Author: nutritionontrack

Week 11

Iron Status and Exercise

Iron is a mineral that is vital for health. It is responsible for making new red blood cells, helping to carry oxygen to cells in the body, and plays a role in maintaining the energy release needed to sustain aerobic and endurance activity.¹ It is important for athletes to ensure that they consume iron-rich foods as dietary iron recommendations are 1.3 to 1.7 times higher for athletes than non-athletes.¹ Athletes have higher iron needs as intense training stimulates an increase in the number of red blood cells and small blood vessels, thereby increasing the need for more iron. In addition, athletes may also have blood loss through injury, heavy sweating, digestive losses and/or through foot strike damage to red blood cells in the feet caused by running on hard surfaces.¹ Inadequate intakes of iron-rich foods may lead to low levels of iron in the tissues. This can reduce oxygen uptake into cells, and have a negative impact on training effort and performance capacity.¹


Iron can be found in both animal and plant based foods. Animal sources (called “heme iron”) include meat, fish and poultry, while plant sources (called “non-heme iron) include dried beans, peas, lentils and some fruit and vegetables.² In Canada, grain products like breakfast cereals and flour are fortified  with iron.² To maximize iron absorption, pair iron containing foods with Vitamin C rich foods such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli and cauliflower.  See below for a list of some common iron-rich foods.

* Do not take supplements without a diagnosis of iron deficiency and consultation from your doctor.

Iron Requirements:

Age in Years Aim for an intake of… Stay below…
Men 19 and older 8 mg/day 45 mg/day
Women 19-50 18 mg/day 45 mg/day
Women 51 and older 8 mg/day 45 mg/day

Table from Dietitians of Canada²

Food Sources of Iron:

Food Serving Size Iron (mg)
Spinach, cooked ½ cup 2.0-3.4
Tomato sauce ½ cup 2.4
Edamame, cooked ½ cup 1.9-2.4
Prune juice ½ cup 1.6
Kale, cooked ½ cup 1.3
Oatmeal, instant, cooked ¾ cup 4.5-6.6
Cream of Wheat, cooked ¾ cup 5.7-5.8
Cereal, dry 30 g 4.0-4.3
Beef, cooked 75 g 1.4-3.3
Chicken, cooked 75 g 0.4-2.0
Tuna, light, canned in water 75 g 1.2
Tofu, cooked ¾ cup 2.4-8.0
Lentils, cooked ¾ cup 4.1-4.9
Beans ¾ cup 2.6-4.9
Pumpkin seeds ¼ cup 1.4-4.7
Nuts ¼ cup 1.3-1.8
Blackstrap molasses 1 Tbsp 3.6

Adapted from Dietitians of Canada²


Black Bean and Spinach Enchiladas with Avocado Cream Sauce

Makes 4-6 servings



  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium cooking onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium zucchini, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 1 19oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2  cups salsa
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)
  • Toppings (optional): shredded cheese, plain yogurt, green onions

Avocado Cream Sauce

  • 2 medium ripe avocados
  • 2 tbsp water
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup packed parsley (or cilantro)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Black pepper to taste



  1. Grease a 9 x 11 baking dish and preheat oven to 350F.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium to low heat.
  3. Add in the chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often, until translucent.
  4. Add in minced garlic and reduce heat to low and cook for a couple more minutes.
  5. Add in the pepper and zucchini and saute for another 5 minutes.
  6. Add spinach and allow to wilt
  7. Add drained black beans. Cook until mixture heated through about 5-7 more minutes on medium-low heat.
  8. Add in the salsa. Stir well.
  9. Add in your seasoning, adjusting as necessary. Stir well.
  10. Scoop about 3/4-1 cup of the mixture onto the bottom of your casserole dish and spread out in a thin layer.
  11. Scoop about 3/4 – 1 cup of the mixture onto each tortilla and wrap, placing the fold down on the casserole dish. Repeat for the remaining 3 tortillas and leave a bit of filling left to spread over the top.
  12. Sprinkle with cheese if preferred.
  13. Bake or 20 minutes. When the enchiladas are cooked, remove from oven and garnish with avocado cream sauce or whatever other toppings you enjoy.

Avocado Cream Sauce

  1. Add avocado flesh and water to a food processor. Pulse until creamy.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and process until well blended.

Recipe adapted from:



Week 10

Supporting Bone Health for Athletes

To support healthy bones, individuals need to regularly participate in weight bearing activities, eat adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D containing foods and maintain normal hormonal levels.¹ Failing to meet any of these requirements may place an individual at an increased risk for osteoporotic fractures. To prevent osteoporotic fractures, individuals should strive to maximize their bone mineral density by age 30 and aim to reduce the rate of bone loss thereafter.¹ Fracture risk increases by up to 3 times for each 10% reduction in bone mineral density from that of a level normal for a young healthy adult.

