Tag: rowing nutrition

Sound Bites! Vol. 3 #2 – Refueling

Sound Bites! Vol. 3 #2 – Refueling

Today refueling is on my mind–and with fall head racing approaching, perhaps it should be on your mind, too.  Why am I thinking about refueling?  Because 1) of the Green Lake Summer Extravaganza–for many racers the harbinger of fall racing season, 2) this morning I […]

Sound Bites! Vol 3 #1

Sound Bites! Vol 3 #1

January–again.   Junior rowing officially started yesterday, though unofficially I don’t think it ever stopped during the holidays.  Despite the still-dark mornings, it seems that the spring rowing season is truly underway–in rowing, spring is spelled j-a-n-u-a-r-y. So, what’s on your mind post-holiday/resolution-season?  If you’re […]

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #4

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #4

Pumping Iron

This fall, you may be pumping iron to get your muscles ready for those long, hard head races, but are you eating enough iron?  Your stamina and aerobic capacity depend on adequate body iron stores.  Low iron intake can result in anemia which definitely affects performance.  When you consider that up to 60% of female athletes may be affected by iron deficiency, it is an important issue for coaches and athletes to consider.

Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin and myoglobin, proteins in red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body tissues and muscles.  A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in symptoms such as loss of endurance, chronic fatigue, high exercise heart rate, frequent injury, recurring illness, and irritability.

Female athletes of child-bearing age are at greater risk of iron deficiency because of monthly blood losses related to menstruation.  Generally, men and post-menopausal women are at low risk, unless there is an unusual loss of blood related to other medical conditions.

Vegetarian Eating

Vegetarian diets may increase the risk of iron deficiency due to potential inadequate dietary iron content, but more importantly to reduced absorption.  Because iron is not as well absorbed from vegetable sources (non-heme iron) as it is from meat (heme iron), vegetarians may need almost 2 timesthe amount of dietary iron as their meat-eating teammates.  On the other hand, studies have indicated that vegetarians do not have a higher incidenceof iron deficiency than meat eaters if they make wise food choices.

Iron Requirements

Optimal intakes of iron vary depending on a person’s age, sex, and various life factors, eg, pregnancy, food habits (vegetarian or meat-eater), medical conditions, activity, etc.  Recommended intakes for iron for various age groups are (increase by up to 1.8x if vegetarian/vegan):

Women (ages 19-50) 18 mg per day / (ages 51 and older) 8  mg per day;   Girls (age 14-18)  15 mg per day;  Men (ages 19 and older) 8 mg per day;     Boys (age 14-18) 11 mg per day

Strategies for Eating Your Iron

On average, only 10-15% of the iron you eat in food is absorbed into the body.  To improve iron intake and absorption, consider the following strategies:

  1. Choose lean meats, fish and poultry – the iron in these foods is absorbed better than the iron in plant sources.
  2. Eat vegetables and grains with lean meat – the average absorption of iron from plant sources is low, but increases when these are eaten with meat, poultry and fish.
  3. Eat iron-rich legumes – dried beans and peas are the most iron-rich plant products in our diets.
  4. Combine iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C – a glass of orange juice with your breakfast can more than double the amount of iron your body absorbs.
  5. Avoid drinking tea or coffee with your meals – a cup of tea with breakfast can block 3/4 of the iron you would have absorbed.
  6. Cook foods in an iron pot whenever practical – spaghetti sauce simmered in an iron pot for about 20 minutes increases its iron content nine fold. This would work as well for other acidic foods.
  7. Eat iron-fortified foods – iron-fortified or enriched breakfast cereals and other foods can help boost your iron intake. Be sure to combine them with high vitamin C foods like citrus fruit, broccoli, cantaloupe, strawberries or kiwi to increase absorption.

If you think you may be iron deficient, talk to your doctor or other health provider.  Testing your blood levels of hemoglobin and hematocritis important to determine whether you actually have an iron deficiency (excessive iron is also harmful).  If iron deficiency has advanced to actual anemia, you may need to take an iron supplement  (be sure to follow your HCP’s instructions).

Sources of Iron

To help you make smart choices, the following list shows iron content of various foods.  The same resource provides a couple sample menus.  In addition,  you will find more healthy eating and menu tips at USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov.

Clams 3 oz. 14.00
Oysters 3 oz. 6.60
Shrimp 3 oz. 2.50
Tuna 3 oz. 1.30
Chicken (breast roasted) 3 oz. 1.00
Duck (flesh only, roasted) 3 oz. 2.00
Sirloin (lean, broiled) 3 oz. 2.00
Turkey (breast, roasted) 3 oz. 1.20
Turkey (drumstick) 3 oz. 2.00
Lentils (cooked) 1/2 cup 3.30
Lima beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.25
Dried beans (cooked) 1/2 cup 2.30
Split Peas (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.25
Tofu (raw) 1/2 cup 6.65
Cream of Wheat (reg, cooked) 1/2 cup 6.00
Fortified breakfast cereal (Total, e.g.) 1/2 cup 18.00
Pasta (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.00
Wheat germ, toasted 2 Tbsp. 1.30
Apricots (dried) 1/4 cup 1.50
Broccoli (cooked) 1/2 cup 0.6
Brussels Sprouts (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.00
Peaches (dried) 1/4 cup 1.60
Peas (cooked) 1/2 cup 1.26
Potato (cooked, with skin) 1 medium 2.35
Prunes 1/4 cup 1.00
Raisins 1/4 cup 1.00
Spinach (raw) 1 cup 1.00
Spinach (boiled) 1/2 cup 2.00
Squash (winter, acorn, cooked) 1 cup 1.37


Sound Bites! is written by Debby Jackson, RD, CD, MEd, CDE, a master rower with VIRC and a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator.

