I mentioned from the outset of writing these articles for #MrHealthyMondays that frequently, topics come from readers who inquire about certain things. Thank you Evan for bringing something up that is both the source of frustration and opportunity for me.
Allow me to set the stage first. I have given hundreds of health consultations to groups of athletes and one on one over the last few years. My clients have ranged from truly sick people to people whose diets and supplementation routines I am envious of. I’ve worked with athletes and people furthest from. A large portion of those I consult with have already worked with doctors, registered dietitians, and certified nutritionists.
I do my best not to talk negatively about anyone individually. I believe that we are all trying our best with good intentions (myself included!) and therefore very few deserve any kind of direct negativity or confrontation. I will say this though: In my experience, a title doesn’t mean someone is an expert.
I caught my grandma’s doctor telling her to take calcium supplements that would increase her risk of a heart attack (she has a partially clogged valve). People come to me with an inflammatory condition like arthritis and their nutritionist is having them eat yogurt, cheese and other dairy (dairy is inflammatory which would aggravate the condition). Athletes are given non-specific, incorrect advice all the time on what is best for them.
Know the old phrase, “never trust a skinny chef?” How bout a newer version like, “never trust an overweight cardiologist.” In my case, I am my own guinea pig and therefore living this experiment.
Here’s my perspective on a few common pieces of advice to athletes.
Eat 4-6 meals per day.
If you’re a high level athlete that practices and is in the weight room each day, sure you’re burning quite a few calories. The old adage of “calories in, calories out” is just simply not true. I could eat 10,000 calories today. Doesn’t mean I wake up 2 pounds heavier. That also doesn’t mean my metabolism temporarily spiked to burn it all off that same day. We just don’t digest everything we eat.
One of the reasons we don’t digest everything we eat is because we aren’t eating the right foods at the right times. Go back to read my articles on digestive enzymes if you didn’t. If you’re eating a huge meal of cooked foods before practice or the weight room, digestion is compromised anyway. If your body has to then do an about face and focus on having enough energy to get through that workout, likely some of that food is simply not being digested, and therefore, not utilized.
Eat as many raw foods as you can. Fats are great sources of calories, and can be converted into sugar for sustained energy and endurance. Fats from fried foods are much different than fats from raw coconut oil, avocados, nuts and seeds. Choose your fats wisely and for an extra edge over your competition, pick up some l-carnosine. It’s an amino acid which can stimulate the process of converting fat to sugar to be burned as energy. Eating quality over quantity has yielded excellent results in the last few years of my career. Our bodies are adaptive machines. Yours will adapt to what you give it and perform accordingly.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
No, it’s not. 2 of the most important necessities for sleep are repair and detox. Our bodies are busy repairing damage done to them throughout the day, and trying to get rid of metabolic waste and other toxins while we sleep. When you wake up in the morning, the most important thing you can do is help to flush it out.
Our kidneys, liver and bladder are storing the unwanted when we wake up. Naturally, we all pee in the morning (unless you’re very dehydrated). One of the best things you can do for your body early in the day is drink a couple glasses of pure water to help flush the rest out. Having coffee or tea first thing can dehydrate you, which is counterproductive.
I’ve said it many times and will continue to say it; A dehydrated cell is not able to take in as many nutrients and expel metabolic waste as is optimal. Eating first thing dehydrates you (because of the fluids needed for digestion) and it turns off the detox process that your body spent all night trying to accomplish.
Breakfast is usually the worst meal of the day because it rarely contains the best foods, right? Breads, cereal, processed sugars, oils, dairy, etc
Try having some super greens in the morning consistently, green smoothies, or fresh juiced fruits and vegetables. Try that and see how much better you feel than with “regular ol’ breakfast.” Maybe skipping breakfast if you’re eating a traditional/standard diet will result in sluggishness, but since when as athletes are we ever aspiring to be the status quo?
Eat right after you workout.
If you read my last article about muscle building, or my previous one about endurance training then you’ll understand my point that hydration and relaxation to let your growth hormones do their thing are the most important parts to recovery.
If you eat or pound a protein shake right after you work out, you are not maximizing your body’s ability to recover and repair. I recommend waiting 30-45 minutes before ingesting any significant source of calories. Your pre-workout meal if it was complete will be providing your cells with the nutrients they need directly following your workout.
For fastest and most optimal recovery (after my rehydration and rest for 30-45 min) I like to make a liquid smoothie. Eating food will take longer to digest, so I prefer the first nutrients to be in liquid form for quicker digestion and assimilation. I like to take some digestive enzymes with my shake to speed the process along even faster. Having a high epa fish oil and anti-inflammatory addition like turmeric extract will help to speed the repair process by reducing excess inflammation.
Before game day I like to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible to get alkalinity, minerals and antioxidants into my body. On game day, I like to get some good fats and proteins in well before game time so that they are available for sustained energy. If you get hyped up with an energy drink, consider using one that has quality vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to slow down the dehydration process from the caffeine.
Russ Marchewka’s commitment to better nutrition has earned him the nickname “Mr. Healthy” on the tour. He has spent the last eight years studying how nutrition affects his volleyball game. For more, visit his website, WorldHealthHub.com or connect with him on Facebook, www.Facebook.com/avpruss.
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