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Top 10 Nutrition Tips of 2009

by Racer X Virtual Trainer

Some tips are simple like switching from Orange juice to Pomagranite juice

What kind of website would Virtual Trainer be without a list to round out the year? When I sat down to think of the most useful and appropriate list for you weekend warriors out there, the choice was easy: nutrition.

If you are like most people, the Holidays wreak havoc on your training program especially the nutritional element. Last week I gave you a quick 20-minute workout to keep your physical training on track so this week I put together what I think are the 10 most important tips compiled from some of the best nutritional sites on the internet. Thanks for all your support in 2009 and here is to a great 2010!

1. Do not Skip Breakfast
Research shows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially if you are training or racing. Skipping breakfast will force your body will tap into your lean-muscle stores for energy. Breakfast also increases metabolism and fuels the brain. Keep it balanced with some protein, a healthy carb, and a small amount of fat. Try something like an egg-white omelet with fresh berries and a piece of whole-wheat toast, or a skim milk shake with fruit and yogurt.

A cup of coffee is not a breakfast. Substituting caffeine for real food just gives you an artificial energy, which does nothing to stop the eating away of your lean-muscle stores.

2. Easy on the Caffeine there Big Fella!
Caffeine stimulates the brain so that you have energy, but it also signals to the brain that the body is not hungry when it may be under-fueled. This is especially important if your main fuel to start the day is an energy drink or coffee. If you need caffeine to kick start your day, you may want to look a little closer at the reason why you are so tired (like a lack of sleep).

Drink plenty of water and find a healthier alternative to all of the energy drinks that are on the market. Again, if you need an energy drink to get through the day, try focusing on why you are tired and fix the problem. Don't treat the symptom, fix the cause!

If you are a coffee drinker and aren't ready to give it up yet, avoid drinking coffee throughout the day. Drinking 1 to 2 cups is OK, but 1 to 2 cups an hour is not.

3. Rethink Your Morning Beverage
While orange juice is a great source of Vitamin C, pomegranate juice packs a serious punch of antioxidants. Combine 4-6 ounces of pomegranate juice with sparkling water for a refreshing morning beverage. Try to eat your fruit instead of drinking a juice that has been fortified with sugar. And while you are at it, make the switch to Skim milk if you haven't done so already.

I love Starbucks as much as the next guy, but instead of the coffee with all the dressings, try the Green Tea. I switched a few months ago by replacing my favorite 1-pump, non-fat, no whip, extra-hot Latte with Starbucks Green Tea. Ordering is much quicker and even though it is tea, I think I sound manlier!

If you are watching your waistline, Green tea contains the antioxidant catechin, which stimulates the body to burn more calories, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study found that drinking 4 cups a day helped reduce body fat, and had anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and cholesterol controlling properties. Sounds like a good reason to switch to me.

4. Learn Portion control, People!
Just because a food is organic or from a health food store doesn't mean you shouldn't be aware of how much you're eating. In the nutrition world, size matters. The easiest way to learn portion control is to learn the basic exchange of food for calories, fat, etc. to estimate total intake. For example, the size of your fist is equal to one serving of carbs, while a palm full is appropriate for one serving of protein.

1 cup raw leafy, 1/2 cup cooked or raw , 3/4 cup juice and 1/2 cup of cooked dry beans all have around 25 calories, 5g of carbs and 2g of protein.

1 medium-sized fruit, 1/2 cup canned or chopped fruit, 1/4 cup fruit juice or 2 Tbsp of dried fruit contain about 60 calories and 15g of carbs.

Breads and Cereals
1 slice of bread, 1 cup ready-to-eat cereal, 1/2 cup cooked rice or pasta all have around 75 calories, 15g of carbs, 3g of protein and 0-1g of fat.

Meats, Eggs, Nuts
1 ounces meat. a handful of nuts, 1 egg and a 1/2 cup of legumes run about 75 calories, 7g of protein, 4-6g of fat (varies depending on cut of meat).

Oils, Butters
1 Tbsp olive oil, flaxseed oil, fish oil or peanut butter has around 72 calories and 8g of fat.

1 cup milk, 1/2 cup cottage cheese and 1 slice of cheese have about 100 calories, 12g of carbs, 8g of protein and 0-4g of fat.

When dining out ask for lunch or kids size portions. In America, these portions are still too large for most adults.

5. Take Control of Your Kids' Snacks
Instead of letting your little racers dine on chips, cookies, and candy at the track, try something equally child-friendly and a lot healthier. CLIF Kid Organic ZBars are low in fat, made with oats, packed with essential vitamins and minerals, and come in seven great tasting flavors. Serving yourself and your children healthier snacks will go a long way in changing the way your family eats. I switched my kids a few years ago, and after a few growls and grumbles, they now prefer ZBars to other snacks like Granola bars. Granola is good, but what do you think is holding the bar together? High Fructose Corn Syrup of course!

