Physical Performance

Nutrition is an important aspect in athletic performance. Download these shareable videos, graphics, handouts and recipes to help promote the power of protein and eggs.

Fueling Athletes for Winter Sports

Dave Ellis
Today’s post comes from Dave Ellis, RD, CSCS.   Ellis is a sports dietitian, who counsels athletic programs on nutrition and teaches athletes how to eat the right foods on a sensible schedule to fuel performance, prevent muscle cramps, finish strong and recover well. He is also a member of ENC’s Health Professional Advisor panel.

Winter sports mean shorter days and colder weather which usually translates to lower Vitamin D exposures. The coaching points for winter sport athletes are to focus in on the value of sleep, proper nutrition including antioxidant intake from fresh produce, and adequate Vitamin D from food/supplements. In addition, several supplements are available that may be used to enhance the athlete’s diet and potentially reduce the seasonal challenges that these athletes face.With sports like hockey and basketball that compete indoors we see significant seasonal drops in Vitamin D status by midseason which has all kinds of compromised immune and recovery implications for athletes. Because Vitamin D is a fat soluble nutrient it’s not hard to find a Omega-3, Vitamin D combination product to incorporate into an athlete’s daily diet. The Omega-3’s might have an emerging role for athletes with fragmented sleep patterns, as well as some protective benefits for concussions.

More advanced seasonal immune interventions for athletes that are gaining traction involve something commonly found in egg yolk called IgY that marks pathogens for attack by our immune system. Something like beta-glucan derived from baker’s yeast that primes the immune system for a robust immune response to those marked pathogens. It’s often not the most talented team that emerges in the spring that wins the championship after a long winter; it’s often the team that manages to minimize unnecessary downtime due to illness! Healthy teams have deep rosters that can spread the beating out over the course of a long season vs. running a few health athletes into the ground because of a short bench.

Sports RDs play a critical role in empowering athletes to get their rest, distribute health meals over the day and fortify the challenge immune systems episodically with some of the immune enhancing foods listed. All of these positive steps can be mitigated if athletes use alcohol and drugs so the work of the Sports RD to educate and help establish some meaningful accountability on these challenging social issues is just as important. To learn more about Sports RDs and how they enhance the athlete’s nutrition status through food and supplements, go to

Keeping Exercise Up as the Weather Cools Down

Dr. Jason KarpToday’s post is written by Dr. Jason Karp. Dr. Karp holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology and is a nationally recognized running coach, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of He writes for international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running for Women, and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences. Dr. Karp currently serves as an ENC Health Professional Advisor.

As we head into the cooler months of the year, you may find it harder to lace up your shoes and head out the door for a run. But with the arrival of cooler weather comes an opportunity to try new activities and take your fitness to another level. With the leaves changing colors and a crisp bite to the air, running outside in the fall is a great feeling after the dog days of summer. Here are some tips to keep you fit in the fall:

  • Dress for the weather. When you wear the right clothes, like spandex, gloves, windbreaker, and ski hat, outdoor activities can be enjoyable instead of intolerable. Dress in layers to trap in body heat when you most need it; you can peel clothes off as you warm up.
  • Wear the right fabrics. Fabrics like polyester and Coolmax wick moisture away from your skin so you don’t get chilled.
  • Take it inside. If you live somewhere where it’s already too cold to run outside, try some indoor cardio workouts like treadmill running, elliptical, or spinning classes to keep you fit throughout the winter.
  • Try resistance training. Lifting weights can give you a break from outdoor cardio and allows you to focus on working your muscles in different ways. You can focus on specific muscles that don’t get trained as much from running outside and may be weaker than your running muscles.
  • Try circuit training, during which you alternate spurts of cardio and resistance exercises using dumbbells or resistance bands to give you a great total-body workout.

So if you want to stay fit this fall, try these suggestions and always remember to make nutrition a top priority. As mentioned in my previous post on fueling for exercise, consuming high quality protein like that found in eggs is important after a workout to promote muscle recovery and accretion.

Protein in the Athlete’s Diet

Today’s post comes from Dr. Donald Layman. Dr. Layman is the Director of Research at the Egg Nutrition Center and Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois and a leading researcher studying dietary needs for protein and amino acids.

The importance of protein for athletes is well accepted but still confusing. Athletes hear lots of different messages about the amount of protein to eat and when to eat it. There are three simple messages about protein. The first message is that all adults interested in muscle health need to consume multiple daily meals each containing 30 grams of protein. To maintain healthy muscles, we must continuously make new proteins and breakdown old ones. The repair and replacement process only occurs during the anabolic periods after protein intake.

Most Americans eat the majority of their protein in a single large dinner meal with less than 10 grams of protein at breakfast. Your morning high fiber cereal with 8 grams of protein is useless for muscle health. Adults should have three meals each day with at least 30 grams of protein and breakfast is the most important meal of your day!

