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The Importance of Proper Digestion for an Athlete

The Importance of Proper Digestion for an Athlete

We aren’t what we eat, rather we are what we absorb.

The digestive system is the foundation for all other processes that take place in the body. What we put into our body is what is mainly responsible for our energy, mood, performance, and overall wellness. In today’s age, there is a huge disconnect between what we put into our body and how that can affect our overall health. Poor nutrition, and even further, poor DIGESTION are major contributors to chronic disease.

I believe that proper digestion is the root to optimal health and here’s why: digestion begins in the brain. The brain signals saliva to be produced when we begin to chew food. Our saliva contains different enzymes that begin the breakdown of food. Chewing your food THOROUGHLY is extremely important for proper digestion. Ideally, we should chew each bite around 20-30 times (the average is 4). Chewed food becomes what is called a bolus that is swallowed and moved through the esophagus and down to the stomach.

WHEN DIGESTION IS OPTIMAL, adequate stomach acid is secreted in addition to pancreatic enzymes that further break down the bolus into a substance called chyme. Chyme is extremely acidic as it moves from the stomach into the small intestine. Once in the small intestine, the acidity of the chyme becomes more neutral thanks to additional enzymes that are secreted, as well as bile from the gallbladder. These are to further breakdown proteins and fats. MOST NUTRIENT ABSORPTION OCCURS IN THE SMALL INTESTINE. What is left from the chyme is passed through the large intestine where any remaining usable nutrients and water are absorbed before being excreted from the body.

This is why a properly functioning digestive system is essential to optimal health and performance. Every single thing we eat goes through this process. We can eat the healthiest diet, but if we are not digesting properly then we are not absorbing all of the nutrients our body needs.

As an athlete, we need a proper balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates because we expend a lot of excess energy during workouts. In addition, we may also need to consume more calories to adequately replenish our glycogen stores, repair damaged muscles, nourish the body and maintain general health. The digestive tract of an athlete is put under more stress than that an individual who does not regularly train. This is why it is incredibly important that as an athlete, we have a strong digestive system to break down food properly for optimal absorption of its nutrients within the body.

Tips to improve digestion:

  1. Chew food thoroughly. Ideally 20-30 chews per bite.
  2. Eat in a relaxed state. Sit down to eat your meals without any distractions as this will let the body solely focus on the process of digestion.
  3. Drink warm lemon water before meals. This is very soothing to the digestive tract in preparation for eating and the acidity of the lemon may help with stomach acid production.
  4. Try not to consume liquids during meals. Small sips of water are okay, but avoid chugging drinks as this can dilute stomach acid.
  5. Eat a properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole food diet. In addition to the macro-nutrients, whole foods provide many micro-nutrients such as vitamins and minerals.

 

Eating Seasonally

Eating Seasonally

Eating seasonally is a great way to mix up your meals with fresh, in-season produce. Seasonal produce is purchased and consumed shortly after it has been harvested, and therefore when it is most nutritious. Even better, seasonal produce that is produced/purchased locally does not require long transport times and has moved from farm to table in a shorter amount of time.

Choosing local produce also has it’s own benefits:

  1. Beneficial to our local environment.
  2. Supports our local economy.
  3. We are able to get to know our local farmers and growers who can tell us how their products are grown and raised.

Produce that is in season right now (early September) in North Dakota:

  • Apples
  • Asian pears
  • Basil
  • Beets
  • Bok choy
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cantaloupe
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Celery root
  • Chard
  • Chicories
  • Chili Peppers
  • Chives
  • Collard greens
  • Corn
  • Cucumbers
  • Eggplant
  • Endive
  • Garlic
  • Grapes
  • Green beans
  • Green onions
  • Ground cherries
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Lima beans
  • Melons
  • Mint
  • Mushrooms
  • Mustard greens
  • Okra
  • Onions
  • Oregano
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Peppers
  • Potatoes
  • Pumpkin
  • Radicchio
  • Raspberries
  •  Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Shallots
  • Sprouts
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Thyme
  • Tomatillos
  • Tomatoes
  • Turnips
  • Watermelon
  • Winter squash
  • Zucchini

If you haven’t been to the Red River Farmer’s Market on Saturdays from 10 AM – 2 PM, I would highly recommend checking it out! Get to know the growers and support the local community. Plus, the produce there ROCKS!

4 Ways to Keep Summer Simple

4 Ways to Keep Summer Simple

The summer can sometimes be a roll of the nutrition dice.

You may have a summer full of travel, outdoor parties, and schedule inconsistencies. These types of summers are memorable but can make it hard to stay on track with nutrition. Or, you may have a summer with a lighter workload, no school commitments, and a lot of extra time to commit to fitness and nutrition.

Regardless of the type of summer you have, there is no reason to stray from your plan for an extended period of time. After all, you do not want to reverse all of the amazing progress you have made so far.

Here are 4 ways to enjoy your summer and events, while still maintaining your progress and building healthy habits.

  1. Continue to track in MyFitnessPal:  People who track are more likely to stay on track. Don’t avoid entering meals if you “went over.” That’s okay! Have your treat and move on, but be aware of where you are.
  2. Eat vegetables first: For every meal, continue to fill up on vegetables first. By doing this, you consume fewer calories in the long run.
  3. Plan ahead for travel meals: If you are traveling, think about meals ahead of time. Pack non-perishable snacks such as RX Bars, turkey jerky, and whey protein. Make sure you always have a quick snack for when you are hungry.
  4. Monitor your alcohol intake: Keep an eye on the amount of sugar in your drinks. Avoid sugary, premixed drinks and stick to clear liquors or wine. This will help cut your sugar and calorie intake.

If your summer means a shift in your routine, use it to your advantage. How can you use this opportunity to build good habits?

What’s Next After the Nutrition Challenge?

What’s Next After the Nutrition Challenge?

Reflecting on the past four weeks of the Partner Nutrition Challenge and they have been filled with accountability, support, recipe sharing, food photos, trying new things, crushing goals, and creating new habits.

ALL AMAZING THINGS.

Are you wondering about what’s next? How to keep the momentum going after the challenge and building on the healthy habits you’ve worked so hard to create may be some things that you are starting to think about and game plan for.

The number one best option for you to continue to hit your goals and progress forward is Ongoing Nutrition Coaching.

Typically, in order to move forward with ongoing coaching, you need to complete an initial nutrition package, however all challenger participants can use the challenge as their initial package and jump right in to ongoing coaching as soon as the challenge is complete.

What is included in Ongoing Nutrition Coaching:

  1. 1-on-1 support from me, Coach Anna.
  2. Individualized macro goals based on your unique, individual needs.
  3. Virtual check-ins every other week.
  4. In-person check-ins and biometric testing one time per month.
  5. Food journal sharing.
  6. Text and email access to me outside of appointments.
  7. Specialized plans to hit your weight loss or performance goals.
  8. Additional reference materials.
  9. Individualized nutrition education.
  10. Goal setting sessions every 4 weeks to ensure you hit your goals and plan new ones once you do.

We have two different pricing options for our ongoing nutrition program at Icehouse. You can either add it on to your existing membership OR you can switch over to our brand-new Wellness Membership. The Wellness Membership includes unlimited fitness classes + ongoing nutrition coaching. If you are already an unlimited member, the Wellness Membership is the way to go because it will save you some cash money each month.

The momentum has been so damn strong throughout this challenge, so why stop when it ends?! Schedule your first 1-on-1 nutrition coaching appointment with me today!

Five Health Benefits of Sleep

Five Health Benefits of Sleep

Sleep makes us feel better.

Whether it is a good nights’ sleep or a nap throughout the day, sleeping improves our mood and refreshes our energy. Getting enough sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and there are a host of benefits to our hearts, minds, weight, and more.

Below are five health benefits of getting adequate sleep and why we should strive to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.

  1. Sharpens our brain function. During the day we are constantly overstimulated with thoughts and information that we don’t have time to properly store new memories. Sleep lets our brains catch up on that process, so we are better able to receive and retrieve information.
  2. Boosts our mood. Along with not properly storing information during the day, we also do not properly process our emotions. Being overwhelmed and on-the-go during the day doesn’t leave us much room to sit and think about how we are feeling at a given moment. Sleeping gives us the down time to recognize what we are feeling and react appropriately. A good nights’ sleep can help us bounce back from a bad day, improve our outlook on a situation, and leave us better prepared to face the accompanying challenges.
  3. Healthier heart. When we sleep our blood pressure decreases and this gives our hearts and blood vessels time to rest a bit. The longer we are awake the longer our blood pressure is elevated. Chronic high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, including stroke.
  4. Increased athletic performance and weight control. Proper sleep sets us up for physical performance. During the time we are sleeping our muscles have the chance to recover and repair. Sleep also heightens our motivation and gives us the energy to perform better. Sleep deprivation messes with our hunger hormones– leptin and ghrelin– which control our appetite. When these are out of balance we have a harder time saying no to unhealthy foods and when we are tired we have a harder time getting up to exercise. These go hand in hand with weight gain.
  5. Regulates blood sugar. During the deep part of our sleep, our blood glucose level drops. Lack of sleep and not spending enough time in a deep sleep means that we don’t get that drop in blood sugar. This drop in blood sugar is important to reset our hunger hormones and let our bodies fast to clear excess sugars and digest our food from the night before completely. As we all know, consistently elevated blood sugar leads to metabolic diseases, such as Type II Diabetes.

Here are a few tips to help you sleep better at night and ensure you get adequate rest:

  1. Establish a night-time routine. Wash your face and brush your teeth prior to bed. Allow your body and mind to wind down sending signals that it is getting close to bedtime (i.e. read a book, listen to soothing music). Go to bed at a set time each night and stick to it.
  2. Keep electronics out of bed. Easier said than done, but the blue light produced from electronic screens suppresses the body’s natural ability to produce melatonin, an important hormone for sleep.
  3. Set up your sleeping space for optimal rest. Invest in a mattress pad or silk sheets. Turn on a fan or noisemaker to block out any sounds. Make your room as dark as possible. Associate your sleeping space with a sense of tranquility.
  4. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon. The effects of caffeine can take six to eight hours to wear off, so make sure you aren’t drinking caffeinated beverages that amount of time prior to when you go to sleep.

Sleep is so important, so make sure you take the time to make it a priority. Your body will thank you for it!