Essential Sports Nutrition


Day #12: Enjoy a homemade healthy dessert, once a week

My typical evening routine goes as follows:
5pm-come up with something creative to cook for dinner by getting inspired by my favorite recipe websites:,,
5:15pm-prep and cook dinner while watching the Ellen Show(which I DVR everyday). She makes me smile and love life.
6pm-walk up to the Trek store w/ Campy (1.1 miles). Hang out until Karel gets off work.
7:05pm-Karel gets off work and he drives us home.
7:15pm-eat dinner and watch The Office (DVR)

As for after dinner, I always look forward to my after-dinner snack. Typically it's low fat yogurt, greek yogurt or homemade fat-free pudding w/ fruit or nuts on top.
I don't think there is anything wrong with an after-dinner snack but I try to wait 30 minutes after dinner before enjoying my snack, I keep the snack less than 150 calories (mostly protein and/or fruit) and I make sure that I have at least 1 hour before bed to digest my snack.

When you think about dessert, I think a few stereotypical desserts come to mind. I can hear it now "who has room for dessert?"
Seriously, after a big dinner, who really has room (or needs) dessert?
I think most people eat enough at dinner to not save room (key word-think calories) for dessert. But, when the following foods are before our eyes, it is hard not to say "well, just a bite."

But then there are the "snacks" that many people enjoy after dinner. For a light snack of course. Unfortunately, often times that light snack turns into a 300-400 calorie post-dinner, small meal.

I've created two delicious and super-healthy desserts for you. I really enjoy making these desserts after my long weekend training, after I have my post-training meal. I have something healthy, yet "indulging" to look forward to when I am ready for a sweet treat. Although portion control is needed (yes-they are that yummy) there is no reason why you shouldn't feel good about indulging in a healthy homemade dessert, once a week.

If you want to re-create a dessert recipe, with a healthy twist, I recommend:

Instead of butter - use canola oil, mild olive oil, fruit purée or applesauce (or try using only 1-2 tbsp butter and the rest applesauce)
Instead of milk chocolate - use dark chocolate
Instead of 2 eggs - use 1 egg + 1 egg white
Instead of cream or whole milk - use skim or 1% milk
Instead of cream cheese - use low fat yogurt, greek yogurt, ricotta or light/fat-free cream cheese
Instead of sour cream - use greek yogurt or plain low fat yogurt
Adding shredded veggies such as carrots or zuccini or adding diced fruit.
Instead of ice cream or whipped cream for a topping - use warm fruit, frozen yogurt or low fat yogurt
Instead of whipping cream or heavy cream - use evaporated skim milk
Instead of sugar - use honey, 1-2 tsp sugar (you may need to experiment as sugar is often necessary for baking) or fruit puree
Chop nuts, dry fruit, etc. in order to get a little bit in every bite.

Apple cobbler
1-2 large red apples (thinly sliced)
1 cup oats
1 tbsp flax seeds
2 tbsp soy flour (you can use whole wheat flour)
1 tbsp smart balance butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
Drizzle of honey (at the end)

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees.
2. Lay sliced apples in baking dish to cover the bottom.
3. Mix together oats and remaining ingredients (except honey) with a fork (or your hands).
4. Lay 1/2 of oats mixture over apples.
5. Place remaining apples over oats and cover with remaining oats mixture.
6. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until oats start to turn golden.
7. When you remove apples from oven, drizzle with 1-2 tsp (one squeeze from Mr.Bear) of honey (or agave nectar).
*This recipe is great with vanilla low fat/fat-free yogurt on top.

Delicious Pinapple cake w/ crumbly cocunut topping

1 cup oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg
3 tbsp water
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 cup crushed pineapple
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large carrots (shredded)
1/8 cup raisins (chopped)
1/8 cup dried cranberries (chopped)

1/2 tsp all spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup cheerios (crushed)
2 tbsp coconut (shaved)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray 2 round baking dishes with non-stick spray (or 1 baking dish and 4-6 muffin tins or 8-12 mini muffin tins)
2. Mix together first 6 dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Add the wet ingredients and stir well.
4. Add shredded carrots, raisins and cranberries and mix until well-combined.
5. Pour batter into baking dishes or 1/2 in 1 baking dish and the rest in mini muffin pan (or regular muffin pan).
6. Mix together topping and spread over batter (in the dishes).
7. Cook for 30-40 min. or until edges of cake become lightly brown and top of cake is semi-firm.


