nutrition

Tips and Training with Dr. Jason Ross, D.C. ART C.S.C.S.

Dr. Jason Ross,  D.C.  ARTC.S.C.S.  is a Doctor of Chiropractic and Strength and Conditioning Coach. Dr. Ross runs Train Out Pain Chiropractic in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was the official chiropractor for the United States Bobsled team. In fact, he was himself a two-time member of the US Bobsled team as a push athlete. 

Dr. Ross trains and treats a variety of athletes from recreational to professional and we caught up with him to talk training, injury prevention and a whole lot more.

Two twists of fate landed Jason Ross as a chiropractor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The first: He got a scholarship to play rugby, a sport he loved more than football. Two shoulder dislocations and a two grade 3 A/C join tears later, his second twist of fate arrived in rehab: his doctor said he’d make a great bobsled push athlete. 

Six months later, he performed well at the combines and made the U.S. National World Cup bobsled team – and graduated from chiropractic school. After competing for a few years, he retired and started practicing chiropractic medicine full-time. A year later, he was back on the team, but this time as its chiropractor and strength coach. He traveled with the team for four years. In 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, their teams won gold in the four-man, and the women won bronze. 

How has your approach to training changed over the years? 

I place less importance on the numbers. If you lift 30 more pounds on your squat it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re improving. I’ve also changed my stance on good/bad exercises and the cost/benefit. I ask myself, is this worth it for this athlete?  

Do the athletes you work with have any misconceptions about strength training when you start working with them? Do their views change after working with you? If so, how?

A few misconceptions that are still around:

  • That strength training will make them bigger
  • That strength training will take away from their sport
  • Not lifting because you’re tired and sore 
  • Lifting during race week

Guess what? When done right, lifting will help your race! Athletes also realize that they feel better after lifting. Lifting should complement all phases of your sport, offseason, preseason, race prep and recovery. 

What is the easiest thing to correct? The hardest? 

The easiest thing to correct is lift technique. And even getting someone stronger. The hardest thing: convincing an athlete they don’t have to feel crushed or wore out or dripping in sweat to have accomplished some quality training.

What are one or two main things athletes can do to help prevent injuries? 

The biggest injury prevention tip: sleep. More research is proving this. Quality nutrition also helps. If these two aren’t covered, you’re wasting your time and kidding yourself on improving or taking your sport seriously. 

What are the biggest challenges facing athletes in sport? 

At the amateur level, the biggest challenge is how to pursue your sport at the highest level and still balance family and work. Most mountain bikers, runners and triathletes aren’t fully sponsored athletes. What they do to balance all aspects of their lives is more impressive than a full-time professional. They’ll tell you how hard it was to get where they are. 

How important is the psychological/mental side of training?

The mental side of training is what separates the top 1 percent from the rest. There are some people who just don’t quit. They have GRIT. They don’t care they got four flats – it doesn’t derail them. They just keep competing. At the end of the day, everyone you see on a podium is mentally fit. The ones you don’t see on the podium may have more talent, but they pull back or lose focus. They can’t pull themselves out of a setback. 

How important is recovery for an athlete? Do you have any good at-home strategies to help athletes recover faster and better? 

Recovery is the cornerstone of training. Some recovery techniques: 

  • Sleep – it’s crucial and even quick naps on a consistent basis help
  • Foam rolling – try it for five minutes after workouts and before bed
  • Low level aerobic work (heart rate under 110) – a great movement practice after hard workouts 
  • And I’m biased, but I think everyone should see a chiropractor at least monthly for joint health checks

Do athletes come to you with an understanding of gut health? 

Gut health is becoming more prevalent. The elite level has known about the health benefits of good gut health for a while, but I think the everyday athlete is just starting to see it. People are realizing the importance of absorbing nutrients and producing neurotransmitters – and the affects it has on personality and the desire to train. 

Also, no one can train on an irritated bowel! Athletes are surprised when I tell them how much our guts impact the entire body. 

Everyone I work with who’s been taking Sound for a few months has commented that they have more energy, feel more robust, and had fewer viral infections. And those who’ve gotten a cold recover faster. 

How do you teach your athletes about gut health? 

I teach through example. I constantly talk about recovery and nutrition’s impact. But even great nutrition that isn’t absorbed isn’t great nutrition.  

What trends in fitness / training are you paying attention to?

