I remember being a freshman in high school and eating top ramen before athletic practices. I look back at this and my stomach rolls with nausea as I imagine going into a workout today having eaten just pure processed carbs and sodium.
I think game days I took slightly more serious, packing around a water bottle and investing in a Subway sandwich. But still.
Much has changed since the early 2000's though, for both me and you. Think how much easier and abundant information pertaining to improving athletic performance is. Back even when I played at the collegiate and professional level, coaches only knew how to beat you into oblivion rather than educate you on how to achieve optimal performance as an athlete from a holistic approach.
In fact, I wish I could time travel backwards and slap myself upside the head and replace my post game ice cream with a protein smoothie. If I only I could go back knowing what I know now.
Maybe I could of been All-American? Maybe I could of gone to the WNBA?
What I do know, is I was not short of the insatiable hunger to get better. I did everything I possibly could - with being a kid from a small town, on an island in Alaska, with minimal resources and during a time when the Internet was not what it is now - to maximize my potential.
Alas, this article is not about reminiscing about the past, it is to help you know what YOU can do better NOW.
My first experience with dehydration was when I was 8 years old while on a winter vacation with my family.
We were staying at a BnB with an outdoor hot tub, and being from an island where there aren't even stoplights, I thought this was the most luxurious creation in all of the land and didn't want to get out, thereby staying for far too long.
Once I finally clambered out, my shriveled and pruney skin wasn't the only indication I was dehydrated as I started throwing up a few minutes later.
I'm sure you've shared similar experiences in moments where your body slowly gets the water sucked from it during times like sitting in a hot tub or sauna, a long and devastating workout, laying in the sun, binge drinking, or after - potentially even during - an hour hot yoga session.
The culprit of many daily instances, especially when working out, where you feel fatigued, dizzy, nauseous, or just flat out like crap, is probably because you need to drink more water.
In fact, if you know you're a heavy sweater, or have a lengthy or high intensity workout ahead, bring a liquid that includes carbohydrates (5-10%) and the electrolytes potassium, sodium, and chloride.
Why salt (sodium) in your water? It helps fluid regulation by retaining more of the fluid consumed (aka less trips to the bathroom because it's running straight through you!).
The bottom line: be a grape, not a raisin.
2. Eat The Natural Rainbow
Natural food that is bright in color is your easy guide to getting optimal nutrition. Spinach and beets in particular are arguably the two best foods for athletic performance, but other deep colored or vibrant foods like sweet potatoes, squashes, cherries, and blackberries are packed with natural performance boosters.
Kick the capped supplements, powders, and pre-workout crap to the curb and spend that extra money on the produce section at your grocery store.
3. Take Your Recovery And Rest Seriously
A hot topic amongst athletes is how to optimize recovery. I get it, no one likes to feel sore going into a workout, or like the hydrogen ions (sometimes mistakenly referred to as lactic acid) that should be building up in your muscles 30 minutes into the workout has onset and it's only the warm up.
There is a simple solution here, and it's sleep. Everyone has their own optimal number, but typically for most people it's right around 7 to 8 hours.
My uncle, who trained to compete in the Olympics years ago in downhill skiing, would always tell me "an hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after."
Wise words to live by, and boy does it help, you just have to be disciplined enough to do it.
Tip: throw your phone away from the bed so you are not on it before sleep OR checking it in the middle of the night!
4. Supplement Vitamin D
This is a big one for two main reasons: energy and mood (especially during winter months) and calcium uptake. The general rule is to supplement 600 IU twice a day, everyday, to get this important vitamin that nearly half our population is deficient in.
Find out more about Vitamin D from Registered Dietitian Kylie Burns.
5. Don't Overdo The Sugar
DIf you are a soda drinker, your athletic career is a prime time in your life to ditch this bad habit. Your athletic performance, teeth, and digestive system will thank you.
I trained an amazing athlete once, who drank nothing but Sprite, and I about passed out upon hearing this.
This is not to say because he beat human physiology that everyone can get away with this, you are better off without soda or any extra sugar, trust me.
Not only will you avoid the peaks and valleys of energy levels, and completely eliminate your desire for afternoon naps, but your body will begin to run much more efficiently.
Even if you are not an athlete, adopt this into your life! There is so much information on the detriments of sugar coming out in research lately.
One book I would highly suggest is The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung, not even for weight loss purposes, but to understand the physiology of weight gain and disease, and how sugar plays a major role in this.
FACLM, M. G. (n.d.). Whole Beets vs. Juice for Improving Athletic Performance. Retrieved August 22, 2017, from https://nutritionfacts.org/video/whole-beets-vs-juice-for-improving-athletic-performance/
Haff, G., & Triplett, T. (2016). Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning (4th ed.). National Strength and Conditioning Association.
There's nothing like being able to walk up to a local taco truck and grab yourself a batch of tasty tacos; however, when made a habit, this can get a bit heavy on the wallet and calorie count.