Day #11: Never go into a meal starving

What an easy trick. You are about an hour away from lunch or dinner and your tummy beings to growl. But in an effort to not add extra calories to your daily calories, you just sit and watch the clock tick by until it is time for lunch.
If you packed your lunch, it is likely that you will have no trouble overeating. You can only eat what is available to you. But what if you are going out for lunch with your co-workers. While you may have all intentions to not eat from the bread basket, not order an appetizer or ordering only a salad, your tummy and brain takes over, excuses are made..."I'll burn it off later" "I didn't eat that mid morning snack so I have extra calories"....and you indulge in a high calorie, high fat meal. What about dinner. You are coming home from the gym/training and you are starving. You feel as if you could eat anything and everything and by the time your "healthy" dinner is ready you are ready to indulge in "unhealthy" dinner #2. Oh-there's the excuse again "I just worked out so....".
Not overeating and overindulging is partly contributed to self-control. However, sometimes our body (brain and tummy) misleads us to make us feel that we are hungrier than we really are.

For all of today, I ask you to have a pre-meal snack before all meals. This is in addition to your balanced and healthy(lean and low fat protein and healthy fats with complex carbs) mid morning and mid afternoon snack of around 150-250 calories (you can always split up your snack calories throughout the morning and afternoon if you are a healthy grazer). Keep your pre-meal snack around 50-100 calories and mostly fiber, healthy fat or protein. can really benefit from this tip. I can't tell you how many times I see athletes finishing a long or hard workout and waiting 45,60, even 90 minutes before eating a meal. Regardless if your body can't handle solid food after an intense workout, there are many options for you to quickly repair after a workout. I see it all the time that people will work out (perhaps because they know a big meal is awaiting) and rather than having a small post-workout, pre-meal snack to prevent overeating at the upcoming meal and to quickly recover, the athlete/fitness enthusiast will wait and wait and wait...and keep waiting to eat until that meal is finally ready/served. Of course, the excuse is there that "you just worked out long or hard" and I don't blame you for wanting to indulge in unhealthy food or more food than normal. But, unfortunately, our body can only process so much food in one sitting. Our bodies on require a certain amount of food for immediate fuel and potential fuel and when food is consumed in excess, that extra food is stored as fat. Not to mention how miserable you feel after you stuffed yourself just an hour or two after completing a quality, performance-benefiting, calorie-burning workout.

Whether you are traveling, finishing a workout, awaiting lunch or dinner (or breakfast after a workout), eating out with friends, going to a party or finishing a race.....a pre-meal snack will absolutely work in your favor. You'll find yourself eating slower, wanting to prepare meals rather than defrosting or ordering them, being more wise with meal choices, recovering better from workouts and most importantly, eating less at that meal.

Here are my suggestions that work really well for me and many of my athletes, Consume snack around 15-45 min. before your meal is served or ready:
*8-16 of water are recommended before meals, with meals and after meals, for a total of around 24-48 ounces of water (8 ounces in 1 cup) around each meal.
*feel free to mix and match. Ex. 1/2 ounce cheese + 2 egg whites
(I gave serving sizes in order to give specific calories)

1 small apple (sliced or whole) - 53 calories
1 small pear (sliced or whole) - 81 calories
1 medium orange - 62 calories
8 almonds - 55 calories
5 walnuts - 70 calories
1/2 tbsp. natural PB - 45 calories
8 ounces (1 cup) skim or soy milk - 90 calories
1 ounce part-skim cheese - 72 calories
1 low fat part-skim string cheese - 80 calories
4 ounces low fat 1% cottage cheese - 81 calories
6 ounces yogurt (low fat or 0% greek) - 60-100 calories
15 baby carrots - 53 calories
10 medium strawberries - 38 calories
1/2 Fiber One granola bar - 70 calories
1 hard-boiled egg - 78 calories
3 egg whites - 51 calories

Do you have any other pre-meal snacks that work for you? How about your favorite healthy snack?


