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COFFEE: Stop feeling guilty about your java cravings. First, it's a myth that a moderate amount of caffeine causes dehydration during exercise. Coffee contains heart-healthy soluble fiber—known to reduce cholesterol levels—according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Another study, in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, suggests that drinking two to three cups of coffee daily lowers the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Coffee is also a good source of antioxidants, including cancer-fighting polyphenols.
VITAMIN D: Don't go light on this critical vitamin. Not only is D essential to bone health; it may also help prevent certain cancers and autoimmune diseases. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that higher vitamin D levels are associated with a lower risk of developing multiple sclerosis. Most people naturally get 200 to 400 IU daily, but experts now recommend 800 IU each day from food and supplements combined. Get yours from a daily multivitamin. We like Centrum Silver Tablets, which have 500 IU of vitamin D (ignore the marketing message for "older" adults).
SNACKS: Munching small portions evenly throughout the day—rather than overeating at meal times—is good for your waistline and your job. A study in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that firefighters who split their usual meals into regular snacks had significant increases in productivity, especially during the latter hours of the day.
Trying to build muscle this winter? Eat meat.
BY CHRIS CARMICHAEL
Nothing against vegetarians, but when my athletes are training hard, I recommend that they eat red meat. Lean cuts of beef (sirloin, tenderloin, top round), bison, and lamb are reasonably low-fat sources of high-end protein and zinc. But the real advantage over protein powders or tofu is the iron. Heme iron, the type found in meat, is more efficiently absorbed by the body than the non-heme iron found in vegetables. Why does that matter? New evidence, reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, suggests that athletes turn over their oxygen-carrying red blood cells faster than other people; replacing those cells requires a healthy dose of iron. Male athletes should consume just a bit more than the RDA, or 8–14 milligrams from food daily. A six-ounce steak has 4 milligrams, so fire up the grill.
Chris Carmichael is the founder of Carmichael Training Systems and former coach to Lance Armstrong.