Review of “Roar: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life” by Stacy Sims and Selene Yeager

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I first heard about this book through the Another Mother Runner podcast several months ago but I only recently borrowed it from the library. Why the long wait? Honestly, I just didn’t really think it could be that good. I’ve read other books written by female athletes, although not a ton, but I just wasn’t that inspired by them. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t anything special either.

“Roar” is not only a book for female runners but for female athletes in general and I can honestly say it’s one of the best books for women that I’ve read. Dr. Sims is not only a nutrition scientist and exercise physiologist but also an athlete herself. One quote I really like from the book is “You are not a small man. Stop eating and training like one.” This sums up the book well.

There are 17 chapters in “Roar,” covering everything from pregnancy to menopause to the female digestive tract, although there is some redundancy in places, but I found the book to be laid out well and easy to follow. “Roar” is filled with scientific information and while I’m a scientist and may be a bit biased, I thought it wasn’t too scientific for most non-scientists to follow. I also liked the “Roar Sound Bites,” brief summaries at the end of each chapter.

Not only does Dr. Sims lay it all out there for women by explaining how hormones effect athletic performance, she gives advice on how to control hormonal effects on our bodies. For example, women should take in protein high in leucine before exercise and within 30 minutes of  exercising to help maintain muscle when hormone levels are high. One thing I learned about myself is I need to be consuming even more protein than I previously thought. Dr. Sims recommends 1 gram of protein per pound per day for athletic women (this is much more than is recommended for non-athletic women).

Dr. Sims also has examples of daily diets for athletes of all kinds including triathletes, cyclists, and runners. She sometimes will give comparisons of their current diet vs. what Dr. Sims recommends they eat. There are also exercises with photos that take up two chapters of the book that she recommends for female athletes. A not-so-fun fact is that women who don’t strength train lose at least 3% muscle mass per decade after age 30.

There are also of course large chunks of the books devoted to diets, sports-specific fueling, and hydration. In addition to specific examples of recommended daily diets for athletes, there are recipes for snacks. Not surprisingly, women’s hydration needs are different from men’s because of hormones. One interesting tidbit is that Dr. Sims partnered with nuun hydration to help re-formulate nuun performance hydration powder in 2016; the partnership was announced shortly after “Roar” hit the publication stands but there are no references to any of this in the book.

There are also sections on how women can deal with extreme temperatures and high elevation including specific ways to cope and a section on recovery after a hard workout. One interesting point is that when men take an ice bath, they can start shivering and get microspasms in their already-fatigued muscles, which leads to more soreness and stalled recovery. Women, however, need help speeding up vasoconstriction after a hard workout, so women can still benefit from ice baths.

The chapter on supplements was interesting to me because it’s part of what my field of study has included for my job. Many women may be surprised to read that the only recommended supplements mentioned in the book include iron, vitamin D, and magnesium. Calcium and antioxidants such as vitamin C are not recommended and in fact can be harmful. Dr. Sims’ opinion on supplements is in agreement with what I’ve also read from other scientists but this information doesn’t seem to have trickled down to the mainstream yet.

Finally, the last couple of chapters are about how men’s and women’s brains are different and how we can use this information. For example, women tend to have a greater ability for social interaction so we would benefit from things like group runs or cycling sessions. Also, positive thinking and mindfulness can be especially important for women who often need help in these areas. The final chapter is about biohacking (looking inside your physiology) and discusses everything from pee sticks to blood testing to the simple but often overlooked question, “How do I feel?”

As I said earlier, I feel like “Roar” is one of the best books geared towards female athletes that I’ve read, and I do recommend picking up a copy. I read a review on Amazon that this book isn’t for the average athlete, but is more for elite athletes, and I disagree. I’m by no means an elite athlete and there was plenty I could take away from this book. OK, now I need to go eat more protein!

Have any of you read “Roar?” If so, what did you think? Are any of you intrigued about the book now and would like to check it out? You can see if you public library has it or Amazon has it for sale here.

Happy running!

Donna

 

 

Protein for Athletes- How Much is Enough?

We all know we need protein to help build muscle and keep our strong bodies healthy, but if you’re an athlete it can be confusing to understand just how much protein you need. While the USDA recommends most people consume 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram (0.36 grams per pound) of body weight per day, for endurance athletes this number rises to 1.0 to 1.6 grams per kilogram a day (0.45 to 0.72 grams per pound).

Basically this means you need to conscientiously make sure you have a good amount of protein at every meal if you get more than 30 minutes of exercise a day. I’ll break this down into examples of daily meals and good sources of protein in the following paragraphs. It is entirely possible to get enough protein by eating whole foods, which means you don’t need to load up on protein shakes to get enough protein in your daily diet.

 

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Choose my plate

I personally had been slipping as far as getting enough protein and my recent breakfast choices for sure didn’t have enough protein. Lately, I had been having a serving of a healthy grain (often a homemade zucchini muffin) and a serving of chia seed pudding made with coconut milk which had only around 8 grams of protein even with the sliced almonds I would sprinkle over the top. Lunch typically includes Greek yogurt, which has around 15 grams of protein. My main course for lunch may include anything from tuna fish to lentils to homemade leftover pizza or other leftovers from dinner. Dinner typically includes a high protein source like chicken, fish, or sometimes beef. During the day, I usually have a serving of fruit that has zero or minimal protein and a fruit and nut type cereal bar with 3-5 grams of protein for snacks.

When I added it up, my protein consumed throughout the day was surely falling short of the recommended levels for endurance athletes. I recently read something that was a great reminder to increase my protein Runner’s World article.  Short of having eggs every day for breakfast, protein shakes for lunch, and piles of meat for dinner, what is the best way to achieve more protein in your diet?

Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, meats, fish, milk, dried lentils, lunch meats (look for natural varieties which don’t have all of the added chemicals), nut butters, nuts, tofu, edamame, avocado, green peas, wheat germ, and quinoa are all good sources of protein, as well as protein powders when necessary. It is possible to get all of your proteins from whole foods, however, and whole foods are always better for your body than processed food (including powders).

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What would a typical day look like that provided an endurance athlete enough protein to fuel their body?

Breakfast might be Greek yogurt and a banana covered in 2 tablespoon peanut butter and coffee with 2% milk:  29 grams

Lunch could be a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, an apple, and a handful of nuts:  40 grams

Snack might be a serving of cheese:  7 grams

Dinner could include a piece of salmon, baked sweet potato, mixed greens, broccoli, and green beans:  32 grams

This adds up to 108 grams of protein.  For most endurance athletes, this would be enough protein, even nearing the high side of 0.72 grams per pound.  You could always supplement with a snack of hummus with baby carrots or sliced cucumber, or add a serving of beans to lunch or dinner, or have a protein shake if that’s not enough protein for your body.  You could also make your own high protein energy bars.

Lately, I’ve changed my breakfast choices to include a protein so that every meal has roughly 30 grams of protein, and I’ve been making my own hummus with chickpeas for a high protein snack.  I also try to eat more fish for dinner to limit red meat and try to incorporate salmon at least once a week.  While, I’m not touting a high-protein, low-carb diet, I do feel a diet higher in protein can benefit most athletes.  Personally I think high-quality healthy carbohydrates are a necessary part of everyone’s diet and they get a bad reputation when they’re lumped in with other carbs such as refined sugar.  I feel that everyone’s body is different and what may work for one person may not for another, but in the case of protein, athletes definitely need more than the average sedentary person.

What sources of protein are your favorites?  Any good ones I left out?