Monday, June 17, 2013

You Are What You Eat!

Nutrition is one of the most misunderstood and vital components of training.  Whether your goal is sports performance, injury prevention or just improved health, having some basic understanding of nutrition is key to success.  Just like a high performance car engine requires premium fuel and high grade synthetic oil to allow for peak performance, so does the human body.  Although the car will operate with lower grade fuels, optimal and sustainable performance is not obtained without.  Therefore some very basic knowledge can have a big impact on long term sustainable performance.

For the purposes of this blog, we will touch on 3 main things.  Protein intake, hydration and caffeine intake. 
Depending on the research you read, there is a variance in the recommended daily intake for athletics.  This ranges between 1.0 to 2.0 grams/Kg body weight.  No matter what one you read, the need is based on physical demands on the body and need for protein for mm tissue repair.  For example, a 205 lb. athlete’s body weight is converted to 93.2 Kg (205 lb/2.2 kg/lb) and may require 140 to 185 grams protein/day.  If that athlete is performing more physically demanding activities, then they may tend to go on the higher side of protein intake (185 grams/day).  Knowing this, there are a couple of things to consider:
·        Best protein load is first thing in the AM.  When you wake, your body is in a catabolic state (breaking down protein), so it is starving for protein.  If you work out in this state, it will break down mm tissue for energy.  So, a protein load prior.

o   This must be done at least 30 min prior.  If done just before or during initiation of exercise, it is not absorbed.  With the initiation of exercise, blood flow is deverted to the exercising muscles and flow to the gut is reduced by 60-70% within 10 min of initiation of exercise.  So if you drink protein right before you work out or during your initial part, minimal protein is absorbed.  This is one reason you will experience bloating, gas and belching.

o   If using a protein supplement and using just 45 min prior to your exercise, you need to make it with water only.  In order for your protein load to be absorbed as fast as possible, making it with water allows for faster digestion.  Making it wiith milk or juice will slow the absorption rate by 50%.
·        Second best protein load is 30 min after you work out.  For fastest absorption, this should also be liquid in nature as this will expedite the absorption rate.  The best protein load for post workout….chocolate milk.  Low fat or skim.  Current research shows this is the very best.  Should be in the 20-30 gram range. 

·        Rest of your protein loads should be balanced throughout the day and spread over total of 5-6 total meals in a day.  This allow moderate consumption throughout the day and aids in maintaining higher metabolism.


One of the least understood nutrients is water.  It is essential building block and aids with soft tissue repair, hydration of skin, viscosity of the blood and chemical environment.  Hydration levels should be .5 to 1.0 oz/lb body weight.  This again depends on exercise levels, time of the year and nutrition.  So, for the 205 lb athlete above, this equates to about a gal and a ½ a day.  That is 192 ounces (128 per gallon).  Water is the MOST IMPORTANT nutrient you can add. 

·        If you protein intake is in the range high (1.2 to 2.0 grams/lb body weight), then you need to make sure you are sufficiently hydrated.  Several reasons:

o   High protein loads lead to higher BUN (bilirubin, urea, nitrogen) levels.  This is a sign of wear and tear on the kidneys.  If you are taking really high protein and NOT balancing with water, you risk kidney problems and this will be reflected in high BUN ratios.

·        The hydrogen from H2O is cleaved off to neutralize the chemical environment.  High protein and dehydration leads to higher PH levels.  This slows and in extreme cases, prevents mm repair.  Since chemical reactions run by enzymes, the enzyme is deactivated or slowed with small elevations in PH.  So hydration is needed to neutralize the environment and aid in building tissue.

·        Working out dehydrates.  High protein dehydrates.  Combined is direct impact on mm building and performance.  Studies show as little as 1% dehydration results in 10% decrease in athletic performance.  Easiest indicator of hydration is your urine.  If dark yellow, has an odor then you are 15% dehydrated or greater.  We have had several teams use the chart here and post above the urinals: “what are you doing for your performance today”.  This has been a major motivator in influencing behavior on hydration amongst players.


Caffeine has both positive and negative impacts.  As a supplement to your training, it can be beneficial.  But in the US, most athletes over use caffeine.  Caffeine is a diuretic so it makes you lose water (it dehydrates you).  Recommended daily dose of caffeine is 420 mg/day.  Average American gets 800 to 1600 mg/day.  That is 2 to four times the recommended daily does.  Most of the time athletes don’t realize the de-caffeinated coffee and drinks they have still have caffeine.  Other products with caffeine include:

·        Energy drinks

·        Chocolate

·        Over counter pain relievers

·        Caffeine flavored ice cream and yogurt

·        Crystal light

The alternative, cold water.  For every 10 mg over is one extra ounce of water one should consume.  Drinking water cold also aids in metabolism due to the extra energy that is needed to warm the water up.  Besides on a hot day, nothing is more refreshing than a nice cold glass of water.

About the author:  Trent Nessler, PT, DPT, MPT is CEO/Founder of Accelerated Conditioning and Learning (A.C.L., LLC).  A.C.L., LLC is the developer of the Dynamic Movement Assessment™ and Fatigue Dynamic Movement Assessment™, which are athletic biomechanical analysis shown to reduce injuries and improve performance in athletics.  Trent is also Associate Editor for the International Journal of Athletic Training and Therapy and member of the USA Cheer Safety Council.  For more information, he can be contacted at


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