It's an important to skill to be able to throw something quick and healthy together, especially when you have a demanding schedule, and tacos are so simple it will have you wondering why you've been relying on your food truck guy all these years.
If you've been doing lunch boxes for your kids, making the same boring sandwiches for your own lunch, aspire to eat healthier but don't know how, or are meal prepping for the week on Sundays only, this recipe is perfect for you!
Simple ingredients, fast assembly time, left overs for the next day, etc. Check this out:
Mains (probably already in your fridge or freezer)
Order of Operations: Quick Assembly
Complete this at any point, could be 5 minutes before cooking or two days.
I pulled my halibut out of the freezer and slightly defrosted it for 10 minutes in lukewarm water. Keeping it partially frozen made cutting it into cubes way easy and I would highly recommend this for whatever protein you chose. Put cubes into a Tupperware container, add olive oil, garlic, a handful of cilantro, juice from half a lime, 1 tbsp. of Johnny's, 1 tbsp. of Fajita seasoning, and pepper to taste. Put the top on, shake everything so it coats evenly, and put into the fridge to take out before you cook.
Wash the fish or chicken gunk off your hands while looking in the mirror and telling yourself you are a gourmet chef and this is going to be the best lunch you've made in awhile. You're totally worth it.
Chop your red and green cabbage, and any other veggies you'd like. Bell peppers, onions, or avocado may be nice! I lightly sautéed my cabbage with a little salt and olive oil to add a bit of flavor and cut down on the bitter cabbagey taste. Put these into their own Tupperware.
I love Tortilla Land's Uncooked Flour Tortillas, so I was willing to spend the extra few minutes cooking these, but with whatever you choose, wrap your tortillas up in foil. You don't want to preassemble everything because then it will all be soggy when you go to eat it later.
Make the easiest yet most amazing cilantro lime sauce you've ever had.
Our bright beautiful sun often gets a bad rap, being associated with depressing things like skin cancer, sun spots, sunburns, and so on.
While those can certainly be byproducts of overexposure to the sun, did you know that one of the most important vitamins in the body is actually produced by the UVB rays from the sun?
Vitamin D is the only vitamin to be synthesized from a source outside of food, but despite its natural abundance on sunny days, deficiency is tremendously high among Americans and many other countries worldwide. So much so, that it would not be outlandish to say that you are likely deficient as well!
According to the Department of Public Health & Social Work (2011), the overall prevalence rate of vitamin D deficiency is 41.6%, with the highest being amongst individuals with darker skin (blacks, 82%; Hispanics 69%).
Why do I need the sunshine vitamin?
Vitamin D is the Robin to calcium’s Batman. When it comes to the bones, uptake of calcium is not possible without Vitamin D.
Low to no Vitamin D, means children are at risk for rickets and adults are at risk for osteoporosis. As research continues, Vitamin D has more potential health benefits than previously thought including its possible role in reducing the risk for cancers, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and infectious diseases (colds/flus, malaria, Hepatitis C, etc.).
You may be more at risk for deficiency if you are overweight, older than 60, do not get sufficient sun exposure, or have a disease that causes fat malabsorption like Celiac’s, Crohn’s, or have been using antibiotics for a prolonged period of time.
Find it in food
On the note of insufficient sun exposure, if you live north of the 40 degrees latitude line (think the border between Nebraska and Kansas), you have a higher risk of being deficient in Vitamin D.
Now if you’re borderline desperate like us Alaskans during the winter, and the sun isn’t on your side, you can take advantage of the fact that there are several foods naturally carrying adequate amounts of vitamin D:
Some food products that have also been fortified with Vitamin D include:
I can tell you this, the likelihood of you reading about any type of supplement endorsement on this website is lower than Shaq’s free throw percentage.
But, if there is one thing you should highly consider supplementing it is Vitamin D. Considering the majority of us are not getting enough of this, supplementation can definitely help bridge the gap!
Every individual will require a different amount, but based on general recommendations form the Institute of Medicine, 600 IU a day of vitamin D may be the magic number.
If you are curious about what your Vitamin D levels and magic number actually are, a simple blood test at your doctor’s office can give you answers!
An evening summer breeze blew off the sea, making the strands of seaweed stuck to the net from last years salmon season wave back at my uncle as he scanned the horizon at the fleet of boats behind him.
This small marine army off the coast of Alaska's Aleutian Chain were eagerly anticipating a radio broadcast announcing the opening of the commercial salmon season.
It was an early morning, 4:30am, but the sun was just coming up illuminating a beautiful pink glow across the sky.
There was a buzz around the boat of the crew's nervous excitement to set the first net and start making the massive amounts of money that had driven them to leave the comfort of their homes in "civilization" to embark an an Alaskan adventure.
They knew this was just the beginning of the first long day in an even longer summer surrounded by the same other two crew members and a demanding captain, all whom would desperately start needing showers after four or five consecutive 16 hour work days.
