Thursday, December 30, 2010

protein and athletic performance {and vega review}

Hope the Christmas recovery is going well for everyone…so much fantastic food and family time in one consolidated dose that it can be slightly overwhelming.

Mine has been filled with lots of game time…


Please notice the lovely scorecard below; I always consider it a good day when I beat the English major, who knows more words than I will ever know. Ever.


And now for the protein story, part II…[read the intro post here]. Protein is one of the most highly debated topics in the exercise world, specifically how much (and what kind) is needed for optimal athletic performance.

Fuel used during exercise


  • during short duration exercise (sprinting, weight lifting), protein and amino acid use is negligible.
  • during prolonged exercise (endurance cycling or distance running), amino acids may account for ~2-5% of total energy expenditure
  • there is little evidence that more than 0.8-1.6 g/kg of protein per day is needed.
  • carbohydrates are an important fuel: the rate of glycogen (stored byproduct of carb metabolism) breakdown is high during weight lifting, so replenishing CHOs to rebuild muscle glycogen is important.

The bottom line


  • excess calories consumed from any macronutrient (carbs, fat, or protein) will lead to weight gain and conversion to adipose tissue.
  • the main fuels used during exercise are carbohydrates and fat; protein use is usually between 2% and 10% of the total energy expended.
  • most people can meet protein requirements by consuming dietary protein.
  • while protein is important, an overall balanced diet containing sufficient calories is the key to increasing muscle strength and size.
  • There is no solid evidence that special mixtures of amino acids provide any advantage over normal dietary proteins in stimulating muscle growth.

*source: Sports Science Exchange Roundtable 42 VOLUME 11 (2000);4.

For those who do need extra protein, I prefer non-soy, vegetable based protein vs. whey or soy protein. Whey is one of the two types of protein found in cow’s milk (casein is the other), so it is a dairy by-product. Soy protein contains soy protein concentrate or soy protein isolate, which have a high concentration of isoflavones, the estrogen-mimicking compounds which are controversial for their potential effect on various types of cancer. However, if the protein supplement is not being used regularly, choosing whey or soy protein powder will likely not cause harm.

 optimum soy protein vega whey

Vega makes plant based protein powders and shakes free of artificial colors and flavors and most common allergens including artificial sweeteners, corn, dairy, gluten, soy, wheat and yeast. I also appreciate their commitment to sustainability.

shakegosmoothie-4Pack      sport-protein-trio-v1

While I don’t always advocate protein powder for the normal healthy individual, and I’m not convinced that the branched chain amino acids or special ingredients like maca root extract will necessarily yield improved athletic performance or increased energy, I feel more comfortable recommending a plant based product free of artificial ingredients.

And here’s a little preview of my CSN review…can you guess what it is?!


What are your thoughts on protein powder? Do you use it regularly?


Saturday, December 25, 2010


Merry Christmas…from my family to yours!


Here’s to celebrating the good things in life and embracing the challenges it brings…


and to eating lots of delicious things [in moderation, of course].


Have a fantastic day, wherever you are!


p.s. another CSN review coming your way soon…although their modern furniture is pretty exciting, I’ll {of course} be reviewing a kitchen item. :)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

holiday caffeination

I may be a dietitian, but I love coffee (in moderation, of course…read my thoughts on caffeine here). You may remember Patrick’s guest post from earlier this year, and I’m happy to bring you an update.


Day 7: [better than] fair trade coffee

12 days of giving logo copy

Patrick Hughes [read his guest post] once dreamed of a career as a mechanical engineer and a 9-5 desk job. When he realized that he was following the expectations others had for him instead of his own ambitions, he made the life changing decision to partner with some friends and form Unión MicroFinanza, a microfinance organization in Honduras [yes, as in Central America].


Instead of merely giving loans to coffee farmers, Unión MicroFinanza works to educate them on financial responsibility and better farming techniques. The extra effort has not gone unrewarded; Unión MicroFinanza has been extremely successful, with a loan repayment rate greater than 99%.


