Easy Snack Packs for Athletes in School

Students and athletes can have a lot of trouble getting in enough calories and nutrients during the day due to demanding class, athletic, and social schedules. The school lunch program does a lot for kids in need, but it does not provide optimal solutions to these athletes who are trying to build muscle. Athletes who want to play college sports should not look to school lunches or vending machines to meet their daytime needs. A snack pack, like the one shown in this video, presents an easy solution to this issue.

  1. Planning ahead. Think about how long you will be gone on certain days and how many snacks you’ll need. About 1,000 calories worth of food is a good start. The goal is to have enough, but not too much. The next step is making the shopping list and actually getting those snacks into your house. This brings us to step 2.
  2. Choosing your snacks. Mix your snacks up in 2 groups, protein+fats in one group, and carbs+veggies in another. Each time you have a snack, choose some from each group. For example, a string cheese (protein/fat) would pair nicely with an apple (carbohydrate) for a balanced snack.
  3. Bag it all up. You can bag up shelf-stable foods ahead of time and add in your fruit and dairy the morning of. Keep it somewhere like your backpack and you’re ready to go!

Athletes in the high schools where I’m from, (Cookeville, TN), have demanding schedules. Many rely on the school lunch program for their daytime nutrition. For these athletes to reach their full potential, they will need to supplement their daytime nutrition with healthier snacks. Also, living in the country usually means longer commutes and more chores at home. Convenience and planning ahead are essential to consider here.

Try some of these snacks for higher protein/fat options

  1. peanut butter
  2. beef jerky
  3. string cheese
  4. boiled eggs
  5. tuna pouch
  6. protein bars
  7. Greek yogurt
  8. cottage cheese packs
  9. individual protein shakes
  10. mixed nuts/trail mix

Try some of these snacks for higher carbohydrate options

  1. bananas, apples, any fruit
  2. fig newtons
  3. pretzels
  4. goldfish crackers
  5. granola bars
  6. apple sauce pouches
  7. fruit gummies
  8. chex mix
  9. banana bread or muffins
  10. bagels

5 Nutrition Tips for New Moms

Nutrition can be tough for new moms. Check out this video for 5 nutrition tips for you and your growing baby.

  1. Breastfeed if possible
  2. Consider taking vitamin supplements
  3. Moderate your caffeine intake
  4. Try quick and easy meals
  5. Try grocery store pickup orders

If you want 1 on 1 nutrition guidance for you and your family, contact us to get started on one of our free programs.

5 Tips for Working with a Dietitian

Working with a Registered Dietitian can be a big decision. At Cookeville Nutrition Experts we want you to get the most out of your efforts. These tips will help you get the most out of your coaching.

  1. Make sure you are working with a Registered Dietitian. The term “nutritionist” is not a legal definition and anyone- qualified or not- can assume that title. Make sure you are working with a RD. Your insurance should also cover some or all of your fees.
  2. Fill out your intake paperwork thoughtfully. Think about your medical history and write down everything that pertains to you and your goals. A better background report helps the dietitian get to work catering the program to your needs.
  3. Record your food intake. A food journal helps the dietitian get a better understanding of your preferences and needs. Its as easy as writing it down or you can use apps, like the one we use with our clients. If you sign up with us, you will be given access to our custom food tracking app.
  4. Be honest- with yourself, and with your dietitian. We won’t judge you. We are are here to help.
  5. Follow through- come to your sessions whether you feel like the past few weeks have been a success or not. We are here to coach you through the tough times too.

Will Insurance Cover My Visits with the Dietitian?

All insurance policies (BCBS, Cigna, Aetna, Humana, United, Medicare/aid, Tenncare, etc.) must cover 100% of at least 3 nutrition counseling visits. Under the ACA guidelines for nutrition counseling as preventive medicine: these sessions have no additional co-pays or charges.

Coverage for additional visits differs for each plan and policy. For example, if you have (pre)diabetes you may qualify for more sessions that are 100% covered.

We can sometimes also squeeze additional free sessions if you are covered for health promotion counseling.

You must check with your provider to find out if you are covered. To do this, call the customer service phone number on the back of your insurance card to speak with a representative.


