If you are one of those people that thinks rice is either white or brown, and both are boring, you are mistaken. There are so many different kinds of rice, each with a unique flavor and many with a unique use. You would serve yourself well to venture out and try some of the different varieties. Several are mentioned here with brief descriptions and suggestions for use.
An aromatic, long-grain rice from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. It comes in brown or white. It has a distinct flavor, “nutty” might be a word to describe it. It is a tender, fluffy rice and does not stick. It is used in curries and stir fry, but can also just be served as a side dish.
This is available in short, medium, or long varieties. It is higher in magnesium, selenium and fiber than white rice. Can be eaten as a breakfast cereal, used in sushi and puddings, and can be substituted for white rice most of the time.
This is a medium or short grain rice with a high starch content. It is used to make risotto. (Risotto is an Italian rice dish that is stirred and cooked slowly in a broth to a creamy consistency) Arborio is also used for pudding and other desserts.
Sometimes also called “purple” or “forbidden” rice. It is dark due to the anthocyanin content. It is a whole grain rice and comes in long and short grain varieties. The short grain type is often used to make sticky rice, porridge, and rice pudding.
This comes in short, medium and long grain varieties. Most white rice in the U.S. in enriched with thiamin, niacin, folic acid, and iron. Don’t rinse white rice before or after boiling to prevent washing the nutrients away.
This is originally from Thailand and has a very distinctive floral aroma and nutty flavor. It pairs well with Mediterranean food. It is light and fluffy, and can be white or brown. Steaming works better than boiling with this grain.
Wild rice is actually not rice at all. It is a semi-aquatic grass species grown in North America. It is dark, long and slender with a nutty flavor. The texture is chewy and it is higher in protein than white or brown rice. This is usually mixed with other rices or bulgur wheat. It goes very well with red meats, stews, soups, pilafs, and fruit.
This is a whole grain rice, very rich in antioxidants and other nutrients. It is a long grain rice from Thailand or a medium grain from Bhutan. It is nutty, chewy and great to add to pilafs, rice salads, and stuffings. Plus it’s beautiful!
All rice varieties have carbohydrate, a little protein, a tiny bit of fat, and all are gluten free. Whole grain rice will have more protein, vitamins, and fiber than white rice. Colored rices will have more antioxidants.
The shape and length of the rice determines its texture when it has been cooked, as well as what dishes to use it in. Long grain rice generally cooks light and fluffy. It is good for adding to rice salads, jambalayas, curries, and stuffings. Medium grain rice is moist and tender. It is better suited for things like paella and risotto. Short grain rice is much moister and stickier, making it a great option for rice puddings and eating with chopsticks.
Rice is a great way to make soups and casseroles even heartier, as well as stretch the food budget.
Take advantage of the latest hot product at the grocery store – naan. The flatbread, most commonly associated with the cooking of India, is enjoying newfound popularity at the grocery store. Readily available in pre-packaged form, the tear-dropped shape bread comes in flavors such as whole wheat and garlic. Like Boboli before it, naan is the trendiest way to put a new spin on pizza – a blank canvas for whatever the creative cook can dream up.
Dress it up with any combination of ingredients and blanket the whole mixture with cheese or use naan as a platform to showcase melted cheese, much like a grilled cheese sandwich. Try pepper jack, Monterey Jack, provolone or mozzarella combined with other favorites such as Parmesan and Asiago.
In Indian and Central Asian cooking, flatbreads are as common as biscuits and cornbread in the South. Traditionally, naan is baked in a small dried clay oven where a hot fire heats the inside walls. The dough is thrown against the walls where it sticks and bakes. The experienced baker chooses just the right moment to pull it out of the oven – when it’s browned and bubbly – and before it slides onto the ground. The main difference between naan and other flatbreads is in the cooking: a skillet instead of an oven. In some countries, yogurt is added to the flour in naan to soften the texture of the final product.
Although you can serve naan plain, cooks have found a way to pair the ethnic food with a gourmet taste of America, similar to the upscale taco craze. You’ll find naan topped with everything from barbecued chicken and smoked Gouda, to roasted vegetables and Gruyere, to smoked salmon and cream cheese.
Because few of us have a tandoori oven in the backyard, you can slide the naan onto a grill, or you can pop it in the oven. It’s delicious any way you do it.