Exercise: When engaging in exercise, it has been suggested that both weight bearing aerobic and strength-focused exercises can help to cause a slight increase in bone mineral density. Optimal exercise activities for bone health should occur in shorter intervals throughout the day and should encourage individuals to move in a variety of directions.¹

Calcium: Calcium is a mineral that helps to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. It also plays a role in supporting metabolic functions such as muscle contraction.² Consuming enough calcium is essential for achieving maximal bone mass and to assist in slowing age associated bone loss.¹ It has been suggested that athletes and active individuals who consume lower quantities of calcium-rich foods have lower bone mineral density levels than age matched individuals who ingested adequate or higher amounts of calcium.¹ Individuals are encouraged to meet recommended intakes for calcium to maximize the bone-stimulating effects of weight bearing activity and optimize bone health.¹

Hormones: Unfortunately, it is more difficult to control hormone levels. Age related decreases of estrogen in women and testosterone in men may contribute to bone loss. In addition, long-term use of medications that increase glucocorticoid hormone levels such as Prednisone and Dexamethasone can lead to significant bone loss over time. It is important to discuss these concerns with your doctor and allied health professionals to design a bone health plan for you.

Athletes at risk of sub-optimal calcium intakes or poor bone health include:

  • Athletes with low calcium intakes because of calorie restriction/high energy requirements.
  • Athletes with inadequate intakes of calcium rich foods.
  • Athletes with malabsorption diseases affecting the small bowel (i.e. celiac disease)
  • Female athletes with impaired menstrual function

* Calcium supplementation does not guarantee improved bone health in the absence of adequate hormonal status, enough energy availability, adequate absorption and weight-bearing exercise.²

Calcium Recommendations:

Age in years Aim for an intake of milligrams (mg)/day Stay below*
Men and Women 19-50 1000 2500
Women 50-71 1200 2000
Men 51-70 1000 2000
Men and Women 71 and older 1200 2000

* This includes sources of calcium from food and supplements.

                                                                                                                               Table from Dietitians of Canada³

Calcium Content of some Common Foods:

Food Serving Size Calcium (mg)
Spinach, frozen, cooked ½ cup 154
Collards, cooked ½ cup 141
Kale, frozen, cooked ½ cup 95
Orange juice, fortified with calcium ½ cup 155
Buttermilk 1 cup 370
Soy beverage, fortified with calcium 1 cup 321
Dry powdered 4 Tbsp 302
Low fat cheddar/mozzarella 50g (1 ½ oz) 396-506
Cottage cheese 1 cup 146-217
Yogurt ¾ cup 221-332
Sardines 75 g (2 ½ oz) 286
Salmon 75 g (2 ½ oz) 179-208
Tofu, prepared with calcium sulfate ¾ cup 234-347
Beans ¾ cup 93-141
Almonds ¼ cup 93
Blackstrap molasses 1 Tbsp 179

Table from Dietitians of Canada³

Vegetable Kabobs with Halloumi

Makes 6 servings


1 package Halloumi cheese (~250g)

1 medium yellow or red bell pepper

1 large zucchini

1 container grape or cherry tomatoes

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

2 tbsp chopped fresh basil, or 1 tsp dried basil

6 large or 12 small wooden/metal skewers

Optional: 6-10 brown mushrooms


  1. If using wooden skewers, submerge them in water and allow to soak while you are preparing the vegetables.
  2. Cut halloumi into 2.5 cm cubes (hallmoui tends to crumble, so don’t be concerned if your cubes don’t look like cubes). Please in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Chop the pepper into 2.5 cm squares and add to mixing bowl.
  4. Cut zucchini into 1 cm thick half moons and add to mixing bowl.
  5. If using brown mushrooms, cut in half and add to mixing bowl.
  6. Add olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped basil to bowl, and mix well to coat vegetables and cheese.

Recipes adapted from:


  1. Optimizing Bone Health: Impact of Nutrition, Exercise, and Hormones. Gatorade Sports Science Institute Website. Published 2014. Accessed March 21, 2016.
  2. Calcium Supplement. Australian Institute of Sports Website. Updated May 2014. Accessed March 22, 2016.
  3.  Food Sources of Calcium. Dietitians of Canada Website. Updated 2014 . Accessed March 22, 2016.

