Physical Performance

Nutrition is an important aspect in athletic performance. Download these shareable videos, graphics, handouts and recipes to help promote the power of protein and eggs.

National Nutrition Month & the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist: a Sports RD’s Perspective

dave-ellis-150x150Today’s post comes from Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS.   Ellis is a sports dietitian, who counsels athletic programs on nutrition and teaches athletes how to eat the right foods on a sensible schedule to fuel performance, prevent muscle cramps, finish strong and recover well. He is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.

Being a veteran Sports RD means being able to cut through the nonsense we see on the front lines of athletics and keep coaches and athletes grounded in reality vs. the misinformation they’re constantly being exposed to. Recently, I accepted a dinner invitation with representatives of a company that works in the sport nutrition field and, during the meal, I watched these folks spend an extraordinary amount of energy sorting through the menu trying to find something that they could order in an establishment with a very up-to-date menu.

It seems these folks suffered from a new dilemma that, for lack of a better term, could be called “food elimination attention syndrome” or “FEAS.” It’s a condition whereby eliminating select categories of food from their diet, and choosing others, they can speak of themselves more delicately, as if describing their favorite clothing designer. “Who are you wearing? What are you eating?”

At one point, I must have had my jaw hanging open as the waiter made his third attempt to take the order, because one of the FEAS victims looked at me and asked, “Don’t you eliminate anything?” My mind raced momentarily, trying to find something that I routinely eliminate from my diet. Short of not eating sushi at a gas station, I struggled to find a category of food that could make a fashion statement, and I suddenly felt as if I had just pulled up to the prom on a moped!

How could I lived 50 years and not managed to eliminate anything with a healthy dose of religious fervor? Sure I’m concerned about the food supply that low income families are exposed to and, I certainly try not to eat fried food routinely or reheat my nachos in a Styrofoam box, but that was not enough to register with anyone at this table. Choosing not to avoid soy, eggs, gluten and lactose, made me a non-starter with this crew. As I took a slug of my non-organic cabernet, it hit me: this is why credentialed Registered Dietitians are so crucial to the field of nutrition.

I run across this scenario with some regularity. Dietary assessments conducted by non-credentialed “nutritionists” might falsely identify a previously-unknown allergy or food sensitivity, requiring elimination of something that athletes love to eat and don’t really have problems with.

In fact MDs and credentialed medical professionals like RDs seem to be a favorite target for those who prescribe to the FEAS mindset. However, these are old plays from a tired, dusty playbook that leverages distrust, often to make the case for those with something to sell. Personally, this kind of  manipulation inspires me all the more to promote the value of true-to-form Sports RDs, which has been the focal point of our campaign for several years now at the Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association (

Being a Sports RD features, in no small way, the task of helping athletes separate fact from fiction. It’s all about helping the next generation of young athlete realize the importance of a healthy diet and that illegal practices, like doping are NOT the norm. We have much work to do and little time to waste if we are to protect this generation of young athletes. Rigid rules that ensure fairness and a level playing field have never been more important to all of us who work in sports, not to mention the athletes themselves.

Here’s to fighting the good fight!

Make Those Workouts Count – Post-Exercise Protein Is Important to Replenish Muscles Make Those Workouts Count – Post-Exercise Protein Is Important to Replenish Muscles

More than half-way through the first month of the year, your patients and clients are hopefully established into new healthy eating habits and exercise routines or doing well maintaining those practices. Logging more workouts is a great step toward better health, but paying closer attention to protein content of meals and post-exercise snacks could potentially enhance those efforts.


Research on the effects of diet composition during exercise indicates that dietary protein intakes up to 1.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily may have benefits on body composition and may enhance response to resistance exercise, especially for aging adults and athletes. Several studies have shown that 25-30 grams of high-quality protein consumed at each meal may be most favorable to maintain healthy muscles and bones for adults.

Timing of protein intake around workouts can be of particular importance as well. Research has shown that consuming up to 20 grams of protein after resistance exercise can aid in optimal muscle protein synthesis. Furthermore, pairing post-exercise protein with simple carbohydrate in a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 (carbohydrate to protein) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, which translates to 1.2 – 1.5 g/kg of simple carbohydrate with 0.3 – 0.5 g/kg of a high-quality protein. Post-workout snacks could include a hard-boiled egg and piece of fruit, cup of chocolate milk, or banana and 1 Tbsp. of peanut butter.

What snacks do you use or recommend to replenish muscles after a workout?


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Fueling Athletes for Winter Sports

Dave Ellis
Today’s post comes from Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS.   Ellis is a sports dietitian, who counsels athletic programs on nutrition and teaches athletes how to eat the right foods on a sensible schedule to fuel performance, prevent muscle cramps, finish strong and recover well. He is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.

Winter sports mean shorter days and colder weather which usually translates to lower Vitamin D exposures. The coaching points for winter sport athletes are to focus in on the value of sleep, proper nutrition including antioxidant intake from fresh produce, and adequate Vitamin D from food/supplements. In addition, several supplements are available that may be used to enhance the athlete’s diet and potentially reduce the seasonal challenges that these athletes face.With sports like hockey and basketball that compete indoors we see significant seasonal drops in Vitamin D status by midseason which has all kinds of compromised immune and recovery implications for athletes. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient it’s not hard to find a Omega-3, Vitamin D combination product to incorporate into an athlete’s daily diet. The Omega-3’s might have an emerging role for athletes with fragmented sleep patterns, as well as some protective benefits for concussions.

