Posts Tagged ‘lifestyle’

Mindful Eating for Athletes

NOVA mindful eating

Mindful eating involves deliberate focus on your internal and external environments. The aim is to increase your presence during eating by consciously consuming food using all your senses (sight, smell, taste, touch, and sound). Most people however are eating mindlessly.  Mindless eating or eating without purpose, may cause your body to get confused about what, when or why you need to eat and may become driven by external cues to eat. These external cues may include: eating because others are eating or because food is in front of you and responding to appetite signals (i.e. food smells good) over hunger signals (grumbling stomach). Overeating is also common with mindless eating because you may eat too quickly to register fullness. This can impact body composition, efficient fueling for training, sleep, and your relationship with food. All of this may ultimately impact health and sports performance.  

The use of mindful eating aims to increase awareness of hunger cues of the body and fullness signals, eating with purpose and intuition. In general, your body has an instinctive way of knowing just what it needs to maintain weight and sustain health. Eating mindfully can assist the athlete in building skills in the selection of foods and quantities necessary to support training and competition needs of the body. Mindfulness practices and eating strategies for athletes can help reduce stress, improve overall quality of life, improve sleep, and even reduce the risk of injury.

Mindful eating strategies for athletes go beyond simple fueling guidelines. Mindful eating is about bringing together the ideas of what your body needs physically and also using inner wisdom (what we know and understand about ourselves and our bodies). This will help athletes succeed in figuring out individualized fueling and training plans in addition to fostering a healthy relationship with food. 

Increasing awareness of internal cues like hunger, energy and appetite and understanding what the body is trying to tell you can help to ascertain dietary energy requirements day-to-day. Being mindful of the food you are eating and the role it plays in fueling your body and being grateful for how food helps you develop and increase performance, rather than just taste and convenience, will help drive better choices to serve the body’s needs to perform at your best. 

Minimizing distractions during meals is a great way to get started with mindful eating. Other habits can include chewing your food more thoroughly, savoring each bite, and evaluating how you feel before, during, and after your meal.

Mindful Eating is Useful for Athletes

  • Increase awareness of your physical and emotional cues for eating
  • Understand the impact that training has on your body’s signals of hunger and fullness and when fueling the body is a priority
  • Develop strategies to foster a healthy relationship with food 
  • Decrease over-thinking, stress and self-criticism associated with dietary intake and eat for enjoyment and nourishment.  
  • Allow intake to be flexible with variations in training load from day-to-day and eating to meet training demands on a busy schedule
  • Assist in building skills in the selection of appropriate foods and quantities to support training loads
  • Reduce overeating or overcompensating intake for something you missed
  • Empower decision making and ownership over intake
  • Increase ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances and still make a good food choice (on the road eating before and after competition)
  • Help with positive weight management and altering body composition
  • Develop strategies to foster a healthy relationship with food, reduce disordered eating, and prevent under-fueling

Tips to Help Athletes Achieve Mindful Eating

  • Eat meals without distractions by focusing on what you are eating
  • Acknowledge your meal time by sitting down to eat and dedicate time for eating
  • Avoid eating “on-the-go” when you can, so that you can focus more attention to eating
  • Prior to eating, take 10 seconds and pause to check-in with yourself and identify your internal cues to eat, and what role that food will play in fueling your training or health.  
  • Understand that you do not need to finish everything on your plate, stop eating when full and put the leftovers away for another meal.
  • Just like your sport and training, mindful eating takes practice to master; be persistent and patient, and change will come.

If you are looking to adopt more mindful eating habits, try some of these tips to enjoy food more while improving performance. Focus on making positive memories, enjoying your favorite foods, and banning any feelings of guilt over food choices. If you still feel anxious about food choices send Nikky a message and she will be happy to offer additional support!

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Alcohol: Impact on Athletic Performance and Health Goals

NOVA alcohol consumption

In the world of sports nutrition, every choice you make matters, including what you choose to drink. While a post-game celebration or a casual drink with friends may seem harmless, the truth is that alcohol consumption can have significant effects on both athletic performance and health goals. Because February is American Heart Month, we’ll explore how alcohol impacts the body, discuss its effects on athletic performance, and provide strategies for responsible consumption to support your fitness journey.

Understanding the Effects of Alcohol on the Body

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that affects various bodily functions, including hydration, metabolism, coordination, and cognitive function. When consumed, it is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, where it begins to exert its effects on the body’s systems.

Effects on Athletic Performance

1. Dehydration: Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine production and can lead to dehydration. Proper hydration is essential for athletic performance, and excessive consumption can impair your body’s ability to maintain optimal fluid balance.

