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20 Jul 2015

Eat Ugly

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I have a new favorite Twitter account, and it’s called @UglyFruitAndVeg. In addition to advocating for less food waste, they post hilarious pictures of “ugly” fruits and vegetables – such as thumbs up strawberry and batman kiwi.

About that food waste…. most people know Americans waste a crap ton of food. Be it from restaurants over serving to leftovers forgotten in the back of the fridge to a slightly browned banana being tossed, industrialized nations (the US, Canada, Europe, etc) waste more food than sub-saharan Africa produces each year, according to United Nations Environment Programme. In addition to wasting what we’ve already bought or made, we also waste about 26% of fruits and vegetables produced because they don’t meet the aesthetic standards of the supermarkets. That’s a quarter of the produce grown in our country, unused because Safeway, Stop and shop, and Wegmans think it’s too ugly to sell in their stores.

How Can We Fix It?

A few ways.

  • More people growing their own produce or buying from a farmer’s market. The farmer’s markets are much less finicky about the aesthetics of their produce, and most people won’t throw away a vegetable they’ve grown unless it actually went bad.
  • Copy the French. The video about French grocery chain Intermarche and their initiative “Les Fruits et Legumes Moche” or the “Inglorious Fruits and Vegetables” made waves on social media last year. If you missed it, essentially the supermarket bought ugly produce that would have been tossed and sold it for 30% cheaper. You can watch a recap of the launch and how it worked on vimeo.
  • Advocate for different policies. End Food Waste has a petition out. If you’re so included, find it here.
  • Choose ugly. Sometimes, I try to choose the ugliest piece at the market because I worry it won’t get chosen by others. Am I the only one who worries about ugly produce being wasted?

I’m pretty excited to head to France in a few weeks, and I’ll be keeping my eye out for the Intermarche supermarket and some of their inglorious produce.

Photo c/o Jitze Couperus 

Preface: About two weeks ago, Nick Jonas, CrossFit, and the diabetes community got into a little kerfuffle over a tweet about diabetes. The internet joined in. This blog post is my opinion on the matter.

As some of you may or may not know, I’ve had Type 1 diabetes for 11 years. Obviously, I also do/teach CrossFit. Which made things interesting this past few weeks when the internet erupted in a CrossFit versus diabetes community tussle. If you missed it, here’s a recap:

1. Greg Glassman, founder and CEO of CrossFit, isn’t always known for making his point shall we say politely. He tweeted the following image with the line “Pour some out for your dead homies”.


2. Nick Jonas, singer and fellow type 1 diabetic, blasted Coach Glassman for “shaming” diabetics and encouraged him to become educated on the difference between type 1 and type 2. (If you happen to be unfamiliar with the difference, Google it – or visit this easy link to WebMD. I have spent enough of my life explaining this to people and have too much else to say to do it here).

3. Internet shitstorm ensues, as fitness bloggers, the diabetes community, medical professionals, and others chime in. (Yes I know, I’m chiming in now too. Pot, kettle, all that).

Two Sides To The Story

As a diabetic dietitian who CrossFits, I can see a few sides to this story.

Nick Jonas Side

Look, as ridiculous as this all is, I see where he is coming from. I have had friends and family – including some people in healthcare studies – ask me if I was “type 1 or type 2” (seriously if you don’t know the difference LOOK IT UP NOW). I’ve had people ask if I can eat the cookie that is inches from my lips, if I can drink the beer I just finished, and if I am gong to lose a foot one day (yes, really). It is MADDENING the things people assume, all for a disease you had no control over developing and struggle daily to treat –  because you have a few tools to deal with the 27 or more things that can influence your blood sugar. Sometimes it’s high or low for no reason at all, despite the most meticulous of self care.

As an added note, it turns out this weekend a young girl in Canada died from complications of undiagnosed diabetes (because there is also that fun time BEFORE you figure out why you drink more water than a camel at an oasis and feel like you have the flu all the time). I imagine had this tweet emerged a few weeks later the conversation would’ve taken a different turn.