More advanced seasonal immune interventions for athletes that are gaining traction involve something commonly found in egg yolk called IgY that marks pathogens for attack by our immune system. Something like beta-glucan derived from baker’s yeast that primes the immune system for a robust immune response to those marked pathogens. It’s often not the most talented team that emerges in the spring that wins the championship after a long winter; it’s often the team that manages to minimize unnecessary downtime due to illness! Healthy teams have deep rosters that can spread the beating out over the course of a long season vs. running a few health athletes into the ground because of a short bench.

Sports RDs play a critical role in empowering athletes to get their rest, distribute health meals over the day and fortify the challenge immune systems episodically with some of the immune enhancing foods listed. All of these positive steps can be mitigated if athletes use alcohol and drugs so the work of the Sports RD to educate and help establish some meaningful accountability on these challenging social issues is just as important. To learn more about Sports RDs and how they enhance the athlete’s nutrition status through food and supplements, go to

Protein in the Athlete’s Diet

Today’s post comes from Dr. Donald Layman. Dr. Layman is the Director of Research at the Egg Nutrition Center and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois and a leading researcher studying dietary needs for protein and amino acids.

The importance of protein for athletes is well accepted but still confusing. Athletes hear lots of different messages about the amount of protein to eat and when to eat it. There are three simple messages about protein. The first message is that all adults interested in muscle health need to consume multiple daily meals each containing 30 grams of protein. To maintain healthy muscles, we must continuously make new proteins and breakdown old ones. The repair and replacement process only occurs during the anabolic periods after protein intake.

Most Americans eat the majority of their protein in a single large dinner meal with less than 10 grams of protein at breakfast. Your morning high fiber cereal with 8 grams of protein is useless for muscle health. Adults should have three meals each day with at least 30 grams of protein and breakfast is the most important meal of your day!

If you’re a bodybuilder trying to achieve maximum muscle size, you may want 4 to 6 meals each containing 30 g of protein. If you’re a runner, you need at least 3 meals to optimize muscle repair and recovery.
ENC-PT-kit-image-1-300x230Surprisingly, the 30 g amount is the same for a small woman or a large guy and appears to relate more to blood volume than body size. If a meal contains less than 20 g there is no benefit to muscle health.

Second, athletes should consume protein soon after exercise to accelerate muscle repair and recovery. Intense exercise produces muscle damage – exercise is said to be catabolic or cause muscle breakdown. This is part of soreness but also an essential part of muscle training. To optimize training and minimize soreness, athletes need to consume protein within about 1 hour after exercise. The good news is that exercise increases the efficiency of protein use, so after exercise, 15 grams of a high quality whey protein or egg whites will maximize recovery.

The third message is that protein before exercise is not helpful. Protein consumed ahead of exercise has no beneficial effects on the quality of the workout or the speed of recovery. Protein is also slow to digest and may make you feel full and sluggish if consumed too close to exercise.

Whatever your athletic level, be sure to get the most out of your exercise with the right amounts of protein at the right times every day.

Fueling for Exercise

Today’s post is written by one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Dr. Jason Karp. Dr. Karp is a nationally recognized running coach, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He writes for international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running for Women, and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences.

The ability to exercise for prolonged periods is strongly influenced by the amount of carbohydrate stored in skeletal muscles (glycogen), with intense endurance exercise decreasing muscle glycogen stores. Most people have enough glycogen to provide energy for only about 70 minutes of running.

At low exercise intensities, some of carbohydrate’s metabolic responsibility for energy regeneration is relieved by fat. Even with the contribution of fat helping to delay the depletion of glycogen, moderate-intensity exercise can only be sustained for two to three hours. With increasing exercise intensity, fat use decreases while carbohydrate use increases. When you run out of carbohydrates, your muscles are forced to rely on fat and consequently your exercise intensity drops because your muscles regenerate energy slower when using fat compared to when using carbohydrates.

Fueling Before Exercise

Many people skip breakfast before doing a workout. Because blood glucose is low first thing in the morning, it’s not a good idea to exercise on an empty stomach, as that would diminish the quality of the workout. At least a half hour before you go out the door to run, eat 200 to 300 calories of carbohydrates and protein, like a bagel with peanut butter. If you run soon after getting out of bed and don’t have at least a half hour before you run, consume 100 to 200 calories, like a nutrition bar, a banana, and a sports drink.

Fueling After Exercise

Refueling nutrient-depleted muscles is possibly the single most important aspect of optimal recovery. And the most important nutrient to replenish is carbohydrate. Muscles are picky when it comes to the time for synthesizing and storing glycogen. Although glycogen continues to be synthesized until storage in muscles is complete, the process is most rapid if you consume carbohydrates within the first 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. Indeed, delaying carbohydrate ingestion for two hours after a workout significantly reduces the rate of glycogen resynthesis. To maximize the synthesis and storage of glycogen, consume 0.6 to 0.7 gram of simple carbohydrate (sugar, preferably glucose) per pound of body weight every two hours for a few hours after your workout.

Protein is another important nutrient to consume after hard and long workouts, especially when trying to build muscle. To repair muscle fibers damaged during training, consume 20 to 30 grams of complete protein (which contain all essential amino acids) after your workout. My research, along with other studies, has shown that chocolate milk, with its high carbohydrate and protein contents, is a great post-workout recovery drink (yum!).

For more information on running, check out and