Day # 10: Keep a food Journal

Are you training for an upcoming athletic event? Are you working out on a daily basis?
Would it frustrate you if, day after day, you never saw any changes in your performance? Well, if you did the same thing every day, you should expect the same results. But wouldn't it just be super frustrating if you changed up your routine and still saw no gains in power, strength, speed or endurance? Not sure about you, but I would feel really unmotivated to continue with my current training routine if I wasn't seeing progress. Sure, I'd still train, hoping that one day I would improve, but I wouldn't like the feeling of giving my all and receiving nothing back in return on race day.

When it comes to athletic performance, it is vital that athletes understand what they consume before, during and after workouts in an effort to plan nutrition for race/competition day. The day after my IM races, I always write down exactly what I had during the race so that I can have a solid template for the next IM. I always ask my athletes to tell me what they usually do during training (before, during and after), in an effort to find strengths and weakness's in their current nutrition plan.
For the effort that an athlete puts forth in order give 100% on race day, it is imperative that he/she knows what will and won't work on race day. Therefore, he/she experiments and finds what will work for race day. While the intensity and volume may differ on race day, compared to previous training sessions, it is typical that athletes have good and bad foods that do or don't work for optimal training sessions.

When you think about a food journal, it is likely that you think it is too time-consuming, too hard to keep up with, discouraging or not helpful. While studies show that keeping a food journal/dairy can have a tremendous affect on weight loss
it is important that you understand how to use a food journal to your advantage...rather than just feeling as if you are "on a diet".

In my opinion, food journals are helpful in countless ways. Benefits of food journal:
1) Accountability - if you have a goal of eating more fruits and veggies and drinking less soda, your food journal will show you if you are making steps to reaching your goal.
2) Awareness - when the day comes to an end, I think most people would be shocked to see what they actually did OR didn't eat. Food journals show you when you eat, they tell you how much you eat and if you leave comments, why you eat.
3) Activity - after a few days of logging your foods, it is easier to plan out an effective workout routine, based on when you feel the best and when you can properly time your nutrition with your training.
4) Performance - if you are getting ready for a race, food journals can help you decide what you need to eat on the days leading up to a race, based on previous journal postings.
5) Health - next time you get sick, visit the doctor for a health concern or get injured, your food journal may show weak areas which need improvement.

To me, the purpose of food journals are similar to the concept behind energy gels during workouts/races lasting more than 90 minutes.
If you ever read the USAGE for an energy gel it will likely say something along the lines of "take 1 gel every 30-45 minutes during training".
The purpose of energy gels (and sports drinks) isn't necessarily to give you immediate energy but rather to postpone fatigue. During an Ironman distance race, if you are a decent swimmer, you are likely going to feel good during the first 20 miles of the bike. But of course, you want to start your well-practiced nutrition plan during that first hour of the bike because well, you have a long way to go (118.2 miles of biking and running, to be exact).

Think about your daily nutrition habits. What if you could find a way to prevent that 3pm sugar-craving, that 9pm cereal or ice cream binge or the feeling of starvation around 11am? Rather than telling yourself that you are not going to eat sweets at 3pm, look at the meal that precedes your 3pm sugar-craving. Did you have enough fiber? Did you have enough calories? If you suffer from GI upset during workouts, ask yourself what you are eating before that workout. What time did you eat? What did you eat and how much did you eat? If you are starving at lunchtime, are you eating breakfast? Are you eating a breakfast with fiber and a little protein and fat? Are you eating mostly sugars (simple carbs) for breakfast?

Instead of trying to change everything in your diet to eat more healthy, look at your problem areas (breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, etc.) to see what you are eating before the problem arises.