Week 9

Vitamin D and Muscle Function

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which acts functionally as a hormone.¹ It promotes calcium absorption in the gut and helps to maintain adequate serum calcium levels in the blood. Vitamin D also plays a role in neuromuscular and immune function as well as in reducing inflammation.²

The main source of active vitamin D comes from exposure to ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation from sun exposure.¹ However, age, latitude, time of day, time of the year and skin pigmentation can impact the production of vitamin D in the skin.³ Recreational athletes at risk for vitamin D insufficiency/deficiency include those who exercise mostly indoors, have dark skin pigmentation, wear clothing that covers most or all of their body, live at latitudes >35 degrees north or south of the equator, often use sunscreen and/or suffer from disorders causing gastrointestinal malabsorption.¹

Inadequate levels of vitamin D may have significant long-term health impacts (i.e. may increase risk of colon cancer, diabetes) as well as more immediate effects on musculoskeletal health (i.e. increasing risk of injuries like stress fractures).⁴ Vitamin D deficiency has also been found to negatively impact muscle strength³

Over the past several years, it has been suggested that insufficient vitamin D levels may negatively affect performance in deficient athletes. Supplementing vitamin D in athletes with insufficient levels or encouraging higher intakes of vitamin D rich foods may have beneficial effects on an athlete’s strength, power, reaction time and balance.¹ʼ⁴ Vitamin D supplementation in deficient adults has been shown to improve tests of muscle performance and may have possible impacts on muscle fibre composition and morphology.² See below for vitamin D recommendations as well as the vitamin D content of common foods.

* It is not recommended that individuals over expose themselves to UVB radiation in an attempt to increase vitamin D levels as this can lead to sunburn and melanoma.


Vitamin D Recommendations:

Age in years Aim for an intake of Stay below
Men and Women 19-50 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 51-70 600 IU 4000 IU
Men and Women 71 and older 800 IU 4000 IU

                                                                                                                               Table from Dietitians of Canada⁵

Vitamin D Content of Some Common Foods

Food Serving Size Vitamin D (IU)
Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D 125 mL 50
Soy beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 123
Milk 250 mL 103
Skim milk powdered 60 mL 103
Rice, oat, almond beverage, fortified with vitamin D 250 mL 88-90
Yogurt, fortified with vitamin D 175 mL 58-71
Egg yolk, cooked 2 large 57-88
Salmon 75 g 326-699
Snapper, cooked 75 g 392
Mackerel, cooked 75 g 342

                                                                                                                          Adapted from Dietitians of Canada⁵


Chocolate Pudding

Makes 6 servings.


1/2 cup white sugar
3 tbsp cornstarch
4 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup skim milk powder
1 1/4 cup low-fat milk
1 15oz can evaporated fat-free milk
2 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 tsp vanilla extract
* In place of vanilla extract, try adding 1 tsp mint extract or 1 tsp coconut extract or 1 tbsp grated orange rind.



  1. Combine white sugar, corn starch, cocoa, salt and skim milk powder in a medium, heavy saucepan; stir with a whisk.
  2. Gradually add low-fat milk and evaporated milk, stirring with a whisk.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk. Reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute or until thick.
  4. Remove from heat; add chocolate, stirring until melted and mixture is smooth.
  5. Stir in vanilla.
  6. Chill at least 4 hours before serving. Add garnish if desired.

Recipe adapted from:


1) Vitamin D. Australian Institute of Sports Website. Updated May 2014. Accessed March 13, 2016.
2) Ceglia L. Vitamin D and Its Role in Skeletal Muscle. Curr Opin CLin Nutr Metab Care. 2009;12(6):628-633.
3) Pfeifer M, Begerow B, Minne HW. Vitamin D and Muscle Function. Osteoporos Int. 2002;13(3):187-194.
4) Hamilton B. Vitamin D and Athletic Performance: The Potential Role of Muscle. Asian J Sports Med. 2011;2(4):211-219.
5) Food Sources of Vitamin D. Dietitians of Canada Website. Published March 20, 2012. Updated 2014. Accessed March 8, 2016.


Week 8

Dietary Fibre for Everyday Health

Dietary fibre includes parts of plant foods that your body cannot absorb.¹ Fibre is resistant to digestion in the small intestine and requires bacterial fermentation in the large intestine. There are two types of dietary fibre: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like substance. It has been shown to help lower blood cholesterol and assist in moderating blood sugar levels.¹ Good food sources include oats, peas, beans, apples, barley and psyllium. Insoluble fibre helps to promote the movement of material through the digestive system and increases stool bulk.¹ Consuming more insoluble fibre may be beneficial to individuals prone to constipation. Good food sources include whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, nuts, beans and vegetables.


