Whole Grains in Sports Nutrition

Whole grains, as a part of your sports nutrition plan, impact both training and lifetime fitness.

  • What foods qualify?

  • Breads, cereals, pasta, rice, crackers, bagels, muffins and popcorn are your primary possibilities. Not so common, but great choices also include cracked wheat (bulgur) and quinoa, among others. Even some popular nutrition bars are being updated to include more whole ingredients. Read the nutrition labels. All of these foods contain grains, but not all of them are complete.

  • What is considered whole grain?

  • The best way to to determine this is by reading a food label. “100% whole” early in the ingredient list is a good sign. “Made with whole grain” is second best. If the product includes “enriched” flour early in the ingredient list, it has been processed. Color and weight of the food do not always make it whole, since food coloring and fillers are used by some companies. Look for fiber content of the food. Three (3) grams or more of dietary fiber per serving is a good fiber choice.

  • Am I eating enough?

  • The new pyramid suggests eating at least 6 grains everyday, at least 3 of which should be whole grain. Strive for all whole choices on days when the extra fiber won’t bother your bowels during training or performance. Low fiber grains may be better before or during training.

  • What is a serving size?

  • In general, 1 cup of dry cereal, ½ cup cooked cereal or cooked grain or 3 cups popcorn. Another comparison is that about 15 grams of carbohydrate equals a grain serving. The new pyramid provides detailed serving sizes for many grains.

  • How will this food group impact my training?

  • Grains are rich in carbohydrate (fuel), B vitamins (required for fuel use) and iron (to help carry oxygen in the blood) and are needed everyday. These are nutrients that are crucial to your sports nutrition plan.

  • How will grains impact my lifetime fitness?

  • Whole choices are a main source of dietary fiber. A woman needs about 25 grams of fiber a day. Certain fibers aid in digestion, while others help regulate blood cholesterol and blood sugars. Beta-glucan from oats and mushrooms may provide an immunity boost within a healthy diet. Slowly increase your fiber intake over time so your body can adjust to all the benefits without the gassy side-effects. Also, some whole grains are now fortified with calcium, a mineral needed by women everyday.

    Set a sports nutrition goal for whole grains for yourself to either improve your daily servings to meet the pyramid (at minimum), adjust your serving sizes, or improve the quality of the grains you eat.

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