Here are other questions that you can ask yourself as you are keeping a food journal:
(taken from
* Did you eat because you were truly hungry? Y / N
* Did you eat today at any time solely due to habit? Y / N
* Did you eat too many of the same types of foods? Y / N
* Did you skip any meals today? Y / N
* Did you go longer than four to five hours without eating a meal or snack? Y / N
* Did you eat one large meal instead of individual meals? Y / N
* If yes, would you consider it a binge? Y / N
* Did you eat too often? Y / N
* Did you eat too little in the morning? Y / N
* Did you eat more at night than any other time? Y / N
* Did you graze instead of actually sitting down for a meal today? Y / N
* Did you eat a lot of high-fat foods, such as whole dairy, fried foods and
desserts? Y / N
* Did you eat the same foods as you do every other day? Y / N
* Did you eat according to mood rather than hunger today? Y / N

In addition to logging your foods, be sure to log:
1) Calories (my favorite site is
2) Portions (I suggest investing in wet and dry measuring cups, measuring spoons and perhaps an affordable food scale)
3) Your comments (anything from how you feel when you eat to why you are eating)

Things to take into consideration:
1) Cooked and raw food will differ in calories. 1 cup raw broccoli has 44 calories and 1 cup cooked broccoli has 52 calories.
2) Make small changes. There is no need to get discouraged after a day of journaling.
3) Measuring your food, before you eat, will help you control portions and calories.
4) You don't always have to journal and measure. When you figure out what works for you (for your current, balanced lifestyle) you will find it easier to estimate portions and make wise eating choices.
5) Calories from fast-food facilities and restaurants may not be as accurate as you think. Read this article

I did a lot of searching on the internet for a practical food journal that will benefit the individual seeking weight loss and/or performance benefits.
Here's a great helpful Food Journal

*Keeping a food journal does not mean that you have an eating disorder or that you are obsessed with food. If used properly as an informative tool, a food journal can be a practical component of your healthy and balanced lifestyle.

Do you have any thoughts or experiences with food journals?


Day #9: Re-creating your favorite meals

Do you ever wonder why you crave sweets around 3pm?
Do you ever wonder why you eat chips or pretzels with sandwiches?
Why is it that you always have pancakes after your long Sunday ride?
Why is it that you have to top yogurt with granola or dry cereal?
Why is it that you have to have jelly with peanut butter?
Why does lemonade always sound good after a hard and hot workout?
Why does hot chocolate taste so good on a snowy day?

I'm sure you have heard the expression "it's hard to teach an old dog new tricks". I think it would be true to say everyone has habits in the diet (good and bad). I think the number 1 fear people have when changing dietary habits is "giving up 'favorite' foods".
Ask yourself, if you were to change some of those habits, would you lose weight, improve performance or feel better about the you eat?
While snacking on fruit is certainly not a habit that you would want to change, perhaps always ordering fries with a meal is a habit that should be changed. What about that cliff bar that you snack on mid-day? Are you eating that for convenience, because it tastes good or because it provides you with the fuel for your upcoming 90 min. after-work run workout?

This post is all about being creative with your meals and snacks.

As you know, I love re-creating recipes. I love finding creative ways to turn a favorite high-calorie recipe into a new, favorite healthy recipe. Part of being creative with meals is understanding what it is that you are wanting to re-create.
I think everyone has parts of their diet which could use improvement. Whether you are looking for ways to improve the diet for performance gains or improving the diet for weight loss, it is important to make the most out of your meals and snacks and most of all, enjoy what you are eating and feel satisfied after eating it.
Take a look at the meals and snacks in your diet that you want to re-create. Ask yourself the following questions?
1) Is presentation important?
2) Is size important?
3) What makes this meal sweet?
4) What makes this meal filling?
5) What seasonings make this meal tasty?
6) Why do I enjoy eating this food?
7) Am I eating this meal for health benefits?
8) Am I eating this meal for performance benefits?
9) Am I eating this meal because I am bored or tired?
10) Am I eating this meal because I am starving?

