Friedman Unofficial Running Club (FURC)

by Hannah Meier, Sara Scinto and Jessie Ellis

If you like running, walking or anything in-between, join the Friedman Unofficial Running Club for some very official fun and less-official running!

Being part of a nutrition school, we are sure to refuel properly with delicious snacks and beverages afterwards. Keep pace with us on Facebook – we aim to do a group run most weekends (generally Saturday mornings) and earlier in the week will post a MapMyRun route of varying distance (usually 3-5 miles) and location (alternating between Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and other areas where Friedmanites reside). We have also coordinated sponsored team races (meaning registration fees are covered!), including a chilly Ugly Sweater Run last December that was a lot of fun!


Photo: Hannah Meier – Running for dear warmth at the Ugly Sweater Run in December 2016


Stay tuned for our first (un)official run of the season!

For more information, email,, or and find us on our Facebook page.


From Soil to Sport: Sweet Potatoes to Power You

by Hannah Meier

As the temperatures slowly, and not so consistently, increase in Boston this spring, more of us will find ourselves out in the field, on the trails, or on the sidewalks soaking in the sunshine and working up a sweat. Even if you aren’t competitive, you have probably noticed the difference in how you feel during, and after, exercise when you are—or are not—properly fueled. Look no further for easy and delicious recipes to power your active spring using the grad student’s pantry staple: The sweet potato!


Photo: Hannah Meier

Photo: Hannah Meier

Feeling our best, and performing our best (who wants to be that person in a soccer game to miss a pass because you’re too fatigued to run for the ball?) is contingent on having the right amount of fuel to use for energy during activity. Nutrition beforehand is important to power your workout or game, and nutrition afterward is crucial for making physical improvement, gaining strength and replenishing tired tissues. Sure, you may be able to get through a game or a run without thinking about nutrition, but I bet you a million bucks (really) that you’ll make strides with appropriate nutrition.


Sweet potatoes come close to what I view as an athlete’s ultimate food. Rich in carbohydrates and easy on the stomach, they provide a spectrum of nutrients that help convert calories to available energy for our cells (ex. B-Vitamins), along with a generous amount of potassium, which is an essential electrolyte for heart and muscle function that can be lost in sweat. One medium (about 5” long) sweet potato provides 10% of the daily value for iron, which is a nutrient of concern for many athletes, especially women. Compared to white potatoes, orange sweet potatoes are rich in Vitamin A as beta-carotene, and provide more of the vitamin than a cup of carrots. Why should athletes or active people care about Vitamin A? During exercise, our tissues can become damaged and more prone to forming free radicals, especially in long, intense endurance training. Beta-carotene, as a powerful antioxidant, combats this free radical formation, keeping cell membranes better intact and less prone to destruction.

What about fiber? While sweet potatoes, like many vegetables, contribute to an adequate fiber intake, the average potato contains about 4 grams of fiber, mostly from the skin. This amount of fiber helps to slow down digestion enough to prevent sharp spikes in blood sugar. This keeps both our hunger and our cells satisfied, with sustained energy for hours. Athletes or competitors looking for a snack to eat less than an hour prior to their event could remove the skin to avoid the digestive slow-down that fiber provides. Many of the nutrients are found in the flesh of the potato, so removing the skin does not take away all the nutritional benefit of the tuber.

Since sweet potatoes offer a powerhouse of beneficial nutrients for exercise, I came up with four ways to dress them up before and after a workout. Feel free to use regular white potatoes or even purple potatoes. All potatoes provide a mix of nutrients valuable for exercise, but the darker the color, the more concentrated the antioxidants you’ll get. These recipes use medium sweet potatoes that were roasted in the oven for about 45 minutes at 375˚F. Just wrap each potato in foil, place on a baking sheet, and throw in a hot oven. They are ready when they are slightly soft to the poke of a fork.


Before Exercise

Before exercise, the goal of nutrition is to provide a boost of fuel for your muscles to burn for energy. While glycogen, the stored form of carbohydrate, is typically available, having full stores is crucial if you plan to exercise for longer than 2 hours. Even for shorter events, providing a boost of nutrition leading up to your workout can stimulate better performance. Combining carbohydrate sources with protein increases the satiety factor and provides your body a boost in amino acids to have available for protein re-synthesis.

Pre-Race Burrito

Inspired by many athlete’s favorite pre-race meal, the burrito bowl, this sweet potato highlights traditional burrito ingredients, which happen to be wonderfully rich in carbohydrate. This meal is a bit fiber-heavy thanks to the beans, so should be consumed at least 3 hours before exercise, or the night before an early start. The corn sauce is a recipe adapted from food blogger Pinch of Yum, and breaks down the corn’s fibrous coating so the carbohydrates are more easily available to be absorbed. Peppers and onions contain natural sugars that provide quick energy and delicious sweetness, as well as an additional boost of antioxidants. A little bit of Greek yogurt rounds out the potato with a bit of easily digested protein.