2. Impaired Coordination and Reaction Time: Alcohol can impair motor skills, coordination, and reaction time, which are crucial for athletic performance. Consuming alcohol before a game or workout may compromise your ability to perform at your best and increase the risk of injury.

3. Decreased Muscle Recovery: Alcohol consumption can interfere with muscle recovery and repair processes by disrupting protein synthesis and increasing inflammation. This can prolong recovery time between workouts and hinder progress toward fitness goals.

4. Disrupted Sleep Patterns: While alcohol may initially make you feel drowsy, it can disrupt sleep patterns and reduce the quality of your rest. Adequate sleep is essential for muscle recovery, cognitive function, and overall well-being, making consumption before bedtime detrimental to your health goals.

Strategies for Responsible Consumption

1. Moderation is Key: If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Limit your intake to moderate amounts and avoid excessive or binge drinking.

2. Hydrate Properly: To counteract the dehydrating effects of alcohol, ensure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after drinking. This can help minimize the impact on hydration levels and support overall health.

3. Plan Ahead: If you have a game, race, or intense workout scheduled, consider abstaining from alcohol altogether to ensure optimal performance and recovery.

4. Know Your Limits: Be mindful of your tolerance level and how alcohol affects your body. Listen to your body’s signals and prioritize your health and fitness goals.

5. **Choose Wisely: Opt for lower-calorie, lower-sugar alcoholic beverages, such as light beer, wine, or spirits mixed with soda water or low-calorie mixers. Be mindful of added sugars and empty calories in cocktails and mixed drinks.

While enjoying a drink occasionally may be part of your social life, it’s essential to be aware of how alcohol consumption can impact your athletic performance and health goals. By practicing moderation, staying hydrated, and making informed choices, you can strike a balance between enjoying the occasional drink and supporting your fitness journey. 

Do you or someone you know struggle with alcohol misuse? Check out this link to see the top recommended treatment centers in Virginia.

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Recognizing Eating Disorder Awareness Week

NOVA Eating disorder awareness week

As Eating Disorders Awareness Week approaches, it’s essential to shed light on the significance of recognizing, understanding, and supporting those affected by eating disorders. Eating disorders are serious mental health conditions that can have profound effects on both physical and emotional well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore the importance of raising awareness about eating disorders, discuss common signs and symptoms, and provide resources for support and recovery.

Why Eating Disorders Awareness Matters

Eating Disorders Awareness Week serves as an opportunity to educate the public about the prevalence and impact of eating disorders, challenge stigmas and misconceptions, and promote early intervention and access to treatment. By raising awareness, we can help those struggling with eating disorders feel seen, heard, and supported, and encourage open conversations about mental health and body image.

Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms:

Eating disorders can manifest in various ways and may not always be obvious. Some common signs and symptoms to look out for include:

  • Obsession with food, calories, and weight
  • Severe restriction of food intake or excessive exercise
  • Preoccupation with body image and fear of weight gain
  • Binge eating episodes followed by feelings of guilt or shame
  • Withdrawal from social activities and avoidance of meals with others
  • Changes in mood, energy levels, and physical health

It’s essential to approach conversations about eating disorders with compassion, empathy, and non-judgment, and to encourage seeking professional help and support.

Sharing Concerns About and Eating Disorder

Sharing your concerns with a loved one or friend who may have an eating disorder is easier said than done; sometimes, affected people won’t be aware of the severity of their condition and may deny that a problem exists at all. NEDA (the National Eating Disorder Association) offers several helpful tips if you have a friend or family member who may be suffering from an eating disorder, some of which include:

  • Learn as much as you can about eating disorders so you can understand people’s thoughts and struggles with food
  • Know the difference between facts and myths in regards to nutrition and fitness to enable you to explain the discrepancy in the person’s behavior vs. what is considered healthy
  • Compliment them on qualities unrelated to their appearance (creativity, sense of humor, etc.)
  • Be honest about what your concerns are; never judge or criticize, but emphasize that you are worried and want to make sure they are healthy
  • Refer them to a dietitian or other health professional with expertise in treating eating disorders

At NOVA Sports Nutrition, we take a holistic, comprehensive approach to nutrition therapy with the goal of improving client relationships with food, exercise, and body image. For athletes with disordered eating or an eating disorder, we will focus on a healthy return to sport and work collaboratively with additional healthcare professionals as appropriate including athletic trainers, counselors, psychologists and physicians.

The goals of outpatient nutrition counseling include developing a regular eating routine that provides balanced nutrition and adequate energy to fuel performance and activities of daily living. Your dietitian will work with you to create a sustainable plan that gradually allows you to remove stress around eating and achieve freedom from negative thoughts related to food or exercise.