Ingestion of adequate amounts of dietary fibre is important as it may have a protective role against certain gastrointestinal diseases, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.¹ In addition, foods higher in fibre provide more nutrition to the intestinal microflora. It has been reported that a lack of nutrients in the intestinal lumen following starvation leads to significant intestinal atrophy. However, this can be reversed by the addition of fibre to the diet.²

For athletes and active individuals, increasing intakes of dietary fibre may help with weight loss or weight maintenance as well as improve overall health.³ Lower energy density diets high in fibre containing foods like whole fruits, vegetables

, grains and legumes can help individuals decrease the calorie content of their meal while still helping them to feel satiated after eating. ³

How much dietary fibre do you need?

Age Group Recommended amount per day
14-18 38g/day
19-30 38g/day
31-50 38g/day
51-70 30g/day
>70 30g/day
14-18 26g/day
19-30 25g/day
31-50 25g/day
51-70 21g/day
>70 21g/day

                                                                                                              Recommendations as per Health Canada⁴

How can I get more fibre in my diet?

Below are strategies to help increase dietary fibre.


  • Choose bread and cereal products with at least 4 grams of fibre per serving.
  • Choose wholegrain products more often than processed grain products (For example: use whole wheat pasta or brown rice instead of white pasta or white rice for dinner)
  • When baking at home, substitute at least ½ of the white flour with whole grain flour.
  • Add 1-2 Tbsp. of bran or flax seed to baked goods, entrees, yogurt, hot/cold cereal, etc.

Vegetables and Fruit:

  • Choose whole vegetables and fruits instead of juice.
  • Add a small salad or vegetable soup to your lunch or dinner meal.
  • Prepare or purchase cut up vegetables for a snack at home, work or school.
  • Add fresh or frozen fruit such as berries to yogurt or hot/cold cereal.
  • Eat the peels of vegetables and fruits when possible.


  • Add lentils, beans or soybeans to soups, casseroles and salads.
  • Choose legume based spreads like hummus to eat with vegetables or on whole grain flat bread or crackers.
  • Roast chickpeas or steam edamame for easy snacks or salad toppings

Nuts and Seeds

  • Add roasted nuts, seeds or ground flaxseeds to cereal, cold/hot cereals or baked goods.
  • Pack small portions of almonds, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds as snacks or add to homemade trail mix.
  • Sprinkle toasted nuts to pasta dishes, rice bowls or stir-fries.

* Remember to increase dietary fibre slowly to avoid gas, bloating or diarrhea, and to increase fluid intake as you increase your fibre intake for optimal gastrointestinal health. Please see week 4 for more information about fluids:


Vegan Date Squares

Makes 16 squares


Filling –

1 1/2 cups Medjool dates, pitted and chopped

1/2 cup (plus more as needed) boiling water

1 tbsp lemon juice

Crust –

2 cups rolled oats

1/2 cup ground flax seed

4 tbsp brown sugar

1/2 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Grease an 8×8″ square baking pan.
  3. In a food processor, combine the oats and flax, and process until the oats are slightly ground
  4. Add in olive oil, brown sugar and salt. Process until everything is combined.
  5. Remove mixture from the food processor into bowl, then take about ⅔ of the mixture press it down firmly into the baking pan to form the bottom crust.
  6. Clean out the food processor and add the Medjool dates and boiling water. Process until it is a soft, sticky paste. Add more or less water to achieve the desired consistency – spreadable but not too runny.
  7. When it is a good consistency, carefully spread it on top of the oat and flax crust.
  8. Take the remaining ⅓ of the crust mixture and sprinkle it evenly on top of the date layer, pressing it down lightly.
  9. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for about 30 minutes.
  10. Remove and let cool. Cut into 16 squares.

Recipe adapted from:


  1.  Otles S, Ozgoz S. Health effects of dietary fibre. Acta Sci Pol Technol Aliment. 2014;13(2):191-202.
  2. McCullough JS, Ratcliffe B, Mandir N, Carr KE, Goodlad RA. Dietary fibre and intestinal microflora: effects on intestinal morphometry and crypt branching. Gut. 1998;42(1):799-806.
  3. Manore M. Weight Management for Athletes and Active Individuals: A Brief Review. Sports Med. 2015;45(1):83-92.
  4. Dietary Reference Intakes. Health Canada Website. Updated January 23, 2006. Accessed March 1, 2016.


Week 7

Supporting Immune Function during Training


Increasing physical activity is generally associated with improved immune function and a decreased risk of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI’s). However, during times of intense training or increased stress, greater amounts of exercise can temporarily impair immune function and place athletes at higher risk for URTI’s and other illnesses.¹ It is not uncommon for athletes to experience symptoms of illness or infection around times of physical stress such as competitions.² This is a major concern as even minor illnesses can impact performance.

