Evidence based medical wellness for active people from a doc who walks the walk

Should you eat like star athletes? Nutrition for the rest of us


It would be nice if we were all professional athletes.  We would have a physician, a trainer, a physical therapist, a massage therapist, a nutritionist and of course, a cook to cater to our needs and whims.  But given that is not likely to happen for most of us anytime soon, what do these people eat? And should we follow their lead? Do start athletes follow nutritionally sound diets?

Tom Brady is fastidious in his diet.  He is just a year and a half younger than my hero, Peyton Manning, but his body is 10 years younger.  He is diligent about following a strict diet that is 80% vegetables, and 20% lean proteins, like “grass-fed organic steak, duck every now and then, and chicken.” Brady and his wife,  super model Giselle Bundchen follow a strict set of nos: no white bread, no white sugar, no dairy and no peppers, eggplant and tomatoes.  The last rule is because of a theory that “night shade” vegetables can be pro-inflammatory.  Additionally, Brady doesn’t eat fruit. I think this is probably a great diet, but I don’t agree with the no fruit and “no night shade” veggies.  I think we should eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables! Lastly, the no dairy thing worries me.  Many Americans, particularly women and teenagers don’t get enough calcium. (See my previous post on calcium.) Not eating dairy could potentially make this worse unless effort is made to get enough calcium. However, we could all do worse than eating like Tom! It would also be nice to have our own cook to make these nutritious meals…

The Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, are vegan.  Venus made this choice after she was diagnosed with Sjogrens syndrome, an autoimmune disease.  Serena joined in as an act of support.  Serena has drinks smoothies with kale and protein powder, and eats lots of brown rice, quinoa, and vegetables. Reportedly, Serena still indulges in treats like fried chicken and moon pies.  I think there is nothing wrong with eating vegan, but it sure is a lot of work.  I think it helps if you have someone that can shop and prepare all that for you.  It also takes a fair amount of dedication and nutritional savvy to make sure you are getting all the nutrients that you need.  For this diet I think I would need a cook, a grocery shopper and a nutritionist to make sure I was getting every thing I needed.  It seems pretty tough for us ordinary mortals to follow.

While we are on a tennis binge, tennis super star Novak Djokovic, doesn’t eat gluten.  Many Americans, and athletes through out the world are following suit, thinking it will improve performance.  True celiac disease (a condition in which you shouldn’t eat gluten because it damages the small intestine) occurs in 1% of Americans.  However, not eating gluten has spread like wild fire.  But is it effective to improve performance?  A small study looked at 13 cyclists, men and women, and put them on either a gluten free diet, or a gluten containing diet.  The athletes didn’t know which they were on.  The athletes were then tested on a time trail, and answered questionnaires about gut symptoms (abdominal pain, bloating, nausea) and had their well being assessed.  The athletes then switched diets, and the same parameters were measured.  Result: eating a gluten free diet didn’t change time trials, gut symptoms and well being in athletes with out celiac. Take away: a small study, but if you want to eat gluten, do it and don’t feel guilty!

So what do I eat? I try to eat more vegetables and fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins.  I am experimenting with protein shakes in the morning as I have finally gotten tired of greek yogurt and quinoa. I am really working on not eating “treats” containing added sugars.  (We will see how long the shake thing lasts!)  I have lost weight, and it is due to better eating AND more exercise.

The last of my protein shake. It is really filling!

The last of my protein shake. It is really filling!

Author: PookieMD

I am a board certified internal medicine physician. I love medicine and seek to bring evidence based medicine to the fitness and wellness world.

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