Photo: Hannah Meier

Photo: Hannah Meier


Makes 1 Serving


  • One medium – large sweet potato, baked
  • 2 Tablespoons corn sauce (recipe below)
  • 1/4 Cup black beans, cooked or canned
  • ¼ Medium red pepper, sliced
  • ¼ Medium Onion, sliced
  • Salsa
  • Plain Greek yogurt of choice

Total Time (after baking potato) 10 minutes


  • Cut baked sweet potato in half, lengthwise and set aside (reheating if necessary). Mash the flesh with a fork.
  • In a pan with a little oil, sauté the pepper and onion slices on medium heat until desired softness.
  • Top sweet potato with onions and peppers, black beans, corn sauce, salsa and Greek yogurt.
  • Enjoy!


Inspired by Pinch of Yum

Makes about 8 Servings (2 tablespoons each)


  • 1 cup corn kernels, from fresh or frozen (I used Trader Joe’s frozen Fire Roasted Corn)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh garlic
  • 1/2 cup water, milk, or broth (I used almond milk)
  • 1 tablespoon butter or olive oil

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • Heat the butter or olive oil in a pan over medium heat.
  • Sauté garlic until fragrant. Add the milk and stir to form a creamy mixture.
  • Add corn kernels and sauté for another 5-10 minutes until very soft.
  • Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until very smooth.


After Exercise

After exercise, along with hydration, the primary goals with nutrition are to provide your muscle cells with a replenishing dose of carbohydrate to store as glycogen, and amino acids from protein to aid in muscle tissue repair and growth. The post-exercise meal is also a chance to load up on vitamins and minerals that keep body processes functioning normally at the higher intensity that exercise demands.

Sweet Recovery

For those with more of a sweet tooth, sweet potatoes are a nourishing way to satisfy it. This sweet potato is topped with dark berries, rich in polyphenol antioxidants and natural sugars to reach muscles quickly. Almond butter provides a bit of protein and salt, which is an electrolyte athletes need to replace after very sweaty workouts. Full fat ricotta cheese rounds out the potato with easily digested dairy protein and a bit of satiating fat, without the overpowering taste and extra sugar that yogurt provides. Feel free to substitute more nuts and seeds for the cheese to make this vegan.

Photo: Hannah Meier

Photo: Hannah Meier

Makes 1 Serving


  • One medium – large sweet potato, baked
  • 1/2 cup mixed berries of choice (aim for dark, bright colors; I used a frozen berry blend, thawed)
  • 1 tablespoon salted almond butter
  • 2 tablespoons ricotta cheese

Total Time (after baking potato): 5 minutes


  • Cut baked sweet potato in half, lengthwise and set aside (reheating if necessary). Mash the flesh with a fork.
  • Top with berries, almond butter and ricotta cheese.
  • Enjoy!


Savory Recovery

For those of us who don’t crave sweet things post-workout, a sweet potato can still provide a canvas for a savory meal. This potato provides a rich carbohydrate base to refuel muscles and serves as the base for protein powerhouse eggs and hemp seeds, plus red cabbage and carrots for extra antioxidants and avocado for healthy fats. Top with hot sauce if desired—especially if you got sweaty and need to replace lost sodium.

Photo: Hannah Meier

Photo: Hannah Meier


Makes 1 Serving


  • One medium – large sweet potato, baked
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 – 1 cup shredded red cabbage (I used a Trader Joe’s bagged mix)
  • 1/3 of a medium avocado, sliced or mashed
  • 1 tablespoon hemp seeds (or sunflower seeds)

Total Time (after baking potato): 10 minutes


  • Cut baked sweet potato in half, lengthwise and set aside (reheating if necessary). Mash the flesh with a fork.
  • Whisk the egg well in a bowl, making sure to incorporate lots of air for a fluffier texture.
  • In a pan with a little oil over medium heat, sauté the cabbage until soft. When cooked, push cabbage to the side of pan to make room for the scrambled egg.
  • Spray the pan with a bit of cooking spray to prevent sticking, and add the whisked egg to the pan. Scramble the egg until cooked through.
  • Top sweet potato with cooked cabbage and scrambled egg, avocado, and hemp seeds.
  • Enjoy!


Rest Day

Everyone needs a day off to let the body truly recover, fully top off glycogen stores, and repair damaged tissues. Despite being often overlooked in terms of sports nutrition, rest days are an important opportunity to supply your body with nutrients in high-demand. So do some yoga stretching, cook up this Buddha Bowl inspired potato and go to bed early—your body needs it!

Yoga Night Buddha

This is a meal full of plant-based power. As always, the potato is a base rich in Vitamin A and is topped with a trio of steamed broccoli, carrots and edamame that provide their own chorus of plant chemicals (phytochemicals), vitamins, minerals, and even protein (broccoli and edamame are some of the higher-protein vegetables). Tempeh (fermented soy) is the primary protein source of the meal, and is ideal for rest days when quick digestion is not necessarily the goal. Likewise, plant proteins are broken down more slowly in our bodies than animal proteins and reach muscles at a slower rate. Finally, a delicious peanut sauce brings the dish together with the unsaturated fat our body needs to absorb many of the ingredients’ fat-soluble nutrients.

