The Coach Speaks Out!

The Coach Speaks Out on Nutrition Part 2
with Mike Lushington

    This is the second of a two-part series of columns on nutrition.

    Last week, I expressed several personal concerns with the "new" fad, high protein diets that are gaining so much publicity in recent weeks.

    There is an old expression in sport: training produces short-term pain for long-term gain. Athletes know that good hard workouts lead to fatigue and, on occasion, aching muscles, but if they persevere, the muscles adapt and the fatigue disappears, leaving the athletes stronger and more capable than they were before they started that particular form of training. There is considerable evidence, for those who want to do what is truly best for themselves over the long haul, that the new fad diets potentially reverse that old training axiom: they may produce short-term gain, but long-term pain.

    A high animal protein diet consisting of hamburgers, steaks, fried eggs, slathering of butter and the like presents the risk of increased cholesterol, as we all know. But it also places a burden on the whole digestive system and especially on the liver, the kidneys and the bowels. This burden has been implicated in increasing incidents of cancer in those areas of the system. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with cancers, the problem may not show up for twenty or thirty years, by which time the original stimulus may well be forgotten.

    Years ago, professional athletes used to load up on steaks and other forms of high protein before competition. Gradually they have shifted from that approach to one that emphasizes a much higher intake of carbohydrates, for a very simple reason - it works better.

    In the face of all of the publicity over the new diets, the Canada Food Guide promoters, and those people who run diet programs that have established their credibility over the years, have stayed the course. They recognize that protein is an essential component of a balanced diet (I know that I could never shift to an all- vegetarian diet, nor do I want to). Protein is essential for building and repairing muscle tissue; if twenty percent of our diets is protein, however, we are getting plenty to address these needs. Fat, too, is essential, again in moderation. The formula of 20% protein, 20% fat - and 60% complex carbohydrates (please note that that reads "complex carbohydrates) - is as valid today as it was before all of this buzz about all protein, hold the carbs, resurrected.

    I want to make a final point and I think that it is a critical one: many of the promoters of these new diets recognize the truth of what I have been saying in these columns, and discuss that in their own work. The danger with these diets very lies in the fact that many people read only the parts of the programs that they most like and ignore the rest. If you are going to jump on one of these bandwagons, at least read the whole program. Better still, consult your doctor or a qualified nutritionist before you make any serious dietary decisions.

    Yours sincerely,

Mike Lushington, Dalhousie


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