Sports Nutrition Handbook: Eat Smart, Be Healthy, Get on Top of Your Game by Justyna and Krzysztof Mizera. VeloPress, 2019. Reviewed by Laura Clark. Laura is an avid mountain, trail and snowshoe runner who lives in Saratoga Springs, NY, where she is a children’s librarian. VeloPress is an American Trail Running Association corporate member.
Athletes searching for a workout edge that does not involve possible overtraining are often drawn to investigate nutritional science. And then, like me, they find themselves bewildered and in over their heads. What is the optimal combination of protein, carbs and fat pre- and post-workout? And where on that scale does The Wall reside? What supplements are beneficial and which are ineffective or downright harmful? It seems like the more you read the more confusing things become.
Enter the Mizeras, nutritionists and trainers, who have worked with both elite and everyday athletes in disciplines such as running, cycling and bodybuilding. By focusing separately on carbohydrates, proteins and fats, they attempt to isolate the various components of an effective diet. To their credit, they manage to do this in simplified layman’s language without lapsing into scientific jargon. Taken individually, the chapters make sense. But there is so much information, by the time I worked my way through mentally eating and drinking, my brain had hit overload.
While numerous case studies furnish real-life examples, what really made a difference was reviewing each chapter, relying this time on the plentiful charts, tables and green-highlighted asides to provide a clarifying roadmap. And the sample recipes feature readily identifiable ingredients, making me believe I might be able to handle creating their salmon burgers from scratch. Perusing the sample snack and meal plans for various sports was where I really got into trouble, however. Calculated to the .1 of caloric, carb, fat and protein intake, the optimal combinations are more math than I am willing to undertake, and since I am by no means a sponsored athlete, beyond my job description. Still, if you are looking for that extra edge to help you crush your Boston Marathon qualifier, it would all be worth it.
And while the authors seem fully aware of the dehydration/hyponatremia debate, it appears that while they stress the importance of electrolytes, they favor a sloshing stomach approach. Having just finished re-reading Good To Go, Christie Aschwanden’s critique of recovery products, I am inclined to believe the studies she cites that mention most elite marathoners cross the finish line marginally dehydrated. And they are still alive! According to Samuel Cheuvront, of the US Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine, while dehydration certainly contributes to heat-related illnesses, it is not generally the cause of heatstroke. I am even more inclined to trust in my Dad’s saying, “The truth lies somewhere in between.” Witness Usain Bolt’s McDonald’s chicken nugget Olympic fueling strategy, where he opted for formula food rather than unfamiliar offerings.
And so, while I have learned much about sports nutrition from this book, I still tend to assume a somewhat lax stance toward filing a detailed flight plan. This probably has more to do with my mindset—I have never been known to follow a marathon training plan, a lapse I sometimes regret. Sometimes on the surface it works, as in this past weekend’s trail race when I won the age group honey jar, but only because the first place groupie neglected to claim the prize! Ultimately is a matter of personal choice and what you fervently believe works best for your body.