Photo: Hannah Meier

Photo: Hannah Meier


Makes 1 Serving


  • One medium – large sweet potato, baked
  • 1/2 Cup Broccoli, steamed
  • 1 small carrots, sliced or shredded (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 Cup edamame, fresh or frozen
  • 1/4 Block Tempeh, sliced
  • Peanut sauce (recipe below)

Total time (after baking potato, including peanut sauce): 15 minutes


  • Cut baked sweet potato in half, lengthwise and set aside (reheating if necessary). Mash the flesh with a fork.
  • In a steamer or pan with just enough water to cover the bottom, add broccoli, carrots, and edamame and steam until cooked through to desired softness.
  • In a pan with a little oil over medium heat, sear tempeh slices for ~2 minutes on each side, until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, make peanut sauce (recipe below).
  • Top potato with steamed veggies, edamame, and peanut sauce.
  • Enjoy!

Makes 1 Serving


  • 1 Tablespoon peanut butter
  • 1 Teaspoon rice vinegar
  • 1 Teaspoon reduced sodium soy sauce or liquid aminos
  • 1 Teaspoon water
  • ½ Tablespoon honey
  • Optional additions: ground ginger, red pepper flakes, garlic powder


  • In a liquid measuring cup or bowl, whisk ingredients together until well blended. If the peanut butter is very thick, you may need to add more water to thin out the mixture.
  • Season to your taste. Add ginger for a bit of sweetness, red pepper flakes for heat, or garlic powder to make it more savory.


Hannah Meier is a registered dietitian and second-year student in the Nutrition Interventions, Communication and Behavior Change program at Friedman. She works one-on-one with undergraduate Jumbo athletes and sports teams at Tufts University, educating them on fueling for their best performance and mastering the fundamentals of nutrition for an active life.

Volunteer at an event that is sure to inspire! Girls On The Run 5K

by Dani Bradley

Looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can be outside, be physically active, and help empower girls? Dani Bradley tells us what she loves about Girls on the Run, and how you can get involved this winter.

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Has the cold weather stifled your fitness inspiration? That’s nothing girls with pink tutus and sparkles can’t fix.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is an amazing organization that “inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running”. GOTR empowers and educates young girls, in grades three through eight, to help them realize their full potential and provides an unmatched opportunity to develop healthy habits in our youth. The organization began in 1996 in North Carolina and now has over 225 councils across the country! During a 12-week season, girls participate in a program that integrates running and lessons about various GOTR values such as, empowerment, responsibility, and healthfulness, to name only a few. Girls can sign up with specific ‘sites’—usually the town they live in or the community program they are a part of. Any town or community center can start their own site through their local council, with their own funding or as a scholarship site, as long as there are volunteer coaches and girls that are ready to sign up!

When I first became involved with GOTR I was interested in becoming a coach, but unfortunately my job before becoming a Friedman student didn’t allow me to partake in the after-school practices. A former co-worker and I reached out to GOTR’s 5k team leader asking how we could get involved and she told us the Greater Boston council was in the midst of planning their first 5k! We quickly got involved and became the co-chairs to the volunteer committee on the 5k planning team. While my involvement is primarily behind the scenes, it is extremely gratifying to know that I play a role in the success of the program and can positively contribute to each girls’ experience! I think most Friedman students share in GOTR’s values of health and fitness and can appreciate the impact that can be made when young girls are taught healthy habits early in life.

Ready to get inspired? This December the Greater Boston council is hosting its Fall 5k at Dedham High school and you can volunteer! In my opinion, the 5k is the most exciting part of the program. Each girl and her ‘running buddy’ (usually a parent, guardian, babysitter, etc.) partake in a fun-filled day of exercise, empowerment, and excitement!

In my position as volunteer committee co-chair, I co-manage all of the event’s volunteers. Each year, over 100 inspired volunteers help us run the event.

Volunteer opportunities include (but are not limited to):

  • Course Marshals are assigned a specific location on the course where they help guide the runners in the correct direction and cheer them on.
  • Happy hair volunteers participate in the pre-race activities including helping girls with their hair (braiding, spray-painting, etc.), temporary tattoos, face painting, operating a photo booth, and other fun activities!
  • Water stops volunteers help set up the water stations along the course, hand out water to runners, and clean up the area after the girls have passed by. This is a great option if a group of people all want to volunteer together.
  • Registration volunteers help the GOTR team with runner check-in.
  • Sparkle Runners are volunteers that register to run the race. Each girl is required to run with a ‘running buddy’ for safety purposes, but each year some running buddies cannot make it last minute. Sparkle runners can stand in for missing running buddies or just run the course helping to cheer on all the girls.
  • Cheer Hub volunteers motivate the girls at the toughest parts of the course using noisemakers and signs.
  • Merchandise volunteers manage the merchandise table and sell our awesome GOTR gear.
Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Our upcoming 5k is scheduled for Sunday, December 4th at Dedham High School in Dedham, MA.

Grab your friends, classmates, roommates, coworkers, or family and register to volunteer with us!! The deadline to register is Sunday, November 27th.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at I hope to see you there!

Learn more about Girls on the Run and Girls on the Run Greater Boston.

Dani Bradley is a MPH/FPAN dual degree student. She began at the School of Medicine in January 2016 and is currently in her first semester at the Friedman School. In her free time, she enjoys running, spending time outside, and watching The Office or Parks and Recreation.  

Stop, Circuit Time! Strength Training for Runners

by Micaela Young

Fall is the best season for running: The return of goldilocks temperatures, the crunch of leaves under our feet and the refreshing crispness of the air happily gets us outside. Whether you plan to take on new PR or distance goals this autumn, or just want to enjoy nature’s scenery, the simple strength training circuits below will help you go the distance.

