Archive for October, 2011

Corporate Athlete 101: Meal Frequency

Here is the third question in a series I’ve received from Jeremy Jauncey.  The following Q&A will be used in the nutrition 101 package for our corporate athlete plan.

“Is it true you should eat every three hours? Why? There’s a lot said about 5-6 small meals a day and eating every 3 hours… Why is this good and what is the science behind it?”

Is there a scientific term for… nibbling?

The nibblers of the world are practicing something called, “meal frequency,” which is defined as six smaller meals and/or eating every three hours.  The debate in question: does eating frequent mini-meals have a positive effect on metabolism, appetite, weight and overall health?

The research (is limited… blurg!)

Like most topics in nutrition, research is equivocal on meal frequency.  Don’t throw your hands up in the air just yet…  There is a position stand on this stuff!  (Position stands are official statements from medical and athletic associations that analyze all of the current research on various topics).

The 2011 position stand on meal frequency was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. According to the stand, researchers started reviewing meal frequency almost 50 years ago.  The majority of research has been studied on overweight and obese subjects.  Some recent research focuses on normal weight and athletic populations; but most of the time, we need to draw conclusions for those populations from obese and overweight studies.

What we know (and don’t know) on meal frequency…

  1. METABOLISM: We know metabolism does not speed up.
    • The 2011 JISSN position stand states that increasing meal frequency does not significantly raise metabolic rate (the speed at which we burn calories– even if we do nothing).  Eating raises metabolic rate slightly (this is called thermogenesis), but not enough to support the notion that meal frequency can churn up metabolism.
  2. APPETITE: We know appetite is better regulated.
    • The 2011 JISSN position stand reported on a number of studies whose subjects felt hungrier when they ate 1-2 meals versus frequent mini-meals.  Stretch receptors in the stomach stimulate hormones that signal satiety — researchers suggest that eating more frequently might stimulate the “feeling full” hormones to curb appetite.
  3. WEIGHT: We know people don’t lose more weight.
    • A 2010 study in the British Journal of Nutrition evaluated two groups that consumed the same exact amount of calories, one had six meals per day (3 meals plus 3 snacks), the other group had three meals per day (3 meals).  Both groups lost equal amounts of weight, showing that the calorie restriction over the meal frequency was the main determinant.
    • The 2011 JISSN position stand also reports on studies whose conclusions showed that weight loss did not occur with increased mini meals.
  4. OVERALL HEALTH: We know meal frequency can reduce total cholesterol.
    • According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, those who ate six smaller meals had reduced cholesterol levels (five percent lower than people who ate one-two meals per day).
    • The 2011 JISSN position stand supports the idea that mini-meals improve blood readings, particularly, LDL cholesterol and insulin levels (hormone that lowers blood glucose levels after meal time).

What the experts recommend…

From a purely scientific perspective, the experts have agreed that healthier metabolisms, appetites, weights and overall health have not been significantly correlated with meal frequency.  Experts say that whether you eat three meals per day, six mini-meals, or one magnificently sized dinner, the body is most affected by calories in:calories out.

What I think?

Why you should do it….

Okay, I get calories in:calories out—a fun way of saying we need to burn equal to or more than the amount we consume if we want to maintain or lose weight.  True.

But I have a hard time believing that Eater A (having had a thanksgiving dinner of close to 2000 calories before bedtime and does this everyday for months straight) is going to have a similar body composition, metabolism, appetite, and weight as Eater B (who eats the same meal composition, spread into mini-meals throughout the day).

Here are my pretend Eaters’ food logs:

Eater A (gorger) Eater B (nibbler)
10 pm: 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg, ½ cup oats, 1 large grapefruit, 1 medium apple, 1 baby-bel light, 2 slices whole wheat bread, 5 oz turkey, side salad with 1 tbsp oil and vinegar, Fage total classic yogurt with honey, 4 oz salmon, ¾ cup brown rice, 1 cup kale, 1 tbsp chipotle mayo, 22 dry roasted almonds, 1 oz Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate (60% cacao)

(1932 kcal, 200g carbs, 162g protein, 96.5g fat)

8 am: 2 egg whites, 1 whole egg, ½ cup oats, 1 large grapefruit

(363 kcal, 54g carbs, 20g protein, 8g fat)

10:30 am: 1 medium apple, 1 baby-bel light

(145 kcal, 25g carbs, 6.5g protein, 3.5g fat)

1:30 pm: 2 slices whole wheat bread, 5 oz turkey, side salad with 1 tbsp oil/vinegar

(430 kcal, 38g carbs, 32g protein, 19g fat)

4:30 pm: Fage total classic yogurt with honey

(260 kcal, 28g carbs, 9g protein, 12g fat)

7:30 pm: 4 oz salmon, ¾ cup brown rice, 1 cup kale, 1 tbsp chipotle mayo

(504 kcal, 37g carbs, 31g protein, 25g fat)

10:30 pm: 11 dry roasted almonds, 1 oz Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate (60% cacao)

(230 kcal, 18g carbs, 4.5g protein, 29g fat)

Why you shouldn’t do it….

