Category Archives: Sports Nutrition

Installment 3 – Meal and Snack Suggestions

Specific Ideas for Snacks and Healthy Meals

Since I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel I will refer to another web site for specific ideas for snacks and healthy meals. Eat Like the Pros and SportFuel are web sites developed by Julie Burns, MS, RD, CCN. SportFuel is an integrative nutrition consulting firm based in Western Springs, a west suburb of Chicago. They incorporate nutrition strategies that have worked for professional and elite athletes into everyday living.

Their current and past clients include the 2010 Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks hockey team, the 2005 World Series Chicago White Sox baseball team, the Chicago Bears football team, the 1993-1998 NBA Champion Chicago Bulls, the NBA Development League, Northwestern University’s varsity teams, Next Level Performance and individual pro and elite athletes worldwide.

These are the same nutrition strategies that I utilize with my clients. They provide lots of excellent information on the two web sites and are great about sharing that information, so here it is!

Do I have to eat organic?

The following lists emphasize organic. I’d like to address the question of whether or not it is necessary to eat organic. The answer is no. I would certainly encourage you to do so for a variety of reasons, but I understand that there may be economic or other considerations.

I believe the healthiest food choices are organic vegetables, fruits, dairy, and whole grains; grass-fed or pastured beef, chicken, turkey, eggs, and pork; and wild caught fish. I mentioned above that “we are what we eat.” I have a second saying, “we are what we eat eats.” What we feed our plants and animals ultimately will find its way into our bodies. This refers specifically to the chemical soup of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, antibiotics, and hormones that are used in producing much of our food. These are toxic to our body. There are many studies showing the dangers of these chemicals to our body. I will not get into this further here as there are many other sources.

That being said, and this is very important, I still believe that eating non-organic vegetables is still better than not eating vegetables and eating farm raised fish such as Atlantic salmon is better than not eating salmon. So, I repeat, you do not have to eat organic. The foods that are recommended for you to eat are still the best foods to eat.

When eating conventionally produced animal products I do encourage you to limit the consumption of fat and avoid the skin. Organic is emphasized even more for dairy than for vegetables. Why? Fat stores toxins. When animals are being fed hormones, antibiotics, and the food they eat has been treated with pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides this gets into their fat and eventually into our body.

Also, please be aware that there are options to buy organic and healthier foods at reasonable prices at such stores as Trader Joe’s, Costco, Woodman’s, and Sendik’s.

Ideas for Snacks

300 Calorie Snack List:

Healthy Meals

2300 Calorie Meal Plan:

1900 Calorie Meal Plan:

1700 Calorie Meal Plan:

Installment 2 – Protein


What do proteins do in the body? Why are they so important?

Protein provides the structural basis for our body: building and repairing our muscles, ligaments, tendons, organs, glands, nails, hair, blood, hormones, neurotransmitters, cell receptor sites, antibodies, and enzymes.

As you read and learn about what protein does in your body, please consider this question – are you eating enough protein? Most Americans do not!

Let’s take a closer look at the functions of protein:

Building and repairing muscles, ligaments, and tendons – this is obviously extremely important for all competitive athletes. Building and repairing is a continuous process. Exercise breaks down muscle and then the body builds newer, bigger, and stronger muscle in its place via the repair process. Protein is essential for a strong body. If you have had a recent injury or are recovering from an injury protein is even more important.

Organs and glands – these are at the basic operating systems of your body. The heart and lungs for breathing and circulation; the stomach, small intestines, large intestines, and pancreas for digestion; the liver for hundreds of functions including keeping the blood clean; the endocrine glands for producing the hormones that regulate and monitor how your body functions. Protein keeps these systems up and running!

Nails and hair – for beautiful glowing hair and robust nails protein is important.

Hormones – regulating and controlling all the key processes of your body. This includes blood sugar control, stress response, metabolism, and the menstrual cycle to name a few. Along with neurotransmitters the hormones determine how you feel physically, mentally, and emotionally at any given moment.

Neurotransmitters – neurotransmitters are very important to the athlete, particularly at the mental level. The competitive athlete needs to be mentally sharp and decisive. A more detailed discussion of neurotransmitters follows the protein section.

Antibodies – a critical part of our immune system to keep us healthy.

Enzymes – the catalyst to all the chemical reactions in our bodies.

Where does protein come from?

Proteins come from both animal (meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, eggs) and plant sources (whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds). When we eat protein we are actually consuming amino acids. Different proteins have different amino acid compositions.

Among the amino acids there are nine that are considered “essential.” Anytime you hear the word “essential” in nutrition it means we need to eat that specific nutrient because our body does not manufacture it. Other “essentials” are some fatty acids, Vitamin C, and minerals.

