Friday, February 24, 2012

Tip of the week by Nancy Clark - Eggs for soccer players?

  Yes, eggs can be a good part of a soccer diet! Although eggs have been given a bad rap because the yolk is high in cholesterol and has been thought to elevate blood cholesterol, the majority of healthy active soccer players can enjoy the whole egg, yolk and all! Just go easy on the saturated fat in the accompanying breakfast foods: bacon, buttery toast, and greasy hash browns. They tend to be the bigger health culprits.

Healthy soccer players with no family history of heart disease have no need to toss the yolk and eat just the white. That’s like tossing the baby out with the bath water. The yolk is nutrient-dense and an excellent source of vitamins and minerals (including iodine, zinc, iron, and folic acid) as well as many other life-sustaining nutrients.

Many soccer players seek eggs for their high quality protein. The yolk offers 3 grams of protein and the white another 3 grams. That totals (only) 6 grams for the whole egg. Having two eggs for breakfast almost matches the 14 grams in a serving of Greek yogurt—surprising news to many of my clients who think their two-egg white omelet is a super source of protein. They need to think again; two egg whites offer only 6 grams of protein.

Eggs are also known for being satiating; that is, they contribute to a pleasant feeling of fullness. Hence, eating eggs can be a helpful addition to a weight management program. Obese dieters who ate eggs for breakfast lost more weight than those who ate a bagel for breakfast. (The egg eaters did not experience higher blood cholesterol levels.)

How about eggs for breakfast one day, Wheaties (or other whole grain cereal) the next day, and then oatmeal the third day? Sounds to me like a good plan to enjoy a variety of important nutrients in your sports diet!

Eat wisely and feel great!

For more information on a heart-healthy sports diet check out Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros by Nancy Clark and Gloria Averbuch.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Tip of the week by Nancy Clark - Recovering from Hard Exercise: How to Refuel

What's best to eat for recovery after a hard workout? That's what soccer players, marathoners, and body builders alike repeatedly ask. They read ads for commercial recovery foods that demand a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein, tout the benefits of a proprietary formula, or emphasize immediate consumption the minute you stop exercising. While these ads offer an element of truth, consumers beware: engineered recovery foods are not more effective than standard foods. The purpose of this article is to educate you, a hungry soccer player, about how to choose an optimal recovery diet.

Which soccer players need to worry about a recovery diet?

     Too many athletes are obsessed with rapidly refueling the minute they stop exercising. They are afraid they will miss the one-hour “window of opportunity” when glycogen replacement is fastest. They fail to understand refueling still occurs for several hours, just at a slowing rate. Given a steady influx of adequate carb-based meals and snacks, muscles can refuel within 24 hours. If you have a full day to recover before your next training session or game, or if you have done an easy (non-depleting) workout, you need not obsess about refueling immediately afterwards.
    Refueling as soon as tolerable is most important for serious athletes doing a second bout of intense, depleting exercise within six hours of the first workout, including:
• soccer players in tournaments,
• triathletes doing double workouts,
• people who ski hard in the morning and again in the afternoon.
The sooner you consume carbs to replace depleted muscle glycogen and protein to repair damaged muscle, the sooner you'll be able to exercise hard again.
     Over the course of the next 24 hours, your muscles will have lots of time to replenish glycogen stores. Just be sure to repeatedly consume a foundation of carbohydrates with each meal/snack, along with some protein to build and repair the muscles. For example, chocolate milk or a fruit smoothie are excellent choices. 

How many carbs do I need?
According to the International Olympic Committee’s Nutrition Recommendations, adequate carbs means:

Amount of exercise
Gram carb/lb
Gram carb/kg
Moderate exercise (~1 hour/day)
2.5 to 3

Endurance exercise (1-3 h/day)
2.5 to 4.5

Extreme exercise (>4-5 h/day)
3.5 to 5.5

Example, a 150-lb soccer player doing extreme training should target ~500 to 800 g carb/day (2,000-3,200 carb-calories). That’s about 500 to 800 carb-calories every 4 hours during the daytime.

What are some good carb-protein recovery foods?

Your recovery meals and snacks should include a foundation of carbohydrate-rich breads, cereals, grains, fruits, and vegetables plus a smaller amount of protein (at least 10-20 grams per recovery snack or meal). Enjoy—
            fruit smoothie (Greek yogurt + banana + berries)
            cereal + milk                  bagel + (decaf) latté       
            pretzels + hummus                   baked potato + cottage cheese
            turkey sub                        pasta + meatballs.         