Back to my point – having a disease you couldn’t prevent and struggle to control is maddening, depressing, frustrating, and inconvenient depending on the day. So when a guy who looks like he’s had one too many margaritas tweets something that could imply your daily struggle is your fault, you want to punch your computer. (I mean, in 11 years I’ve gotten a little more zen about it so I didn’t actually want to do that. I just kind of shook my head and thought “well that’s classic Greg Glassman…). But I get it. I get why Jonas was annoyed, and why as a famous person he may have felt the need to stand up for other kids.

Coach Glassman’s Side

Despite all that, I still did not have the visceral reaction to the tweet everyone else seems to have had. Maybe it’s because I think Coca Cola isn’t good for you, and even a slightly obnoxious ad dissuading consumption doesn’t worry me. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky enough to be around a lot of educated medical professionals in Boston who don’t ask me stupid questions. Maybe I’m so sick of reading about people who are offended by everything and anything, and would rather not see my disease corrupted to fuel the fake outrage machine.


Because despite being irreverent, outspoken, and giving 0 fucks, Greg Glassman has a point. I mean, the defenders do too to some extent – scientifically speaking, you can’t say Coke CAUSES diabetes, as there are a number of metabolic pathways and factors that contribute to development of type 2 diabetes. It would be nearly impossible to determine the exact causative power of just one of those many factors. You also can’t say it is caused by genetics or caused by physical inactivity alone. They all contribute, in different ways and to varying degrees depending on a number of individual factors. But I digress.

The real point here is that Coke isn’t so good for you. Sugar sweetened beverages have been linked to higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Centers for Science In The Public Interest (CSPI) advocate in favor of reducing sugary beverage consumption and have advocated for soda taxes. They are also responsible for the “Real Coke Bears” video, which was just as provocative as the Glassman tweet, if not more so (I mean, polar bear amputation with a chainsaw!). And CSPI is not some Food Babe type crank selling organic juice in the right side bar – they accept no industry funding and have been advocating for better health policies for over 40 years.

The worst part of all this for me, though, was seeing diabetes advocates and research organizations DEFENDING COCA COLA. Organizations like JDRF – that I look to for updates on research and policy (and have considered trying to run Boston for should I even get bit by the marathon bug again) – defending a multi million dollar junk food company.


First of all, Coca Cola and the beverage industry do not need your defense. They have spent millions of dollars campaigning against penny per ounce taxes in super liberal cities. They don’t need our help here, OK. Secondly, stating the public and scientifically unopposed fact that sugary beverages increase the risk of diabetes (let me specify type 2, in case a Jonas brother is reading) is not the same thing as shaming someone. Saying “coke causes diabetes” is not shaming, even if technically incorrect. Asking me if I am going to lose a foot one day or if I “can/should be eating that” IS shaming. To claim you are being shamed when you are not takes away from the real instances of shaming and bullying I’m sure some kids do face.

To conclude my novella, in this type 1 diabetic’s opinion, Coach Glassman is right and everyone else needs to just calm the heck down. Because maybe if we can get down off our outrage box for a minute, we might actually do something to educate the public and prevent what I can attest is a pretty crappy disease from spreading more than it already has.


It’s been getting super hot and sweaty in the gym this past month, so it seems like a good time to chat about hydration. I’ve posted on it before, and obviously the large portion of this blog post is a repost of this one on sports drinks. But, given how often I get asked “is the snatch a power snatch?” it seems like a reminder on hydration and sports drinks can only help :)

The Short Of It

Basically, don’t show up to a summer WOD (or any WOD, really) really really thirsty. Drinking a 17 oz bottle of water in the 1-2 hours leading up to the WOD is usually sufficient to prevent this. Obviously if you show up in the morning, a cup of water before you leave the house is fine. To replace fluid lost, the rule is 24 ounces for every pound of sweat lost. Don’t feel like weighing yourself? Drink another 17 ounce bottle, or as much of it as you can until you don’t feel thirsty anymore.

Quick Thoughts on Sports Drinks?

They have a purpose, but are highly overused. No, your kid doesn’t need a Gatorade after playing 45 total minutes of soccer. Stick to the orange slices. Who needs them? College football players. Lebron James. Marathoners. Unless you’re a really salty sweater, you don’t need one before/during/after the average WOD. Maybe after Murph or Glen, not after Fran. You may find a benefit during a long Oly because of the sugar, but most people will do fine just drinking water.