Despite his accomplishments, Patrick is still a pretty humble guy and not afraid of tedious tasks like putting 300 stickers on bags of coffee. He says one of the biggest challenges has been immersing himself in the Honduran culture while trying to induce positive changes.


Patrick’s passion for his organization and for helping others is infectious. He truly believes that hard work can land anyone a dream job. The other members of the Unión MicroFinanza team include:

Andrew Boyd, Manager of Business [special thanks for delivering Microloan Coffee to my doorstep on Thanksgiving!].

Michael De Wit, Manager of Development

Daniel Schwartz, Manager of Community Relations

Ways to help:

I also had a really interesting discussion with Patrick about direct trade vs. fair trade…more thoughts on that to come.

  • Where does your coffee come from? And does it fit into a sustainable lifestyle?
  • How many of you are working your dream job?


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

list for a tuesday…

Thanks for all the comments on the protein post. I do want to say that although I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, I don’t worry about protein. I eat lots of vegetables, and I love nut butter and quinoa.

1]. I’m not over eating pumpkin yet. I don’t care if it’s winter. I miss fall, and I will continue to eat pumpkin in protest [pumpkin pancake recipe here].


2]. I love artsy gift tags. These were pretty fun to make, but I should probably practice cutting out circles by the looks of those edges.


Want to print out your own? Click here for the PDF download…


3]. Did you see the NYT article on exercising before breakfast? I always eat before running or working out in the morning, and I think this article was very interesting. More on that to come…

4]. I don’t know who is behind the christmas is happening music project, but it’s pretty awesome. I hear that some of the songs will be available for download soon, so check it out for some musical inspiration.


5]. Day 6: Forgive.

12 days of giving logo copy

This one is definitely intangible but still powerful. Hurt we carry is often more damaging to us than the person who wronged us. So forgive someone else...or yourself, and welcome the freedom that comes with it.

Do you exercise before breakfast?!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

the protein story

I’ve blogged about the other 2 macronutrients already (carbs and fat) and get a lot of questions about whether I think dairy and animal protein is healthful, so I think it’s time to address the issue. 

What is protein?


Daily, your body uses and turns over protein for tasks such as tissue building and repair, forming enzymes and hormones, and making antibodies to fight infections.

Protein can come from animal sources or plant sources. Protein from animal sources is called complete protein or high biological value protein. This means that the protein contains all of the essential amino acids (those that the body cannot produce on its own).

Vegetarians & Vegans


If you missed my other posts about vegetarianism and veganism, read them here and here. The American Dietetic Association states that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

Many people wonder if adequate protein intake is possible when consuming an animal-free diet. Vegetables and grains also contain protein, but it is important to remember that these are not complete sources of protein. It is best to consume a variety of foods throughout the day in order to meet protein requirements.

How much protein should I eat?

The ADA currently recommends 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (1 kg = 2.2 pounds). If you are 140 pounds, ~51 grams of protein (most 3 oz servings of meat contain ~20 g protein) would be adequate. This amount of protein is sufficient for recreational and some competitive athletes, although weight lifters and endurance athletes (marathoners, triathletes, etc.) may have slightly higher needs.

Endurance Athletes

Type of Training

Daily Protein

Daily Protein

Light to moderate training

1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram

0.55 to 0.8 grams per pound

Heavy training load and high intensity                                               

1.4 to 2.0 grams per kilogram

0.7 to 0.9 grams per pound

Strength Training

Type of Training

Daily Protein

Daily Protein

Weight and Body-focused Sports

1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram

0.55 to 0.8 grams per pound

Body Building                                               

1.4 to 1.7 grams per kilogram

0.63 to 0.77 grams per pound

Sports science experts Mark Hargreaves, PhD says: Strength and endurance athletes may need to consume 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per kilogram body weight each day (about 3-4 oz. per day for a 160 lb athlete), which is somewhat greater than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (0.8 g/kg).

