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I´m in a three-day soccer tournament. I need food help!!"                                                                                                                                                      

"This weekend, we´re playing in the semi finals. What should I eat the day before?"

If you have looming in the near future an endurance event––such as a soccer match that will tax your endurance, you may be concerned about the best nutritional preparations.The good news is, even if your training is over, you can still significantly enhance your performance with winning food strategies.

Without a doubt, what you eat and drink during the last few days and hours before exhaustive exercise makes a difference. By eating wisely and well, you can enjoy lasting energy without hitting the wall! Here are eight last minute nutrition tips for enhancing endurance.

1. Carbo-load, don´t fat-load.

Carbohydrate-rich foods include cereals, fruits, juices, breads, rice, plain baked potatoes and pasta with tomato sauce. Lower carbohydrate choices include donuts, cookies, buttery potatoes, ice cream, cheesy lasagna and pepperoni pizza. These fat-laden foods may taste great and fill your stomach but fat does not get stored as muscle fuel.

2. No last minute hard training.

By resting your muscles and doing very little exercise this pre-event week, your muscles will have the time they need to store the carbohydrates and become fully saturated with glycogen (carbohydrate). You can only fully carbo-load if you stop exercising hard! You can tell if your muscles are well carbo-loaded if you have gained 2 to 4 pounds pre-event. Your muscles store three ounces of water along with each ounce of carbohydrate. (This water will be released during the event and be put to good use.)

3. No last minute dieting.

You can´t fully carbo-load your muscles if you are dieting and restricting your calories. You will have greater stamina and endurance if you are well fueled, as compared to the dieter who may be a few pounds lighter but has muscles that are suboptimally carbo-loaded. Remember: you are supposed to gain (water) weight pre-event!

4. Drink extra fluids.

You can tell if you are drinking enough fluids by monitoring your urine. You should be urinating frequently (every 2 to 4 hours); the urine should be clear colored and significant in volume. Juices are a good fluid choice because they provide not only water and carbohydrates but also nutritional value. Save the sports drinks for during the event.

5. Eat tried-and-true foods.

If you drastically change your food choices (such as carbo-load by eating several extra bananas), you may end up with intestinal distress. Simply eat a comfortable portion of the tried-and-true carbohydrates you´ve enjoyed during training. You need not stuff yourself! If you will be traveling to a far away event, plan ahead so you can maintain a familiar eating schedule despite a crazy travel schedule.

6. Eat a moderate amount of fiber.

If you stuff yourself with lots of white bread, bagels, crackers, pasta and other foods made with refined white flour, you may end up constipated. Include enough fiber to promote regular bowel movements––but not too much fiber or you´ll have the opposite problem! Moderate amounts of whole wheat bread, bran cereal, fruits and vegetables are generally good choices. (If you are concerned about diarrhea, limit your intake of high fiber foods and instead consume more of the refined breads and pastas.)

7. Eat the morning of the endurance event.

You´ll need this fuel to maintain a normal blood sugar level. Although your muscles are well stocked from the foods you´ve eaten the past few days, your brain gets fuel only from the limited amount of sugar in your blood. When you nervously toss and turn the night before the event, you can deplete your blood sugar and, unless you eat carbs, you will start the event with low blood sugar. Your performance will go downhill from there...

Plan to replace the energy lost during the (sleepless) night with a light to moderate breakfast as tolerated. This will help you avoid hitting the wall. Stick with tried-and-true pre-exercise foods: cereal, bagels, toast, fruit, energy bars and/or juice. These carb-based foods invest in fueling the brain, as well as staving off hunger. If a pre-event breakfast will likely upset your system, eat extra food the night before. That is, eat your breakfast at 10:00 pm.

8. Consume carbs during the event.

During endurance exercise, you´ll have greater stamina if you consume not only water, but also some carbohydrates, such as sports drinks, gels, bananas or dried fruit. You should target about 100 to 250 calories/hour after the first hour to avoid hitting the wall (For example, that´s 16 to 32 ounces sports drink/hour.)  Some players boost their energy intake by drinking diluted juices or defizzed cola; others suck on hard candies or eat chunks of energy bar, animal crackers and other easily chewed and digested foods along the way. Your muscles welcome this food; it gets digested and used for fuel during the event. And hopefully, you will have experimented during training to learn what settles best...

Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD is a member of´s advisory panel and counsels both casual and competitive athletes at her private practice located in Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill MA (617-383-6100). She is author of Nancy Clark´s Sports Nutrition Guidebook ($23)and her Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions ($20). Both are available via or by sending a check to Sports Nutrition Services, PO Box 650124, West Newton MA 02465.

                            WHAT AND WHEN TO EAT FOR FASTER RECOVERY ??

Recovery from Hard Exercise
By: Nancy Clark, MS, RD

If you are a competitive player, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the latest hype surrounding recovery nutrition. The sports supplement industry is bombarding us with commercial recovery foods and fluids that generally offer some combination of carbs and protein. Questions arise: How important is proper nutritional recovery? And how essential are these products to your performance? The purpose of this article is to help you refuel appropriately after your workouts and optimize your performance.

If you train recreationally three or four times a week for 30 to 60 minutes, you can be less focused on recovery nutrition than the player who works to fatigue one or two times a day. Your body does not become depleted during light interspersed workouts, plus you have plenty of time to refuel before your next exercise session. But if you are an player who trains hard daily, does double workouts and needs to rapidly recover from one exercise bout to prepare for the next one, your recovery diet deserves full attention. A few examples include:

  • soccer players in a weekend tournament.
  • teams with more than one game per week.
  • teams training more than once per day.

You´ll be able to perform better during repeated bouts of hard training or games if you have planned your recovery diet and have the right foods and fluids readily available to adequately replace calories, carbohydrates, protein, fluids and sodium.


If you are tired, time-crunched and without a nutrition recovery plan, you might have trouble consuming enough calories (as well as carbs) and fail to replace depleted glycogen stores. A simple solution is to quench your thirst (and abate your hunger) by drinking less water and more cranberry, grape or any other appealing fruit juice. Juices provide the fluid you need, as well as carbs and calories.

If you are trying to lose weight by restricting calories, your best bet is to fuel adequately by day to ensure strong workouts. Then, have a lighter dinner and fewer evening snacks. Do not try to restrict by day and train or play on empty; you’ll perform poorly.


To replenish depleted blood sugar and muscle glycogen stores and recover from the demands of strenuous sessions, your should plan to consume carbohydrates as soon as tolerable, preferably within 30 minutes post-exercise. Muscles rely on carbs for fuel, so think again if you are on an Atkins-type low carb diet.

Players who weigh 100 to 200 pounds need 75 to 150 grams (300 to 600 calories) of carbohydrates repeatedly every two hours, for six hours. The trick is to plan ahead and have the right foods and fluids readily available for frequent snacking. Otherwise, you may neglect your recovery diet by mindlessly eating nothing, or whatever is around: donuts, burgers, hot dogs, nachos, chips, and other high fat choices that fail to refuel your muscles. If you have trouble tolerating solid food, experiment with liquid recovery foods, such as Instant Breakfast, Boost, chocolate milk or fruit smoothies––excellent sources of carbs + fluids, as well as a little protein.


Consuming some protein along with the carbs stimulates faster glycogen replacement. The protein also optimizes muscular repair and growth. Yes, you can buy commercial recovery foods such as Endurox R4, but you can just as easily and appropriately enjoy cereal with milk, fruit yogurt, bagel with a little peanut butter or any other sports snacks that offer a foundation of carbs with an accompaniament of protein (i.e., 40 grams carbs, 10 grams protein).


If you´ve become very dehydrated (as indicated by scanty, dark urine), you may need 24 to 48 hours to totally replace this loss. Because thirst poorly indicates whether or not you´ve had enough to drink, throughout the day sip on enjoyable (non-alcoholic) beverages until your urine is pale yellow, not concentrated, dark (like beer). Fruit juices, smoothies and milk shakes offer both nutritional and health value, more so than sports drinks. For example, orange juice contains 20 times more potassium than Gatorade.

Preventing dehydration during exercise is preferable to treating dehydration post-exercise. To determine your fluid needs, simply weigh yourself naked before and after an hour of hard training during which you drank nothing. The weight loss reflects sweat loss. You can then develop a schedule for drinking adequate fluids during exercise to minimize sweat losses and hasten recovery. A two pound per hour loss equals 32 ounces or 1 quart. This can be prevented by drinking 8 ounces every 15 minutes of exercise.