Swishing a sports drink around in your mouth and then spitting it out might sound like a nonsensical way to boost performance, but it’s been nearly a decade since research first suggested that rinsing improves your workout. A study by sports scientists at University of Central Lancashire this April found that during an hour-long workout, cyclists who swished carbohydrate-rich sports drinks for longer covered more distance and felt less tired than after a five-second rinse or rinsing with water.
How the trick works may surprise you. Brain scans show that specific regions light up when carbs are in your mouth. The longer you rinse, the more time the carbs have to stimulate sensors in your brain, says study author Lindsay Bottoms. “The concept of mouth rinse supports the idea that the brain is very much playing a key role in fatigue,” says Bottoms.
Swishing is most beneficial during relatively short, intense workouts. Not only can the rinse give you a performance boost of about 2 percent, but it also helps avoid indigestion from swallowing carbs during workouts. “When performing high-intensity exercise lasting less than 60 minutes, using a carbohydrate rinse for 5-10 seconds can improve performance,” says Bottoms. “It could potentially allow you to train harder.” If you’re doing a couple hours of exercise, however, rinsing will start to lose its effect since your muscles really do need more carbs.
This comes and goes with regard to popularity, and right now it seems to be back. The Glycemic Index (GI) shows what happens to our blood sugar when we digest different types of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates that break down quickly cause a quicker rise in blood sugar than those that break down more slowly. Foods are ranked according to the effect of 50 grams of carbohydrate from a particular food on blood sugar in comparison to the effect of 50 grams from glucose. The index is a scale of 1-100, with glucose being assigned 100. Originally, the GI was developed as a research tool for use with people with diabetes.
In general, foods that have a lower GI score will have a lower impact on glucose levels. Foods that have a GI of less than 55 are considered “low”. Foods with a GI of 55-70 are considered “moderate”, and foods that are above 70 are considered “high”.
There are many problems with trying to apply the data from the GI to every day eating.
First of all, most eating does not involve eating carbohydrate by itself. Second, the GI is based on 50 GRAMS of carbohydrate of a single food, which may be significantly more than a person would eat of a particular food. Third, there are many variables that can affect the GI of a food: ripeness, the presence of acid in a food, individual differences in people’s digestion, cooking time, just to name a few.
Another key issue with the GI index is that you can’t make an educated guess about which foods are low or high. You have to look it up. Potatoes are not all the same. Orange juice is different from oranges.
With all that being said, there is certainly nothing wrong with looking for ways to increase your intake of foods that are good for you. If the GI is something you feel is valuable and helpful, have at it! There are plenty of great books and cookbooks out there on the subject. Just remember one thing: Eating should be easy. Don’t get so caught up in a “system” that you forget to enjoy the simple pleasure of eating foods you enjoy.
There seems to be a lot of confusion as to what exactly is a whole grain. You wouldn’t think it would be that complicated, but the the food makers are experts at confusing the consumer. Labels everywhere talk about how their bread or cereal is a good source of whole grains. They mention that their food comes from a whole grain and then imply that you are eating a whole grain food. But are you? You aren’t.
Products that are made from whole grain FLOUR are NOT the same as eating whole grain. Whole grain foods are generally made from wild rice, millet, quinoa, barley, seeds, or wheat berries. These go into the food (bread, cracker, cereal) in their WHOLE, or original form. You will physically see the grain or seed, and have to chew it to eat it. This is very different from whole grain flour. Flour is where the grain has been ground before it is used. Whole wheat bread, for example, is brown, but does not have the seed or actual grain in it.
I do not want to dismiss eating foods made from whole wheat flour. Whole wheat flour is good, and a good step in the right direction in terms of having a higher fiber and vitamin content than regular white bread. However, if you are looking for a food that has a lower glycemic index than white bread, the whole wheat bread is not going to be that much better. They are both around 70 on the glycemic index.
Whole grain foods are a little trickier to find and tend to cost a little bit more. Many times these products will be found more readily in markets that have organic foods, and they are frequently in the freezer section. They don’t have as long a shelf life, so they have to be kept frozen.
