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Athletes, please, eat the pasta!
July 5th, 2011
02:46 PM ET

Athletes, please, eat the pasta!

Joe Bastianich is a restaurateur, winemaker, author and a judge on the  FOX series "MasterChef." An avid runner, Joe has competed in numerous marathons and triathlons and will be tackling his first full Ironman in Kona this October.  With that experience in these two worlds, he offers  our Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge community his thoughts on having satisfying meals while training.

Photo Credit: Greg Gayne

Whether you are already athletic and looking to up your game with a triathlon, or are just beginning your journey on the road to getting fit, what you put in your body plays a big role in the performance you’ll get out of it.

We’ve been taught to think of food – especially carbs – as our enemy, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Food is what fuels our bodies, allowing us to physically push ourselves to reach our own potential for fitness and athleticism. But when we think about a diet to match a healthy active lifestyle, too often we mistakenly buy into the old adage that getting in shape means resigning to a bland and unsatisfying diet of meager proportions. For someone who’s spent their entire life in some of the best Italian restaurants in the country, bland, meager, and unsatisfying just isn’t going to cut it.

Food and wine became a passion of mine early on- a passion I was not eager to give up when I first took up running. What I quickly and thankfully learned is that I didn’t have to- and neither do you!

Eating healthy doesn’t mean giving up satisfying and savory meals.

Pasta has always been a staple of my diet-and it is the food I reach for most often before and after working out. The more I run, the more I need. Many classic pasta dishes such as puttanesca (pasta anchovies, capers, tuna, and olives) spaghetti allo scoglio (mussels, shrimp, and scallops) and a pasta a la norma (eggplant and onion) combine workout-friendly complex carbs with the health benefits of antioxidant-chocked veggies and omega 3 rich shellfish and seafood.

Using whole wheat pasta certainly increases your fiber intake and helps to regulate blood sugar, but eating white pasta made with more refined flour is actually easier for the body to digest before any big workout or race.

In fact, carb loading is extremely important for maintaining enough endurance to power you through a big competition. One of my favorite pre-race meals is pasta primavera. This dish is the perfect fuel for your body- complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, olive oil for its anti-inflammatory effect on joints, and the antioxidant-laden veggies to help protect muscles, joints, and tissues from wear and tear that comes with pounding the pavement. And speaking of antioxidants- my all time favorite source is- you guessed it- red wine!

Now I’m certainly not advocating you down a bottle of Barolo the night before a big race, but, red wine in moderation is an excellent source of antioxidants- crucial for athletes to help repair muscles, joints, and tissues damaged by strenuous workouts. A well-deserved treat after a grueling workout!

Eat real food.

Processed foods are harder for the body to break down- this means your body has to waste energy digesting chemicals it doesn’t really know what to do with- processed cheese is one of the worst offenders. And why reach for processed cheese when the real deal is so much better? Many cheeses such as grana padano from Italy pack more protein ounce for ounce than any variety of meat or nuts- not to mention a good source of calcium.

The moral of the story is, you can feel great, look great, and still enjoy a little vino and mozzarella caprese at the end of the day.

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Filed under: 2011 Triathlon Challenge • Nutrition

soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Larry051967

    Pasta is also a processed product and dumps a lot of calories into your system with few nutrients. It promotes not only a quick insulin release but contributes to insulin insensitivity, too. Because there is a long complicated trail from the wheat field through all the processing, GMO's, chemicals and additives added to and used in the process of making pasta what you put into your mouth is a gamble at best..Add to that a sauce that contains corn sweaters, additives and who knows what else you just adding to the problems. Before you eat your next processed food like product ask yourself if you trust the system to put your nutrition before their profits.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Catt

      Wouldn't that depend on what pasta and sauce you buy? I make my own pasta or buy organic, and I don't use premade sauces so no, my pasta dinner is not a processed food product full of chemicals and corn sweeteners.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
    • Rick Springfield

