Does your Kid need a Premium Sports Drink?

The short answer: most of the time, they don’t need a sports drink, premium or not!

When there’s money to made, lots of companies are willing to jump into the ring to compete which leads to more marketing designed to convince us we need something we really don’t.  Case in point, as of 2013, sports drinks are a $6.9 billion market  and new companies are looking to take down the old standbys at every turn.

Fooducate recently reviewed one such sports drink aimed at making parents feel better about their kids’ sports drink options.

Fooducate’s review on the pros and cons of this particular sports drink are worth hopping over to the site to read.

What strikes me most is how, again and again, I see parents feeling compelled to give their kids (and themselves) sports drinks for fear the athlete will not recover from a game or training session without them.  Serving up 9 teaspoons of sugar, these drinks are not a positive for athletes unless they’ve really expended a lot of energy or lost a number of pounds of fluid.  Honestly, most of us just aren’t training for that long at that high of an intensity.

The threshold for sports drink usage is above 60 minutes of intense exercise (with the common sense caveat of high heat/high humidity conditions will make this time shorter). Under the 60 minute threshold, with normal environmental conditions, where, let’s be honest, most kids train and compete most of the time, water and fruit will work just fine to rehydrate and replenish any lost electrolytes.  Plus, let’s face it, the fruit is going to give the athlete fiber, vitamins, minerals and a mindset that real food is a better alternative to manufactured food.  A neon blue sports drink just can’t compete with that!

Ultra-hyped sports products almost never live up to their performance promises.  While your athletes may not have to worry about the obesity crisis in the same way other kids do, you still want to give them the tools that will best serve them well into adulthood.  Learning the importance of rehydrating with water and refueling with fruit is one of the lessons that will help them maintain their athletic abilities long into the future.

For more information on sports drink guidelines, check out this great guide from the American College of Sports Medicine!


You are not a Machine

More, bigger, faster remains the prevailing mantra in most organizations.

Machines have no interior life and they can run continuously, for long periods of time, on a single source of energy. Human beings are designed to pulse between spending and renewing energy.  –T. Schwartz

How many times have you heard and used the machine comparisons as it relates to your body and your performance.  We use them all the time — talking about being more efficient, fueling, performance, limits…you name it.  But, guess what? You body isn’t a machine.  It has mechanical functions, electrical circuits, it is subject to physics, and it can be taken apart and put back together…all like a machine.  But there’s something else….something magic we don’t understand that really pulls it all together and makes it come alive.

And what is that magic?  Your spirit, will, consciousness…we have different words for it but whatever we call it, we can’t forget it in our quest to be great.

Are you actively cultivating renewal for this magic part of yourself? Rest, playing, ensuring time with family and friends even when training demands are high?  Foods more closely aligned with comfort than performance? Days on the couch watching TV in sweatpants not designed to wick?

As our culture, both in sport and in general, continues to push the mantra of bigger, faster, more, the drive for continual improvement will end up at injury, or worse, burnout, if we don’t remember this important fact:

We are not machines.

We need rest, renewal, comfort, and non-competitive social interactions.  If this is not a staple in your training plan, both in the office and at the gym, you’ll never be as great as you could be because you do not have a clear vision of what you really are.

To eat or not to eat…

As I read through my blog list this morning, two of the posts discussed whether it is better to eat before your workout or workout in a fasted state.  I find it interesting that two performance coaches are writing about this today and, ironically, I am not any more informed now than I was.  Why?? Well, like so many truisms of sport, these articles reached opposing conclusions.

This study from researchers in Belgium found exercising in a fasted state creates muscular adaptions which improve glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. (Which means many a popular article will start with the title “Fasted Exercise: the quicker way to reach your goals!!”)

While this article (although admittedly less structured and not published as a formal study) offers up the conclusion “Exercising in a fasted state does nothing to improve fat loss”.

I’m sure, with a little bit of searching, I could find similar reports on as many outcomes for fasted v. non-fasted training as I had the desire to read.  And what does this mean for you and your training program?

First, circle back to your training goals — what are you trying to achieve?  If you are overweight and looking to boost your fat burning skills (yes, fat burning is a skill that needs to be developed), fasted v. fed is a less important question for you than if you are struggling to maintain healthy glucose ranges.

Other athletes may not be concerned with efficient fat burning or glucose management but may really want to focus on building muscle, improving their mid-intensity endurance or some other specific goal.

There is no single answer to a question as simple as which is better: fasted or fed.

Like all training plans, your answers need to be based in science but specific to what you are really trying to accomplish.  It may take some digging and some experimenting to determine how your body responds, how you feel, and what gives you the best results.  Part of this is going to feel a little bit like art — the part where you’re logging fatigue and exertion levels — and part science — reading or consulting with professionals to make sure your training practices are consistent with the most current scientific research to help you reach your goals.

Don’t shortchange yourself by looking for the one-size-fits-all answer!  Make sure the article titles you are reading really apply to the goals you are trying to achieve.

