Fish and seafood


Milk, yogurt, cheese


Milk, yogurt, cheese

Plant Foods

All nuts (except peanuts) and seeds

All nuts and seeds


Plant and nut-based oils (olive, walnut, grape seed, and coconut)


All plant, nut and seed based oils


Seed oils (e.g. sunflower, safflower, etc)

Fresh fruits

FALL fresh, frozen and dried  fruits

100% fruit juices

ONLY non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, salad greens, bell peppers, carrots, and squash)

ALL starchy vegetables (e.g. potatoes, sweet potatoes) and non-starchy vegetables

Legumes (e.g. chickpeas, hummus, lentils, kidney beans, etc)


All grains & cereals,


All grains & cereals (e.g. wheat, rice, quinoa, oats, oatmeal, rye, barley, etc)


Only unprocessed foods without salt, refined sugars and trans fats

ONLY unprocessed and minimally processed foods

Refined sugars during training (i.e. sport drinks and gels)






























Saturday, March 22, 2014

Eat Wet Foods for Optimal Hydration and Body Weight – Year Round

Runners, cross country skiers, speed skaters and cyclists are likely to be year round endurance athletes, including running, cycling and in-line/ice skating in our schedules throughout the more temperate months of the year. Yet despite all the exercise, many endurance athletes complain of training related weight gain. The more training they do, the heavier they get. What could explain this phenomenon? Well....we are all not equally gifted with our internal energy balance, that is, eating and drinking enough to rehydrate and refuel and meet our needs. Some of us have a poor drive for thirst during and after our training sessions and the older we get the weaker this drive tends to be. Instead of drinking, some may think they are hungry and will unconsciously eat...and often more than is needed....leading to weight gain, despite a high training volume. When was the last time you thought about using “wet foods” as a way to improve your hydration and achieve a leaner body weight.....year round?? While water, in any form, is excellent for re-hydrating after a sweaty workout, eating wet foods can increase your fluid intake by up to 25% while decreasing the amount of calories from the foods you eat. Check out these tips to help you to get started. Top Nutritional Mistakes Made by Endurance Athletes

Food Group


WITH Wet Foods

Grains & Cereals

Bread, toast, crackers, pita

Granola bars, cereal, popcorn

Muffins, cookies, biscuits

Cake, donuts, pastries, pie

Cooked oatmeal

Cream of wheat

Quinoa/rice/barley risotto

Spaghettia, macaroni, fusilli

Vegetables & Fruit

Dried fruit

Potato chips, vegetable chips

Roasted veggies

Baked fruit crumble

Fruit pies

Fresh veggies and fruit

Steamed or stir fried veggies

Vegetable and fruit salads

Pureed fruits, fruit compote

Fruit and vegetable smoothies

Fruit yogurt

Milk & Alternatives

Brick cheeses

Soft cheeses

Shredded or grated cheeses

Low fat/skim cottage cheese

Quark cheese

Tzatziki (cucumber and yogurt)

Greek yogurt

Low fat/skim milk, chocolate milk or flavoured yogurt

Almond/soy milk

Meat & alternatives

Dried meats, sliced meats, roasted, grilled or barbecued meats

Nuts and seeds, trail mix, nut butters

Energy bars with soy protein

Poached or steamed fish

Meat/poultry stews

Meat sauces

More bean than meat chili

Tofu stir fried with veggies

Beef, barley, vegetable soup

Hummus dip with raw veggies

Three bean salads

Lentil or tofu vegetable soup

Black beans with quinoa and veggies


Friday, March 14, 2014

Finding Your Sweet Spot

During very intense and/or extended bouts of exercise, the availability of carbohydrate (carbs) to the exercising muscles and the central nervous system can be compromised by the fuel cost of the activity exceeding the skeletal muscles’ carbohydrate stores. In these cases, providing extra carbohydrate with foods and beverages can make the difference between a top notch performance or a disappointing one. Current carbohydrate recommendations for endurance athlete promote the high consumption of carbohydrate during exercise from 30 up to a high of 90 grams of carbohydrate per hour of exercise in an ultra-endurance situation where you may be working hard for more than 4 – 5 hours. Here are some ides of where to get 30+ grams of carbs: 4 dates 6 small boiled potatoes 4 Fig Newtons 1 granola bar 1 sports Gel 6 graham crackers 500 mL 6-7% carbs sport drink However the potential for gastro-intestinal distress and its effects on performance need to be considered. So how can you determine what your own gut can handle? You need to use your intensive training sessions to mimic the competitive event to determine your “sweet spot”, that is, the amount, type and mix of carbs that your gut can tolerate while meeting the energy needs of the exercising situation. Multiple sources of transportable carbohydrate rich foods and fluids are related to better performance, especially when needs are pushing 60 grams or more per hour. BEWARE…...some athletes may need 4-6 weeks for their gut to adapt to the higher levels of carbohydrate intake. To get started, take a look at the Nutrition Facts Table on the packages of foods and fluids that you currently use to see how much carbohydrate they supply – then do the math and figure out how much of which foods and fluids you are currently taking in when you train hard or compete. Some food and fluid options are in the table below:

Type of Training


Carbohydrate Needs


Timing of Use

Food & Fluid Options PER HOUR

Easy intensity cardio or high intensity weights

30 grams/hour


Split into two 30 minute intervals/hour

·       500 mL sport drink (6% carbohydrate)

·       Water + granola bar or 6 graham crackers

Moderate intensity, endurance training

60 grams/hour

Split into three 20 minute intervals/hour

·       Water + 2 sports gels

·       Water + 1 sports gel + 3 boiled potatoes

·       Water + 4 dates + 1 granola bar

·       500 mL sport drink + 1 sports gel

·       500 mL sports drink +  granola bar

Race pace, endurance training or competition (2-3+ hours)

90 grams/hour

Split into six 10 minute intervals/hour

·       Water + 3 sport gels

·       Water + 2 sports gels + 3 boiled potatoes

·       Water + 4 fig newtons + granola bar

·       500 mL sports drink +  4 fig newtons + sport gel