As always, variety is important and so is taste. You have to find the balance that works for you and your wallet. Choosing more whole grain foods is a good goal, but you don’t have to accomplish it overnight. Start slowly and find foods that you enjoy eating. Remember, drinking lots of water is VERY important when you start increasing the fiber content of your diet. 🙂
HOW and WHAT you eat plays a vital role in exercise, training, and performance. Everyone has had that moment where that truth is realized on a personal level. You hit the wall lifting weights and you realize that when you eat bad you train bad. You have a day where you feel like you could run forever on that God forsaken treadmill and you realize that when you eat good, you train better. The problem is, you aren’t absolutely sure why one day was bad and one day was better.
Let’s start with carb intake. It DOES NOT MATTER what sport or exercise you are involved in, good eating involves carbs. Yes, carbohydrate. A lot of it. Most athletes should be eating upwards of 60% of their total calories from carbs. I know what you are thinking. The answer is still CARBS. Here is why:
The body is designed to burn carbs for fuel. This is the most efficient energy producing fuel you can eat.
Your muscles store carbs for energy. They do NOT store protein. (I know, catch your breath!)
If there isn’t enough available carbs in the diet, the body will break down protein (muscle) to compensate
Now based on what I just said above, here is what needs to happen. You need to make sure that you have enough carbs in your diet and in the right amount. If you aren’t sure what a carb is, then get with me and let’s fix that.
Some red flags that could be indicators of not enough carbs in your diet:
Poor endurance, cardio is really tough. You “hit the wall” frequently.
Poor recovery. It seems to take a while to recover from a workout.
Lingering injuries. Something is always out of whack or not completely healed.
If you are looking for an easy way to boost the vitamin content of your diet, give nuts a try. They have long since been recognized for their nutritional value as a source of polyunsaturated fats, good protein, and antioxidants. There are so many fantastic nuts to eat, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one type. Pistachios, almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and macadamias are just a few! For this article, we will focus on walnuts.
A serving of walnuts is going to be 1 oz, or roughly a handful. (I’m talking about walnuts without the shells) This would be about 1/4 cup shelled halves or pieces OR 12-14 halves. A serving has about 18g of fat and 190 calories. Don’t panic. I admit, they are high in fat and calories. This is exactly why you have to be careful when eating nuts, any kind of nuts. However, for people who train HARD and need concentrated calories (especially the kind that can travel in the car and gym bag), nuts are a very strategic, health RICH food.
Walnuts are the only nut to be a significant source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids. Typically these fatty acids are derived from fish. Omega-3’s are essential fatty acids (that means they have to come from the diet) and known to reduce inflammation. Research has suggested that omega-3’s may also help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. You definitely want a diet rich in omega 3’s. Because walnuts are a plant food, and not animal based, there is NO CHOLESTEROL. There isn’t cholesterol in any nut. They are also naturally low in sodium.
I mentioned earlier that nuts are also a good source of antioxidants. Research has suggested that antioxidants may help protect against some cancers, especially those related to the aging process. As reported in the Spring 2011 volume of SCAN’s Pulse
A 2010 study2 investigating the antioxidant activity of different dry fruits found walnuts to exhibit the best antioxidant properties Additional research3 testing 1113 different foods for antioxidant levels reported walnuts rank second only to blackberries in terms of antioxidant content Ellagic acid and gamma tocopherol, a form of vitamin E, are two antioxidants that are thought to have anticarcinogenic properties; both are found in walnuts Melatonin, an antioxidant known for its sleep regulating properties is also naturally found in walnuts Research, led by melatonin expert Russel Reiter, PhD4, published in the September 2005 issue of Nutrition: The International Journal of Applied and Basic Nutritional Sciences, reported the calculated concentrations of melatonin in walnuts was 3 5 +/- 1 0ng/g.
I have always been a proponent of using melatonin to help with sleep, but I was not aware that it was an antioxidant! It’s like a bonus!
For those who may prefer to focus on a more vegetarian type of diet, nuts can be a great way to incorporate protein, while adding additional fiber. Fiber helps you feel full and is also beneficial to controlling blood sugar levels. (and they are gluten-free!)