Apps to keep you safe!

Technology is so cool — especially when it helps us live better.  With 1300+ Borgess Run Campers taking to the streets to train for one of the Borgess Run for the Health of It/Kalamazoo Marathon events, this article from Runner’s World is especially well timed.

Check it out to find out what you need to know about four apps:

  1. Kitestring
  2. RoadID
  3. bSafe
  4. ReactMobile

These apps are designed to help keep you safe when you’re out on your runs.

Remember: work smarter, not harder and stay safe out there!!

Life improves Sports improves Life

Sports have a powerful impact on how we view life – which in turn impacts how we perform in sport.  This powerful connection can be used for the positive (sportsmanship, teamwork, increasing our sense of responsibility to others) or to the negative (win at all costs, watch out for number one, it’s all about me because I’m the star).

Tim Elmore has written an interesting post on how athletic principles can be expanded into larger life context. His basic ideas are:

  1. Life is a team sport
  2. Life is a contact sport
  3. Life is an aerobic sport

From these principles, he builds a strong case for rethinking how we create leaders both in sport and in life.

“Great athletes and, for that matter, great people in general, understand these truths about life. They reach the summit because they do it together, they expect to get bumps and bruises along the way, and they build a sustainable pace.” –Tim Elmore

In an age of increasing screen time, helicopter parenting, and a more me-first/me-only attitudes, creating an environment where leadership development thrives may take a little more thought, planning, and hard work than before.




6 Tips for Finding your Performance Coach

Coaches have the ability to build you up and move you to a higher level than you previously thought possible.  But…pick the wrong coach and you could be signing up for injuries, burnout, and decreased performance.  How can you really know which way that pendulum is going to swing?  Here are a couple tips to help you make an educated and informed decision.

1. Your coach should listen to you.  You live in your body 24/7 and have access to all sorts of feedback information.  Your coach should be asking you as many questions as he or she is giving commands.

2. Your philosophies should align.  Any professional coach is going to have a basic coaching philosophy.  Although you and your coach may not see eye to eye on every philosophical point, you are paying this person for their guidance.  If you are fighting their philosophy every time you train with them you are wasting a lot of energy that could be put into training.

3. Your coach should exhibit respect — to you, to athletes who do not train with them — to everyone.  Your coach is a professional and as such, should exhibit professionalism and respect to everyone with whom they interact.

4.  They should be focused on the fundamentals.  Even well-trained athletes can lose their form if they are not mentally engaged in their training.  Your coach should be coaching you through each phase of your training — encouraging and pushing, yes, but more importantly coaching you through the basic adjustments of your form that will improve your training outcome.  You’re not paying them to watch you while you hear about their weekend — they should be keeping you focused on the task at hand.

5.  A coach is only as good as his or her ability to set goal for you.  A great coach knows how to balance making you work for a goal with its attainability.  Set goals that are too easy and the athlete will get bored.  Set goals that are too difficult and the athlete gets frustrated.  With consistent hard work, goals should be challenging but attainable in a reasonable timeframe.

6. A good coach will focus on what you should be doing — not what you should avoid doing.  The words a coach uses creates the images an athlete carries around.  For any skill, the list of what NOT to do is very long and concentrating on those points will not get you to the next performance level.  Your coach’s communication should support the skills he or she is teaching.

When picking a performance coach, remember they are the expert but you are the customer.  While they should be more knowledgeable than you (after all, that is what you’re paying them for), it is critical that this is a person you can work with, understand, and communicate with.  Part of that is your responsibility — don’t settle for less of a coach than you deserve.

Making better Nutrition Decisions

A couple weeks ago, we talked about the marketing scam of “all-natural” and how that doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as healthy.  With the New Year under way, we can expect a BIG push for health and performance advertising aimed at those of us seeking to blow past last year’s PR’s.  It’s time to get past the hype — there are no shortcuts to success.

When talking about getting back to basics, the FDA is helping out by refining what information is going to be available to us on our nutrition labels.  Proposed changes to the current nutrition label are expected to be finalized this year and fully implemented by food manufacturers by 2017.


Among the proposed changes, serving sizes will change to more accurately reflect portion size for the average American.  Hopefully, revising the misleading 2-servings in your Chocolate Milk Chug (at 220 calories per serving) will morph into the total calories for the 1 pint container because, honestly, who has the discipline to stop drinking that deliciousness half way through the bottle??

Anther important bit of information we can expect to see is the amount of Added Sugar broken out into its own category.  This will improve our grasp on, for example, how much sugar has been added to our yogurt versus how much sugar is naturally occurring in the fruit added to it by the manufacturer.  This will make picking our foods a easier, as we are able to check sugar facts between brands.

We can also expect to see changes to the bolded type and information allowed on the front of the packaging.  This is the information we are most likely to see even if we don’t take the time to read the label.  All in all, these update should help us make better decisions about the foods we chose to fuel our performance.



