sports performance

Coffee, Dehydration, and Your Workouts

I've been asked more than once if coffee is something that should be avoided. Usually the question centers around dehydration due to the caffeine content, but that's often accompanied by the question of "is it good for me?" as a general statement. Lucky for us, the research shows that coffee does not have negative health impacts and might actually be protective in some cases. Great news for the daily cup of coffee drinkers! 

Caffeine Content Matters
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans specifically addressed caffeine intake in the form of coffee. Luckily for avid coffee drinkers, three to five, 8 oz cups per day was shown to be safe. However, the three to five cups of coffee must be equivalent to 400mg of caffeine. Some methods for brewing coffee result in a higher caffeine content. If you're curious about your regular cup then check out this chart from the Center of Science in the Public Interest for more. Additionally, the recommendations specifically point to healthy adults, not children, teens, pregnant or lactating women, or those with chronic conditions who may be more sensitive to caffeine. Some research has also shown that moderate intake of coffee may be protective against cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Since coffee is a source of antioxidants, those antioxidants can play a role in the reduction of chronic inflammation which can be protective against certain chronic diseases.

Caffeine and Your Workouts
Caffeine is a hot topic in the sports world because of the research that supports its consumption for improved endurance. Most of this benefit is coming from the effect that caffeine has on the central nervous system. Lots of popular sports supplements emphasize that caffeine can help in burning fat, but the slight increase in metabolism and the effect on fat as fuel is not as substantial as many supplements would have you believe. For those looking to use caffeine as a means for improving endurance, the recommendations vary. Most recommendations are between 3 to 6mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight with the understanding that more is not better and may have negative health impacts. So, a 150lb person (68kg) would aim for approximately 200-400mg of caffeine within the hour before exercise. This can be consumed in the form of a supplement, but is also easily reached with coffee alone. Energy drinks and other supplements containing extreme amounts of caffeine are not recommended.

Does Caffeine Cause Dehydration?
In the dosages listed here, caffeine intake does not result in a negative impact on fluid balance or in an increased sweat rate. Up to 400mg of caffeine or approximately 4 cups of coffee brewed with 100mg caffeine each, will not contribute to dehydration. This can put your mind at ease for reaching for a cup of freshly brewed coffee first thing in the morning instead of a glass of water (although hydrating with water is a must!). 

Sugar, Fat, and Everything Else Added to Your Coffee
Ordering coffee in a local coffee shop can sometimes require google to help with deciphering the menu because there are so many choices. The basics are this: choose a beverage that tastes good to you and that you enjoy, but with as little added sugar and saturated fat as possible. Many of the national coffee chains have coffee beverages with extreme amounts of added sugar which puts them well beyond the amount found in a typical soda. For example, one Venti Iced Caramel Frappucino at Starbucks has 84g of sugar, the majority of which are added. If you compare that to the fact that women should be aiming for no more than 24g of added sugar per day and men no more than 36g, that is well over the mark in your morning beverage alone. Beverages with added saturated fat are also to be considered in the total amount of saturated fat to be consumed for the day. That same beverage contains 10g of saturated fat if prepared with whole milk which is about half of the daily recommended intake.

The bottom line: enjoy your coffee, but do so without the additives. Just find a good cup of coffee and I promise you won't need all the sugar and saturated fat!


Who are the Everyday Athletes?

Everyday athletes are running their first race, they’re trying new fitness trends, they’re in the boutique fitness studios, or they’re hitting the hiking trails. Some are signing up for their first 5K while others are planning to race in long distance, endurance events like marathons and full Ironman races. They’re not Olympians or NFL players, they’re not collegiate or masters athletes…they’re the everyday athlete hitting the fitness studio and crossing the finish line.

With this comes unique challenges in performance fueling. The everyday athlete’s energy needs are vastly different from the professional athlete.

But sports nutrition messaging rarely differentiates.

Sports beverages and performance fueling supplements are marketed to the general population, but meant for the professional. This doesn’t mean the everyday athletes don’t require special attention to performance fueling. It simply means the approach must meet their needs in the fitness studio, on the race course, and in their daily life (like at the desk job).

If you’re an everyday athlete then I’m here to help you fuel for performance in the studio and on the street. I’ll help you understand your energy needs, learn how to manage your nutrition for your everyday life, and enable you to perform at your max with proper fueling. Want to learn more?

Let's connect! 

Ketogenic Diet: You Asked, ANEWtrition Answers

Recently, I had the privilege of writing and publishing an article for Not only was it an opportunity to research a hot topic and speak to experts in the field, but it had the unexpected benefit of showcasing some of the confusion around not just carbohydrates, but the ketogenic diet in general.