When you sweat, you lose some sodium (a part of salt). You are unlikely to deplete your body´s sodium supply unless you sweat hard for more than 4 to 6 hours. Most players easily replace sodium losses within the context of a standard diet that offers 6 to 12 times the amount of needed salt. But if you eat primarily “all natural” or unprocessed foods, and simultaneously add little or no salt to your meals, you might consume inadequate sodium. This can hinder fluid retention. Eating salty foods (soup, pretzels, salted crackers, table salt) is an appropriate part of a recovery diet for most healthy players. Sports drinks are only a weak source of sodium compared to munching on salty snacks. That is, 8 ounces of Gatorade offers only 110 milligrams sodium; a handful of pretzels (0.5 oz) offers 250 milligrams.

If you need to rapidly recover to prepare for a second training session or game within an hour or two and are worried about digestive problems, consuming a tried-and-true sports drink might be a safe choice. But if you can tolerate food, you´ll be able to refuel and rehydrate better with higher carb fluids (juices) along with salty snacks: crackers, pretzels––whatever else tastes good and digests comfortably. Foods with a moderate to high Glycemic Index (i.e., sugary sweets, white bread, soft drinks, honey) are among the best choices. They rapidly enter the blood stream and are readily available for fuel.


You aren´t "being lazy" if you take a day off after a hard training session or game; you are investing in your future performance. Your muscles need time (plus adequate carbs and calories) to refuel and heal. Daily hard exercise optimizes glycogen-depletion, dehydration, needless fatigue and injuries-but not performance!

Nancy Clark, MS, RD specializes in nutrition for exercise. She is a member of´s advisory panel and counsels clients at her private practice at Healthworks in Brookline MA (617-383-6100). Nancy Clark´s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, 3nd Edition ($23) and her Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions ($20) are available by sending a check to Sports Nutrition Services, PO Box 650124, West Newton MA 02465 or via

                             PARENTS!!...DAILY EATING FOR HEALTHY FUTURE...   

How to Eat Well: A Primer for Athletes
By: Nancy Clark, MS, RD  

Eat well. Believe it or not, that’s what most active people need to learn to do. Eat for performance. Eat for health. I am surrounded by players who do not know how to eat well. They know how to skip breakfast and lunch. How to stay away from carbs. How to blow their diets. These players would not only perform better but also be healthier down the road if they could eat better on a daily basis, eat at the right times to optimize energy, eat the best foods to promote future good health, and eat wisely to manage weight.

For many players, eating well seems a trivial concern. They joke about overdosing on Vitamin C-3 (Chocolate Chip Cookies). They are influenced by these prevailing beliefs: Food is fattening; I don’t have time to eat or I don’t have time to eat well. A survey of 50 collegiate players reports they averaged 59% of their calories from sugars and fats. Yes, that’s a lot of junk food...

The daily intake of those  players contrasts sharply with the daily diet of Diana Dyer, a three-time cancer survivor who optimized her eating and acquired remarkable benefits. After having been diagnosed with breast cancer for a second time (11 years after her first breast cancer diagnosis–and this was several years after a childhood neuroblastoma), Diana decided she would put only “protective foods” in her body. This means a soy-shake with fruit, flax and berries for breakfast, and lunches and dinners abundant with fresh fruit, colorful salads, beans, nuts, fish, soy and other wholesome foods. Being a dietitian, Diana also recognizes the need for “soul foods” (birthday cake, chocolate chip cookies). She eats them on occasions when she wishes to nourish her soul.

So has all this healthy eating done any good? Diana believes her optimal diet is largely responsible for the increase in her white blood cell count. It rose from the too low 2,500 cells/cubic millimeter it had been for 11 years after her first breast cancer treatment to the more normal level of 4,700 after her second breast cancer treatment. As I listened to Diana tell this story at Grand Medical Rounds at the Dana Farber Cancer Center, I internalized how powerful and strong food is as a health protector. Yes, food is fuel and one of life’s pleasures, but the right foods can also be critical health protectors and healers. (Diana´s book A Dietitian´s Cancer Story and her website offer more information about healing food plans.)

The purpose of this article is to invite you to think how you eat and to offer a few tips on eating well as an athlete ... eating healthfully, appropriately and enjoyably. Eating to heal the tiny injuries that occur with each workout. Eating to refuel the muscles and prepare them for the next session. Eating to optimize muscular growth, enhance the immune system, and protect your body from the diseases of aging. I hope the information will inspire you to choose a positive sports diet that repairs your muscles optimally, fuels them energetically, and protects your good health.

