Don't opt out: click here to learn more about our work.

Healthy eating, active living: Optimizing Nutrition Through Exercise

Walk your dog daily, even if you don’t have one

Healthy eating, active living: Optimizing Nutrition Through Exercise

The Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE) hosted leading experts at the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport on March 5 to present in the Optimizing Nutrition Through Exercise panel to discuss the relationship between physical activity and nutrition.

The event presented a combination of time-efficient exercise strategies with simple evidence-based dietary changes that can help busy professionals and active individuals improve their health and performance.

Assistant Professors Daniel Moore and Jenna Gillen of KPE translated their research insights into practical strategies that you can use to improve your health.

Moore said that as your day progresses, the most efficient way to stimulate your muscles is to eat moderate protein-containing meals, at around 0.3 grams of protein per kilogram of your body mass. Additional levels of protein do not build muscle further.

To determine the right amount of protein to consume in a meal, Moore said that “animal-based protein might be the size of your palm,” or, for plant-based protein, he recommends “half a cup or about half your fist.” If you consume more dense protein-containing meals, the excess protein will instead be stored as an energy reserve for later.

Where Moore’s research focuses on “how physical activity improves our body’s ability to use dietary protein,” his “Move It to Use It” principle suggests that muscle diminishes with inactivity and grows with exercise.

It’s important to “engineer more physical activity and less sitting into your lifestyle to keep your muscle sensitive.” For example Moore suggests walking your dog daily — even if you don’t have one. This means you should get outside and be active.

Gillen’s research, on the other hand, is focused on carbohydrate and fat metabolism. Gillen has three take-home strategies for optimizing blood sugar with exercise. The first two revolve around eating habits; she suggests exercising “after eating carbohydrates to lower the post-meal rise in blood glucose [and] perform[ing] repeated exercise ‘snacks’ to lower blood glucose throughout the day.”

Exercise “snacking” means incorporating short yet frequent bouts of physical activity throughout your day. Studies presented by Gillen show that two-minute walks every 30 minutes is an effective way to break up prolonged periods of sitting and more effective than a 30-minute morning walk for young adults.

If you’re someone who sits a lot at work or school and can’t get up to go for frequent walks, try activity break squats — no equipment or gym membership required. Gillen and Moore are currently testing this strategy in the lab, which includes 15 repeated chair stands in the span of one minute.

The third and final strategy Gillen recommends is to “maintain an active lifestyle to help manage blood glucose on days you don’t exercise.”

These strategies are not just useful to those with diabetes. Gillen said that “seemingly healthy adults can have spikes in blood glucose following meals, too.” Besides, you can never be too healthy, can you?

Toronto Raptors and Gymnastics Canada performance nutritionist and sports dietitian Jennifer Sygo also spoke at the event. She discussed orthorexia nervosa, which is an eating disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with eating healthy food. This unhealthy fixation on righteous eating can be destructive to health and wellbeing.

Sygo compared the nutritional habits for elite athletes versus the general population. Elite athletes make up “0.00018% of the world’s population,” according to Sygo’s presentation.

Sygo explained that nutrition can be converted to speed in two ways: aerobic metabolism, which “produces more energy, but does so more slowly,” and anaerobic, which “produces less energy, but does so quickly.”

Athletes often struggle to eat enough calories to meet high energy needs. For example, Tour de France cyclists require between 5,000–7,000 calories per stage, which is why they need low-nutrient, dense foods to ensure good energy availability and support the high demands of training. For the general population, Sygo said that a high-fibre and less-processed foods is optimal.

What the Soar Youth Indigenous program adds to KPE

Annual program gives Indigenous youth a U of T experience

What the Soar Youth Indigenous program adds to KPE

To help increase enrolment and engagement with postsecondary education among Indigenous communities, the Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education initiated the Soar Indigenous Youth Gathering program. Soar, which was launched in 2009, is a week-long program held during March break that exposes a group of Indigenous youth to university life.

The program requires that applicants be Indigenous youth aged 14–17, residents of Ontario, and committed to participating in the full week of events. Participants stay at the Chelsea Hotel and may receive up to $400 for travel expenses. Information regarding Soar is communicated through postcards sent out to Indigenous communities, while coordinators visit local Indigenous events and communities in addition to sending emails to the Toronto District School Board.

“Each year, we introduce high school students to Indigenous role models — faculty and students — so they can see themselves in a few years coming to higher education,” Susan Lee, who manages co-curricular diversity and equity programs within the faculty, said to U of T News in 2017.

The program is meant to increase awareness of postsecondary education opportunities among Indigenous youth, as well as engage them in leadership opportunities. “It’s just opening up the doors for them to say, ‘here’s an opportunity for you,’” Lee added.

Soar offers an exciting opportunity for Indigenous students to gain an idea of what university life has to offer, and to bring together Indigenous youth with similar desires. By playing games, touring campus, attending workshops, and learning about the school’s many different programs, Indigenous students in the Soar program are made to feel welcome at U of T.

Programs such as Soar provide Indigenous students with a fun and exciting March break while also showing them that U of T is excited to have them. 

Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education Task Force recommends further inclusion of racialized, Indigenous students

Recommendations include changes to curriculum, communications, data collection, recruitment

Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education Task Force recommends further inclusion of racialized, Indigenous students

The University of Toronto’s Faculty of Kinesiology & Physical Education (KPE) Task Force on Race and Indigeneity released its final report in response to the 2015 Summary of the Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC).

In its December 4 report, the task force adopted three key terms — equity, diversity, and inclusion — from U of T’s Equity and Diversity in Research & Innovation Working Group Report.