The Long Answer on Sports Drinks: REPOST from June 2014

If you played sports as a kid, you probably grew up on the delicious, refreshing beverage called Gatorade (or Powerade, although I think Gatorade is better). Originally invented at the University of Florida (Go Gators) to hydrate the football team during hot summer games, Gatorade now produces a regular and low calorie drink, “natural” versions of these beverages, as well as energy chews and nutrition bars. And their marketing has been stellar – watch any Gatorade ad and you’re pretty much convinced that you should drink this stuff because that’s what the badass athletes do (and who doesn’t want to be a badass athlete). They’re all about that inspiring stuff like hard work and determination. Well, at least most kids probably think that. As adults, we’re just trained to crave it. If I go running in sub 75 degree weather for longer than 30 minutes, I come back craving a blue Gatorade (because maybe the flavor is inspired by some fruit, but we just know it by the color. Yellow is a close second for me). Of course, Gatorade has also gotten some negative press surrounding their use of brominated vegetable oil (BVO) – which they’ve since discontinued using – because it had been patented as a flame retardant and is banned in Japan and the European Union.  But, is it OK to drink or should you avoid it?

Sports Drink Pros

Sports drinks are great – and have been successful over the past 40 years – because they provide the unique combination of dilute carbohydrate and electrolytes in an easily digestible format. Sports drinks have essentially been formulated by scientists to provide EXACTLY what athletes need during exercise to prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance. The average regular Gatorade has 80 calories, 21 grams of sugar, 160 mg of sodium, and 45 mg of potassium. The G2 series is usually 30 calories and 7 grams of carbohydrate with the same electrolyte content as the original.

Other Gatorade perks:

  • Helps prevent hyponatremia (salt deficiency), which generally happens when athletes over hydrate.
  • The taste generally makes you thirsty, so you drink more. When you’re working out for a long time (over an hour) in very hot conditions, that can be a plus.
  • It tastes good. Sometimes water gets old.

Gatorade Cons

Despite loving Gatorade as a kid/teen just kidding I still love it now, this is the part that always makes me sad: the ingredients list. The Blue G2 flavor (apparently called “Glacier Freeze) that I like so much contains the following: Water (fine), sugar (OK I was expecting that), citric acid (not a big deal), sodium citrate (OK that’s the sodium, just with a different companion than table salt), mono potassium phosphate (potassium source), sucralose (commonly known as Splenda), acesulfame potassium (anOTHER artificial sweetener) and Blue 1 (artificial coloring). So, most of the ingredients are fine, not everything that isn’t 100% natural is going to kill you, although I really try to avoid artificial colors.

In addition, a few other sports drink drawbacks:

  • It often gets misused or overused. Pretty sure Lebron James needed some Gatorade in San Antonio when the AC broke, and it’s very useful during a half marathon or other endurance activity. But a lot of kids, adolescents, and even adults nowadays are drinking it while playing video games or at school. Unless you’re sweating your butt off during a workout, you don’t really need an electrolyte drink.
  • The taste generally makes you thirsty, so you drink more. Yes, I realize this was also a pro. But when I return from a 45 minute run, I could benefit from 8-12 ounces and end up drinking nearly the whole bottle before it occurs to me to put it away. That’s a lot of sugar I probably didn’t need.

So, should you drink Gatorade?

My answer is yes, when it is appropriate and if you prefer it over other options. When is it appropriate?

  • When you’re working out for over 60-90 minutes or in extreme heat conditions
  • When you complete a WOD like last week’s 1K test on the erg and need a little extra sugar before the second WOD. However, in this case you only need a small amount.

What are some other options? Coconut water, diluted juice (full concentrated juice can make you fee sick to your stomach by adding too much sugar – compare 21 grams of carbs in 12 ounces of Gatorade to over 40 grams in the same amount of Naked Juice or OJ).

UPDATE: The Oly lifters have begun using boba tea as an alternative fuel during their lifts. Great idea (as long as you avoid the stuff with lots of milk/non diary creamer (credit fauntroy). Milk in heat is a bad choice. See: Anchorman), and now I have them to thank for the boba tea kick I’m on.

