Friday, April 18, 2014

Choosing a Better Lunch


Our approach to nutrition at Sparta is very simple.  It is all about giving your body the nutrients that it needs to perform and recover.  Rather than getting bogged down in macronutrient breakdowns and individualized meal plans, we educate our athletes on how to make good choices for themselves.  These choices should always be focused around protein, vegetables, and hydration. By using this simple approach we can increase consistency, which is the most important factor in any nutrition strategy.

Hitting Your Goals – The Problem With Sandwiches

When are athletes are struggling to hit their goals for protein and veggies, the first thing we do is talk through their typical day and look for areas where we can make improvements. One of the common trends that we find is a lack of quality protein and veggies with the lunchtime meal. Many athletes pack a sandwich for lunch or stop by Subway to grab something quick. The common thought is that this is a healthy choice since it is better than stopping to grab a fast food burger and fries.
When it comes to educating our athletes, we use the positive approach of emphasizing their needs as opposed to telling them what not to eat.  If the goal is to eat enough good things, there will not be any room for the bad.
  • 1 gram Protein for every pound of bodyweight
  • 8 servings of vegetables (fist sized serving)
  • .5 oz water for every pound of bodyweight
So, when we look at sandwiches in terms of hitting our protein and veggie goals we realize that they are not a great choice. Sandwiches limit the amount protein and veggies that you can fit into your meal, plus the bread fills you up without providing any positive nutritional value.

The Salad Solution

Most people think of a salad as a light meal that will not fill them up, but that does not have to be the case. Salads are actually a much better choice than sandwiches because you can load them down with a ton of protein and veggies. The only limit is the size of your bowl…

How to Make the Ultimate Salad

  • Start with a base of spinach or mixed greens
  • Add additional veggies – peppers, carrots, celery, chopped broccoli, tomatoes, cucumber, etc.
  • Load with protein – chicken, turkey, beef, pork, etc (leftovers from the night before work great)
  • Top it off with olive oil, vinegar, seasoning, avocado
Simplicity and consistency are the foundation for good nutrition, but preparation is the difference maker for those for achieve their goals and those who do not. Rethink your sandwich, and plan ahead for success.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vegetable powders

I’ve searched the site, but I didn’t see anything regarding vegetable powders. I work offshore, and the supply of fresh vegetables can be slim. Is there a vegetable powder that you would recommend taking? Are there negative side effects to taking these?

Vegetable powders are a serviceable hold over for situations where fresh produce is scarce.
There is some nutrient loss during dehydration, usually among the vitamins. Minerals and polyphenols are fairly stable, the latter less so if high heat is used (since they’re often there to protect the plant from oxidative insults, like heat). But even slightly-degraded vegetable-based micronutrition is superior to none of it.
They do help people who need the extra dose of micronutrients, though:
Obese people and heavy smokers tend to be under a lot of oxidative stress, so they have a greater need for plant micronutrients, particularly the phytonutrients which often act as antioxidants that counter the stress (or boost our own antioxidant defenses). You’re neither obese nor a heavy smoker (to my knowledge), but you are deprived of plant nutrients.
There are dozens of options out there. I don’t know enough about individual products to elevate any single product over the others. Sure, there may be some proprietary methods that “preserve the maximum antioxidant capacity,” but I suspect they’re all pretty good, as most of the ones I’ve seen use relatively low heat to dehydrate the veggies.
I’ve heard good things about the Amazing Grass line of powders. They include herbs, probiotics, and prebiotics along with the fruits and vegetables.
This looks cool, too: vegetable powders that you buy individually and mix yourself. Want a couple ounces of dried beets? You got it! How about leek flakes? They can do that.
I can’t think of any negative side effects, beyond a false sense of security. When a company claims that a single scoop of their product equals 10 servings of vegetables, but a quick review of the nutrition facts fails to show vitamin, fiber, and mineral levels that even approach 10 servings’ worth, the claim is false and you shouldn’t assume that you’ve just eaten an entire head of broccoli (or whatever vegetable is advertised). These powders are a holdover (when you can’t get any real stuff) or a supplement (when you want to add more to your regular diet). They aren’t magic.
Definitely consider vegetable powders if that’s your only option.

