A Healthy Solution To The Great Plate Debate

Pasta, grilled chicken, baked potatoes and ... Skittles?

Salmon, Gatorade, fruit smoothies and ... hot dogs slathered in mustard and onions?

Hall of Fame football player Brian Urlacher's pregame snack of choice consisted of two chocolate chip cookies. 

And the hot dogs with mustard and onions? That's what helped fuel Wayne Gretzky to stardom.

While the wacky diet may have worked for the Great One, what's the best approach to nutrition for your own little Gretzky-in-training? Stick with the superstitious approach? Or balance out the carbs and protein? 

According to Lisa McDowell, a certified specialist in sports nutrition, reading labels is a skill all athletes need to have, and it's never too early to start the training. Taking time to simply look at the ingredients that go heavy on the added sugar, salt, and fat are key.

As the sports dietitian for the Detroit Red Wings, McDowell is a big believer in a diet heavy in fruits and vegetables. She has seen the difference in performance among athletes fueled by pure, simple, and fresh foods without chemicals manufactured in a laboratory.

"Beware of products that are a wolf in sheep's clothing," McDowell says. "The industry would have you believe that 5-year-olds need that electrolyte drink after 30 minutes of hockey. But when you take the time to read and research ingredients, you realize more of these products are created in a plant than from a plant - including red dye, sodium benzoate, and sugar alcohols.

"It's easy to fall victim to the convenience of pre-packaged sports fuels, but being a phenomenal athlete has nothing to do with these products."

McDowell advocates sports nutrition based on science, shown to be essential for optimal muscle glycogen available for training and games. 

"Consuming adequate carbs, protein, and fat will help athletes maintain optimal blood sugar, and provide the nutrients necessary for working muscles," she says.

Focusing on a great dinner the night before means muscles won't compete with stomach digestion for blood flow. If you're unable to eat hours before competition, she recommends eating a smaller meal or snack consisting of a combination of protein and carbs two hours before hitting the ice.

We also need our kids to get into the healthy habit of properly fueling their little bodies by making wise food choices. 

"Adding the colors of the rainbow to your plate improves athletic performance, and also makes you feel great," McDowell says. "Every meal is an opportunity to get better, recover faster, and grow stronger."

Sure, it's fun to think about Marshawn Lynch chowing down on Skittles on the sidelines during the Super Bowl, but there's a reason why athletes like Tom Brady and Serena Williams have been on top of their games for so long. The sooner our kids learn the value of good nutrition, the brighter their future will be on and off the ice.

 

Issue: 
2019-09

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