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Protein powders have really gained popularity in the last 10-15 years. But walk into any supplement store and you will see there are many to choose from. So, how do you decide which one to buy and how to begin using it? Follow these tips:

Step 1: Determine the need
Are you trying to lose weight? Bulk up? Lean out? Are you a vegetarian or vegan needing to up your daily protein intake for overall health? Figuring out why you think you need a protein powder is an important step before you buy a powder. Which foods have you tried first? Is there a way to get your protein at each meal and snack from food instead of powder? It is possible to meet your entire dietary protein needs from food. So, while some athletes do use protein powder, not all athletes need to or should use protein powder. Protein powder doesn't contain the same nutritional benefits that foods offer, because they are often low in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber. So, before you reach for a powder, try what you can first with protein-based foods such as meats, poultry, fish, nuts, nut butters, dairy, beans, soy/tofu and legumes.

Step 2: Buy a good product
If you determine there is a need for using protein powder, you want to be sure to buy a good product. Good products are not only processed well, but are also free of fillers you don't want. Pick a product that is certified as clean and safe.  Visit http://www.nsfsport.com/certified-products/ to view certified supplement products. These products are third party certified to be free of illegal and banned substances and to actually contain what the label says. Whether or not you are an athlete being drug-tested, it is nice to know that you are using a product that has what you want and doesn't have what you don't want. I also recommend buying a pure protein powder (meaning, no carbohydrate or fat calories). This allows for the most versatility with the product as well as the motivation to find carbohydrate and fat calories from whole food.

Step 3: Type might matter
Studies have shown that different types of protein powder are metabolized slightly differently in the body. Whey protein is a quick-digesting protein and would be most ideal post-workout for recovery of muscle tissue. Casein is a relatively slow-digesting protein, so is better suited to be taken before bed for recovery and body composition changes overnight. Soy protein is a moderate-digesting protein. I generally only recommend soy protein powder post-workout to those athletes who are vegetarian or vegan; whey protein is my first choice. There are lots of other protein powders now on the market: pea, oat, rice, cranberry, egg, etc. Except in cases of allergies or intolerance, I recommend sticking with whey, casein or soy protein, as these three are the most extensively researched and provide the best package of not just protein, but also essential amino acids.

Step 4: Don't go overboard

When it comes to protein powders, many athletes believe that more is better. However, I have had athletes put on body fat instead of muscle because they were using protein powders 3 or 4 times a day with double the dosage recommended. Too much protein intake can just as easily lead to body fat gain as too much fat or carbohydrate intake. Use protein powders no more than once daily to leave room for protein intake from real food. Protein powders should only be used for convenience; there is nothing magical about protein in powder form. Limit total grams of protein to no more than 20-30gm per meal or snack (that is grams of protein not the weight in grams of the powder). Check the label to determine how much this would be, but for most products, it is 1-2 scoops. Also note that typically in a post-workout setting, it is best to consume carbohydrate with protein. Drinking protein shakes during workouts is not beneficial to performance or body composition changes. 

Your Nutrition Coach,

RDKate
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In the Midwest, it is almost outdoor vegetable garden time! While those who start seedlings inside have already begun the process; outside planting generally begins around Memorial Day Weekend. While you wait, now is a great time to plan your garden. If you have never gardened before, here are some tips to help you plant a successful and performance-enhancing garden.

1. Determine your garden location
Here is a great resource for choosing a smart site for your garden. In short, choose a spot with plenty of sunshine and with access to a water source. Don't plant next to a large tree or shrub, as the plant will not only create shade but also take nutrients from the soil. Once you have determined your spot, the soil quality makes a huge difference. However, to best know what to add to the soil to make it great for planting, do a soil test. Soil testing is the best way to know where your soil falls short in nutrient content. It also will make the actual gardening part easier since you have already perfected the soil. If you want to do a soil test, it needs to be done ASAP.

2. Find your planting zone calendar
To know when each vegetable can be planted or transplanted, find a planting zone calendar for your location. A quick internet search for "garden planting zone" will bring up many links that allow you to enter your zip code to find your zone number. Once you have your zone number, you can find a planting zone calendar like this one


3. Determine which vegetables you consume the most
Once you have identified your planting location, with your zone calendar in hand, determine which vegetables you would like to grow. If you are brand new to gardening, start small with perhaps 3-4 different vegetables. Pick those you eat the most to assure no produce goes to waste. 

4. Choose darker varieties of vegetables
To make the garden especially performance-enhancing, choose as many darkly-colored vegetables as you can. These vegetables are the highest in nutrients. Lettuces are particularly easy to grow, as well as radishes, bush green beans, tomatoes, peppers, beets and zucchini - which are all packed with performance-enhancing nutrients. Once you choose your vegetables, scheduled plantings using your zone calendar.

5. Water with care
When seeds or seedlings are first planted, they require frequent watering to help get them established in the soil. However, after daily water for the first week or so, normal rainfall is often enough to keep the garden moist. To know if the garden needs water, check the dirt for any drying/cracking or plant leaves for any wilting. 

6. Harvest your spoils!
There is nothing like harvesting produce right from your own backyard. Before you know it, the first round of lettuce and beans will be ready to pick. You can't get more local than that! Just keep a close eye on your garden so you keep up with harvesting. This will assure no produce goes to waste.  

Not the gardening type? Try your local farmer's market this summer for the best in high-nutrient produce! To find a farmer's market in Michigan, click here. If you live in another state, trying searching online for a "farmer's market in [state]."