I never thought of myself as super green (I just can’t bring myself to do the water efficient shower head things), but the amount of zip loc bags Pat and I went through and the decline of our tupperware collection was really bothering me. I wanted to throw it all away and buy new tupperware but then I would just be using MORE PLASTIC.  Then a friend sent us home from a weekend with leftovers in a mason jar and my whole lunch packing system was changed. Since it’s summer, this happens to mean salads packed in mason jars. Which, I must say, is not a new concept, and is by no means my own invention. Google “Mason Jar Salad” and you’ll have pages of recipes. In this post, I’ll cover a basic template for crafting a salad, as well as 2 of my favorite recipes.

The Template

The basic mason jar salad is stacked so that everything stays fresh and flavorful, because no one likes mushy salad.

The bottom layer is usually your protein – beans, quinoa, chicken, etc.

Next comes your nuts/seeds layer, should you have one. I like adding sliced almonds or sunflower seeds.

Top the protein and nut/seed layer with cheese if you add it – goat cheese is my recent staple of choice, and I usually use about 2 TB.

Next add any other vegetables – carrots, peppers, squash, cucumber, etc.

Finally, top with salad. I usually pack it in there as much as I can and wind up with a little too much lettuce. So pack it tight, but not sardine can tight.

Today’s Mason Jar Salad

The picture above is my dinner for the rest of the week. Each mason jar contains:

2 TB Walnuts

1/4 cup cooked farro (I actually used a little more – like 5 TB)

2 TB goat cheese

1/2 cup strawberries

Spring mix to fill

I tend to use a fig balsamic vinaigrette from Whole Foods on top, although since this has fruit already I may just use oil and vinegar, or use no dressing at all. I tend to dress the salad after I’ve emptied the jar. To prep, I bought a large container of spring mix, a large container of strawberries, and the goat cheese, and cooked 1 cup of dry farro. This should last me at least four days.

An Old Favorite

A couple of weeks ago I was on a huge kick with this salad. In each jar I had:

2 TB sunflower seeds

1/4 cup farro

2 TB goat cheese

1/2 cup acorn squash, cooked and cut in squares

Spring mix to fill

1 TB fig balsamic dressing (Whole Foods brand)

The Pitch

If you couldn’t tell, I’m a huge fan of these salads. It’s an easy way to transport lunch, it’s sustainable (no throwing away 3 zip locs per assembled salad), and they’re easy to play around with. Prep is also pretty easy – just cook the farro and cut up the vegetables. You can quickly build your salad in the morning or all at once on Sunday.

Got a favorite recipe to share?



09 Jun 2015

Small Changes, Big Results

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I was talking to someone this weekend, who wanted to lose a few pounds but still wanted to “eat how I usually eat”. Basically, he wanted to see results but didn’t have the time or energy to totally revamp his diet. Given that this person has a full time job and goes to graduate school at night, that’s understandable. What I want this person – and you all – to realize is that you don’t have to totally overhaul your diet to see some results.

There is a lot that goes into “how” or “what” you eat. A few factors:

  • WHERE – do you eat most of your meals at home (or pack lunch from home), or do you often eat out?
  • WHEN – how often do you eat? For example do you eat 3 squares or 5 small meals?
  • WHO – do you often eat at your desk alone or with coworkers? With a spouse at the dinner table or whenever you happen to be hungry?
  • WHY – hunger? Boredom? Social construct (birthday cake is a great example of this)?

As I was talking to this person, I realized a few things.

  • They’re busy, and didn’t want to add a lot of extra work to their schedule in the pursuit of healthy diet
  • They liked being able to eat out with coworkers instead of sad desk lunch
  • They WERE open to changing some aspects of their diet within these constructs

What this boils down to then, isn’t a diet overhaul. It’s tweaking. And while to have a perfectly sculpted body a la David Beckham or Yelena Isanbayeva (Go ahead and Google her – and consider this my small part to educate the world on non-traditional Olympic sports) you DO need a complete diet overhaul – and probably an overhaul of your workout regimen too – you do not need this to drop a few pounds.

To use my friend as an example, I asked what he ate on a normal day. It was as follows:

Morning: Workout early, eat a banana and large coffee with two sugars (Dunkies of course).

Lunch: Lunch out with coworkers – burrito, chips, and water.

Snacks: Fruit – apple, pear, etc.

Dinner: Something with meat and pasta or rice.