What makes us Alaskan
For many Alaskans, fishing is a center-point of the summer. Whether it’s recreational, commercial, running a charter, or for subsistence, the majority of folks get out on the water at some point to try their luck.
My childhood was spent either in the island town of Kodiak or the remote fishing village of Chignik Lagoon. You see, my dad and his side of the family grew up on Kodiak Island and he met my mom when he ventured off "the rock" one summer to fish in Chignik, where my mom and her side of the family lived.
At about 33% Aleut, a type of Alaskan Native indigenous to the southwest Alaska, my uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents, parents, and siblings have all cleaned hundreds to thousands of fish during their lifetimes.
In fact, the ability to clean fish well is one of the unspoken criteria my mom checks off on boyfriend approval for yours truly.
Meanwhile, me over here has never cleaned a fish and to be perfectly honest, it gives me the heebie jeebies. Even prepping fish that has already been filleted makes my tummy turn a bit.
I know, it’s ridiculous, especially if you are a Native Alaskan reading this, but don’t judge me! I have strengths in cleaning other things like barbells and dishes.
Reasons to eat wild instead of farmed
Hopefully, you are not as ridiculous as I am when it comes to cleaning and cooking fish, as it has the highest omega-3 content of any food.
Salmon in particular contains more than 4,000mg per serving as well as large amounts of magnesium, potassium, selenium, and B-vitamins.
Farm to table movement
Economy & Community: Fishermen are not fans
Nutrition: Wild salmon are superior
Whether you're a sushi or seafood lover, inquire about your next salmon purchase. Feel free to comment questions, experiences, or concerns!
Environmental Impacts. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2017, from http://www.farmedanddangerous.org/salmon-farming-problems/environmental-impacts/
Flatt, C. (2017, August 29). Why Are Atlantic Salmon Being Farmed In The Northwest?
Retrieved September 13, 2017, from http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/08/29/546803147/why-are-atlantic-salmon-being-farmed-in-the-northwest
Special Committee on Sustainable Aquaculture, Legislative Assembly of the Province of British Columbia, May 2007. Final Report, P.1.
Foran, J.A. D.H. Good, D.O. Carpenter, MC Hamilton, BA Knuth, and S.J. Schwager. (2005). Quantitative Analysis of the Benefits and Risks of Consuming Farmed and Wild Salmon. Journal of Nutrition. 135:2639-2643.
It's incredible to think about how our way of life has completely evolved throughout the centuries. Even just half a century ago, a 28 year old unmarried woman (yes, me) without kids would have been considered an outlier in society.
However, now it is common as many women are choosing to pursue a career-driven path where they can stand on their own two feet before joining forces with another human in holy matrimony.
Yet, centuries ago this was an impossibility, as it was a full time job just to get food on the table!
We now see a complete flip in who we would consider as a societal outlier, and those are the people who can provide for themselves through a "subsistence lifestyle".
This way of life is far more common in Alaska than other parts of the country, as we have incredible geographical boundaries that prevent rural villagers from having access to a grocery store.
My mom's side of the family, for example, lives in the remote village of Chignik Lagoon on the Aleutian chain. They order groceries once, sometimes twice a year in a massive, well planned out freight order.
Luckily for the vast majority of the first world population, we have access to supermarkets and other resources to obtain our food. One option that not many people take advantage of, are U-Pick farms or farmer's markets.
There are massive benefits to hitting up one of these including a higher nutrient content in the food, it simply tastes better, it supports local economies and is way better for the environment.
It is also safer for you, as you can directly ask the farmer what type of pesticides or other crop preservatives they use.
Potatoes get a bad rep due to their high starch content and thus dreaded potential for weight gain. Much like the purple potatoe's step sister, the beet, these little guys are packed with healthy awesomeness for your body.
The crazy Barney-like color of the potato is indicative of its high antioxidant content, which is also found in other powerhouse foods like pomegranates and blueberries.
When you read or hear antioxidant, think immunity boosting and cancer fighting properties. The nutrient power in the purple potato also helps to protect the health and integrity of the capillaries – thereby helping to lower blood pressure – and has significant anti-inflammatory properties.
For all you steak and potato guys and gals, this is good news for you as the high saturated fat content in red meat has the opposite affect on your arteries and causes systemic inflammation.
Next time you are hankering for a steak, try pairing it with purple or sweet potatoes instead of your typical Yukon Gold.
Side note for Paleo folks, the purple potatoes are a maybe on whether they are acceptable or not, if you're worried about it then just go with a sweet potato.
Fish & Autumn Veggie Recipe: Keeping it simple
You can pick out any vegetables you'd like. Common seasonal veggies at the moment are squashes, carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, kale, beets, and radishes.
Surprising Health Benefits of Purple Potatoes. (2017, August 17). Retrieved September 06, 2017, from https://dailyhealthpost.com/suprising-health-benefits-of-purple-potatoes/