      As a volunteer with the annual Memorial Marathon in downtown OKC, I see a lot of the good and bad of pre-marathon diets. The night before the marathon, they sponsor a spaghetti feast for runners. I would classify most of these people as devout athletes who can metabolize the starches and sugars of white pasta. But as for myself, I have a problem with pastas. I can eat a product called, "Healthy Harvest" pasta because it is made with whole grains. But I agree that if you do not make your own sauce, you are getting all kinds of sweeteners, colors, fillers, preservatives, and the rest. So like below, I have a favorite homemade sauce. Mine is very simple and I saw it on the Amerca's Test Kitchen. Just brown some fresh beef and add some flour. Then add fresh chopped tomatoes, fresh basil, fresh garlic, onions, bell peppers, a chili, a pinch or oregano, light salt and pepper. Simmer it down for an hour or two and then put it in the fridge. Pull out of the fridge the next day and heat it up and use on whole grain pasta. The flavors develop over night and its delicious.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      Pasta, although high in carbohydrates, has a low glycemic index. The whole gran or whole wheat is even lower. So what you say about prompting a quick insulin release is not true. Also, the other things a person consumes along with the pasta contribute to the glycemic index. If someone consumes pasta with a serving of fiber like metamucil or citrucel, and also protein and healthy fats (like monounsaturated from olive oil or canola oil), this will further reduce the glycemic index of the meal.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      Food is an assembly of "chemicals" – a mixture of organic and inorganic molecules. So calm down about the chemicals. Pasta is glucose and starches predominantly which are processed by the body into glycogen (energy storage in muscles and liver). The more you work out the more glucose you need to replenish your glycogen. So pasta is ideal as long as you active.

      Not all processing is so bad. Beer and wine are processed. Virtually all dairy is processed. Cooking food is technically processing it. Stop the generalizations and describe what part of the pasta making process is so offensive to you.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse |
    • Larry051967

      Slow release is a relative term and pasta causes insulin insensitivity. A lot of the processing of pasta with the dough conditioners is not good for human nutrition. Even the modifiers for the starch to make it a chemical guessing game for your system. There is not a wheat processor on the market that does not freely modify the product to make it easier and cheaper to handle. And the comment about dairy being processed. Dairy is not much of a human food in the first place beyond the hype of producers and our government. Many dairy products are a chemical mess and should not be put in your mouth. If what you eat is not very close to it's original form then you are putting a lot of trust in a system that often considers profit over nutrition.

      July 6, 2011 at 15:43 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Larry here is the perfect example of how confused people are – the thinking is that chemicals are bad for you and that any food with chemicals in it is dangerous. As most children are supposed to learn in 7th grade science, "chemical" is a group that include a LOT of things – all food is a mixture of chemicals. It's like saying we shouldn't eat anything with Atoms in it because Atoms are used for nuclear explosion and those can kill people.

      Yes, some chemical are good for us, others are bad. Cyanide is bad for us. Fruit – a food made of chemicals – is generally good for us.

      In the same vein, there's also the idea that "processing" food somehow inherently makes it bad for us. Pasteurizing milk is processing. It just happens to be that in some societies foods that undergo the most processing are also high in fat, sugar, cholesterol, etc. There is a very big difference between correlation and causation, and people start saying ridiculous things when they can't tell the difference. The point is that you can't make silly generalization and say things like "chemicals" and "processing" are bad for us, while "natural" and "organics" foods are always good for us. I can think if about 10 poisonous species of wild berries that if I ate right off the tree would kill me – but they would be both organic and natural.

      July 6, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse |
    • Larry051967

      Jeff, save it for a high school student. There is nothing in processing food that is anything other than protecting the profits for food producers. As far as milk goes, it's not human food as far as I'm concerned. It's way too difficult to keep up with good chemicals and bad chemicals used in processing food so the simple answer is stay away from them all. There is no good reason from the consumer's point of view to eat processed food. It's just that simple.

      July 6, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Larry, the problem here is that you don't know enough to know how silly you sound. I'll point out just a few examples to make it simple for you.

      1. Yes, milk is a human food – in fact one could argue it's more human than any other food that exists. Females literally produce breast milk after they give birth, which is often the only food a child can survive on for the first months of it's life. Do you see how ridiculous it sounds to say that "milk is not a human food" when – generally speaking – it is the only food source for every human that every lived during the first few months of his/her life?

      2. It is impossible to stay away from chemicals. Every food that you have ever eaten is made of LOTS of chemicals. So to say that we should simply "stay away from chemicals" is as impossible as trying to stay away from atoms.

      Read this carefully – here is a chance for you to learn something new instead of just stewing in your own lack of knowledge indefinitely

      July 6, 2011 at 19:12 | Report abuse |
    • Larry051967

      Yes, human milk is food. Dairy milk is cow food. And yes you can at least make an effort to avoid chemicals and I'm not one of your high school students listening to the class plan on nutrition. Most humans can tolerate cow's milk but that does not make it good nutrition just because it has an industry and a lot of money behind it. It can be eliminated from the diet and you will do just fine or maybe feel better after a while.