I'll give you an example. Let's use pizza for dinner as the example.
1) Presentation- Would you still enjoy pizza if you went light on the cheese, loaded it with veggies and ordered whole wheat, thin crust?
2) Size - would you be able to eat 3 small pieces over 1 x-large piece?
3) Sweetness - there isn't anything sweet about pizza
4) Filling - although whole wheat would add fiber, the cheese adds fat for filling and perhaps, because it is easy to eat a lot of pizza before feeling full, it is easy to fill yourself up with a lot of calories.
5) Seasonings - is it the sauce, toppings, in the bread? What makes pizza so good?
6) Why do you eat this? - Is this a special night? Is a sports game on TV? Did you just workout hard?
7) Health - pizza could be healthy if prepared at home.
8) Performance - many people (myself) enjoy pizza a few nights before a race. There could be performance benefits so long as the rest of the diet is balanced.
9) Bored or tired - Is delivery or frozen pizza an easy option when you don't feel like cooking?
10) Starving - Do you reach right for frozen or left-over pizza when you are starving? It is likely that if you are starving that you may overeat pizza when it is ready but if you are starving at a restaurant there are quicker items on the menu.

Eating healthy isn't about giving up all of your favorite foods. Sure, you may need to cut back on the restaurant and fast food items, but by cooking at-home you can really get creative in finding ways to give your old favorites a healthy twist.

I have re-created a few recipes for you to get your brain thinking.
*I really impressed myself with how yummy these creative recipes turned out..Enjoy!

Instead of French Fries...
Zucchini Fries
*Similar shape, nice crunch, filled with nutrition, low fat and calories, great taste!

1 Zucchini
1/3 cup Italian bread crumbs
2 egg whites
1 tbsp fresh Parmesan

1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Line a baking sheet with tinfoil. Spray with non-stick spray.
2) Cut peeled Zuccini in half. Cut each half into thin slices. Cut each slice in half to make fries.
3) Arrange your stations - Slices, egg whites (lightly scrambled), bread crumbs + Parmesan.
4) Dip slices into egg whites and lightly roll in bread crumb mixture. Place on baking dish.
5) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until bread crumbs begin to brown.

Instead of boxed granola...
Homemade apricot granola
*More affordable, lower in calories, lower in fat, lower in sugar, super yummy!
*Warning (based on personal experience in the Sumbal household) - this recipe requires discipline and portion control. I recommend putting portions into baggies as soon as the granola is finished cooking...or your granola will be gone in 2 days :)

1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup chopped honey roasted peanuts
2 cups instant oats
1/8 cup ground flax seeds
2 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp vanilla extract
2 tsp. natural peanut butter
1 tbsp. maple syrup or agave nectar
5 whole canned apricots (or 10 halves) - chopped

1). Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Spray a non-stick baking sheet with non-stick spray.
2. In a bowl, combine all ingredients.
3. Mix until granola is well combined.
4. On your baking sheet, press down granola. Granola should be no higher than the 1/2 inch. If higher, use two baking sheets.
5. Bake for 30-35 minutes (you will smell it). Check around 15-20 minutes, and every 5 minutes thereafter, to prevent over-browning. Remove from oven when granola looks toasted.

Who had a bite of my granola before I took a picture???

Instead of restaurant corn bread...
Homemade corn bread
*Healthier, quicker, more nutrient dense, delicious!

1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp plain yogurt
1 tbsp flax seed
1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of pepper
2/3 cup corn
*optional 1/4 cup jalepeno and/or green peppers
1 egg
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup skim milk

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a baking loaf pan w/ non-stick spray.
2. Combine all ingredients in a bowl (except milk) and mix well.
3. Add milk and stir until mixture looks like soupy pancake batter.
4. Pour batter into your loaf pan.
*I did 1/2 with peppers and half without peppers. I added the peppers after the batter was in the pan.
5. Bake for 25-30 min. or until top of corn bread begins to crack.


