Can’t athletes eat whatever they want?

Dwight Howard, basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers

Athletes burn a lot of calories so they can eat a lot and may look great with their washboard abs, so many think they can eat whatever they want without consequences. What you eat, not how much you eat is the key to a lean, fit body. Dwight Howard, a 27 year-old basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers was a sugar addict and it was negatively affecting his health, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at him.

You would think that an athlete under 30 would be healthy as a horse. Due to his terrible diet of sugary foods, he had high blood sugar, low energy, and his performance was declining. “It turned out that Howard was consuming the equivalent of 24 Hershey bars a day in the form of candy and soda… Howard had candy and sugary drinks stashed everywhere — from his kitchen cabinets to a drawer next to his bed to the backpack he toted to games and practices.” (1).

Maybe no one told him previously that sugar produces inflammation and slows healing. Now that he knows that sugar was hurting his career and his heath, “he agreed to get rid of it all and start over.” (1).

Eating well is not a short term diet or about getting slim, it’s about being well. No one wants to be sick and on medication. If you’re a sugar addict, start cutting back now so you can eliminate it from your diet. It’s totally worth it. I know first-hand, because I’m also a former sugar addict.

Click the link below to read the entire article and watch the video.

1. Source: CBS Sports Nutrition in the NBA; Part I: Lessons learned in L.A. help Howard’s career , by Ken Berger. Link:

Photo: Dwight Howard, professional basketball player for the Los Angeles Lakers 

Foods that make you sick

today's salad

Last Friday night I went out to dinner with my husband and another couple. We had a great time. I ordered the chicken salad and asked they put just a little dressing on it instead of smothering it like they typically do. I thought the cabbage looked a little old but the lighting was dim so I wasn’t certain and it tasted fine. Later on, back at home, I went to sleep and awoke to chills even though I had three blankets on the bed. I sat up and felt nauseous. Out loud I moaned, “not good…not good.” My spouse thought I was ranting in my sleep. I ran to the bathroom and threw up several times.

I thought this would be a good time to remind others (and myself) a list of what foods to avoid when dining out to lessen your chance of food poisoning. These are the riskiest and best to avoid when eating at a restaurant, party, BBQ or pot-luck (you just don’t know how long the food has been sitting out).

Avoid these: raw salads, potato salad, anything with mayonnaise, cream or milk; chowder, muscles, and raw foods. You can still eat these items, it’s just safer to make them at home with fresh ingredients that you can consume right away.

Photo: a raw, vegan salad I made at home

A Free Gift for the Holidays

holiday gift giving

Each December, family and a few close friends ask me what I would like as presents. As much as I love getting gifts, I can just as easily buy items for myself. So this year I thought about what I’d really want, attainable or not. I want my dad to be in better health, but even though I told him in the past what exercises to do to strengthen his weak areas, and even though I gave him the phone number to an excellent corrective exercise specialist, he’s still doing his old routine which isn’t helping him.

Since people are supposed to get you what you want, not what they want, I wrote to my dad that I would like MY gift to be for him to schedule a training session. This is what I wrote: I love you and seeing you frail makes me worried. I don’t want you to become weak like grandma and fall and hurt yourself. Exercise with proper form may be even more important as we age since balance deteriorates and bone loss occurs each year (yikes!). Will you grant me my wish this season?

To my surprise, he called, thanked me and said he would make that appointment. I’ve never been happier and we both benefit. If you can give a gift of health too, wouldn’t that be great?

Should you take supplements?


Supplements are a huge profit-making industry. We’ve been told to take supplements as added insurance for good health, but some manufactures have admitted they don’t pop their own pills.

“Maria Carmen Gomez-Cabrera, a physiologist at the university of Valencia and one of the world’s leading experts on antioxidants was debating the merits of supplements with two top researchers.” “The debate, she explained, isn’t whether supplements are good or bad for athletes. Rather, it’s “are they useless, or are they worse than useless.” “It’s no surprise that the purposed muscle-building supplements make unproven claims and may come with hazardous side effects.” Supplements have “few benefits and increasing evidence of negative effects” (pg. 44).

