Overtraining is a common problem with high level, high intensity athletes. There have been many studies demonstrating the effects of over training on athletes both mentally and physically. In elite athletes who play at higher levels, overtraining due to high practice and game demands, can play a critical role in their well being both physically and psychologically.  A Finish Doctor named Dr. Uusitalo points out that “an overtraining condition always has to be taken seriously, as it may have long term, and sometimes even permanent consequences”. Some athletes never reach their former top performance level after an overtraining condition. The most demanding task for the coach and the athlete is to find out the cause of the overtraining condition and how to control it.


Overtraining creates chaos in the nervous, endocrine, and immune systems and is obviously a bad thing, the fact that overtraining seems to produce its first problems in these three systems has led some scientists to conclude that careful physiological surveillance might help to PREVENT overtraining. The problem, of course, is that monitoring the immune and endocrine systems in this way is expensive and requires medical supervision, making the procedures impractical for most athletes.


There is a new test that has been developed that makes this assessment easier. This test can determine whether the condition was fatigue, caused by an acute stress situation, or an athletic burn-out as a result of too heavy training. Unfortunately, it requires a computer, some specific software, a stop watch and, patience and discipline. However, there is another method which has been used with some success in the past and that is the monitoring of the athletes morning (a.m.) heart rate over an extended period of time so as to predict one’s normal resting heart rate (RHR) or whether or not it becomes accelerated.


Why would such heart-rate accelerations be a warning sign for overtraining? Bear in mind that pulse rate is controlled by the nervous system, and the nervous system is one of the first three systems to show signs of overtraining. Thus, nervous system irregularities show up as changes in heart rate, which you can monitor quite easily, without the need for expensive endocrine or immune-system tests.


Monitoring Heart Rate:


There are several different ways to monitor heart rate which, according to various researches, can aid in determining the onset of overtraining. For our purposes, we will utilize the following method:


After waking in the morning while still laying in bed, take your resting heart rate for 15 seconds and then multiply by 4. Take note of your heart rate. Mark this in your day timer. Monitor for 5 days so as to establish a pattern of your RHR (resting heart rate). If this resting heart rate rises by more than 10%-15% over 5 consecutive days, chances are that you are over training.  Studies have shown that overtraining heart rate symptoms can occur for up to 4 weeks before major physical and psychological effects arise. Daily increases may be noted and may vary slightly but demonstrating an increase (once your average has been attained) can give one a “heads up” allowing for adequate time off bringing the body back into a healthy balance.


 The following table demonstrates examples of overtraining symptoms:



Symptoms of Overtraining

(taken from Fry, Morton and Keast, 1991)








  1. Reduced performance
  2. Chronic fatigue
  3. Elevated resting heart rate
  4. Slower heart rate recovery
  5. Persistent muscle soreness
  6. Increased aches and pains
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Elevated blood pressure
  9. Unexplained loss of body weight
  10. Headaches
  11. Deterioration of sport skills
  12. Loss of coordination
  13. Decreased strength
  14. Reduced tolerance of training load
  15. Increase susceptibility to illness
  16. One day colds
  17. Minor scratches heal slowly
  1. Decreased self confidence
  2. Mood changes
  3. Apathy
  4. Lethargy
  5. Low Motivation
  6. Sleep disturbances
  7. Loss of appetite
  8. Excessive emotional displays
  9. Lack of concentration
  10. Personality changes
  11. Increased distractibility



Sports trainers and athletes have known for a long time that there exists a direct correlation between preparation prior to “Sport Performance” (pre-activity) and nutrition as well as “Sport Recovery” (post activity) and nutrition. Without going into too much depth here, there are countless books on these topics, I will endeavor to simplify nutritional supplementation into “easy to understand AND follow principles” based on the latest research. However, the debate rages on about which foods are best before and after training/playing, as well as when to take supplementation.


In a study performed at the Human performance Laboratory in St. Cloud University on hockey the following was determined: “Hockey is a game that is characterized primarily by moderate intensity activity interspersed with short, high intensity bouts. Players skate in short, intense shifts, in 30-60 sec durations, where both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism play important roles. We can also say that Basketball, when played at a very high intensity level can create the same aerobic/anaerobic profile. Endogenous carbohydrate utilization is high during a game, as noted by muscle glycogen depletion levels of up to 80%. Maximizing glycogen stores before the game and maintaining blood glucose during the game are critical components of subsequent performance. It was reported that; “up to 65% of ingested carbohydrate can be oxidized for fuel during physical activity. Additionally, it was noted that players skated 10% more at a faster velocity when carbohydrate was ingested compared to a placebo.” John G. Seifert and Brianne Olson. Human Performance Laboratory, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, MN.


