This is a guest blog post from Kaylie who is finishing her undergraduate work at Cornell as well as a collegiate athlete as a gymnast. Kaylie is a phenomenal co-worker, a super intelligent up-and-comer, and a great team player. Enjoy!
“If this diet worked for her, shouldn’t it work for me?“ “Why am I performing poorly eating the same diet as John who is full of energy?”
As a competitive gymnast and nutritional sciences student, I am always attending nutrition lectures and team nutrition meetings. Often times, I come out of the nutrition session more confused and frustrated than when I entered the room. One nutritionist will say “eat this, not that” and the next one will turn around and tell you the complete opposite. One of the most frustrating aspects of nutrition, in my opinion, is that there is no magic bullet “right and wrong” diet that works for everyone equally. Food and nutrition articles are becoming an increasing trend in the media and people are often left misinformed and overwhelmed with all of the contradicting information.
I recently had the opportunity to attend a lecture given by Julie Burns—current sports nutritionist for the Chicago Blackhawks and founder of SportFuel, Inc, an integrative wellness and consulting firm and Eat Like the Pros ®, a customized local and sustainable organic meal delivery service. Ms. Burns takes a holistic approach to nutrition and considers a client’s sleep, daily life stressors, and gut microbiome composition in her personalized nutrition plans. Her lecture was different from typical sports nutrition sessions. She was up front and honest in saying that there is no “one-size fits all” diet. Despite all of the nutrition researchers and professors in the audience, she confidently explained how sometimes a diet should not work for an athlete according to the hard science, but for some reason they perform and feel their best on it and that is fine with her. Her recommendations were refreshingly realistic and open for personal customization. I felt I could actually use her guidelines to improve my performance and overall health without feeling like I am cooking and eating all the time, which has often been my experience with other nutritionists.
Here are a few takeaways from her lecture that I found to be both helpful and easy to follow as a collegiate athlete. Whether you are a serious athlete, an active adult, or someone looking to revamp your diet and exercise before bathing suit season, I hope you find these tips as helpful, user-friendly, and customizable as I do.
- Aim for 3 colors in each meal and fill half the plate with non-starchy vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, mushrooms, peppers, salad greens, squash and tomatoes.
- Aim for 6 handfuls of veggies per day.
Some ways to accomplish this:
- Location is everything! Place vegetables in convenient locations; replace the candy bowl with a bowl of veggies.
- Add greens to smoothies; if it is not convenient to buy fresh greens often, you can buy powdered greens at grocery stores such as Whole Foods or Wegmans.
- Add spinach, tomato, and cucumbers to sandwiches or wraps.
- Bulk up breakfast with veggies and eggs; simply sauté some veggies and make an omelet, or even easier, an egg scramble.
- End dinner with greens tossed in vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
- Spiralize squash and zucchini for a pasta alternative; again, to save time and energy, Wegmans sells pre-spiraled veggies in their produce department.
- Eat a combination of raw and cooked vegetables; lightly cooking or steaming vegetables can unlock extra nutrients and increase the amount of nutrients the body can absorb.
- If you don’t like vegetables or tend to have intestinal troubles, try fresh pressed juice—you can add fruits such as apples to drown out some of the vegetable flavor and the smaller amount of fiber in the juice is gentler on the intestines than raw vegetables.
- Include healthy fats to maximize absorption of vitamins and minerals. Some foods with healthy fats include:
- Wild cold water fish such as salmon
- Chia seeds or ground flax
- Sprouted nuts and seeds
- Raw pumpkin seeds
- Good olive oils: unrefined, cold pressed, dark bottle, refrigerated
- If you do not eat cold water fish, include a clean essential fatty acid supplement
- Eat clean protein.
- Sprouted nuts and seeds
- Full fat, organic cultured dairy; full fat leads to better glucose control, but only if organic because toxins are stored in fat
- Cold water wild fish
- 100% grass fed foods
- Pasture raised eggs, turkey, and chicken
- Select whole food carbohydrates instead of heavily processed and refined carbohydrates.
- Winter squash (acorn, butternut), white potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, spaghetti squash, beets, and berries
- Eat fermentable fibers.
Fermentable fibers are beneficial for improving gut health. They stimulate the production of good bacteria in the colon and inhibit inflammation by improving the protective layer in the lower gut.
Fermentable fiber foods include garlic, onions, artichoke, asparagus, beets, celery, kale, spinach, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, apples, avocado, berries, pears, and mangos, among others.
Lastly, a few general reminders:
- Drink water!! Without proper hydration, your body cannot perform at its highest level!
- Calories are the #1 priority for athletes before the composition of the diet; you need to be eating enough to have energy for your sport!
- Avoid food shaming; focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t
For more information on Julie Burns visit: