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Creating a Successful Nutritional Environment

by Drew Robertson

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Dean Wilson, Drew, and Kyle Beaton

Here we are in a new year and for some of us we have started racing or are head long into preparing for the new season. Training plans are in place, new bikes and race gas have been purchased, suspension is dialed and you are ready to chase the dream of motocross superstardom. Not so fast my friend. You have planned your training, maybe hired a trainer, planned where to ride, and like I said above have gotten all the pieces in place but have you looked at your daily environment and made sure that you are allowing for adequate rest, eating properly, and drinking enough? Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a leading expert in the field of motocross training and we were discussing how some of the biggest differences in peoples' programs are how complete they are and how some people create the proper environment around themselves or the athletes they train.

In this article I want to touch on the nutrition side and help people create not only a successful nutritional environment but also ways to check in on yourself or your clients. So to make a long story short, or actually a short story long I brought out an article I wrote for young hockey players and their parents. I went through it and "motoizied" it, not sure if that is a word, but that's what I’m sticking with.

First, let's start with two important questions regarding your daily nutrition.

  1. Do you plan out your meals, and
  2. Do you plan out your daily caloric intake?

I have been a nutritionist dealing with athletes for 8 years and very few people and family’s do!

The Typical Meal Cycle
What typically happens is something like this: the athlete gets up has a small bowl of cereal, fruit bar, maybe a cereal bar, a small piece of fruit or my favorite, they skip breakfast all together and off they go. Their mid-morning snack is.... their what? who? ...exactly. Most athletes skip this meal all together. Lunch usually consist of a wide variety of selections from sandwiches, cafeteria food, and pre-packaged foods to cans of soup and everything in-between. Mid-Afternoon snack... well like the mid-morning snack this falls by the way-side. Then depending on training, riding and other activities the athlete consumes very large quantities of food in the late afternoon through to bedtime, making up the greatest bulk of the their caloric intake. So let's review: after sleeping through the night, the athlete wakes up with low blood amino acid concentrations, as well as low blood sugar, then consumes a high sugar low protein meal, doesn’t eat again until noon, where the athlete consumes carbohydrates which are typically processed with a small serving of either fruits or vegetables and a small serving of protein again usually processed. During activity, riding, and workouts the athlete typically consumes water or worse, nothing at all. Then the athlete consumes the majority of their daily calories during the later part of the day and because of the fluctuating blood sugar levels they tend to consume a high amount of simple carbohydrates and various forms of junk food. If this sounds familiar, then read on, the rest of this article is just for you.


And the solution does not lie in supplements and multi-vitamins but rather the re-focusing of our daily intake towards fruits and vegetables and not just at one or two meals but at every meal.


Studies at Georgia State University demonstrate that hourly energy balance is at least as important as total daily energy balance and should remain as close to neutral as possible throughout each of the 24 hours. What does this mean? Having well balanced meals that offer up approximately the same number of calories at each meal is just as important as the total number of calories we intake each day.

A fair number of athletes have been shown to be deficient in a host of vitamins and minerals leading to impairments in nervous system function, metabolic processing, and oxygen delivery/consumption. It's hard to get the requisite amount of vitamins and minerals in only one or two meals. And the solution does not lie in supplements and multi-vitamins but rather the re-focusing of our daily intake towards fruits and vegetables and not just at one or two meals but at EVERY meal.

So what do we do to correct nutritional problems and get back on the track to nutritional excellence? We have all been told that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, yet many athletes still still skip this meal. To make sure breakfast is consistently consumed it must be easy and quick to prepare in the morning. Speed and convenience are key.

Breakfast

Here are a few examples of quick and easy breakfast meals:

Breakfast Shake

  • Dry oatmeal
  • Yogurt (Greek yogurt is preferred)
  • Protein powder – this would depend on your personal needs
  • Fresh or frozen fruit
  • Peanut butter – Natural
  • Blend together

Breakfast Mush (tastes great and is one of my personal favorites)

  • Dry oatmeal
  • Yogurt – (Greek yogurt is preferred)
  • Frozen berries
  • Protein Powder - this would depend on your personal needs
  • Mix this together using enough yogurt to make a mush like mixture

Speedy Omelet Sandwich

  • 4-5 egg whites
  • 1 whole egg
  • A little cheese
  • Various veggies (green, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, etc.)
  • Cook on skillet with a little Olive oil
  • 2 pieces of whole grain toast or toasted whole grain bagel
  • Glass of OJ
  • Place cooked omelet on the bread or bagel and there’s your sandwich

Make sure to mix these meals up and when you have the time, make yourself a good sit-down breakfast, using eggs, whole wheat pancakes, fresh fruit, lean turkey bacon, or lean chicken sausage.

