Eat right and be more active — two principles we know to be true. Beyond that, there is so much information (and misinformation) available today that it can overwhelming and, oftentimes, frustrating to try to figure out what is true and what is not. Here are a few truths to help clear up some nutrition and fitness topics to ensure you are on the right track.
Fact or Fiction: Chocolate milk is great post-workout drink to aid in muscle recovery.
Fact: Chocolate milk is no longer just for kids. It has become a very popular post-exercise recovery drink, with one recent study published in International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism in which it was referred to as a “catch-all” workout recovery drink for the high-endurance athlete. Despite this, several studies have found that not only chocolate milk but also plain milk are possibly even more effective than many of the sports drinks promoted specifically for post-exercise recovery. Water replaces losses through sweat only, but chocolate milk also replaces electrolytes and provides a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein helping to replenish and repair muscles and glycogen stores.
The Message: We understand that dairy may not be something everyone can enjoy, but if it is, consider pouring yourself a glass of chocolate milk following a workout. It is recommended that you refuel your body within 20 to 60 minutes of your workout. Not only will chocolate milk replenish your muscles and energy, it will also provide nutrients such as potassium, calculation and Vitamin D. If dairy is not within your diet, some professionals have approved a soy-based chocolate milk as an acceptable alternative providing similar benefits.
Fact or Fiction: A vegetarian, plant-based or vegan diet negatively affects workout performance.
Fiction: Especially those new to a vegetarian or plant-based diet may worry that it will leave them with little energy for an effective workout. While it is true that there a small amount of research on this topic, it is certainly a misconception that such a diet provides an inadequate amount of protein to build, repair and recover muscles. Active individuals may require more protein than the average person, which would be especially true for anyone following an intense fitness program. What is not true, though, is that animal sources provide a superior protein to plant sources because it is more readily utilized by the body.
Many believe that because animal sources provide protein that is complete and can be used by the body more readily, they must be superior to plant sources. However, registered dietitians and researchers will be the first to tell you that if you’re consuming adequate amounts of a combination of a variety of quality plant-based protein sources—such as soy, nuts, beans, seeds, leafy greens and whole grains, such as quinoa, which is a complete protein—vegetarians and vegans can get all of the protein that they need for optimal physical performance.
The Message: Your body does need protein, but it does not necessary have to be animal protein to provide your body with the energy it needs for an effective workout. Researchers and dieticians agree that including a variety of protein from plant sources, such as nuts, seeds, whole grains like quinoa, and soy, will be meet your body’s needs. Many athletes enjoy the health benefits of a vegetarian or plant-based diet while also excelling in their sport.
Fact or Fiction: Caffeine boosts your workout and aids in weight-loss.
Fact: We do not need a study to tell us that caffeine can increase energy, improve athletic performance, and help you get through a tough workout. While this all sounds great, be sure to consider both the risks and benefits of consuming too much caffeine. Some of the risks include decreased bone mineral density, increased blood pressure, headaches, and difficulty sleeping, and sleep is one factor that is critical to weight-loss. Even if caffeine may temporarily increase your metabolism, any positive impact it has on weight-loss in the long run is very small. Further, some caffeinated drinks (like diet soda) are reputed to actually increase appetite due to the artificial sweeteners.
The Message: Drinking soda, energy drinks, coffee or tea is not the magic antidote to enhance your workout and reach your weight-loss goals. You are unlikely to see any significant desired changes. Instead, you may be setting yourself up for caffeine addiction and dependency, increased appetite, high blood pressure, and many other negative health effects in the future.