Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook
By: Jordana Kagan
As athletes we live on the cutting edge of fitness. In order to thrive we need to fuel our body with the best foods possible. In the Fourth Edition of her book, Nancy Clark elucidates the basic aspects of nutrition that athletes need in order to achieve optimal performance.
Clark delineates each food group in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Pyramid, and highlights the role each group plays as both a nutrient and a fuel for activity. By explaining the functions of grains, vegetables, fruits, oils, milk, and meat & beans Clark empowers the athlete to make the best selections possible, and encourages experimentation as each person responds differently to the various food options.
Her blanket recommendation is to eat three (if not more) of the food groups at every meal. Further, Clark maintains that “to fully fuel your muscles, you need to consume carbohydrate as the foundation of each meal.” She recommends eating carbohydrates and proteins in a 3:1 ratio especially after a workout since “Carbohydrate stimulates the release of insulin, a hormone that helps build muscles as well as transports carbohydrate into the muscles to replenish depleted glycogen stores.” Additionally, “Carbohydrate combined with a little protein (approximately 10-20 g) creates an even better muscle refueling and rebuilding response, and it reduces cortisol, a hormone that breaks down muscle.” This reasoning suggests that those of us who need to make weight before a competition would do well to carefully consider food choices rather than cut carbs completely.
For instance, chickpeas have the ideal carbohydrate-protein ratio (3:1). Therefore, 150 calories of chickpeas will do more for your body than 150 calories of chicken breast even though there is more protein in the chicken. By adding a spinach salad with some grated cheese and a fruit an athlete could eat perfectly engineered meal (potentially under 300 calories, if he is concerned about pounds) and maximize his protein absorption and muscle replenishment. The Guidebook provides dozens of tasty recipes for those who are interested in maximizing the benefits of their food intake. And while the author clearly advocates for real food, she does address sports drinks and supplements as potential alternatives for busy athletes who don’t have time to prepare meals. Overall, Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook is essential reading for any athlete who wants to rethink eating and achieve a new level of fitness.