‘Equity’ refers to the fair treatment of all people, regardless of their race or culture. While ‘diversity’ is described as a demographic mix in the community, it also focuses on groups that are underrepresented at  U of T. Combining these two terms is ‘inclusion,’ or an environment where everyone feels respected and valued.

The 12 operating members and four working groups sought to make recommendations to the faculty on how to address barriers that prevent racial diversity and equity.

The Task Force was, in part, formed in response to a panel held at U of T during the 2015 Toronto Pan American Games, which focused on the challenges of being an Indigenous athlete in Toronto.

It also responds to a report from the 2016 Accelerating Action Roundtable Discussion event that recommended five themes for the faculty to address.

This includes hiring racialized and Indigenous peoples, improving visibility and recognition of diversity in KPE spaces, improving outreach to underrepresented groups, increasing accountability around issues of race and Indigeneity, and expanding support and resources for Indigenization, racial diversity, and anti-racism.

The TRC report stated that the University of Toronto was responsible for acting with “destructive impacts” against Indigenous people. Although the university did not operate residential schools, it educated Canadians who later contributed to the creation of these schools.

Researchers from the university have also recently been accused of damaging Indigenous communities through research studies. The report concluded that because of past ignorance and mistreatment toward Indigenous people, the University of Toronto has been an unwelcome place for Indigenous students.

The task force’s report organizes the working groups’ recommendations into seven categories, “intended to be considered simultaneously and in total.”

Academics, curriculum and programming

This section’s main recommendation looks to create content on race and Indigeneity across the KPE curriculum. The task force also recommends that KPE develop and integrate a course solely based on Indigenous history, issues, racism, and racialization within sports and physical activity.


This section recommends that KPE maintain “an attractive and informative website that conveys the importance of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.” The task force emphasizes further promotion of Indigenous opportunities, activities, conferences, and events, both on and off campus.

Data collection

The task force recommends that KPE collect demographic data on new staff members to keep track of recruitment success, thus identifying needed additional time spent on recruiting Indigenous students. A survey is also advised to identify any areas of improvement in regards to recruitment and retention of Indigenous staff.


The report further recommends offering financial benefits to prospective Indigenous students through scholarships, bursaries, and grants. Great emphasis was also placed on financial support for achieving equity and diversity on campus.


This section specifically focuses on improving relationships between the KPE and Indigenous people through mentorships, coaching, and community resources in order to build a healthy and comfortable atmosphere.


This focuses on developing designated spaces to accommodate any cultural practices for Indigenous students. The report goes on to say that faculty should also create barrier-free and accessible spaces that value Indigenous perspectives.


This focuses heavily on decolonization and anti-racism training for staff and faculty. Recommendations also include opportunities to connect racialized and Indigenous students with the wider community.

Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

“Programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body”

Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity sets the record straight

Confusion about sports facilities and services on campus is nothing new. For a long time, students have been puzzled over whether they can go skating in the Varsity Arena, how much Varsity Blues game tickets cost, what swimming lessons are available and — wait — are non-Kinesiology students allowed to use the pool at the Athletic Centre, or can we only use the one at Hart House?

The Faculty of Kinesiology and Physical Education (KPE) is mindful of these sorts of questions. Based on feedback from surveys and focus groups, Beth Ali, Executive Director of Athletics and Physical Activity, said that “first-year students… wouldn’t go in the buildings because they thought that the swim lessons, the open rec basketball, varsity programs or intramural programs were only for KPE students.”

To counter this confusion, the faculty has adopted the moniker of “U of T Sport and Rec” as a way to differentiate the division of the faculty that runs co-curricular activities from its academic division.

The name was first used last year as part of the faculty’s Come See What You Can Do campaign to “engage all U of T students in sport and physical activity and raise awareness [of] the facilities, programs and services offered.”

“What we were introducing was the concept, that we live in KPE, we work with KPE, but U of T Sport and Rec is for the entire university student body and all of our programs, facilities and services are for the entire student body,” wrote Ali.

KPE is unique among other faculties in that it has an additional mandate to provide resources for sports and physical activity on all three campuses. This mandate is a result of a merger between the Department of Athletics and Recreation, the Graduate Program of Exercise Science, and the then-named School of Physical and Health Education in 1998.

But with such a broad mandate, it can be unclear what exactly falls under it given the breadth of programs and services related to sports and physical activity on the three campuses.

The most important point to note is that every student pays an ancillary fee to KPE and that the revenue collected is part of a co-curricular budget run by U of T Sport and Rec. This fee accounts for about 70 per cent of U of T Sport and Rec’s operating revenue, and it is kept separate from the budget run by the academic side of the faculty.

This means that the facilities, programs, and services operated by U of T Sport and Rec are open to all students. These facilities include the Athletic Centre, the Varsity Stadium and Arena, the Back Campus Fields, and even the intimidatingly named Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

A portion of the ancillary fee is remitted to UTM and UTSC to run programming for their own campuses. The operation of their facilities, which include UTM’s Recreation, Athletic and Wellness Centre and UTSC’s Toronto Pan Am Sports Centre, is funded by a separate fee from UTM and UTSC students.

U of T Sport and Rec also runs tri-campus programs like intramurals and Varsity Blues. The Tri-Campus Development League is a particular program where two teams from UTSG and one team from UTM and UTSC each compete in a semester-long tournament with weekly practices.

U of T Sport and Rec is the largest employer of students on campus with over $5 million of operating expenses paid to 1,114 student employees. Ali believes that as a university employer, KPE is more mindful of the challenges student employees face in balancing work and studies.

“There’s an understanding that, yes you’re an employee, but you’re also a student and because you’re a student, you being successful as a student is our first priority. You working for us is the second priority,” said Ali.