Can you guess what the tweaks were? Give it a try, the scroll past this cute picture of a dog to see if you were right. Photo c/o Lisa L Wiedmeier.







Small Changes

Morning: Workout early, eat a banana and large coffee with two sugars (Dunkies of course).

Add a few hard boiled or scrambled eggs (or egg muffins) to the banana. Cut one sugar from the coffee. 

Lunch: Lunch out with coworkers – burrito, chips, and water.

Have a rice bowl instead of burrito, add guacamole but avoid the chips. Drink water.

Snacks: Fruit – apple, pear, etc.

Dinner: Something with meat and pasta or rice.

Try to replace pasta and rice with vegetables half the time. Sub riced cauliflower for rice. Use potatoes, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes for starch instead of the grains. Make sure there’s a protein too. 


I do have to add a few caveats at the end here. This diet could afford small tweaks because the person is healthy and active and already eating decently (no McDonalds or TV dinners, no huge desserts every day). This approach doesn’t work for all diets, but it does work in some cases. And in those cases, it can make the process of getting healthier seem way less scary.

18 May 2015

More “AND”, Less “OR”

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Side note: This image has nothing really to do with the topic at hand. It’s just funny.

It seems – to me at least – that in the health and fitness world, everyone likes to boil big questions down to dichotomous choices. What’s more important for weight loss, diet OR exercise? Should I follow a paleo diet OR eat less meat? Is CrossFit better OR should I be running?

Dan Heath, a very smart business guy who wrote a couple of books with his brother on decision making, spoke at the IHRSA Convention a few years ago, and emphasized the importance of “yes, and”. We talk about this a lot at work when we’re planning projects for the coming year, trying not to limit ourselves with false dichotomies. It wasn’t until I saw a recent article on exercise being “pointless” (or some such dismissive word) for weight loss that I put the two together.

You see, it doesn’t have to be diet OR exercise. I foresee very few situations in which a person truly has to make a feet to the fire choice between just one or just the other. If you want to lose weight you should clean up your diet AND get plenty of exercise (at least 150/75 minutes of moderate/vigorous exercise a week for baseline health, more for weight loss). If you’re interested in a sustainable diet, you can go paleo/primal AND eat less meat. They’re called vegetables, and you should eat far more of them than you eat meat. If you want to be in the best shape possible, you should do CrossFit AND you should also go running sometimes. You don’t have to choose between eating organic fruit and exercising daily. You don’t have to choose between coming to CFB 6 days a week or running on the treadmill at 6.3 mph 6 days a week.

Asking the “either, or” question limits what we can do and achieve. So unless your question is “should I eat a cannoli OR an ice cream sandwich for dessert tonight,” you should be thinking AND far more than OR.

PS. I vote cannoli. There’s a Mikes in Harvard Square now.

Photo c/o

Today is, apparently according to the Today Show, National Eat Whatever You Want Day. My first reaction was, well…

But then I realized I basically eat what I want most days. Maybe not whatEVER I want, but for the most part I don’t dread lunch, I don’t hate breakfast, and my dinner isn’t boring. I like what I eat, and it’s not like I’d actually enjoy eating a cheeseburger everyday. There is a way to eat healthy AND like what you’re eating. I think that’s actually something the Paleo community has done better than any other diet – instead of trying to make some sort of frankenfood no carb no calorie bread or tortilla, they just said F the grains, let’s use delicious herbs and spices to make meat and vegetables taste amazing. Or, let’s repurpose vegetables into old favorite (e.g. Cauliflower rice or “mashed potatoes”). For many, that focus on good food is what makes Paleo sustainable – if your Paleo diet is grilled chicken and broccoli most of the time, you’re either one of those weird people who don’t much care what they eat, or you’re going to run into trouble.

There’s a quote I remember hearing (I don’t remember who said it) that went something like:

“Happiness isn’t having everything you want. It’s wanting everything you have.”

I think that’s a relevant message when it comes to diet. It’s not about being able to eat the things you love when your habits aren’t ideal and achieve your goals, it’s about wanting the foods that are healthy. About choosing baked sweet potato wedges over Ore Ida fries, or choosing cage free eggs and fruit over a waffle. About wanting a healthy, home cooked meal more than you want Shake Shack.  And LIKING that choice.