You will also hear the term “complete” as it relates to protein. This means that the specific protein source contains all of the essential amino acids in sufficient quantities to sustain human life. With few exceptions, only animal based proteins are complete. Non-animal based proteins considered to be complete include spirulina and quinoa. This is why vegetarians are advised to combine foods (such as rice and beans) to receive all the essential amino acids.

Since our body is constantly building and repairing itself, it requires a constant supply of protein. Therefore I recommend protein be consumed with each meal.

I come back to the original question – are you eating enough protein to supply your body what it needs for all these functions?

What proteins should I eat?

Eat these foods for protein:

MEATS: Beef, bison, lamb, veal, lean pork
POULTRY: Chicken, turkey, duck
SEAFOOD: Any fish or shellfish, fresh or frozen
OTHER PROTEINS: Legumes (beans and peas)
NUTS & SEEDS: Nuts and seeds such as: almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, raw or dehydrated
Natural nut butters where oil rises to the top – avoid commercial brands (containing hydrogenated oils and sugar), best is almond butter.

· Eggs

· Butter

· Cheese, Cottage cheese

· Yogurt without added sugar

Practice balance and moderation of these foods for protein:

GRAINS (Limited quantities ONLY – 1-2 times per day maximum):

· Sprouted grain bread: “Ezekiel”

· Whole grain breads/crackers

· Whole grains – brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, millet, wild rice

· Whole grain cereals, pastas – i.e. oatmeal, health store cereals

How much protein should I eat?

You will see a variety of answers to this question. For sure you should have some protein with each meal for reasons previously outlined. A general rule of thumb is to consume a minimum of one-third of your body weight in grams of protein. For those with an active lifestyle, such as the competitive athlete the recommendation increases to one-half of the body weight in grams.

To see the amount of grams of protein in various foods click here:

Installment 1 – Introduction and Nutrition Fundamentals


While nutrition is important for all people, we believe it is especially critical for you – the competitive athlete – in order to perform at your best both on and off the field.

The nutrition information will presented to you in nine installments over the next few weeks and falls into two categories. Category 1 is the Fundamentals of Nutrition. Category 2 is Nutrition for the Competitive Soccer Player. There is a lot of information so we will communicate it in short digestible segments.

Category 1 – The Fundamentals of Nutrition: Includes an introduction; explanation of protein, carbohydrates, and fat – why we need them, what they do in the body, and healthy choices; a discussion of neurotransmitters; and an explanation of the calorie myth. This provides the foundation for Part 2.

Category 2 – Nutrition for the Competitive Soccer Player: Looks at nutritional requirements specifically for the competitive athlete; hydration; eating around workouts; healthy snacks; and ideas for healthy meals.


The Fundamentals of Nutrition

The human body is amazing. Every second there are thousands of chemical reactions happening simultaneously. That is life! For life to exist the body requires energy and building materials. This comes from what enters our body in one form or another, mainly from the food we eat and the air we breathe. Without these the body cannot continue to function.

But, there is an important difference between basic functioning and thriving as a competitive athlete.

Our diet is critical to our health and even more so for the competitive athlete. There’s an old saying, “We are what we eat.” What we put into our body is what it has to work with. And remember – this is a volunteer activity. We choose what we put into our body.

We classify “food” into three broad categories called the macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrate. “Macro” because we need these foods in relatively large amounts. We also have the micronutrients – vitamins and minerals. “Micro” because we need these nutrients in relatively smaller amounts. The last of the “big six” nutrients is water.

This classification system generates some questions right away. Exactly what is larger, what is smaller, and how much of each? In addition, virtually all foods are a combination of these nutrients, so it is somewhat difficult to completely isolate these components. Real foods in nature contain these components in a synergistic design.

What do these nutrients do?

Protein provides the building blocks, while fats and carbohydrates provide energy. Protein can also provide energy upon demand, but this is not its primary function. Vitamins and minerals support the biological processes that occur in our body. Without their support our body will not function optimally. Most disease stems from deficiencies of various nutrients.

When it comes to providing energy fats and carbohydrates do it differently. Think of a fire. A carbohydrate is like a piece of paper. You put it in the paper and it burns up quickly and to keep the fire burning more paper is needed quickly. Fat is like a log. It burns smoothly, steady, and for a much longer period of time. Vitamins and minerals provide the sparks for the fire.

We will be discussing protein, carbohydrates, and fats in more detail. At this point I’ll keep it real simple about vitamins and minerals. In short, they are found in real foods. These are the foods you will see listed in the sections that follow discussing each nutrient. Eat the recommended foods and your diet will be filled with all the vitamins and minerals that you need.