Monday, 1 April 2013

Eat Like an Elite Athlete

I don't care if the snow is blowing and the wind is howling outside my window, spring is here, dammit and it's time to start training for stuff!

Dr. Steve Rallis

All pumped for some spring/summer run events (Five Peaks Trail Run Series; Met Con Blue; Summer Solstice Run so far.) Also determined to eat healthier this time, so I am incorporating the advice given to the young athletes of the Barrie Soccer Club, of which our youngest child is a member. The club hosted a free nutrition seminar in Barrie recently. The guest speaker was the soccer club's medical director, Dr. Steve Rallis, B.Sc., D.C., N.D. (cand), also known as "The Wellness Doctor"  ( It was a great, eye-opening evening that included, among loads fascinating information, a couple of videos showing how hot dogs and chicken nuggets are made. Let me tell you, not one person in my household will ever touch either of those "foods" ever again (nope, not even my husband, and that says a lot).

While athletes must follow a healthy diet in order to keep up with the demands on their bodies and to reduce the risk of injury, "A person's diet may be the single greatest contributor to their health in general," says Dr. Rallis, who writes nutrition guidelines for the young athletes of the soccer club. The guidelines were designed to help coaches, parents and players understand the whys and hows of making the best food choices that will help lead to improved performance and overall development.

I think these guidelines can help anyone who wants to eat better, including recreational athletes like myself, my daughter and friends. Again, the following are just highlights. We walked away from the seminar with pages of information.

Primary Fuel Sources: Fruits and Vegetables
Dr. Rallis could not stress the importance of fruits and vegetables enough. "If you want to be the best athlete you can be, you must eat lots of fruits and vegetables," he says. He recommends 7 to 10 servings per day for growing athletes. Two to three of those daily servings should include green vegetables. Organic is always better if you can find it, unless the foods have thick skins that pesticides can't penetrate.
1 Serving = 1 handful of veggies; 1 whole fruit; 1/2 cup fresh berries.
A fast and easy way to get in your daily dose of fruits and veggies is to make a green smoothie. Dr. Rallis shows how to make one at ("The Green Smoothie: Food as Medicine").

Secondary Fuel Source: Grains, Breads, Cereals.
While Rallis says the best carbohydrate source for athletes comes from fruits and veggies, whole grain breads, pastas and rice are great too. Best kinds are brown rice, brown rice pasta, quinoa, oats, rye, barley, whole grain breads, cereals and crackers, potatoes, corn, carrots and yams.
Recommended: 1 to 3 fist-sized servings per day, depending on caloric need and amount of fruits and veggies consumed.

Builds and maintains muscle and connective tissues. Makes for a strong athlete. Dr. Rallis recommends choosing lean organic meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds and green leafy veggies. "If you choose to avoid animal products for religious, ethical or other health reasons, you must consider supplementing with protein, iron and B12."
Dr. Rallis suggests choosing free range chicken, eggs, turkey, grass fed beef, lamb, pork, all wild game (rabbit, deer, partridge, grouse, turkey, moose etc.), soy or veggie burger; wild pacific salmon, local trout, perch, sardines, herring, arctic char, tilapia.
Recommended: 1 to 3 servings per day. 1 serving of eggs = 2 whole eggs or 3 egg whites and 1 yolk. Serving size is 3oz or the size of the palm of your hand.

Legumes, Nuts and Seeds
"High in protein and fibre, these foods are critical to great health and should form a significant part of your daily diet as an athlete," says Dr. Rallis.
Good choices from this food group are all peas, beans, lentils, raw almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flax seeds, hazelnuts, almond butter, organic peanut butter, hummus and other bean dips.
Recommended: 1 to 3 servings per day. 1 serving size of dried beans/peas or lentils is considered 1/2 cup cooked. Hummus serving = 1/4 cup. Nuts serving = 10-14 almonds; 1 - 2 tbsp seeds; 1 tbsp almond butter or organic peanut butter.

Dairy Products
Dr. Rallis suggests these as a good source of protein, vitamin A and vitamin D. Avoid them completely, however, if you are sensitive to dairy products. Otherwise, good choices are goat's milk, goat cheese, cow's milk, cottage cheese, feta cheese, rice, almond and soy milk.

Protein Supplementation
If supplementation is needed to ensure you are getting enough protein, Dr. Rallis suggests high quality  ones made from either isolated whey, pea, rice or hemp. (He notes young athletes should avoid soy protein supplementation.)

Healthy Fat
Healthy fats promote brain power and make us more resistant to injury and pain. Examples to include in a daily diet are extra-virgin RAW olive oil* (2-3 tbsp per day), flax seeds (limit these for young athletes), avocados, coconut oil, health nuts and seeds, almond butter, fish oil (only small fish sources like anchovies, mackeral, sardines or if fish oil supplement then 2 grams per day with the EPA:DHA ratio > 2:1) (*avoid cooking oil at high heat as heat changes its chemistry and it actually becomes unhealthy. For a stir fry, for example, Dr. Rallis suggests cooking veggies in a bit of water then adding raw extra virgin olive oil afterwards. He does not recommend using any other vegetable oils.)

"We are bioenergetic beings," says Dr. Rallis. "Electrochemical impulses are being transmitted continuously in all parts of our bodies. These impulses are only transmitted in liquid environments and across fluid, lipid membranes. Because of this, we are comprised mostly of water. Dehydration will lead to fatigue (mental and physical), muscle cramping and eventually death (due to an inability to transmit electrical impulses across cardiac membranes.")

"The best source of hydration is plain water, fruits and vegetables," says Dr. Rallis. He recommends drinking 400-600 ml of water 2 to 3 hours before exercise. During exercise drink 150-350 ml fluids every 15-25 minutes depending on sweat, temperature and intensity of the activity. After exercise he recommends drinking 1.2 to 1.5 litres of water for every kilogram lost of body weight.

Recipe for a Home-made Sports Drink
1 L water
5 tbsp raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 capsule potassium with or without magnesium.

Dr. Steve Rallis is a fantastic speaker who is passionate about nutrition. Visit his web site at

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