Eating Well to Feel Well on Thanksgiving and the Holiday Season

Fresh baked breads, cookie decorating and the cheddar popcorn tins…it’s that time of year again. With each year’s holiday season, people are surrounded by numerous calorie-dense food choices. According to The American Council on Exercise, the average adult consumes 3,000 calories at their holiday meal. And that’s one meal, let alone the whole day.

Here are three tips to keep your diet in check during this Thanksgiving from St.Vincent Sport Performance, Lindsay Langford, Sports Dietitian, MS, RD, CSSD:

Build the Rainbow:  When sitting down to a table full of food, be sure to add “color” to your plate. Foods that are rich in color are generally rich in nutrients. From reds to purples, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins and minerals fill these foods to provide high quality fuel. See how many colors your plate can represent.

Drink Up:  Often times, hunger pains are more likely due to dehydration than true hunger. Be sure to drink at least 8oz of water, 30 minutes prior to mealtime to help prevent overeating. During the big meal, skip the sodas, sweet tea and lemonade. These are drinks that contain high volumes of sugar and add a lot of calories, but won’t help you to feel fuller. Stick with water, unsweetened tea, or low fat milk.

Pleasing Protein:  Lean protein sources such as turkey, chicken, or fish can be a great way to please the palate. Protein sources take longer to digest, helping your stomach to have the feeling of fullness. By making ¼ of your plate skinless turkey breast, you will find yourself less tempted by the dessert table.

It is important to realize that food is fueling your performance, and how to keep a little slip from becoming a slide. Eat well to play well this holiday season.

This blog was originally published in 2013, but the tips still apply to Thanksgiving 2015 and beyond!

Gut Check: Probiotics & Prebiotics

You’ve likely heard the words probiotics and prebiotics being thrown around in relation to gut health, but what exactly are they and more importantly, what do they have to do with gut health?


Probiotics, or “good” bacteria, are live cultures naturally found in many fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, yakult, cabbage, kimchee, and soybean products like miso, natto, and tempeh.  When consumed regularly, these active cultures help to repopulate or change your own intestinal bacteria, which help keep your gut flora (where you find most digestive tract bacteria) healthy.  In fact, there’s some research that shows that by improving your gut flora, these little bacteria may help boost immune function and overall gastrointestinal health.


Prebiotics, on the other hand, can be thought of as food for probiotics.  They are natural, non-digestible food ingredients that help stimulate the growth and/or activity of probiotics as well as your gut’s naturally occurring bacteria.  Prebiotics include fructooligosaccharides like inulin and galactooligosaccharides (big words for naturally occurring sugars in foods).  Various fruits (bananas), vegetables (garlic, leeks, artichokes, asparagus, onions), legumes (soybeans), and whole grains (wheat, oats, barley) are all great food sources of prebiotics.


It’s thought that by consuming prebiotics along with probiotics you’ll get a synergistic effect, a bigger bang for your buck so to speak, since you’re not only providing your gut with additional good bacteria (probiotics), but also some fuel for those good bacteria to go to work (prebiotics).  Bottom line, probiotics and prebiotics can help keep your gut health in check and by doing so may help your overall health.  So be sure to include probiotic and prebiotic rich foods in your daily diet. Try combining the two in a snack of a banana and oats with yogurt or a barley salad with asparagus and tempeh; two great options to get the dynamic duo in one dish.

Old-Man Strength

Old-man strength is real, but it’s not the norm and doesn’t just happen by chance. In fact men have to overcome a gradual loss of muscle fibers as they age. Among older athletes, performance of endurance runners and weight lifters drops after age 40 and max levels drop 50% by age 80.


Studies in male aging studies have shown that serum testosterone levels decline with age. Even though a man has to fight against age-associated atrophy in the muscles and hormonal changes, he can still get stronger relative to his younger self.


Frank Mayer’s article “The Intensity and Effects of Strength Training in the Elderly” suggests strength gains during aging are possible because the elderly population can still work at higher intensities. It says there’s no evidence that load bearing intensity should be reduced to avoid injuries at an older age.


So I can say with great confidence that the aging male still has the ability to gain strength due to the theory of progressive overload. Basically, muscles that are challenged to create a higher rate and magnitude of contraction (intensity) have the capability to obtain a strength adaptation. 


In conclusion, old-man strength most certainly has to be earned from hard work, never comes by accident and is definitely not a direct result of aging; on the contrary, an aging male that increases strength relative to the past has had to overcome obstacles in his body to get to such a position of growth and strength. 

