One very large part of my life that often gets left out of this blog is my studies. Currently I am a junior at UConn studying exercise science with hopes of attending physical therapy school after graduation. My ultimate goal is to incorporate fundamental concepts of sports nutrition, exercise physiology, and physical therapy.
One of the reasons I chose my major is because of UConn’s top ranked kinesiology department (seriously, all of the professors amaze me on a daily basis!). I also believe that the opportunities available will set me up to work toward and achieve my future career goals.
Upon entering the kinesiology department at the start of last semester, the professors informed my class about the New England American Conference of Sports Medicine Fall Conference in Providence, RI. I had heard about this conference over the summer and had already thought about attending it to learn more about the field among professionals outside of the classroom. My plans became solidified when I learned I would be given extra credit for attending the conference. It was a win-win situation!
For class, I had to write a paper reviewing my experience at the NEACSM conference. I recently found it while trying to clean up my desktop and thought it might be of interest to those in the exercise field or those looking to attend an ACSM conference in the future.
Here is the synopsis of the lectures I attended on the Friday of the 2015 conference:
“A Gluten-Free, All-Natural, Free-Range Tutorial: Helping Clients Decode Food Package Labeling”
October 16, 2015, 9:40-10:40 am
Beau Greer, PhD, CSCS, Sacred Heart University
Greer’s lecture focused on helping health professionals and their clients decode food-packaging labels. Today consumers see many labels on food products and often it’s hard to decide what they really mean. If a baked good is “gluten-free,” does that make it’s healthier than a regular product? Is beef from “grass-fed” cows more nutritious? Why do media outlets tell consumers that GMO’s are dangerous? All of these questions have arisen in roughly the past decade as society has begun to question the ingredients we put in our bodies. Greer broke down all of these confusing labels for the audience.
There are two types of labels that food producers can choose to add to their products: external and internal. Most claims are internal meaning that they are based on scientific (generally quantitative) information. For example, the term “gluten-free” means that there is less than 20 ppm of gluten in the product. Greer explained that this amount could still make a very sensitive person have a reaction if they have an empty stomach. Fermentation, he said, takes care of any of these concerns. Although the FDA regulates the term “gluten-free”, Greer noted that many foods that are already gluten-free are now labeled to make their product more marketable to health-conscious consumers. While only a very small percent of the population suffers from celiac disease or gluten intolerance, many more people are looking for these “gluten-free” products because they believe that gluten-free is healthier; yet, producers usually replace the gluten with less nutritious alternatives such as potato starch. It’s important to remind clients to focus on eating a wide range of nutrients rather than selecting a product because it is “gluten-free”.
Another internal claim is “grass-fed”. Greer said that it is more important to eat a lean part of the cow rather than focus on what the cow eats. Many consumers believe the percent fat listed on the packaging of beef tells how much fat calories are in it, but really the percent tells how much of the weight of the beef is fat. Food producers aren’t trying to tell consumers what’s in their food, but rather are trying to make consumers believe the product is healthy so they will purchase it.
Many times there isn’t scientific evidence that proves that eating or not eating a certain product or type of food is beneficial. For example, there has not been significant evidence stating that GMO’s are dangerous, yet many consumers choose “non-GMO” products just because it sounds better. There may, however, be moral reasons to avoid GMO’s, which Greer explained is an external claim.
When producers appeal to consumers’s morals, they are using an external claim. These labels are not based on quantitative, scientific data, but rather on the moral views and emotions of the consumers. Examples of external claims are the labels on eggs such as “animal welfare approved” or “free-range”. 50 years ago, consumers had very limited options for eggs, but nowadays there is an extensive selection at most grocery stores. “Animal welfare approved” simply means that the chickens can go outside. ”Free-ranged” means that the chickens can go outside at 5 weeks old, but it is not their normal lifestyle. “Organic” is much harder to define. Usually it is associated with smaller farms. Overall, Greer says that there aren’t any health benefits or disadvantages to buying eggs with these claims on them; however, morally some consumers may feel better about buying a certain kind of eggs over the other (e.g. to support small businesses or animal rights).
While these claims may still seem very confusing even to most health care professionals, Greer said that it is important for consumers to focus primarily on choosing the right foods (meaning eliminate processed products and increase consumption of real foods) and then if they can afford it, buy a product that has a claim that they feel is worth paying for.
“Sports Nutrition in the 21st Century: Do as I Say, Not as I Do”
October 16, 2015, 10:50 am-12:00 pm
Eric Rawson, PhD, FACSM, Bloomsburg University, Pennsylvania
Rawson’s talk focused on sorting through the nutrition advice given to strength athletes both from health care professionals and run-of-the-mill athletes who simply have their own experience to rely on. As professionals, it is crucial to integrate our personal experience with our scientific knowledge. He began by showing a picture of a typical strength/power athlete who had large muscles and minimal body fat. He then asked the audience what nutrient came to mind when looking at the photo. Most people thought of protein. Strength and power athletes actually rely heavily on carbohydrates. Many people think strength and power athletes need amazingly high amounts of protein to recover from a workout, but Rawson explained that there is a plateau in muscle protein synthesis after consuming 20-25 grams of protein in a serving.
Rawson also discussed beta alanine and NaHCO3 (sodium bicarbonate) supplements. Athletes should only take beta alanine to increase strength in activities that are 4 minutes or longer in length. NaHCO3 helps with activities that are 1-5 minutes in length. Rawson finished his talk by reminding the audience that hydration is the most important aspect of sports nutrition for all athletes.
Student Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) Ambassador Certification Training
October 16, 2015, 12:05 -1:00 pm
What if one miracle drug could prevent and cure many of the worlds top killers? It sounds too good to be true, but EIM challenges this preconceived notion. I took the certification class to become one of the first Exercise Is Medicine (EIM) Student Ambassadors. EIM emphasizes the medicinal power of exercise. Today non-communicable diseases are the biggest killers in the world; exercise can help change that. There are three parts of implementing EIM. The first part is with the health care system. Ambassadors should explain this process to physicians to try to get them to implement it during their regular physicals. The provider will ask the patient about his or her exercise habits and input the data in the software. The software will then tell the provider if the patient is meeting the ACSM guidelines for physical activity. The physician will provide a physical activity prescription. The patient can choose a self-managed plan or get a referral to an ACSM certified community resource. The end goal is that every patient will leave a physicians office with a physical activity assessment (and if needed, a prescription).
The second part of EIM is community resources. The EIM software will have a listing of community resources where patients can go get help as well as information for patients who choose a self-managed plan. The end goal is to bridge the gap between the provider and community resources.
The third part of EIM is active health technology. The EIM software will track information from patients as they make progress with fulfilling their physical activity prescriptions. This allows the physicians to keep in contact with the patients. EIM aims to engage health care providers, patients, and the community. As an ambassador, I am responsible for talking to health care providers, educating the community, and overall promoting a healthy lifestyle.
Overall, I had a great time attending NEACSM annual conference. It was informative, eye-opening, and exciting. If you are interested in attending a conference by ACSM, the national conference is in Boston this spring. Check it out!