 Strength training is an ambiguous topic for most runners. Are we supposed to lift? If we are, what do we do and how often? Scientists and coaches alike have flip-flopped on the topic, but new research shows that a little strength goes a long way. Plyometrics and strength training interventions, both of low and high intensity, greatly improve running economy—the amount of oxygen required to propel your muscles over a certain distance—according to a new systematic review and meta-analysis published this summer in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

So, how much should you do? Well this depends on many factors, including workout schedule (if you’re lacing up for an upcoming race) and personal recovery rates, but general guidelines recommend including at least two nonconsecutive strength days per week. Bodyweight circuits are a great way to fit in strength work anywhere, even on a time crunch. Use these two circuits to kick-start—or change up—your training week.

Happy Running!

Circuit #1: For After Easy Running Days

Time: Approximately 10 minutes

 1 min each

1- Pushups

 Modify this by carefully dropping to your knees.

2- Side Squats

30 seconds each side.

3- Forward Lunge Hold with Jumping

Do a front lunge, hold it, count to three and then jump into a forward lunge on the opposite leg.

4- Single Leg Deadlifts

Balance on one leg, lean forward until hands are near shins. Keep abs, butt and back engaged, and chest out. Keep eyes looking straight ahead. Knee are slightly bent. Alternate legs.

5- Knee-to-Outside Elbow Planks

Begin in a straight arm standard plank. Bring your right to knee to right elbow. Count to three. Repeat on opposite side.

6- Side Plank with Hip Raises – Left Side

7- Side Plank with Hip Raises – Right Side


Bridge Series

10 reps—bridge with both legs

10 reps on left leg with right leg extended out

10 reps on left leg with right leg extended up

10 reps on right leg with left leg extended out

10 reps on right leg with left leg extended up


Circuit #2: For After Short or Non-Running Days

Time: Approximately 20 minutes

50 Jumping Jacks

10/leg Shallow lunges with torso twist

20 Shallow squats

2 pushups

1 min each

Set your watch/phone to beep every minute on repeat.



Extra: Add a jump at the top

Military lunges

Form check: These are regular forward lunges (not letting knee go past toes) with hands placed behind your head, keeping your elbows out of sight and back engaged

Forearm Plank Hold

Extra: Alternate leg lifts


Form check: Knees in line with shins, not leaning forward past toes. Keep your head up and butt back as if you were sitting in a chair. Lower down as far as you comfortably can.

Jump Squats

Form check: Same form as regular squats, just add a small jump in between each

Left Side Plank

Form check: Keep elbow and shoulder in line with one another – to protect shoulder joint

Extra: Add a torso lift, or do reps of lifting your right leg up & down for a challenge

Matrix lunges-Left leg

Form check: Forward lunge, side lunge, backwards lunge, and forward again. Repeat.

Right Side Plank

Extra: Add a torso lift, or do reps of lifting your right leg up & down for a challenge

Burpees w/Pushup

Extra: Add a jump at the top

Matrix lunges – Right leg

Form check: Forward lunge, side lunge, backwards lunge, and forward again. Repeat.

Mountain Climbers

Extra: Bring knee to the opposite arm for an added twist

Left Leg Balance

Form check: Keep left foot planted on floor. Do reps of bringing right knee up to 90-degree angle with running arms.

Extra: (1) Do not let right leg touch floor. (2) Speed it up for an added challenge. (3) Straighten right leg after bringing it up to 90-degree angle.

Artwork by Nathan McElrath


Form check: These can be done with weights if you have them, but if not just focus on keeping abs, butt and back engaged, and chest out. Keep eyes looking straight ahead. Knees are slightly bent.

Extra: Try single leg deadlifts for an added balance challenge

Right Leg Balance

Form check: Keep right foot planted on floor. Do reps of bringing left knee up to 90-degree angle with running arms.

Extra: (1) Do not let right leg touch floor. (2) Speed it up for an added challenge. (3) Straighten right leg after bringing it up to 90-degree angle.

Forearm Plank Hold w/Hip Twists

Form check: Try getting your hip bone as close, and as comfortably, as you can to the floor. It is important to keep your abs engaged to avoid straining your back.

Other helpful Sprout links:

Top Boston Running Spots

Tips for Running in the Cold

Micaela Young is a second-year NUTCOM student and certified personal trainer with the American College of Sports Medicine. After four years of collegiate running, she knows a thing or twenty about using strength training to prevent injuries and get the most out of your running.


What is Intermittent Fasting, and Does It Really Work?

By Hannah Meier

You may have heard of caloric restriction and the myriad benefits it supposedly brings to the metabolic table. New research suggests that intermittent fasting could be a safe way for people to improve their health, but before you adopt this eating pattern, read up on six common mistakes to avoid.

The newest diet to gain popular attention isn’t much of a diet at all. It is something that most people who adhere to a traditional sleeping and waking cycle are already primed to do—and, proponents would argue, is something humans have been doing successfully for centuries. Intermittent Fasting (IF) has garnered support in the fitness community as a weight management tool for bodybuilders and other fitness enthusiasts. Recently, a growing portion of the scientific community has begun to also regard IF as a feasible way to improve metabolic health and perhaps even extend one’s lifespan.

