As we settle in the holiday season, it seems like sweets tend to surround us with chocolate temptation and sugary savory cookies. Many folks tend to give in and engulf pounds of desserts over the course of the holiday season. The problem isn’t the sweets themselves, but self-control. Now, I’m not saying to stay away from all desserts or make claims that sugar is evil. If you want some sweets, go ahead! It comes down to self-control and serving sizes. To tell you all to not consume any sweets during Christmas is absurd and can surely ruin the night. It’s also completely understandable to want to stray from desserts because “you don’t want lose your gainz! Or all of your hard work will be a waste”. I can assure you, there is a way to enjoy the holiday season, maintain your gains, and still achieve your goals.
Reach for the Christmas cookies and have a handful. Do not feel guilty about this. Just don’t overdo it like a plate or two stacked with brownies, cookies, candy canes, etc. Now if you exercised that day, you have a little more leniency but still not much, keep it minimal. Here are some tips that may work for you:
- Hungry? Go for a protein snack (Greek yogurt, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, protein smoothies, protein bars/cookies). Not the tastiest but better for body composition. How is it better? Protein is more satiating (feel full longer) and has a higher TEF (thermic effect of food), essentially burning more calories during metabolism.
- Drink water! Sometimes hunger may be mistaken for thirst, so if you’re feeling hungry and want a snack, drink some water first then decide if you want to go for that snack. It may also help if you drink water before dinner. This may give you a “full” feeling thus, potentially leading to less food intake.
- Same like the first tip, add more protein than anything on your dinner plate, i.e. chicken breast, turkey, beans, steak, roast beef, etc. Eat your protein first, then go for the mashed potatoes, etc.
- Add fiber to your dish. Fiber also adds satiety. Examples include, broccoli, spinach, cauliflower, celery.
- Use smaller plates. People tend to eat less with smaller plates. Try it out and see if it works. It may not but this is about experimenting.
- Make substitutions. Choose a fruit cup with cottage cheese over a gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate. Choose wine over beer. Simple substitutions like this can help.
- Most importantly, if you lose all self-control and go on a 3-week sweets binge, don’t worry, you will be okay. Enjoy the holiday season!
If looking to make healthier desserts, click here (no affiliation, just cool ideas).
If you’re interested to find out an individualized nutrition plan just for you, contact email@example.com for our nutrition services.
Today’s Q&A guest is our own sports nutritionist Jesse Rodriguez. Jesse has his own prolific history as a national-level swimmer for El Salvador and here in the United States competing in college and post-graduate for the University of Southern California. This all makes Jesse a world-class resource as not many people have competed at this level at any sport. With this background, plus his vast time spent in academia studying nutrition, interning with top sports teams, and the clinical work necessary for his Registered Dietitian status, we’re glad to have him on-board.
1. There are lots of people working with nutrition in some capacity, what sets you apart?
Firstly, I’m a licensed registered dietitian which means I went though extensive schooling and professional training. Secondly, I was an athlete for the majority of my life and I began studying/applying nutrition since I was 16. Lastly, I continue to read and study a lot! Mostly on clinical, biochemistry and sports nutrition research articles. Overall, I’ve been in this game for a long time and still aiming to be well-rounded in all elements of nutrition. (Editor’s Note: You read more about the difference between a Nutritionist and a Registered Dietitian here)
2. Given your personal and prolific history as a swimmer, you’re uniquely qualified to critique high-level sports nutrition, particularly in swimming. What are athletes doing right with their diet? What are they doing wrong?
Nutrition in sports has gained more popularity over the years and many athletes found the benefits of fueling appropriately. I’ve noticed that more athletes know about nutrient timing, and the importance of including carbs as fuel and protein for recovery. I think that many athletes know how to fuel around training times but during other times (i.e. dinner at home or restaurant), they tend to lack in nutritional knowledge. A lot of athletes still eat junk food throughout the day, maybe because they feel they can get away with it or something, but that’s our job as sports dietitians to correct. Additionally, building the appropriate plate according to their goals (i.e. body composition, better recovery) seems to be a problem along with maintaining hydration. Here’s an article I’ve written on RuthlessPerformance.com on this is.
