Essential Sports Nutrition


Are you addicted to cereal?

Americans are obsessed with cereal. How do I know this? We have an entire aisle in the grocery store solely devoted to cold and hot cereals. We have a dairy aisle, meat aisle, vegetable aisle and then we have a cereal aisle.
There are several claims on cereal boxes that promote health and weight loss. For example Cheerios can help lower cholesterol, General Mills cereals are Whole Grain guaranteed and you can take the Special K challenge to lose 6 lbs in 2 weeks.
In my opinion, oatmeal is more satisfying and filling than 1 serving of cereal. Yes, 1 serving of cereal, which is typically 3/4 cup. If you were to eat 1 serving of cereal at 150 calories or 1 serving of oatmeal at 150 calories at breakfast, you are likely to eat less during the day and feel more satisfied with less calories by eating the oatmeal. Even if you add berries, nuts or raisins and milk to your oatmeal or to your cereal, I have a feeling your blood sugar will feel more balanced during the morning by eating oatmeal, compared to cereal and milk. Even if a cereal has the same amount of fiber as oatmeal, there is something about oatmeal that leaves you satisfied after eating it. Maybe you don't do oatmeal or cereal and PB&J or eggs are your breakfast of choice. :)
I found two studies regarding cereal and weight loss. Both studies found that cereal promoted weight loss and weight management. However, there are several variables to be considered in these studies.
In the first study researchers wanted to see whether ready-to-eat cereal, used as a portion-controlled, meal replacement, promotes weight loss. Results showed that the ready-to-eat cereals may be used to promote weight loss when consumed as a portion-controlled, meal replacement. In the second study researchers tested the hypothesis that providing a structured snack in the form of a "ready-to-eat" breakfast cereal would help regulate excess energy intake and contribute to weight loss in night snackers. Results showed that eating ready-to-eat cereal after the evening meal may attenuate caloric intake in night snackers and promote weight loss in compliant individuals.
Here I gave you the exact words for the purpose of the studies and the results of the studies. However, there are some missing links in these studies. Whenever a subject complies to the protocol of a study, they are likely eliminating other foods in the diet (control group) and sticking to a somewhat controlled diet. When compared to the subjects consuming a normal diet (placebo group or non controlled group), it is likely that subjects sticking to a specific protocol will lose weight. Furthermore, in the case of eating a specific serving for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner (As in the first study) you are greatly reducing your daily intake of calories and thus, weight loss is long as you don't replace those calories with another food.
I have a feeling that many athletes/fitness individuals are either starting their day with cereal or finishing their day with cereal...or both. I confess that I love cereal...all kinds! I grew up on cereal, easily going through a box in 2-3 days after 3 days in a row of 7,000-10,000 yards of swimming. Although I stopped my binge-eating days of eating cereal after swim practices, I still enjoy the yummy crunch of cereal.
Now I find myself using cereal as a topping. I like to top my oatmeal, my post workout smoothies, my french toast, my yogurt, my fruit and my cottage cheese with a little bite of cereal. Since there are a million cereals on the market, it is easy to enjoy a variety of cereals (although I'm sure we all have our favorites).
I find that athletes/fitness individuals tend to overeat when it comes to cereal. You can't just stop at one bowl. Maybe you are eating cereal and still maintaining weight or even losing weight through your fitness routine but perhaps you are eating cereal for a snack when you could be eating something a bit more healthy (say, fruits or veggies that you neglected during the day?). Then when the eating starts, it is hard to stop.
I can't really recall a cereal that will satisfy a person after 1 serving (and keep you satisfied for the hours after) and come to think of it, most cereals seem to have similar ingredients and similar nutrition profiles. Therefore, even if a cereal does keep you full after 1 serving, how can one cereal be healthier than the other?
Karel and I combine our cereals. Since I do the shopping, I made myself some guidelines for when I buy cereal. I hope you find it useful when you purchase cereal. More so, I hope you will find it easier to read food labels, recognize exactly what you are eating and keep you satisfied when using as a topping or for a meal.