A few I’m watching now: 

  • What elite athletes are doing and their trickledown affect 
  • Melatonin – is it the new vitamin D?
  • Optimizing brain health, including techniques like HALO
  • Breath work, like CO2 use, breath hold and maximizing Anion gap 
  • Sauna for heat shock protein
  • Cold exposure for brown fat optimization 

And, according to your site you like espresso, playing with your dog and reading. What’s your favorite espresso? What kind of dog do you have? And what’s the best book you’ve read in the past year?

We’re spoiled In Grand Rapids. We have the great coffee and espresso. The best coffee is Rowster Coffee. My family has a French bulldog – my daughters love him, and he’s a solid part of our family. 

I love reading nine or 10 books at once. A few interesting books I’ve read lately: 

  • The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara – all about how fat can think 
  • What Doesn’t Kill Us by Scott Carney – a book about physiology, breathing and cold
  • The Oxygen Advantage by Patrick McKeown – a book about breathing and its effect on physiology and how we can maximize it for performance
  • The Hungry Brain by Stephan J. Guyenet – a book about how our brain is wire for food an eating and how to combat it 

Follow Jason on Twitter or on his blog

Composed and written by Erin Klegstad

An Interview with Jordan Mazur, MS, RD – Sports Dietitian

Being diagnosed at 18 with a rare illness gave Jordan Mazur a new perspective on life. He knew he wanted to help others be healthy, fit and, most importantly, happy. So he got his degree in nutritional sciences, and eventually his masters in exercise science.

“I was always fascinated about how the human body uses food as fuel, all the way down to the microscopic level,” he said.

Today, Jordan is a Sports Dietitian and the Director of Sports Nutrition at the University of California, Berkeley. He believes being successful with nutrition begins with your mindset – and to make nutrition a priority to fuel your life. For athletes that means thinking differently about food. “They aren’t just eating to eat,” he said. “They’re high performing machines who require optimal fuel. All athletes need to think about food as their fuel.”

He recommends an 80/20 approach: 80 percent of the time, fuel with a purpose, while the other 20 percent of the time eat just to eat. “You have to allow yourself to eat the foods you enjoy because after all, food’s meant to be enjoyed!”

What are the biggest challenges facing sports dieticians today? What tools and/or resources do you use to address them?

The media and social media have an enormous impact on body image and food choices. I spend a lot of time debunking myths my clients ask about because they heard it from a doctor on TV or from an Instagram friend who once ate a salad and now gives nutrition advice. It’s important for registered dietitians (RDs) to advocate for themselves as experts. As RDs, we are the nutrition experts.

Does your approach vary based on an athlete’s given sport?

Every sport and individual have unique needs. Every sport has different energy demands, requiring different fueling strategies. Each athlete starts with a nutritional assessment to get a better picture of them and what they need to achieve their goals. The assessment includes five domains:

  1. Food/nutrition history

  2. Anthropometric measurements

  3. Biochemical data

  4. Nutrition-focused physical findings

  5. Client history

How has your approach to nutrition changed over the years?

It’s more individualized. Sports dietitians need to become nutrition coaches. It’s not enough to only speak on nutrition or lecture on carbs or hydration. It takes consistent reinforcement of that info to build habits. Sound nutrition doesn’t happen overnight. It starts with the nutrition assessment. Some athletes are ready for a complete diet overhaul; they can use a meal plan that breaks down their macronutrients. Sometimes it’s getting an athlete to drink more water or eat one less fast food meal per week. Little upgrades over time help create solid nutrition habits.

What do you eat in a typical day?

It always begins with coffee. And I never skip breakfast. It usually consists of vegetables, protein, carbs and some healthy fats. That can be a veggie omelet with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt. Or it’s avocado toast with two hard boiled eggs and a green smoothie with chia seeds. A pre-workout snack – usually an energy bar (KIZE is my favorite) – follows breakfast. Post-workout is always a protein shake and a carb source. Lunch is my biggest meal – veggies, protein and some type of carb (today was salmon, mashed sweet potatoes and broccoli). My afternoon snack is usually Greek yogurt and almonds or trail mix. Dinner is lean protein like chicken, turkey, fish or lean beef with a lot of veggies. And I always get some protein before bed. This helps rebuild and repair muscles overnight.

What are your thoughts on the USDA food pyramid?

