Thursday, July 24, 2014

Ultimate Nutrition Facts for Athletes

Keys to Ultimate Frisbee Nutrition

with Nutrition Expert, Ultimate Frisbee Player & Author Allison Tannis BSc MSc RHN 

Pushing through, ignoring the wall and digging deep are important to success as an athlete. But, getting your body to perform at its best starts with fueling it, and keeping it fueled. Here is some information about sports nutrition that can be used by any athlete (including my Ultimate Frisbee teammates to whom I promised I'd write a bit about this topic on my blog) to get the most out of their body. Research is this area is varied and ever changing - please accept the information below is only an overview and take away what you what.

Note: The most important thing to do as an athlete is to listen to your body. Give your body what it needs when you’re off the field: cool it off, drink water, eat. If you don’t, you’ll be trying to play with a body that biologically cannot perform at its best.

1)  Hydration:

Try not to be dehydrated starting exercise – in other words, focus on drinking water the days prior to competition. While exercising, drink more water than your "thirst" asks for. Being thirsty is a signal that you are already dehydrated and your performance is suffering. Try drinking small amounts of water frequently to avoid digestive distress.

Drink something you like the taste of – that way you are more likely to drink lots of it. How much do you need to drink? The best way to determine if you’re rehydrating correctly is to weigh yourself before, and then after exercise. You do not want to lose more than 2% of your body weight or you haven’t drunk enough to stay sufficiently hydrated to be at your best. You can also check urine colour - light yellow is ideal.

If exercising for >1 hour, your body requires electrolyte replenishment. If exercising for 2+ hours, your body requires carbohydrate replenishment. 

2) Fuel:

The primary fuel used by the body during an Ultimate Frisbee game is carbohydrate (your body could use fat as a fuel source, but once your working over 60-70% of your VO2Max, which is about your aerobic threshold, you only burn carbohydrates). The main source of carbohydrate fuel in the body is glycogen cells found in muscles. Even if you “carb-load” before an event you’ll only have about 90 minutes worth of glycogen to fuel you. In other words, you’ll probably be running on fumes by the end of your first game. Including carbohydrates in your nutrition plan for Ultimate Frisbee games and tournaments is important. Here are some facts about two popular sources of carbohydrates for endurance athletes:

a) Sports Drinks 

Sports drinks that include sugar can be tough to digest (some people complain of stomach discomfort). As your body runs harder and longer, blood is pulled away from the digestive tract to focus on supporting the muscles. As such, some people will simply have a slow stomach digestion, meanwhile others may find their stomach almost stops working altogether which causes discomfort when trying to consume sugar/food. Nuun and other electrolyte replacements may be easier on your stomach. If you tolerate sports drinks well, it appears Gatorade has a preferable carbohydrate make-up for absorption of the sports drinks available on conventional store shelves. 

b) Gels  

Gels offer a quick sugar source for your blood stream that can ‘wake-up’ your brain. During exercise, blood sugar is sent to the muscles to sustain them, lowering the amount of sugar available to the brain – this explains that tired or foggy feeling some experience when they exercise for long periods or without properly eating beforehand.

Everyone absorbs carbohydrate differently so it may take anywhere from 3 minutes to 15 minutes for you to ‘feel’ a gel. Gels will not necessarily re-store your glycogen stores at a one-to-one ratio. Gels can also be hard to absorb if your stomach has slowed. If so, try using just a quarter of a gel pack about 20 minutes apart. Always drink water when taking a gel pack. As for when to take a gel pack, some suggest taking them 45-60 minutes into extended exercise for better absorption and stomach acceptance, and avoid taking them towards the end of your intense exercise.

3)  Recovery:

Within 20 minutes after exercise protein and carbohydrates must be eaten for proper recovery. Between games be sure to eat, but keep the amount small if you find your digestion is slower post intense exercise. After a day of ultimate, include protein in your meal to help muscle repair, and sufficient carbohydrates to restore glycogen stores. According to one research study, eating a small amount of protein before bed may enhance muscle repair during sleep.