What you see effects your performance

goRecent research discovered “athletes undergoing endurance exercise who were presented with positive subliminal cues, such as action-related words, including ‘go’ and ‘energy’, or were shown happy faces, were able to exercise significantly longer compared to those who were shown sad faces or inaction words.

The words and faces appeared on a digital screen — placed in front of the athlete — for less than 0.02 seconds and were masked by other visuals, meaning they were unidentifiable to the participant’s conscious.”

This research underscores the importance of how our subconscious impacts the effort we will put into a task.  Positive talk and positive images (at both the conscious and unconscious level) hugely impact the limits to which we can push ourselves.  Since most athletes acknowledge the importance of our mindset in overall performance, use of this research can be one more tool in our tool box on the road to success.  Post those positive action words around where you can see them — it just may change the limits you can push yourself.

Natural does NOT equal Healthy

Take this for example:

Carl’s Jr. recently released a their All-Natural Burger. Described as “a grass-fed, free-range charbroiled beef patty with no added hormones, steroids, or antibiotics, topped with natural cheddar cheese and vine-ripened tomatoes”, it seems like a better choice for those times when you have to grab something on the go, right? And certainly worth paying the extra at $4.69 for the single compared with $2.99 for the (unnatural?) traditional single.

But lets consider:Carl's Jr. Natural Burger

At 760 calories (400 coming from fat) and 1040 mg of sodium in the single (not to mention 13g of saturated fat and 1g of trans fat), the “natural” of the ingredients are not going outweigh the unhealthy aspects of this burger.

Obviously, consumer demand has driven Carl’s Jr. to rethink their burger options.  Whether this item stays on the menu or not really depends on whether consumers are willing to pay the increased price for higher quality ingredients. I suspect it won’t take long before we see other fast food chains making similar “natural” options to their menus, as well.  As we watch to see where this trend takes us, it is important to remember:

The terms “natural” and “all-natural” are not yet defined and regulated by the USDA or the FDA (the departments of the US government in charge of meat and food industry regulation respectively).  Until these department create regulation for the application of these terms, “natural” and “all-natural” are just marketing claims and as such should be taken with a grain of salt. (pun intended)

The true take home for this discussion is “natural” is not the same as good for you.  Lots of claims are made by food marketers but you are an athlete and as such, you need to be savvy and educated in your decisions about how you fuel your body.  We live in an age where there is more available information than ever before but that comes with the responsibility to do your research and be wary of anyone using the claim “natural” to sell you a better version of an bad-for-you product.


6 Tips for Staying Awesome through the Holidays

If you’re like many of us, the fun, excitement, and responsibilities of this time of year make sticking to your training schedule a challenge.  In an effort to help you balance the (often competing) goals of family, job, and training schedules, here are some tips to ensure you reach the New Year reading to dive full steam back into your training.

1. It’s the season of germs and lots of social functions — wash your hands!  This year’s flu shot missed the mark predicting one of the more common strains of flu — but you can do a lot to keep yourself healthy by washing your hands often.

2. Get enough sleep.  With all the activities planned during the last two weeks of the year, its tempting to skip the sleep in order to have more time to get things done — don’t.  While you sleep, your body uses its energy for fighting off germs and infection.  It’s important to get your rest.

3. Eat at home as often as you can.  There are so many opportunities to eat the food you normally wouldn’t allow yourself that it can be difficult to balance your nutrition during the Holidays.  And while it’s important to enjoy the special foods of the season, it’s equally important to make sure your eating pattern doesn’t go too far off the rails.  To accomplish this, make sure you’re packing your lunches, taking the time to eat nutritious breakfasts, and eating dinners at home as often as your social schedule allows.  This means no running through the drive-thru on your way home from last minute shopping just because it’s easier.  You’re an athlete — fuel yourself like one.

4. Limit your alcohol intake.  ‘Tis the season to over-indulge — don’t.  Alcohol has been shown to significantly impair the immune system and dramatically effect performance.  Be sensible and drink moderately or not at all.

5. Keep moving.  Time is at a premium right now.  You may not be able to fit your normal training schedule in but make the best use of the time you do have available to get some sort of workout.  It might be the right time to add a couple days of high intensity training.  You’ll keep your heart rate up and get your strength work in all in a much shorter time so you can get out of the gym and on to the next item on your list.

6. Don’t stress.  It takes a toll on both your physical and mental health, so if you need to let your training slide for until the first of the year, do it.  Sure, you’ll lose a little bit of your edge but you’ll gain it back soon after your back at your regular training schedule.  The mental and physical benefits of planned training breaks is well documented.  Getting all of your workouts in will mean a lot less if you make yourself sick in the process and spend a miserable week out with a cold or flu.

First and foremost, we are social creatures.  Our time with family and friends is precious and should never take a backseat to time in the gym.  Enjoy whatever opportunities this season sends your way and we’ll can get back to the business of being awesome athletes just as soon as it’s over.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from all of the Staff at Borgess Athletic Performance!