Call your insurance company and ask these 8 questions

  1. Can you explain my benefits for seeing a registered dietitian?
  2. Does this benefit only cover specific conditions – such as diabetes, obesity, etc.? If so, what is included?
  3. Are any diagnoses specifically excluded from my nutrition benefit?
  4. How many visits am I covered for each year?
  5. Do I need a referral? If so, who can make the referral?
  6. Is there a copay to see a registered dietitian nutritionist?
  7. Are preventive services covered? For example, does my plan cover screening or counseling for obesity?
  8. Given my deductible for the year, including co-pays and co-insurance, what will I need to pay out of pocket to see a registered dietitian?

What if I’m not covered?

What if my co-pay is too high?

If you have a flex-spending account (also called a FSA) you can use it to pay for appointments and co-pays. You will still need to check with your FSA to determine your eligibility for nutrition counseling. Your doctor may be required to sign a letter of medical necessity to use these benefits. A copy of that form can be found here.

If you prefer to pay out-of-pocket, our self-pay fee is $140 per session.

If nutrition counseling does not currently work with your budget we offer a completely free online program for anyone who needs nutritional guidance. Click this link to get started.

Nature’s Blueprint

An approach to training and nutrition that is harmonious with the seasons.

Hiking the 500 mile CT

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The purpose of this writing is to propose a model for a year-long approach to training and nutrition that aligns with the seasons and environment.

I argue that this method makes reaching your fitness goals easier and results in other benefits such as a more sustainable and wholesome food intake.

Ultimately I will challenge you to scrutinize your own approach to fitness with a lens of environmental and seasonal influence. If you are interested in fitness and nature, these ideas may be the strategy you’ve been looking for.

Background

A VERY Brief History of Food and the Modern Health Crisis. Before the invention of modern food preservation people relied heavily on seasonal availability for many foods. The alternative were foods that were dried grains, heavily preserved in salt or subject to other preservation methods that rendered them unpalatable. Fast forward to current day and now cheap food is always available, in 4 different flavors and 3 different sizes. There’s been both positives and negatives in this journey.

As the modern era ushered in a change in our food supply, so too did we see a change in our national health. Obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and other diseases related to lifestyle habits have taken center stage in the health care needs of modernized nations.

What were some of the factors at play that led to this? It is impossible to say, but here are some things I ask you to consider:

  • Many jobs have become less physically demanding and moved indoors in the past 100 years.
  • Modern food science and production along with consumer demand has produced a food supply that is heavily dependent on cheap mono-crops.
  • Giant food corporations are able to dominate multiple media outlets and bankroll local and national policy makers to heavily influence information given to consumers.
  • Many people have no idea where food comes from. The idea of a seed growing in the soil and producing food is a foreign concept.

Your fitness results are, in some part, influenced by environment and culture. When I propose that you harmonize your training and nutrition with the seasons, I am suggesting that this could create an environment that supports better outcomes and a balanced approach to your training. Some benefits of this program include:

  1. Higher vitamin D levels from more sun exposure which promotes immunity and bone health.
  2. Focus on seasonal availability of foods. This tends to result in those foods tasting better, costing less, and having a smaller environmental impact on the planet.
  3. Cyclical focus on aerobics and strength training, and muscle building and fat loss. This gives your body a balance of all the benefits of all types of exercise and nutrition.
  4. A training focus on an outdoor adventure. Using your body as a vehicle to do a long hike, bike ride, climbing trip, or anything where a good power/weight ratio peak during the summer/fall is desired. However, you can modify any training program to meet your own goals if they differ.

Harmony with the Seasons

As you can see in my image above, each season is labeled with a training goal (building muscle, improving aerobic capacity) and a nutrition consideration. Below you can see a chart that describes the level of calorie surplus or restriction that would match with the corresponding goals. By following this model you will (1) eat foods that are fresher and more readily available in season, and (2) follow training goals to maximize use of good weather by having a more aerobic/outdoor focus in the summer and a (3) bodybuilding/indoor gym focus in the winter.

Spring

I grew this lettuce in a raised bed with a 99 cent seed packet

I recommend focusing on (1) fat loss and (2) building aerobic ability in the spring. Also consider that the holiday season around Christmas and the new year has passed so the social pressure to indulge may not be as much of an issue.

Foods available in the spring lend themselves to some lower calorie recipes, which are important to a successful fat loss program. Seasonally available foods in spring typically include:

  • Leafy greens and lettuces
  • Roots like radish and carrots
  • Peas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli & Cauliflower
  • Green onion
  • Strawberries

I personally apply this in my nutrition program by making green smoothies in the morning and big salads for lunch every day during the spring. I grow my own produce so mine comes straight from the garden. Consider starting a couple of raised beds of your own. A few square feet of soil can grow enough salad greens to feed a family of four once they get growing.