To maintain optimum immune competence, athletes are encouraged to eat balanced meals that are adequate in protein and energy. Diets should also have sufficient amounts of iron, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, B6, and B12 as these micronutrients have been identified as being of particular importance in the maintenance of good immune function.³ Athletes should also consider introducing foods that contain plant polyphenols like fruits, whole grains, and legumes as well as foods that contain probiotics, such as yogurt, as they might have positive effects on immune function.²

In addition to the nutritional strategies already mentioned athletes should also practice good hand hygiene, follow basic food safe principles, avoid sharing equipment and personal items such as water bottles, get adequate sleep, and try to minimize stress.² Additional information for food safety can be found at:

 Food Sources Of…

Iron: Spinach, Tomato puree, Edamame, Hot/Cold Cereals, Tofu, Lentils, Legumes, Molasses, Pumpkin seeds, Raisins, Dates, Red meat/organ meat

Zinc: Wheat germ, Bran, Pumpkin seeds, Baked beans, Oats, Beef, Liver, Oysters, Crab

Vitamin A: Sweet potato, Pumpkin, Carrots, Winter squash, Liver, Tuna

Vitamin D: Fortified juice and dairy products, Egg yolks, Salmon

Vitamin E: Spinach, Wheat germ, Egg, Halibut, Almonds, Sunflower seeds, Hazelnuts

Vitamin B6: Banana, Sweet potato, Avocado, Wheat bran, Organ meat, Tuna, Salmon, Chickpeas, Soybeans, Pistachios, Sunflower seeds

Vitamin B12: Milk, Cheese, Yogurt, Soy beverage, Organ meat, Beef, Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Nutritional yeast


 Cranberry Orange Muffins

Makes 12


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • zest of 2 oranges
  • 1 cup whole grain flour
  • 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons fortified orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons low fat milk
  • 1 and 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (if frozen, do not thaw)


  1.  Preheat oven to 350F degrees. Grease a 12-count muffin pan. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl mix oil with the granulated and brown sugars. Beat on high until creamed, about 2 full minutes.
  3. Add the eggs, yogurt, and vanilla extract. Beat on medium speed for 1 minute, then turn up to high speed until the mixture is combined and uniform in texture.
  4. Beat in the orange zest until combined.
  5. In  large bowl, combine dry ingredients.
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined.
  7. Fold in cranberries.
  8. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin.
  9. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from:


  1. Couto, M., Silva, D., Delgado, L., & Moreira, A. (2013). Exercise and airway injury in athletes. Acta Medica Portuguesa, 26(1), 56-60.
  2. Gleeson, M. (2013). Nutritional support to maintain proper immune status during intense training. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop series, 75, 85-97. doi: 10.1159/000345822.
  3. Gleeson, M., & Williams, C. (2013). Intense exercise training and immune function. Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop Series, 76, 39-50. doi: 10.1159/000350254.


Week 6

Dietary Nitrate to Support Performance – Focus on Beetroot juice

Dietary nitrate supplementation may have positive effects on an athlete’s physical response to exercise.¹ Increased intakes of food or beverages containing nitrates may help to reduce the energy costs of exercise, positively impact muscle contraction, and improve athletic performance. Once ingested, the dietary nitrate is converted, with the help of oral bacteria, to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide acts to widen blood vessels which allows blood, oxygen and nutrients to be more efficiently delivered to muscles.²

One of the more popular forms of supplementation is commercially made beetroot juice (i.e. Beet-It), but athletes can also increase dietary nitrate by eating beets or other nitrate rich vegetables such as rocket lettuce, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, and radishes. It is also possible to make your own beetroot juice at home with a juicer.

Which type of athletes would benefit the most from supplementation is still an area under investigation; however, there is some evidence that increasing dietary nitrates might have performance benefits for endurance athletes like runners, triathletes and cyclists. There may also be some benefit for individuals competing or training at high altitude (low oxygen environment).² Additional research is also required to determine optimal doses and timing; however, it has been suggested that about 300-500mg of nitrate (in the form of beetroot juice or other) may have the greatest impact on performance.²ʼ³ Commercially available beetroot juice concentrate can be taken up to 2 hours prior to exercise for immediate benefits.ᶟ

Mild intestinal discomfort has been reported in some athletes (large volume of fluids, increase in fibre – if having beets in their whole form). These symptoms may be reported more frequently in those with a medical history of irritable bowel disease.² Individuals interested in trying beetroot juice or increasing foods naturally containing nitrates who have a history of GI intolerance or who wish to use this product prior to an athletic event may wish to use a concentrated form like Beet-It shots.¹ Beetroot juice may also make your urine or stool pink, but this is harmless.²

*Athletes hoping to reap the benefits of beetroot juice should avoid using mouthwash or gum as they may reduce oral bacteria, essential for the conversion of nitrate to nitric oxide.²

** Wondering what nitrates are? See this link to Eat Right Ontario to learn “The Truth About Nitrates”:

Beetroot Hummus

Roasted Beet Hummus

Makes about 2 cups of hummus


1 19oz can no added sodium chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup tahini

Juice of 1/2 lemon

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 medium beet, peeled and roasted

1/2 tsp cumin

salt and pepper to taste

1 tbsp olive oil


  1. To roast beet: preheat oven to 375F, then rub the beet with oil and wrap in tin foil. Roast for about an hour or until beet is tender. Allow to cool and peel off skin.
  2. Place all ingredients (excluding olive oil) in a food processor or blender. Blend until smooth.
  3. Adjust seasonings.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Serve with whole grain crackers or pita and vegetables.


  1. Wylie LJ, Kelly J, Bailey SJ, Blackwell JR, Skiba PF, Winyard PG, et al. Beetroot juice and exercise: pharmacodynamic and dose-response relationships. J Appl Physiol. 2013;115(3):325-336. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00372.2013
  2. Nitrate (Beetroot Juice). Sports Dietitians Website. Published 2015. Accessed October 24, 2015.
  3. Sports Dietitians Website. Published 2015. Accessed February 24, 2016.

Week 5

Probiotics to Support Athletic Performance

Probiotics are live food supplements with beneficial effects on the health of the host.¹ Probiotics occur naturally in fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchee and soybean-based miso and tempeh.² Over the past several years, the consumption of fermented foods has gained in popularity as a way to naturally improve intestinal tract health, enhance the immune system, reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance and allergic conditions, and reduce the risk of certain cancers.¹ʼ² The adult human intestinal tract contains approximately 400 different bacterial species. Although these species are usually stable, they can be influenced by a number of factors including age, immune status, antibiotic use, stress, alcohol use, and diet. The consumption of probiotic containing foods may help to promote reestablishment of “good” bacteria and help to balance the colonic intestinal flora.² The mechanism behind the potential beneficial effect of probiotics is still under investigation, but it has been suggested it may be related to their ability to modify gut pH, produce antimicrobial compounds, out compete “bad” bacteria for available nutrients and/or through the production of lactase (the enzyme required to digest lactose).¹ʼ³

Since different strains of bacteria exert different effects on human health it can be difficult to draw definite conclusions from research on probiotics. There is even less research investigating the role probiotics might play in athletic performance. At present, there is no scientific evidence to indicate that probiotics have a direct performance enhancing effect.² However, it has been suggested that consuming probiotics may provide athletes with secondary health benefits that could positively influence athletic performance. These potential benefits include improved recovery from fatigue, enhanced immune function and assist in the maintenance of healthy intestinal tract function.²

Summary of proposed benefits for athletes:

  • Probiotics may help to improve immune function in fatigued athletes and help to reduce the number of sick days experienced during training .
  • Probiotics may assist in the reduced severity of respiratory infection and gastrointestinal upset (if/when they occur).
  • No negative effects have been reported regarding probiotic ingestion among athletes.
  • No current evidence to suggest that probiotics can improve athletic performance.

* Probiotics are not recommended for severely, immune compromised individuals.



Berry Kefir Smoothie with Spinach

Makes 2 large servings


1 cup plain kefir

1/2 cup low fat milk

2 cups frozen berries

1 tsp honey

1 tbsp chia seeds

1/2 cup spinach


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend at high speed until smooth. Serve at once. (If mixture is too thick to blend, add a bit more milk)

Recipe adapted from:


Week 4

Fluid Needs for Athletes

Water plays an essential role in a number of functions in the body. It is required to help keep tissues moist, lubricate joints, regulate body temperature, assist in the removal of waste products and carry nutrients and oxygen to cells.¹ The human body is about two-thirds water, so it is important to drink enough fluid to stay healthy and hydrated.² Adequate fluid intake is important for athletes as dehydration can negatively impact performance and may have adverse health outcomes. Common symptoms of dehydration during exercise include increased heart rate, impaired body temperature regulation, increased feelings of perceived exertion, reduced mental sharpness, reduced skill level and gastrointestinal upset.³

Fluid needs vary considerably between athletes. Requirements can be affected by a number of factors including genetics (heavy versus light sweat rates), body size (larger individuals need more fluids), fitness level, exercise environment and exercise intensity.⁴ Most individuals should aim for about 6-8 cups (1500-2000mL) of fluid per day; however, athletes can also estimate needs using their body weight. To meet day-to-day fluid requirements, the average person needs about 25-30mL of fluid per kg of body weight. For example, a 75kg individual would aim to consume about 1875-2250mL of fluid/day. To determine fluid needs related to exercise, athletes are encouraged to weigh themselves before and after exercise to estimate their own fluid requirements. Each kg of weight lost is equivalent to approximately 1 litre of fluid.⁴  Although it is important to stay hydrated before, during and after activities, athletes should note that there is no benefit of over hydration. In some cases consuming too much fluid can actually be detrimental to health (causing gastrointestinal discomfort or diluting blood sodium levels – if water is over consumed).

A common way to monitor hydration status is by the colour of your urine. If your urine is a dark yellow colour during the day, you are likely not drinking enough. While if you are passing urine often and it is a very pale colour you may be drinking too much. Hydrated individuals usually have a urine colour resembling pale straw.²

Although water is the best choice for hydration, athletes can also use an assortment of fluid foods to help meet hydration needs. Foods that are considered fluid foods include: coffee and tea (if you are a habitual caffeine consumer), gelatin containing products (i.e. Jell-O), ice chips/ice cubes, ice cream, juice, milk and milk substitutes, popsicles, sherbet, soup and sorbet.⁵


West African Peanut Soup

Makes about 6 servings


1 tbsp olive oil

2 small yellow onions, chopped

1 cup celery, chopped

1/2 – 1 tsp salt

2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tbsp Louisiana hot sauce

4 cups sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 2 medium)

3 cups water

3 cups low sodium tomato juice

1 cup natural peanut butter

Optional Toppings: chives, scallions, cilantro


  1. Heat oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions, celery and salt. Cook, stirring often for about 10-15 minutes until soft.
  2. Stir in grated ginger and hot sauce.
  3. Add sweet potatoes and water. Bring contents to a boil and cover. Reduce heat and allow the soup to simmer for about 20 minutes (sweet potatoes should be tender).
  4. Mix tomato juice and peanut butter in well.
  5. Using a blender, immersion blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth.
  6. Adjust seasonings as per taste.
  7. Serve topped with chives, scallions or cilantro.

Recipe adapted from the book Moosewood Restaurant Favorites (2013).


  1. Nutrition and healthy eating. Mayo Clinic Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
  2. Healthy hydration guide. British Nutrition Foundation Organization Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
  3. Fluid – Who Needs It? Australian Institute of Sport Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.
  4. Food that Counts as Fluid on the Kidney Diet. DaVita Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 10, 2016.
  5. Hydration. Australian Institute of Sport Website. Published 2016. Accessed February 9, 2016.

Week 3

Healthy Fats for Athletes:

When it comes to training and performance, carbohydrates and protein often overshadow dietary fats. However, fats are important for many metabolic processes such as energy production, transportation of fat-soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K) and play a key role in the synthesis of hormones.¹ Good fatty food choices include liquid at room temperature oils (olive oil, avocado oil), nuts, seeds, fatty fish and avocados. Saturated fat (fats solid at room temperature) should be limited and trans-fats (partially hydrogenated oil) should be avoided completely.¹

More recently, researchers have investigated the role of omega 3 fatty acids in reducing inflammation and muscle soreness. There are three types of omega 3 fats: ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid).² ALA is an essential fatty acid and needs to be consumed in the diet, while small amounts of EPA and DHA can be made in the body from ALA. It is recommended that men aim for about 1.6g ALA per day, while women aim for 1.1g ALA per day.² It has also been suggested that consuming EPA and DHA in 1-2g per day doses may help to decrease exercise induced inflammation.³

Food sources of Omega 3 include:

Food Portion Size Amount ALA (grams) Amount EPA/DHA (grams)
Edamame, cooked 125 mL 0.29-0.34 0
Soy beverage 250 mL 0.19 0
Eggs, cooked 2 eggs 0.06-0.28 0.07
Anchovies, canned with oil 75 grams  0.01 1.54
Cod, Pacific, cooked 75 grams  0.04 0.79
Oysters, Pacific, cooked 75 grams  0.05 1.04
Salmon, pink, cooked/canned/raw 75 grams  0.03-0.06 0.87-1.06
Tofu, cooked 150 grams 0.27-0.48 0
Chia seeds 15 mL 1.0 0
Flaxseed, ground 15 mL 2.46 0
Flaxseed oil 5 mL 2.58 0
Walnuts, English, Persian 60 mL 2.30 0



Golden Beet Noodles with Feta Cheese, Pumpkin Seeds and Dried Cranberries

Makes about 4 side servingsDSC_0377

** To make this recipe you will need a spiralizer (I have the OXO Hand-Held Spiralizer, $20 from Cook Culture – pictured to the right). You could also try using a grater to shred the beets.


4-5 medium golden beets

3 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds

1/2 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup dried cranberries (you could also use pomegranate seeds)

2 tsp Dijon mustard

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

2 tsp honey

1/4-1/2 tsp pepper (or more to taste)


  1. Using a spiralizer, prepare beets.
  2. Using kitchen scissors, snip beet noodles into bite sized pieces. Place into a large bowl.
  3. Combine the last 5 ingredients and mix together with the beet noodles. Allow to marinate for at least an hour.
  4. Top with feta cheese, cranberries and pumpkin seeds before serving.

Recipe adapted from:


  1. Sport nutrition for young athletes. Canadian Paediatric Society Website.
    Published April 2, 2013. Accessed February 1, 2016.
  2. Food Sources of Omega-3 Fats. Dietitians of Canada Website.
    Omega-3-Fats.aspx. Published 2016. Accessed February 1, 2016.
  3. Michleborough TD. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in physical
    performance optimization. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2013;23(1):8396.

Week 2

Protein to Build & Maintain Muscles

Protein plays an important role in an athlete’s diet. It helps repair damaged body tissue and assists in building and strengthening muscles.¹ How much protein does the average athlete need? Training may slightly increase protein requirements; however, most recreational athletes easily meet protein targets when they consume a varied diet that focuses on nourishing foods.¹ See the table below to estimate how much protein you need based on your current weight in kilograms.

Guidelines for maximum protein needs for different groups of athletes:

Sedentary 0.8g/kg body mass
General training program 1.0g/kg body mass
Heavy training program 1.2-1.7g/kg body mass

In addition to amount of protein, it is also important for athletes to consider the timing of protein intakes. Eating foods rich in protein with your main meals can help to maintain lean body mass, while consuming protein soon after exercise may increase muscle protein synthesis rates.² Synthesis rates are highest when meals/snacks containing 20 grams of protein (closer to 30 grams in older populations) are consumed. Newer research is also suggesting that eating a protein rich snack before going to bed may help to promote post-exercise muscle growth during overnight sleep.² Recommendations for protein timing are to consume about 20-25g of protein with each main meal, 20-25g of protein after exercise and 20-40g of protein prior to sleep.² If you are a smaller individual or are monitoring total calories eaten, plan to make one of your main meals also your post-exercise snack.

Foods that provide approximately 10g of protein:

2 small eggs, 30g cheese, 70g cottage cheese, 1 cup low fat milk, 35g cooked meat, 40g cooked poultry, 2 slices French toast, ½ cup edamame, ¾ cup plain yogurt, 50g cheddar cheese, 50g canned salmon/tuna, ½ cup cooked lentils, ¼ cup peanuts, 75g firm tofu

Tofu Burger

Tofu Burgers

Makes about 12 burgers


2 14oz blocks of organic, firm tofu, pressed.

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp dried oregano

2 large carrots, grated

1/2 red bell pepper, chopped

1 cup pecans (or walnuts), toasted

3 Tbsp soy sauce

2 Tbsp Dijon mustard

2 Tbsp peanut oil

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 tsp black pepper

2/3 cup whole wheat bread crumbs

Burger toppings as per your choice (cheese slices, tomato, avocado, onions, lettuce, etc)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Lightly oil a baking sheet.
  2. In a skillet over low-medium heat, heat the oil. Add in the onions and dried oregano and cook for about 7-8 minutes.
  3. Add the carrots and bell peppers and cook for another 7-8 minutes.
  4. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor.
  5. Add tofu and remaining ingredients to the food processor (depending on the size of the appliance you may have to blend the items in two batches). Pulse until combined.
  6. Transfer blended mix to a large bowl. Adjust seasonings as per preference (add extra Dijon mustard or soy sauce or add some hot sauce). Mix in bread crumbs.
  7. Using a 1/2 cup scoop, scoop out burger mixture and place onto baking sheet. Gently flatten burgers.
  8. Bake for 40 minutes (flipping halfway through).
  9. Eat with or without a bun, topped with your favourite ingredients.

Recipe adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Favorites (2013).


  1. Australian Institute of Sports. Current Concepts in Sports Nutrition. 
Accessed January 25, 2016.
  1. van Loon LJC. Protein Ingestion Prior to Sleep: Potential for Optimizing Post-
Exercise Recovery. Gatorade Sports Science Institute.
recovery. Published 2014. Accessed January 25, 2016.