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #3

PROPER NUTRITION:  PASSPORT TO (LESS) PAIN Unless you’ve been living under a rock (as opposed to on The Rock), you know that it’s that time of year for Vashon Island Rowing Club’s 3rd Annual Passport to Pain bike ride.  Coming up on Saturday, September 14th, […]

Sound Bites! Vol. 2 #2

Sound Bites! Vol. 2 #2

Nutrition Tip of the the Month: Be ready for hard spring practices this season by eating well a minimum of 5 out of 7 days.  Concentrate on eating 3 well-balanced meals and an afternoon snack each day during the work/school week.  Include a quality serving of protein, a […]

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #1

Sound Bites! Vol.2 #1

Have you made a New Year’s resolution to eat better or “go on a diet”?  Did you find yourself a little anxious and out-of-control with eating during the holiday season?  It’s pretty common to find ourselves eating mindlessly when lots of delicious food is around and everyone else seems to be indulging.  However, the recent start of Spring Crew season has shown us the error of our nutritional indiscretions—weight/fat gain, like blistered hands, makes it harder to row as well as we’d like.

But despite our resolutions, we may still be floundering a bit trying to get back to a more healthful, balanced eating approach.  Although there are many diets one can follow to lose weight (or lower cholesterol, blood pressure, inflammation, etc), there are three concepts which I believe are helpful in making a change in eating behaviors: mindfulness, food habit management and self-control.   These concepts have very little to do with the actual foods we choose but a lot to do with how we make food choices.

What do these concepts mean to you?  How might they relate to what, why, and how we nourish our bodies and minds?  In fact, how might they relate to many of the actvities (including rowing) in which we participate every day?

According to Psychology Today, “Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.”

Regardless of what we eat, being mindful can increase our enjoyment of food yet decrease the amount we eat.  By paying attention only to what we’re eating (instead of distractions like TV, newspaper, email, homework, etc),we become more aware of the characteristics of the food and it’s affect on us, and tend to be satisfied sooner–and can then get off to other activities.

In an interview, psychologist Dr Susan Albers, author of Eating Mindfully, gives 3 simple tips she uses to help clients slow down and eat more mindfully.  First, use your nondominant hand when you eat; according to Albers, research has shown this decreases food intake by 30%.  Second, eat  favorite foods last; we remember best what we eat last, she says, and this tends to cut over-eating because the memory of the desired food lingers.  Lastly, use a red plate; that stoplight color successfully triggers our subconscious mind to stop our eating.

Interestingly to me, the mindful eating suggestions given by Albers are totally reminiscent of the Food Habit Management approach used in a class I taught many years ago at Vashon Health Center.  The techniques used to learn proper food habit management were much the same as the mindful eating strategies noted earlier.  Food Habit Management, authored by Special Education specialist, Julie Waltz, provided individuals with the tools and techniques to accurately identify, assess, and replace dysfunctional eating habits.  For example, the environment provides huge triggers for eating mindlessly.  Disconnecting eating from environmental and/or emotional triggers like watching TV, using the computer, and boredom can result in less eating and a more mindful approach.

Another important concept that applies to food and eating (as well as many other activities of daily life) is Self-Control or Will-Power–or as I once heard someone say–Won’t-Power.  In the past, based on knowledge of food habit management, I felt that environmental management made will-power unnecessary.  Silly me.  It was obvious in my own life that one cannot always control their environment–family, friends, and society often create demands that make it nearly impossible to arrange things the way we want.  I could see that will-power was an important component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  But how to cultivate self-control was the question.

Recently, I heard an interview on National Public Radio (KUOW) of John Tierney that seemed to support this notion that self-control is important in addition to environmental management.  Mr. Tierney, author, along with Roy Baumeister, of Willpower:  Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, discussed studies that showed self-control is strongly linked with greater success and that starvation results in decreased willpower.  Still, the tips which Mr. Tierney suggested were much like the tips given for developing mindfulness and food habit management–set realistic goals, aim for short-term goals, and monitor your efforts.

The bottom line is that Mindfullness, Habit Management (food or otherwise), and Will-Power all are enhanced by setting realistic, short-term and long-term goals, monitoring progress, and making adjustments as necessary to keep you on the course to your objectives–whether they be weight management, improved strength and conditioning, or improved rowing technique and success.

In future Sound Bites, I want to focus more on the food habit management process because I believe that it offers an important framework for managing not only your weight but other aspects of your life, including rowing, school, or work.  You’ll be able to assess your habits and develop strategies that will allow you to make needed changes and reach your lifestyle goals.

Debby Jackson is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and member of the Vashon Island Rowing Club.

Sound Bites! Vol.1 #4

Sound Bites! Vol.1 #4

Labor Day and the Dog Days of Summer arrived and have passed.  The last sprint race of the season is over (Green Lake Extravaganza) and we are now staring into the fall head racing season wondering what to do to maximize our rowing efforts. Fall head racing is so different from spring sprints.  Although technique […]