      July 7, 2011 at 09:47 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Larry, as someone whose been an educator for many years at both high schools and universities, I can tell you that 99% of my highschoolers would already understand – so yes, you are correct that you are not at the level of a highschool student listening to a class plan.

      I'll try to make the point again. You can not avoid chemicals. Water is a chemical. Food is made up of hundreds of chemicals. To say that we should "avoid" chemicals because they are unhealthy – in the most literal way – doesn't make any sense. This kind of meaningless talk happens a lot when people overgeneralize in the place of any kind of real knowledge.

      July 7, 2011 at 10:33 | Report abuse |
    • sarge

      The GI of whole wheat pasta is around 40. That's about the same as a twix candy bar and much worse than m&ms... Clearly a great indicator of "healthy"

      July 7, 2011 at 10:45 | Report abuse |
    • Larry051967

      Jeff, don't talk down to me. By chemicals I'm talking about all the stuff added by food processors to food that support the processing and not the nutrition. You can start with modified food starch made with a host of chemicals I would not want in my mouth. Or how about Red Dye #3 made from coal tar. Maybe BHA should be on the list if you are brave enough to eat pasta that is loaded with the stuff. And then there's acetone peroxide in that dish of pasta, too. How about a little diacetyl used by pasta processors for that mellow flavor and to take the bite out of bitter wheat. Then there is the polysorbate 80 used as a conditioned so the pasta does not get stuck in the machinery and reduces cleanup time. And last in my list but not the least is potassium bromate that degrades into a host of surprises during processing and these resultant bromides are not listed. These ingredients are often hidden because they come to the processor as components of other products and are not required to be listed as such. Every one of these are known to be problems and every one was found in every sample we tested over the past year in whopping amounts (that's a lab term, when the percentage goes off the scale). These "chemicals' were found in pasta that was labeled organic, too. So don't tell me chemicals are good and that water is a chemical in this family. I think we can agree that water is good and this group of pirates is not good. If you believe that processing food is good for nutrition than you have become a valuable consumer, one that makes the business what it is today.
      .

      July 7, 2011 at 18:41 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      You're almost starting to learn Larry – but not really.

      There's nothing inherent about the processing of foods that is bad for you. If we process a food in a way that happens to add fat, salt, cholesterol, or harmful substances, then yes, that specific type of processing is bad for you. In our society it just so happens that a lot of processed foods happens to be high in factors which we know are unhealthy (fats, salt, etc). But lots of processing food involves killing disease-causing bacteria, or the addition of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, fiber, probiotics, and antioxidants. A lot of these techniques are by definition "processing." Some processing includes adding factors which increase the shelf life of food – this is especially important in 3rd world countries where being able to store canned goods can save lives in food-deprived areas.

      The point is a very important one. You can't overgeneralize and start saying things like "chemicals are bad for you" or "processing food is bad for you." Yes, some chemicals are bad for us – especially when we eat them. Some chemicals are good for us, providing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, etc. The problem is that when people don't know the difference, listening only to overgeneralizations by people which have no special knowledge, they are less likely to make smart decisions and and they can get taken advantage of more easily.

      The point is to try and think about things past the way a small child would – don't just think to yourself "chemicals are bad I won't eat them!" think to yourself "I will try to use evidence to understand WHAT types of chemical additives are good and which are bad or WHICH types of processing may be harmful or beneficial"

      July 7, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse |
    • Larry051967

      Jeff, you have proven yourself a good consumer. You have a good pitch and people believe talk you yours. The lab work I'm involved with is an eye opener. Processed food is a guessing game. Processed food is not necessary for human nutrition. It's a crutch for the industry and has a well funded presence in our lives. I hate to say it but the caveman had it all over us in matters of nutrition. He suffered none of the modern diseases that our healthcare system deals with today with drugs of all kinds.The agrarian society that has lead to the processed food society has brought us no advancements in nutrition except those needed to prop up the hollow processed food that is the modern diet of the educated man.

      July 7, 2011 at 22:05 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Larry, the way in which you respond is almost comical – you are not really someone who is interested in learning or growing intellectually. You say things that can be so easily shown to be ridiculous with only the tiny bit of research. As a professor who has run a university laboratory for many years, I can tell you are probably quite low on the totem poll in the lab you work at – probably nothing more than a technician doing basic operations.

      One of the reasons why cavemen didn't suffer from a lot of the diseases that we suffer from today was because their lifespan was on average something like 40 years shorter than ours. Things like cancer, heart disease, etc, usually only much more often show up as one gets older.

