Essential Sports Nutrition


The new bed

Smudla seems to have her own special "hidden" places in order to get in a good morning and afternoon nap. As for Madison and Campy, they are inseparable. Not only are they inseparable from each other but Campy follows me around no matter what I am doing. When I am cooking, I have two furry little bodies staring up at me, just hoping that I drop something yummy.
I saw the cutest bed at Walgreens the other day. Of course, Campy will always sleep with us in our bed but for traveling and napping, I think this $6 bed proved to be a good investment.

Good-bye window, couch and pillow.....

Hello new bed!

Smudla still prefers her special spots to keep an eye out on everyone


Day #20: Eat more fiber

I've probably overwhelmed you with the concept of meal-planning. I agree, it is probably one of the hardest parts of achieving your weight loss/performance goals. While it doesn't take much effort to make pasta or a grilled-cheese sandwich, you may find that some of your meals aren't very filling. Well, at least 1 serving, that is. It is only after you eat 2,3, possibly 4 servings of pasta or 3-4 grilled cheese sandwiches that you finally feel full (or should we say "stuffed").
If you are an active person who can't quite seem to conquer those cravings and hunger pains throughout the day, my first tip is to focus on nutrient timing. How are fueling for a workout and recovering from the workout?
If you are the person who lacks the energy to be consistent with training, my suggestion is to focus on balanced and complete meals which leave your blood sugar stable and tummy satisfied.

Regardless if you do/don't have energy for workouts or do/don't experience cravings or hunger pains, it is important that you focus on fiber in the diet. According to the American Heart Association, adults should aim for around 25-35g fiber per day (women around 25g/men around 35g). Not only are there countless benefits of adding fiber to your diet but fibrous foods that contain no ingredients (ex. fruits and veggies) or are whole-grain in nature, will help you fill up quicker at meals and snacks, as opposed to eating sugary or low fiber foods (ex. processed foods, enriched foods). While you may eat more than one serving of raisin bran cereal in the morning, research shows that starting your day with a complex carb, high fiber breakfast (with some protein) will cause you to eat less throughout the rest of the day. While you may not feel the benefits of your high-fiber breakfast at 8am, you will likely find yourself reducing your caloric intake later in the day...without even trying.

You probably see plenty of commercials or ads promoting Whole Grains, as opposed to refined grains.
Whole grains, such as whole-wheat, oatmeal and brown rice, contain all 3 parts of the grain:

Refined grains have been ground into flour or meal (milled) which causes the bran and germ to be removed. While an enriched product may appear healthy because they contain B vitamins and iron, the enriching process actually removes the fiber and other vitamins in grains and through processing, adds back some vitamins but not fiber. It seems weird that vitamins would be taken out, only to be added back again, but perhaps that is why wheat flour, enriched bread and white rice is so affordable compared to popular "whole-wheat" products.

Taken directly from the American Heart Association website:
*Whole grains are generally good sources of dietary fiber; most refined (processed) grains contain little fiber.
*Dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
*Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.
*Grains are also important sources of many nutrients:
-B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate) play a key role in metabolism.
-Folate (folic acid), one of the B vitamins, helps the body form red blood cells.
-Iron is used to carry oxygen in the blood.
-Magnesium is a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles.
-Selenium is important for a healthy immune system.

Do you have to eat only whole grains? It wouldn't be a bad thing but it is perfectly fine to have a few enriched products in your diet. I do not recommend emphasizing low-fiber/enriched foods in your diet but if you are choose 1 serving enriched pasta over a bowl full of veggies and beans, it is likely that you are receiving plenty of fiber in your meal. However, if you are eating 4 slices of 100% whole-wheat bread w/ butter and cheese, in addition to 3 servings of whole-wheat pasta topped with cheese and Alfredo sauce, you may be eating a lot of fiber, but also more fat and calories than necessary.