Table 1: Amount of Carb & Protein for Recovery for Middle-Long Distance Event

Body Weight
120 lb
75 g
150 lb
100 g
200 lb
135 g

Food Examples of 30 g of Carbohydrates:

½ bagel
1 cup chocolate milk
2 cups sports drinks
1 banana
2/3 sports bar

Food Examples of 25g of Protein:

3 eggs
2 cups plain yogurt
1 cup greek yogurt
3 cups chocolate milk
3 oz. (size of a deck of cards) chicken, fish, beef
1 ¼ cup tofu
30 g whey protein

4) It’s Not Just About Bread & Meat:

There is much more to sports nutrition than water, protein and carbohydrates. Vitamins are needed for energy production (particularly B vitamins). Antioxidants (found in bright coloured fresh foods) are needed to reduce damage and inflammation. Fish oil is needed to minimize inflammation. All in all, the best foods for athletes are the best foods for everyone – fresh, colourful whole foods with some complex carbohydrates and quality protein. Some sports drinks/gels/bars include some of these other important nutrients. Some athletes find multivitamins also helpful. If you choose to use a multivitamin during tournaments, be sure to use one with divided daily dosages (e.g. 3 a day) so you can take small amounts throughout the day. Why? Some vitamins are water soluble and can’t be stored in the body for later use (hence urine colour darkens after taking a multivitamin).

5) Staying Cool in Hot Weather

In hot weather, staying cool will enhance performance. Here are some ways that are easily done on an ultimate field: put ice cubes in your drinks to keep it cool, if well tolerated by your gut drink icy/slushy drinks, place cold wet towels on neck/back on points off).


No matter what you do, do NOT drastically change your nutritional plan on “race-day”. Try it out before hand.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Best Foods to Eat In The Summer

 1. Toast the Day

Drinking plenty of water when it’s warm outside is an easy way to keep you feeling your best. Dehydration happens quickly in the summer, and even faster when you’re being physically active. According to research published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine, being even just a little dehydrated affects your ability to physically perform. Stay hydrated. You can start by toasting the morning with a glass of water. Then, toast your friends with something more sexy like crushed pineapple in ice water, or cucumbers in water that's been cooled in the fridge. Yum!

2. Savor Your Skin

Glorious sunshine-filled summer days expose your skin to harmful ultraviolet rays. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants can help protect your skin. According to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, when researchers compared the diets of some people in Greece, Sweden and Australia they found those that ate more vegetables and olive oil had fewer wrinkles. Eat lots of delicious seasonal foods like leafy greens and vegetables (and supplement if you fall short) to support your sun-drenched skin this summer.

3. Minerals on the Menu

The radiant heat of summer brings with it sleeveless fashions, sockless footwear and sweat. Sweat is a combination of water and electrolytes meant to cool the body. When you sweat, don’t forget to recharge: seek out foods rich in minerals (peas, green vegetables, bananas), use multivitamins or try smoothie mixes that include vegetables.

4. Cool Off

Yuck! Sweaty! As the thermometer rises our bodies cool off by increasing blood flow to the skin, and sweating. As it gets even hotter, people experience irritability, fatigue and reduced physical performance. Find a seat in the shade, get a cold drink, and cool off. Better yet, jump in the sprinkler or lake! Go on, jump in and live young - it's fun and research studies have found that with age the body is less efficient at recognizing and adjusting to heat.


Sawka MN et al. Hydration effects on temperature regulation. Int J Sports Med. 1998 Jun;19 Suppl 2:S108-10.
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.  Hot Environments – Health Effects. 2008.
Purba MB et al. Skin wrinkling: can food make a difference? J Am Coll Nutr 2001 Feb;20(1):71-80.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Best Superfoods

Superfoods: Superheroes of Health

There are dozens of superfoods - each with superpowers to help battle whatever health-stealing villain is ailing you. Discover superfoods - these delicious tasting cape-crusaders are just waiting for you to bite into them so they can start helping you live healthier.

What is a Superfood?

The term ‘superfood’ has become a kitchen table term - linked to foods like green leafy vegetables, blueberries, hemp and goji.  But, what is a superfood - does it fight crime in a caped costume? Superfoods lack an official definition; however, it is generally accepted that a superfood is a food with high phytonutrient content that is thought to offer health benefits.