Photo c/o TMAB2003

Johanna Bernstein, Ken Pruitt liked this post

If you’ve read my blog long enough, you know my skepticism of the US food system is pretty healthy. Just this weekend I was shopping for chicken, and stumbled upon the lovely scene above. In just this frame alone the word “natural” is used over 5 times. And that’s only part of the chicken section! I’ve written before about how “natural” basically means nothing, but it is nonetheless confusing. I am always telling people to eat foods closest to their natural form, meaning cheese versus Cheez-Its (although eating them a few times a year at the beach isn’t going to kill you) or roasted potatoes versus potato chips. Generally the “closer to earth” (I will avoid using the word natural because like I said, it means squat) variations of a food are less calorically dense and contain more nutritional value (and nutritional bang for your calorie). So the question is: how do you choose the right meat when everything is labeled natural?

The Best

The best way to get humanely raised, non CAFO beef, chicken, eggs, and pork is to buy it from your local farmer. Visit the farm or farmer’s market and buy it on the spot, or join a meat CSA. Take a look at how the farmer does things – how much time to cows hang out outside. Do chickens get to eat bugs? Look at the egg yolk – it should be more orange than yellow. And make sure the cows have plenty of room to rut around and get muddy. That’s natural for them. Side note: there’s a lot of irony in the fact that this “all vegetarian fed chicken” is promoted as “natural”. In nature (or on the farm), chickens eat bugs. They’re not vegetarians, and it’s not good for them, and may explain higher rates of illness and tendency to turn on each other among industrially raised chickens. This Chicago Tribune article sheds more light and is highly recommended. Seriously, READ THIS. Mainly because I feel strongly and want you to, too.

Back to our topic. As is usual, the right way is also the most expensive option. Patrick and I are currently trying to buy better meats, and this summer our goal is to get all our meat from a local farmer. Hopefully we can also make rent :)

If the above option is too many dinero, then…

The Next Best Thing

After getting it right from Old McDonald, the next best option is buying organic. I’m not super familiar with all of the ins and outs of organic regulations, and I’ve heard buzz recently about organic foods still containing some chemicals and maybe not being as rigorous as we thought.  I haven’t done enough digging to decide if this is a Food Babe rumor or a real concern, but it doesn’t change the fact that organically raised meat is still better than conventional farming right now when it comes to meat. So if you can’t get it form your local farmer, get it from a grocery store that buys from an organic farmer somewhere.

If all organic all the time doesn’t fit,

Buy Organic As Much As Possible

Figure out what works for your budget, and buy organic when you can, conventional the rest of the time. I would start with organic dairy and butter, as those won’t add too much to the grocery bill. Move onto eggs next. Then go to meats, as those are probably going to be the biggest increase.

29 Apr 2015

What Does Vitamin C Actually Do?

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We see vitamin C a lot these days, mostly in the context of cold prevention (or treatment). Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin found in certain foods and added as fortification to others. Humans don’t synthesize vitamin C, so it’s essential that we include it in our diet.

Roles of Vitamin C

Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen, L-Carnitine, and some neurotransmitters, and is also involved in some protein metabolism. It is also an antioxidant thought to help regenerate other antioxidants like vitamin E, helps the body absorb non-heme iron (meaning iron from plant based foods), and plays an important role in immune function. Vitamin C deficiency results in scurvy (often linked to pirates and sailors, who went long periods without fresh produce), which causes fatigue and connective tissue weakness.

Collagen synthesis and immune function are the most notable and widely recognized roles for Vitamin C. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in muscle, bone, and tendons among other important tissues.

When Do You Need Vitamin C?

Vitamin  C has been linked to a few conditions over the years.

Cancer Prevention  – numerous studies show that a diet high in fruits and vegetables lowers the risk of many cancers, although similar to vitamin A, there is no research that demonstrates vitamin C alone is responsible for this reduced risk or that supplementation would offer any benefit. It seems the pattern of eating fruits and vegetables is more important than single nutrients.