6. Don't Cut Out an Entire Food Group
Whether it's kicking carbs to the curb (aka the Adkins Diet) or dropping all dairy products, cutting out food groups only hurts you. Experts say you should never cut any food group out of your diet -- including carbohydrates and fat. You'll be unsatisfied, and, worse, fighting non-stop cravings. Balance every meal with healthy fats, carbs, and protein. If you feel you must go on a 'diet' check out this Virtual Trainer article by Dietician, Kim Wathen that explains which diets are good and which are bad.

Confused about carbs? A national fascination with low-carb diets has many Americans eliminating carbohydrates from their eating plans in record "grams." But before you reconstruct your personal nutrition pyramid, there's something you should know. There are carbs that are very, very good, and some that are less good, but your brain and body must have some carbohydrates every day.

But eliminating this important food group isn't our only carb-related mistake. Just as troublesome is the belief that all no-carb or low-carb foods are healthy, or that you can eat them in any amount.

If you are riding and training, Carbs are your friend not enemy!

7. Include a good balance of healthy fat in your diet
For a long time, dietary fat was vilified in the media. The truth is that dietary fat is absolutely essential! There are 3 types of fat: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated. Eating all three kinds in a healthy balance can dramatically improve your health, and actually help you lose fat.

Your saturated fat will probably already be covered. Most foods containing lean protein also contain some saturated fat, and that's okay. You can even toss in some butter or coconut oil for cooking.

Your monounsaturated fat should come from mixed nuts, olives, and olive oil.

Your polyunsaturated fat should from flax seed oil, fish oil, and mixed nuts.

8. Eat and Drink for Recovery
Nutrition is the foundation of post-exercise recovery because it provides the raw materials with which your body can make physiological adaptations in response to training. If you take in the right nutrients, in the right amounts, at the right time after workouts, you will recover far more quickly and thoroughly than you will if you don't practice proper nutritional recovery.

One of the most important sports nutrition discoveries in recent years is the fact that timing is essential with regard to post-exercise nutrition, because your body is primed to sponge up needed nutrients during the first hour or two after working out than at any other time. The most important nutrients to take in immediately following each workout are water and electrolytes for hydration, carbohydrate to replenish muscle glycogen stores, and protein to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Sports drinks formulated especially for recovery take the fullest advantage of the 'muscle recovery window' due to their fast absorption. A great recovery drink is a protein shake made with protein powder (such as whey) and some fruit. Blend it up and enjoy - it makes the perfect post-workout treat!

Indeed, cutting-edge research has even shown that you can accelerate post-exercise recovery by consuming protein immediately before and during exercise. For example, in one study, cyclists who consumed protein during an exhaustive stationary ride experienced 83 percent less muscle damage than those who did not, and as a direct result performed significantly better in a workout undertaken the following day.

9. Eat every 2-3 hours
Now, you don't need to eat a full meal every 2-3 hours; some of them can be smaller snacks. But every few hours you should be getting a dose of good food that follows the other rules on this list. That may seem like a lot, but understand a.) that each meal will be smaller than the ones most people eat, and b.) that eating this way can drastically reduce your body's inclination to store the calories you eat as body fat.

Learning to eat this way also will help with energy stores on race day. Lots of riders don't like to eat a lot when they race. Nerves, time, lack of healthy choices all play a role and if your body is used to eating several smaller meals (i.e. snacks) you will be much better off on race day. Check out this article on What to Eat on Raceday.

10. Fuel up Before Bedtime
There is a nasty rumor going around that eating before bedtime is a no-no because it will make you fat. This theory is as unfounded as the one that says you will get arm pump if you lift weights. You may think you're doing your gut a favor by not eating before bedtime, but you could be sabotaging your muscle.

Shrink your non-eating window at night to 8 to 10 hours. Otherwise, your body will get through its extended fast by tapping into your lean muscle for nourishment. Something you don't want to do if you are training.

Have a bedtime snack that's high in protein, such as cottage cheese and berries.

Be sure to consume something when you wake up in the morning, even just a shake. Your body is stressed out and starving in the morning. Feed it (see #1).

Honerable Mention
11. Eliminate Processed Sugars

Processed sugars are carbs that have been stripped of their valuable nutrients. How can you identify these sugars? They are all white: table sugar, pasta, rice, and bread, and they're nothing but trouble, since they kick up your appetite for more of the same. You can still eat pasta, rice, and bread, just make sure it is brown.

12. Everything on this List.
Love the Advice Found Here!

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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