Photograph by Jillian Kennedy

Top 12 Superfoods You'll Actually Want to Eat:

  • Almonds
  • Aloe Vera
  • Beets
  • Chia
  • Coconut Oil
  • Goji
  • Greens
  • Hemp
  • Raspberries
  • Salmon
  • Tumeric
  • Yogurt

 Here's a little more to chew on about some of these superfoods:

Aloe Vera

This common houseplant is worthy of a hero’s homecoming.  Topically, aloe vera is well known as a soothing ointment for sunburns. Orally, aloe vera has gut-busting superpowers – it fights constipation. Shazam!


According to a study published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating foods rich in anthocyanins (that dark ruby colour of beets) prevent blood vessel damage. Plus, beets are a great source of energizing B vitamins. As for those beet greens – think twice before tossing them in the compost as they contain a power-punch of energizing, health-promoting nutrients.


Chia seeds are packed with nutrients like protein and antioxidants - yet, they are best known for their omega-3 fatty acid content. Omega-3 fatty acids are super powered nutrients with anti-inflammatory effects, and the ability to promote health in the brain, heart, joints and digestive tract – Great Scott! Other superfoods that contain omega-3 fatty acids include salmon, sardines and flax seed.


Red tights and capes are the trademark of superheros – as such, these little red berries are dressed appropriately.  Goji berries contain cholesterol lowering phytosterols and, very high amounts of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals that cause damage and aging. But, thanks to antioxidant rich superfoods like goji, acai, pomegranates, green tea and blueberries – it’s clobbering time!


Popularly referred to as ‘greens’, leafy green vegetables have an extensive offering of nutrients that support health and boost energy. From enzymes to antioxidants, greens offer a power-packed punch of nutrients – just ask Popeye. From spinach, to wheat grass, to complex greens formulas, greens come in many forms - you won’t need a “bat-phone” to find one of these superheroes.


All berries are superfoods – packed with high amounts of antioxidants and essential vitamins. Yet, raspberries seem to have remained outside the spotlight – like a masked superhero happy to stay anonymous. Raspberries are a good source of vitamin C and manganese, plus host to powerful antioxidants including ellagic acid and anthocyanins.


A common ingredient in curries, tumeric is rich in antioxidants and has proven to have anti-inflammatory effects. The German Commission E recommends turmeric for digestive complaints.


Yogurt contains hundreds of helpful microbes, called probiotics. Probiotics fight inflammation and promote digestive health. It’s a team of superheroes on your spoon – cowabunga! Plus, yogurt is a delicious source of calcium, protein and B vitamins.


Aloe Vera –
German Commission E Monograph – Approved Herb, Aloe

European Medicines Agency – Aloe Vera Monograph

Beets – Jennings, A. et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. Am J Clin Nutr 2012 Oct;96(4):781-8.

Chia –Natural Comprehensive Medicines Database Monograph for Chia.

Importance of n-3 fatty acids in health and disease. Am J Clin Nutr; Jan 2000, 71(1):1715-1755.

Coconut Oil - DebMandel, M. and S. Mandal. Coconut (Cocos nucifera L. Arecaceae): In health promotion and disease prevention. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine 2011;4(3):241-247.

Goji – Natural Comprehensive Medicines Database Monograph for Lycium.

Yogurt – Tannis, A. Probiotic Rescue. John Wiley & Sons 2008.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Having trouble staying motivated & focused at work?

Yawn. Stretch. Day dream. Surf the web. Check facebook. Read a blog.

Are you having trouble staying focused? Trouble getting motivated? Sometimes it's hard to stay motivated to get that to-do list done at in summer when the warm rays of sunlight sprinkle through the leaves of the tree outside beckoning you to ditch the office chair and frolic in the grass.

Here's an idea: get outside! Yes, go and frolic in the grass. In fact, according to a study reported in the British Journal of Sports Medicine taking a walk in nature is fantastic for you! Using three walking environments in Edinburgh (commercial district, busy shopping area, green space) the researchers found that walking in green space resulted in lower frustration and higher meditation. In addition, when people left the green space they experienced higher engagement...yes, in other words feeling more motivated to get things done!

So, get motivated and stay focused at work by leaving work and taking a walk in nature.

Want to read the study:
British Journal of Sports Nutrition (2013 Mar 6)