According to Kevin Tipton, PhD, a metabolism expert: Studies from our laboratory indicate that exercise may actually reduce the requirement for protein intake due to the stimulation of muscle anabolism by the exercise itself. This may explain how some endurance athletes, such as the Kenyan distance runners, can thrive on very low protein intakes.

Most protein requirements can be met through dietary protein intake. If unable to meet requirements, you may consider a protein supplement…more on this in an upcoming post.

Benefits of animal protein and vegetable protein?


animal: complete protein; can consume less of it to meet requirements; may be high in saturated fat and calories.

vegetable: fiber and protein without calories and saturated fat but must consume more to meet requirements; less acidic for those with related health conditions.

I haven’t done enough research to conclude that complete elimination of animal products is beneficial for every person. Doing so is a very personal decision…I don’t believe in cookie-cutter diet recommendations. See a registered dietitian to help you plan an appropriate diet. :)

12 days of giving logo copy

Day 5: Phone a friend

Text messaging has taken over a good chunk of our daily communication; take some time out of your day to catch up with someone > 160 characters, and you won’t regret it.

While text messaging is super convenient, phone calls are definitely more personal. They don’t have to last for hours; even a 10 minute shout-out can make someone’s day.

Who was the last person you called?!


sources: American Dietetic Association; Sports Science Exchange Roundtable 42 VOLUME 11 (2000);4

Monday, December 13, 2010

{gifts from the kitchen} a holiday guide

As mentioned in my last post: while I think the material greed monster associated with the holidays is ridiculous, I do love giving and receiving thoughtful gifts. Here are some foodie-friendly ideas:

1) homemade bread


My family has a tradition of making Swedish coffee bread every year(side note: I’m adopted if you are thoroughly confused). While our recipe is [kinda] a family secret [meaning: if you emailed me, I’d probably share], here are some other breads that make great gifts.

2) sweet treats

caramel photo via live, laugh, eat

3) cookies. I feel that an explanation here isn’t necessary. So many kinds of delish cookies to make…so little time.

4) handcrafted items: Ok, so these aren’t really from the kitchen, but I thought I’d include them anyway. It’s no secret that I’m a little obsessed with crafting.

12 days of giving logo copy

Day 4: Time

I know I’ve focused primarily on monetary gifts so far, but I also want to think about other ways to give. Time is probably one of the most valuable non-material possessions in our society today, and there are so many ways to share it.


  • shovel your neighbor’s driveway: this is the ultimate gift, people, especially if you live in a snow-heavy area. and maybe they will offer you some hot chocolate in return?!
  • meet friends for coffee: this is mutually beneficial, but sometimes just clearing your schedule can be a sacrifice.
  • find somewhere to volunteer: read books at your local library, serve at a local food pantry…the possibilities are endless.
  • host a dinner party: what better way to show your friends that healthful eating can be delicious…and who doesn’t like free food?

Other ideas?!

Happy Giving…


Friday, December 10, 2010

supplemental, my dear watson.

Well, hello there. I promise to stop ranting about the weather soon. I’m living in Michigan [land of plentiful lake effect snow] through the winter for the first time since 2003, and it’s a bit of a rough adjustment.


[however, Bayley the poodle doesn’t really seem to mind…].

In an effort to use up the surplus of frozen bananas taking over my freezer, I made banana muffins. They are vegan and delicious and have extra oatmeal for fiber power.


I am super excited about all those who are participating in…

12 days of giving logo copy

and I also wanted to say that I am definitely not against giving {and receiving} gifts during the holiday season. When all focus on the giving aspect is lost or starts heading toward the realm of greediness…that’s when I start to get frustrated.

Day 3: Sustainable Harvest International

SHI was founded in 1997 by a Peace Corps volunteer and works to combat the tropical deforestation crisis in Central America by providing farmers with sustainable alternatives to slash-and-burn agriculture. They use organic vegetable gardens, wood-conserving stoves, biogas digesters and a host of other projects to preserve our planet's tropical forests while overcoming poverty.


