The Right Fuel, by Amy Mills MS, RD, CDN

When the green flag drops, Mazda racers are pretty much all the same.  Going for the win, trying to be one with their machine.  Away from the track, they are a diverse group from all walks of life.  We asked SCCA Spec Miata racer Amy Mills about her day job – helping people become healthier through nutrition.  Amy is a Registered Dietitian, and an Adjunct Professor at Long Island University where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in nutrition and wellness.

The Right Fuel

By Amy Mills MS, RD, CDN
Racers and car enthusiasts put a lot of thought into how to keep their car running in peak form, but typically far less time on how to fuel their body.   The body can run on a wide variety of food and drink.  There are hundreds of different ways to eat, and no single diet is the magic answer to everyone’s problems.  However, there are some simple dietary tweaks that you can make to tune-up your diet, keep your body running smoothly, and drastically reduce your risk of a breakdown from chronic illnesses like diabetes.

1.     Drink more water.  Water acts like the oil in your engine and makes up 60% of your body weight.  Adequate water intake can curb hunger, helps to detoxify your body, promotes regularity, keeps your skin looking healthier, and is essential for athletic performance.  Most adults need two liters (half a gallon) of plain drinking water per day in addition to other beverages.  If you are sweating a lot during activities, you may want to add an electrolyte tablet to your water or have a sports drink.

2.    Ditch the sugar.  Sugar is tasty, but causes all sorts of trouble in the body.  Your heart is like the engine in your car keeping you moving through life.  Sugar increases circulating blood triglycerides (fat) and lowers your HDL (good cholesterol), both of which put you at risk for heart disease.  It increases fat in your liver which can lead to insulin resistance, the beginnings of diabetes.  Sugar also promotes inflammation throughout the body as well as putting your energy level on a roller coaster ride.  Women should limit added sugar to no more than six teaspoons per day (100 calories) and men should keep it to nine teaspoons or less (150 calories), which is about the amount in a 12 oz. can of soda.  The average American eats 22 teaspoons per day!

3.    Find room for fish.  Eating fish just two times per week provides your body with omega-3 fatty acids which keep your body running smoothly and protect your heart.  EPA and DHA are two types of Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish.  They reduce risk of heart disease by decreasing inflammation, lower blood triglycerides, and lowering blood pressure.  They also reduce joint pain, and may reduce risk of cancer.  To get the benefits you only need two servings of fatty fish per week.  A serving size is 3.5 oz., about the size of a deck of cards or an iPhone.  The best sources of Omega 3 are wild salmon, arctic char, herring, rainbow trout, sardines, anchovies, and tuna.

4.    Veg out.  You can never eat too many vegetables.  Vegetables contain nutrients that keep every part of your body running:  Fiber for regularity and balancing blood sugar levels, essential vitamins for all body functions such as Vitamin A for good eyesight, minerals that lower blood pressure, antioxidants which reduce damage from normal wear and tear, and they are naturally low in calories.  Eating more vegetables measurably reduces your risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. You need 2-3 cups of vegetables daily; yet 87% of Americans do not meet these recommendations.  French fries and pizza sauce make up most of the vegetable intake in the US!   Instead, eat fresh or frozen vegetables daily and include a wide variety such as dark green, leafy greens, red, and orange vegetables.  Eat a salad for lunch, have a big baggie of cut up vegetables to snack on in your fridge, try cooking a new vegetable main dish like a stir fry,  soup, or curry, add chopped vegetables to pasta sauces, and shred vegetables like carrots and zucchini for muffins, quick breads, and meatloaf.