Do NOT consume just protein, as in a protein shake or protein bar. Protein fills your stomach and helps build and repair muscles, but it does not refuel your muscles. Your muscles want three or four times more calories from carbs than from protein. If you like the convenience of protein shakes, at least add carbs to them. That is, blend in some banana, frozen berries, and graham crackers.
     Keep in mind that recovery calories “count.” I hear many weight-conscious soccer players complain they are not losing weight despite hard workouts. Perhaps that’s because they gobble 300 or so “recovery calories” and then go home and enjoy a hefty dinner. By organizing your training to end at mealtime, you can avoid over-indulging in recovery-calories.

What about recovery electrolytes?
After a hard practice or game, many soccer athletes reach for a sports drink, thinking Gatorade or PowerAde is “loaded” with sodium (an electrically charged particle). Think again! Milk and other “real foods” are actually better sources of electrolytes than most commercial sports products. These electrolytes (also known as sodium and potassium) help enhance fluid retention and the restoration of normal fluid balance. Here’s how some common recovery fluids compare:
Beverage (8 oz)
Sodium (mg)
Potassium (mg)
Protein (g)
Carbs (g)
Low-fat milk
Chocolate milk
Orange juice

As you can see, after a hard workout, recovery fluids that such as chocolate milk, orange juice, or a latte offer far more “good stuff” than you'd get in a sports drink. Sports drinks are dilute and designed for during extended exercise.
     To assess how much sodium you lose in sweat, weigh yourself naked pre-post an hour of exercise, accounting for any fluid consumed. Loss of one pound equates to loss of about 700-1,000 mg sodium. If you sweat heavily and lose a significant amount of sodium, you can easily replace those losses with pretzels (300 mg sodium/10 twists), a bagel (500 mg) with peanut butter (200 mg/2 tbsp), Wheaties and milk (300 mg), or a spaghetti dinner with tomato sauce (1000 mg/cup Ragu sauce). Most soccer players consume plenty of sodium! 

Recovery can start before you exercise

     What you eat before you exercise impacts your recovery. According to research presented at the 2011 annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine, consuming protein before lifting weights enhanced recovery better than consuming a protein drink afterwards. That's because your body digests pre-exercise protein into amino acids (yes, your body can digest food during exercise) and puts those amino acids right into action repairing damaged muscles.

What if you feel like you never really recover well?

     If you have to drag yourself through workouts and games, questions arise:
• Are you overtraining? Rest is an essential part of a training program; muscles need time to refuel and repair. Take at least one, if not two, days off from exercise per week.
• Are you anemic? Anemia is common, so have your MD monitor your serum ferritin (stored iron). If your iron stores are depleted, you’ll feel needlessly tired during exercise. An estimated half of female athletes are iron-deficient, as indicated by low serum ferritin stores. (About 14% of all women are iron deficient.) A survey with collegiate male runners suggested about 20% had low serum ferritin. Iron supplements help resolve the problem, alongside a good recovery diet. Eat wisely, recover well, and feel great!

  Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her office in Newton, MA (617-795-1875). Her best-selling Sports Nutrition Guidebook and Food Guide for Soccer offer additional information. They are available at See also

Nutrition for Athletes: A practical guide to eating for health and performance.
Prepared by the Nutrition Working Group of the International Olympic Committee, Feb 2010

Campos. Manuel, S Gervais, J Walker, A Olson. Iron deficiency in Division III male cross country and track runners. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2821

Lee, Choi Hyun, J Kim, K Hoon Park, J Lee. Efect of the timing of protein supplement on recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010;  42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2862.

Nicewonger, Christine, J Flohr, M Todd, C Womack. The effect of iron supplementation on iron markers and performance in female athletes. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2010; 42(5 Supplement):Abstract 2822

Books make good gifts: Suggestions for your soccer friends

Are you searching for a meaningful gift for your soccer coach, teammates, or sports-parents? Or for yourself, for that matter! Here are a few suggestions, admittedly self-serving!

A quick-and-easy read for soccer parents and players:
Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and recipes from the pros

A complete resource for athletes who enjoy reading about nutrition:
Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook

Additional books--
For your friends who like to bicycle:
Cyclist's Food Guide: Fueling for the distance (hot off the press!)