I also understand that eating frequently is not for everyone.  First of all, it’s time consuming… You have to pack a bag full of food, in advance, likely with ice-packs and ziplocks–the whole gamut– it’s a ton of work!  Second of all, you have to be pretty-pretty-Larry-David in tune to when you are hungry so you don’t mindlessly graze.  Third, it’s sort of annoying if you aren’t uber into it (bag is heavier, you have to be the annoying one crunching the bag at the meeting or whipping out a smelly tuna salad).


There is no number of meals you should eat or not eat per day if you follow the guideline to: Eat when hungry, choose healthy foods most of the time, don’t eat a lot.


Chili: Not for the Faint-hearted

Our old Next Jump pal, Kate Wyman, sent over “… an awesome chili recipe. It kept me full all day!”  I asked if I could share it with everyone here, and she was pleased to offer it up.  Keep me posted if you try her recipe– and I can add your comments here.  If you have your own recipe, send it!


  • 1 – 1.5 lb lean ground beef/turkey
  • 1 can Newman’s own medium salsa
  • 1 large tomato (preferably heirloom)
  • 1 can sweet corn
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • ½ -1 onion (to taste)
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
  • 1 cup water
  • Sugar (to taste)


  • Cook meat in large pot until brown
  • Add salsa and water and let simmer a few minutes
  • Add tomato, sweet corn, beans, onion, and seasoning – stir
  • Add sugar (I used confectionery because it was all I had) to taste… I probably ended up putting in a half cup or so
  • Let simmer on low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
  • Serve with shredded cheddar cheese and corn bread!!!


Time Meals and Workouts for Best Results

Why time meals and snacks around a workout?  Optimal nutrition boosts energy levels leading up to and during the workout, while also speeding up subsequent recovery.  Here is a quick guide on what to eat and when.

Timing is key

Whenever the body does physical work, it requires a balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins and fats).  Carbohydrates keep energy levels high leading up to the workout, replenish energy post workout (glycogen stores) and sustain high performance during the workout.  Protein supports recovery by building and repairing tissues, but can also enhance a workout when eaten in specific amounts beforehand.  Fat and fiber are excellent for recovery, but can lead to gastrointestinal distress prior to exercise.

2-4 Hours before exercise

By the time exercise begins, most food should be out of the belly.  Digestion takes between 2-4 hours depending upon the composition and size of a meal.  A moderately sized meal with good complex carbohydrates (slow digesting) and a small amount of protein facilitates good energy for a workout, without relegating your body to feelings of fullness or sugar-spikes.

Focus on

  • Primarily complex carbohydrates (slower digesting to top off glycogen, your energy storage).  Try one of the following:
    • 1 yam or potato
    • 2 pieces of whole wheat bread for the sandwich ends
    • Half or whole cup brown rice or whole wheat pasta
    • 1 serving granola or cereal
    • 1 serving fruit or veggies
  • Small amounts of protein (amino acids facilitate carbohydrate usage and muscle protein synthesis). Try one of the following:
    • 1 serving meat or fish
    • 1 serving low-fat yogurt
    • Eggs
    • 1 serving legumes and beans
  • Meal examples
    • Yogurt with fruit and granola
    • Eggs with a cup of oatmeal
    • Turkey sandwich and an apple
    • Yam with fish

1 Hour before exercise

A small snack of complex carbohydrates (slow digesting) and a minimal amount of protein facilitates good energy.  For an extra edge, 1-3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight one hour pre-exercise has been the dosing and timing used in studies.

Focus on

  • Primarily complex carbohydrates.  Try one of the following:
    • 1 serving or less oats
    • 1 serving bread
    • 1 serving fruit
    • 1 serving jam
  • Small amounts of protein. Try one of the following:
    • Egg whites
    • Protein powder
    • 1 tbsp cream cheese or cheese
  • Snack examples
    • 1 Nature’s Valley granola bar
    • Banana with 1 scoop or less protein powder
    • Bagel and jam with 1 tbsp cream cheese
    • Apple and 1 piece cheese
    • 1 cup tea or coffee with one of the snack examples above

30 minutes before exercise

If you find yourself wanting to take a workout and haven’t eaten during the above-mentioned times, the body can tolerate a small amount of complex or simple carbohydrate 30 minutes prior to exercise.