Combining cereals in a large Tupperware container:
Choose 4 cereals that meet these criteria:
1) 1 box of a high fiber cereal - raisin bran, shredded wheat, kashi Go lean crunch, Bran flakes, etc.
2) 1 box of a puff cereal - organic millet puffs, corn puffs, brown rice cereal, rice puffs, etc.
3) 1 box whole grain cereal - first ingredient must read whole grain (not just wheat), less than 5g sugar, at least 1g fiber. Most general mills cereals are whole grain but use your best judgment and choose the best option, such as cheerios.
4) 1 box of your favorite - first ingredient will likely read milled corn, corn meal, wheat flour or rice, but prioritize wheat if possible and less than 12g sugar. Meusli, Life, Chex, frosted flakes, cinnamon toast crunch, golden grahams, granola, special K, etc. Avoid food coloring (hint-is your cereal brightly colored?), high sugar cereals and partially hydrogenated oils.
*As you will notice, I put no criteria for calories. High fiber cereals are high in calories and high sugar cereals are low in calories. There really isn't a winner when it comes to finding the perfect cereal so enjoy a little of everything.

-Start with the puff cereal and fill the container with 4 cups (should be less than 1/2 of the container).
-Put 2-3 cups of the high fiber cereal in the container.
-Put 2-3 cups of the whole grain cereal into the container.
-Top the container with 2 cups of your favorite cereal.
*Put all extra cereal into an airtight bag and store in the back of the fridge.
-Give the Tupperware container a good shake until the cereals are mixed. Keep a 1-cup measuring cup (for a bowl of cereal) and a 1/4 cup (for snacks) on top of the container so that you will always portion control when eating.
-Enjoy a little bit of everything and hopefully you will find yourself eating less cereal on a daily basis by satisfying your cereal cravings with a little bit of everything, rather than a lot of one thing. Remember, cereal is a great topper, it can be eaten in a coffee cup with skim milk and a little whey protein and flax seeds and you don't just have to eat it in a big bowl.

I'd love to hear your favorite cereal, how you portion control and how you like to eat it :)


Part 2: recovery and nutrition

This article follows my last article featured on (and in the FREE newsletter). I feel that the topic of nutrition, in regards to recovery, is as important (if not more than) as stretching, icing or whatever you choose to do to refuel, repair and refocus after a workout.
Let me know if you have any questions, I look forward to your comments on how you like to recover.

Recovery and Nutrition
Marni Sumbal, MS

When it comes to recovery after a workout, most athletes assume the best way to repair damaged tissue is to eat. While eating after a workout can restore glycogen stores and rebuild tissues for muscle growth, too much food or a little of the wrong foods may hinder your workouts. Due to unhealthy food cravings, improper timing of nutrition during the day and unbalanced, oversized meals after exercise, it is likely that your hard work during workouts may go unnoticed due to poor food choices after exercise.

1. Proper nutrition:

For workouts lasting less than 60 minutes, opt for a healthy 80-100 calorie snack after the workout.

* · If your workout is intense (more than 85 percent of max heart rate) or you anticipate a meal more than an hour after your workout, choose low-fat protein as your post-workout food choice.
* · If your workout is average intensity (around 70-85 percent of max heart rate) or you are planning to eat a balanced, calorie-controlled meal within an hour after the workout, focus on fiber and/or protein as your post-workout food choice.

For all workouts lasting more than 60 minutes, opt for protein (around 5-8 grams for every hour of training) as the main part of your post-workout snack.

Post-workout protein snacks include: cottage cheese, whey protein (recommended for workouts lasting more than 60 minutes), skim/soy milk, low-fat yogurt, nuts/seeds, eggs, lean meat/vegetarian meat, tofu or cheese/string cheese.

Post-workout fiber snacks include: berries, apples, a whole grain/organic granola bar (without icing or loaded with sugar alcohols), pears, figs, oats, oranges, raisins, air-popped popcorn, beans, seeds or carrots.

2. Hydration:

It is important to replace fluids after exercise. Although electrolytes are lost through sweat, skip the high-sugar sport drinks and choose water after a workout. In addition to 20-28 ounces of fluid for each hour of training, sip on a 24-ounce bottle of water within 15-30 minutes after exercise. Maltodextrin-rich sport drinks are recommended during all workouts lasting more than an hour, whereas water is recommended during workouts lasting less than an hour. As for obtaining necessary vitamins and minerals post-workout, choose a colorful meal, complete with protein and complex carbohydrates, and be sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet on a daily basis. For workouts lasting more than two hours, be sure to drink water throughout the day to maintain and restore hydration status.