If you happen to like reading research and getting more of the clinical details, you can read more here. Be sure to look for new recipes on the site that use walnuts. 🙂
Are you thinking about changing things up this year? Maybe you are ready for a new way of eating . Maybe you have thought about trying to eat clean all the time. (Do we really know what “eating clean” means? It seems to be a highly variable definition.) Maybe you have even wondered if becoming vegetarian is a good idea or not. There are definitely more and more fighters evaluating their diet options, and even departing from their “high protein” ways. Fighters are starting to explore eating styles that have previously been considered non-traditional for MMA, like vegetarianism and veganism. There are several fighters who are known for their vegetarian and vegan eating styles; Jake Shields, Frank Mir, and Mac Danzig, to name a few. If you are considering adopting a vegetarian way of eating, you will first have to decide exactly HOW vegetarian you are going to eat.
There are so many variations. Some are super strict (like vegan) and some allow milk and eggs, but not beef and chicken. The type of vegetarianism you decide on will determine what foods you will have to focus on to make sure that you get enough protein and certain vitamins, like calcium, B12, and Iron.
If you are just going to be a straight forward vegetarian, at a minimum, you will not be eating ANY meat, fish, or poultry, dairy, or eggs. The good thing is this generally means that the overall diet will be lower in saturated fat and cholesterol, while higher in fiber, B vitamins and antioxidants. On the other hand, if not well planned, the vegetarian diet can be low or inadequate in B12, Iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. It becomes important to eat a variety of foods so that over a period of time there aren’t any risks of nutrient deficiencies. Aside from having to make sure that the diet is providing all of the vitamins a fighter needs, it is important to make sure that the diet also provides enough total calories for the amount and type of training a fighter will be doing. The typical MMA fighter needs anywhere from 2000-4000 calories a day. This will depend greatly on height, weight, age, and training level. Unfortunately, many fighters have no idea how many calories they need to be eating, so they end up eating too few calories. Plus, since they are constantly cutting weight, they are always trying to eat even less. The vegetarian MMA fighter needs to know exactly what his or her caloric intake should be so that the diet can be designed to meet the need.
Let’s pretend we know a 28 yr old fighter named Jim who wants to become a vegetarian. He is 5ft 8inches and fights at 155 lbs. He used to walk around at 175, but since he has been working with Rudog he doesn’t do that anymore. He has adapted his training and diet to maintain his weight at 160. (He is soooo smart!) Now that he wants to be vegetarian, his diet will definitely change. His calorie needs are estimated to be around 2500 calories per day. Here is what a typical day might look like for him:
1 Whole Wheat English Muffin
1 tbsp Jelly
1 cup Orange Juice
1 cup Mixed fresh fruit topped with coconut flakes
¼ cup Homemade trail mix
12 oz Green tea
1 Veggie burger w/lettuce, tomato on whole wheat bun
1 oz Baked Lays
2 cups Mixed green salad w/ 1 tbs olive oil and balsamic vinegar
2 cups Spicy tofu with brown rice
2 cups Steamed veggies
1 cup Fresh fruit
2 cups Popcorn
12 oz Fruit smoothie made with soy milk
This meal plan ends up providing around 2500 calories, with 63% from carbs, 12% protein, and 25% fat. If you analyze if for vitamin and mineral content, it will not provide the recommended daily amounts of calcium, vitamin C, iron, B12, and others. This is because when dairy and eggs are eliminated, it becomes difficult to get those nutrients without some serious menu planning and rotation. Variety in food selection becomes extremely important. This particular meal plan did not include any dry beans or legumes, but doing so would certainly bump the nutrient value in several categories. The problem is most guys don’t want to eat beans every day, let alone for every meal. Not to mention the “GI distress” that comes with the territory. Oh, you WILL be gassier as a vegetarian, beans or no beans! That just comes with the territory. It is generally not a bad idea to take a multivitamin if you are eating vegetarian or vegan. You can also see where getting enough protein every day certainly takes some planning. This meal plan provides 12% and a good range is anywhere from 15-25% for fighters. A protein supplement would be an option to look at, or just make darn sure that there are high-protein foods consumed every day, like nuts, beans, hummus, egg substitutes, soy, and tofu. Where you have to be careful is the fat content of the diet. The vegetarian protein sources can be high in fat. It’s definitely a balancing act. If you choose to go the vegetarian route that does include dairy and eggs, it becomes MUCH simpler. The protein and calcium intake is less of a concern.