      Which brings up a good point. You claim that agrarian society has brought us nothing – but just about everyone whose taken an introductory anthropology class could tell you agrarian society in the long run has doubled our lifespan. So Larry, tell me, what is the basis for your claims?

      July 8, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse |
    • KPOM

      @Jeff, actually caveman lived a long time if he successfully avoided environmental factors, such as infections, accidents or animal attacks. Heart disease is a relatively modern phenomenon, as in the last 100 years or so, when diets started adding processed carbohydrates.

      July 10, 2011 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      So we should all revert to hunter gatherers? See how long civilization lasts when we are no longer agrarian. You take the good, you take the bad. But (as stated previously) we are much better off.

      Disease is a function of population density – not simply encountering it in the wild. It has much less to do with food than having a population sizable enough to sustain the transmission of disease.

      July 10, 2011 at 17:31 | Report abuse |
    • Dylan

      Hey jeff. Where exactly are you getting your information from? Because a ton of it makes close to NO sense. Processing is rarely a healthful thing to do to the chemicals that will soon compose one's body. Just one example of thousands is the cooking of vegetables. Cooking broccoli destroys the enzymatic content and reduces the bioavailable amount of sulfurophane to under one tenth. Processing food, aside from that which is to destroy bacteria inherently present in said food (such as chicken and salmonella, and pork + trichinosis) is NOT a healthy thing to do. You seem to be willfully ignorant of the nutritional value of enzymes. Can you honestly tell me that packaged applesauce that has been sitting in a warehouse for 6 months is nutritionally equivalent to an apple?

      Keep drinking that kool aid, jeff. Ignorance is bliss.

      July 10, 2011 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
    • Chaz

      Dylan, Are you supposing these enzymes in raw broccoli are simply absorbed by the gut intact and are enzymatically active in our blood stream? Enzymes are proteins that carry out a chemical reaction. Proteins are chains of amino acids. Our gut is full of proteases – enzymes whose job it is to digest proteins by breaking linkages between amino acids so that they can be absorbed by the gut. Whatever enzymes are not "destroyed" by cooking are subsequently "destroyed" in your gut. What Jeff says makes no sense to you because you are seriously misinformed about nutritional science. And trichinosis is not present in pork – Trichinella is (potentially – and it's not a bacterium). Trichinosis is the disease caused by the worm.

      July 10, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • Kim

      I wonder how many of Jeff's present and former students are overweight?

      Our grain and dairy-based diet does not in itself "extend" the lifespans of people, rather it was the ability to cultivate, harvest and store these foods for long-term usage that gave us the free time needed to invent modern medicines and surgical procedures.

      Nice try, though.

      July 10, 2011 at 18:40 | Report abuse |
    • Fiona

      Larry, you dope...pasta made from wheat provides protein. Seven grams per serving for De Cecco. Toss it with some olive oil and tomatoes or vegetables, and you have a healthy, reasonably low-calorie meal. You are full of bs.

      July 10, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse |
    • Arick

      This guy is with a real Italian place, the pasta he is talking about is not processed at all. Have you ever eaten real Italian food?

      July 10, 2011 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      @Dylan – The reason this information makes no sense to you is because you don't really have a basic knowledge of things. This idea that cooking or processing foods destroys the "enzymatic activity" of food is a pretty common piece of silliness floating around. This is another reason why it really pays to have some basic biochemistry in one's life – because without it people can so easily be misinformed, manipulated, and make decisions based on things that have nothing to do with reality. An enzyme is a protein folded in such a way that it happens to carry out a specific function in whichever cell/species it is. When we eat the cells of plants or animals, which include thousand of different enzymes, we don't use the functional activity of these enzymes . As a really simple example – we don't need the activity of the enzymes that make plant cells walls (since we don't have cell walls like plants do). Our body sees the enzymes as a protein.

      Again, this is something that any introductory biochemistry/biology class would teach just about anywhere in the world. I would encourage you to pick up basic textbooks – or just usee wikipedia, it will surely have most basic information to help you.