The food pyramid has changed as science has evolved. It’s now called MyPlate. I use a variation of this with my athletes called Performance Plates. These contains parts of MyPlate (grains, veggies, protein, fruits and hydration), but reflect more how an athlete’s plate should be. These also vary depending on their training phase. For example, a plate for an easy training day looks different than a plate for a hard training day. It all goes back to individual nutrition. We’re all different with different nutritional needs. Our fueling must reflect that.

Do your athletes have any misconceptions about nutrition when you start working together? Do their views change after working with you?

Almost always! This is where nutrition coaching is important. Building relationships and being present with athletes goes a long way. Athletes then learn to trust you and ask questions. I’ve heard them all, too – from detoxes to alkaline diets.

One of the biggest misconceptions is how much they need to eat and how often they should eat. Most nutrition info in the media is geared for weight loss. Most athletes don’t need to worry about this. Their fueling strategies are a lot different than someone who’s sedentary and has a weight loss goal. Once they start to fuel like an athlete and see and feel performance benefits, then there’s buy-in.

What’s the easiest thing to correct nutrition-wise?

Two things for athletes:

  1. Hydrate. It impacts performance almost immediately. Hydrate early and often throughout the day. It’s key to functioning right.

  2. Eat more veggies. Eat the rainbow – aim for a variety of colors and get a serving at every meal.

What are the five best foods to incorporate into your diet?

  1. Oatmeal. It’s a great source of carb energy for athletes. It’s also high in fiber, which keeps you full longer and helps maintain glucose levels.

  2. Olive oil. Its monounsaturated fats have anti-inflammatory benefits. And it’s easy to cook with or drizzle on salads or veggies.

  3. Salmon. It’s packed with protein and anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, which can help you recover faster.

  4. Nuts and (natural) nut butters. They’re a natural combo of protein and healthy fats.

  5. Berries. They contain antioxidants, which help protect against oxidative stress and free radicals that form in the body during strenuous physical activity.

What’s one change an athlete can make to their nutrition plan that will get the best results?

Eating protein at every meal. Research shows that 20-35 grams of protein initiates protein synthesis in most athletes, depending on their size. Our bodies are in constant flux of protein breakdown and synthesis, so if we can give our body amino acids – the building blocks of protein – during the day, we can maximize our protein balance.

How do you teach your athletes about gut health?

I speak to athletes about the importance of gut health for performance and well-being. I always recommend a food product or supplement to make sure they’re giving their gut good bacteria and getting its benefits. I also show them how overtraining and exercise can break down and cause “leaky gut,” making them more susceptible to illness.

What nutrition trends are you paying attention to?

  1. A low carb/high fat diet for endurance athletes to improve fat metabolism

  2. Super foods like kale, açai berries, chia seeds, matcha and kefir

  3. DHA and brain health, particularly for post-concussion recovery

  4. Supplements, including phosphatidic acid as a potential supplement for strength gains

  5. Regulation of supplement safety

Follow Jordan on twitter.

An Interview with Jacque Scaramella, MS, RD, CSSD –Sports Dietitian

Jacque Scaramella, MS, RD, CSSD at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Jacque Scaramella, MS, RD, CSSD at the 2016 Rio Olympics

What are one or two things that the recreational athlete can learn from an elite athlete to incorporate into their diet routine?

One of the most important aspects of performance nutrition is balancing your plate at meals and snack times based on training demands. This is something that elite level athletes put into daily practice surrounding training and competition. It is a great habit for recreational athletes to follow as well. By shaping your meals based on how easy or hard your training volume and intensity are, you are optimizing the fueling, replenishing and recovery of your body and muscles.

How does optimizing gut health fit into the diet and training plan for an elite athlete?

Regular probiotic intake is a beneficial preventative measure for elite athletes, especially surrounding travel. High volumes of training take a toll on an athlete’s immune system, increasing their susceptibility of acquiring upper respiratory tract infections and the common cold. Additionally, athletes that travel frequently for competition, especially internationally, have increased exposure to different bacteria and a higher risk of GI disorders.

Do you currently work with any athletes who may have issues with IBD, Celiac disease, and/or other chronic conditions for which optimizing their diet has considerably improved their condition?

Yes, of course. Competing or racing while dealing with GI issues significantly impacts performance. As a sports dietitian, one of our main goals is to help an athlete minimize any of these issues and develop an individualized fuel and recovery plan for them. We want to help them compete to the best of their abilities while making sure their performance is not compromised by any GI issues.  

What trends in diet and health are you embracing now that were not around 4 or 8 years ago?

