• Give Eggs a Workout

    Dave EllisYou’re probably not a competitive athlete, but you may wish you had an athlete’s physique, stamina, and strength. Who wouldn’t?

    Dave Ellis, R.D., one of the nation’s leading sports nutritionists, has spent more than three decades coaching college and pro athletes on how to eat for high performance. Even if you are merely a gym rat or fitness enthusiast, Ellis’s strategies can guide you in refueling after your workout.

    “The harder athlete’s work, the more damage they do to muscle, and the higher the protein demand for tissue recovery,” says Ellis. For years, Ellis says, body builders have argued that they need massive amounts of protein. Finally, science is catching up to them. Studies now suggest that individuals who do high-intensity workouts need more protein than the Dietary Guidelines recommend—up to a gram of protein daily per pound of lean body mass. For Ellis’ clients, who typically have very low body fat, “the protein requirements are up there,” says the consultant. Older athletes have even higher protein needs because their bodies are less efficient at using it, Ellis says.

    “At any training table where we’re feeding athletes, eggs are in play the whole day long,” says Ellis. “They’re certainly obligatory at breakfast, but nearly every salad bar has boiled eggs on it. Boiled eggs also work well as a between-meal snack for athletes. We’ll jazz up deviled eggs with chicken or tuna salad in the middle. Athletes love popping those as a high-protein snack.”

    Eggs contain leucine, the amino acid that helps repair damaged muscle and minimize muscle decline as we age. Some athletes turn to supplements for individual amino acids, but that’s an odd choice, says Ellis. The supplements are costly and often taste bitter; eggs are inexpensive and taste great.

    To guide athletes in their meal choices, Ellis organizes his training tables by food group. Athletes are coached to choose foods from each group after a workout, a strategy he calls Fueling Tactics®. Apply these Fueling Tactics® to your own post-workout meals, and you’ll be on your way to a healthier you

    • Group 1: Antioxidant-rich foods such as avocados, nuts, seeds, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, citrus, and other fresh fruits and vegetables. Studies suggest that foods in this group enhance the immune system, making you more resilient and able to fend off infections.
    • Group 2: Non-protein foods (primarily high-fiber carbs) that restore the energy and replace the glycogen depleted in a workout. Think beans, tortillas, whole-wheat pasta, bananas, whole-grain cereals, and cereal bars.
    • Group 3: Protein from diverse sources: dairy, plant and animal. Eggs, cheese, legumes, fish, and poultry deliver the goods and provide variety. “Protein is really what drives satiety,” says Ellis. “Plant proteins do okay on that front, but eggs have tremendous satiety potential.” Each type of protein offers different micronutrients, so it’s a good idea to play the field.

    Egg Burrito

    Featured recipe: This Breakfast Burrito with Spicy Black Beans, Scrambled Eggs, Avocado, Brown Rice, and Salsa Verde in a Whole Wheat Tortilla kicks it right through the goalposts, with ingredients from all three of Ellis’s suggested groups.