Read more:

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Coffee probably doesn't dehydrate you, after all


We've all heard the warning: Even though coffee is at least 98.5 percent water, that cup of joe you're drinking is a diuretic that will dehydrate you if you don't chase it down with a cup of H20. Well, good news, javaheads — and dedicated tea drinkers, too: Unless you're mainlining the caffeine, coffee and tea are probably about as hydrating for you as an equal amount of water, according to Claudia Hammond at the BBC's Medical Myths blog.
Most of the research underpinning the coffee-as-diuretic idea focuses on the role caffeine plays, and "one of the most frequently mentioned studies was conducted way back in 1928 with a sample of just three people," says Hammond. Here's her theory on why people have believed in diuretic effect for so long:
Although we might notice needing the loo more when we've been drinking coffee, the mistake is basing our observations on a comparison with the time we've drunk nothing, not with a similar amount of water. If you chose a glass of water instead of a cup of tea, you'd probably see the same effect. [BBC]
That doesn't mean you should necessarily drink eight cups of coffee a day (any more than you need to drink eight cups of water), but you probably shouldn't fret too much about that daily pot of coffee dehydrating you, either. --Peter Weber

Monday, April 14, 2014

Are These 3 ‘Limiting Factors’ Keeping You Sick?

by Jordan Reasoner

1) Are hormones your limiting factor?
When we start talking about hormones, we’re talking about sex hormones, stress hormones and thyroid hormones.  But the most common limiting factor we see people struggling with is adrenal fatigue.
If you’re someone who has chronic fatigue, you’re tired all the time, you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, you have a severe afternoon crash, or you have inflammation raging out-of-control, those are huge red flags that your limiting factor could be a hormonal problem like adrenal fatigue.
The other thing that’s a big red flag for is if you’re somebody who has to take prednisone when you get flares, but you have a hard time backing off of it, that’s another red flag for adrenal fatigue.
Hormones are extremely important and are needed for every cell to work.  At a high level they play a critical role in controlling inflammation and modulating the immune system.
Most people are having problems with cortisol, which influences over 2,000 epigenetic switches related to your immune system.  What that means is that cortisol plays an absolutely critical role in how well your immune system works.
It’s also the body’s main anti-inflammatory hormone.  So cortisol helps your body keep inflammation under control.
So if you have any of the red flags we just talked about, hormones could be your limiting factor right now.

2) Is sluggish detox or Toxicity your limiting factor?
What is a sluggish liver anyway?
Imagine your liver has 100 jobs per day and it’s only running at 70%… that means 30 jobs each day aren’t getting done and your body is suffering the consequences.
But there could be problems elsewhere the detoxification system encompasses a lot of things: your skin, GALT, your circulatory system, glutathione status, and your liver
There are 3 common ways you detox: poop, pee and sweat.
In today’s environment, there’s been 50,000 to 80,000 new chemicals released since the 1960s, so how do we know if we’re actually detoxifying them correctly?
Here’s some of the most common red flags sluggish detox could be a limiting factor for you:
  • If you are someone who’s been diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity
  • You can’t tolerate supplements that most people can
  • You’re someone who knows that almost everything causes a reaction, like additives in supplements or introducing new foods
  • You struggle with frequent Skin breakouts
  • You have Migraines on a regular basis
  • And chronic constipation
If you have any of the red flags we just talked about, then your detoxification system might be your limiting factor.
3) Are Gut Infections your limiting factor?
If you’re someone who changed your diet and you still have any occasional GI complains, leaky gut, inflammation, brain fog, skin issues or fatigue… then gut infections can be your limiting factor.
There’s two types of infections we commonly see in people that get stuck.
1) Many people struggle with bacterial or parasitic infections.  If you’ve ever done a stool test that’s typically what you’re looking for.
Many of the people we worked with 1-on-1 had parasitic and bacterial infections, sometimes as many as two to three.  The common ones we’ve seen are: H. Pylori, Campylobacter, Pinworms, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Blastocystis Hominis.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Recovery for Runners


Q: What tools do you most recommend to aid in recovery?