Powerful Pineapple

 Pineapple – a fruit with a spiny, somewhat scary exterior, and perfectly sweet, golden interior. This fruit is not only a great source of fiber, manganese and vitamin C, but it also contains bromelain. What’s bromelain, you ask? Also known as pineapple extract, bromelain is a mixture of compounds, including enzymes, which have been associated with combating inflammation, indigestion, infection, nasal congestion and burns. In fact, pineapple has been used for centuries in Central and South America to treat some of these aliments. For athletes, bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties may offer another means of helping aid in the recovery process.


Consuming pineapple juice post-exercise may help alleviate exercise-induced inflammation and kick-start the recovery process. For those athletes who are injured or recently underwent surgery, pineapple may help reduce swelling/inflammation, getting you back to competing sooner. Not only is it great for it’s anti-inflammatory properties, but due to it’s high vitamin C content, pineapple is another great fruit to help boost your immune systems defenses.


So whether it’s to fight inflammation or ward off a cold, pineapple is one powerful fruit you should try out!


Here’s a great post-workout smoothie recipe featuring the powerful pineapple:


Blue-Cherry Pineapple Smoothie

½ cup diced pineapple

½ cup blueberries

½ cup 100% pineapple juice

½ cup tart cherry juice

¼ cup vanilla Greek yogurt

½ TBS flaxseed or flaxseed meal


Add everything to a blender and blend on high until smooth. Enjoy!


Andretti Autosport Signs with SVSP for Pit Crew Training

Andretti Autosport, the Indianapolis 500 and Verizon IndyCar Series Championship-winning team based in Indianapolis, has enlisted the help of St. Vincent Sports Performance (SVSP) to prepare its pit crews for the 2016 IndyCar season. St. Vincent Sports Performance is a member of Ascension, the nation’s largest Catholic and not-for-profit health system.


SVSP will work with Andretti Autosport’s over-the-wall Verizon IndyCar Series pit crews on physical training and performance psychology three days each week.


“SVSP is honored to become part of the Andretti Autosport program,” said Ralph Reiff, executive director of SVSP. “We are eager to engage our expertise into pit crew performance solutions for the team.”


During a pit stop, crew members are responsible for changing four tires, adding 18.5 gallons of fuel, and making wing adjustments on the race car in less than 10 seconds. Peak physical condition as well as mental toughness to routinely cope with high stress situations are crucial to success.


“Just as IndyCar drivers need to be mentally and physically prepared to perform on race day, the pit crew needs to be equally prepared,” said Rob Edwards, Director of Engineering and Operations for Andretti Autosport. “St. Vincent Sports Performance has a proven record of improving pit crew performance by paying attention to both group needs and individual requirements. I am excited to renew my relationship and Andretti’s relationship with SVSP as we continue our preparations for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series.”

What’s the buzz about caffeine?


From energy drinks to coffee and tea and even foods, so many products these days pack a powerful punch of caffeine. For most people, and for the marketing groups behind these products, they’re all about caffeine giving you that extra boost, a little pep in your step to help get you through those long work days or hype you up for a workout. For those nine-to-fivers, college crammers, perpetual night owls, not to mention the legions of athletes, caffeine, nature’s oldest stimulant, offers a way to stave off fatigue and keep on truckin’. The questions then are, with all the new caffeinated products out now, how much caffeine is safe and when, as an athlete, should you use it?

cofee beans

For athletes, consuming 2-6 mg of caffeine per kg (1 kg = 2.2 lbs) of body weight 20-60 minutes prior to working out has been shown to be beneficial for both physical and mental performance. So if you weight 150 pounds, you’re looking at about 135-410 mg of caffeine, or about one to three cups of traditional brewed coffee. However, if you’re someone who doesn’t consume caffeine on a regular basis, you’ll likely need much less than that – probably closer to 0.5-1 mg/kg body weight. There’s no doubt that caffeine can help decrease perception of fatigue and effort associated with exercise, allowing you to push a little harder for a little longer, but it can also help increase coordination, focus, and concentration; all things that can help improve an athlete’s performance.


But how much is too much and what are some of the consequences of overconsumption? It really depends on you. How much you typically consume daily greatly impacts how much you need to consume to get any sort of performance benefit, but there does seem to be an upper limit, and if you overshoot that amount you’re likely going to experience some unpleasant side effects. Consuming 6-9+ mg/kg body weight, about 410-615+ mg (about 3-6 cups of coffee) for that 150-pound individual, can cause diarrhea, nausea, shaking, and decreased ability to thermoregulate in hot environments when adequate fluids (water) haven’t been consumed with the caffeine; all of which will negatively impact performance. Excess consumption can also result in overstimulation of the nervous system and electrical activity of the heart, which can result in death.   While overconsumption of caffeine alone can result in decreased performance, one of the biggest concerns lies in what’s being consumed along with the caffeine. If an energy drink, caffeine pill, ‘sports enhancing’ product, or other caffeinated food is your preferred source of caffeine, you should be careful of those containing unlabeled or unspecified amounts of banned stimulants like synephrine, which when mixed with caffeine can result in serious health consequences.


