I bring you a new RD today – Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LD/N who writes the blog Fresh Food Perspectives! Jenna is a mother of two and a part-time sports dietitian. She is here to tell you about her path to become a and then her recommendations for fueling before, during and after workouts. Enjoy!
Becoming A Sports Dietitian
One of the most popular questions I get from both students and dietitians is how to become a sports dietitian. Everyone has a different story but becoming a CSSD usually takes determination, guts, and a lot of hard work. But it can be done. Oh, and it’s definitely NOT glamorous.
I knew from day one of becoming a RD that I wanted to pursue sports. Unfortunately, most dietetics programs do not have enough room to offer extensive sports nutrition courses. So I set out to educate myself on the topic. I bought the Sports Nutrition Manual and read it from cover to cover (as well as many other endurance sports nutrition books). I traveled to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition and Exercise Seminar. I also coached high school volleyball for 2 years while in grad school. This gave me a lot of experience with actual athletes and gave me the opportunity to talk nutrition to not just my team, but others at the same high school. From there I looked for where I could counsel athletes more regularly. I was able to get connected in my local YMCA and started seeing clients sporadically. I also cold called a local sports performance facility and over time, was able to work into a consulting role there. At this point, I had gained enough experience hours and finished my masters, both of which qualified me to sit for the CSSD (Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics) exam.
After gaining experience with all types of athletes, I realized that I would really like to work with collegiate athletes. So, I once again cold called a local, private university, and worked myself into a consulting role there. They didn’t have a lot of money but we negotiated a contract for a year of services. I started to explore the option of moving to work as a full time collegiate sports dietitian so I shadowed the RD’s at the University of Florida for a day. I highly recommend this for anyone interested in this kind of work. It was really eye-opening as working with college athletes full time is really hard work. This was a life changing experience for me as I realized that my “dream” job was not very compatible with my other dream of having children.
Fast forward several years and 2 kids later, I now work with athletes on a part-time basis, counseling many of our local athletes and speaking to teams. I still have my eye on another “dream” job in sports and I hope at the right time I will get the chance to work more closely with elite athletes.
Fueling For Exercise
I’ve noticed lately that many recreational and competitive athletes, whether endurance sports, Crossfit or group fitness buffs, are looking for ways to fuel their bodies with real food instead of performance products, or at least want more options. While gels, drinks and gummies are a great tool for athletes, I couldn’t be happier to help people try whole food methods for fueling. Some new research has begun to support the idea that whole foods like bananas can produce the same performance results as sports drinks, which have a lot of research to support their benefits.
The reason there are so many performance products is two-fold. One, they are just convenient. You can keep a gel pack tucked in your shorts while running and it will be just fine and very easy to consume. The second reason is because they work. For instance, sports drinks are perfectly formulated to contain just the right amount of carbohydrate (about 5-8%) and electrolytes (sodium and potassium) so that your body easily and readily absorbs it. This makes it easy for people to know what to consume to perform their best instead of making mistakes that can really cause some trouble (i.e. drinking straight juice while running). But all this doesn’t mean that you can’t get the same results with actual real food; you just have to get creative. And I certainly like choosing foods without added preservatives and colorings whenever I can.
Before I give you some suggestions on fuel, I have a disclaimer. First and foremost, sports nutrition is one big experiment to find what works for you. Just like you physically train to be prepared for events, you must also try out your fueling strategies to find what works best for you. I encourage my clients to find their “power foods” – the food and drink combinations that make them feel energized and they know will give them a good workout or help them finish strong. (And by the way, everyone can find their power foods, even if it’s the snack to help you finish your work day strong, and I encourage you to do that.) You may end up trying some foods that seem a little weird (as in not your normal food or maybe not-so ‘heathy’) because they just could be the perfect fit for you.
So here is a short list (because the possibilities could be endless) of ideas for fueling pre, during and post workout for anything over 60 minutes. If you are exercising for 60 minutes or less, you probably don’t need anything during your workout besides water. There are, of course, exceptions to that, and you should work with a registered dietitian certified in sports nutrition to get a personalized plan. If you have any other fuel ideas that aren’t listed, please share them in a comment.
Pre-workout (30-60 minutes prior)
// Bagel thin, English muffin, or slice of bread with natural peanut butter
// Low fat yogurt (Choose regular instead of Greek because the higher protein content is not as beneficial as the carbohydrate for this scenario.) with ¼ cup granola
// Energy bar (like Larabar)
// Granola bar (I like Clif crunch granola bars)
// Banana with natural nut butter of choice
// Pita chips and hummus
// Cereal and milk
// 8 oz of milk and piece of fruit
// My Hidden Honey Bars recipe
During workout that lasts longer than 60 minutes. Take in something every 15-20 minutes from the very BEGINNING.
// Banana pieces (about 1-2” in size)
// Mini Peppermint Patties (my favorite)
// Dried fruit like pineapple
// Boiled and salted potatoes
// Small pieces of your favorite energy bar or cereal bar
// Fig Newtons
// All natural jelly beans or fruit snacks
// Homemade energy drinks and gels made with maple syrup (Recipes here)
Post workout (eat within 60 minutes of completing)
// 10-12 oz low fat or fat free chocolate milk using organic milk and organic chocolate syrup
// PB & J sandwich
// Energy bar with protein (Like Real Food Barre)
// Low fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup cereal (Skip granola here due to typically having a higher fat content, which can slow absorption.)
// 6 oz 100% tart cherry or pomegranate juice protein bar (with 25 grams or less of protein)
// Smoothie made with milk and fruit
// Turkey sandwich
// Crackers with cheese and deli meat
So try any of these and see if they just might be your power food combination to athletic success.
Have a healthy day!
Jenna Bradddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LD/N has been a certified specialist in sports dietetics for over 5 years. She has helped numerous athletes improve their performance through better eating strategies. She is also a faculty member in the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of North Florida where she teaches Community Nutrition, Nutrition Education, and Food Fundamentals Lab. Her blog, Fresh Food Perspectives, is where she shares her fresh perspective on health and nutrition, fitness tips, inspiration and award-winning recipes. Follow her on Twitter at @Jbraddockrd
Personally, Jenna is married to Brian, the head high school football coach at Mandarin High School and the mom to 2 ½ year old Jackson and 7 month old Ben. She enjoys cooking, gardening, all kind of fitness (although not particularly gifted in athletics), local food and restaurants, and a good glass of wine or craft beer.