Everyone’s diet varies, but many of you have common nutrition questions. There’s so much info out there that sometimes you just want to cut to the chase and get the short answer. So let’s get to it!
Here’s a sample of this month’s Nutrition FAQs at Gazelle Nutrition.
Is there such a thing as too much fruit?
Fruit is a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, fibre, antioxidants, and carbohydrates. It is a great addition to a healthy diet.
Depending on your age and gender, you should incorporate 7-10 servings of vegetables and fruit in your diet. A serving is equivalent to 1 whole fruit or a half cup fruit and a half cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup of raw vegetables. You should eat more servings of vegetables a day than fruit.
Can you eat too much fruit? Of course! Too much of anything is not a good idea. Your servings should fit into the above guidelines. For example, if you need seven servings of vegetables and fruit a day, four of these servings should be vegetables and three should be fruit. If you are eating large amounts of fruit, you are satiating your appetite with one kind of food. You will probably not eat enough food from the other food groups and will miss out on key nutrients that they provide, for example, protein. So, include fruit but balance it with a combination of other types of wholesome foods.
Do I need protein powder to build muscle?
You build muscle by using muscle. Resistance exercise is your best bet. Good nutrition supports muscle building, but you will not bulk up without doing the exercise.
While protein gets a lot of attention, calories are the primary nutrition predictor of muscle growth. Athletes who eat sufficient calories achieve better results than those who do not. Even so, it is important to eat enough protein, as protein is, of course, the building block of muscle.
But do you need protein powder? Depending on your sport and your body composition goals an athlete requires anywhere between 1.2-1.8 g protein/kg per day. For an 85 kg (187 lb) person, this equates to 102 g-153 g protein a day.
Achieve this amount of protein through diet by including good sources of protein at all meals and snacks. Good sources of protein include nuts and seeds, Greek yogurt, milk, legumes, eggs and lean meats and fish. You can consume protein during and after resistance exercise to promote muscle gain. Remember to eat a smart snack containing carbohydrates and about 20 g of protein, immediately after exercise, to replenish stores and facilitate muscle building. Speak with a sports dietitian if you would like to tailor your protein goals to your individual training needs.
Do I need a multivitamin?
It is better to get your nutrients from food than from supplements. Wholesome foods are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and often fibre. They give you a range of benefits that multivitamins cannot. It is also difficult to obtain too much of a vitamin or mineral when it is provided through food. It is much easier to overdo it with a pill. For the most part, a nicely balanced, healthy diet will give you all the nutrients you need without having to use a supplement. This holds true for athletes and non-athletes alike.
Certain individuals may require vitamin or mineral supplementation. These may include those who need to exclude a food group for allergy or food sensitivity reasons, those with gastrointestinal or kidney diseases, those diagnosed with micronutrient deficiency, as a result of some surgeries or those with difficulty eating. If you are in doubt, consult your dietitian or doctor.
For exercise lasting less than an hour, water is sufficient. For exercise lasting longer than an hour, a beverage containing carbohydrates and electrolytes (sodium, potassium) will help you perform at your best.
Even so, research has shown that athletes consume fluids more often when they are flavoured. Providing flavoured drinks on a hot, humid day is a great trick to stimulate adequate drinking behaviours and to reduce the chance of dehydration. This is a particularly handy practice for child athletes who do not have the same sense of thirst as adults. Don’t want to use a commercially available sports drink? Then make your own with this recipe!
I’ve heard lukewarm water is better to drink during exercise than cold water. Is this true?
The temperature of your water or sports beverage makes a difference. Research has shown that fluids that are 10° – 18° C are ingested more readily and are more palatable. But will drinking water when it’s a little colder or a little warmer than this make a big difference in performance? If you are drinking adequate quantities of fluid, a slightly warmer or colder beverage temperature probably won’t make a big difference.
But what about during the dog days of summer when you have to play a game in plus 30° C temps? Some interesting research has looked into the benefits of using ice slushies for hydration and core temperature cooling. Providing ice slurries or crushed ice during exercise increased endurance capacity by 19% in a study in runners and improved endurance performance by 6.5% in a cycling time trial. Research is ongoing but on a sweltering day, this is a strategy that is worth a try!
My coach suggests I take a packet of honey on the pool deck to keep my energy up between swim events. Is this a good strategy?
Honey provides carbohydrate and is one way that athletes can obtain carbohydrates during and after exercise. Like table sugar, honey is composed primarily of fructose and glucose. This combination of sugars is useful for maximizing carbohydrate absorption when eating more than 60 g of carbohydrate an hour during endurance events lasting longer than 3 hours. In this sense honey is a multiple transportable carbohydrate (or MTC). You can learn more about this concept right here!
There may be some benefit for using a carbohydrate source like honey during long swim training sessions, but there does not appear to be a unique benefit during shorter sessions or on competition day, especially if your events are relatively short.
I could find no research that recommends using honey over other sources of carbohydrate that also provide multiple types of sugar. However, some athletes report that they have good gastrointestinal tolerance with honey. Even so, test your tolerance in practice before a competition.
In a nutshell, honey is easy to use as a carbohydrate source. If you like using it and tolerate it well then fantastic. At this time though it does not seem to offer greater performance benefits than other carbohydrates.
Nutrition planning is integral to achieve your optimal athletic performance. Gazelle Nutrition Lab delivers one-on-one or group nutrition counselling and consulting to both recreational and high-performance athletes. In addition, the Gazelle Blog is a free resource for healthy recipes and health tips. Have questions? We’d love to hear from you! Get in touch!