Your training program will start incorporating more aerobic exercise in the spring. I recommend this because this will prepare you for summer and fall to pursue outdoor activities. Getting around outside is a lot more enjoyable when you’re not huffing and puffing. The spring may be a rainy season depending on where you live. Your training schedule should be flexible if you’re doing anything outside .

An example routine of such a training program might look like:

  • Monday/Thurs- medium distance run & weight training upper body
  • Tuesday/Fri- air-bike intervals & weight training lower body
  • Wednesday- stretch & rest
  • Sat- long hike/walk
  • Sun- stretch & rest

I can provide details on how to grow some of your own foods, build a training program, and all the nuances another time. But for now, I hope you get the gist of spring which is to (1) shed fat from the previous winter and (2) get your body ready for outdoor activities.

Summer

Summer vegetables are diverse and lend themselves to so many amazing recipes. This time of year is peak harvesting time for:

  • tomatoes
  • squash
  • zucchini
  • cucumbers
  • garlic
  • okra
  • blackberries
  • beets
Here is a typical summer harvest from my garden. FYI pick your zucchini before they get to the size of baseball bats.

During all seasons, I recommend you eat an abundance of fruits and vegetables. Ideally incorporating as much as you can find in-season and local. If you have a garden, you can harvest these veggies for the rest of the growing season right from your yard. If not, try a local farmer’s market if you are able.

At some point in the summer, you should halt your weight loss and focus on maintenance. Enjoy your new body and high level of endurance! Pursue some long hikes or backpacking trips, enjoy a long run exploring a new area, and get outside. Spending more time outside is good for you and could a missing component of your health routine. Vitamin D from the sun, healthier sleep patterns following a circadian rhythm, and a break from the computer world could be just what the doctor ordered.

This is where you will reach your cardiovascular peak. Strength training will be on a maintenance level. Hopefully you pick a big event to pursue sometime in the summer or fall because you’ll be ready for one. I did a 500 mile solo backpacking trip one year and it changed my life! You could do something like that too!

Fall

In the fall, both summer and cool crop vegetables will be available. It is an abundant time of year! Many traditional holidays are featured around a fall harvest for good reason.

Some foods unique to fall include:

  • pumpkin
  • butternut squash
  • acorn squash
  • sweet potato
Pepper lost her ball and decided one of the pumpkins I was growing would make a good alternative.

As fall transitions into the rainy season, I recommend slowly increasing calories and shifting your focus to building muscle. After the first hard freeze, most fresh produce will have to be shipped or grown in a greenhouse. Either way, a lot of fresh produce is typically more expensive and lower quality in the winter.

Could now be the time to start focusing on increasing calories? I argue yes, the stars are aligned. Consider that during the fall and winter:

  • more high calorie foods are available related to the holidays
  • longer nights and colder days makes indoor training more appealing this time of year- why not lift weights?

Over the years, I have worked with 1000’s of athletes and clients and I have noticed a trend that people have more trouble losing weight over the holiday season. Think about what some of your favorite fall/winter foods are. Are these typically higher or lower calories? My case is this- embrace the cold weather and the abundance of calories and build some muscle this time of year.

Winter

Winter concludes the training cycle and the growing season. During the middle of winter I recommend having your most intense phase on building muscle and keeping your aerobics on a minimum or maintenance level. This will give balance to your overall training program. Now you are taking care of your heart, lungs, brain, muscles, joints, and bones- your entire body. Weight and muscle gain should be slow and controlled- about 0.5 to 1.0% of your body weight per week (about 1 pound per week for most people).

I like to train for powerlifting in the winter. Sometimes I may even compete!

Fundamentals of Successful Training Programs. One of the strength coaches I used to work with in college athletics used to keep his entire training program in a little black book. Handwritten. He carried it around everywhere, and for good reason. His training program was the blueprint to helping his athletes reach their long-term strength & conditioning goals.

Periodization is a term used to describe a long-term physical training program that focuses on different goals at different times of the year in order to prevent plateaus in progression and prevent injury.

In other words, periodization is a training program that:

  • makes you progress at something (weight, reps, speed, etc.) over time
  • prevents you from hurting yourself from overuse
  • mixes up your individual workouts enough to challenge you and keep it fun
  • spends some time of the year bringing up your weak areas
  • ultimately focuses on one big goal (strength, size, performance) in the big picture
  • includes a diet strategy to maximize all of your efforts

An example of a bodybuilding routine I created for myself one winter can be found here.