      And Dylan, yes, one important purpose of processing food is to kill disease causing bacteria. But if you think that these are the only benefits (which are very important ones regardless), that it is only because you don't know enough. One simple and famous example is the fortification of milk with Vitamin D. Other types of processing involves increasing food's shelf life- which can be the difference between life and death in 3rd world countries (like in the Sudan where I've done some research)

      Of course, this is not to say that all processing of foods is good. If we process food in a way that adds huge amounts of salts, sugars, or fats, then that type of processing is bad. As I've said before, try to think about things past the way a child would – ask yourself "what SPECIFIC types of processing are bad and which are good"

      July 10, 2011 at 23:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      @Kim – I would suggest to you a basic anthropology textbook – any relatively simple book would do, nothing more complicated than what a 18 year old freshman in college might find themselves having to buy (at an outrageous price, I might add)

      For many hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of years human and pre-human species were chronically plagued with malnutrition – not only did they not have all the right foods for long term health – but very often they simply didn't have enough of it. These food deficits were especially a problem during ice ages (in addition to the cold). In that sense, almost anyone who knows much about the subject would tell you that grain based agriculture, which dramatically increased the amount of food available in a society, also directly reduced hunger-related deaths. The same people with a basic knowledge would tell you that one staple (though not the complete picture) of such an agrarian society is grain, since it's a very special food that can be stored in ways/lengths that other foods cannot.

      You are correct in one detail, however. Very generally speaking, agriculture lead to higher population densities, which lead to social specialization, which lead to inventions/discoveries of medicine. Certainly medicines which fend off diseases increase average lifespan. This is a more indirect in which grain based agriculture has contributed to longevity.

      More than anything – empower yourself by getting educated. Sign up for a local class, go the library and get some textbooks, or even easier just spend a day on wikipedia.

      July 10, 2011 at 23:37 | Report abuse |
    • Jing

      In my oppinion, It depends on how you are able to BURN the carbs from Pasta! I think pasta is a GREAT energy booster before my a LONG WORKOUT. When i run it gets my adrenaline pumping and help me stay energized.

      Obviously, if you are not a active person, the amount of carbs in pasta will stayin your system becuae you are unable to burn it off and break it down to energy.

      July 12, 2011 at 09:12 | Report abuse |
    • Dollphin

      This is the most arcacute summary article I have read on this. The transcript shows that Solis only had 30% lung capacity when he started working for Flavorchem so the majority of his demise occurred at the former employers, one of which included a microwave popcorn manufacturer that liquidated the business when this lawsuit started.

      February 1, 2012 at 00:23 | Report abuse |
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      February 6, 2012 at 03:16 | Report abuse |
  2. Jessica

    I agree. I'm a marathoner (5 under my belt) and my go to meal the night before a big race or run is pasta with tomato sauce and grilled chicken. It's simple, it's satisfying and it doesn't hurt my tummy.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. TracySwingKid

    I agree with Larry 100%. As an athlete, pasta is the equivalent of genetically modified glue. It makes me feel bad and I have never understood why people think it's so great. My go-to dish is a bowl of brown rice, black beans, quinoa, and lentils; all organic, of course. It provides steady energy and no foggy-brain.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matt

      You are right on the money here with your diet. Why is CNN talking to a restaurateur and reality TV judge about proper endurance nutrition instead of a Certified Nutritionist that has experience in the sporting world?

      I race bikes and triathlons, like most pro cyclists and distance runners, I opt for a low (not no) gluten diet leading up to big races. Brown rice or rice pasta along veggies and lean protein.

      Also, "carbo loading" is outdated. It just sits in your stomach and weighs you down. You do best to eat sensibly prior to your race and make sure you take in calories during your race.

      I do carb load after a race though, usually with a burger, ice cream and some beer.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse |
    • Brett

      @Matt – I don't give any weight to the opinions nutritionists. They are not scientists, don't seem to understand biochemistry or physiology at all, and, as a whole, nutritionist provide conflicting information. Find what works for you and do it. Plain and simple.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:56 | Report abuse |
    • Running Man

      Seriously? As a runner, black beans, quinoa, and lentils taste like cr@p. I'll stick with pasta, lots of extra virgin olive oil, and a generous helping of fresh-grated parmesan cheese.

      July 6, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  4. Luniz82

    Paleo and Crossfit is the way to go.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Peter Pan

    So what you all are telling me is that I should eat what makes me feel good the day before or the day of a long run? Thanks for all the help.

    July 6, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Generic Mandible Operator

    Larry sounds a whole lot more knowledgable than this guy, frankly. I don't eat all that well, but my wife does (and is getting a masters in health/nutrition) so even I know this line is totally absurd:

    "eating white pasta made with more refined flour is actually easier for the body to digest before any big workout or race."

    well...sure. But so is chugging a bag of sugar.

    July 6, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Brett

      Sugar is 50% fructose, so no, it is not the same. Some people can handle more fiber before a race, some cannot. If you can't handle fiber, eat the white pasta. You're going to run a marathon – the refined starches aren't going to weigh you down! And you risk not eating enough calories before a race if you load up on filler.

