Breakfast is for Champion

 Oh Breakfast, Where Art Thou?   I absolutely love breakfast and couldn’t start off my day without it!  We probably heard that million times but I will say it again, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, it is a time for your body to fuel up for the day and for your metabolism to kicks into gear and supplies nutrients to the body and brain that you will need to function properly.

French Toast yummm

Ma allora, why so many people out there skip breakfast?  Well I was one of them and excuses for missing breakfast were I don’t have time, I’m not hungry in the morning and I’m on a diet.  Unfortunately, runners who skip breakfast generally train less effectively, are more fatigue, and don’t perform optimally.  Not having a healthy breakfast will also results in having trouble concentrating and work or study less efficiently later in the morning.  So, let’s explore these excuses.

  • I don’t have time: Of course you have time to do what you want to do. If you can make time to run, you can also make time by appropriately fueling your muscles.  If you can’t eat this meal at home, then simply eat it on the run or at work like my husband does.   You don’t have to eat it immediately upon rising…that morning coffee break can be more than just coffee.
  • I’m not hungry in the morning: Runners who lack a morning appetite usually had too much evening snacking and that can easily ruin your morning appetite and also if you overeat can help to weight gain.  Replacing a healthful breakfast with nutritionally poor snacks  can cause dietary deficiencies and if you eat high-fat evening snacks that can inadequately refuel your muscles you can experiment muscle fatigue.  Rearrange your current meal plan so you eat more during the day, less at night, and wake up hungry.
  • I’m on a diet: The most successful diets start with a substantial breakfast and end with a light dinner. Research pointed out that runners who under eat during the day have more body fat than those who eat adequately when they wake up.  A healthy, carb-based breakfast not only fuels your muscles but also prevents you from getting too hungry, and at that point you simply don’t care about what you eat and are likely to eat  junk food. Remember: Breakfast invests in losing weight, not gaining fat.
It’s pretty clear that breakfast  it’s a very important meal.  If you usually miss this energizing meal, try  to eat breakfast for three or four consecutive days and enjoy the benefits: more energy, less hunger, better nutrition. You’ll quickly discover it’s after all the key meal for champions.What’s best to eat?   First of all keep in mind that the size of your pre-workout breakfast is determined by the intensity of your workout. If you’re running slowly for a long period of time, you’ll be able to eat more and digest the food more easily. If you’re doing very intense exercise like speed work it will be harder for you to digest foods, so you’ll may want to try liquid meal options such as a fruit smoothie etc.  Also, breakfast foods that work for one runner may not sit well with another. Most runners need to experiment to find out which foods work best for them.  The American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Association recommend eating a high-carbohydrate, 400- to 500-calorie meal two or three hours before exercise.  Here are a couple of examples of pre-workout meals that would fall into that caloric range:
  • Two packs of oatmeal with milk and a medium sized banana
  • One bagel with peanut butter or almond butter
  • Two slices of toast and 12 oz of orange juice
  • Whole grain cereal with low-fat milk

Fresh Fruit Salad

That works for runners who have the time before you run, but it’s not practical for early morning runners, like myself.  When I run early in the morning I eat a mini meal or snack of 100 to 300 calories, and that is plenty for a run of up to an hour at a moderate pace.  Here are few quick mini-breakfasts, ranging from about 200 to 400 calories, that deliver plenty of carbohydrates, plus protein and good fats to keep your energy levels higher, longer.

 

  • Whole grain bagel with peanut butter or almond butter, low fat milk.
  • A Meal Replacement Beverage,  such as those made by Snapple or Slim-Fast.
  • Oatmeal with blueberries or fresh fruit
  • Trail Mix that contains nuts, fruit, and some cereal or pretzels. This amount packs more than 250 calories, but offers a good combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
  • Sports Bar such as PowerBars, Cliff Bars, or Balance Bars.  Most energy bars make a decent breakfast. Look for one with at least 200 calories and 6 grams of protein.
  • Pancakes or french toast with syrup, juice, milk.
  • Yogurt with granola and fruit.

Smoothie

If you want to learn more about nutrition and running I suggest few books by Nancy Clark, who is considered on the top sports nutritionists in the field.  Her two books are Nancy Clark’s Food Guide for Marathon Runners Training    What Should I Eat for Breakfast Before Long Runs?and Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook Training    What Should I Eat for Breakfast Before Long Runs?. The Food Guide for Marathoners is a short and concise book that sums up a great deal of good information. The Sports Nutrition Guidebook includes much more information and many great recipes.  She says that this simple meal provides important nutrients that support your running program:Carbohydrates ~ The best source of muscle fuel. Carbohydrates should be the foundation of every sports meal. A breakfast with cereal, banana, low fat milk, and juice is an easy way to help meet that goal.Iron ~ A mineral important for carrying oxygen from the lungs to your working muscles. An iron-rich diet reduces your risk of becoming anemic and experiencing needless fatigue during exercise.  By enjoying orange juice along with iron-enriched cereals, you may absorb more iron. Note: the “all natural” cereals such as granola or Kashi, have no additives, hence no iron added. Combine them with enriched brands.