Another study was performed with the intention to investigate whether ingesting a carbohydrate /protein sports drink (CHO/P) during practice would result in improved reaction time and skating and shooting performance in elite collegiate hockey players. Results demonstrated that skating /puck handling performance was improved by 8% and goalie reaction time improved by an average of 11% when 32 oz. of a CHO/P drink was ingested during practice. When a small amount of protein is consumed with carbohydrate, there is a stronger insulin response and glucose is delivered to the working muscles more quickly. The result is greater muscle glycogen conservation and endurance.


After 90 minutes of fairly high-intensity exercise, protein contributes as much as 15% of the muscles' energy supply. In the absence of additional protein consumption, this energy comes from the breakdown of muscle protein, which can cause muscle damage and soreness. Protein in your sports drink during exercise reduces the breakdown of muscle protein and helps speed muscle recovery. The ideal ratio is 4 grams of carbohydrate to 1 gram of protein. This ratio provides the benefits of protein without any negative effects on stomach emptying.


As for post game or practice supplementation, research conducted by Dr. John Ivy on muscle performance and recovery shows that carbohydrate replacement 30 to 60 minutes after exercise can have an enormous impact upon your next day’s performance. This is called the “glycogen window”. Ideally, the post-exercise recovery drink should be high in simple sugars. Elite athletes who wait more than one hour to consume carbohydrates restore about 50 percent less muscle glycogen than those who consume carbohydrates during the recovery window.


How important is recovery? Here are some interesting statistics. In the NHL, they play a lot of back-to-back games, many of which occur on the road. The winning percentage in the second game for non-playoff teams was 15.3% versus 23.6% for the playoff teams. The Avalanche had a winning percentage of 39% due to the fact they concentrated on post game nutritional supplementation. This was confirmed in studies conducted at the University of Texas. Researchers there evaluated a recovery drink that has the 4-1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein combined with antioxidants and showed a doubling of muscle glycogen levels after exercise. Not surprisingly, there was a 55% improvement in endurance capacity in the next workout. Other studies showed that this recovery drink, by reducing free radical formation, also decreased post-exercise muscle damage by 36%.


Based on the above information, I have endeavored to provide you the athlete, with as much information as possible, while keeping to the simple basics so as to keep this performance log.


The following tables break down food groups into the most often consumed. While there are many foods not listed, most of ethnic origin (special vegetables, fruits, meat dishes, etc), you should have enough information to monitor your nutritional intake as you put together meal or snack combinations.


I have also included 11 meal combinations for breakfast, 8 for lunch, 10 for supper and 10 snack options that are complete with nutritional information to again, simplify “logging”. You should also find the protein shake combinations helpful. Do not hesitate to explore different receipes to fit your taste.


Nutritional information tables will be broken down in several basic categories:


1 - Proteins - Endurance and strength athletes may need to consume approximately 1.6 to 1.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight each day (a 175 lb/80 kg athlete would require 120- 144 grams of protein).


2 - Carbohydrates – Elite athletes require dietary carbohydrates to maintain their muscle glycogen stores -- the predominant fuel for their sport. These athletes require about 7 to 10 grams of carbohydrate per kg/day depending on the length of their competition (aim for 7-10 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of weight-use the lower number (7 grams) if training for 1 hour a day and use 10 grams if training for more than 3 hours per day - Walberg-Rankin, 1995).  This would mean that a 175 lb/80 kg athlete would require 560-800 grams of carbohydrates per day. Ellen Coleman, RD, MA, MPH Member, Gatorade Sports Nutrition Advisory Board Lemon PWR


3 - Fats - Male ice hockey players may need to consume 3,500-5,000 calories/day, respectively, to maintain energy balance. Daily fat consumption makes a significant contribution in meeting these energy needs. Fat is a primarily source of fuel for aerobic activity and should make up approximately 25% of a hockey player’s diet.


4 - Sodium - along with potassium and chloride are electrolytes that maintain fluid balance within the body. Sodium is an essential mineral present in every cell and primarily found in the extra cellular fluids, vascular fluids, and the intestinal fluids surrounding the cells. Approximately 50 percent of the body’s sodium is found in these fluids and the remaining amount is found in the bones.


 Sodium is absorbed in the small intestine and stomach. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of ingested sodium is excess and is excreted by the kidneys. (Kirschmann, 1996; Somer, 1995). Healthy levels of sodium help with weight loss and in support of mental health. It may also help support healthy blood sugar levels. It also helps to support nerve and joint health (Kirschmann, 1996; Garrison, 1995).


Symptoms of sodium excess include edema, dizziness, and swelling of the legs and face. Excessive salt intake is linked to hypertension (High blood pressure). Hypertensive patients can reduce their blood pressure by 20 to 30 percent by restricting their salt intake.  Diets high in sodium increase the likelihood of liver, heart, and kidney disease (Kirschmann, 1996)


5 - Calories - 3,500 calories per pound of body weight. Want to increase weight then consumption must be more than expenditure to the tune of 500 calories per day for a week to gain one pound of body weight. 