We provide nutrition counseling for the following conditions:

  • Disordered eating
  • Orthorexia
  • Anorexia Nervosa
  • Bulimia Nervosa
  • Binge Eating Disorder
  • Avoidant-Restrictive Feeding and Intake Disorder (ARFID)

Treatment can be very effective in aiding recovery from eating disorders, but outcomes are significantly better when treatment is started early. If you have concerns, don’t brush them aside.

You can’t force someone to get treatment, but you never know who might be the positive influence that helps someone with an eating disorder address his or her situation. It could be you.

For more information, please see the links below:

ANAD.org
NationalEatingDisorders.org

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Heart-Healthy Fuel: Sports Nutrition Tips for American Heart Month

NOVA American Heart Month

February marks American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about heart health and encourage individuals to take steps toward a healthier lifestyle. While exercise is crucial for cardiovascular health, nutrition plays an equally important role, especially for athletes looking to optimize their performance while keeping their hearts strong. In this blog post, we’ll explore how sports nutrition can support heart health and provide practical tips for fueling your body in a way that benefits both your athletic endeavors and your cardiovascular system.

The Heart-Healthy Diet Blueprint

A heart-healthy diet is rich in nutrient-dense foods that support cardiovascular health. Here’s a breakdown of key components:

  • Emphasize Plant-Based Foods: Load up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health.
  • Choose Healthy Fats: Opt for sources of unsaturated fats, such as avocados, olive oil, nuts, and fatty fish like salmon and trout. These fats can help lower LDL cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Limit Saturated and Trans Fats: Cut back on foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as fried foods, processed meats, and commercially baked goods. These fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Watch Your Sodium Intake: Limit your intake of sodium by avoiding processed and packaged foods and opting for fresh, whole foods instead. High sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease.
  • Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for heart health. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially during exercise, to keep your cardiovascular system functioning optimally.

Sports Nutrition Strategies for Heart Health

Incorporating heart-healthy nutrition practices into your sports nutrition routine can benefit both your athletic performance and your cardiovascular health. Here are some practical tips to help you fuel your body while supporting your heart:

  • Balance Macronutrients: Aim for a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in appropriate proportions. Choose complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy and support muscle repair and recovery.
  • Prioritize Whole Foods: Focus on consuming whole, minimally processed foods whenever possible. These foods are rich in nutrients and phytochemicals that support heart health and overall well-being.
  • Include Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Incorporate sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts, into your diet. Omega-3s have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower triglyceride levels, and improve heart health.
  • Be Mindful of Portions: Pay attention to portion sizes, especially when it comes to calorie-dense foods like nuts, seeds, and oils. Moderation is key to maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Listen to Your Body: Tune in to your body’s hunger and fullness cues, and eat mindfully to avoid overeating. Fuel your body with the nutrients it needs to perform at its best while respecting your body’s natural signals.

As we celebrate American Heart Month, let’s remember the importance of nourishing our bodies with heart-healthy foods that support both our athletic performance and our cardiovascular health. By incorporating these sports nutrition tips into your routine, you can fuel your body effectively while keeping your heart strong and healthy for years to come. Here’s to a heart-healthy February and beyond!

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January: The Month of Sustainable Change

NOVA January health

January is a great time to reset and think about your health and to pause and reflect on
the past year to help you determine what comes next on your wellness or fitness
journey in the new year. However, January is also the time when advertisements
on quick fixes, diet supplements and fad diets too good to be true also begin popping up
everywhere. As you put your holiday decorations away and prepare for the start of
2024, remember that the best way to improve health and nutrition is not through quick
fixes, but rather sustainable changes that you can implement gradually over time. If your
health and fitness is not where you would like for it to be right now, you can focus on
getting back on track one step at a time.

If you’re not sure where to start, here are some simple steps you can implement today
to start improving your health and wellbeing:

Slow Down and Breathe
A great tool for stress reduction is to take a few moments to slow down your day and
just breathe. When you are stressed, your blood pressure rises, your heart and
respiration rate may also accelerate. Taking 10-15 minutes to sit still, be calm and
breathe deeply can counteract all of this

Take time to chew your food, savor each bite
Chewing well and slowing down your intake of food, helps you savor every bite. By
chewing longer, you are allowing food to linger in your mouth and stimulate taste
receptors on your tongue. This helps start the digestive process and gives your
body time to signal the brain when you are getting full.

Be in tune with your hunger cues
Paying attention to your body’s cues for hunger can help keep you healthy and
signal you when to eat. Some common physiological hunger cues are stomach
growling, low energy, headaches, shakiness and general weariness.

