BY STEVE KRAH
Skills and strength and conditioning are important to the development of athletes, including baseball players.
But so is nutrition.
With that in mind, Tiffany White presented “Fueling Your Goals” at the first PRP Baseball Bridge The Gap Clinic in Noblesville, Ind., as a guest of Greg Vogt.
White, a registered dietitian, is a Sports Nutrition Fellow at Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Sports Performance as part of the Gatorade Sports Nutrition Immersion Program.
She holds an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and a master’s degree in Nutrition from the University of Illinois-Chicago and has completed a coordinated program in Dietetics.
In 2018, she was an intern with the Northwestern University athletic program.
White focused her talk on supplements and gaining muscle through food.
She noted that safety is one of the biggest issues with supplements.
“It is a money-driven industry that targets vulnerable athletes,” says White. “A lot of supplement company claims are false and unproven.”
“They can put out pretty much whatever claim they want to on their products.”
Supplements are labeled with “these statements have not been approved by the FDA” (U.S. Food and Drug Administration). They don’t have to prove these statements before putting their product on the market.
They’re not regulated like food or drugs.
Lack of research is the other issue.
“You’ll see a lot crazy ingredients and crazy names,” says White.
“There is a lot of confusion.”
In some cases, there can be negative side effects, especially for high school athletes with their growing bodies and changing hormones.
“Growth is not linear,” says White. “No two people grow in the same span. Everybody’s going to be a little bit different.
“I would connect that growth not being linear is related to why negative side effects may occur in young athletes, there is little research because adolescents grow at different rates and we do not know what effect these supplements will have on them during different periods of growth.
“Positive drug tests would be the next point.
Sometimes taking supplements results in positive drugs tests for banned substances.
“We don’t want to be disqualified from participation,” says White.
There are cases where money is wasted because the supplement is not effective.
“One of the ways we can mitigate this risk — not eliminate it — is third party testing,” says White, noting USP (United States Pharmacopiea), NSF (National Science Foundation) and Informed Sport/Informed Choice are groups that do this testing. “They test for potency and purity. If the company has taken that extra step, it just goes to show that they are trying to have credibility behind their supplements.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that they work, but it does mean that they are safer than a supplement that has not been tested.”
White added that third party testing is not full-proof.
She gave the example of Olympic bronze medal swimmer Madisyn Cox, who tested positive for a banned substance while taking a multivitamin for seven years and was suspended from her sport.
“It was found that the multivitamin was made in the same facility where heart medication was made,” says White. “She thought she could trust this company. It wasn’t even a performance-enhancing supplement.
She passed 20 drug tests in seven years and then tested positive.”
Mixed martial artist Nate Diaz, who competes in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and a vegetarian/vegan athlete, also took a multivitamin tainted by a banned substance.
His positive test led to a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) investigation and he was cleared to fight.
White cautioned that just because a product is labeled organic, plant-based or raw does not mean they above the risks of any other supplement.
“That risk is always there regardless of the words that precede that supplement,” says White.
Some popular supplements are protein powder, creatine and nitric oxide.
White pointed out the safety, efficacy and necessity of each.
She says protein powder is typically safe when taken in appropriate amounts (15-30g), an effective source of complete (protein) and can be used for convenience under time constraints.
“But (simply) increasing protein (intake) does not equal muscle growth,” says White.
She says creatine is typically safe when taken in appropriate amounts and its use should be under the guidance of a sports physician or sports dietitian. It has been shown to increase muscle size, strength and speed.
“Your body only makes only about 2 grams of creatine a day,” says White. “We don’t want to go into crazy amounts unguided.
“There’s no research to support the use of it for those under 18 (it might actually for unsafe for younger athletes.
“We don’t have a lot of information that shows what the effects are in the long term. If someone starts taking it in high school and then 10 years down the line they continue to take it, we don’t know what’s going to happen.”
White says creatine will not be useful if the athlete’s usual diet is poor “If you spend the majority of your time eating fried foods and candy and you’re not getting any fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein on a regular basis it’s futile basically,” says White.
She says nitric oxide is generally safe, but may cause dizziness or changes in blood pressure and there are no studies in athletes under
18 (it may even be unsafe). It may increase endurance and/or enhance recovery.
“Nitric oxide expands your blood vessels and allows for more blood flow and oxygen delivery,” says White. “But more research is needed.”
Like with creatine, nitric oxide is not likely to help those with a poor diet.
As for food-based alternatives, White notes that protein powder can be replaced by the whey found in milk and other dairy products and that creatine is found in meat and that nitrates are naturally found in foods like beets and arugula.
One (valid) reason to take supplements is nutrient deficiency.
A sports physician or sport dietician can look at lab values to see if there is one. A blood test may show that an athlete is low on iron or Vitamin D.
“Iron is very important to oxygen delivery,” says White. “Vitamin D is important to bone health and a lot of other things.”