“According to Pieter Cohen, a professor at Harvard Medical School, there are only two types of sports supplements: those that are safe but don’t work, and those that might work, but have side effects…unless tests have shown that you’re low in a particular vitamin or mineral, there’s no evidence to suggest that you should take a daily supplement.” “Gomez-Cabrera and her colleagues at the University of Valencia have shown that antioxidant supplements suppress the oxidative stress that signals your body to adapt and get stronger.” You don’t want to pay money on pills that make you weaker and more susceptible to illness.

Gomez-Cabrera says, “…if you eat enough fruits and vegetables, five servings a day.”(pg. 46) You don’t need anything else…if you’re not eating like that, then taking a pill isn’t a solution.”

Bottom line: You don’t get a root canal if you don’t need one. Regardless of whether you’re an athlete or not, don’t take supplements unless you are on a restricted diet or cannot get enough nutrients from real foods. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.


Source: Outside magazine, November 2013 edition pg. 44 & 46 article titled Pounding Pills

Bench Press: Common Mistakes

The bench press seems a simple enough exercise, but many people are doing it incorrectly. A common mistake is letting the bar touch your chest with your elbows too far back. Another mistake is lifting your butt off the bench. If you have to lift your buttocks, the weight is too heavy and you’ll likely injure yourself. It’s better to have correct form by keeping your triceps parallel to the floor; lighten the load, and do more reps or timed sets. Play this video of Frog’s fitness trainer Bobby Cox to see the proper form of this workout. The movement should always be slower on the eccentric (lowering of the bar), and forceful and faster as you push the bar up.

What a Fitness Competitor Eats

JoJo on stage

Women who compete in the bikini division of a fitness competition will tell you that a lot of what accounts for the extreme results is the strict diet. Here, Jojo, a female triathlete and a recent 2nd place winner in the masters bikini competition at NPC Border States lets us in on those secrets.Below are my questions and her answers.

Q. You’ve always been slim and fit and didn’t need to lose any weight by traditional standards, but fitness competitions have a completely different view of what is ideal. From what I’ve seen, the judges are looking for muscle definition, but on an extremely lean frame. How much weight did you lose?

A. I lost ten pounds and most of that weight lost was during the last week prior to the competition.

Q. What did you eat that last week?

A. I ate every 2-3 hours, 6 small meals a day. For breakfast I ate oats and egg whites, and the other five meals consisted of tilapia and asparagus, without salt or sugar.  That last week I also cut all protein shakes, salt and artificial sweeteners.  And towards the end of the week I cut water in various stages down to almost no water by show day. I also added some carbs and treats back in about two days before the competition to fill back out a little.

Q. Since you were eating fewer calories to maintain your ideal body weight and you severely limited even good forms of carbs, how did you feel?

A.  During general contest prep, I felt great and had lots of energy for workouts.  That last week of depleting various items was the only time I felt tired, lethargic and had hardly any energy. By the end of the week after having some carbs again, I had lots of energy.

Q. Prior to that crazy last week before the competition, what did your diet look like?

A. Prior to that last week my meals consisted of a lean protein, such as tilapia, ground turkey breast, or egg whites followed by low carbohydrate vegetables such as asparagus, broccoli, or a salad. Sometimes I ate a little bit of fruit. My diet wasn’t consistent because my trainer would alter my foods depending on how much I weighed that day or where I was at visually. Sometimes she would put me on a high carb diet and I would have rice cakes, white or brown rice, fruit, sweet potato and even pasta. Other times I was on an extremely low-carb diet. Each person is different so no one should copy another person’s plan as it may not work and could be potentially harmful.

A Dairy-Free Thanksgiving

vegan pumpkin tart
An entire Thanksgiving meal can be healthy, dairy-free and delicious. I put a small amount of everything on my plate so I can try each dish and so I don’t eat too much. I don’t let myself have seconds until the following day. I thought I’d share with you what I’m making for Thanksgiving this year.