Be mindful and move with purpose
The principles of mindful movement are the same as any other mindfulness practice:
keep yourself in the present moment to experience the here and now and get the
most out of each session. Be aware of your movement, focus on your breath, and
notice how your body feels as it moves. Staying in the present can keep you
mentally strong because you are no longer focusing on yesterday or worried about
tomorrow.

Stay hydrated
Your body needs to be hydrated to function at its best. If there isn’t enough liquid
in your body, essential functions like circulation and digestion will not perform
efficiently. Your organs may not get the necessary nutrients for optimal
functioning and even slight dehydration affects performance.

Prioritize Protein and Vegetables (especially the greens)
Protein
Protein is an important part of a healthy diet. You need protein in your diet to help
your body repair cells and make new ones. Protein is important for growth and
development. Adequate protein reduces muscle loss, helps with recovery after
exercise, builds lean tissue and because it curbs your hunger can help with
maintaining a healthy weight.
Greens
Adding leafy greens to your diet is an easy way to get the vitamins and minerals
your body needs for optimal health. These vegetables are good sources of many
vitamins and minerals such as: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, iron, magnesium,
potassium, calcium and fiber, but low in calories. Green, leafy vegetables help
support vision and skin health; and may reduce the risk of heart disease, high
blood pressure, and the risk of obesity.

NOVA Sports Nutrition is here to get you back on track. Whether you’re training for a team sport, endurance race, physique competition, or to improve your health generally, NOVA can create a workout plan to help you reach your goal. We take the guess work out of meal planning and will help you to take control of your diet once and for all!

Nutrition counseling services are provided via secure video chat or in-person in Northern Virginia. Please reach out via the contact page or schedule a free discovery call to learn more about pricing for our nutrition services!

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Post-Holiday: Getting Back Into A Healthy Routine

NOVA healthy routine

Hope you had an amazing holiday season filled with joy and delicious treats. Now that the festivities have wrapped up, let’s dive into some strategies to get back into a healthy routine.

Start Small, Win Big

Research shows that setting realistic, achievable goals is key to long-term success. Instead of aiming for drastic changes, start with manageable adjustments. Small dietary changes can lead to significant improvements in overall health.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate

Proper hydration has numerous benefits, including aiding in weight management and positively impacting overall well-being. Keep a water bottle handy and make a habit of staying well-hydrated throughout the day.

Move That Body

Regular physical activity is known to improve mood, reduce stress, and promote cardiovascular health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for overall well-being.

Rediscover the Joy of Cooking

Cooking at home has its perks, from healthier meals with fewer calories to the joy of experimenting with nutritious recipes. Experimenting with nutritious recipes can not only enhance your culinary skills but also contribute to better dietary choices. Embrace the kitchen and make it a fun part of your routine.

Prioritize Sleep

Sufficient sleep is essential for overall well-being as part of your healthy routine. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night has been linked to improved immune function, cognitive performance, and overall health. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a sleep-friendly environment, and avoiding screens before bedtime can contribute to better sleep quality.

Find a Buddy

Having a friend to share your health journey with can boost motivation and accountability. Whether it’s a workout or meal prep partner, having someone by your side makes the process more enjoyable.

Practice Mindful Eating

Taking the time to savor your food and being aware of your body’s hunger and fullness cues can contribute to better weight management and overall well-being. Be mindful of what you eat and enjoy your meals more fully.

Embrace these practical tips to make your post-holiday health journey smoother. Here’s to a healthier and happier you in the year ahead! 

Cheers to making 2024 your most balanced and positive year yet!

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Balance: A Guide for the 2023 Holidays

holiday eating balance

While the holiday season is often referred to as the most wonderful time of the year, for some, it can also be a time of increased stress, anxiety, and pressure. The balance of holiday shopping, socializing, and festive preparations can take a toll on our mental well-being. In this blog post, we’ll explore practical strategies to help you stay mentally and physically balanced during the holidays so you truly enjoy this magical season.

Set Realistic Expectations

One of the primary sources of holiday stress is often unrealistic expectations. We tend to place immense pressure on ourselves to create the perfect celebration. Acknowledge that imperfections are a part of life and that the true spirit of the holidays lies in the moments spent with loved ones, not in achieving a flawless event.

Prioritize Self-Care

Amidst the hustle and bustle, it’s crucial to prioritize self-care. Make time for activities that bring you joy and relaxation, whether it’s reading a book, taking a leisurely walk, or practicing mindfulness. A well-rested and nourished mind is better equipped to handle the demands of the season.

Establish Boundaries

Learn to say no. It’s okay not to attend every event or take on every task. Be honest with yourself about your time and energy limits. Setting boundaries allows you to focus on what truly matters and prevents burnout.

