The Little Things Matter: A Nutrition Discussion for All Levels

summarized by David DeWinter
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Liz Fusco – Director of Sports Nutrition, USRowing (Web)
Victoria Lambert – Sports and Eating Disorder Dietitian for 20 years (Web)

The 3-Sentence Summary

Fundamentals of sports nutrition can be summed up with the 5 R’s of Recovery: (1) rehydrate after workouts; (2) repair your body with sufficient protein; (3) refuel with carbohydrates; (4) reinforce your diet with fats, colorful foods, and fermented foods; and (5) repeat throughout the day. Our understanding of the impact of overtraining syndrome and RED/S on both female AND male athletes is changing, so it is important to be aware of the signs as both a coach and an athlete. Finally, diet culture and negative comments about people’s weight and appearance are still pervasive in our culture, but there are things you can say and do to change your own beliefs about food and to redirect those comments when you hear them.


2:27 Overview in 3 parts: what hasn’t changed, what is changing, what needs to change.

What hasn’t changed

3:44 Key Themes of Sports Nutrition Principles

  • Not static: Nutrition should be periodized to training just like programs are.
  • Personalized
  • Performance-focused: Enough fuel to meet training energy needs.
  • Energy Availability: Fuel should cover base energy needs.
  • Body Composition: Challenging to measure, sometimes useful. Health is more important.
  • Numbers: Carb, protein needs are expressed as g/kg, not %.
  • Competition: Reduce/delay fatigue in competition setting.
  • Carbs: Brain sensing of carbs can improve short-event performance

Other Webinars by Liz Fusco

8:10 Rehydrate: aim for pale yellow urine color. If you’re struggling, measure your pre/post-exercise weight change. Replace by 1-1.5x the amount of weight you lost.

9:14 Repair: Protein helps rebuild muscle and increases the feeling of fullness through hormones. Target 0.8 – 2 g/kg per day, ~15 – 30 g at once (it must be distributed throughout the day to be absorbed effectively).

12:52 Refuel: Post-exercise carbohydrate refuel. Needs increase with increased intensity and duration of exercise. 2 – 12g/kg/day (doesn’t differ based on age)

Over an hour of exercise means you should be eating during the exercise. (~30g carbs/hr)

Low carb diets shift body to use more fat as a fuel source; however, this restricts our top-end performance (> 80% aerobic capacity).

16:14 Does nutrition differ in warmer vs cooler climates?

Aim for what’s comfortable.

18:42 Diagrams of plates based on the type of training

20:05 Reinforce:

  • Fats: Meet energy needs, reduce inflammation. Feeling of fullness because they delay emptying our stomach–avoid before training
  • Colorful foods: Vitamin, minerals
  • Fermented foods: Improve populations of beneficial bacteria

23:13 Repeat: Example food schedule

  • Simple foods before training session (prefer carbohydrates to fats)
  • Your gut is an athletic organ that takes 7 to 12 days to be trained. Gradually introduce carbohydrates in the morning if you’re not already eating.

27:15 Any difference between eating before strength training and before endurance steady state?

  • Steady state: requires more energy, so make sure to get enough carbs
  • Strength training: Meal timing is very important for recovery especially if you have an endurance session later that day.

What is changing

29:10 Overtraining Syndrome (OTS): Causes serious health consequences; damage can even be permanent

30:16 Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED/S) – similar consequences for both female and male athletes.

31:29 Athletes need to be aware of both of these possibilities as they progress through their training programs. Biological markers:

  • Losing your period (women)
  • Changes in your libido
  • Testosterone changes (men)

32:34 There are several causes: psychological, physiological, behavioral/situational, diet culture.

34:00 Is it still true that eating more times per day keeps insulin higher and helps with controlling weight compared with fewer meals per day?

It depends on the composition of your meal; if you have balanced meals and fiber throughout the day it does improve your insulin resistance.

What needs to change?

36:05 Be aware that being a high-achieving, “tough” athlete can also put you at risk for an eating disorder, even at a subclinical level.

If you’re young, not eating enough will catch up to you, even if you feel fine now.

39:47 New core beliefs:

  • No bad body talk – not yours, not anyone else’s
  • Food has no moral value
  • Food is never something you have to earn

42:11 How to handle negative or critical comments about weight or appearance:

  • Ignore it
  • Change the subject
  • Call it out
  • Respond with vulnerability and ask what for what you need
  • Normalize body changes


45:00 Presenter Contact Info

45:11 Foods that help with lactic acidosis?

No specific foods. Follow good practices we’ve discussed: hydration, protein-based meals, training-dependent carb intake, all day eating (not just post-training).

While you’re training: there are some things–catch up with Liz offline.

46:52 Most cost-effective fuels and non-Eurocentric resources for health and meals?

There are some great dietitians on social media you can follow, and we’re working with STEM to Stern to develop nutrition guidelines that include foods from different cultures.

Break it down to core principles: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, in foods which you enjoy.

49:34 What about staying away from processed foods?

Yes, if you can afford them, but don’t confuse all foods in a box as “processed.” There are a lot of convenience foods in those center aisles that are healthy foods, which are also quick to prepare.

52:54 Recommendations for a competitive rower going through perimenopause with fluctuations in their menstrual cycle?

Keep your blood glucose up – incidence of hot flashes increases when glucose dips below fasting levels.

55:25 Recommendations on vitamins and supplements for masters rowers?

Food first! It’s very individual. The AIS Sports Supplement Framework has recommendations on specific products. (Group A if possible.)

Be very careful if you are subject to drug testing. Not knowing is not an excuse.

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