Science gives athletes leg up on training

Eating Well

March 19, 1996|By Colleen Pierre | Colleen Pierre,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you're an athlete looking for "the edge," a new training technique or nutritional supplement that will put you ahead of the competition, there's good news. Sports nutrition researchers have zeroed in on what works and what doesn't, for both endurance sports and strength training.

Bear in mind that following scientific advice usually helps you make the most of your genetics and training. Following testimonial advice ("I used this and feel great") usually costs you money and wastes your time.

And so it is with "The Zone," Barry Sears' pocket-picking foray into un-science that may, in fact, impair your performance if you attempt to follow it.

Mr. Sears sells his 30 percent fat, 40 percent carbohydrate, 30 percent protein diet and BioZone bars as optimal athlete nutrition to lower insulin levels and reduce body fat. This is bunk.

Exercise physiologist/registered dietitian Ellen Coleman, writing in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition says carbohydrates, not fats, are the preferred fuel for athletes training or competing at the usual 70 percent of VO max: "Athletes don't usually work out long enough to burn significant amounts of fat during exercise. Rather, it is the caloric deficit resulting from the exercise session that promotes body fat utilization At the very least, following the Zone diet may impair athletic performance due to inadequate dietary carbohydrate."

So for endurance athletes, a diet high in carbohydrates is still the key to peak performance. Surprisingly, that's the story for strength trainers, too. Getting enough calories, especially from carbohydrate, is the most-important nutritional factor affecting muscle gain, according to researchers interviewed by the Gatorade Sports Science Institute.

Dr. Susan Kleiner, Ph.D, RD., says building muscle demands a tough strength-training program requiring tremendous energy. Hard workouts use up glycogen, the energy stored in muscles. High carbohydrate diets refill muscle glycogen stores daily, fueling hard workouts day after day. Studies show strength-trained wrestlers, for instance, perform better on high carbohydrate diets than on moderate carbohydrate diets.

The experts add that both strength-training and endurance athletes require more protein than sedentary people, but not as much as many suppose. For example, a strength-training man, weighing 200 pounds, needs about 3,000 calories daily. His ideal diet for strength training would be 58 percent carbohydrate (435 grams), 22 percent protein (160 grams) and 20 percent fat (67 grams).

This sample diet provides all the protein, carbohydrates and fats needed for a maximum muscle-building program for that 200 pound man.

Breakfast: 4 egg whites, 1 large bagel, 2 ounces cold cereal, 8 ounces. skim milk, 8 ounces orange juice, 1 tablespoon margarine or butter.

Lunch: 4 ounces tuna or other fish, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 4 slices bread, 2 cups raw vegetables, large banana, 8 ounces nonfat yogurt.

Snack: pear and tangerine.

Dinner: 4 ounces lean meat or poultry, 2 cups cooked vegetable, 2 cups pasta, rice or potato, 2 slices bread, leafy salad, 2 teaspoons olive oil, 8 ounces skim milk, 2 cups mixed melons.

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 3/19/96

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