Connect with Others

While the holidays are a time of joy, they can also trigger feelings of loneliness for some. Make an effort to connect with friends and family, whether in person or through virtual means. Sharing your thoughts and feelings can provide much-needed support and strengthen your sense of belonging.

Practice Gratitude

Take a moment each day to reflect on what you’re grateful for. Amidst the chaos, cultivating a sense of gratitude can shift your focus from what’s stressful to what’s positive and uplifting.

Mindful Eating

For some, the holidays can be a source of both pleasure and anxiety. Practice mindful eating by paying attention to your body’s hunger and fullness cues. This can help you enjoy the festive treats without overindulging or feeling deprived.

Stay Active

Physical activity is a powerful tool for maintaining mental balance. Whether it’s a brisk walk, a yoga session, or a dance party in your living room, staying active releases endorphins, reducing stress and enhancing your overall mood.

Create Meaningful Traditions

Focus on the aspects of the holidays that hold personal significance for you. Whether it’s a cherished family tradition or a new ritual you’d like to start, infusing meaning into the season can provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

The holiday season doesn’t have to be a stressful sprint. By setting realistic expectations, prioritizing self-care, and fostering meaningful connections, you can navigate the next few weeks’ balance. Remember, the essence of the holidays lies in creating memories and taking care of yourself and those around you. Embrace the season with an open heart, and may your holidays be filled with warmth, love, and mental well-being.

NOVA is always here to guide you in your fitness and nutrition journey no matter what stage you are at. 

Nicole Hindle NOVA Sports Nutrition Balance

Happy Holidays!

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Root Vegetables: A Fall Staple

This fall, enjoy cooler temperatures and outdoor activities without the concern of heat related conditions. This is the perfect time of year to start incorporating different colored root vegetables into your grocery staples. Root vegetables are at their peak in the fall season, and they are underground treasures packed with nutrients and full of flavor. Some great examples to add to your plant-based menu are garlic, onion, turnips, carrots, sweet potatoes, beets and parsnips. These root vegetables are good sources of many nutrients such as fiber, folate and beta-carotene. 

Check out a few more health benefits of root vegetables

  • High in Fiber: Many root vegetables are rich in dietary fiber, which is essential for digestive health. Fiber promotes regular bowel movements, helps control blood sugar levels, and contributes to a feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management.
  • Stable Energy Release: The carbohydrates in root vegetables are complex carbohydrates, providing a steady and sustained release of energy. This can help maintain stable blood sugar levels and prevent energy crashes, supporting overall energy balance throughout the day.
  • Supportive of Heart Health: Potassium, found in abundance in root vegetables like sweet potatoes and carrots, is known for its role in promoting heart health. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure and supports cardiovascular function.
  • Seasonal and Local: Virginians can also enjoy other local produce this time of year: apples, pears, zucchini, peppers, kale, okra, brussels sprouts, eggplant, pumpkin and a variety of squash.

Healthy Autumn Eating Tips:

  • Shop local farmer’s markets to get the freshest produce
  • Eat “the rainbow” when choosing fruits and vegetables
  • Cook with healthy fats such as olive oil
  • Grill, roast, steam, or air fry vegetables to create lower-fat dishes
  • Experiment with all types of seasonings (parsley, sage, curry, garlic and apple cider vinegar pair well with root vegetables)

Try one of our favorite recipes & let us know how you liked it!

Roasted Brussel Sprouts:

  1. Wash 1 pound of brussels sprouts and peel away any brown areas of the sprout
  2. Mix the brussels sprouts in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil until all pieces are coated. Season with minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and/or black pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven on a sheet pan for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • (Alternatively, you can grill the sprouts by placing them on aluminum foil and grilling)

Zucchini/Squash/Onion Stir Fry:

  1. On the stovetop using a nonstick pan, sprinkle pan with olive oil
  2. Slice any vegetables you want to use
  3. Heat on fairly high heat while stirring the vegetables

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper. Spray with cooking spray.
  3. Slice potatoes into rounds (~1/4-1/2 inch thick)
  4. Lay potato slices flat on a baking sheet and spray lightly with the cooking spray.
  5. Season lightly with salt, pepper, and ground cinnamon.
  6. Bake for 40 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway.

Season as you like with non-salt alternatives

  • Add some ground pepper
  • Add a splash of apple cider vinegar

Incorporating a colorful array of root vegetables into your fall recipes not only elevates the taste but also adds a nutritional boost to your meals. From supporting your immune system to contributing to heart health, these veggies are a delicious and health-conscious addition to your autumn meals. 