Instead of eating many times throughout the day, between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm for example, Intermittent Fasters will couple periods of extended fasting (from 14 to 24 hours) with shorter periods of eating. This can be achieved by a change as simple as lengthening the overnight fast by a few hours each day. Different variations of IF propose reducing intake to 500-600 calories for just two days of the week; others recommend one full, 24-hour weekly fast. There are no particular restrictions on the type of foods allowed to be consumed, as long as meals are kept within the “eating window” and consumption does not surpass the feeling of comfortable fullness.

Experimental studies in rats have suggested that providing the body with an extended fast (up to 24 hours) is physiologically beneficial, potentially improving insulin sensitivity, decreasing resting heart rate and blood pressure and reducing body wide inflammation—all of which could contribute to a longer expected lifespan. Further, adapting to a shorter eating window may help to moderate overall calorie intake. Randomized controlled trials demonstrating benefits in humans have yet to be published. Because humans share an evolutionary adaptation to generations of unpredictable periods of fasting and feasting, however, scientists are eager to tease out this connection in future studies.

Still, many nutrition professionals are hesitant to advocate IF as superior to other diets or as a safe and effective approach to weight loss. At the end of the day, reducing calories consumed and increasing energy expended through physical activity is what matters for losing weight, and there are many ways to achieve this goal that do not require adopting a rigid eating schedule. It is important to consider your lifestyle, motivation, and sacrifices you are willing (or not willing) to make in order to reap the potential benefits of intermittent fasting. Like any diet, adherence is key to success. Here are six common mistakes to avoid if you think intermittent fasting sounds like something you want to try.

Six Mistakes Most People Make When They Begin Intermittent Fasting

  1. Giving up too soon

It is normal to feel more irritable or sluggish as the body adapts to a longer fasting period and adjusts its hormonal signaling (most scientists believe this adaptation underlies many of the health benefits of IF). Intermittent Fasters will likely find that true hunger feels different than the hunger pangs and uptick in heartbeat associated with fluctuating blood sugar, which we experience when we are used to frequent eating—learn to recognize it.

  1. Forgetting about quality
The "Basic Seven" Developed by the USDA in 1943

The “Basic Seven” Developed by the USDA in the 1940’s

Even though IF does not restrict the type of foods allowed to be consumed during the eating period, it’s essential to maintain proper nutrition. Metabolic improvements like insulin sensitivity and reduced inflammation could very well be negated if fasters neglect nutritional balance and decide to eat foods high in salt, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates exclusively, avoiding fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. You may still lose weight if you’re consuming fewer calories overall, but the efficiency of your body systems will suffer—and you probably won’t feel too well, either.



  1. Forgetting to hydrate

Hydration is key, especially during periods of fasting. Adequate hydration is necessary for pretty much every function in the body and will keep you feeling energized and alert. During fasting periods water, tea, coffee and no- or low-calorie beverages are allowed (just watch out for added cream and sugar). Keep tabs on the color of your urine as a gauge for hydration status: if it is darker than the light-yellow of hay you need to drink more fluid.

  1. Exercising too much

Some athletes swear by intermittent fasting as a means to improve performance, burn more fat, and even increase endurance. However, none of these benefits have consistently been backed up with controlled human studies. In fact, many observational studies of Muslim athletes during Ramadan show evidence of decreased performance (some athletes practicing IF might not maintain a fasting pattern requiring them to train during a fasted state, so these experimental differences could be important in interpreting results). Moderate and consistent exercise is encouraged for general health, but excessive exercise on top of prolonged fasting may send the body in to a state of chronic stress which can lead to inflammation, lean tissue breakdown, insulin resistance and injury.

  1. Not working with your schedule

There are different variations of IF and the only thing that makes one program more effective than the next is whether or not you can stick to it. For example, don’t decide to fast for 24 hours if you know missing your nightly family dinner will cause mental and social strain. There are many methods for reducing calorie intake for weight loss, and intermittent fasting may not be right for you if it leads to feelings of isolation and reduced quality of life.

  1. Believing that if some is good, more is better

Just because a little bit of fasting may be healthy does not mean that a lot of fasting is healthy. Going too long without food can lead the body into a state known as “starvation mode,” which greatly slows the metabolic rate, begins breaking down muscle for energy, and stores a greater majority of consumed calories as fat. Further, fasting for too long can lead to severe feelings of deprivation and preoccupation with food, culminating in uncontrollable or disordered eating behavior including binging and even anorexia. If you sense your relationship with food is becoming abnormal because of IF, make necessary adjustments and seek help if needed. 

Because IF can represent a major shift in metabolism and routine, most nutrition professionals are hesitant to recommend it as an intervention for just anyone. It is important to work with a licensed professional who understands your needs and who can help you maintain optimal nutrition, physical activity, and mental health during periods of prolonged fasting. Preliminary studies show that IF, when done right, may be a great tool for improving health, but it is not the only option to boost endurance and lose weight.

Hannah Meier is a first-year, second-semester NUTCOM student, registered dietitian and aspiring spokesperson for honest, scientifically driven and individualized nutrition. 

Yoga: Treatment for Type II Diabetes?

by Connie Ray

Scrolling through your Facebook and Instagram feed, you might think yoga is just another avenue for the uber fit and flexible to show off their hot bods at the beach. But research has consistently shown yoga helps improve mood, reduce stress, and increase strength and flexibility.