EatingWell's Facebook page is active with multiple posts per day, so when the ketogenic article went up, I spent some time reading through the comments. Below are a few of the points that stood out along with my responses:

Myth 1: A high fat diet equals low carbohydrate
Multiple comments consisted of referencing the high fat foods eaten, but few recognized that some high-fat foods also contain carbohydrates. As stated in the article, the ketogenic diet doesn't have a standard definition, but most studies have stuck to 25-50g of carbohydrate or less per day. Dairy is one of the most commonly missed sources of carbohydrate and high fat dairy is still dairy meaning it contains carbohydrates despite the fat content. The carbohydrates in dairy come from the natural sugar called lactose which consists of galactose and glucose. This is called a disaccharide (double sugar) and requires an enzyme, lactase, to be used during digestion. One cup of whole milk contains 12g carbohydrate and a standard container (6oz) of full-fat yogurt contains around 8g of carbohydrate. Eat one serving of each and you're nearing the carbohydrate limit of the ketogenic diet.

A few key points:

1. The ketogenic diet is challenging to maintain and much of the research has relied on controlled environments where food is administered and tightly regulated, a feat difficult to duplicate in the real world.

2. Following a diet this strict makes it more likely that you'll miss out on key nutrients commonly found in fiber-rich, carbohydrate-containing foods like fruits, beans, and whole grains. 

3. Plant-based diets are known to contribute to a lower risk for chronic disease and there is mounting evidence that plant-based diets may be beneficial for the environment. Read more.

4. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, please do not confuse the recommendation of eating more plants, like whole grains, beans, and legumes, to be a recommendation to eat more ultra-processed foods high in added sugars and salt. Simply adding plants and whole food sources of carbohydrates to the diet does not mean you must also add highly processed, sugary, salty, and fat-laden foods to the diet. If I recommend whole grains, I'm not simultaneously recommending all processed, grain products. This all or nothing approach is one of the most challenging and prevalent practices I hear every day in conversations with clients, colleagues, and friends. I see it on social media, read it in blogs and hear it in traditional media. Walk into any major bookstore and the covers of diet books will tell you just how extreme our approach to nutrition can be. The science of nutrition isn't all or nothing. It's nuanced, it's complicated, it's evolving. Nutrition is personal and deeply rooted in culture, environment, skills, access, knowledge, and preferences. Recommendations should be based in science, but flexible in approach and application. 

Nutrition is personal and deeply rooted in culture, environment, skills, access, knowledge, and preferences. Recommendations should be based in science, but flexible in approach and application.

Myth 2: Encouraging the avoidance of the ketogenic diet means the science is flawed and "sugar-funded" studies are behind the information. 
Yes, in its most basic form, carbohydrates are broken down into sugar in the form of glucose, but the package of the carbohydrate matters. If you're talking about a whole grain versus a sugar-sweetened beverage or even a refined grain for that matter, then the effect is much different. Consider the fiber-rich package of a whole grain - this slows digestion, is a source of prebiotics feeding the healthy gut bacteria, and provides phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals known to contribute to long-term health. The sugar-sweetened beverage is simply refined sugar absorbed quickly into the bloodstream resulting in a rapid increase in blood sugar and subsequent insulin spike. 

If we're referencing "sugar-funded" studies then I assume we're speaking of the added sugars in the Standard American Diet. The unfortunate reality is that it makes business sense for a company that creates a product that's high in added sugar to also have supporting research to say that added sugar doesn't harm health, same goes for any company creating a product that features any other type of ingredient whether it be soy, cocoa, berries, etc.. Does this mean that all industry-funded studies are inherently biased? No, but many argue that the number is severely skewed meaning more industry funded studies are biased than aren't. However, it's naive to assume that research does not take place using industry funds since there simply isn't enough public money for the amount of research that needs to be done. As a dietitian, I know it's my responsibility to communicate nutrition science in a clear and accurate way. This includes identifying funding sources and potential conflicts of interest.  

If you'd like to read more on the conflict of industry-funded studies, specifically as they relate to the sugar conversation, then you can do that here and here.

Myth 3: The ketogenic diet improves athletic performance. 
Research has shown time and time again that carbohydrates are the limiting factor for athletic performance. Still not convinced? Read more:  

Re-examining High Fat Diets for Sports Performance: Did We Call the 'Nail in the Coffin' Too Soon?

Ketone Bodies and Exercise Performance: The Next Magic Bullet or Merely Hype?

Carbohydrate Dependence During Prolonged, Intense Endurance Exercise.


Note: This article does not apply to the recommendation that the ketogenic diet be followed by individuals with uncontrolled seizures or other neurological conditions. In certain populations, this approach is highly successful, but diet modifications should be done under the care of a physician or dietitian.