3. Supplement must-do’s… What supplements (if any) are generally worth taking? What supplements are a scam?
Supplements for athletes typically aren’t necessary since athletes are eating more than the general population but it all depends on the athlete. Supplements would be necessary if an athlete is deficient in a nutrient like Iron or Vitamin D. Athletes following special diets like the vegan diet may need to supplement as well. As far as supplements for performance, the most studied and useful would be: Caffeine, Creatine, Beta-Alanine, Nitrates, and Sodium Bicarbonate (baking soda). It’s hard to say which supplements are a scam because they’re so many in the market and it can vary due to individual responses to them. With that being said, it’s important to make sure if you’re going to take supplements, that they’re 3rd party certified by organizations like the NSF.
4. You’ve gone pretty far in your journey through academia… With the emphasis of studies, objectivity, and research in academia there is still surprisingly lots of room for subjectivity and interpretations of results and outcomes. What are your thoughts on this? What can be done to fix or improve nutrition science?
Correct, I think there is always room for development in the field so it’s my job to follow along and stay up to date with the latest research. This for me is actually fun because I enjoy reading research papers and learning to new things. The science of nutrition can be very complex and as of now, I don’t have any solutions. I think that the correct messages (evidence-based results) need to be sent out to the general public so myths can be debunked. It’s more about nutrition education than anything at the moment.
5. From a more general standpoint, the headlines regarding nutrition are changing on a damn near daily basis. What elements of sports nutrition do you think are firmly established? What rules of nutrition have outlasted the scandalous and salacious headlines?
Hydration, nutrient timing, and recovery nutrition seems to be the foundation. There will always be a new thing that comes out, but those three are firmly established. Individualized nutrition is fundamental in sports nutrition and I think that will outlast any headline or diet (i.e keto diet, intermittent fasting, etc). I also think that sticking to the basics, such as nutrition from food rather than living off smoothies and supplements for example, will always have the edge. Of course, going back to supplements, this will depend on the individual’s status.
6. Where does sports nutrition go from here? What do you think we’ll be seeing in the coming years regarding nutrition? Gut health seems to be a hot topic as of late, what are your opinions on this? What should nutrition scientists place more emphasis on?
The basics of sports nutrition will remain the same and to be honest, I don’t see anything revolutionary coming soon. However, they’re new things coming along such as nutrigenomics and the importance of gut health, antioxidants, and periodizing nutrition which looks promising. Gut health has been popular lately and for good reason. Because of the gut and brain connection, I feel it’s important to treat your gut right just like most want to treat their blood sugar levels right. I think emphasis should be placed on education and sending the correct messages to athletes and the public. Researchers are doing a great job in nutritional science but there hasn’t been anything lately that can change the whole world of nutrition and its effect on humanity. If we can do this, that will be the next revolutionary thing.
**Editor’s Note: Jesse will also be featured on ‘Healthy Habits with Dr. T’ on Wednesday, Oct. 17th at 7:00 PM EST, we’ll post all of the details for event pre-registration and where to view it on our Twitter and Instagram.**
Want to learn more about Jesse or our various nutritional programs and consultations? Fill out the form below to get started!
Making small changes will lead to bigger results. Start off with behavioral changes before jumping on to the new diet out there. This means things like eating on a smaller plate, removing the salt from the table, reducing serving sizes, etc.
In general, a “healthy” or “healthier” plate should include a protein, whole grain, complex carbs (veggies/fruit), healthy fat (olive oil or avocado), and hydration (milk/water). USDA has come up with an image of what a healthy plate should look like. This is very general since protein can be a hot dog, or whole milk as dairy, which contains a lot of fat.
Harvard health dissected the USDA plate and made a detailed version. They included healthy fat, along with extra details, which is important to our health. Read our “Why do we need fats in our diet?”
Both plates are for the general public and used for weight maintenance. For athletes and those looking for a specific body composition goal (weight loss, weight gain, etc.) building a plate becomes more tailored to this individuals’ goals. The healthy plate provides a foundation of what should be on a plate, but macro-nutrient distribution would be manipulated according to the individual’s needs. US Olympic Committee has made three fuel plates that targeted for the athlete’s training. Still not very specific because everyone is different but effective.