In short, caffeine has been proven effective in boosting performance when taken in a reasonable dose about an before exercise. Just be careful of which product you’re using to get your caffeine boost and remember, more is not always better.


Food/Drink Amount of Caffeine (mg)
8 oz. regular coffee 80-100
8 oz. brewed tea 50
2 oz. espresso (latte, cappuccino, etc.) 100
12 oz. caffeinated soda 35-55
8oz. energy drink 80 – 150
Typical caffeine containing energy bar 50-100
1 package caffeinated sport beans 50
1 Energy shot 200
1 Caffeinated Sport Gel 25-50


What is Cardio?

Performance Specialist Jeff Richter, CSCS, USAW talks cardio and optimizing your time for better results.

running jogging

There are many people who wouldn’t label themselves “fitness fanatics” and are just looking for the most efficient way to exercise that provides the best results in the least amount of time.  So when it comes to the amount of cardio that is required to maintain a healthy lifestyle, we need to first understand what cardio even means in the first place.  There seems to be a universal idea that “cardio” is a compartment of fitness that includes distance running, jogging, biking, swimming or other related forms of aerobic exercise.  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  I would instead encourage everyone to look at cardio as anything that disrupts your internal balance, or homeostasis, due to your heart beating faster to provide more blood to the muscles being worked.  Your body knows that when it receives any form of stress, the heart has to work harder so we can both return to homeostasis and make an adaptation to the challenges presented.  Cardio is therefore a result of exercise, not a category in-and-of itself.    

If you are looking for the most time-efficient form of cardio that will maximize the return on your “effort investment” to keep you healthy, you are in luck because it is possible to accomplish more in less time when it comes to your fitness; however, this style of training will challenge you.  If you are looking for the least amount of exertion required to stay healthy I would encourage you to ask yourself this question, “What other areas in my life do I expect to give minimal effort to receive maximal results?”.  I’ve never heard anyone say “How many donuts can I eat and still have a six-pack?” or  “How can I give the least amount of effort at work and still get a raise?”  It doesn’t work this way in life. There is no easy way out. The “easy way” out in fitness ironically requires more training time – running, jogging and walking for a long time could certainly be an intro level form of exercise for some people, but in general, those styles of training require more time for a minimal return on investment and are not as intense (measured by heart rate) as other forms of exercise.       

For example, a three month study by Utter in 1998 showed that the addition of 45 minutes of aerobic exercise at 78% of max heart rate five days a week for 12 weeks had no effect over dieting alone.   There are countless other studies that prove that long distance aerobic training done at low levels of exertion have minimal effect on your body composition and overall health.  On the contrary, adding in high intensity bouts of exercise through sprinting, interval sprints and metabolic weight training have the greatest effect on your body composition through fat-loss and muscle preservation and strengthening.  By grinding through tough bouts of exercise you optimize your effort investment and get done with your workouts in the shortest amount of time. 

Practically, performing interval sprints with a 1:2 work to rest ratio could be a great place to start – sprint for 30 seconds and then recover by walking for 1 minute before repeating the 30 second sprint.  Repeat that process 10 times and you have yourself a difficult workout that finishes in 15 minutes.  In addition, I highly recommend Tabata training for exercises such as squats, pushups and lunges or sprint bouts.  The Tabata Protocol entails the following: 8 intervals of 20 seconds all-out intensity exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest.  This can be done with just your bodyweight and then progressed into adding resistance from weights. 

Here’s a challenge: Perform squats for 20 seconds, rest 10 seconds and repeat 8 times and tell me if you feel “cardio.”  I guarantee you will!  In fact, you will feel more cardio than traditional cardio training!  So, will you push yourself hard for a short amount of time to achieve maximum results?

Superstitious Young Athletes

Lucky socks, tying your shoes a certain way, stepping over the foul line, putting your gloves on left hand first, then right hand, rally caps… Superstitions abound among young athletes. Are they good? Are they bad? What can a parent do to help a child with useful pre-performance routines? Kacey Oiness, Ph.D., HSPP, a Sport & Performance Psychologist at St.Vincent Sports Performance is here to answer those questions and more.