Remember that meal plans are not cookie-cutter and each one is unique to each person. Our mission is to help you create a healthy and fit lifestyle. One that is realistic and sustainable and allows you to optimize your overall health and wellness.

Enjoy and have a Happy Fall!

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5 Sports Supplements NOT to Take

sports supplements

In one of my recent blog articles, “My Top 5 Most Commonly Recommended Dietary Supplements,” I discussed supplements that may benefit certain clients including omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D, GABA, vitamin B-12, and BCAAs. Although it is best to get nutrients from the diet, there are some cases in which this is not possible, and supplements can help to fill in the gaps. Situations that may require the addition of a supplement may include dietary deficiencies, certain disease states, and some demanding training regimens.  When purchasing a dietary supplement, it’s important to remember that the FDA does not regulate vitamins, minerals, herbals, or sports supplements. For this reason, looking for a third-party seal can ensure quality, purity, and potency of the product.  Examples of third-party seals include USP, Informed Choice, NSF, and GMP. The image below shows an example of a vitamin supplement with a USP seal.

USP label on vitamins

Figure 2 image source: https://www.quality-supplements.org/

Often, a product’s marketing or testimonials will promise superior effects. Because these products are not regulated by the FDA, the evidence for these statements is often lacking. Additionally, unregulated products often have added hidden ingredients that may be harmful.

This article will discuss five supplements that I do not recomend for sports performance in particular. If you have questions about other supplements not listed here, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email!

Before taking any supplement, consult with a sports dietitian or other health-care professional. 

 

1. Vitamin C and Vitamin E

This first one might surprise you! While vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants (which protect our body from cellular damage), taking them immediately before or after exercise could interfere with progress. The reason for this is that while intense exercise does cause some cellular damage, this also triggers the release of proteins and enzymes that initiate muscle repair and recovery. Taking antioxidants before your workout can thus limit muscle recovery and performance adaptations. You can read more about antioxidants and performance in my blog post here. Does Taking Antioxidants During Your Workout Improve Exercise Recovery?

Supplement Claims:

  • Minimize free-radical damage to skeletal muscle
  • Reduce muscle fatigue and soreness

Clinical Studies:

  • Only small numbers of studies on sports performance
  • Findings do not show associated improved performance
  • Supplementation appears to hinder body’s physiological and exercise-induced adaptations (3)
  • Vitamin E: Several studies have shown supplementation is detrimental to health and may increase oxidative stress (2)

Summary:

  • Taking antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C before a workout may limit the body’s ability to initiate muscle repair and recovery
  • Most individuals get enough vitamin E and vitamin C from a balanced diet and don’t require supplementation
  • High dose vitamin E supplements should only be consumed if recommended by a qualified healthcare professional to treat a deficiency or other health-related issue

 

2. Citrulline

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. It enlarges blood vessels to increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the muscles. Athletes that take citrulline supplements hope to enhance exercise performance from citrulline’s effects on the cardiovascular system that enhance blood flow. The body can make its own citrulline, and it can be found in some common foods including watermelon, pumpkin, and cucumbers.

Supplement Claims:

  • Supports production of protein
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Supports the immune system
  • Assists body with muscle building

Clinical Studies:

  • Clinical trials show conflicting results:
    • A 2010 study in 41 men doing barbell bench presses showed a single dose of citrulline resulted in a 59% increase in number of repetitions performed and a 40% decrease in muscle soreness after exercise. The researchers concluded that citrulline may be useful to increase athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to help with post-exercise muscle soreness. (4)
    • A study in 2017 in older adults showed that citrulline demonstrated a modest increase in blood flow during submaximal exercise in men but not women. (4)

Summary:

  • Only a couple of studies that show enhanced sports performance
  • Conflicting results with men vs. women in submaximal exercise
  • Not enough evidence to show that supplementation is beneficial

 

3. Beta-alanine

Athletes take beta-alanine supplements to delay the onset of muscle fatigue and enhance performance. However, most people can get enough beta-alanine from the diet by eating meat, poultry, and fish. Vegetarians may have less beta-alanine in their bodies(5)

Supplement Claims:

  • Supports muscle endurance
  • Supports muscle output
  • Benefits athletic performance
  • Enhances high-intensity exercise

Clinical Studies:

  • Inconsistent data from studies that examined if consumption increases performance in sports that require bursts of high intensity (i.e., team sports).
  • Little to no performance benefit in activities lasting more than 10 minutes
  • May help with high-intensity and short-duration exercise lasting one to several minutes

Side effects:

  • Some people report tingling in the face, neck, and hands
  • Itchy skin

Summary:

