Meet Alex Caspero
Alex Caspero is a Registered Dietitian, Plant-Based Chef and Yoga Instructor. She aims to cut through the nutrition noise by providing real-life, nourishing tips for body and mind. Learn more about Alex.
Oh, I am so excited to dive into today’s topic. I tend to talk mostly about food and happy weight, but one of my earliest career passions is actually sports nutrition. Even though I am probably the most uncoordinated person (confirmed by my husband on a daily basis), I really love to move. Whether that’s a quick walk after dinner, a long run, spin class or dance, I always feel more empowered, energized and happy after a good sweat session. Much like my happy weight journey, it’s only been in the last decade that I’ve really come to appreciate exercise for what it is: me time. In the past, I used to be obsessed with finding the hardest, toughest workouts only to feel depleted afterwards- body and mind.
I’ve taught group exercise for as long as I can remember; beginning with Jane Fonda style aerobics in high school, then college and a decade later, at a local spin studio and University. In my exercise journey, I’ve become a certified personal trainer, registered yoga teacher and hold a masters degree in exercise science. I’ve counseled pros, D1 athletes, weekend warriors and first-time exercise enthusiasts.
But, you don’t need those letters and degrees to understand that exercise is important. When I taught nutrition for health, I used to begin the wellness topic with a slide that showed 100 benefits of exercise- none of which dealt with appearance. I think that’s a really important place to begin because I love exercise for movements sake- because it clears my mind, sharpens my focus and makes me feel good from the inside out. It took a long time for me to approach exercise this way, instead of being so goal obsessed- with calorie burns, muscle definition and weight loss.
Honestly, I think this approach is what has made exercise a continued part of my life. Like any habit, if you don’t love it, you aren’t going to sustain it long-term. I know that exercise needs to be part of my everyday routine, so I better enjoy it! When I focus on calorie burning, appearance and efficiency, it stops being fun. When I focus on how good I feel when I move, then I find myself looking forward to my exercise time.
If I could sum up sports nutrition in a few sentences it would be this: quick-digesting carbs are helpful before exercise (since muscles prefer glucose for energy) and post-workout nutrition should include a good source of protein, quality carbs and antioxidants.
I’m going to skip over the pre-workout discussion for now and focus just on post-workout nutrition. Generally, post-workout nutrition has three specific purposes: replenish glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in muscle and liver cells), decrease protein breakdown and increase protein synthesis.
When you exercise, your body uses stored energy (glycogen) to power you through your activity. When you’re finished, you need to then replenish those nutrients that are lost, in addition to protein for muscle repair. You’ll usually see recommendations of 3:1 carbohydrates to protein for optimal muscle repair and recovery, but I don’t think it has to be that rigid. Unless you are training for a specific event, the rules are much more relaxed. For most of us, having a snack that contains both carbohydrates and protein is efficient, ideally within 20-30 minutes of exercising.
When I work with non-athlete clients, I usually like to time this around a natural meal. So, for instance, if you are working out in the morning, then use the breakfast meal as a post-workout meal. If you prefer to sweat it out in the evening, then make dinner your post-workout meal. Most of us do a good job of including these foods in our regular meals anyways, it’s just a matter of optimal timing and choosing optimal quality.
What I love most about sports nutrition is that it can really make a difference, even for those who are casual exercisers. Good post-workout nutrition can improve recovery, decrease muscle soreness, increase ability to build muscle, improve immune function and improve the ability to utilize body fat stores. These benefits seem to work for everyone, regardless of gender or age, though these benefits and mechanisms tend to increase the more conditioned you are.
As I mentioned above, post-workout nutrition is so much more than just protein. Years ago, when I worked as a fitness coordinator, my office was in the middle of a University gym. It was in many ways the best –and worst– place to work. I loved that I could walk out of my office and start moving, but hated the loud music and the constant distractions. As a natural people watcher, I was able to pick up on the many post-nutrition food habits of frequent gym-goers. Namely, the protein powder shaker bottle. Guy after guy (sorry to stereotype, but it’s true) would open up their bottle, put in the powder, fill with water, shake and sip. Well, post-workout nutrition is so much more than that.
First off, recovery nutrition requires a balance of both protein and carbohydrates as evidenced above. Protein alone is less efficient than combing both protein and carbohydrates, so make sure you are including a source of each. I like to take things even further by adding in a healthy does of antioxidants as well since exercise does create oxidative stress. If you’re already doing this with your meals, high five. Keep doing what you are doing.
However, I know that when it comes to post-workout eating, whole food meals aren’t always practical. When I used to work in an office, my post-workout breakfast had to be grab and go since I didn’t have the capacity to prepare a sit-down meal. I turned to bars, smoothies and overnight oatmeal jars to keep me satisfied and nourished.
If you’re like me, you want all the benefits of a post-workout meal in an easy to consume way. That’s where KURA comes in. Not only does it taste delicious (seriously, I have never said that about a protein powder before) it’s also packed with everything I want in a post-workout meal: 14g of protein, 19g of carbs, 5g of fiber, probiotics, antioxidants and omega-3s. While I occasionally enjoy it plain as a snack, I usually like to add in some more fruits, vegetables and nutrient boosters to round out my meal.
Gingerols, compounds in ginger root, act as potent anti-inflammatories that help in recovery. Coconut water adds extra potassium, perfect for electrolyte loss. Ground flaxseed adds extra fiber for fullness.
Sports nutrition is so delicious! Let me know what questions you have about sports nutrition in the comments below. I’d like to continue with this topic so if there’s something you want to chat about- let’s do it!
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