Three top nutrition trends and their impact on Sports Nutrition: Ketogenic Diet, Alternate Milks & Veganism

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Instagram. Google. Facebook. Television. Every day we are bombarded with information about food and nutrition. Not only can this be confusing! If we act on wrong information it can end up impacting negatively upon both our sports performance as well as our health.

Accredited Sports Dietitians are trained in best science and have to keep up to date to provide safe recommendations to the public about nutrition on a daily basis. About time you stopped listening to the girl on Instagram who tells you skinny tea to lean up or that to be a great athlete you have to be vegan? We think so! 

Today we share some recent health “trends” we seem to be seeing in common media and why this would potentially not be appropriate for athletes. Many of these are diet not lifestyle approaches which can be very unsustainable and unhealthy.

“There are no magic bullets when it comes to optimal performance, following the key fundamentals of sports nutrition through sound education and individual integration is what is going to set you up for success”

The Ketogenic Diet

The Ketogenic Diet is a low carbohydrate (<20g/day), high in fat and adequate protein diet. When the body is starved of carbohydrates it has to look for another source of energy, so the liver turns fats into “ketones” which can be used as energy. This diet was originally designed for epilepsy and has been commonly used to try and lose weight.

Why it doesn’t always work for athletes? 

Firstly, let’s think about how practical this actually is... 20g of carbs is as much as you find in banana. Day over after that – No more… cereal, fruit, milk, yoghurt, bread, pasta, chickpeas, lentils, crackers or yummy home-made protein balls. Suddenly we are also cutting out a bunch of different food groups and missing out on key micronutrients, compromising body function.

Additionally as athletes, your body NEEDS carbohydrates, especially for high intensity exercise. If there is none there at all we feel flat, have a greater risk of getting sick and lack energy to get the most out of our training.

Did I also mention that carbohydrates fuel our brain? As athletes we also be sharp with our attention and memory to assimilate information and improve our skill, technique and competition decision making.

Lastly: Keto is also low in fibre and can mess with our digestion leaving us feeling bloated and uncomfortable for training and competition.

Dairy vs. Alternate Milks 

I went to order a coffee the other day and was offered either skim, soy, almond or macadamia milk! With many new milks popping up in the supermarket, it seems everyone is getting curious.

The point stands that original dairy milk is still wholesome and appropriate for athletes as it provides calcium and phosphorus (for strong bones and teeth), protein (for recovery), iodine (for metabolism), potassium (for blood pressure regulation), and vitamins B2 and B12 (for brain function).

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Unfortunately many alternate milks are:

a)     Low in protein

b)    Low in calcium or not even fortified with calcium

We usually recommend skim, light milk or high protein milk to our athletes as it digests better when lower in fats. Remember that we recommend ~20g of protein within 30 minutes of exercise completion for recovery too, and dairy has the perfect blend of amino acids for repair.   

Plant Base Diets/Veganism 

It seems the modern world is started to gravitate towards many more plant-based options or diets. First of all, these diets can be great and adequate IF DONE CORRECTLY.

Typical vegan and vegetarian diets can make it harder sometimes to reach protein requirements for an athletes recovery, immunity and generating healthy hormones. It can also be a struggle to meet iron requirements. Iron is used to deliver oxygen from your lungs to tissues whilst exercising.

If you decide to follow a purely vegan diet, you can compromise other nutrient intakes such as B12 which is only found in animal-based foods. 

And guess what?! You can still increase your intake of plant-based foods to get healthy benefits such a high-amounts of fibre for gut function, immunity and vitality whilst you are eating meat. All it involves is a little creativity such as learning how to integrate things like chickpeas into your diet, trying some traditional dahl, or incorporating tofu into a meal or two every week.

Dietitian's are great with guidance in this area, so never be afraid to check in whether you are already vegetarian/vegan, considering a change OR just want to balance your diet with some more plant-based foods. It’s a great idea to make sure you are getting all the nutrition you need for your training evaluated by a professional. 