Focus on…

  • Snack or beverage examples
    • Half Nature’s Valley or Kashi bar
    • Diluted sports beverage

During exercise

As mentioned in the Corporate Athlete 101 about Breakfast, simple sugars are readily absorbed by the blood stream and raise glucose levels rapidly.  Simple sugars are great to consume closer to the workout, during and directly after the workout, since they are rapidly absorbed for instant use.  During a workout, simple sugars can come in the form of diluted Gatorade and should be consumed only for the following reasons:

  • You are one hour into the workout
  • You are feeling light-headed
  • You are looking for an extra boost for a tough resistance or endurance session

Directly after exercise

Immediately post workout, the body begins to need calories to build back muscle tissue and restore glycogen to the muscles.  But not just any calories.  Calories coming from both carbohydrate and protein right away are most important.  Research suggests the most ideal composition is a 4:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein.  Research also suggests that beyond 30 grams does not further enhance the stimulation of muscle protein synthesis(1).

Focus on…

  • Snack or beverage examples.  Try one of the following:
    • 1 Horizon chocolate milk
    • 1 scoop protein powder with 1 cup milk and 1 tbsp honey
    • 1 cup flavored yogurt

45 min-2 hours post exercise

Recovery does not stop right after the workout. Even an hour or so post exercise, the body still works hard to rehydrate and recover from exercise-induced damaged muscle tissues.  This is the time to add in healthy fats.  Omega-3s are known to reduce inflammation and help cushion muscles and joints.

Another type of fat, medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s), are becoming popular to consume since they are not like other fats– while other fats are transported in the blood and shuttled to the liver, MCT’s get absorbed and used directly for energy.  Since abdominal bloating from MCT’s has been known to occur, post-exercise is most ideal time to consume.

Focus on…

  • High healthy fats to speed up recovery.  Try one of the following:
    • 1 serving salmon or fatty fish
    • 1 serving walnuts
    • 1 serving flaxseed meal
    • MCT’s coming from coconut milk
  • Healthy protein to preserve muscle and tone. Try one of the following:
    • 1 serving meat or fish
    • 1 serving low-fat yogurt
    • Eggs
    • 1 serving legumes and beans
  • Carbohydrates raise insulin to help shuttle protein for muscle use.  Fiber from carbs will supply antioxidants needed to help repair tissue damage.
    • Pasta
    • Rice
    • Bread products
    • Fruits and veggies (for fiber)
  • Meal examples
    • Salmon with stir fry veggies and noodles
    • Sushi
    • Salad with grilled chicken and a roll
    • Coconut milk with any dinner or right before bedtime

Pre-exercise: when sports nutrition does not matter

Not all exercise requires pre-workout nutrition care.  Here are some scenarios:

  • You cannot tolerate any food before exercise
    • In this case, testing out meals 2-4 hours in advance or fluids with calories can help overcome the problem.
    • Prefer running on an empty stomach?  The lack of calories won’t kill you but be sure to practice good recovery nutrition to prevent injuries
  • You are not hungry and already consumed a meal or snack
  • You are not working out vigorously and/or for a long period of time (less than 30 minutes)

(1) A moderate serving of high-quality protein maximally stimulates skeletal muscle protein synthesis in young and elderly subjects. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009

Recipe Fridays: Black Bean Soup

If weekday cooking is tough… Try something new.  This weekend, prep a hearty meal and freeze to eat during the week (takes a total of 15 minutes to prepare and 30 minutes to cook).

(Recipe depicted in graphic above)

Nutrition rating

How does this meal fair on the health-meter?

Nutrition information: without the bacon, black bean soup is less than 200 calories per serving and a good amount of fiber at 6 grams (1 cup).  For a hearty dinner, increase serving size to two cups for the following: 253 calories, 6 grams fat, 36 grams carbs, 12 grams fiber, 13 grams protein.  Two medium strips of bacon adds extra calories, fat and protein: 92 calories, 7 grams fat, .2 grams carbs, 0 grams fiber, 6 grams protein.

Applicability: as a dinner, this meal works best when made in bulk and eaten in portions/stored for later.

Taste: on a scale from 1-10, this meal is a true 7.5.  It is a real tasty way to consume fiber, vitamins and minerals for a small amount of calories.  For garnish, 1 tablespoon of sour cream and 1 tablespoon of grated cheese adds lots of flavor for little.

For maximum speed

Whenever you freeze something, it is easiest to unfreeze when prepared in small portions.  If you want to eat 2 cups of your soup, measure and freeze in that quantity.  For maximum speed, buy a container that is already that size.  This way, you don’t need to worry about defrosting the entire pot.

Food safety freezing tips

Soups can be frozen for 2-3 months.  Make sure to label your frozen container with a “use by” date.  Brush up on your freezing know-how by visiting the USDA’s safe food handling fact sheet.

Senthil Had a Baby!!

On October 19th at 5:05 am, Senthil and Sridevi Kumar were blessed with a baby girl. Congrats to Senthil and Sridevi!