• Spinach salad with sautéed red onions, toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries
with a drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette
• Roasted sweet potato wedges
• Mashed potatoes with roasted garlic and chicken stock
• Organic turkey with olive oil, herbs and spices
• Rye & nut bread stuffing with sautéed onions, celery, stock & olive oil
• cranberries mixed with strawberries, blueberries and raspberries
• Roasted cauliflower and parsnips mixed with onions sautéed in coconut oil
• For dessert: a raw vegan pumpkin tart with candied pumpkin seeds
(recipe from Raw Food/Real World by Kenney & Melngailis)

Have a fun and enjoyable Thanksgiving everyone.

Fat for Fuel?


A triathlete told me he is drinking butter coffee before running, his timing has improved and he’s not hungry even after a hard training session. He said the butter coffee he drinks has over 400 calories so he asked me if it’s possible to use fat for fuel. After your body depletes glycogen it will burn fat as fuel, but in this instance he’s adding fat so his body will use the butter by converting it into fatty acids for energy. This may seem like a good idea but most people cannot tolerate high-fat foods before intense exercise. Fitness trainer Bobby Cox has seen this time and again when his clients cannot finish a workout due to extreme nausea from consuming milk, a high-calorie high-fat bar, or other fattening foods. The reason why this particular athlete may not be hungry after training may be because his stomach is bloated from consuming that high-fat beverage.

Numerous studies has shown that high-fat meals, specifically in the form of MCT (medium-chain triglycerides), prior to exercise causes gastrointestinal upset such as cramping vomiting, diarrhea and bloating. In spite of the possibility of having severe stomach pains, this triathlete plans to continue drinking his butter coffee since, in addition to increased speed, he’s lost fat. Here’s some possible explanations:


  1. The more fit you are, the more the body uses fat instead of carbohydrates (pg 84).
  2. Some studies show, “…a high-fat diet for a short period of time does affect fat metabolism, but does not improve performance.” (92)
  3. The drink/meal he consumed before he started his butter-coffee regimen might have been too low in calories, which may have caused fatigue to set in sooner. This explains why he’s able to push himself further now and get better results with butter-coffee.
  4. If a person doesn’t eat sufficient calories, the body protects itself by retaining fat. Since he may be eating more calories now, his body doesn’t feel its starving and is able to let go of extra fat.
  5. Caffeine has been proven to enhance performance so his in increase in speed is likely due to the caffeine and not the butter.

Based on a compilation of research “…there appears to be no advantage to feeding high-fat diets to athletes…” “…Endurance performance is much better on the high-carbohydrate diets..” and “carbohydrate is more readily digested and absorbed” compared to fat, which means carbs provide faster energy. (93)

Per Sports Medicine “Fat is slow to digest and be converted into a usable form of energy (it can take up to 6 hours)” which is why MCT instead of LCT fatty acids has been studied in sports. MTCs are digested almost as quickly as glucose (94).  “For these reasons, athletes need to carefully time when they eat fat, how much they eat and the type of fat they eat. In general, it’s not a great idea to eat fat immediately before or during intense exercise.” (3)

Not only are fat infusions illegal in athletic competitions (93), saturated fat is unhealthy so much so that the RDA recommends no more than 10% of calories to come from saturated fat. Butter has 100% of its calories from fat and 65% of those calories are from saturated fat (74).

If you want to improve performance, have carbs pre-workout so you have energy to complete your workout. You should eat some carbs every 90 minutes of continuous exercise so you don’t bonk. For long sessions, consume carbohydrates with a small amount of fat during exercises lasting over four hours (93); Don’t forget to consume protein and carbs with a small amount of fat post-workout. The post workout meal is extremely important as this meal works to repair the damage and rebuild muscle. It also prevents you from exhaustion later in the day. Make sure to eat enough calories from lean protein, vegetables and good fats on a regular basis. Building a strong healthy body is a daily task. Lastly, take a minimum of one day a week off from exercising to recover. By following these steps and adding strength training, an athlete can make definite improvements in his or her sport.