A: The most effective ways to recover are sleep and nutrition. In terms of sleep, if one has to use an alarm clock to get up in the morning then sleep is insufficient. The solution is to go to bed earlier. Most of us need around 8 hours each night; some need more. As for nutrition, the first order of business following a workout for most athletes is carbohydrate along with some protein. Beyond the initial recovery period (which may last several hours depending on the preceding workout) the most critical nutritional components are micronutrients - vitamins and minerals. In their order of micronutrient density, the best foods are vegetables, seafood and fruit. Again, sleep and nutrition should always be the first considerations when recovery is needed. Other commonly used passive recovery methods are massage, stretching, floating in water, alternating hot- and cold-water immersion, icing, leg elevation, compression stockings, pneumatic compression devices, and others. The benefits of some of these are not well-established by research, but all of these are commonly used by athletes of all abilities.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Recovery for Runners

Q: How important are recovery days for recreational athletes? Is there a difference in recovery for someone training for her first 5k, and someone training for her first marathon?
A: There are two types of recovery - passive and active. Passive means rest with no physical activity. This is generally best for novices. Taking a day off from exercise will allow the novice's body (and mind) to recover and grow stronger. Working out will almost certainly be too fatiguing for the already tired novice athlete.
Active recovery is often better for the experienced and highly fit athlete. This means doing a short, low-intensity workout. The intensity part is easy. That means zone 1, for example, if using a heart rate monitor or GPS pacing device. A "short" workout may vary greatly between athletes. For someone training 12 hours per week "short" may mean 45 minutes. For another athlete who does about 4 hours weekly "short" is more likely something such as 10 minutes. Experienced athletes also need passive recovery days from time to time, just not as frequently as novices.
If in doubt about what to do - passive or active, 45 minutes or 10 minutes - be conservative. It's always better to err on the side of too little rather than too much when it comes to training.

Friday, April 11, 2014

PAP for Improved Sprint Performance: No Barbell Required


Much of the science regarding PAP includes some sort of weight lifting element. For example, PAP works if you add a heavy version of a lift you’re about to do right before you perform the lift at lower weights. Researchers wondered if the effect held true if the performance variable was oriented toward non-weightlifting sports - in this case, a twenty-meter sprint.

The researchers examined the prevailing research to make sure their protocol was unique. They hoped to create a condition in which the potentiating exercise was even more accessible than weight lifting exercises like back squats. It’s not as if a back squat or similar exercise has equipment that is difficult to come by, but it does generally require a power rack, especially at the weights needed for PAP. For athletes out in the field with limited equipment, PAP isn’t always a practical option.

The researchers used depth jumps as the potentiating exercise. Previous research showed depth jumps work well as PAP for subsequent vertical leaps. Since there tends to be a strong correlation between sprinting and vertical leap ability, the researchers theorized that depth jumps might also be applicable for the twenty-meter sprint.

The researchers compared three different warm ups:

  • A five-minute jog
  • A five-minute jog plus dynamic stretches (see table below for detailed list of stretches)
  • A five-minute jog, dynamic stretches, and three depth jumps


All of the warm ups produced progressively better performances on the twenty-meter sprint, but depth jumps won the day. The differences in performance after depth jumps were pretty substantial. For example, between the jogging warm up and the depth jump warm up, performance improved from 3.3 seconds to 3.1 on average. Consistent improvements like that could make or break an athlete’s career.

PAP works in numerous conditions, as this study demonstrated. Although there will be more studies involving various protocols to make things simpler for athletes, I’m mostly curious at this point if the PAP effect persists when applied consistently. If so, it should be a part of every athlete’s routine during every practice and game. Let’s stay tuned for that.