Most fruits and veggies contain some amount of fiber (some more than others) but will not have an ingredient list (isn't that wonderful that fruits and veggies don't contain ingredients :)
But to determine whether or not your food product is really 100% whole grain, look at the first ingredient on the nutrition panel. If you find one of the following names first on the list, you are certain your are choosing a whole-grain product:
whole wheat, graham flour, oatmeal, whole oats, brown rice, wild rice, whole-grain corn, whole-grain barley, whole-wheat bulgur and whole rye.

FYI-many breads featured as "light" will read "2 servings" on the nutrition label to make you feel like you are eating healthy and saving calories. Or getting more with less. If you are choosing a bread that has 120 calories per serving and the serving size is 2 pieces, sure each slice may be 60 calories but for 2g fiber per serving, you are only receiving 1g of fiber per slice. There are many other products on the market that will leave you satisfied with more fiber and only 30-40 extra calories. Not sure about you, but I'd rather choose a piece of 100% whole-grain bread that has 70 calories and 5g of fiber than choosing an enriched food that is not giving me the fiber I am looking for to feel satisfied at my meal. However, if you are eating a low fiber english muffin, topped with natural PB, fresh apricots and an apple, I'd say you are getting plenty of fiber and you understand how to plan your meal.

Don't be fooled by baked goods which may come across as "healthy" or by meals which leave you stuffed but don't provide you with very much fiber:
*Panera Reduced Fat Wild blueberry muffin: 350 calories, 10g fat, 2.5g saturated fat, 2g fiber, 35g sugar
*Full Smoked Ham & Swiss on Stone-Milled Rye: 700 calories, 28g fat, 10g saturated fat, 2320mg sodium, 5g fiber

Look at what happens to your calories and fiber when you choose a soup:
*Low Fat Garden Vegetable with Pesto: 160 calories, 3.5g fat, 1240mg sodium, 6g fiber

Furthermore, generic brands are often just as good as named brands when it comes to "high fiber" foods. If you notice that many of your "high fiber" whole grain foods (particularly breads) may be high in calories. By reading food labels you will be able to make an educated decision and find whole grain products that are lower in calories but still with the fiber that you are looking for in your diet.

Lastly, there are two types of fiber:
Solube - Oats, oat bran, beans, barley, citrus fruits, apple pulp, strawberries
Insoluble - whole-wheat breads, wheat cereals, wheat bran, rye, barley, cabbage, beets, carrots, brussel sprouts, turnips, cauliflower and apple skin

Soluble fiber decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease as well as modestly reduce LDL (“bad”) cholesterol beyond levels achieved by a diet low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol alone (AHA website).
Insoluble fiber is associated with decreased cardiovascular risk and slower progression of cardiovascular disease in high-risk individuals. The best part of dietary fiber is that it makes you feel fuller sooner and eat less calories. Think of how satisfied you would feel after eating a piece of whole-wheat bread compared to a doughnut?

Most importantly: READ labels. If you are looking at servings, calories, fat, sodium, cholesterol, etc. it is equally important to look at the first ingredient and the fiber content.

The following count as 1 ounce-equivalent (or 1 serving) of grains:
American Heart Association

Whole-grain choices

* 1 slice whole-grain bread (such as 100% whole-wheat bread)
* 1 ounce ready-to-eat, whole-grain cereal (about 1 cup wheat flakes)
* 1⁄2 cup cooked whole-grain cereal, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta
* 5 whole-grain crackers
* 3 cups popped popcorn

Enriched choices

* 1 slice white bread
* 1 small white roll
* 1 ounce ready-to-eat cereal (about 1 cup corn flakes)
* 1⁄2 cup cooked cereal, white rice, or pasta
* 9 mini 3-ring pretzels
* 1 4.5 -inch pancake
* 1 6-inch flour or corn tortilla

Starting today, try adding an additional 1-2 servings of high fiber fruit to your daily snacks and at least 2 servings of veggies with 1-2 meals.


