Like many fitness enthusiasts, athletes and weekend warriors, I struggle to balance proper nutrition, good eating habits and maintaining my energy levels for my weekly workouts in the gym, at yoga class and on training runs (and swims) during the winter. So I was excited to attend Dr. Jeff Donatello‘s presentation on “the Nutritionally Deficient Athlete” at Gus’ Bike Shop in Hampton, NH this week in hopes of picking up some nutrition tips to help me boost my energy levels and fitness endurance.
Jeff is a chiropractor and Certified Nutrition Specialist based in York, ME who works with endurance athletes and athletes of all abilities and ages to help them maximize their energy, endurance and overall health and well-being. Jeff also is co-founder of The Pumpkinman Triathlon Festival (my favorite endurance race/triathlon) with his wife Kat – and both are accomplished triathletes, (and the new hosts of the 2013 Aggieman Triathlon). Jeff’s talk at Gus’ Bike Shop, much of it based on his soon-to-be-published book Metabolic Mastery, focused on two main areas: 1) Proper Nutrition and 2) Metabolic Blocks for athletes (of all ages and abilities).
The presentation was extremely informative while reinforcing some basic nutritional and lifestyle tips all athletes can put into practice right away. (Actually I changed my food shopping list for the week after hearing Jeff’s talk). Some of the key takeaways from Jeff’s presentation that I found particularly helpful and informative were:
Proper Nutrition – Tips
- Start a green smoothie morning regimen and drink it within 30 min. of waking up every day. For ingredients, go with almond or coconut milk with water, ice, protein powder, and a 3:1 veggie to fruit ratio (either fresh or frozen). Jeff suggested bok choy, spinach or kale for the “go to” smoothie greens. All are packed with vitamins. Guess it’s time to go blender shopping!
- For a morning/breakfast protein source, Jeff suggested pea protein or nuts/nut butters (in the smoothie) and to avoid whey protein & grains.
- Athletes should also watch their intake of soy and/or dairy products and if possible, determine/manage their own dietary tolerance for each.
- Athletes should throw out the old and adopt the new “Food Pyramid” (see below) which focuses on eating more vegetables, supplemented by nuts and oils and lots of water, while limiting dairy intake. [*note - this new pyramid is based somewhat on the Paleo Diet]
Metabolic Blocks – Tips
- Live Fast & EAT SLOW! Yes, eat your food slow and enjoy it. (This has always been a challenge for me since I am so type A, and on the go!)
- Our ENERGY comes from blood glucose (sugar) and free fatty acids in the body. So, to increase energy and endurance levels, athletes of all abilities need to access energy from the free fatty acids and NOT rely only on sugars in the blood since they get depleted quickly, and can lead to “bonking” out during races or workouts. (I’ve been there). Sugars, like gels and jelly beans give you an energy burst but it fades quickly.
- Sleep in complete and total darkness each night, and do not use an alarm clock. Try to go bed by 11pm.
- To help with peaceful REM sleep (and good dreams), think about the best thing that happened to you that day, right before you go to sleep.
Everyone athlete’s metabolism and nutritional needs and “issues” vary widely. Everyone is different after all. For me, my sleep pattern and schedule is not an issue, but getting enough sustained energy from my diet, for intense workouts or runs, is a constant challenge. So, I plan to put many of Jeff’s nutrition and metabolic tips into practice to help me boost my energy and endurance as I continue my fitness regimen and start training for my first half marathon in April. I am eager to see how changes to my nutrition habits (and meals) can enhance my overall health, fitness and energy levels this winter during workouts, training sessions and winter road races. So, I guess it’s smoothie time. I’m going for the green!
For more details on mastering your metabolism, feel free to contact Dr. Jeff Donatello in York. Here’s a link to his Facebook page. Stay tuned for his new book coming soon…
And just in case you are looking for some more nutritional and healthy eating advice from the pros, Fitness Magazine just put out 13 Ways to East Healthier in 2013. Here’s the FitStop list compiled by Karla Walsh. Jeff Donatello extolled the use of greens in morning smoothies and so does sports nutritionist Heidi Skolnik, who Walsh interviewed for the article. I guess we should ALL HAIL KALE in 2013 since according to Skolnik “….greens have been, and always will be, a healthy choice. Kale, of course, is one of my favorites right now!”
Green really does mean GO when it comes to proper fitness nutrition, and for athletes more greens = more GO! Now, I just hope my blender delivers the healthy energy and endurance boost I need this winter. The Dr. knows best!
BONUS RECIPE TIP: Well, it seems like everyone’s “going green” with breakfast smoothies these days. Here’s an awesome green smoothie recipe to start your day off right, courtesy of Seacoast Outdoor Fitness with AJ:
1 and 1/2 cups of water
1 frozen or ripe banana
handful of blueberries (frozen or fresh)
1 cup of uncooked spinach
1 small apple
3 celery stalks
ice, if needed
*Add in your favorite fruits, greens and stick to just water for liquid when it comes time to green smoothies.
Cheers to your health and fitness!