By Iveto (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

There is also a growing field of evidence that yogic interventions can help treat and prevent chronic diseases. Published earlier in 2016 in the Journal of Diabetes Research, Innes and Selfe’s systematic review concluded that yoga may be beneficial for managing Type II Diabetes.

Type II Diabetes (DM2) is characterized by high blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia) and insulin resistance. It affects approximately 366 million people worldwide, a number which has doubled over the last 30 years. By 2030, this number is projected to reach 552 million.

In the United States, the CDC estimates that 29.1 million people suffer from DM2. In 2010, diabetes was the seventh leading cause of death in the US, and the number of cases is believed to be underreported. DM2 is the country’s single most costly chronic disease, accounting for at least 10% of all US healthcare costs ($245 billion annually).

Rather than an inherited disease like Type I Diabetes, DM2 is a preventable disease, and while certain factors like race, age, and genetic predisposition play a role in its prevalence, it is believed that over 90% of DM2 cases are attributable to lifestyle factors.

Lifestyle factors that increase risk of DM2 include physical inactivity, overnutrition, and obesity as the primary factors, with sleep impairment, chronic stress, and smoking as secondary contributing factors.

Yoga may be an ideal intervention for treating a multifactorial condition like DM2. Yoga is a mind-body approach to exercise, with roots in India over 4,000 years ago. The traditional practice of yoga incorporates 8 “pillars” or aspects of teaching, and the physical poses you see on Instagram, or “asanas” are only one of the 8. As yoga has become more prevalent in Western culture, it has branched into many different styles, including Bikram (hot yoga), Ashtanga (power yoga), Vinyasa (flow yoga), Iyengar (basic hatha yoga), Kundalini (awareness yoga), and restorative yoga. Most yoga styles incorporate physical poses (asanas), with breath practice (pranayama), focus (dharana), and meditation (dhyana).

Authors Innes and Selfe believe yoga’s mind-body approach suits it to a multifactorial lifestyle disease like DM2, and the results of their systematic review uphold their hypothesis. They analyzed 33 papers from 25 original controlled trials investigating the impact of yogic interventions on adults with DM2, and the results overwhelmingly demonstrated the benefits of a regular yoga practice on several health-related outcomes. Trials varied in duration and frequency of practice from 2-3 times a week to daily practice, spanning 6 weeks to over a year. In all cases, they compared results of the yogic intervention to “standard” DM2 care and in some cases, to a second control group subject to a standard exercise program.

Insulin Resistance: 22/24 relevant trials, or 92%, reported statistically and clinically significant improvement in at least one biomarker for insulin resistance (PPBG, insulin, and HbA1c).

Lipid Profiles: 15/16 relevant trials, or 94%, reported significant improvement in one or more lipid indices, including reduction in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, VLDL cholesterol, or triglycerides, and/or increases in HDL (“the good cholesterol”).

Body Weight & Composition: 8/9 relevant trials found significant improvement in at least one measure of body weight/composition, including weight, BMI, and waist-hip ratio, even in trials that compared a yoga intervention to standard care with regular exercise.

Blood Pressure: 3/5 relevant trials reported significant drops in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure compared to standard care and standard care with walking.

Oxidative Stress: 5/5 relevant trials indicated positive change in oxidative stress with the yoga intervention groups as measured by increased glutathione/Vitamin C serum levels, increases in superoxide dismutase levels, and reductions in malondialdehyde.

Mood & Sleep Impairment: 3/4 relevant trials reported significant improvements in quality of life, psychological well-being, symptoms of distress, and insomnia. One notable study of 41 adults practicing yoga nidra (yogic sleep) daily saw a decrease in insomnia prevalence from 43% to 5%.

Nervous System Function: 3/3 relevant trials reported improvement in cardiac autonomic function and reductions in heart and respiratory rate, all suggesting that yoga shifts the body’s nervous system from sympathetic to parasympathetic.

Pulmonary Function: 2/2 relevant trials reported improved pulmonary function (increased expiratory volume, forced vital capacity, peak flow rate, and maximum voluntary ventilation).

Medication Use: 3/3 relevant trials reported significant reductions in diabetes medication use in yoga intervention groups compared to standard care and comprehensive exercise programs. In one trial of 154 adults with DM2, there were 26-40% reductions in medication use at a 3-month follow-up.

“Overall, findings of these studies suggest that yoga-based practices may have significant beneficial effects on multiple factors important in DM2 management and prevention, including glycemic control, insulin resistance, lipid profiles, body composition, and blood pressure,” Innes and Selfe concluded.

Naturally, any systematic review has its limitations, and this one is no exception. Innes and Selfe found that several of the studies suffered from methodological problems or poor reporting, and the heterogeneity of study design, duration, and subject make it difficult to compare results across trials.

Yet even with its limitations, it is clear: yoga has obvious benefits in treating and managing DM2. As awareness of its benefits spreads, one would hope that more health practitioners will incorporate a yoga recommendation into their standard diabetes treatment plans.

Connie Ray is a first-year MNSP student at the Friedman School. She currently lives in Virginia, where she raises her two sons and teaches yoga.