Included in the following pages are nutritional tables of various foods, combinations of foods, ethnic variations as well as shake and meal recipes, all designed to simplify your nutritional tasks. Included as well are “Fast Food” meal nutritional breakdowns so as to better track eating habits. 


Also included in this chapter is one of the most common nutritional tools in the fight to maximize athletic performance and that is the “GI”, better known as the Glycemic Index. The Glycemic Index is a ranking of carbohydrates based on their immediate effect on blood glucose (blood sugar) levels. It compares food gram for gram of carbohydrates. “Carbs” that breakdown fastest during digestion have the highest values. The blood glucose response therefore is fast and high. An example of this is Glucose which has a value of 100 on the GI index and is the basis on which all other carbohydrates, simple or complex are based on. Carbohydrates that breakdown slowly, releasing glucose into the blood stream gradually, have low glycemic values.


The goals of dietary intervention for the athlete are to fill carbohydrate (glycogen) stores in the muscles and liver and to make both carbohydrate and fat readily available in the blood for use by the muscles. Carbohydrate fuel can support higher intensity exercise than can fat and is stored in more limited amounts in the body. The metabolic challenge is to maintain carbohydrate supply to the muscles but to somehow slow its depletion by relying optimally on fat as a fuel. Insulin plays a key role in fuel partitioning because insulin tends to increase the metabolism of carbohydrate and reduce fat use which is why we anticipate problems with high GI foods which increase the amount of insulin in the blood stream. Therefore, an interesting question is whether or not certain foods can provide sufficient carbohydrate, affect insulin minimally, and also encourage fat use for energy.


Without going into to much detail here, Carbohydrate foods are often classified as "simple" or "complex" carbohydrates relative to their molecular structure. Although one might guess that simple carbohydrates would be absorbed more rapidly than complex ones, this assumption is not always correct; digestion and absorption do not occur at the same rates for all carbohydrates within a biochemical grouping. This means that some carbs are better than others when considering meal planning 24, 12, or 6 hours before or just prior to a competition.


A newer system of carbohydrate classification is the "glycemic index" or (GI). The term has been used for some time in clinical nutrition, particularly as it pertains to diabetes, but has only recently been used in the healthy, active population. Tables listing the glycemic index of foods have been developed mainly for use with diabetic persons (Foster-Powell & Brand Miller, 1995), but because blood glucose appears to be so critical to athletic performance these tables may also be useful for athletes; understanding of this issue remains rudimentary. Thus, only a few studies have investigated the effects of feeding different forms of carbohydrate on factors related to exercise metabolism (e.g., blood glucose, fatty acids, insulin, respiratory exchange ratio, muscle glycogen use) or to performance (e.g., ratings of perceived exertion and time to exhaustion).


 A study performed by W.B.Saunders Company (www.ncbi.nlm.gov) demonstrated that a moderate GI valued meal (approximately 61 on the GI Index)  45 minutes prior to intense exercise “provided a significant performance and metabolic advantage”. It has also been demonstrated that high GI index foods immediately following competition have tremendous benefit in replenishing Glycogen stores in the body. The goal of feeding after exercise is to elevate glucose as soon as possible to provide substrate for glycogen synthesis; as reviewed by Robergs (1991); “glycogen synthesis can occur more rapidly if carbohydrate is consumed quickly and in adequate amounts after exercise. However, if no food is consumed after exercise, a low GI meal ingested prior to exercise may be warranted because it is likely to cause higher blood glucose and insulin concentrations after exercise than a high GI meal. However, glycogen synthesis will be faster if high GI meals are consumed as soon as tolerable after exercise. The increased blood glucose-and especially insulin-after exercise appear to be critical for resynthesizing muscle glycogen”.


So there you have it. When selecting low, medium or high GI meals or foods, one must consider whether or not a post game/practice meal is in order. While the benefits of consuming low, medium or high index foods have yet to be fully understood prior to athletic performance, it is the post game/practice meal that has demonstrated as one of the most important factors when considering the GI index (recent studies, as previously mentioned, have shown that  a carbohydrate to protein ratio of 4-1 keeps performance levels high if consumed just before and during competition).


I have also included various “fast food” meal combinations for the athlete to be “aware” of. In our fast moving society, meal options sometimes are just around the corner. Study which is best for you and some substitutions may be in order to get the most benefit out of your quick fix.


Lastly, I have provided a game/practice weekly table where meals can be mapped out using recipes shown or, by your own selection. It cannot be stated clearly enough that maximal athletic performance is driven by the fuel pushing the engine. The better the fuel, the better the performance!


All tables are coming…sorry Kristin!