5. Omega Fatty Acids:

Fish is a must-have in the diet of non-vegetarian and non-vegan athletes, as the omega-3 fatty acids in fish (particularly EPA) have a positive influence on reducing inflammation. Exercise is beneficial for women, as it aids in disease prevention and maintain a healthy heart. Omega-3's are a good supplement to exercise because they help to lower cholesterol, triglycerides, LDLs (bad cholesterol) and blood pressure, while increasing good HDL cholesterol. The healthy fats found in fish and fish oil can also help prevent stroke and risk for heart attack, in addition to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancers. Lastly, omega-3 fatty acids are important for the health of your skin and brain functioning.

If you are a vegetarian, you may or may not decide to take fish oils, which do have the oil from a fish in them, on a daily basis, depending on your motive behind vegetarianism and avoiding animal-derived foods. However, flax (seeds or oil), tofu, greens, squash and walnuts are all good sources of omega's for both the vegetarian and meat-eater.

Alpha-linolenic acid is one of two essential fatty acids (the other is linoleic acid, an omega-6), which can help fight inflammation. In reference to food, the word "essential," such as essential amino acids or essential fats, is something that the body cannot manufacture on its own. These "essential" foods must be obtained through diet or supplements.

Foods containing omega's (many are vegetarian/vegan friendly) include: flaxseeds, ground and dried cloves, walnuts, flax, fish oil, cod liver, dried oregano, cauliflower, cabbage, romaine, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, winter squash, halibut, snapper, scallops, tuna, shrimp, cod, salmon, strawberries, raspberries, miso, tofu and soybeans. *

*Some foods listed have more omega's than others, so be sure to give yourself a balanced diet.

Next time you leave the gym from a spin class, head home from a run on the track or finish a swim at the pool, be sure to reward your body with the best food possible to ensure a quick recovery. No workout is complete until you take the time to recover.


6-gap event recap

Where do I begin?

This was, by far, the hardest, most challenging, most fun, most rewarding, most scary, most intimidating, most demanding, most mentally exhausting, most exciting thing I have ever done on the bike. Actually, keep all those thoughts and add...the hardest thing I have ever done in my life! I am still talking about the challenging climbs and still having dreams about the fast descends.
I took a day to relax my mind and body after 6-gap, before writing this blog, however, I have a feeling my mind might wander as I recap the event.
After checking out of the hotel in Norcross, GA on Sat morning, Karel and I hoped that the pouring rain would stop when we arrived in Dahlonega an hour later. I checked the radar and the rain was supposed to stop for a few hours but with the epic rain falls in GA lately, there was no stopping of rain when we arrived to the expo. Our plan was to ride the first gap of the event in order to get our legs ready for the climbs and to get me ready for the descends. I am not sure how we did it, but we managed to get in 20 miles and Neel's Gap, before it started raining again. The roads were super wet but the air was cool. Karel was way ahead of me on our test ride up Neel's gap and he joined me for the last mile or so after he climbed it.
Despite the positive sunny, 65-degree, forecast for Sunday, I had a million of excuses for not doing 6-gap (104 miles) and a few excuses for wimping out of the 3-gap (58 miles). If you want to know those excuses, you can just ask Karel since he heard me freaking out up and down Neel's gap of how NOT ready I was for this event.
When we got back to the car, I was glad that Karel convinced me to ride in order to get out those fears of the bike on mountains and to loosen up the legs for our long journey on Sunday.
After our 5:15 am breakfast on Sunday morning, and a few quick checks of the weather, Karel and I headed to the event start at Lumpkin High School. Karel recognized a lot of people from Jacksonville, from his cycling races and from our old area in Clearwater which was nice for both of us to see familiar faces in this large group ride of 2500 people.
The 6gap started at 7:30am and Karel and I, and a few other people, had the honor to be called to the line in front of the 1000-1300 other cyclists doing the 6 gap. A HUGE, gigantic THANKS to Hammer Nutrition for giving Karel and I comp entries to this event. We were so proud to represent Hammer. More than just representing Hammer, Hammer provided over $10,000 worth of products (Heed and gels at every aid station) for the event. Hammer is top of the line when it comes to sports nutrition products and Karel and I absolutely love their line of products.
The announcer made it clear that the 6-gap ride is NOT A RACE. Ok, for over 1000 of us, we would be happy to get to the finish line in one piece. However, it was clear that for about 100 guys (Karel included), they would be racing.
It was a little scary at the beginning of the ride because you have 1000+ bikes, all going in the same direction, up and down hills, heading 18 miles to Neel's gap. I knew the pack wouldn't separate until then so I just stayed calm and focused.
Around mile 10, I was near the front of the pack. I could see Karel's group (of around 30 people) in the distance. We were descending fast down a hill and all of a sudden a hear "CRASH, SLOWING, WATCH OUT". I have never been in a situation where I had to stop on an impulse so I quickly squeezed on my brakes going down hill (that's a no no) and I felt my back wheel sliding back and forth behind me. In addition to the super wet roads, I was going really fast and didn't know what to do. There was a pile of people on the ground, I was heading towards them and was scared. After finally slowing down, I biked into the bushes and the grass (better to fall there than on the concrete) and prepared myself to fall there. To my big surprise, I didn't fall. I slid right through the grass and rubbed the bushes, dodged a few bikes and kept on rolling. How in the heck did I miss that??? Maybe I do have good bike handling skills after all. The 3 guys who crashed were ok, I think, so I kept on moving. I decided to stop a bit ahead of the crash to pull out all of the twigs and leaves from my pedals, cassette and chain and I did a detailed inspection of my tires. I was covered in dirt from the wet grass but I was ready to get going. I hadn't even gotten to the first gap and already, this was an eventful ride.