Kids often develop superstitions in an effort to create consistency in performances and feel as though there is something they can control each time they compete. Therefore, encouraging kids to develop performance routines can be useful, as it can allow them to identify things that are within their control that can contribute to success. You can assist your child in creating pre-performance routines that contribute to performance such as healthy behaviors (i.e. a good night’s sleep, eating healthy, etc.), as well as incorporating mental skills that lead to greater levels of confidence and an ability to maintain composure (i.e. positive self-talk, relaxation strategies, visualization). By encouraging them to develop a routine that facilitates their performance, you are giving them a way to feel a sense of control and consistency, without necessarily having to turn to superstitions.

football snap

Superstitions, however, can be a part of sport and are not necessarily bad. But it is important to be cautious about allowing an athlete to depend  on their superstitious behaviors. Flexibility is key: if an athlete is unable to perform an aspect of their performance routine or engage in a superstitious behavior, it is important for them to learn to refocus on things that are within their control moving forward. When an athlete has difficulty moving past the idea that they have to engage in a superstitious behavior, that is when it can become harmful. The more you can assist your athlete in developing useful physical and mental performance routines and reinforce flexibility in that routine, the more beneficial it will be to their athletic performance.

Another group of SVSP grads on NFL rosters

Over the last several years, SVSP has trained dozens of former college athletes during the run-up to each spring’s NFL draft. September is here, training camps are done, and the 53-man rosters are set heading into Week 1 of the 2015 NFL season.


Whether you’re watching your favorite team or getting a football overload with Sunday Ticket to track your fantasy roster, keep your eyes peeled for SVSP athletes. It shouldn’t be too hard, they are everywhere! First, let’s get familiar with the 2015 pre-draft program graduates.


Deon Simon, Tackle, New York Jets
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Kristian Sokoli, Guard, Seattle Seahawks
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Leterrius Walton, Defensive End, Pittsburg Steelers
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Raheem Mostert, Running Back, Miami Dolphins
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Obum Gwachum, Defensive End, New Orleans Saints
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Pacers new practice facility: The St. Vincent Center

I was invited to the office of Mr. Jim Morris to his office for a meeting.  Anytime you get an invitation from Mr. Morris it is a humbling honor.  I met Jim along with Kelly Krauskopf and Rick Fuson on a sunny afternoon of June 11, 2014.  They revealed a plan to build a stand-alone practice facility for the Indiana Pacers and they wanted SVSP to be part of the process.
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So here we are, 440 days after that initial meeting, announcing the St Vincent Center.  The 140,000 square-foot St. Vincent Center will be built in a pie-shaped space on Delaware Street immediately east of Bankers Life Fieldhouse and adjacent to the Virginia Avenue Parking Garage.
“St. Vincent Center will be a tremendous asset enabling the Indiana Pacers to compete for the top basketball talent in the world, to assist them in training to achieve peak performance, and to allow for greater and more varied uses of Bankers Life Fieldhouse in the future,” said PS&E President and Chief Operating Officer Rick Fusion. “St. Vincent Center also will be a tremendous addition to the continued revitalization and development of downtown’s southeast quadrant.” 
The partnership is much broader than naming rights – it allows St. Vincent to offer easy access to high-quality health care for those working, living and visiting Indianapolis. St. Vincent is renowned for clinical expertise and a cScreen Shot 2015-08-26 at 12.43.15 PMompassionate, patient-centered approach to care that ensures caregivers remain focused on healing the total mind, body and spirit while providing an extraordinary level of service, safety and quality.
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The St. Vincent Center will provide primary care, cardiovascular,and sports performance services available for athletes and the general public. St. Vincent Sports Performance will offer sports medicine physicians, sports nutrition, sport & performance psychology, sports science and physical training, which the program currently offers to athletes of all ages ranging from middle school to professional. Primary care services will also be available to the general public, including preventive care. Board-certified cardiologists will treat patients with cardiovascular disease while offering access to the nationally recognized comprehensive services, specialists, technology and compassionate care of St. Vincent.
The St. Vincent Center will be the 20th stand-alone training facility built by an NBA team since 1999. Many of those facilities have partnered with local health organizations.
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“Prior to the St. Vincent Center, St. Vincent Sports Performance already had an established relationship with the Indiana Pacers by providing the team with sports psychology and dietary services,” said Nalli. “St. Vincent Sports Performance is the largest hospital-based program of its kind in the country and currently provides comprehensive care to professional teams and athletes in an array of sports – including those for professional and Olympic athletes. Providing these advanced services in downtown Indianapolis will enhance our existing partnerships while adding to the vibrant sports culture of Indianapolis.”
As SVSP continues to provide solutions for athletes, this downtown presence represents the next edition of ‘defining sports performance”.