For new runners:
Food Guide for New Runners: Getting it right from the start

For novice and experienced marathoners:
Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for everyday champions

For hungry athletes who need quick and easy recipes:
For iPhone recipe app: Recipes for Athletes

All of these books are available at

With best wishes for high energy and good health,

Tip of the week by Nancy Clark - Fueling for Cold Weather Exercise

If you take time off from soccer to enjoy winter sports, you want to pay careful attention to your sports diet. Otherwise, lack of food and fluids can take the fun out of your outdoor activities. These tips can to help you fuel wisely for cold weather workouts.

Winter hydration

• Cold blunts the thirst mechanism; you'll feel less thirsty despite significant sweat loss and may not “think to drink.”
• Winter athletes (especially those at high altitude) need to consciously consume fluids to replace the water vapor that gets exhaled via breathing. When you breath in cold dry air, your body warms and humidifies that air. As you exhale, you lose significant amounts of water. You can see this vapor (“steam”) when you breathe.
•  Unless you are hot, you do not want to drink icy water (i.e., from a water bottle kept on your bike or outside pocket of your back pack). Cold water can cool you off and give you the chills. The better bet is having an insulated water bottle or a bottle filled with hot sports drink then covered with a wool sock to help retain the heat.
• Dress in layers, so you sweat less. Sweaty clothing drains body heat. As the weather becomes “tropical” inside your exercise outfit, make the effort to strip down. You’ll stay drier and warmer.  Simply taking off a hat is cooling; 30% to 40% of body heat gets lost through the head.
• Some winter athletes purposefully skimp on fluids to minimize the need to urinate. There's no doubt that undoing layer after layer of clothing (ski suit, hockey gear, etc.) can be a hassle. Yet, dehydration hurts performance. Wether you are running or skiing, think to drink!
• Failing to drink enough fluids is a major mistake made by winter athletes. A study comparing hydration status of skiers, football players, or soccer athletes reported the skiers had the highest rate of chronic dehydration. Before a competition, 11 of the 12 alpine skiers showed up dehydrated (1).

Winter fuel

You need adequate pre-run fuel to generate body heat. Hence, you want to fuel-up before you embark on a winter long run or any outside activity in extreme cold.
• Food's overall warming effect is known as thermogenesis (that is, "heat making"). Thirty to sixty minutes after you eat, your body generates about 10% more heat than when you have an empty stomach. Hence, eating not only provides fuel but also increases heat production (warmth).
• Aerobic exercise can increase your metabolism by 7 to 10 times above the resting level. That means, if you were to run hard for an hour and dissipate no heat, you would cook yourself in the process! In the summer, your body sweats heavily to dissipate this heat. But in the winter, the warmth helps you survive in a cold environment. Exercise is an excellent way to warm up in the winter!
• If you become chilled during winter exercise (or even when swimming, for that matter), you'll likely find yourself searching for food. A drop in body temperature stimulates the appetite and you experience hunger. Your body wants fuel to "stoke the furnace" so it can generate heat. 
• For safety sake, you should always carry some source of emergency food (such as an energy bar) with you in case you slip on the ice or experience some incident that leaves you static in a frigid environment. Winter campers, for example, commonly keep a supply of dried fruit, chocolate, or cookies within reach, in case they wake up cold at 3:00 a.m.

Energy needs

Cold weather itself does not increase energy needs, but you will burn extra calories if your body temperature drops and you start to shiver. Shivering is involuntary muscle tensing that generates heat.
--When you first become slightly chilled (such as when watching a football game or waiting for your running buddies to show up), you'll find yourself doing an isometric type of muscle tensing that can increase your metabolic rate two to four times.
--As you get further chilled, you'll find yourself hopping from foot to foot and jumping around. This is Nature's way to get you to generate heat and warm your body.
--If you become so cold that you start to shiver, these vigorous muscular contractions generate lots of heat--perhaps 400 calories per hour. Such intense shivering quickly depletes your muscle glycogen stores and drains your energy. This is when you'll be glad you have emergency food with you!
• Your body uses a considerable amount of energy to warm and humidify the air you breathe when you exercise in the cold. For example, if you were to burn 600 calories while running for an hour in 0° F weather, you might use about 150 of those calories to warm the inspired air.  In summer, you would have dissipated that heat via sweat.
• If you wear heavy clothing (boots, heavy parka, snow shoes, skies etc.), you will burn a few more calories carrying the extra weight. The Army allows 10% more calories for heavily clad troops who exercise in the cold. If you are a runner, however, the weight of your extra clothing is minimal. Think twice before chowing down!