When I approached Neel's gap, I was feeling good. The confidence of riding the gap with Karel on Sat was a great ego booster. I was riding with a group of guys and with my love of climbing (more like, love for rollers) I was feeling good about this climb. About half way up Neel's gap, I was still hanging on the wheels of the group of guys who I started the climb with, and it was nice to keep a steady pace up the climb. I had a few nice comments from guys around me when we were climbing but the best comment was when I had to tell a group of guys that there was a woman right behind them. Let's just say that these guys had no idea I was able to hang on their wheel and they were enjoying comparing TrainingPeaks to Sex. Yeah, not sure about that conversation but they all had a great laugh that I was listening to the whole convo. I probably pushed a bit too hard on this climb but I couldn't help it when I was really enjoying myself and feeling great with the guys. The descend was a bit scary for me because the roads were wet but overall, it was totally doable. My biggest problem with descends is not knowing what is coming next. With u-turn, switchbacks and winding roads, you really have to be on top of your game to ride fast on the downhills. I am still working on my descends but I have a long way to go before I can keep my hands off the brakes for more than 15 sec. Let's just say there was lots of feathering my brakes on every descend.
Stats of Neel's gap:
1350 feet of climbing
6.5 miles
Sections 8% grade

Jack's gap and Unicoi went by fast. Still at the early part of the ride, with sights on Hogpen to come. I had only planned on stopping once or twice to re-fill my bottles so I made my way over the two gaps and my mileage was clicking away. I found a few sections of this part of the course more challenging than Neel's gap but overall, it was manageable. I remembered a lot of the gaps from our 2007 trip to GA, but at that time, we only did a few gaps per day. Never all 6 at once.
Here's the stats of Jack's gap and Unicoi:
Jacks Gap:
989 feet
5.5 miles
1/2 mile section: 9% to 12%
Unicoi Gap:
2.5 miles
700 feet
sections: 6-8%

Oh yes, here comes the talked about Hogpen. When we were in GA, we did Hogpen from the other side. The other side is a bit steeper with sections of 18% grade but then again, we had fairly fresh legs and we weren't doing 6 gaps in one day.
There were two King of the Mountain (KOM) gaps which included Hogpen and Wolf pen. There were sensors on the ground to record our transponders (chips) when we started the climb and finished the climb, on each gap. I was very surprised when I saw the sensors in the middle of the climb because it felt like we had been climbing for a while before the climb on Hogpen actually started. Great, here I am thinking that I am already making my way up the climb and I hadn't even started the real 10K climb.
This gap was brutal. I had my chain in the smallest gear and still, I was going 5-6 miles per hour. I was swerving back and forth on the road to try to get some momentum up the 15% grade parts of the climb and welcomed any dip in the road to try to rest my legs. The climb just kept going and going and I was having a tough time moving. I just kept telling myself to keep pedaling and to not stop. I remember in 2007 when we climbed Brasstown which has a 20 and 24% section. I actually fell going up hill when I did that ride because my legs just stopped moving and I just fell to the ground into the grass. This time, there was no Brasstown but with only 60 miles completed and 44 miles to go, I convinced myself to stop at the half way aid station. I did the worst thing possible at the aid station, without even realizing it until I told Karel. I filled up my bottles!! Silly me. As I was giving myself a few minutes to try to convince myself that I can climb 3 more miles, averaging around 5-7 mph, I was putting 2 x 24 ounce bottles of fluid on my bike. Well, I think even without the extra weight I would suffer up that climb. It was like everyone was moving in slow motion up the climb.
When I saw 1000K to go I was pedaling a bit faster than before. Probably 6 mph at that point. It sure did feel fast though as I could hear people cheering and finally, I made it to the top of the climb. Really, I don't know how tour riders and Karel do cycling races on these tough climbs. Karel once did a race in Dahlonega where they had to do Wolfpen 3 times, in addition to Neel's gap and Woody's gap two times. I was thinking about Karel the whole time during my climb and I tried to think about him giving me good advice as I made my way down the Hogpen descend. The first few minutes of the Hogpen were a bit scary for me and I found myself going a bit too fast and I was not comfortable at that speed. In all honesty, I really don't think I went faster than 30 mph on the descends but with switchbacks and a few blind turns (oh-and cars and motorcycles on the raod) I was really nervous and scared and was tapping my brakes before each turn. I wanted to make it down safe but I think with a few times of practicing on descends in Dahlonega, I can really improve my 6-gap time (and confidence) on this course.
Stats on Hogpen:
1959 feet
9.6 miles (KOM was 10K)
7% avg grade
Sections: 12% to 15%
My time: 49 minutes 10K (averaging around 8 mph, including my stop at half way)