The field of nutrition is very dynamic and the more research that comes out, the more we are able to take advantage of different foods for different functions. For example, our athletes take advantage of tart cherry juice and ginger to help decrease muscle soreness and inflammation, and reduce oxidative stress.  

How does the diet and routine of the athlete vary or change from 12 months out, to 6 months out, to being at the actual Olympic or Paralympic Games?

It is based on the periodization of the training cycle that the athletes are in throughout the year and what their goals are based on that cycle. Elite level athletes train at high volumes for most of the year, however, the style and goals of training change throughout the year. As it gets closer to a Games or major event there is more focus and dedication to consistent nutritious decisions. Nobody can or should be perfect 100% of the time. It is only healthy to have some fluctuation in your diet so that when you need to dial it in, you are ready to do that.

Many of the elite level athletes fine tune their body composition based on their performance goals to match the time they need to be at peak performance, like the Olympics or Paralympics. When preparing an athlete for a major event, we work with them to fine tune their fueling and recovery plans surrounding that competition. We take into account the athlete’s sport, preferences, lifestyle, and any other conditions that may impact their ability to optimally fuel and recover their bodies. This is a dynamic process and takes time and practice during training to figure out what works best for them. The best time to try nutrition strategies is during training when you’re 6-12 months out so that you have time to get in a routine well before the event.

How would you finish this statement?: "Although relatively new now, in 2020 Olympic athletes will all be using/doing/learning X."

Athletes will continue to benefit from advances in nutritional science over the next four years.  It would be great to see more specific advances in nutri-genomics related to the world of sports.

Tips for training and racing in the heat

training-in-the-heat

The hot summer days are upon us so it’s a good idea to be ready for training in the heat since not being prepared can seriously affect your training and performance.

Why is training and racing in the heat potentially harmful for athletes?

For a long time we thought that heat stress and heat stroke were simply the imbalance of heat loss from the body during exercise in the setting of high air temperatures – the body can't cool itself well enough in the hot temperatures and hyperthermia sets in. We now know that the stress of heat in athletes is more complex than that.

In conjunction with the imbalance of heat regulation in the body, heat stress and ensuing heat stroke, also involve an inflammatory cascade. This inflammation is felt to be primarily mediated by the gut. Since so much blood is diverted away from gut and to the muscles during exercise the tissue of the gut becomes “leaky.” This allows toxins to cross into the bloodstream resulting in a process called endotoxemia. Exercise-induced endotoxemia is now felt to be one of the primary causes of hyperthermia in athletes.

The release of toxins into the bloodstream and the subsequent increased core body temperatures not only contributes to gastrointestinal symptoms in athletes but results in impaired performance through decreased strength and mental fatigue. And if that weren’t enough, endotoxemia can weaken an athlete’s immune system leaving you more susceptible to overtraining and illnesses (this is why there is a higher rate of respiratory infections among high intensity athletes)!

So what can you do to prevent heat related stress and impaired performance?

Here are a few suggestions for before, during, and after your training session or race:

Before:

  1. The obvious: sunscreen, light colored clothing, and being fully hydrated

  2. Pre-cooling: drink ice water or turn a pre-training drink into a slushy

  3. Don’t use ibuprofen or aspirin: these drugs can increase the gut’s “leakiness” causing even more problems.

  4. Probiotics: studies have shown that probiotics can reduce the amount of inflammation and endotoxemia that results from stress of exercise and the heat. Probiotics have also been shown to increase run time to fatigue in the heat.

During:

  1. If you're not in a race, take more frequent stops to refill your water bottles. For really hot days you may need to consume at least double your normal water intake!

  2. Don’t forget about salt! Read my tips on salt intake here.

  3. Cold sponges or ice packs: Cyclist and runners could take this tip from triathletes who stuff cold sponges into their jerseys to keep them cool. While I’m riding I like to put small sponges in my arm pits or near the femoral artery since these areas are closer to blood vessels. Otherwise, pouring water over yourself is always an option.

  4. Be aware of pacing: as the heat rises your muscle activation and subsequent power output may diminish – adjusting accordingly will be important so you don’t blow up too soon.

After:

  1. Dunk yourself in an ice bath or if that’s not available drape cold towels over you.

  2. Keep drinking: Just because your workout is finished doesn't mean you should stop hydrating. On those hot days your best bet is to weigh yourself before and after your workout and drink that amount over the next 24 hours (1kg roughly equals 1L of water).

Just like your races, performing well in the heat comes down to being prepared.