Calcium ~  Calcium is important for strong bones, as well as for helping muscles contract properly. Low fat milk and yogurt are preferable to whole milk products.

Potassium ~ A nutrient you lose in sweat. Bananas, orange juice, whole grain cereals are potassium-rich.

Fiber ~ To promote regular bowel movements and reduce the risk of unwanted pit stops during exercise. If constipation is a problem, select raisin bran, bran flakes, all-bran, or any type of bran cereal.

Bottom line, a carbohydrate-based breakfast is a critical energy booster that helps runners fuel and/or refuel their muscles. Without this morning meal, you’re likely to run on fumes, perform less effectively,and reduce your intake of nutrients that contribute to top performance.

How do you feel about breakfast?   Try to be conscious of your breakfast routine over the next couple of days and you’ll discover where you stand and your habits. That process of discovery is the start of awareness in  nutrition and health. Enjoy!

Arrivederci, Pyramid…Benvenuto, Plate!

Remember the food pyramid that symbolized a healthy diet for about 20 years?  The first Food Guide Pyramid was announced in 1992 and included the six food groups piled up in the shape of a pyramid with the number of recommended servings someone should eat from each group in a day.  The pyramid was wider at the bottom to point out that most of our diet should be made of grains, fruits and vegetables.  The narrowing of the pyramid was a reminder to consume fewer foods high in sugars and fats.  The old Food Pyramid looked like this:

In 2005, the Food Guide Pyramid was replaced with MyPyramid, a more abstract triangle made of fun colored stripes of different width and a stick figure climbing stairs, to represent the importance of physical activity.  And it looked like this:

Today we’ve replaced the pyramid to a plate.  In fact, few weeks ago, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled MyPlate.  I think this new change was done at the right time, not only as a reminder to adopt healthier eating habits, but also as a wake-up call for Americans in a time when more than one-third of children and more than two-thirds of adults are overweight or obese.  The new “My Plate” has four colored sections, representing fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins and a glass on the side of the plate that suggests dairy and other healthy beverage choices.  The vegetable and grains portions are slightly larger.  “The goal of the new icon is to simplify nutritional information, Michelle Obama said. “When it comes to eating, what’s more useful than a plate?” she asked. “It’s a quick simple way for all of us to be mindful of the foods we’re eating. She said kids still need to be active and that parents still need to be vigilant on making good food choices.” 

In general, I like this “MyPlate” idea, after all we eat off plates, not pyramids or triangles=D

  • I like the fork symbol that suggest to use utensils to eat your food, instead to devouring it straight from a box or a bag.
  •  I like the way the plate is divided, where basically shows that each meal should includes, fruits, vegetables, protein of some kind, grain, and dairy it adresses everyone.  So even if you are vegan or vegetarian you can still follow this.  For example; replacing animal protein for a plant-based source; or  the dairy with soy, coconut, rice or almond sources.
  • The plate remind you to use a standard dinner plate instead of a platter!  It stresses the importance of enjoying your food eating less, and avoiding oversized portions.  The portion sizes in the US are 2 and sometimes 3 times bigger than in Italy.  I remember the first time I went to a restaurant in Boston, I couldn’t believe the amount of food in my plates.  But, what most shocked me was my friend asking for a
    doggie bag!  “Really?? ” I said. “Do you have a dog?”  Ha ha
  • Half of your plate should be maid with fruits and vegetables.
  • Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.
  • Drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda.  I strongly  believe it’s the best thing Americans could do for their health; stop drinking calories people!
  • The pyramid concept was not so simple to interpret, especially for kids.  I think that the plate is a much more simple graphic representation of dividing up your food choices is an easier concept for young kids to understand.

There are few things I miss from  the pyramid though.

  • In the new plate the fat is not mentioned and we all know that runners need to have some fat in their diet.  So, I would just keep in mind to add one or two servings per day of fat, choosing more unsaturated fats such as sunflower, canola, corn, soybean, and safflower oils; and mononunsaturated fats such as olives, olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and guacamole.
  • Most if all I miss that funky stick figure climbing the stairs of the old pyramid.  Because we all know it’s not only about what and how much we eat but also how much and how often we MOVE.  The program does strongly encouraged to exercise everyday but I still miss the graphic representation of it!