After Hogpen, I was getting close to Wolfpen, which was the second KOM part of the course. Overall, the three BIG climbs included Neel's gap, Hogpen and Wolfpen. I was so happy that I was able to get over the two big climbs but I still had 1 to go. I was so tired, my rt. quad was killing me and my body and mind were exhausted. I stopped at the aid station right before the turn onto Wolfpen and took out my phone. I was going to call Karel to pick me up. No more, I am done. When I went to call cell service. Ughhh.
Well, it was good that I had no service because Wolfpen ended up being my FAVORITE climb. I loved it all. It was a small road, shaded and I loved the switchbacks. It was a short climb, but nonetheless, steep. When I made it to the top, I nearly had tears in my eyes. I made it over the big climbs and had 1 last gap to go. I was passing a lot of people on Wolfpen but then again, I was being passed as well.
Stats on Wolfpen:
1360 feet
5.9 miles
Sections: 7-11%
My time: 25 minutes 5K (averaging around 8mph)

Woody's gap was the last gap of the ride. It was smooth going up and smooth going down. The descend was enjoyable and I found that my confidence was the highest on this down hill. I hit around 40mph but I am sure I wasn't averaging that speed.
Stats on Woody's gap:
1.8 miles
355 feet
4-6% grade sections

I was looking forward to the end of the ride but that last 19 miles were long. Up and down, still with rollers and climbs to the finish. The last part of the course was beautiful and overall, the course was marked well and was really well organized and safe. In years past I heard that the last part of the course was all downhill but this year, not so much. I was alone for most of the course and near the end, I was enjoying the horse farms as I made my way up the last few climbs. I called Karel with 9 miles to go and he told me to just enjoy myself and that the hard part was overwith. Of course, he was showered and enjoying his pasta when I called and our convo was short as I was ready to get to the finish line.

Finally, I made it!!

I had tears in my eyes just thinking about all my excuses which turned into fears on the day before the race. There I was, crossing the finish line and Karel greeting me with a huge hug. He was so proud of me and I was proud of myself. This was absolutely the hardest thing of my life.
Total time on the course: 6 hours and 56 minutes
Distance: 104 miles
Average speed: 15 mph
Fastest speed: 40 mph
Time up Hogpen (10K): 49 minutes
Time up Wolfpen (5K): 25 minutes
Finish: 213 overall out of 999 finishers, 6th out of 68 women.

Karel's stats:
Total time on the course: 5 hours and 29 minutes
Average speed: 19 mph
Fastest speed: 51 mph
Time up Hogpen: 33 minutes
Time up Wolfpen: 20 minutes
Finish: 9th overall
( are amazing!)
All of my stats were from (In case the stats are 100% correct).
Congrats to everyone who finished and/or attempted the gaps. Hope to see everyone (and new faces) next year!!

I found this great video on Youtube.

It starts getting good around 3 minutes and 50 seconds. About then, the real suffering starts.


Trek Breast Cancer Awareness Ride

Interested in participating in the Trek Breast Cancer Awareness ride on Sat October 10th? Check out the Trek website to make a donation or to join us for a 10 or 25 mile ride to support all who have been affected by breast cancer. All money goes to Breast Cancer Awareness. After the ride, join us at the beach Trek store for food and fun!

Regisration or donation