Your Nutrition Coach,


RDKate
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For many people, the term "meatless meals" makes them cringe while they imagine a block of tofu slapped between two pieces of bread. But going "meatless" doesn't have to mean sacrificing on flavor. Read on to get some great ideas to make meatless cooking delicious.


Why would you go meatless? Research has shown that increasing intake of legumes, beans and fish is good for your heart and your brain. This style of eating increases your intake of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids and decreases intake of saturated fat. Eating meatless at least some of the time has been shown to decrease overall mortality and increase favorable health outcomes.

Do you have to avoid meat all of the time to see a health benefit? While some people do so for many reasons, do not feel like this is an all or nothing quest. Consider being a "flexitarian" by eating meatless only a few meals each week. The other meals, focus on eating lean meat options such as 90/10 ground beef, pork loin, skinless chicken and turkey. Incorporating meatless meals this way is often much less overwhelming. What I love about going meatless at least occasionally is it forces us to expand our meal list and overall variety in our diet. How many of us our simply creatures of habit when it comes to weekly meals? (Come on...let me see that hand.)

Is there a good and bad way to go meatless? Vegetarians and vegans can eat just as poor of a diet as those who eat meat. Macaroni and cheese, for example, is vegetarian, but surviving on this alone is not a healthy choice. Here are some ground rules to going meatless:
1. Know your protein sources. For meals that don't include fish, aim to have 2 separate protein options in that meal to assure your total protein intake is high enough. Meat-free protein foods include:
-Seafood: any type of fish or crustacean is considered a meatless protein
-Dairy: milk, yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
-Eggs
-Beans: starchy beans like black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas and white beans
-Nuts and seeds: including peanut butter, almond butter and sunflower seed butter
-Lentils
-Tofu: including all consistencies of tofu, tempeh and edemame
-Seitan: for those who are a little more adventurous in the meat-free arena

2. Once you have picked a protein, pair with brightly colored vegetables for fiber, vitamins and minerals.

3. Round out the meal with a whole grain like brown rice, quinoa, bulgar, meusli or a whole wheat bread.

4. If you don't already have a nut or seed source, choose a healthy fat to top everything off, such as avocado, olive oil, oil-based salad dressing, olives, ground flaxseeds or chia seeds

My experience working with meatless meal converts is that comfort working with meatless proteins decreases as we work our way down that list in #1. So, I'm going to share some of my favorite recipes to help ease you into meatless meals. Be creative, expand your pallet, have fun and contribute to your health by trying meatless meals!

Easy Baked Salmon - Cooks quickly for a fast weeknight dinner. Cut the butter by about half.

Transformed Spinach Mushroom Quiche - Packed with veggies, let those eggs shine at dinnertime!

Sun Dried Tomato, Kale & White Bean Skillet - One of the easiest ways to use beans is to make a favorite Mexican dish using black beans or tilapia, but omitting meat. However, I also love this recipe because it is so simple yet bursting with flavor!

Sweet Potato, Carrot, Apple & Red Lentil Soup - Lentils tend to be the most unfamiliar option on this list. Don't be afraid! They cook very similarly to rice, yet are significantly higher in protein. Try this recipe - you won't even know they are in there!

Crispy Baked Peanut Tofu - If you have said no to tofu in the past, you won't after trying this dish. While the extra step of the baking the tofu does lengthen the process, it really improves the texture because it dries out the tofu. You could do this step in advance on the weekend and then finish the dish on a weeknight.

I would love to hear how you liked the dishes! Email me any time at RDKate@RDKate.com.

Your "Flexitarian" Nutrition Coach,


Kate Davis MS, RD, CSSD, LDN



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There is nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day. Here is a collection of recipes from across the internet. These soups and chowders are not only delicious but performance-enhancing too.

What makes a good soup?...A source of protein, complex carbohydrate and a bit of healthy fat too - plus don't forget lots of veggies! I have noted any healthy modifications to a recipe below each recipe link. Stay warm!

White Bean Chicken & Chili - Giada De Laurentiis
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/white-bean-and-chicken-chili-recipe/index.html

This soup is loaded with inflammation-fighting fat, lean protein and antioxidants. Love! Yes I know it has a lot of ingredients, but that is where you get the flavor. I recommend you cut out the added salt (you'll get enough in the broth). If you are a spicy wimp like me, cut out the red pepper flakes as well. Pair with a salad and a piece of fruit and you have a yummy meal.




Crock Pot Minestrone - Taste of Home
http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/hearty-slow-cooker-minestrone-soup

Warm, delicious soup ready for me when I walk through the door? Yes please! I recommend you cut out the pepperoni and use whole-wheat elbow macaroni. Add some fruit for a complete meal.

Lentil Soup - Giada De Laurentiis
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/lentil-soup-recipe/index.html

Yes I used two recipes by Giada. If her food wasn't so tasty, this wouldn't be a problem. Lentil soup is one of my absolute favorites! For this recipe, double up on the celery and carrots. Personally I would leave out the pasta, but if you want it - use a whole wheat variety. Pair with a whole-wheat pita (if you didn't put pasta in the soup) and a salad and this is heaven!

Simple Turkey Chili - AllRecipes
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/simple-turkey-chili/

A great soup to end with - traditional chili (well...almost). Using lean ground turkey will substantially lower the saturated fat level (vs. ground beef). Alternatively, use a 93/7 ground beef. For this recipe, I recommend leaving out the salt. Pair with some fruit and a piece of cornbread (because it's chili...).

Be Extraordinary,


RDKate

Picture source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/linecon0/

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