So keep active, and aim for a healthy variety of foods at each meal!  I hope this bold move to change the guideline will eventually result in a healthier America.

What do you think of the New Food Plate ?

I’m nut over nuts! Get nutty for your heart…

Happy Thursday bloggies…and go Bruins!!  For who that doesn’t know (what??) last night in Vancouver the Boston Bruins hockey team won the first Stanley Cup championship in nearly four decades.  Congratulations to the Boston Bruins for winning!

Boston Bruins - 2011 Winners of the Stanley Cup

Today, I would like to talk about one of my all-time favorite foods, almond butter.  It’s so good.  A simple, healthy, satisfying way to start off my day.  I love almonds in general, and guess what? Your heart loves nuts too!  In fact, nuts help keep your heart healthy and strong.  Dr. Walter Willet in his book, ” Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Health Eating”, explains that nuts are full of unsaturated fast and reduce the ‘bad” LDL Cholesterol while keeping the “good” HDL cholesterol levels elevated.  Many people hesitate in eating nuts because of their high fat content, but you should know that these are mostly unsaturated fats which are the good fats.  Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats found in nuts are particularly important to the body and the heart because they help reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of heart disease and stroke.  Several studies have shown that people that eats nuts regularly have 30 to 50% less risk of heaving heart attack or heart disease.  Also nuts are high in the good-for-you omega 3 fatty acids and they contain potassium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, vitamin E, selenium, copper, calcium and thiamine.  So, by eating a mixture of nuts, you will get a variety of important vitamins and minerals.  Are you hungry for nuts yet? Don’t exaggerate though: They are also packed with calories.  Eating a handful of nuts in addition to (instead of replacing) your normal food choices may results in 10 to 20 pound weight gain over a year.  Therefore, you should replace some of your unhealthy food choices like chips and ice cream with nuts.  Besides tasting good, nuts will keep you feeling fuller longer.  What I like to do is to incorporate nuts into my meals.  I love to sprinkle a handful of slivered almonds on a salad or  on my  favorite breakfast cereal.  Other things I like to do is to munch nuts for an appetizer instead of cheese, enjoy almond butter (I do that quiet often) on whole wheat bread  for lunch or breakfast, spread peanut butter on sliced bananas or celery, eat low-fat yogurt with a nut topping dessert, just get creative and you might be happily surprise!

Not sure which nuts to choose?  There are a wide variety of nuts.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the type of nut you eat isn’t that important.  However, some nuts have more heart healthy nutrients and fats than others. Walnuts are one of the best-studied nuts, as they contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds, macadamia nuts, hazelnuts and pecans are also heart healthy. Even peanuts — which are technically not a nut, but a legume, like beans — seem to be relatively healthy.  To find nutritional charts, resources and recipes for all the basic tree nuts visit the Tree Nut Council‘s website.   Here are some specifics about the various nuts….

  • Pecans are a good source of vitamin B1, protein, magnesium, oleic acid, and fiber.  They are also believed to be helpful in fighting some cancers.
  • Almonds contain calcium and magnesium for strong bones, vitamin E, and compounds called phytochemicals which are believed to help protect against cardiovascular disease and even cancer.
  • Walnuts contain a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, potassium, and magnesium. Studies proved that walnuts added to the diet significantly lowered the LDL cholesterol.
  • Hazelnuts contain 6% calcium and 6% iron in addition to the protein and fats.
  • Peanuts and pistachios provide a good source of B vitamins essential for energy, protein metabolism, and the synthesis of red blood cells.

How much nuts should we eat?   This is what the Department of Agriculture recommends:  One serving of nuts equals about 28 peanuts, 22 almonds, 20 pecan halves, 18 cashews, 14 walnut halves, 7 brazil nuts, 20 hazelnuts, 12 macadamia nuts, 47 pistachios, or two tablespoons of peanut butter.
As I mentioned earlier my favorite food is almond butter but it has to be my home made one.  And the reason of that is that I know it is as all natural as you can get and I can control the salt and the oil content.  Besides I get really  excited about making my own almond butter.  There is nothing more gratifying than tasting something delicious and knowing that you made it yourself!  Making almond butter is quiet easy and quick.  I usually make it in my handy Magic Bullet but you can use a food processor too.  All you need to do is stand there and drool while Bullet works her magic!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of 50% Less Salt Dry Roasted almonds
  • 1 1/2 tsp of Olive Oil or Coconut Oil, or as needed

Directions:

Add the almond in your bullet or food processor and start on high speed and and pulse a few times to break up the nuts.