      In the end you have to know what works for you. There isn't a single path to success when it comes to endurance athletics and fueling your body.

      July 6, 2011 at 14:03 | Report abuse |
  7. Mikeydaman

    Matt is right on the money – I'm OK with "carbo loading" in the week leading up to a marathon, but to do it the night before is a tragic mistake. Unless of course you like to "run with the runs", if ya know what I mean!

    July 6, 2011 at 13:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Lincoln

    There's an underlying assumption in this article and in much of the mass media that endurance events equals athletics and fitness. It's a false assumption.

    July 6, 2011 at 14:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. terrix2000

    This all sounds fine and dandy, but with celiac disease and gluten intolerance on the rise, pasta doesn't do any good.

    July 6, 2011 at 14:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Newo

    any one have a verdict on the Ronzoni "Smart Taste" pastas? They're my favorite but I can only hope they're actually good for you

    July 6, 2011 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Jenny

    Since most Americans aren't athletes and lead a sedentary lifestyle, this article is not for them. I run to stay in shape – no marathons for me. But after my long Sunday run I do enjoy some carbs. Pasta isn't evil, but it's not a miracle food either. Unless you plan to burn an insane number of calories from working out, a balanced diet is best – even for someone who's athletic.

    July 7, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Larry051967

    Pasta is a chemical encyclopedia. It a recent test we spiked 37 items of interest that were not wheat and were not what anyone would characterize as food. Why so many? At each stage of the process someone adds something. Even the product processing equipment is sprayed with chemicals to make the dough release and not plug things up. There are chemicals to condition the dough, make it rise up, take away the bite of a bitter harvest, kill the insects, bleach everything to one light shade to get the mice and rat droppings and then dye it back to a rich healthy looking shade. It goes on and on. And each group that handles the stuff passes it on to the next processor. So many things end up in the product that are never listed and it's all legal. The interactions between some of the BHA's and bromides and conditioners and insecticides and diacetyl and polysorbate and acetone peroxides are absolutely unpredictable and totally unknown. Then you add heat, post processing bacteria and exposure to handling and there's no telling what you're getting. This is to say nothing about the sauce with all it's possibilities. Then you add heat again and put it all together and eat it. Pasta is not a simple dish, anymore.

    July 8, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Chariotoffire

    Ok, since none of these puffed up experts will say it, I will: Different people's bodies cannot tolerate some things that others' can and different people's bodies need different things to run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Some people have celiac disease and cannot eat wheat pasta, neither brown nor white. Some people have sensitive stomachs that respond negatively to high-fiber whole wheat pasta. Some very successful athletes do best with a banana and gatorade before a race, and others can have a stack of pancakes with extra syrup. There are some very basic, general rules that people should PROBABLY follow, like "Don't chug a quart of 2% milk before a race," and "When faced with a choice between Oreos and an apple, choose the apple." But all of this forcing rules that work for you and other people you know onto others creates a black and white "good column" and "bad column" that all foods must fall under for EVERYONE before a race. That's forcing a square peg into a round hole, so open up your minds and also realize that the way seriously professional athletes eat is not necessarily the way someone should eat who wants to just be "in shape" or have a "good body." So Paleo Diet people, please give it a rest, because you will have to pry the carbs out of most runners' cold, dead hands before they will give them up. Accept it.

    July 10, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. jim

    Eat your mega carbs before the marathon, but not the night before. You can carbo load one day in advance and your liver will store the glycogen. Have a light meal the night before the race and you will have all the energy but none of the bulk of having a full stomach and g.i. tract.

    July 10, 2011 at 17:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lagos

    Thanks for the article but I'm pretty sure that today's athletes and their personal trainers know what they're doing. You keep on making food.

    July 10, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Muhammad Yusuf

    Life is balance, so the more power n energy used the more calory we need. Stay health..!!!

    July 10, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. WillFTL

    The guy who sells pasta for a living extolling the values of pasta, lol. Meh.

    July 10, 2011 at 18:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Steph

    "Processed foods are harder for the body to break down."

    And pasta's not a processed food? This article is worthless.

    If you really want to carb-load before a race, go for the yams and sweet potatoes, maybe a little applesauce; not grains that NEED to be processed just so we can digest them.

    July 10, 2011 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Rubes

    Hey Joe, you wanna really prove your point? How about getting your walking heart attack partner Mario Batali on a treadmill and convince the world that pasta ain't the long road to ruin...