I often hear from athletes that they are not hungry in the morning. I do not doubt this especially if the athlete has been skipping breakfast for a long time or having a breakfast of very small portions. The athlete who skips breakfast will adapt to this so yes, the first few weeks of trying to eat in the morning may be a struggle but soon the athlete will adjust and eating breakfast will again become a normal part of their daily routine.

Snacks
Here are a few examples of easy, quick and healthy snacks:

Snack Shake

  • Fruits (fresh or frozen)
  • Protein powder
  • Yogurt
  • Flax seed oil or other essential fatty oil blend like UDO’s
  • Snack Mush
  • Cottage cheese Frozen berries Mixed nuts

Or

  • Yogurt
  • Banana
  • Peanut butter
  • Ground up flax seeds

Easy and quick

  • Fresh veggies
  • Humus dip
  • Hard boiled egg

Every meal should consist of fruits and vegetables, good carbohydrates, good fats and high quality protein. This rule includes snacks.

Lunch

Lunch is one of the easiest meals to fix. Simple plan: double up on dinner!!!

Chicken Sandwich - use a PITA

  • Chicken breast (sliced up)
  • Small piece of cheese
  • Alfa sprouts/bean sprouts
  • Hummus
  • Pineapple or strawberries
  • Slice of tomato
  • Mixed nuts

Mexican Tuna- this was a meal my trainer gave me when I was growing up and is one of my athletes favorites.

  • Brown Rice
  • Tuna – substitute chicken, steak, salmon, pork. Changing the protein source is a great way to add variety to this meal.
  • Salsa
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Celery (chopped)
  • Green or red pepper (chopped)
  • Onion (chopped)
  • Broccoli (chopped) - Just like above you can change up the veggies and by doing so create a wide variety of meals.
  • Ground flax seed
  • Mix together in a Ziploc container and heat before eating
  • To make 2-3 servings, just add more tuna

Pasta Salad Extreme

  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Chicken Breast (cut)
  • Green, Red and Yellow peppers (diced)
  • Broccoli (sliced)
  • Italian Dressing
  • Ground flax seed
  • Olive oil
  • This is a great dish cold or hot
  • To make 2-3 servings, just add more chicken

Dinner

Dinner is the one time that athletes usually eat a fairly well balance meal. Having said that here are a few suggestions to help improve your dinner selections:

  • Add a variety of beans and lentils for fiber
  • Always use whole grain versions of foods instead of the processed version
  • Always include vegetables with dinner
  • Have fresh fruit or fruit smoothies for dessert

Now that you know how to improve your daily intake, let’s look at some strategies to help create a positive nutritional environment. You need to make meal choice as easy as possible, so when you go to eat or pack your lunch you do not need to make or cook a whole lot of things. To do this, pick one or two nights a week where you make meal ingredients like brown rice and whole wheat pasta, cook up 4-5 chicken breasts, or lean roast, cut up various fresh veggies like carrots, celery and peppers. This will help you to make better choices when you go to the fridge and pack your lunch or need a healthy snack.

Now this is where the rubber hits the dirt for both parent and young athlete:

Empowerment
I love that word and it’s meaning when dealing with younger athletes! I’m a father of two and I have heard just like all the other parents, "Mom, Dad I can do it," or "I’ll get it." Our children want to do things on their own. They want to feel like they have accomplished something, they want to take on responsibility! So I say let them. Let them go to the fridge and pick out their own snack or even make their own lunches the night before. And there is no need to worry about the youngsters making bad choices because we have taken the time to make up and place in the fridge only healthy choices. So no mater what choice the youngster makes it will be a healthy choice. So now they not only feel good about making their own snacks and packing their own lunches or dinners, we as parents know that they are eating healthy.