How to Grab the Right Drink and Properly Hydrate for Exercise

by Katie Mark

I used to force myself to hydrate during training, and I learned (the hard way) that hydration is crucial to an athlete’s optimal performance. As a tennis player, road cyclist, and recreational boxer, I’ve found a major difference in my ability to sustain endurance and intensity during workouts when properly hydrated. There’s nothing worse than quitting a marathon, getting dropped on a ride, or stopping practice because of dehydration. Why? Because you can prevent it. 

When I competitively played tennis in hot and humid Miami, dehydration constantly hit me during tournaments and practice, especially while practicing six hours during a summer day. In my Bike w Waterearly days of road cycling, I used to get dropped on rides because I was too busy in the back of the group struggling with the consequences of dehydration.

For years I had trouble staying hydrated, which always led to cramping and fatigue. I work out two hours per day when I’m in Boston (high intensity interval training and boxing). When I’m in Miami, I do three hours per day of tennis and/or road cycling. There’s no excuse for me not to properly hydrate, especially since I am an athlete and my career focus is sports nutrition.

Proper hydration controls body temperature, and electrolyte and fluid balance – so staying hydrated requires replacement of electrolytes—not just fluid. Dehydration results when fluids lost by the body through sweat or urine are not replaced, which leads to hypohydration. This leads to greater heat storage in the body, which lowers the ability to tolerate outside heat.

Dehydration tackles athletes even when they think they are hydrated. Yet, it’s preventable. Keep in mind, sports have different—and specific—hydration protocols. Below is general guidance on how to properly hydrate and choose the right fluid for sport performance. Even if you don’t road cycle 50 miles a day or run marathons, you can still soak up the details below and apply them to your workouts.

Detect Dehydration to Avoid the Consequences

The severity of impaired sport performance increases as the severity of dehydration increases. For dehydration to negatively affect sport performance, it takes as little as 2% loss in body weight (~1.4 kg, or 3 lb, in a 68 kg, or 150 lb, athlete). A loss larger than 2% leads to an increased risk for nausea, vomiting, and other GI problems. Dehydration during high-intensity or anaerobic activities can lead to 3-5% loss in body weight. Therefore, hydration during these activities is even more critical.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Muscle cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Weakness and lightheadedness
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry mouth
  • Chills and lack of sweat

Consequences of dehydration include a reduction of:

  • Sweat rate
  • Blood volume, which thickens blood
  • Skin blood flow
  • Heat loss

And an increase in:

  • Body temperature
  • Rate of muscle glycogen use
  • Difficulty oxygenating the body

Hydration Strategies

Optimal performance starts with proper hydration before exercise. This is especially important for hot and humid environments and exercise lasting longer than 30-60 minutes. Pre-, during and post-exercise tactics are outlined below:

Days Before Competition:

  • Drink an extra cup or two of fluid. This can help make up for any potential shortcomings during pre-competition training.
  • Increase sodium intake. Extra sodium in water will help increase fluid uptake in the blood. This can be done by adding electrolytes to your drink or putting a little bit of salt on your food.
  • Calculate your sweat rate. This is important to determine the amount you should be drinking during training. Sweat rates, depending on intensity, duration, fitness level and environmental conditions, can range between 0.3-2.4 L/hr. Knowing the amount of fluid you need to drink will keep comfortable for optimal performance. Drinking too much during competition may lead to GI distress. Here’s how to calculate your sweat rate to personalize your fluid replacement plan:
  1. Right before training. Empty your bladder, and weigh yourself with little to no clothing.
  2. After training. Wipe off extra sweat on your body and weight yourself again.
  3. Calculate your new weight. Subtract the after exercise weight from the before exercise weight. The new weight reflects your weight change during training (change in weight = sweat loss – fluid intake). This is primarily water loss as opposed to fat loss.
  4. Convert to ounces. Multiply the new weight (in pounds) by 16.
  5. Calculate the total amount of fluid. Add the amount of fluid (ounces) you drank during training to what you calculated as your change in weight.
  6. Divide by number of hours you trained. If you trained for two hours then take the number from step 5 and divide it by 2. This gives you the amount of ounces of fluid you need to replace per hour, or sweat rate.
  7. Monitor this sweat loss. Your sweat rate is the amount of fluid you need to consume during training and competitions.

Calculate Sweat Rate Graphic

Pre-Exercise or Competition:

  • Check urine color. Clear to pale-yellow colored urine is good hydration status. This is a basic—yet helpful—indicator of hydration because urine color can be affected by riboflavin (B vitamin), vitamin C, and some medications.
  • Drink 2-4 hours before. Drink 5-10 ml/kg of body weight, or 2-4 ml/lb before exercise.

During Exercise or Competition:

  • Prepare your water bottle. Options for fluids are discussed below so make sure your bottle is ready.
  • Make your fluid cold. Cold beverages can help reduce your body temperature, which helps in hot and humid conditions.
  • Follow your sweat rate. Calculate this (described above) during your training sessions.
  • Grab your water bottle before you get thirsty. Thirst indicates that you need to drink and not that you are dehydrated.
  • Drink the suggested amount. If you don’t know your sweat rate, drink 6-12 oz (150-350 mL) every 15-20 minutes. Keep in mind, the amount will vary depending on the:
    1. Intensity of the sport
    2. Environmental conditions
    3. Amount of fluid you can handle
  • Listen to your body. The body does an exceptional job maintaining fluid balance. That’s why you drink when you’re thirsty. Follow your body’s message to drink.
  • Pinch your skin. This is not a 100% reliable method, but it still helps to detect hydration. Pinch the skin on the back of your hand using your pointer finger and thumb. Hold for a few seconds. If your skin takes a bit of time to return to normal position then you need to drink more.
  • Check urine color. Make sure urine is a pale color. If it looks dark like apple juice then drink up.
  • Sense dry mouth. A dry mouth is one of the first signs of dehydration. Grab the water bottle!