  • Doses up to 6.4g/day appear to be safe
  • Benefit questionable regarding increasing performance in events requiring high-intensity effort over a short period of time
  • Little to no benefit in increasing performance in events lasting more than 10 minutes

 

4. DHEA

DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. It is a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands. The body converts DHEA into other hormones, testosterone, and estradiol. DHEA production in the body declines rapidly after early adulthood. (2). For this reason, DHEA supplements are often referred to as a “fountain of youth.” DHEA in supplements is made from a substance found in soy and wild yams. However, the National Institute of Health issued a warning about DHEA that the body cannot convert the substance from wild yams to DHEA on its own. Athletes that take DHEA hope to improve muscle strength and enhance energy levels and athletic performance.

Supplement Claims: 

  • Helps immune cell function
  • Supports a healthy lean muscle mass to fat ratio (testosterone increases muscle mass by increasing protein synthesis and reducing fat mass)
  • Provides higher energy levels (fatigue is a common effect of low testosterone and estrogen.)
  • Supports bone and joint strength. (low levels of DHEA have been found in some people with osteoporosis.)

Clinical Studies:

  • Some studies show a short-term rise in testosterone concentrations however this short-term rise does not affect muscle size, strength, or power. (2)
  • Studies with older adults also confirmed that there is no evidence that DHEA increase strength in this population. (2)

 

Summary: 

  • Unknown safety profile
  • Not effective as a performance enhancer
  • No evidence of increase in lean body mass
  • No evidence of increase in testosterone levels in men
  • Should only be used under supervision of qualified health-care professional
  • Use is banned by many sports organizations

 

5. Glutamine

Glutamine provides nitrogen for the body in many biochemical reactions. The body uses glutamine in metabolism and energy production. Glutamine is stored in muscles and released into the bloodstream during times of intense physical exercise. Athletes take glutamine supplements to try and prevent muscle breakdown and improve immune function. In general, however, the body stores enough glutamine to protect against deficiencies during endurance exercise. (4).

Supplement Claims:

  • Aids in muscle repair
  • Promotes cellular energy
  • Supports immune function (the immune system uses glutamine during times of stress and intense prolonged exercise)

Clinical Studies:

  • Only a few studies examining the enhancement of athletic performance
  • Studies show no effect on muscle performance in weight lifters
  • No effects on body composition
  • May help with recovery of muscle strength or reducing muscle soreness

Summary:

  • The body can normally supply enough glutamine to protect against deficiencies
  • More studies are needed to determine effects on sports performance
  • Not effective as an immune enhancer
  • May help with recovery of muscle strength or reducing muscle soreness

Summary

In summary, although I routinely recommend some supplements for certain clients, there are many supplements that I do not recommend.  The FDA does not regulate supplements so many products do not have clinical evidence of safety or effectiveness. When choosing a supplement, check for a third party seal on the bottle such as Informed Choice or USP.

Two proven ways to increase sports performance are with optimal nutrition and hydration. A sports dietitian can help develop a personalized nutrition and hydration plan for you that supports performance, recovery, and good health. If you feel like you need some direction in taking your health or performance to the next level, leave a message on the contact page!

 

References

  1. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2015, December). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26920240/
  2. Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2019). Chapter 10 Dietary Supplements and Ergogenic Aids. In Nutrition for sport and exercise (pp. 365-366). Boston, MA: Cengage.
  3. Office of Dietary Supplements – Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance
  4. Leal, D. (2020, July 13). Do Pre-Workout Supplements Improve Your Strength and Performance? Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.verywellfit.com/can-a-pre-workout-product-improve-physical-fitness-4154378
  5. Semeco, A. (2018, December 07). Beta-Alanine-A Beginner’s Guide. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/beta-alanine-101
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, November 13). Vitamin E. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-e/art-20364144
  7. Contraindications for Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) Oral. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-322/ascorbic-acid-vitamin-c-oral/details/list-contraindications
  8. Vitamin E: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-954/vitamin-e

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How to Spot a Fad Diet

how to spot a fad diet

With a new year fast approaching it may be tempting to make a weight loss plan based on a fad diet that you read about or heard about from a friend. There are plenty to choose from! Diets including keto, paleo, the Zone, Atkins, the Dubrow diet, the Anti-Inflammatory diet, and many more are commonly talked about in our culture.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC), conducts a yearly study on consumer beliefs and behaviors about nutrition. This year, they reported an increased number of people (43% in 2020, vs. 38 % in 2019), who are following a specific diet or eating plan. The report clarifies that while some of these eating plans have evidence-based information that they work long-term, many of these plans fall into the category of fad diets. You can view the report here.

What are the Most Popular Diets of 2020?

