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NANCY CLARK — Sports Nutritionist and Author

The Athletes's Kitchen — 2010 Sports Nutrition News from the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the world's largest sports medicine and exercise science organization. At ACSM's annual meeting in Baltimore, June 1-5, 2010, over 6,000 exercise scientists, sports dietitians, physicians and health professionals gathered to share their research. Here are a few of the nutrition highlights. More highlights are available at (click on "media").

  • What are four keys to weight loss success? In a study with 65 overweight or obese men, the keys were choosing smaller portions, cutting back on sugary soft drinks, eating fewer high fat snack foods, and consuming less alcohol.
  • Is marathon training a good way to lose weight? Likely not, at least among 64 participants in a three month marathon training program. Only 11% lost weight. Eleven percent gained weight and the rest remained stable. Of the 7 who gained weight, 6 were women. In general, 74% of the women reported eating more while training, as compared to only 48% of the men. The goal of running should be to improve performance, not to lose weight.
  • Fatigue is associated with not just depleted muscles but also a tired mind. Inhibitory mechanisms in the brain can contribute to a 25% reduction in muscle contraction. Caffeine might be able to help counter that fatigue. During rest, caffeinated drinks (with or without sugar) contribute to 12% greater ratings for mental energy compared to plain water.
  • Walking up stairs can burn about 10 calories per minute; taking the elevator burns only about 1.5 cals/min. Motivational signs that encouraged people to take the stairs instead of the elevator increased stair usage from 51% to 60%. More signs, please!
  • Consuming protein before lifting weights may enhance recovery better than consuming a protein recovery drink afterwards. Enjoy that pre-exercise yogurt as a part of your recovery plan!
  • Cyclists and triathletes who consumed 60 to 80 grams of carbohydrate per hour (240-320 calories/hour) performed better than those who consumed 10-50 g or 90-120 g carb/hour. By experimenting with different doses of carbs during training, you can learn the right dose for your body.
  • Fat-free chocolate milk is an excellent recovery drink. It stimulates muscle-building and reduces muscle breakdown. Chocolate milk also replaces glycogen faster than a protein-free drink.
  • When compared to a placebo, anti-oxidant-rich pomegranate juice improves recovery and decreases muscle soreness after muscle-damaging exercise in trained men. The same likely holds true for other colorful, anti-oxidant-rich juices such as grape, blueberry and cherry.
  • Is coconut water preferable to a sports drink in terms of replacing sweat losses? While it does replenish body fluids as well as a sports drink, it lacks taste appeal. The athletes in this study preferred the standard sports drink. A food is only good for you if you consume it!
  • During one hour of simulated bike racing, Ironman triathletes lost about 1.5 liters of sweat and they drank about half a liter too little fluid to replace that loss. While they were able to perform well for the one-hour exercise test, if they were to exercise for 14 hours with a similar deficit, they'd get into medical trouble. Endurance athletes should learn their sweat rate by weighing themselves naked before and after an hour of race-pace exercise! One pound of weight lost equates to a deficit of 16 ounces of fluid.
  • After hard exercise, are you better off drinking a large amount of water at one time to replace sweat losses--or smaller amounts of water every 30 minutes for four hours? Either works. The trick is to be sure you consume 150% more than you lost in sweat. Again, learn your sweat rate!
  • Staying well hydrated on a daily basis is important to optimize performance Winter athletes commonly need to be taught to drink more throughout the day. Urine samples of high school alpine skiers indicated 11 of 12 were dehydrated pre-competition. A survey of NCAA hockey players indicated they arrived or practice under-hydrated and ended the exercise session with a bigger fluid deficit.
  • A study with racing cyclists compared the effects of consuming two caffeinated beverages 55 minutes prior to a 25-mile simulated road race: 1) Red Bull Energy Drink or 2) Coca-Cola with extra caffeine (to match the 160 mg caffeine in Red Bull). The cyclists performed similarly with Red Bull and Coke. Caffeine and sugar are popular energizers!
  • Persistent fatigue affects 96% of cancer survivors. Low intensity exercise (cardio and lifting) can reduce fatigue. If you know of any cancer patients, encourage them to participate in a supervised exercise program.
  • Among 269 cancer patients who exercised for at least 3 months, the cancer survival rate was 93%. This is higher than the national average of 66%. In the breast cancer group, exercisers have a 95% survival rate, as compared to the national average of 89%.
  • While physical education classes seem easiest to cut during a budget crisis, the reality is students who are physically active perform better on standardized achievement tests. What's good for the body is good for the brain!
  • Strength training is key to having lean muscle tug on bones; this can help stop the development of osteoporosis.
  • Athletes with anorexia would be wise to do resistance exercise. Having strong muscles tugging on bones can enhance bone strength and potentially reduce the risk of stress fractures.
  • Loss of bone density affects men as well as women. A survey of 35 to 50 year old men and women indicates 42% of these relatively young men and 28% of the women had low bone mineral density! These shocking results mean men, as well as women, need to take steps to maintain their bone health and reduce their risk for developing osteoporosis.
  • The incidence of iron deficiency anemia in the general population is 2% of men. A survey of male cross country and distance runner ages 18-22 found that 21% of the men were iron deficient. That's 10 times more than expected! If you feel needessly fatigued, get your blood tested to rule out anemia.
  • The incidence of iron deficiency anemia in the general population is 14% of females, but about 50% among female athletes. Taking an iron supplement for the 7 days during menses can help maintain a strong iron status.
  • Physical activity can help older adults (ages 60-99) maintain their youth. Because women tend to be more active than men, they experience less physical decline. Keep active, everyone, as well as strength train twice a week!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes in her private practice at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Food Guide for Marathoners, and Cyclist’s Food Guide are available via See also

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