Ways to help:

*edited to add: SHI will match every donation received up to $10,000 through Monday!

Recently I did a little background research on supplements for a nutrition counseling client. My general thought on supplements: they are meant to supplement [ha] a generally healthful diet. You cannot eat a steady diet of twinkies and french fries followed by a dose of omega-3’s and expect a miracle.


Here are some supplements that have been popping up a lot recently:

  • multivitamins: I think these are ok to cover your bases and to meet any nutrient requirements you may have missed on a daily basis. Just make sure that none of the vitamins exceed the tolerable upper limit (check the Office of Dietary Supplements).
  • fish oil: role in cardiovascular health, decreasing blood pressure, lowering triglycerides; the American Heart Association recommends 2 servings (3.5 oz or ¾ cup baked, flaked fish) of fatty fish/week (salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna); Include oils and foods rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) (flaxseed, canola and soybean oils; flaxseed and walnuts); recommendations: 3 grams or less per day (from capsules); if you are healthy but aren’t consuming fish or sources of ALA regularly, a supplement may be ok, depending on the amount of omega-3’s it contains.
  • L-carnitine: plays a role in fatty acid metabolism; not enough evidence to support L-carnitine for athletic performance, improved immune function, or weight reduction (Fragakis &Thompson, 2007); supplements not necessary for healthy individuals
  • green tea extract: possesses antioxidant activity; may have anticarcinogenic activity (anti-cancer); moderate doses demonstrated to be safe; may interfere with iron absorption; insufficient evidence to conclude that green tea improves heart health, assists in blood pressure control, or promotes weight control by increasing energy expenditure; get antioxidants by eating vegetables and fruit!
  • vitamin D: plays role in calcium metabolism; may provide protection from osteoporosis, hypertension (high blood pressure), cancer, and several autoimmune diseases. The IOM recently released new recommendations: 600 IU/day, with upper tolerable limit 4,000 IU/day. This level is controversial, and some have taken well over 4,000 IU/day without negative side effects. Supplements not necessarily harmful but may not be needed if you’re already getting dietary vitamin D and vitamin D through your multivitamin (and the sun!); we don’t know the optimal level of vitamin D intake.

Do you take any supplements? Thoughts?


and a shameless plug: My friend Sarah’s brother [Sam] is a finalist in the Lea & Perrins contest for his shake it up pulled pork sandwich…he is trying to raise money to study abroad and needs your votes!

Monday, December 6, 2010


Winter, I am so not ready for you. I was spoiled living in St. Louis last year…barely any snow at all. This week has been interesting exercise-wise, starting with a frosty 10 miler and ending with my first zumba experience, which was pretty fantastic. Not exactly like my floor routine days as a gymnast but great exercise to fun music.


My feelings on snow: as a Michigander, I’ve grown up shoveling it, driving in it, throwing it…so running in it is no big deal. Thanks to the jokester who offered me a ride, though [seriously?! I am hardcore unless a tornado is coming down the street].


Great responses to 12 days of giving! I’m really excited to feature some fantastic and very worthy causes during the holiday season, and I’m glad that so many of you are also committed to giving [also looking for a few more, so email me {} if you have ideas].

12 days of giving logo copy

Day 2: Seeds for a family…

Giving doesn’t always have to be local. I think it’s nice to think globally, especially since the US provides more government support than many other countries.


For $17, you could provide seeds for an entire family! I think it’s really fun to give gifts like clean water ($25), a share of a sewing machine ($25), or 5 fruit trees ($30) in a friend or family member’s name. World Vision International will send a card to your recipient which gives more detail about their gift. Check out their website for more great gift ideas!

My coping strategies of choice related to < 30 degree weather and snow:


…tea, reading, and pumpkin chocolate chip scones [thank you, mama pea].


p.s. congrats to Stonyfield giveaway winner Megan D! Please email me {} with your deets!