Friday 16 October 2015


Health Food Impostors
These sneaky diet downfalls deserve a bad rap for undermining your health and training.
By Amanda MacMillan THURSDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2015, 9:04 AM

Sports nutritionists get asked a lot about which foods runners should eat to boost performance or health—and which foods to avoid. It's not always easy to figure out. Health-food impostors can fool even savvy runners. “Some foods simply don't add much benefit,” says sports dietitian Heather Mangieri, M.S., R.D.N., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “and some can be detrimental to performance.”
Sure, you know that triple-scoop ice cream sundaes fall on the rarely-to-never end of a runner's ideal diet spectrum. But here are a few surprising foods and beverages that should be an occasional treat at most—or even better, swapped out entirely for healthier choices.

Top of Form

Flavored Yogurt
Dairy is a great source of calcium, potassium, and protein. But flavored yogurts are typically sweetened with sugar—some pack more than 30 grams per serving. “Stick with plain Greek yogurt,” says Mangieri. It has just eight grams of naturally occurring sugar, plus 20 grams of protein, per serving. “Top it with fresh fruit and crushed nuts.”
Multigrain Bread
Loaves marketed with the word “multigrain” can still primarily contain refined white flour. “I've seen athletes buy 'honey wheat' or 'seven grain' bread because they think it has more nutrients,” says Lindsay Langford, M.S., R.D., a sports dietitian at St. Vincent Sport Performance in Indianapolis. “These may actually just have more sugar and calories and very few whole grains.” Look to the ingredients: The first item should be whole-wheat flour or another whole grain, rather than anything enriched or bleached.
Sports Drinks
Carb-rich electrolyte drinks can be lifesavers during runs that last an hour or longer. Too often, though, runners down them during short workouts or when they're not exercising at all. “Their main ingredient is sugar, and lots of it,” says Langford. “When you're sitting at work, they're not giving you a performance benefit—just added calories you don't need.”
Anything Partially Hydrogenated
If you see partially hydrogenated oils on an ingredient list, it means the food contains artery-clogging trans fats—even if the label lists zero grams. Companies can round down if a food has less than half a gram per serving. “Trans fats increase cholesterol levels,” says Langford, “and the body can't easily convert them to energy, so they can also decrease athletic ability.” Last June, the FDA announced that companies must phase out trans fats completely within three years. Until then, read ingredient lists on foods like margarine, popcorn, nut butters, and cookies—if one has partially hydrogenated oils, skip it.
Runners love to socialize over postworkout beers—but having more than one can hinder your body's ability to repair itself. “Beer does have carbs, but it's not a good recovery drink,” says Jim White, R.D.N., owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios in Norfolk, Virginia. That's because alcohol is a natural diuretic that can leave you dehydrated. “Have a beer, but don't let it replace water,” White says. In fact, drink extra H2O if you're imbibing.
Energy Drinks
In small amounts, caffeine can boost athletic performance and make a hard run seem easier. But get your buzz from a cup of coffee or energy gel instead. A 2014 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that athletes who used energy drinks did see slightly improved speed and distance, but they were also more likely to experience agitation, insomnia, and nervousness for hours after competition.
Nut Butter Impostors
Peanut and almond butter can be a runner's best friends—if you're buying the real deal. The ingredient list should include nuts, salt, and that's about it; if you prefer sweetened versions, opt for those with no more than three grams of sugar per serving, says Langford. (And yes, you should have to stir it!) Flavorings like cinnamon are fine, but watch out for chocolate-and-nut-butter spreads: Some pack more than 20 grams of sugar and four grams of saturated fat per serving (and often, hydrogenated oils).
Protein Bars
“Many of my clients think they need a protein bar or shake after they work out,” says Felicia Stoler, D.C.N., M.S., R.D.N., a registered dietitian and exercise physiologist in Red Bank, New Jersey. “But that usually comes at the expense of the carbs—and real foods—they should be eating.” Skip the bar and instead eat a little protein throughout the day, says Stoler, which is how the body best absorbs it. If your diet includes foods like fish, chicken, dairy, legumes, and whole grains, you don't have to add processed protein to your postworkout routine.

You know regular soda is a source of empty calories, but runners should steer clear of diet drinks, too. A study published last year in the journal Nature found that artificial sweeteners used in these drinks may alter gut microbes in a way that increases glucose intolerance, potentially increasing risk for diabetes (though more research is needed). And artificial sweeteners like aspartame—not to mention carbonation—can cause GI distress in runners, says White. “An occasional soda won't hurt you,” he says, “but when people drink it regularly and in place of water, the effects can be devastating.”

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