If you’re looking to make nutrition changes in your life, start with small modifications then gradually transition into a detailed plan.
By Jesse Rodriguez, RD, CSCS
If you’re interested to find out an individualized nutrition plan just for you, contact info@ruthlessperformance for our nutrition services.
Many gym-goers are looking for ways to get more work in during their training sessions. Some turn to pre-workout supplements while others may turn to steroid-related drugs. Although pre-workout supplements contain caffeine, it’s also filled with unnecessary and potentially dangerous substances.
Caffeine on resistance training has been long looked at with supportive research data on its effect. Caffeine’s major effect for training is that it reduces pain perception, potentially delaying fatigue during exercise. Additionally, caffeine may also reduce RPE (rate of perceived exertion) which may extend duration and/or intensity of workouts.
Sources could come as either coffee or caffeine powder/pills. The most important information to know is that 3-6mg/kg may be the optimal range to see effects or a dose of approximately 200mg 1 hour before exercise. 2-3 cups of coffee may be the optimal dose; however, caffeine content depends on the type of coffee and if any espresso shots are added. Experiment with doses and types and find the right amount to see individualized results.
Anne, M. (2018, May 16). How Many Milligrams of Caffeine Are in a Cup of Coffee? Retrieved from https://www.livestrong.com/article/260763-how-many-milligrams-of-caffeine-are-in-a-cup-of-coffee/
Diego B. Souza, Michael Duncan, and Marcos D. Polito. Acute Caffeine Intake Improves Lower Body Resistance Exercise Performance with Blood Flow Restriction. International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance 0 0:0, 1-22
Michael J. Duncan, Michelle Stanley, Natalie Parkhouse, Kathryn Cook, Mike Smith. Acute caffeine ingestion enhances strength performance and reduces perceived exertion and muscle pain perception during resistance exercise. Eur J Sport Sci. 2013; 13(4): 392–399. Published online 2011 Dec 5. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2011.635811
Wolde, Tsedeke. (2014). Effects of caffeine on health and nutrition: A Review. 30.
By Jesse Rodriguez, RD, CSCS
Electrolytes consist of sodium, potassium, chloride, calcium, magnesium, and bicarbonate. Workouts lasting less than 1 hour typically only need to re-hydrate with water but for workouts >1 hour, require liquids with a combination of carbohydrates and electrolytes. Electrolytes are needed because they are, along with water, are lost through sweat which is the bodies primary way of preventing excessive rises in body temperature aka hyperthermia, especially in the heat. Performance is impaired when approximately 2% of body weight is dehydrated.
Many electrolyte products are out there in market. There is no absolute best one, but some may be better than others. This may also depend on the individual and their response to them. Scratch labs sells hydration mixes to be made into a sports drink. Then there are the traditional sports drinks such as Gatorade and PowerAde. What makes these drinks different? Let’s take a look…
|Calories||Carbs (g)||Sodium (mg)||Potassium (mg)||Other|
Hydration Mix 1 scoop
|Calcium & magnesium|
1 bottle (591mL)
|150||38||250||65||Citric acid & gum|
1 bottle (360mL)
|80||21||150||35||High fructose corn syrup, & B-vitamins|
|The Right Stuff
Chloride & Citrate
PowerAde and Gatorade contain a lot of added sugars with artificial colors as well. The problem is that too much added carbs decreases the amount of water that can be absorbed (Jeukendrup & Gleeson, 2004). Only small amounts of glucose and sodium are needed so that water absorption rate increases. The right stuff is primarily electrolyte containing with no energy (calories) and carbs however, it can be mixed with a carb containing drink thus increasing carbs and/or electrolytes which may slow absorption of water. Scratch labs hydration mix is similar to PowerAde as far as electrolyte content. Scratch labs hydration mix can also be mixed with a carb liquid but the mix alone may just be sufficient. Overall, Scratch labs seems like it has a good mix to be used during and after exercise lasting more than 1 hour.
Jeukendrup, Asker & Gleeson, Michael. Sports Nutrition. An Introduction to Energy Production and Performance. 2004.
Gropper, Sareen S., Smith, L. Jack., & Carr, Timothy P. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Seventh edition. 2016.