You might be saying, "Drew this all sounds good, but my kids are still going to eat out of the snack cupboard. They are still going to have the chocolates and chips and junk." Really? Why are these products even in the house? Does it make us feel better as parents or ease our conscious when Timmy or Suzy whine that they want sweets? We send them into the kitchen and tucked away in a corner are those “treats”? I’m not saying your house should be completely devoid of every sweet, but instead of chips try substituting whole grain crackers. Instead of full size chocolate bars buy smaller servings of real chocolate. Stock the kitchen counter with apples, pears, and banana’s that are out in plain sight ready to eat.

Don't worry, I can read your mind. Right about now you are saying to yourself, "Drew, if I do that, the kids won't eat." Well, you can trust me on this. Once they get hungry enough, they will eat. If you stick to your plan and don't give in, it won't be long before little Timmy or Suzy is telling you that you are out of bananas again!

Food Logs
How do you know where you're starting and if you have made any improvements? Simple. You keep a food log. Having worked in the industry for over 10 years, I always hear, "But Drew I eat great, I eat every 2-3 hours, drink lots of water, I’m dialed in." Yeah ok, lets see it! I have each of my clients fill out a tracking sheet (contact me for this sheet: drew@evolvednutrition.com ) where they fill out when they got up and what they ate through out the day. I have them do this for 4-5 days typically before we meet for the first time. We then go over it, and you’d be surprised what we find. Small or large caloric meals (many people have no idea how many calories are even in the food they eat), incomplete meals, huge time gaps between intake and so on. When the clients and athletes actually sit down and we go over their log book, they are normally surprised at what they see. After implementing the new strategies, every month or so I have them fill out 4-5 days of food tracking and again we go over the results. We do this to make sure they have successfully made the right changes and to make sure they haven’t slipped back to their old ways.

Food logs can also be used if the athlete becomes run down or unable to train at the same intensity. Their training program might be spot on but for some reason they might be under eating and by tracking food and sleep he food log can be used to eliminate diet as the cause.

In the end, even though this is all very good advice, you need to sit down with a qualified health care specialist (especially if you have any disease like diabetes, colitis, etc. or food allergy) so they can guide you and help construct a diet based on your individual needs.

About the Author: Drew Robertson owner of Evolved Nutrition/Evolved MX/SX, A.Sc. Nutrition, CFT, SPN, SSC, Certified Fitness Trainer (CFT) and Specialist in Performance Nutrition (SPN). Works with Logan Christian, Iain Hayden, Kyle Beaton, Corey Watkinson, Dylan Hall, Jared Petruska has worked with Tyler Medaglia, Dean Wilson. New to the team of athletes is Bob Kiniry who will be filing in for the injured Morias. drew@evolvednutrition.com

That's it for now, until next time, good luck with your training and remember, if you have a question, log on to the Virtual Trainer Expert Forum and have your question answered by a panel of experts. In addition, be sure and check out the Racer X Virtual Trainer archive section. Your complete one-stop information zone for motocross fitness. VT Signature

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Discussion

  1. Gravatar
    kris March 29, 2012 at 10:30 am

    IMO, protein and green vegetables are should be a priority during the day from breakfast to dinner. Carbs such as whole grain and starches should be eaten at dinner due to the bodies energy system being compromised on digestion. During sleep, the body will break down the complex carbs and when the athlete wakes up he will have a full storehouse of glucose in his or her muscles for energy. Blood sugars will stay stable during the day as long as the athlete stays away from simple sugars.

  2. Gravatar
    Daniel Paquette March 29, 2012 at 11:14 am

    How true it is and how so many do not get it. We found out that our son and my self were wheat , gluten and sugar sensitive about seven years ago. He had been racing for three years prior to this finding and had never won a race before that. We found out in the winter break and changed our diet that winter that spring when we started racing local races he won his frist race and the next thirteen races. People were asking how he got so fast I would say you will have to ask him. His answer was its the way I eat.!! It was better than buying a Mod bike he was on a stock bike.:)
    Of course being the Dad all I did was smile.

  3. Gravatar
    mike March 29, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    okay, nutella concealed on the cupboard (I am sure youngster will find it...)

  4. Gravatar
    Arthur April 28, 2012 at 5:27 am

    WOW great tips! Exactly what i needed, not only did you steer me in the right direction but you actually gave many great examples!

    Keep up the great work.

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