Additional information: LCT are found in meat and trans fats (2). Fats rich in MCT are coconut oil and palm kernel oil (1).

Sources: Sport Nutrition for Health and Performance, 2nd Ed by Manore, Meyer, Thompson (pages 74, 84, 92-94)

  3. Site:  

Youth Sports and Calories

Christopher Pitching 052010 5

Kids are little calorie burners and when they play on sports teams, they can lose weight which is not a good thing for a growing child. A lot of parents add additional calories in the form of fatty sweets to make sure they are getting enough calories. For instance, one woman who has two very active skinny teenagers gives each of them a large bowl of ice cream every night after dinner. She told me she wants to give them something with fat so that’s why she chooses ice cream. I told her there are healthier alternatives that have high fat such as avocados, nuts and seeds. She can make granola with oats, honey, almonds, walnuts, coconut and sesame seeds. It’s high calorie and delicious. I don’t like store bought cereals or granola because they all contain sugar.

We all need good fats in our diets, but only a small percentage: 20%-30% of our daily intake. The majority of calories should come from carbohydrates, sometimes as much as 60% for those participating in sports. A small amount of dried fruit has a lot of carbs and calories and definitely is a treat. Another option is to serve another meal for your growing child. Now, who doesn’t want two dinners?

Frozen Shoulder…are you at risk?

frozen shoulder

Those that are over forty, female and diabetic are more likely to get a painful condition called adhesive capsulitis commonly referred to as frozen shoulder. No one understands why diabetics are more likely to get a frozen shoulder, but an injury to that area can cause it. It is assumed that blood sugar fluctuations and/or hormonal changes could be triggers. What happens is that the range of motion in your arm and shoulder becomes less and less so that everyday tasks such as putting on a jacket, washing your hair and even shaking someone’s hand becomes difficult.

Even if you didn’t break any bones, your medical plan will insist on x-rays first which usually will show nothing. No matter what the x-rays show or don’t show, get an MRI which will show any impingements, inflammation, tears and thickening. This is really important because if you go to physical therapy you want to make sure they are giving you the right therapy and not causing further injury.

There are good and bad physical therapists and you may not know the difference, but if you don’t feel comfortable with your therapist and/or you’re not getting better, ask for someone else. Some therapies work a little and some don’t work at all. Cortisone injections are typically recommended for pain relief, but some people are allergic to cortisone and don’t know it. Some people have increased pain as a result of the cortisone injection. If it is recommended that you have your shoulder manipulated while under anesthesia, do that only as a last resort because one third of the people get better, one third don’t have any improvement, and one third get worse.

There are different phases with frozen shoulder. One is the freezing phase where you get worse and worse and no amount of stretching or therapy will help. I call that the frustrating phase. The next phase is the frozen phase, where you’re just stuck: you’re not getting better, but you’re not getting worse. Last is the thawing phase, where you slowly improve, and gentle stretching and massages will promote faster healing.

To decrease pain, have your spouse do the heavy lifting, chopping, and reaching the items on the upper shelves. No, I’m not kidding! Ice is also nice to cool the pain. 

If you have an injured shoulder, you’re not alone, practically everyone I know either has had a shoulder injury, is recovering from one, or is scheduled for surgery. Even the famous actress Teri Hatcher had a frozen shoulder. The good news is that if you have a frozen shoulder, even if you do nothing, it will eventually heal. Just because you have a shoulder injury and cannot do upper body workouts, that doesn’t give you license to quit moving and eat ice cream all day. You can still do various forms of cardio, abs, and leg exercises. Ask your therapist which ones are right for you.

Sources: endocrinologist Dr. Michael Lee, five different physical therapists at Scripps clinic, Frog’s Fitness trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist Bobby Cox

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