By Jesse Rodriguez, RD, CSCS
Registered Dietitians are licensed nutritional professionals with an undergraduate degree and supervised practice hours. Among completion, a national exam must be taken to be officially licensed and practice as a professional. Registered dietitians are recognized by The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics with mandatory completion of CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to maintain registration.
The term “Nutritionist” does not require extensive school and professional training. Essentially, anyone can call themselves a nutritionist because they read a few books. That is not to say nutritionist don’t know what they’re talking about but nutritionists can’t assess, diagnosis, or treat nutritional-related problems where as a Registered Dietitian can.
At Ruthless performance, we offer nutritional services by a Licensed Registered Dietitian.
It’s simple: All Dietitians are nutritionists, but not all nutritionists are Dietitians.
By Jesse Rodriguez, RD, CSCS
**Editor’s Note: In a previous post, the various benefits of adding mushrooms to your diet was discussed. Find more here about what mushrooms can do for your immune, digestive, and cognitive function.**
Prep Time – 10 minutes. Cook Time – 25 minutes. Total Time – 35 minutes.
Vegetarian dish. Makes 6 servings.
- 1 lb Mushrooms
- 3 tbsp choice of Parsley or Chives, chopped.
- 2 Shallots, roughly diced
- 6 cups Bone broth
- 1 ½ cup Arborio rice
- Black pepper to taste
- ½ tsp Salt
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 4 tbsp Kerrygold Butter
- Parmesan cheese to taste
- 1 tbsp Kasandrinos Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- In a saucepan, warm the broth over medium heat.
- Heat a large cast-iron or non-stick skillet to high heat. Add mushrooms to dry skillet and stir as the mushrooms release their juices. Turn heat to medium-high and continue to stir until juice starts to be absorbed and mushrooms are browned.
- Sprinkle with a dash of salt and continue cooking until the rest of the liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Remove mushrooms and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium and add 1 tablespoon olive oil.
- Stir in the shallots. Cook about 1 minute or until shallots begin to soften. Add rice, stirring to coat with oil, about 2 minutes.
- Pour in the wine, stirring constantly until the wine is fully absorbed.
- Return heat to medium-high and using a mug or measuring cup add between ½-3/4 cup broth to the rice (I added ¾ cup), and stir until the broth is absorbed. Continue adding the hot broth one scoopful at a time, stirring continuously, making sure the liquid becomes absorbed before adding more broth. When you’ve got almost all the broth added, begin turning the heat down to medium if necessary. After about 20 minutes or so, the rice will be al dente.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper. (At this point, if you want a vegan meal, this is done and perfectly tasty.)
- Add the butter, parsley or chives and parmesan.
By Jesse Rodriguez
Jesse’s focus and emphasis is on Sports Nutrition. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science with the addition of a CSCS certification from the NSCA. Jesse swam for the El Salvador National Team and competed at the international level. Jesse has worked at USC with the Strength and Conditioning program and UCLA as the lead intern for Sports Nutrition. He is currently a dietetic intern to complete requirements for the Registered Dietitian exam and obtain his professional license. During his free time, Jesse continues to strength train, Olympic lift, and stay up-to-date on the latest nutrition trends. Lastly, Jesse is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, National Strength and Conditioning Association, and Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.
By Jesse Rodriguez
An apple a day keeps the doctor away right? Not quite since dietary guidelines recommended us to consume ~3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Vegetables, specifically, are overlooked but they shouldn’t as they are superfoods. Mom was right when nagging us about eating our veggies at the dinner table.
Vitamins are our main focus here and how it can help performance. There are two types of vitamins:
- Water soluble – Vitamins B and C
- Fat soluble – Vitamin A, D, E, and K
*Vitamins A, C, and E have antioxidant effects
The difference between the two are the elements of metabolism. Some water-soluble vitamins require digestion while some don’t, however, they are all absorbed in the small intestine then transported through the blood to their target areas. Similarly, some fat-soluble vitamins require digestion while some don’t. In order to get absorbed, it must be incorporated into a micelle with the help of bile. The micelle then gets absorbed into the intestinal cells by passive diffusion in the small intestine. Those with diseases or complications may have trouble absorbing vitamins or producing the necessary enzymes for metabolism.