    July 10, 2011 at 18:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Greg

    This article is awful for many reasons:

    1. Pasta can be part of a balanced diet, but recommending processed flour pasts? Really? First of all, most performance athletes know what to eat. If you are speaking to the general public, most people should eat less, not more, when they start a workout program. Most of America eats way too many calories.

    2. If you are writing to endurance athletes, you are simply wrong on many levels. Carb-loading is not critical to endurance athletes. Some of the fastest marathoners I know (olympic qualified), literally never eat pasta.

    3. Red wine is a great source of antioxidants, but to talk about it as if it were the best source is silly. Alcohol in small doses is not detrimental to performance, but there are many sources of antioxidants that do not have alcohol.

    CNN no longer has any credibility in the health realm to me.

    Case in point: Djokovic goes gluten free with an extremely strict diet and his ascendency has coincided with his diet change:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703509104576327624238594818.html

    July 10, 2011 at 19:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tom R.

      Well stated, Greg.

      July 10, 2011 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
  21. CBC

    Way to be about 10 years behind the times CNN. Pretty much zero of the legitimate research on nutrition in the last decade supports a grain based diet. Food fail.

    July 10, 2011 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. OBSERVER

    JEFF, given your experience as a top notch professor, you might be as magnificent in literature search as you are in mumbling. So please go to pubmed and get yourself a few articles about childhood obesity instead of bullying LARRY and instead of being arrogant about knowing things which you have no clue about. If you were a true professor, you would stick to your expertise. On hindsight, having been an assistant professor at some point, not making it through the tenure system, and ending up teaching high school biology and chemistry would necessarily generate a “professor” of your caliber.

    July 10, 2011 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jeff

      I started out teaching highschool for several years before getting bored and moving into more serious world of academia. I have since retired – though I do give occasional guest lectures. Getting tenure was probably the most stressful period of my academic life, as most who have been through it would tell you. My primary focus of late has been understanding public awareness of biology and biochemistry. From time to time I found myself browsing articles like this to get a feel for where people are at. Sometimes I get involved in public discussion, like here.

      You are correct, my specialty is not child obesity. Though I do know most agree that it's an incredibly alarming disease that not only threatens the welfare of many, but also has the potential to put enormous strain on the entire health care system.

      I must say the point of your post is not entirely clear – are you interested in the way that the modern american diet has led to childhood obesity?

      July 10, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse |
  23. John P

    Pasta turns into glucose (sugar) when you eat it. When you eat pasta your body will start to crave bad carbohydrates and sugars. Eating pasta is a guaranteed way for most people to get fat. Sure if you are a running marathons your body can burn all of those bad carbs – but you would be better off lean proteins and good carbs. The author is correct that we now view carbs as the enemy and that shouldn't be. Salads, vegetables, and oatmeal are examples of good carbs. BUT pasta is a bad carb – most pastas have been bleached and have very little nutritional value. If you are going to eat pasta – eat whole grain pasta.

    July 10, 2011 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NotARestaurenteur

      Be careful about processed "whole grain" foods. Whole grain is, more often than not, a scam, with only a fraction of the product containing whole grains, the rest being refined grains with added food colorings, or worse yet, molasses or other additives.

      July 10, 2011 at 20:47 | Report abuse |
  24. Justin

    Jeff the Professor got crushed by Larry and a few others lol

    July 10, 2011 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. TriMama

    Enough mindless sheep will sup at their local diner and eat whatever is put in front of them. Not sure the point of this article but certainly a restaurateur is not going to sway educated and informed athletes. Eating garbage complicates athletic performance at best and means more work on our part. I think we're pretty safe in knowing what we should eat and not eat. Sorry CNN – this is an epic fail.

    July 10, 2011 at 19:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Eric

    LOL@ all the jag offs on these comments who think they know something about nutrition. I eat what some consider garbage yet I maintain less than 10% body fat year round and compete in bodybuilding and power lifting events. I eat white bread, kids cereal, chocolate milk etc. U mad?

    July 10, 2011 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Fiona

    Sophia Loren famously said, "Everthing you see I owe to spaghetti.". To steal a much used movie quote, "I'll have what she's having."

    (And Ms. Loren, btw, was no athlete at the time.)

    July 10, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. TriMama

    Eric – why would we care?

    July 10, 2011 at 20:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. NotARestaurenteur

    Since when are restauranteurs qualified to give health advice on CNN? This pure opinion piece and blatant advertising / self promotion belongs at best to the "food" section, not in the "health" section. Pasta, by the way, is a relic from the bad old times when fresh foods were not available year around, and is one of the lowest quality foods available today. Carbs are fine if you have the metabolism to burn them, but there are lots of options today to eat real food with good carbs.