Conclusions

The application of nutrition and training is an art and a science. This method is informed by the science of periodization and nutrition science but the application and harmony with the growing seasons is my artistic touch. This comes from my background as an outdoors-man, sports dietitian, gardener, and lifelong lover of food and philosophy.

I also hope that you can scrutinize your own training plan and compare it to the one I have proposed to you. Do you go with or against the flow? Do you have balance in your training throughout the year? Do you get a variety nutrient dense foods throughout the year? There’s a lot more to nutrition than just calories and macros. Spend the extra time to make something work with your rhythm.

Should you follow a nutrition and training philosophy like this? If you think you’re up to the challenge, I welcome you to try my methods. If you found any of this interesting, please let me know. I’d be willing to compile more info and data into an e-book for a “how-to” version of many of the topics discussed here.

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear your feedback or how you’ve applied some of this principles for yourself.

Additional resources you may find interesting:

  • The Townsends– A youtube channel dedicated to history of food and historical recipes.
  • Food in History– Reay Tannahil. A great book on… the history of food from cavemen to modern day.
  • Mike Israetel A strength guru you should probably listen to if you want to learn in-depth about periodization
  • Planting Calendar– from the Farmer’s Almanac if you want to try growing some of your own food
  • Alan Aragon– a sports nutritionist who is does a great job of explaining nutrition science to the public

Garden recap this summer

I hate those blog and recipe posts where you read about someone’s life story before they get to the point.

  • I grew most of my plant-based foods this summer (grocery bill was cut in half)
  • It was enjoyable but a lot of hard work
  • I made a lot of mistakes
  • I will do things differently next year and it should make things easier
  • I started a garden club and would like to expand on it

Foods first but supplement now

When I teach a “food first” approach to sports nutrition this does not mean that supplements are added to an athlete’s diet at some point in the distance future. Fact is that most people could benefit from taking some supplements right now even if they didn’t change one thing about their diet. Foods first means that it’s the big project. It’s what we spend most our time on. Realizing that food choices has to do with many factors spanning from beliefs, to budget, to proximity, and health considerations are but one factor. Food first means an athlete is still a human being and may very well raise a family someday and the food habits and lifestyle is something that spans far beyond the extra rep that supplementing creatine or beta alanine yields. So yes, “foods first” because supplements can only do so much to help a poor diet- but they still help and there’s no reason why we can’t supplement now.

What are your thoughts and what does a “foods first” approach mean to you?

 

3 day hike in the Smoky Mnts

I had a chance this summer to go on a 3 day hike through the Smokies with my friend Dan. Dan and I met on the Colorado trail thru hike and he’s been traveling the world as a backpacker ever since.

The vegetation was lush and there were many wild flowers and mushrooms along the way. I’m looking forward to going back soon to try foraging for food and fishing the rivers.

img_4747

We did about 40 miles in total. This was my first 3 day hike using a hammock and tarp set up instead of sleeping on the ground in a tent. I am hooked. I don’t think I will ever go back to sleeping on the ground if I can help it. I’ll do a gear list and backpacking techniques post eventually, for now I’m just getting this blog started.

For now, I can tell you that I do not believe you need an expensive hammock or tarp set up to dwell in a quality shelter on the trail. I’ve taken this set up on a few other trips. One of which caught me in a 5+ hour rain storm.

  • a small travel umbrella
  • 12′ square tarp KELTY NOAH brand
  • a $30 hammock I bought off Amazon
  • some paracord and a few good knots

I stayed dry as a bone, slept comfortably, and had a quick set up and take down. A few advantages that I found with a hammock set up:

  • better sleep and less back pain in the morning
  • when you have to wake up and piss in the middle of the night, you can just lean over the side of the hammock and do your business. I can’t tell you how much nicer that is than getting out of your sleeping bag and tent to accomplish this.
  • more room- you can raise your tarp up as high as you want and the 12′ square means I could have a party under there
  • the hammock can be used as a swinging chair- very nice to sit back in

 

Overall this trip really inspired me to get started section hiking the Appalachian Trail. While I loved living in Texas, Tennessee offers me the nature I’ve been missing in my life.

If you have any suggestions for trails to check out in my area, let me know! Also, I could use some help identifying those mushrooms. I know the orange one is a chicken of the woods, but I’m not sure about the other ones. Let me know what you think!