Cardiovascular Disease – research suggests that higher consumption of fruits and vegetables reduces the risk of heart disease, potentially due in part to the antioxidant content of these foods. This makes sense because oxidative damage is one of the causes of heart disease. One British study found that those with the top 25% in blood vitamin C levels had a 42% risk of cardiovascular disease, but the Physicians Health Study found no significant decrease after 5 years of supplementation.  Most clinical interventions and several larger prevention studies have showed no benefit from supplements. As with cancer, you are better off eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables than supplementing one single nutrient.

The Cold – evidence indicates that vitamin C intake greater than 200 mg a day does not prevent a cold. One study showed a small reduction in cold duration – 8% for adults and 14% for kids. Although if you think about the common cold lasting about 2 weeks, that adds up to about a day. Taking vitamin C after symptoms have already started provided no benefit. Research has shown vitamin C intake of 250 mg – 1 g/day to reduce the incidence of a cold by 50% among people exposed to large bouts of physical exercise and extreme cold – including marathoners, soldiers, and skiers. So, it would appear supplementation is mostly effective for people exposed to extreme environments.

How Much Do You Need?

According to recommended daily allowance (RDA) – a level that should be sufficient to meet the needs of 98% of the population –  the average adult male needs 90 mg a day and the average female 75 mg a day. This is super easy to attain, and most people get way more than that. If you eat 1/2 cup of red bell pepper, a cup of broccoli, and a glass of OJ, you’re already well over 200% of your daily recommended intake.

My Recommendation?

Eat your fruits and veggies. If you ski a lot in the winter, consider taking a supplement if you get sick often. Once you are sick though, forget about the vitamin C. Consider taking a zinc lozenge instead. Or just sleep and drink a lot of fluids.

One caveat: I do often recommend – and take myself – EmergenC when sick. I know, I just said vitamin C does not good, why would I recommend a supplement with 1,000 milligrams of it right? Well, for one because it makes me feel better. It has other vitamins besides vitamin C (including B6 and B12), and because it makes me drink more water. I like it because it works for me, even if the Vitamin C isn’t the reason.


Image c/o Keith Williamson 

Since we have a throw down coming up this weekend – and presumably a few more this summer – I thought this old post on what to eat when you’re competing would come in handy. I believe this was posted around the Open last year. Share your competition fueling plan in the comments!

Before The WODs

Before a workout, your body should have a topped off fuel tank. This means you should have enough glycogen (the body’s stored form of carbohydrate) stored as well as some more readily available from food. In general, pre workout meals or snacks should be:

  • Enough energy to prepare you for the workout without leaving you hungry or with undigested food in your stomach
  • Low in fiber and fat
  • Higher in carbohydrates
  • Moderate in protein

Meals low in fat and fiber will allow your stomach to empty in time so you can avoid stomach discomfort. The carbohydrates will top off glycogen stores (which is important, since the body relies on glycogen rather than fat stores for energy during shorter CrossFit WODs), maintain blood sugar levels, and provide energy.  Protein will help you avoid hunger. In addition, it is important to be hydrated before exercise. The recommendation is that athletes drink 2-3 milliliters of water per pound of body weight at least 4 hours before working out to hydrate and get rid of any excess fluid (Rodriguez et al 2009).

After The WODs

Post Workout/Recovery is the most important time, as it is the time when your body reaps the benefits of all the hard work you’ve done. During the workout your body burns through your stored glycogen, you lose fluid to sweating, and muscle tissue is broken down. Recovery is when you can replenish your stored glycogen, replace lost fluid, and rebuild damaged muscles.

We used to think the precise timing of recovery was very important, advising that within one hour of a workout you had to have 30-60 grams of carbohydrate and15-20 grams of protein because this was during the time your metabolism was most active. The consensus was that eating right after the workout improved muscle strength and hypertrophy. However now we know that eating within this window is less important than previously thought (Schoenfeld et al). So, as long as you eat a good, nutrient rich (read: lots of vegetables and fruits) meal with protein and carbohydrates, and maintain an adequate calorie intake throughout the day, you will continue to build strength and fitness.

What To Eat

Try to eat something that not only provides these nutrients but also provides vitamins and minerals. Research has shown that chocolate milk may be a good recovery option because the milk provides calcium and magnesium, two minerals important in muscle contractions, and potassium, which is an important electrolyte lost in sweat. Other good options include a veggie omelet with fried plantain, sweet potato, or wheat toast and grilled steak with roasted vegetables.

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