Day #8: Tricking the eye

Are you overweight because you are eating too many carrots, celery sticks, apples or grapes? My guess is unlikely. However, as an active individual, looking for the competitive edge or just seeking fitness gains, I have a feeling that your overall diet is somewhat healthy.
Do you eat any of the following foods in your weekly diet?
Low fat yogurt
Whole grain bread
Whole grain pasta or brown rice
Potatoes (sweet or white)
Olive oil
Low fat cottage cheese
Greek yogurt
High fiber cereal
Natural Peanut butter
Soy milk
Dark chocolate

These are just a few of the "healthy" foods that come to mind in a healthy diet and I think we could all agree that all (most) of these foods are yummy and easy to include in our daily diet. And perhaps, easy to overindulge.
I can't tell you how many times I hear from athletic individuals, who tell me about their "healthy" diet, that they continuously struggle with weight loss. One would wonder how choosing organic or natural foods, alongside working out on a daily basis, would cause a person to gain weight and not lose weight. One would think that if you abide my magazine articles or websites telling you to eat the top 20 foods (according to Runner's World) for weight loss, that one would be able to lose weight.
Well, according to many of my athletes (and perhaps yourself), eating healthy food isn't the main problem. In many cases, the problem is eating too much of them in one sitting.
Regardless if a food is termed "healthy", labeled "organic, natural or whole grain" or even promoted as "fat free, trans fat free or sugar free" there are likely calories and some type of ingredients (likely sugar or fat) in your "healthy" food that is preventing you from losing weight. While I don't suggest that you avoid whole grains because they contain calories (and fiber), that you avoid olive oil because it is high in fat (the good kind) or that you avoid low fat yogurt because it contains sugar (I always recommend low fat or fat free over regular or fruit on the bottom yogurt) I do suggest that you pay close attention to portions. I am assuming that most people would fill up a lot faster while trying to eat 3 medium apples (at 72 calories per apple) than eating the same amount of calories of granola (2/3rd cup for 230 calories). However, I'm sure you would agree that the granola would be so much more yummy in your after-work clothes, while sitting on the couch and watching Biggest Loser than chowing down on a bowl full of sliced apples.

One of my biggest problem solvers for people wanting to lose weight, without sacrificing favorite healthy foods, is to find ways to trick your eyes.

First off, learn to use different bowls, plates and glasses. If you are eating a salad, use a large bowl. If you are eating pizza, use a 6" plate for 1 slice instead of a 9" or 12" to fit 3 slices. If you are craving ice cream, use a coffee or tea cup. If you are craving a big bowl of ice cream, fill a big bowl with fruit and top with ice cream. If you want a snack of cereal, eat it out of a glass instead of a bowl. If you are having salad with your pasta or pizza, use a large plate and fill most of the plate with salad before serving yourself pasta or pizza. If you are eating a sandwich and have trouble seeing an empty plate without chips, use a smaller plate for your sandwich and put a pile of sliced veggies and a serving of chips on an even smaller plate. If you are choosing trail mix for a snack, use a kiddie bowl rather than eating out of the bag. If you want pita chips, crackers or baked chips, use a tea-saucer instead of a bowl.

Here are some ideas for you:

1 serving of Ice cream (1/2 cup) or 8 ounces yogurt:
Instead of a big bowl

Choose a big bowl w/ fruit

Or, a small cup

Even better, a small cup with fruit

Dark chocolate:
Instead of 1 block of dark chocolate

1 block of dark chocolate w/ 1/2 pear (sliced)

1 cup Skim or soy milk:
Instead of a tall glass

Choose a short glass

1/4 cup Nuts:
Instead of a bowl of nuts

Use a kiddie bowl

Use a big bowl

Pasta or rice:
Use a small bowl

Serving a meal of salad and pasta/rice:
Use the big bowl for the salad and the small bowl for the "main" part of your meal

1 cup Cereal:
Instead of a cereal bowl

Use a soup bowl

Sandwiches and your favorite side items:
Instead of a big plate for a 1/2 Spinach, egg and cheese whole wheat pita w/ 1 Wasa cracker and 2 tsp natural PB

Use a small plate

Do you have any other healthy tricks when you prepare your meals and snacks?