Eating Tip #1.   If you have weight to lose, eat; don’t diet.

Diets are oppressive, unrealistic and ineffective. They tend to leave you hungry all day long and you will never win the war against hunger. As a client of mine decreed, “My mother put me on my first diet when I was nine years old, I have gotten fatter and fatter with every successive attempt to lose weight. Diets have made me fat, not thin!”So true. Do not diet!

The best way to control your weight is to eat––wholesome foods, quality calories, protective foods. Starting at breakfast, have a fruit smoothie, oatmeal topped with nuts and honey, multi-grain toast smothered with peanut butter, yogurt with berries and granola. All of these choices are quick and easy, tasty, health protective and energy enhancing. Fear not that you’ll “get fat” eating breakfast. Research indicates breakfast eaters are not only leaner than breakfast skippers, but also have better quality diets overall. Plus, you need a hearty breakfast to fuel your afternoon workout (or refuel your morning workout) and dampen the desire for evening junk food. The best way to lose weight is to eat satiating food; you can feel fed but still lose body fat. See Tips #2 and #3...

Eating Tip #2.  Include more fiber-rich breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables on a daily basis.

Fiber is satiating; it keeps you feeling fed. Think oatmeal, fruit smoothie, fruit on bran cereal, trail mix, fruit salad. Enjoy abundant colorful vegetables––red tomatoes, yellow squash, green beans, orange carrots. Visit the salad bar . Have a pile of stir-fried veggies with brown rice.

Take a break from Frosted Flakes, PopTarts, Oreos, soda pop, even non-essential sports drinks and highly processed energy bars. By eating all the colors of the rainbow, you’ll consume a variety of health protective fibers and phytochemicals that you’ll never find in any vitamin pill, protein powder or gel.

Eating Tip #3.   Eat more nuts and peanut butter.

Nuts add crunch to a meal and substance to a snack. Peanut butter adds oomph to a sports diet. Feared as being fattening, research indicates that people who eat nuts or peanut butter five or more times a week are not fatter than those who stay away from nuts. That’s because nuts offer a satisfying combination of fiber + protein--two substances that abate hunger.

The fat in nuts is health protective. It boosts your immune system and reduces your risk of heart disease and adult-onset diabetes by more than 20%. Healthful fat is an important part of an players diet. Research suggests that runners who boosted their fat intake from a very low fat diet to an average fat intake improved their performance. The researchers believe the additional fat replenished intra-muscular fat stores and provided more fuel for sustaining long workouts.

Instead of snacking on Pringles and Ritz, reach for almonds or peanuts. No hardship there! Enjoy peanut butter & honey sandwiches and PB on multigrain bagels. Even commercial peanut butters like Skippy and Jiff have negligible amounts of the bad (trans) fats that contribute to heart disease. Enjoy this super sports food!

Eating Tip #4. Boost your calcium intake--not only for your bones but also for improving blood pressure and weight management.

Aim for a calcium-rich food at each meal, be it lowfat milk on cereal, yogurt with lunch and/or a decaf latte for an afternoon boost. Eight ounces of yogurt offers 400 milligrams of calcium; 8 ounces of milk, 300. Your target is 1,000 to 1,500 mg/day. Lowfat dairy foods are also excellent sources of high quality, muscle building protein. Eating milk on cereal before a workout or enjoying a chocolate milk afterwards for a recovery food is a perfect way to get a protein-carb combination that enhances muscle growth and repair, as well as optimizes refueling.


If so, here´s a sample sports menu to fuel your good intentions! Adjust the eating times according to your training schedule. The simplest guideline is to have at least three different types of food at each meal.

7:00 am: Oats (raw or cooked) + almonds + milk + banana +latte

11:00 am: Whole wheat wrap + hummus + baby carrots +yogurt

3:00 pm:  Peanut butter + graham crackers + chocolate milk

7:00 pm:  Salmon + brown rice + broccoli + salad/olive oil dressing

Sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS RD is a member of´s advisory panel and counsels casual exercisers and competitive athletes. Her private practice is at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-383-6100). She is author of the best-selling Nancy Clark´s Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Third Edition ($23) and her Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions ($20) Both books have chapters on how to eat well for sports and health. See or send a check to Sports Nutrition Services, PO Box 650124, West Newton MA 02465.


                                                                                           Remember an apple a day, keeps the doctor away!