Corporate Athlete 101: Caffeine

Here is the second question in a series I’ve received from Jeremy Jauncey.  The following Q&A will be used in the nutrition 101 package for our corporate athlete plan.

“What are the positives and negatives of caffeine use? Everyone uses it to get over lack of sleep and poor diet… I’d like to clearly explain why it’s bad (and where it can be helpful)”

Is caffeine “bad”?

Caffeine is not “bad” (that is a myth).  Caffeine occurs naturally in foods that people have been consuming for thousands of years– yerba mate (tea), coffea arabica (coffee), the cacao bean (cocoa, i.e., chocolate).  Caffeine is contained naturally in many seeds, plants, and fruits.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the American Medical Association (AMA) classify the stimulant as “GRAS” – generally recognized as safe, suggesting a “moderate intake” as ~300mg per day (three 8-oz cups of coffee).

So then, caffeine is “good”?

In nutritional terms, classifying a food and beverage as either good or bad is vague.  Caffeine in its recommended dosing is considered safe.  The majority of research at levels ~300mg shows a positive effect of caffeine.  Some purported benefits include reduced risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and hypertension.   Protective effects might exist apart from caffeine (antioxidants found in tea, coffee, dark chocolate, etc).  On the other hand, hazing your drink with sugar, cream and syrups surely counter those beneficial effects.

Caffeine’s effects

The effects of consuming caffeine within normal limits vary by individual.  Sensitivity to caffeine depends on the frequency of consumption, metabolic rate, body weight and overall health.  Caffeine’s half-life (time to metabolize half the amount consumed) is approximately five hours.  Caffeine does not accumulate in your body and is excreted after consumption within hours.  This means drinking close to bed time, depending upon your body’s sensitivity, might keep you awake far into the night.

Caffeine and exercise performance

Research suggests caffeine enhances physical performance and mental alertness in athleticism.(1)  As well, caffeine improved subjects’ performance who partook in intense aerobic interval exercise (four to eight minutes) and high-intensity aerobic exercise (20 to 60 minutes).(2)

To note, if untrained, caffeine won’t be the miracle substance to turn you from sedentary to marathoner.  Additionally, the dose should not be much: 1-3 mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight one hour pre-exercise has been the dosing and timing used in studies.  Another study trialed six mini doses of 1 mg caffeine per kilogram of body weight spread over the two hours of training and found a 3% improvement in cyclists’ times.  They also found similar effects experimenting with 6mg per kilogram one hour prior to cycling and 1.5mg per kilogram consumed over the last third of training.(3)

What should you do…

Caffeine has positive effects on performance, mental alertness and overall health when consumed in its moderate safety zone (~300 mg per day).  Read a previous post on what’s a normal amount amount of coffee for more info on dosing.  If you are currently using caffeine as an ergogenic aid, reevaluate dosing and timing.  If you do not enjoy natural substances that are caffeinated, you do not need to begin eating or drinking caffeinated foods/beverages.

(1) Burke L, Cort M, Cox G, et al. Supplements and sports foods. In: Burke L, Deakin V (eds). Clinical Sports Nutrition, 3rd ed. Australia: McGraw-Hill; 2006.

(2) Spriet L. Caffeine. In: Bahrke MS, Yesalis CE (eds). Performance-Enhancing Substances in Sport and Exercise. Champaign, Ill.: Human Kinetics; 2002.

(3) Cox GR, Desbrow B, Montgomery PG, et al. Effect of different protocols of caffeine intake on metabolism and endurance performance. J Appl Physiol. 2002;93(3):990-999.

Postpartum: Weight Loss

Many Next Jumpers have become new parents.  Here are three ideas to help moms get in shape while maintaining caloric requirements for breastfeeding.

#1: Continue to breastfeed!

Moms who breastfeed achieve their pre-pregnancy weight faster than moms who do not.  According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, exclusive breastfeeding can eliminate postpartum weight retention at the six month marker.(1)  The reason why breastfeeding helps with weight loss is because it burns calories– up to 600 per day!

#2: Exercise is your middle name

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that moms resume an individualized exercise program gradually after pregnancy.(2)  Walking, yoga, pilates, cycling, swimming and non-impact sports are some of the approved exercises moms can perform a few days postpartum if she had a normal delivery.  Some doctors restrict exercise until six weeks postpartum; thus, it is imperative to speak with the doctor first before resuming an exercise program.

#3: Eat real food

Real food is the kind that grows from the ground or raised on a local, organic farm.  Women who are trying to lose pregnancy weight should stick to the healthy basics: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats.  For example, lunch may be a half of a turkey sandwich made on whole grain bread, a side of carrot sticks, a piece of fruit, and a glass of skim or 1% milk.

Here is a sample daily food plan from BabyCenter for healthy post-baby weight loss.

(1) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

(2) American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists