Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Food to Boost Energy and Fight Fatigue (Rider Nutrition)

Now I am no nutritionist or expert by any means, so if you do have a serious problem you might want to speak to your doctor, but I have be researching a bit about food that helps boost energy, keeps you going and also fights fatigue.  When we go to the motorcycle track I need to feed Brendan food that will be beneficial to him for his performance and to not make him feel heavy or sluggish when he's out there holding down the throttle.

A phrase I like to keep in mind is the saying "garbage in-garbage out".  Meaning that if you fill yourself with foods that are processed and not nutritionally beneficially you might as well be eating dirt or shortening out of the can.

These are a couple great tips to help you even if you aren't an athlete.  Eating correctly will help you in your everyday life- because who wants to feel sluggish and tired.  That "3pm crash" commericals ::cough:: 5hr energy ::cough:: mention sluggishness can be combated with an overpriced little shot of B vitamins, caffeine and taurine- but instead you should be filling your body with healthy foods that are slow releasing that keep you going- examples being low fat protein or complex carbs.

This is a huge factor in health and fitness- you need to keep your body hydrated.  The human body is made up of something like over 80% water- so yea, water is important- and I said WATER- not soda or juice.  We started carrying around the gallon jug of water instead of the little bottles- which definitely gets you to drink more water.  (Ever wonder why those huge guys carry it around at the gym? Yea, that's why)  I'm not a huge fan of sports drinks, but when you are intensely active- like when Brendan is racing his motorcycle (all zipped up in a full leather suit with temps soaring over 100 degrees at times) or you're in a marathon or playing hard at whatever- it is a good idea to have a couple of these drinks on hand- and that brings me to the next point...

I know- this one was new to me too.  Which it kind of wasn't because if you think about when someone is in the hospital and they get an IV- it usually is saline solution for dehydratrion- which is essentially sodium.  Sodium helps to prevent cramping and helps you when the weather is extremely hot and/or humid.  This is where the sports drinks come in- they have sodium and also electrolytes which help keep the body going- but don't forget to drink lots of water in between or even mix your drinks half and half.  FYI you are also consuming a lot of sodium in foods you eat- so don't go dousing your food with table salt or anything like that- just be aware of how much you are consuming and when you are consuming it.  Here's an interesting article Water vs Sports Drinks.

A higher sodium intake yields a greater overall blood volume and blood flow to the working muscles. With increased blood flow, the amount of oxygen and nutrients delivered to the working muscles is maximized...It is the responsibility of sodium to deliver potassium into the cell membrane of muscle tissue {}

Complex Carbs
If you have read anything about carbs lately these are the recommended ones.  Complex carbs are just what they sound like- carbs that are complex- they are made up of chains of three or more single sugar molecules linked together.  These usually contain fiber which helps slows down the absorption of the carbohydrates so you feel full longer and be less likely to over-eat throughout the day.  (Non complex carbs are made up of more refined sugars that spike blood sugar levels that give us that boost, but make us feel hungry and sluggish again later).  Now, if anyone that knows more about nutrition is reading this, I know there is WAY more that goes into explaining carbs (on the molecular level) but for us regular people- just eat high fiber, whole grain carbs.  Most importantly- look at the ingredient list of foods you buy- what are the top three ingredients- are they natural? healthy? pronounceable?  Brendan has also told me most riders carb load the night before and that it helps the next day- I have also read this in other areas, but that is usually for people that will be doing some sort of intense activity the next day.

Protein can be absorbed from meats and dairy for the most part.  Examples: Boneless skinless chicken breasts, fish, eggs, low fat yogurt, tofu, quinoa, almonds, other nuts, beans, even lean beef.  Protein helps muscle and helps keep you feeling fuller longer- just like your complex carbs.  Also provides certain vitamins and minerals, like iron, vitamin D etc.

So besides all the nutritional facts- a couple other tips caught my eye:
  1. Stretch. Some people forget how important this is.  For anyone- even in the morning when you wake up.  It helps blood flow, flexibility and helps us avoid injuries.  For any riders reading this- stretch your arms and forearms before to help combat the arm pump.
  2. Sleep. Easy one but it helps recharge and rebuild your body in every aspect.
  3. Booze. Yea- don't drink it.  Or just really try and not drink yourself into an oblivion.  We like to enjoy some beers and hang out after a long day on vacation- so we drink a bit earlier- try and get a couple glasses of water in between beers and before bed try and consume water.  Then we wind up going to bed earlier so the next day isn't that bad.  (By the way, drunk sleeping is not good for cell regeneration or rebuilding your body because the body is just trying to mainly push out all the toxins and not focusing as much on the other things- that's putting it very very simply)  Also if you are going to drink after doing something intense (running, riding, gym- sounds odd but)- make sure your first drink is a real recovery drink or water before putting back a couple beers to help your body recover properly. If you really want a boost to not drink- read this
  4. Hydration. Yes I'm bringing it up again.  It is important for well being, but also for people needing to loose weight- drink some water before you eat- your body might just be thirsty- not hungry.  Also how do you know if you are hydrated? Check your pee- if it is clear- you're good (unless you are taking some vitamin or supplements that would counter act this effect).  You also want to drink before you are actually thirsty- because if you're thirsty you are already dehydrated.  If you are active- Drink cold water because is absorbed more rapidly and will aid in decreasing body temperature.
  5. Fatigue. How do you know your even fatigued? Headaches, dizziness, nausea and cramping can all be first signs of (heat) exhaustion. 
  6. Fats. Seems like I left this one out- nope- it's there but just not directly mentioned- healthy fats you will be consuming mainly through the proteins- lean meats, nuts and dairy.  Other healthy fats can come from avocados, olives, and peanut butter.  They are important for your body- but just in moderation.
  7. Exercise. All articles I read mentioned exercising and conditioning your body for the "main event".  Example being- most moto guys will mountain bike, run, swim etc to prep their bodies for the intense rides (esp motocross).  Just like marathon runners don't wake up one day and decide to run the marathon that night.  Starting small is ok- even just for better over health- at lunch time, take a ten min walk to refresh your mind and legs.  Take the stairs, stretch, get to the gym, walk your dog a bit longer than usual, clean your house vigorously etc. 
  8. Eating at the correct times. Like right after a work out for example- eating the right food helps regenerate your muscle and refuel your body.  This is a great easy read article from Spark People
Random thought: I heard something so awesome- "If it has a food label on it- it's not food"  I just love that quote because you never wonder the nutritional facts on corn or a bag of dried lentils.  Because these foods are natural and good for you.  (Obviously this is not 100% true, but still it is a good guideline to think about) When you are in a supermarket -try and walk the perimeter- and venture into the aisles for only natural whole foods- like grains/pastas or canned veggies.  I'm sure you've all heard it before that the supermarkets set their stores up like this on purpose- you need to walk through the aisles to get to the real food- so you are more likely to see unhealthier foods and make an impulse buy.  Why do you think they put all those little candy bars up by the register?

Anyway- I know this was a bunch of reading, but every ounce of knowledge gained leads to every ounce of your waist lost :)

Main sources:

Some on-the-road recipes to keep you eating like a (healthy) king:

Smashed Avocado and Chick Peas Sandwiches
  • These are so good.  I added a bit of garlic and topped with bacon on whole wheat bread.  Good fats from the avocado, complex carbs from the bread and protein from the chick peas all make this sandwich a great lunch filled with fuel to keep you going without weighing you down.  Top with cucumber slices or baby spinach to bump up the nutrition.

Fruit & Nut Breakfast Muffins
  • Start your day with this awesome portable breakfast that will fuel your morning.

Grilled Pizza
  • Because who doesn't love pizza!  And when you do this on the grill people do a double take- because they are like- Where did you get that pizza?!

Turkey Burgers
  • In a food processor (or by hand)- chop 1/2 red onion, a small pepper, and 2 garlic cloves.  Take a package of ground turkey (it's like 1.3 lbs) and mix that with the chopped veggies.  Crumble some feta cheese into that, some breadcrumbs and a palmful of McCormick's Montreal Steak Seasoning until the meat is firm enough to form a patties.  Form 4 large patties and grill until cooked all the way through since they are raw poultry.  Serve on buns.
  • These were one of the best meals I've ever had on the grill. The meat fell apart and was still super juicy and flavorful.  Something that is hard to achieve in boneless skinless chicken breasts.

Grilled Veggies

  • You can also throw some pre cut veggies into a ziplock with oil salt and pepper and then just put on the grill when ready- our favs are asparagus and zucchini.

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