For the vegan, the challenges are a little more difficult because the food choices are much narrower. It can also become tempting to slide into a routine of eating the same thing all the time. This is certainly convenient, but over time can compromise the nutritional quality of the diet. When variety is limited, vitamin and mineral content is, too. The biggest challenges are getting enough absorbable iron and B12. These are best absorbed by the body when they are eaten from animal products, so getting them strictly from plant based foods is more difficult. The absorption rate of iron is greatly decreased when it is coming from plant based foods. Without the use of a high quality iron supplement the risk of anemia is high. It’s not a bad idea to have regular blood tests to make sure everything is ok.
Vegetarian diets are definitely possible for MMA athletes and fighters, but they do require a little more pre-planning and food preparation. Here are some things to think about if you are considering going vegetarian:
Lower in saturated fat
Higher in fiber
Lower in sodium
Lower in cholesterol
Greater intake of fruits and veggies
The diet can become higher in fat if cheese and dairy are used as main sources of protein and for flavor
Higher dairy intake can increase the intake of saturated fat
Foods can be more expensive
Fresh foods don’t last long and can be spoil before they are eaten.
You will need more time for frequent trips to grocery store and for food preparation.
Any time you are considering a significant diet change, it is a good idea to talk with a registered dietitian just to make sure that the diet is appropriate for you and what your fitness goals are.
If you watched the BJ Penn vs. Kenny Florian bout from a couple years back, you heard the phrase “testing the gas tank” mentioned more than once by the commentator. The question being raised was about Penn’s conditioning. He had undertaken a new cardiovascular conditioning program prior to that fight and he didn’t look as energetic in the second round as he usually does. The commentator’s point was that Penn’s gas tank was being tested…..he looked a little sluggish…..did the new training leave him with enough gas in his tank? Had he overtrained? Penn went on to win that fight, but I thought the commentator raised a great question. It’s a question that all fighters should ask themselves constantly: Is my conditioning program putting gas in my tank or am I overtraining and actually running on empty when it’s fight time?
Doing your cardio (whatever that may be) harder and faster for longer does not necessarily produce BETTER conditioning. The conditioning training is not just about training muscles to do work at a certain intensity or duration, but also training muscles to store FUEL at an optimum rate. This involves:
Eating enough carbs, protein, and fat DAILY to fuel all components of your training
Proper timing of your eating: Before, During, and After exercise
Total daily intake MUST be adequate if you are going to preserve muscle and stay lean. If you aren’t eating enough carbs, then you are potentially making up the shortage by breaking down some muscle to use as fuel. You will also be limiting the body’s ability to burn fat, making it more difficult to get and stay lean.
Let me say it again. You HAVE to eat carbs, protein, and fat for everything to work correctly. If you are short changing yourself on the carbs so you can eat more protein, then you are short changing your muscles’ ability to store fuel. There are no short cuts here. Eating lots of protein DOES NOT get stored in the muscle as fuel. It also doesn’t magically create big, beautiful biceps. Carbs are stored as fuel in muscle. Carbs fuel exercise that builds big, beautiful muscles. Protein repairs and synthesizes new muscle. Careful here. Listen to what I said. Muscle is made of protein and needs protein to repair, not enlarge, it. If you are eating more protein than you need, it is important you understand that the extra protein is a source of extra calories. Extra calories only have a couple of fates. They can be broken down and excreted to some degree or they can be stored as fat. Some of the extra protein is broken down into amino acids and then excreted through the urine. (bummer!) The rest of it is actually stored as fat—–a bigger bummer. A lot of times this is the very reason why a guy can be working out like a dog, taking the protein supplements, and can’t seem to get really lean.
Some of you are thinking, “Yeah, but don’t you know that carbs cause water gain? You actually look leaner when you don’t eat them.”
My reply? Yep, carbs attract water. We all know that’s why you don’t eat them before weigh in. That’s a short term strategy for a short term goal. So what? Training is LONG TERM. It’s a terrible long term strategy. Guys that hold to that theory are the ones that don’t go 3 rounds. They definitely don’t go 5 rounds. Their only prayer is to submit in round 1. Longer than that is a crap shoot. So, the take home message? You gotta have carbs.
Let all of that digest, and next week I will talk about timing of food.