Winter recovery foods

To chase away chills, replenish depleted glycogen stores, and rehydrate your body, enjoy warm carbohydrates with a little protein, such as hot cocoa made with milk, oatmeal with nuts, lentil soup, chili, and pasta with meatballs. The warm food, added to the thermogenic effect of eating, contributes to rapid recovery.
• In comparison, eating cold foods and frozen fluids can chill your body. That is, save the slushie (ice slurry) for summer workouts; it will cool you off. In winter, you want warm foods to fuel your workouts. Bring out the mulled cider or thermos of soup!

Winter weight gain 

Many soccer players bemoan winter weight gain. Some eat too much because they are bored and less active. Others experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The change of seasons has a marked affect upon their mood. Changes in brain chemicals increase carbohydrate cravings and the desire to eat more. The temptations of winter holiday foods can also contribute to weight gain. 
• To limit winter weight gain, stay active! Exercise helps manage health, weight, and the winter blues. The tricks are to invest in proper clothing, fuel well, and prevent dehydration so you can stay warm and enjoy winter’s outdoor wonderland.

Nancy Clark, MS RD offers nutrition consultations to casual exercisers and competitive athletes at her private practice located at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-795-1875). Her popular Food Guide for Soccer (co-authored with Gloria Averbuch) and her Sports Nutrition Guidebook are available at See also

1. Johnson C, A Davenport, M Hansen, D Bacharach. Pre-competition hydration status of high school athletes participating in different sports. Med Sci Sport Exerc 42(5): S128 (Abstract 1149).

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Everyday eating - General guidelines for soccer players

I'm in high school and am just beginning a soccer program. I have decent nutritional habits, but what I want to know is now that I'm exercising more, should I change my eating habits? And if I do, what types of foods should I emphasize and what should I eat less of?

Athletic or not, you want to follow the government guidelines ( for a diet based on:

- whole grains, fruits, and vegetables;
- protein as an accompaniment to those carbohydrte-rich foods;
- a little bit of healthful fat in each meal.

By enjoying a variety of foods, you’ll consume:

- carbohydrates (fruits, veggies, whole grains) to fuel your muscles;
- lean protein (including fish, chicken, beans, lentils, lowfat milk and yogurt) to build and repair your muscles;
- healthful fats (nuts, peanut butter, olive oil, salmon, avocado) to fight inflammation from the tiny injuries that occur when you train.

To organize your sports diet, think of yourself as having four food buckets:

1. Breakfast bucket;
2. Lunch bucket;
3. Second lunch bucket (some people call this a snack)
4. Dinner bucket.

You want to evenly-fill each bucket with at least three to four different kinds of foods, such as:

Breakfast: cereal, milk, berries, slivered almonds;
Lunch: whole wheat bread, peanut butter, banana, decaf latte;
Lunch #2: pita, hummus, baby carrots, Greek yogurt;
Dinner: chicken, rice, salad/shredded lowfat cheese/olive oil.

For more detailed information, please refer to “Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes from the Pros” by myself and co-author Gloria Averbuch. It is available at

Have fun and enjoy your high energy!
Nancy Clark MS RD

Want to be on a winning team?

Team sports are fun. Whether you are a member of a soccer team, running club, or  pick-up basketball team, the culture of team sports can easily lead to post-game food feasts, beer fests, and a suboptimal sports diet. Sure, part of team fun is food, but think twice and make sure you celebrate with functional foods that will improve team performance!
Research suggests when a team enjoys a carbohydrate-based sports diet that replenishes depleted muscle glycogen stores, the athletes perform better. For example, a motion-analysis study with ice hockey players indicates the better-fueled players with a higher carb intake were able to skate faster and more distance during the final period of the game.
Whether at home or on the road, hungry soccer players who have easy-access to pre-planned, balanced sports meals to eat before, during and after games will recover faster, rehydrate better, and function better. They can outperform hungry athletes fending for themselves who end up eating hit-or-miss convenience foods.

You need not be the team that trains hard but “forgets” to fuel appropriately. To find a sports dietitian to work with your team, use the referral network at You and your teammates will always wins with good nutrition!

Nancy Clark RD and Gloria Averbuch
Authors, Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros

PS. For recipes for winning sports nutrition foods you can prepare for your post-game parties, refer to Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros (