Beer vs. Wheat Grass
By Michelle Cabalse
Two athletes walk into a bar.
The first athlete goes into a juice bar and says: “I'll have a carrot juice smoothie with ginko, bee pollen and ginseng and a side of wheat grass. And could you use purified water, not tap, please.”
The second athlete goes next door to Ned's Place and says, “Hey Ned, what's up with the new neighbor?”
Sliding a beer and nacho plate down the bar, Ned replies, “Ah dunno, some health nuts. Those guys just don't appreciate wheat and barley the way we do.”
Both athletes show up the next day for XTERRA. Both do well.
After the race the first guy says, “I'd have done better if I had gauged my glucose and complex carbohydrate threshold against my estimated energy expenditure.”
Second guy says, "YEEAA! Where's the party!"
Now how fair is that?
We asked American College of Sports Medicine nutrition expert, Nancy Clark, MS, RD to help explain why some athletes can live on the junk-food-groups: fast, frozen and canned, and consistently out-do the competition, while others must abide by a rigid diet to race well.
“As long as there's an adequate amount of carbs for energy; protein to protect muscles; and water to keep the system running … the body will do its job," says Clark.
Some bodies are simply geared to do a better job naturally. The genetically gifted athlete runs, swims and bikes better, but eats worse. And gets away with it. German athletes, for example, are notorious for chugging beers, grinding steaks and finishing first.
XTERRA World Champion and Primal Quest champ Michael Tobin, whose family line boasts numerous Olympians, is a devoted micro-brew enthusiast. He also happens to be half German.
"Ninety percent of athletic ability is genetics. I've found that the best athletes often have the worst diets," says Clark "If an athlete isn't genetically gifted, he or she tends to try harder to keep up with the demands of the gifted competitors. What's important for athletes is providing the body with the right combination of nutrients."
O.K. that's pretty simple. Carbs, protien and water. Just get the right combination and you'll be on the Wheaties box kissing your gold medal, right? Not exactly.
MEAL #1 JUNK FOOD JUNKIE - Supreme stuffed crust pizza, beer, Eskimo Pie
MEAL #2 HEALTH FOOD NUT - Turkey sandwich on wheat, strawberry yogurt
Both meals are high in carbs with sufficient protein. So either meal plan would provide fuel to burn and protein for recovery, right?
"The most important thing an XTERRA athlete should do is eat a common sense, balanced diet," says pro athlete Neal Henderson, MS, CSCS.
Henderson follows the 60-20-20 plan (similar to the Food Guide Pyramid for nutrition standards) and eats a variety of foods to get the vitamins and minerals his body needs.
Carbohydrates, such as grain, rice, potatoes and pasta make up 60 percent of his diet.
Fats, from healthy sources such as fish, avocado and olive oils, account for 15 percent or less.
He kicks up his protein level a bit and sticks to lean red meat, poultry, fish and tofu to help rebuild muscle tissue broken down during training.
"Athletics have always been a valued part of my family's lifestyle. I attribute success in athletics to all of the above and hard work," says Tobin. "Did I mention I like good beer?"
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