Post-Exercise or Competition:

  • Replace your fluid deficit. You will continue to lose fluid even after exercise. Over two to six hours, replace about 150% of the fluid you lost because a larger volume of fluid is needed for the continued sweat losses and urine losses after exercise. Generally, replace 16-24 ounces of fluid for every pound lost. If you have a hard time doing this, an easy tactic/reminder is to drink fluids with your recovery meals.
  • Do not restrict sodium. Athletes usually have large sodium losses during exercise so sodium intake should not be restricted.
  • Plan for next practice or competition. If you felt dehydrated, go back to the drawing board. Revaluate the amount of fluid you need.

Note on over-hydration: there is no benefit to drinking more than what you need. Over-hydration is especially seen in recreational athletes because they may believe that they need to drink more when their exercise intensity and sweat rate are not that as high as competitive athletes. Drinking more than needed could dilute important electrolytes necessary for cell communication, nerve pulses, and muscle contraction. Drinking more can also increase urination and leave you feeling bloated.

Water’s Best Friend: Electrolytes

Electrolytes are critical for cell communication, nerve impulses and muscle contraction. Sodium, potassium, and magnesium are important electrolytes. For instance, the body needs to maintain 135-145 mmol/l of sodium in the blood for optimal body function. This is why drinking too much water should be avoided because dilution can lead to sodium depletion, or hyponatremia. Urination increases with the more you drink, and this causes additional sodium excretion. Even if this is mild, it can lead to fatigue, headaches and confusion.

Exercise at a high intensity—at least 70% of your max heart rate—or for greater than 90 minutes calls for electrolyte replacement. Read on for options on how to replace electrolytes.

How to Pick the Right Fluid

Plain Water

Plain water is the best choice in majority of exercise conditions. Sports drinks provide carbohydrate and electrolytes, but are only intended for those exercising more than 90 minutes and/or at a high intensity. In contrast, water is ideal for those who are just doing short duration and/or low intensity (i.e., the elliptical) exercise. The carbohydrate (simple sugar) only adds unnecessary calories.

Sports Drinks

Research suggests that sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade can help sport performance. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates (6-8% of solution), water, and electrolytes. Avoid sports drinks with high fructose corn syrup or sugar alcohols because these ingredients can lead to upset stomach.

Consider your sport and intensity to determine if the extra carbohydrates from sports drinks is necessary because it’s added sugar. If you are worried about added calories, but you want the flavor of a sports drink, you can dilute the sports drink with water. If you use a sports drink, avoid drinking one that you’ve never used before on the day of competition. Make sure the drink is tolerable to your stomach during a few training sessions.

Electrolyte Sources

Some alternatives for electrolyte sources are coconut water, water-enhancing electrolyte tablets (i.e., Nuun), or fruit-infused water. Coconut water comes from the fluid inside the coconut—which is different from coconut milk—and it’s a natural way to replenish electrolytes, especially potassium and magnesium. There are sweetened and unsweetened versions—so no sugar, artificial sweeteners, or dyes that sports drinks contain. Water-enhancing electrolytes will give you the electrolytes you need without the sugar. Simply adding fruit or citrus (i.e., berries and lemon slices) can also do the trick.

A large sweat sodium loss calls for replacing sodium during exercise. Do this by using electrolyte tablets or adding salt to your beverage. Sodium should be replaced if:Electrolytes Graphic

  • Athlete has a high sweat rate (>1.2 L/hr)
  • “Salty sweat” is present. Signs to look for include sweat stings the eyes, sweat tastes salty and white streaks on your face, skin or clothes
  • Exercise is longer than 2 hours

Note on the electrolytes that not all products have the same amount of electrolytes. A tablet of Nuun may have more magnesium than the amount found in coconut water. You may need to use multiple electrolyte tablets depending on the intensity of your exercise.

You need to compare products. Look at serving size and the electrolytes you’re getting for that serving size. For instance, I know my diet lacks magnesium, and I will not drink a sports drink (even if I’m riding 50 or 100 miles). I searched for electrolyte sources that have the highest amount of magnesium per serving. And I found electrolyte tablets were the best option for my exercise conditions and my personal preferences and needs. I add more tablets to my water bottle depending on the intensity and duration of training.

Bottom line: If you’re a gym rat exercising at low or moderate intensity or for less than 90 minutes then skip the sports drink. For those exercising at a higher intensity and/or for at least 90 minutes, consider if the added calories from sugar are unnecessary based on your training session or competition. Skipping the sports drink means you need to consider alternatives for electrolyte sources so you can sustain optimal performance.

Katie Mark is a second year MS Nutrition Communication and Master of Public Health candidate. She carries tubes of electrolyte tablets in her cycling jersey pocket and a dollar for Cuban coffee.