Day #19: Be conscious of your food choices

You know if you run comfortably at 10 minutes per mile you aren't going to run a 20 minute 5K at your next race. It is quite clear that you can't be comfortable with your current routine if you want to see a change in your routine. That's not to say that you can't enjoy your training routine but your body appreciates variety, especially when it gets bored with the same thing, day after day.
The body has strange ways of telling us that we are doing something right with our exercise/training routine. Your clothes begin to feel a bit looser, your muscles become more noticeable (that's a good thing ladies), you have more energy on a daily basis, workouts become easier and you learn to enjoy the soreness in your quads after a hard spin class or hill run. Personally, my body has a way of telling me that I swim way too much but I've learned to love my chlorine skin since I began competitive swimming in 1994. :)
Our body also has ways of telling us that we are doing something right with our nutrition habits. Your clothes begin to feel a bit looser, your muscles become more noticeable, you have more energy, workouts become more efficient, your skin, nails, teeth and hair look better, your bowel movements become more regular and most of all, your outlook on life changes.
Speaking of changes, I recently watched Michael Pollan, who was on Oprah today (1/27/09). He was discussing his 2008 documentary FOOD, INC.

If you haven't seen the movie, I highly recommend it. I am not one to preach about nutrition and food, I am here to educate. I do not feel that everyone should be a vegetarian nor do I feel that your diet needs to be organic. I have thoughts regarding exercise that go against current ASCM recommendations and I have my own beliefs on sports nutrition for an Ironman triathlon.
I enjoy watching documentary's because they are eye-opening. They make you think. Sometimes documentaries make me upset but sometimes they make me want to change something in my life.

Here's a blurb about the movie:
How much do we really know about the food we buy at our local supermarkets and serve to our families?

In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation's food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that has been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government's regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation's food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, herbicide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won't go bad, but we also have new strains of E. coli—the harmful bacteria that causes illness for an estimated 73,000 Americans annually. We are riddled with widespread obesity, particularly among children, and an epidemic level of diabetes among adults.

Featuring interviews with such experts as Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation), Michael Pollan (The Omnivore's Dilemma, In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto) along with forward thinking social entrepreneurs like Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg and Polyface Farms' Joel Salatin, Food, Inc. reveals surprising—and often shocking truths—about what we eat, how it's produced, who we have become as a nation and where we are going from here.

Karel and I watched the movie (I think pay-per-view) when it came out and it was really hard to watch. Informative but ethically uneasy at times....especially for a big animal lover who is also a vegetarian. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've seen the movie.

When it comes to food, I think we all have our own ideas of what food can do for the body. For us athletes, I think we could all agree that food is fuel. We fuel and recover with food in an effort to perform. For many people (athletes included), unfortunately, food is the enemy.... "It makes me fat". While some food is too good to resist other food is "bad".

After watching the Oprah show today, one big issue came to mind. What are we eating?
Here's my idea of a typical breakfast for the person wanting to start eating "healthy"

I thought about adding grapes

but that might be seen as a "bad" food due to the "sugar" in grapes.

I'm sure we would all agree that a healthy diet is not rich in fat-free, sugar-free, calorie-free foods. However, I would be a hypocrite if I said that you shouldn't have these foods in your diet.
I choose real shredded cheese over fat-free cheese, whipped cream cheese over plain fat-free cream cheese and slow churn or yogurt-based ice cream over fat-free. But I enjoy low-sugar jelly and fat-free sour cream instead of the real thing. Specifically because I don't really notice (or mind) a difference between the real and sugar-free/fat-free version. However I do mind eating fat-free cheese because I use to eat it religiously because I thought that cheese was bad due to fats (back in my "diet" book days when I was trying to learn to be healthy) and I learned that I would rather eat a little of the real stuff than a lot of the fake stuff. To no surprise...I didn't gain weight with the real stuff!
While choosing a reduced calorie, sugar or fat food will certainly save you calories, it is not wise to replace a perfectly healthy food with a "fake" and processed food. I recently read in my Nutrition Action newsletter that women should have no more than 100 calories (or around 25g) of added sugar per day and men should have no more than 150 calories (or around 35g). I think we would all agree that choosing low sugar or sugar-free jelly over the jam will save you calories and sugar in your daily diet.
But when it comes to whole grains, healthy fats and lean and low fat protein, what's the purpose of choosing Light bread when there are several breads on the market (Nature's Own) that offer more fiber and a similar number of calories in one slice than in 2 slices of the "light" version. When there are many health-benefits of honey, wouldn't it be better to choose real honey over sugar-free honey or sweet n' low when adding sweetness to your oatmeal or smoothie? Additionally, if are avoiding potatoes due to the "carbs" but choosing to eat fat-free pringles instead, I have a feeling that your GI system would appreciate an olestra-free version in an effort to help you feel less bloated and healthy in the inside.