“A diet analysis could be done and (if) whole food groups are (being) eliminated because of allergies or something like celiac disease,” says White. “This can limit food options and lead to (need for) supplements. Overall, there are really not a lot of situations where we recommend supplementation.
“The bottom line: If you choose to take a supplement, before you do so think about those top three questions: Is is safe? Is it effective? Is it necessary?
(Sports Dietitians) like to push food first because it is the safest option and it’s the most-effective option.
“You’re going to get a lot more nutrients out of food altogether — vitamins, minerals coupled with protein, fiber and fats and all those things,” says White. “When you eat whole foods you’re going to get the whole benefit rather than singling out one specific nutrient (which may not even be effective).”
White presented five nutrition foundations — meal timing, balance your plate, hydrate, recover and plan.
“Athletes should eat every three or four hours,” says White of meal timing. “I know that sounds like a lot. When you get to the four-hour mark, you get a little distracted. You get hunger pangs and your stomach is probably growling at you.
“Depending on what you ate four hours ago, your energy levels are probably dropping off at this point. We want to try to minimize those highs and lows. We want to try to stabilize throughout the day.
“You want your three square meals a day — breakfast, lunch and dinner.
But you also want to get in 1-3 snacks depending on your goals.”
White says that athletes need 9-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to make sure they are getting adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants — all the things they need to function and recover.
Every plate should include carbohydrates (carbs), protein and color (fruits and vegetables).
When it comes to hydration, White says there’s nothing wrong with getting eight 8-ounce cups of water per day, but there’s not science behind that number.
Athletes are to drink half their body weight in fluid ounces a day. A 150-pound person will have a baseline of 75 daily ounces and add 20 ounces to that for each hour of training.
“You need to refuel your body within 30-60 minutes post-workout for optimal recovery and muscle building,” says White. “It helps to replenish glycogen storage (how your body stores carbohydrates).
“You should aim for a 2:1 or 3:1 ratio (30g carbs to 15g protein).
Carbs actually help your muscles to uptake that protein. You want to combine those two things together.”
In planning, athletes can pre-pack snacks and carry a water bottle.
White endorses three “Athlete Plates” — Easy/Light Day (less than one hour of training) with half fruits and vegetables, a quarter protein and a quarter carbs, Moderate Day (1-2 hours of training) with a third carbs, a third protein and a third fruits and vegetables and the Hard/Heavy Day (2-3 hours of training) with half carbs, a quarter protein and quarter fruits and vegetables.
“Please note that the athlete plates are adapted from plates designed by the Dietitians at the United States Olympic Committee,” says White. “Calories are not necessarily always something that we really want to focus on,” says White. “We want to consistently fuel.”
Most athletes are either recovering or getting ready for the next day and will not use the easy/light day plate. That means that home base is the Moderate Day plate.
As for the basics of gaining muscle through food, White noted that one pound of weight is equal to 3,500 calories and that adding 500 calories to a diet with add one pound per week.
Total calories are greater than increasing protein.
Again increasing protein does not equal muscle growth.
“Proper nutrition should be paired with training,” says White. “There should be an emphasis on recovery.”
Her top five tips:
1. Eat a meal or snack every three hours (three meals and 2-4 snacks per day).
2. Add liquid calories to meals and snacks (Milk, shakes, juice, Gatorade).
3. Choose foods that are calorically dense (trail mix, granola, dried fruit, nuts and seeds, sports bars, sports drinks, electrolyte drinks, protein shakes, 100-percent fruit juice, smoothies, milk/chocolate milk, nut butters, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, avocado/guacamole, other shakes such as Carnation Instant Breakfast, Ensure High Protein or Boost).
High Calorie Snack Ideas
1 Greek yogurt plus 1/2 Big Bur bar (420 calories).
1 Greek yogurt plus 1/2 cup granola plus 1/2 cup dried fruit (440 calories).
1 pack trail mix plus 1 medium banana plus 1 string cheese (480 calories).
1 cup granola plus 1 cup milk plus 1 medium banana (550 calories).
1 PBJ sandwich plus 1 cup chocolate milk (550 calories).
1 Big Sur bar (600 calories).
1 Ensure/Boost shake plus 1 pack Snacking Nuts (630 calories).
4. Use sports drinks during training (Gatorade, Powerade etc.) 5. Eat a protein rich snack before bed (cereal with milk, cottage cheese and fruit, greek yogurt and granola).
White says training plus proper nutrition leads to increased muscle mass.
Tiffany White, a registered dietitian, is a Sports Nutrition Fellow at Indianapolis-based St. Vincent Sports Performance as part of the Gatorade Sports Nutrition Immersion Program. She spoke at the first PRP Baseball Bridge The Gap Clinic in Noblesville, Ind., as a guest of Greg Vogt. (Northwestern University Photo)