    July 10, 2011 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. LOL

    @Eric, LOL.

    July 10, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. 14 year old kid

    Just go make them eat rice.. cause its healthy :P

    July 10, 2011 at 21:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Arick

    *Sigh* this guy is talking about pasta made from scratch, not the processed crap you get in a grocery store. You people are either stupid or have never eaten at a real Italian restaurant.

    July 10, 2011 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Mikael

    This is a joke of an article! Why is this guy allowed to write this? He has no background in nutrition at all

    July 11, 2011 at 12:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jing

      You're wrong! For marathon person like many of the commentars Pasta is THE food to go to! Granted it might not be the most nutritional food in existence but it helps to maintain good energy for us runners.

      July 12, 2011 at 09:16 | Report abuse |
  34. Anti-Argument

    "A typical untrained individual on an average diet is able to store about 380 grams of glycogen, or 1500 kcal, in the body, though much of that amount is spread throughout the muscular system and may not be available for any specific type of exercise.[2] Intense cycling or running can easily consume 600-800 or more kcal per hour. Unless glycogen stores are replenished during exercise, glycogen stores in such an individual will be depleted after less than 2 hours of continuous cycling or 15 miles (24 km) of running." -Pulled Straight from Wikipedia...

    So if it takes 2 hours of continuous cycling, or 15 miles of running to deplete glycogen stores (without replenishment), what happens if a guy eats some pasta, then does his 15 minutes on an eliptical (This machine is a cop out)??? The answer is he gets fat. How many "average" Americans could run 15 miles or cycle 2 hours? CNN is dropping the ball on quality.

    July 12, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Tiana

    Im with Jeff on this one. It seems as though those that reduce their diet to caveman nutrition also reduce their thought process to caveman intelligence.

    July 15, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Nate

    Tiana, your ignorance is showing. The idea that 'cavemen' (paleolithic man) was not intelligent is patently false. Physiologically, they were the same as you and I, brainpower included. They simply lived in a time before agrarian society developed, living mostly in small clans in a hunter/gatherer fashion. Sure, their existence was much simpler, but to call them any less intelligent than we are is foolish.

    July 28, 2011 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Think

    An article that promotes the consumption of refined carbs is just unthinkable after reviewing what we know now in the health field. Pasta is (usually) made from wheat. So eat wheat. Cooked – boiled is best. Raw – sprouted is the only way. Sprouted grains, lentils, beans and peas are superfoods containing far more nutrients than the cooked version. Most are ready in 24-48 hours. An interesting side note: many people find that the stuff they were cooking does not sprout for whatever reason (can't be good) and need to find another source. But by cooking it they were blissfully ignorant. 100% raw is the way to go. For B12 if you don't want to chow down on raw animal products one can use raw liver from beef, bison, elk, etc. By making sure its been frozen for 2 weeks you ensure its free of parasites. You need very little to maintain B12 levels because its such a concentrated source. Mixed in with other foods means you won't even taste it. Another plus for health is mono eating: eat whatever you crave at the moment and nothing else and eat til you're full. Wait a few hours and do it again. You digestion will rocket to another level. You can exercise right after eating. Your satiation levels will also be much higher. Its a whole new way of eating. Fast one day a week on pure, room temperature water. When you get a cold or flu – stop eating and fast. Fasting is the best way of flushing out bad habits. When you're sick you're not hungry anyway so use that as a stepping stone to eradicate yourself of your bad habits and once eradicated – never look back. Caffeine is often the reason people can't fast. So that must be eliminated. When fasting you consume nothing but water – no vitamins, no drugs, no nothing. Its a total cleanse and rest for your insides. For cancer sufferers: Herbert Shelton who supervised more than 100,000 fasts noticed that many cancer sufferers went into remission if they pursued their fast right to the point where they got a ravenous hunger (for most of us its about day 40). This is because the body consumes fat for energy and once that fat is gone it looks to anything else it can convert to calories. Tumors are one of those things. But it only happens right at the end. Once you get a ravenous hunger its time to start eating. If the tumor hasn't been consumed completely you need to go back to eating for several weeks or months (fasting one day a week of course) to build up your reserves so you can do another long fast again. The tumor will go if you keep at it. And once you stop eating cancer causing foods (processed stuff) the cancer shouldn't advance while you're eating. Its not easy for most of us of course but one can carry on limited physical activity most of the day in your weakened fasting state so many people can continue to be productive during a long fast.

    August 6, 2011 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.