According to the report, the most popular diets or food consumption patterns of those surveyed in 2020 are listed below. (Note: all four of these diets fall into the category of fad diets).

  1. Intermittent Fasting (10%)
  2. Clean Eating (9%)
  3. Ketogenic or High Fat (8%)
  4. Low Carb (7%)

The survey also reported the most popular reasons for following a fad diet or new food consumption pattern. They are listed below:

  • Losing weight (47%)
  • Feeling better and having more energy (40%)
  • Improving physical appearance (39%)
  • Protecting long-term health and preventing future health concerns (37%)
  • Preventing weight gain (36%)

 

How Can You Spot A Fad Diet?

How can you tell if you a dietary pattern is a fad diet? A fad diet is a diet that is popular for a certain amount of time but is not based on standard nutrition guidelines. Fad diets gain often gain popularity due to celebrity testimonials in books, magazines, television, and social media. Some common characteristics found in fad diets are [1]:

  1. Certain foods or food groups are eliminated
  2. Some foods or food groups are eaten excessively (i.e. the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet)
  3. Strict rules control the timing of eating
  4. Rapid weight loss is common
  5. Exercise is not emphasized

 

Why do Fad Diets Stop Working?

Often, fad diets are not sustainable in the long-term for several reasons:

  • Eating a limited number of foods can become boring or repetitive
  • Severely limiting food choice can omit many nutrients our body needs to function properly
  • Strict rules that control the timing of eating can be disruptive to family meals and social gatherings
  • Restricting eating for long periods of time can lead to excessive hunger and or binge eating

 

What is the Difference Between a Fad Diet and a Lifestyle Diet?

A lifestyle diet is one that incorporates a person’s unique food preferences, lifestyle, health history and goals.

Some examples of lifestyle diets that have shown to be effective are [1]:

  • The DASH diet
  • The Mediterranean diet
  • The Mayo Clinic diet
  • Weight Watchers

 

What do Lifestyle Diets Involve?

Unlike fad diets, lifestyle diets include:

lifestyle diet examples

  • An emphasis on making permanent behavioral changes regarding food
  • Flexibility in food choices
  • A balanced approach that accounts for your unique health conditions
  • An emphasis on high-quality foods that provide essential nutrients our body needs
  • A plan that incorporates physical activity

Losing weight following certain eating patterns is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you feel motivated to try a certain diet or eating plan check with your physician or registered dietitian (RD or RDN) before you start.

 

How is Working with a Registered Dietitian Different?

healthy eating tips

A registered dietitian becomes your partner in health and wellness to help you do the following:

  • Account for your food preferences in a personalized plan for eating
  • Discover behavioral modification techniques that help you deal with obstacles and barriers to reaching your health goals
  • Ensure that you have a balanced eating approach that provides your body with all the nutrients it needs to function properly
  • Monitor your plan and adjust if needed to reach your goals
  • Work with your other health care providers to tailor your plan to any health conditions you may have

 

 

Weight Management Techniques that Actually Work:

  • Aiming for a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss of about 1-2 pounds per week
  • Self-monitoring meals with a food diary
  • Incorporating regular physical activity
  • Revising health goals when necessary
  • Being accountable (A recent study from Drexel University emphasizes the importance of working with someone to help you be accountable for your health goals)

 

As a registered dietitian, I frequently have clients, friends, and family come to me asking about different dietary trends and whether they should follow them.  As with many things, the key comes down to the motivation behind wanting to change dietary habits and whether you are looking to follow something because everyone else is talking about it or because you are making an informed decision that eating this way will help to alleviate persistent problems you are experiencing.

It is helpful to see if you can categorize a diet as a fad diet or a lifestyle diet. A fad diet is often a diet that restricts food intake in some way or is only meant to be followed for a short period of time for fast results. A lifestyle diet often does not restrict food intake drastically and therefore is more realistic for someone to follow for a lifetime.

 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that honestly, most people are never going to have to follow a specific diet to have a healthy, nutritious food intake. If you like certain aspects of a diet or enjoy making paleo or keto recipes sometimes, then great! Then you can incorporate bits and pieces and create a unique dietary style that is all your own. Changing dietary habits should always be more about what to include most often in our diet and which foods to have less often or in smaller portions for our own health and wellness goals.

Have questions about how to reach your health and fitness goals? Aren’t sure how to start making dietary changes? Reach out to Nikky via e-mail or leave a comment on the contact page!

 

References:

  1. Wolfram, R. (2018, March 18). Staying Away from Fad Diets. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/staying-away-from-fad-diets
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 06). Weight loss: Choosing a diet that’s right for you. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20048466

 

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