Making a Stand

I just got home from an all day triathlon symposium in Richmond, VA. It was a long day, 8am-5pm, but I love going to symposiums. They are an awesome way to connect with like-minded coaches, athletes and learn the newest and greatest in triathlon training, injury prevention, nutrition, etc. That being said, today there were some highlights (Andy Potts is a phenomenal speaker) and some low points. The low points came in the form of the nutrition speaker, and one of the orthopedic surgeons presenting.

I really don’t want to turn this into a negative rant about a specific person or persons, so I just want to make a few points, and move on. However, due to some of the things I heard today, and something I heard on the radio yesterday, I feel compelled to 1. Say something about it, and 2. Give my own recommendations. All that I’m speaking of, is on nutrition. Let me start off my saying, everyone has their own opinions. The speaker(s) might not agree with me, and you may not agree with me. If that’s the case, no worries, we are all entitled to our own opinions. In addition, I do not have a MS after my name (yet), and I don’t have an MD either. The speakers had either an MS or MD behind their names, so from a higher level of education standpoint, they have higher degrees.

Even though I don’t have my MS in Exercise Physiology/Sports Nutrition yet, I have been a student of sports nutrition for years (my undergrad degree is these fields), in addition to being 1 year through the program. I have some of the best professors in the world, including Louise Burke, the head of the AIS (Australian Institute of Sport). She is at the top of her game nutritionally, in addition to my other outstanding professors. When I say that they want the best for athletes, and they are doing cutting edge research, they truly are.

So as I sat through some of the speakers today, I became more discouraged by the lack of information and the misinformation out there. Here are some tidbits from what I heard:

1. “It’s ok to eat a Macintosh apple, but it’s not ok to eat a Granny Smith apple.” The one apple is slightly sweeter then the other. Really???

2. “You should avoid grapes, carrots and bananas, but berries are ok.”Grapes, carrots and bananas have a higher glycemic index. If you are eating grapes, carrots, bananas and berries, that’s awesome! And if you are more worried about the glycemic index, eat them with some protein or fat. If you’re an athlete, higher glycemic index foods are fine for you.

3. “As an endurance athlete, eating 50-100g of carbs (total) per day is a good goal.” This is far from the truth unless you want to be in ketosis, which I don’t recommend unless your doctor prescribes it, or you are an ultra runner (50miles+). Even then I’m not a fan.

4. “If a sports nutritionist or dietician tells you that you should go by a certain calorie count, or macronutrient count, run as fast and as far from them as you can.” This is hogwash. Any dietician or nutritionist worth their salt would need to know where you are starting from calorically to be able to figure out where you need to change things up. If you’re trying to put on weight, how would you know where you are starting at? If you need to lose weight, how would you know where you are? If all I said was, decrease the processed foods and carbs, and increase healthy fat, you could eat 3x avocados, 1 cup of nuts, you might gain a ton of weight. I don’t believe in counting calories, but I do believe that everyone needs to understand where they are starting from, learn what the correct portion size is, then either adjust up or down to meet their goal. Once they are there, then it’s ok to not go by calories. In fact I don’t believe in counting calories for the rest of your life. But the first time I meet you, you better be sure I need to know what you’re eating, the quantities, and what goals you should be shooting for.

5.”Gluten and inflammation are the cause of your knee problems.” When someone who is a orthopedist gives a 20min talk on  inflammation from foods causing knee problems, and being the root of all evil, I have a problem with it. Especially when they tell a group of 200 athletes and coaches, that simple sugars are terrible. When in fact, endurance athletes, specifically IM triathletes, can benefit greatly from simple sugars (while training and competing). If he was speaking to a group of non athletes who sat on the couch, then yes, simple sugars are not your friend. When you’re an athlete, simple sugars are the simplest thing for your body to use for energy. Plus, being an orthopedist does not necessarily qualify you to give athletes sports nutrition info.

Now that I’ve gotten that out, I’ve realized that part of the problem with just teaching about healthy eating, and not having buzzwords and catch phrases, is that it’s not fun and “sexy.” I read another dietician’s blog that said being a dietician these days isn’t sexy. They don’t promote gluten-free, paleo, Atkins or any other special diet. Dieticians promote what is best for the individual, not the latest fad. Dieticians promote research backed nutrition ideas. Yes, there might be room for improvement in the governments nutrition recommendations, but on a whole, everything a dietician is taught, and says is backed by years and years of proven data. And everything that I teach, is also backed by years of sports nutrition data.

Nutrition research is ever-changing, and dieticians and sports nutritionists need to stay abreast on the latest research. But what I heard today was disappointing and honestly made me a bit angry. So, my next blog will be my recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle. I’ll call it the Fueled and Focused Nutrition Plan. Not sexy, and nothing new and remarkable. But straightforward nutrition data that’s backed by science. And in the coming years, as things evolve and change with research, I am sure I’ll change what I’m saying. Even if no one actually reads or follows this nutrition plan, at least I’m put it out there, as a research backed nutrition plan, that won’t ask you to diet, starve, deprive or totally eliminate whole food groups. Stay tuned…


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