Okay, I’m putting it out there, I’m no athlete. Not by a stretch, a jump, or even a jog. I consider myself lucky if I can walk briskly in heels to catch a bus. However since I embarked on this current fitness obsession, I’ve noticed my energy level has shot up considerably and I’m stepping up my workouts by several notches.
With that in mind, I know that I’ll need to fuel my body so I can workout efficiently. To help me make the best nutritional decisions, I’m using Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, which is considered the number one resource for active people.
Nancy Clark, MS, RD, CSSD is an internationally known sports nutritionist and nutrition author. She is a registered dietitian (RD) who specializes in nutrition for exercise, health and the nutritional management of eating disorders. She is board certified as a specialist in sports dietietics (CSSD).
Clark is also the nutrition columnist for New England Runner, Adventure Cycling and American Fitness . She’s a frequent contributor to Runner’s World and is on the advisory board for SHAPE magazine. Clark also writes a monthly nutrition column called The Athlete’s Kitchen, which appears regularly in over 100 sports and health publications, including Active.com and the Running Network. So, in a nutshell, she’s the gal to turn to if you have any questions about sports and nutrition.
Clark cuts to the chase in her book by opening on how to build a high energy food plan. In this chapter, in the book’s first part, she breaks down each food category, offering suggestions for the top choices with meat, fats and oils, vegetables, grains and starches, and fruits, and how much should one consume. The chapter has several side-bars, tables and charts that break down nutritional elements in several food items. Clark is an advocate of a rainbow diet, i.e., one that includes a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. For “colorblind” eaters she includes several suggestions to spruce up your meals with a palette of colorful food items.
For those who battle the carbohydrate quandary, Clark provides a comprehensive chapter on the subject to eliminate any confusion on the subject. Here she explains the chemistry of simple and complex carbs in language that won’t glaze your eyes. Clark also answers the question whether carbs are fattening. She writes:
Fad diets preach the message that carbohydrate is fattening. Wrong! Carbohydrate is not fattening. Excess calories are fattening; in particular excess fat calorie are fattening. . . Fat provides 36 calories per teaspoon compared to with 16 per carbohydrate. Additionally, the conversion of excess carbohydrate into body fat is limited because you burn carbohydrate when you exercise. Your body preferentially burns the carbohydrate and stores the fat because the metabolic cost of converting excess carbohydrate into body fat is 23 percent of the ingested calories. Excess dietary fat, on the other hand, is easily stored as body fat; the metabolic cost of converting into body fat is 3 percent of ingested calories.
Clark provides these points:
- Carbohydrate-based foods are less fattening than fatty foods.
- You need carbohydrates to fuel your muscles.
- You burn carbohydrates during hard exercise.
- Carbohydrate is a friendly fuel; the enemy is excess calories from fat.
- When dieting to lose weight, you should energize with fiber-rich cereal, whole-grain breads, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-dense vegetables but reduce your intake of butter, margarine, and mayonnaise that often accompany them.
Further in the chapter, Clark examines quick and slow forms of carbs, sugar highs and lows. There’s a side bar on whether white bread is poison or not (she says it can be part of a wholesome diet as long as you include whole-grains. She adds that white bread has a bad reputation because of its high glycemic effect in other words:
If you eat just plain bread without butter or sandwich filling that dampens the glycemic response—digest quickly and cause the blood glucose and insulin to rise higher than would the same amount of a whole-grain, fiber-rich bread.
Clark notes that if your physically fit, the muscles will store the sugar from the digested bread as glycogen with much less insulin than a sedentary person.
So the next time you hear one of your friends say (and I have one who tells me how he avoids carbs) make a photocopy of this chapter and give it to them to read. Hopefully, they will learn that not all carbs are bad and that our bodies require them to fuel our muscles.
The second and third parts of Clark’s book consist how to eat before and after exercise. She has a chapter about supplements, performance enhancers, and covers age-specific nutritional needs. Chapters 13 through 16 are all about balancing weight and activity. The last chapter in this section is in an important one, recognizing eating disorders and food obsessions.
The final section of the book provides a wide range of recipes ranging from breakfast ideas to snack and desserts. Some recipes include:
- Greek Shrimp with Feta and Tomatoes
- Spinach Salad with Sweet and Spicy Dressing
- Carrot Raisin Muffins
- Oatmeal Pancakes
- Oven French Fries
Each recipe comes with nutrition information, including total calories, calories per serving, carb, protein, and fat grams.
Last, but not least, Clark offers a fairly extensive appendix of publications and web sites, how to become a sports nutritionist, references cited throughout the book, and sports drinks and energy bars.
If you’re looking for a book that’s not too heavy on science, and you’re serious about eating healthy and keeping active, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is the ideal book. She’ll answer all your questions about how to feed your body and in an easy to digest format without the chemistry and biology class jargon. Buy it, read it, get fit, and get healthy.