At first, the mix will be dry and dusty.  It’s going to start looking like this.

Continue processing the almonds until the oils release from the nuts and the almond butter becomes smooth and creamy. It can take up to 5-10 minutes for the oils to release.  When the oils are starting to release the mixture will change from a dry, crumbly mixture to a smoother, creamier mixture.


When it looks like it’s done, let it keep going for another minute. I almost stopped it at this point, but I let it go a while longer and it got so creamy in that time.


Scrape the almond butter out with a spatula and store the uneaten almond butter in an airtight container.  I usually bring it to work=)

Spread it on bread or  rice cakes for a tasty treat, or scoop with apple slices for a healthy, delicious snack and enjoy!

Be good to your heart and start eating nuts today!

And GO BRUINS!!

My Healthy Morning Smoothie

My favorite way to start my morning is with a run followed by a smoothie of some sort, balancing complex carbs with protein that powers me through the morning and  allows me to take in my  daily fruit serving.  I absolutely love smoothies and starting your morning with fruit is one of the best treats for your body.  My smoothies are usually made up of yogurt, soy protein powder (you can use whey if you like), whatever type of fruit – fresh and frozen  – I feel like that morning, and orange juice.

Currently I am in love with this Mango Orange Smoothie recipe.

 Ingredients:

1 small banana
1 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup orange juice
1 Dannon Light & Fit vanilla yogurt
1 scoop vanilla flavored soy protein powder
Optional: ground flax seeds (for fiber and omega 3s) & wheat germ

Directions:

I place all the ingredients in the tall cup of my Magic Bullet, I mix it for 2 minutes and drink it with a smile=)

Mango Orange Smoothie

This mango smoothie recipe is one of my favorites. The citrus flavor in the orange juice balances the tart flavor of the mango. Yogurt’s is loaded with vitamins (An 8 oz serving contains 1.4 micrograms of the vitamin, about 60% of what adult women need daily) and got power-boosting protein and bone-building calcium. Mangos are a good source of vitamins A and C, both important antioxidant nutrients, as well as potassium and fiber. Mangos are also rich in poly-phenolic flavonoid antioxidant compounds, which are believed to protect against breast and colon cancer.

Mmmmmango

What’s not to love?

This smoothie is packed with lots of great nutrients, is delicious, and will keep you satisfied all morning long while promoting clean skin, and a strong immune system.

Finding your favorite smoothie might be a process of experiment and error.  Try a bunch of ingredients you think you might like and just keep playing until you find the perfect smoothie for you.

I heard a lot of buzz about green smoothies (smoothies that have greens like spinach, kale, romaine, etc. in them) so next I definitely want to try to add greens to my fruit smoothies.

What’s your favorite smoothie?

Carbohydrate Loading Starts Today!

72 Hours to go……It’s time to start carbo-loading! 

I love carbs!!  And the goal behind carb loading is to help our body store glycogen, that is the energy that our body uses to run, derived from carbs.  The more glycogen we can store, the more energy is available to us on race day. Carbo-loading is accomplished by increasing carbohydrate consumption to as much as 70% to 80% of total caloric intake and simultaneously decreasing exercise duration and intensity (tapering). By increasing the amount of carbohydrates intake while decreasing the amount of exercise we do, it forces our muscles to store more glycogen.  Let’s do it then!

I will load with grains, vegetables and legumes, and are also found in sweets including fruits and dairy products.  Pasta, breads, rice, potatoes, cereals, fruits.  My diet should look like this:  60-70% carbohydrates; 15-20% fat; 10-15% protein.

One day before the Marathon: I will eliminate any high fiber foods and foods that cause gas, such as beans, broccoli, bran cereals, etc.  I will stick with low-residue foods and eat only enough to satisfy my basal metabolism.  No alcohol and reduce caffeine to the bare minimum.

The morning of the Marathon:  I will have a bland and high in carbohydrates and easy to digest breakfast.  I must have some coffee, just one cup though. I will drink a large glass of water 1-2 hours before the start and have nothing more to drink until the starting gun. That will start me off well-hydrated but will give me enough time to eliminate any extra.

To keep track of the carbs I am taking in I will look on the food label for the amount ofcarbohydrates per serving. And for the foods that don’t have food labels I found online a great chart that lists the amount of carbohydrates, proteins, fat, calories, and fiber in many popular foods.

During that time I won’t forget to drink lots of water to start my “pre-hydration” as well!


3 Days…..