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 (

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tips of the week by Nancy Clark – 2011 Sports Nutrition News from the American College of Sports Medicine

2011 Sports Nutrition News from the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is the world's largest organization of sports medicine and exercise science professionals. At ACSM's annual meeting in Denver, May 31-June 4, 2011, over 6,000 exercise scientists, sports dietitians, physicians and other health professionals gathered to share their research. Here are a few of the nutrition highlights that mightbe of interest to soccer athletes, coaches, and parents. More highlights are available at (click on “news releases”).

• Looking for a way to get fit quickly? High intensity interval training (HIIT) is effective, though it's hard work! Once you are fit, you can then reduce the exercise intensity to a more enjoyable (sustainable) level. Dr. Martin Gibala of McMaster University in Ontario does not believe HIIT is a heart attack waiting to happen, but recommends untrained people first get a proper medical check-up.

• HIIT can be an effective part of a weight reduction program. Overweight men who did twenty minutes of HIIT (8 second sprints with 12 seconds recovery) 3 times per week for 12 weeks achieved a 7% drop in body fat. In another study with untrained, slightly overweight women ages 30-45, those who did high intensity exercise lost more weight and body fat than those who did lower intensity training. One benefit of high intensity exercise is it can suppress the appetite (temporarily) compared to lower intensity exercise.

• HIIT can create a significant afterburn. Men who expended roughly 500 calories during 47 minutes of vigorous exercise continued to burn 225 extra calories in the next 18.5 hours.

• When athletes lose weight, they lose muscle as well as fat. For example, soldiers during nine weeks of combat training lost 9 lbs (4.2 kg) body weight, of which one-third was muscle loss and two-thirds fat loss. They consumed about 15% fewer calories than required to maintain weight.

• Even bodybuilders and figure competitors do not lose just body fat when they “lean out.” In the 12 weeks pre-competition, male bodybuilders lost about 4 lbs (1.8 kg) lean body mass and 11.5 lbs (5.2 kg) body fat. The female figure competitors lost about 5.5 lbs (2.6 kg) lean and about 6.4 lbs (2.9 kg) fat.

• Why do women struggle harder than men to lose undesired body fat? Perhaps because they are women! In the animal kingdom, female animals generate less body heat after overfeeding compared to the males. Research with humans suggests similar energy conservation. When four men and four women were overfed ice cream for three days (150% of energy balance needs), the men burned off some of the extra calories while the women conserved energy.

• Should you believe the calorie estimates displayed on exercise machines? Doubtful. The Precor EFX556i overestimated energy expenditure, particularly with women.

• A novel way to burn a few extra calories is to sit on a stability ball while you are at work. At a call center (where 90% of the time is spent sitting), the employees who sat on the stability ball for five hours during the workday burned about 260 more calories per eight-hour shift. Theoretically, that could lead to loss of 26 pounds in a year! They burned about half a calorie more per minute sitting on a stability ball compared to sitting in a chair. The biggest barrier to using the stability balls was aggravation of pre-existing back pain.

• Trained cyclists who consumed equal calories of either a sports drink or banana chunks during a 46-mile (75-kilometer) cycling time trial performed similarly. The banana, however, offered a beneficial anti-inflammatory response. Natural foods generally offer more benefits than engineered sports foods.

• Chocolate milk is a popular recovery food that contains carbohydrates to refuel muscles and high quality protein to build and repair muscles. Both full-fat and skimmed chocolate milk offer similar recovery benefits.

• Beer is a plant-based beverage that offers anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Marathoners who drank 1 to 1.5 liters of non-alcoholic beer per day for three weeks prior to a marathon and two weeks after the marathon experienced less post-race inflammation and fewer colds. Non-alcoholic beer offers a wise way to enjoy the natural high of exercise along with positive health benefits.

• Have you ever wondered how much elite endurance athletes consume during an event? A post-event survey of Ironman triathletes, marathoners, long-distance cyclists, and professional bike racers suggests the Ironmen consumed about 70 grams (280 calories) of carbohydrate per hour; the cyclists, 53 grams (212 calories) and the marathoners, 35 grams (140 calories). The endurance athletes who consumed the most energy had the best performances.

• How common are intestinal problems during endurance events?  About 31% of the Ironman competitors reported GI serious problems, compared to 14% of the half-Ironman competitors, 4% of the cyclists, and 4% of the marathoners. Those with a history of GI distress reported the most symptoms, as well as those who exercised in higher heat.

• If you are going to be competing in the heat, you might want to pre-cool your body. One way to do that is to enjoy an ice slurry. Runners who consumed about 14-ounces of ice slurry before they exercised in the heat were able to run about 1% faster during a 10 kilometer (6.2 mile) race.

• Female athletes commonly restrict their food intake. Among 44 female high school (16 y.o.) cross-country runners--
--39% restricted food, thinking being lighter would help them perform better.
--42% reported missed or absent menstrual periods in the past year—a sign of being under-fueled.
--They were eight times more likely to believe missing multiple periods was a sign they were in better shape.
These young women need to be educated about the medical problems associated with missed menstrual periods!

• To resume menses, amenorrheic women need to correct the energy deficit. Those who drank a 360-calorie carbohydrate-protein supplement resumed menses, on average, in about 2.5 months (±2 months). The longer they had been amenorrheic, the longer they needed to resume menses.

  Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) counsels both casual and competitive athletes. Her office is at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-795-1875). Her Sports Nutrition Guidebook and Food Guide for Soccer offer additional information. They are available at See also

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tip of the week by Nancy Clark – Do you skip breakfast to save calories?

 Many soccer athletes, in their efforts to be light, lean and fast, think a good way to shed a few pounds of undesired  body fat is to skip breakfast. After all, they aren’t hungry when they wake up in the morning, so why not save a few calories…? Bad idea.

Soccer players who skip breakfast will undoubtedly end up being too hungry later in the day. For example, when one of my clients skipped breakfast and ate a meager salad with diet dressing for lunch, she created a 1,200-calorie deficit. Of course she ended up “blowing” her diet later in the day, as well as eating the whole box of cereal after dinner. Her body was demanding fuel!

She thought she had no will power. I explained to her that she dieted “too hard” and got too hungry. Just as a person cannot breathe normally after staying underwater for too long, a dieter cannot eat normally after having eaten too little food for too long. That’s the physiology of hunger. The body wants to overcompensate for the perceived “famine” (diet).

My words of wisdom to weight-conscious soccer players are: If you want to lose weight, enjoy a hearty breakfast and lunch, and then “diet” at the end of the day so you can lose weight when you are sleeping, not when you are trying to train and perform well.

Enjoy high energy and low body fat,

For more information, refer to the weight reduction section in:
Food Guide for Soccer: Tips and Recipes From the Pros by Gloria Averbuch and Nancy Clark RD (Available at