Vitamins help performance in many ways such as serving as antioxidants to reduce inflammation or working with minerals such as calcium to promote bone strength. Furthermore, some fruits can serve as a pre-workout packed with carbohydrates with a low glycemic index providing a steady dose of carbs throughout the workout. Additionally, fruits contain fructose, a simple sugar, that is digested quickly aiding in glycogen replenishment. Because vitamins have various benefits, I will cover only a handful of fruits and vegetables that can help your health and performance.
- Fish, Beef, Yogurt, Milk, Chicken – Vitamin B12
- Helps formation of red blood cells
- Maintain brain function
- Create and breakdown protein and fat
- Pears – Vitamins C, K, B3, B6, B9
- Increase energy levels
- Aids in digestion
- Decrease blood pressure
- Cucumbers – Vitamins C, K, B1, B7
- Aids in protection of brain
- Increase digestive health
- Decreases stress
- Freshens your breath!
- Milk, Eggs, – Vitamin D
- Increase bone strength
- May increase musculoskeletal health
- May improve muscle efficiency
- Oranges, Carrots, Milk – Vitamin A
- Aid in vision and cellular differentiation
- Promotes eye health
- Antioxidant effects helping in muscle recovery
To summarize, vitamins are imperative to our health and can aid in performance. Add a banana or apple to your mid-day snack. You can also try things like carrots with hummus, celery sticks with peanut butter or steamed broccoli with your dinner. Eating your servings of fruits and vegetables doesn’t have be boring so mix it in with your daily foods. Eating a balanced diet includes all food groups containing vitamins which are important for different functions in the body
Jesse Rodriguez is a nutritional science major with an emphasis in sports nutrition. Jesse swam for the El Salvador national team and competed at the international level. Jesse is currently working towards a CSCS and registered dietitian license. He currently works at UCLA as a sports nutrition intern assisting both dietitians with meal plans, body composition, and education materials. Jesse is a member of the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics and Collegiate & Professional Sports Dietitians Association.
By Jesse Rodriguez
Gut bacteria has been a trend lately, and there is a good reason why its talked about but what is gut bacteria? And why is it good?
Let’s talk about the bacteria in our gut. Our bodies contain about 100 trillion bacteria living in our gut, also known as Microbiome. Microbiome synthesize neurotransmitters that communicate to the brain impacting our immune system, brain, weight, and mood. It’s also important to know that one’s genetics, diet, and environment influence these microbes.
Many people have heard about prebiotic and probiotic but what are they? Both are found in supplements but there’s no need to cash in on these supplements when they’re readily available in our everyday foods.
- Prebiotic – “nondigestible food ingredients that beneficially affect the host by selectively stimulating the growth and/or activity of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon, thus improving host health”
- Probiotic – “live microorganisms (i.e bifidobacteria and lactobacilli) intended to promote health benefits”
Simply put, prebiotics promote the growth of helpful bacteria in your gut while probiotics are the good bacteria that live in the gut; prebiotics are the food for probiotics. They work together to improve GI health, enhance calcium absorption, boost immunity, and overall health and wellbeing. As a result, they may positively impact your health which then affects performance ultimately affecting your goals. Because prebiotics are fiber, adequate intake has been shown to:
- Control appetite
- Control development of Type II diabetes
- Regulate body weight
- Alleviate inflammation, typically irritable bowel syndrome
Because these are found in many foods, here is a list of common foods containing prebiotics and probiotics or containing both, called synbiotics:
- Green Peas
- Kefir products
- Dark Chocolate
- Yogurt + Honey
- Yogurt + Banana
- Oats + Dark Chocolate
- Legumes + Pickles
- Miso Soup + Garlic
Incorporate these meals into your diet as a snack or dinner to increase your overall wellbeing.
(2016) Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitaminsand-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duo
Ho, N., & Prasad, V. (2013). Probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics and naturally fermented foods: why more may be more. Annals of Gastroenterology : Quarterly Publication of the Hellenic Society of Gastroenterology, 26(3), 277–278.
Slavin, J. (2013). Fiber and Prebiotics: Mechanisms and Health Benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417– 1435. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu5041417