And there you have it! Three top nutrition trends/myths laid out with the right science so you can make informed decisions to make sure that nutrition is always supporting you to train and compete to the best of your ability.  

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Shakshuka Recipe

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Ingredients

·     1 red onion, finely diced

·     1 garlic clove, crushed

·     1 small chilli, finely diced

·     1 teaspoon paprika

·     ½ teaspoon ground coriander

·     ½ teaspoon ground cumin

·     2 red capsicums, cut into 2cm pieces

·     400g chopped tomatoes

·     ½ large eggplant, cut into 2cm cubes

·     4 eggs

·     Fresh coriander, to serve

Method

1.    Preheat oven to 2200C.

2.    Heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over a medium heat and add onion, garlic and chilli. Cook for 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the spices and stir, cook for a further minute. 

3.    Add the capsicum and tomatoes to the pan and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until capsicums are softened. Turn the cook top off, then blend the sauce and return to the pan.

4.    Meanwhile, spray another pan with cooking oil and heat over a high heat. Add eggplant and cook for 10 minutes or until cooked through, turning occasionally.

5.    Stir the eggplant through the sauce. Make four wells with the back of a spoon and crack an egg into each well, then bake in the oven until eggs are cooked to your liking.  

Sprinkle with coriander and serve with wholegrain bread.

Nutrition benefits:

High in Vitamin C to assist your immunity and glowing skin

A good source of protein to keep you feeling full and lower the overall GI of the meal

Can be shared with friends (Always a benefit too right ;))

This recipe was brought to you by our amazing Kirrawee Dietitian Melissa - give her a call to get your health sorted down in the South of Sydney!

 

Quinoa & Kale Salad

It was time. Rumours had been flying, and I had to see for myself.

Off I wandered to the renown Sydney Flemington markets last Saturday. The atmosphere was a lot different to the markets that I was used to for sure, was I in Sydney? Lots of hustle and bustle with sellers shouting loudly over a jungle of people and rainbow coloured fruit boxes. I had to carefully watch my step not to get bowled over. I was a little frightened at first: So many options of what to choose and so many people were shouting at me! I then progressed on to buy my first item - some radishes. It was a bit of an impulse buy, but they just looked so fresh.  "One dollar fifty" said the lady. I was so surprised... so cheap? That's when this became fun, almost a game! How much fruit and vegetables could I get? Time to be adventurous ;) A whole cucumber, pack of oranges, parsley, lemon and bags of delicious produce later, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed hot footing it out of there with a big grin on my face. 

When I got home I decided to be creative with what I had bought and came up with a phenomenal quinoa salad recipe. I thought it wouldn't hurt to share:

Ingredients (~6 serves)

1 cup tricoloured quinoa (raw)

1/2 large bunch of kale, de-stemmed and finely sliced

1 carrot grated

4 chopped spring onions

2/3 cup chopped parsley

1 tomato diced

100g mung beans (you could also use regular sprouts)

1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted almonds

Juice from two freshly squeezed oranges

1 tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tbsp olive oil

Pepper 

Method

1) Wash quinoa. Add 2 cups water and bring to boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer. When all water has almost gone, take quinoa off the heat and let it steam in saucepan with lid on (3mins). Then let quinoa cool

2) Add oil to wok and lightly fry/toss kale until wilted. Add soy sauce and toss for 1 more min, remove from heat (can do at same time as cooking quinoa)

3) Add all ingredients together in a big bowl and mix. Add a bit of pepper if you like for some extra taste.

Ways to use this healthy salad:

--> Add a side dish with some grilled salmon/fish and lemon

--> In a wrap with falafel and hommous

--> By itself with an added 95g tin of tuna, grilled chicken or lamb

--> For vegetarians add some tofu, chick peas or lentils to bulk up for a main meal

--> Add a generous handful of salad to make chicken, kangaroo, lean mince or veggie burgers. Why not add some avocado and beetroot too?!