If you’re a bodybuilder trying to achieve maximum muscle size, you may want 4 to 6 meals each containing 30 g of protein. If you’re a runner, you need at least 3 meals to optimize muscle repair and recovery.
ENC-PT-kit-image-1-300x230Surprisingly, the 30 g amount is the same for a small woman or a large guy and appears to relate more to blood volume than body size. If a meal contains less than 20 g there is no benefit to muscle health.

Second, athletes should consume protein soon after exercise to accelerate muscle repair and recovery. Intense exercise produces muscle damage – exercise is said to be catabolic or cause muscle breakdown. This is part of soreness but also an essential part of muscle training. To optimize training and minimize soreness, athletes need to consume protein within about 1 hour after exercise. The good news is that exercise increases the efficiency of protein use, so after exercise, 15 grams of a high quality whey protein or egg whites will maximize recovery.

The third message is that protein before exercise is not helpful. Protein consumed ahead of exercise has no beneficial effects on the quality of the workout or the speed of recovery. Protein is also slow to digest and may make you feel full and sluggish if consumed too close to exercise.

Whatever your athletic level, be sure to get the most out of your exercise with the right amounts of protein at the right times every day.

Fueling for Exercise

Today’s post is written by one of ENC’s Health Professional Advisors, Dr. Jason Karp. Dr. Karp is a nationally recognized running coach, 2011 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and owner of He holds a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He writes for international running, coaching, and fitness magazines, is the author of five books, including 101 Winning Racing Strategies for Runners and Running for Women, and is a frequent speaker at national fitness and coaching conferences.

The ability to exercise for prolonged periods is strongly influenced by the amount of carbohydrate stored in skeletal muscles (glycogen), with intense endurance exercise decreasing muscle glycogen stores. Most people have enough glycogen to provide energy for only about 70 minutes of running.

At low exercise intensities, some of carbohydrate’s metabolic responsibility for energy regeneration is relieved by fat. Even with the contribution of fat helping to delay the depletion of glycogen, moderate-intensity exercise can only be sustained for two to three hours. With increasing exercise intensity, fat use decreases while carbohydrate use increases. When you run out of carbohydrates, your muscles are forced to rely on fat and consequently your exercise intensity drops because your muscles regenerate energy slower when using fat compared to when using carbohydrates.

Fueling Before Exercise

Many people skip breakfast before doing a workout. Because blood glucose is low first thing in the morning, it’s not a good idea to exercise on an empty stomach, as that would diminish the quality of the workout. At least a half hour before you go out the door to run, eat 200 to 300 calories of carbohydrates and protein, like a bagel with peanut butter. If you run soon after getting out of bed and don’t have at least a half hour before you run, consume 100 to 200 calories, like a nutrition bar, a banana, and a sports drink.

Fueling After Exercise

Refueling nutrient-depleted muscles is possibly the single most important aspect of optimal recovery. And the most important nutrient to replenish is carbohydrate. Muscles are picky when it comes to the time for synthesizing and storing glycogen. Although glycogen continues to be synthesized until storage in muscles is complete, the process is most rapid if you consume carbohydrates within the first 30 to 60 minutes after your workout. Indeed, delaying carbohydrate ingestion for two hours after a workout significantly reduces the rate of glycogen resynthesis. To maximize the synthesis and storage of glycogen, consume 0.6 to 0.7 gram of simple carbohydrate (sugar, preferably glucose) per pound of body weight every two hours for a few hours after your workout.

Protein is another important nutrient to consume after hard and long workouts, especially when trying to build muscle. To repair muscle fibers damaged during training, consume 20 to 30 grams of complete protein (which contain all essential amino acids) after your workout. My research, along with other studies, has shown that chocolate milk, with its high carbohydrate and protein contents, is a great post-workout recovery drink (yum!).

For more information on running, check out and

Training for a Race? Improving Performance? Don’t Forget Protein!

Whether you are training for your first 5K or a marathon, proper nutrition is very important. Protein is sometimes overlooked as an important nutrient in running, but it is great for impact and recovery. An article from Runner’s World discusses some of the research behind protein and includes ways for runners to include protein throughout the day. Ultimately, eating adequate amounts of protein throughout the day, as well as during recovery will help runners succeed.

ENC recently attended the IDEA World of Fitness Conference with personal trainers. While not all personal trainers focused on running, we were able to educate this group about the importance of high-quality protein for performance.  It was exciting to see how well received ENC was at the exhibit and to hear many of the personal trainers are eating whole eggs, along with egg whites.  The trainers I spoke with told me they have learned many of the vitamins and minerals are in the yolk and it prompted them not to skip the yolk when eating eggs.  We also handed out ENC’s Trainer Protein Toolkit (see link below to download) to over 300 trainers to use as a tool with their clients.

Mitch Kanter PhD, ENC executive director, presented “New Research on Protein Metabolism, Recovery, and Satiety,” at IDEA, emphasizing the need to have about 30 grams of protein per meal to signal leucine uptake.

Remember high-quality protein is an important part of running and other physical activities. Have you had your “spread” of protein today?

P.S. This year, our booth was right next to Subway and they offer great egg breakfast options for those on the go! Delicious!