My tip for day 19 is to be conscious what you eat. When you read food labels of "lighter" foods, do a comparison of the sugar, calories, fat, etc. When something is taken out, something is added. If a cheese is reduced fat, it is likely higher in sodium than the regular version (believe me, I've checked). If a food is fat-free, it likely contains sugar or as many calories (if not more) as the real food. Furthermore, for my savvy shoppers, generic foods are typically identical to name brands. If you are choosing a named-brand low fat yogurt for 60 calories at 80 cents, over a 90 calorie yogurt at 34 cents, think of what 30 calories would really do to your daily caloric value. Furthermore, if you are like me and stock up on 10-20 yogurts per week, you can save up to $10 for 20 yogurts/week just by choosing the "higher" calorie, yet more affordable, yogurt.
My next suggestion is to fill up on the natural foods first (whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean/low fat protein) with very few ingredients and then add in your fat-free, calorie-free, sugar-free items. My hope is that these "fake" foods (just read the ingredient list) will become minimal in your diet as you find other healthy ways to add flavor and nutrients to your meal (think sodium-free spices and herbs). There is absolutely nothing wrong with choosing sugar-free jelly on your whole grain, high fiber bread but in an effort to feel satisfied with your meal, add natural PB and a piece of fruit. Now that's what I call conscious and healthy eating.

I don't believe in sticking to "rules" with eating. There are certainly foods to emphasize and de-emphasize but no food will make you "fat" if you eat it once. You may feel bad after eating it, but surely, your butt will not grow by eating 1 french fry.
I believe in eating consciously and loving what you put in your body. If you eat well most of the time, you don't have to worry about the rest of the time. :)

Here are Michael Pollan’s Top 20 Food Rules from Readers:
*I agree with most, but not all, quotes. However, they all make you think.

1. Don't eat egg salad from a vending machine.

2. Don’t eat anything that took more energy to ship than to grow.

3. If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.

4. Eat foods in inverse proportion to how much its lobby spends to push it.

5. Avoid snack foods with the "OH" sound in their name: Doritos, Fritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Hostess HO HOS

6. No second helpings, no matter how scrumptious.
*my exception to this rule is if it fruits and veggies..then keep going back for more :)

7. It’s better to pay the grocer than the doctor.

8. You may not leave the table until you finish your fruit.

9. You don’t get fat on food you pray over. (Meals prepared at home, served at the table and given thanks for are more appreciated and more healthful than food eaten on the run.)

10. Breakfast you should eat alone. Lunch you should share with a friend. Dinner, give to your enemy.

11. Never eat something that is pretending to be something else: e.g., no "textured vegetable protein" or veggie burgers (fake meat), no artificial sweeteners, no margarine (fake butter), no "low fat" sour cream, no turkey bacon, no "chocolate-flavor sauce" that doesn't contain chocolate, no "quorn". If I want something that tastes like meat or butter, I would rather have the real thing than some chemical concoction pretending to be more healthful.

12. Don’t yuck someone’s yum. There is someone out there who likes deep-fried sheep eyeballs and, well, more power to them.

13. Make and take your own lunch to work.

14. Eat until you are seven-tenths full and save the other three-tenths for hunger.

15. GO HO – incorporate five different cooking methods, GO SHIKI – incorporate five colors, GO MI – incorporate five flavors.

16. The law of diminishing marginal utility reminds a person that each additional bite is generally less satisfying than the previous bite. This helps a person slow down, savor the first bites, stop eating sooner.

17. Don't eat anything that you aren't willing to kill yourself.

18. When drinking tea, just drink tea. This Zen teaching is useful, given an inclination toward information absorption in the morning, when you are also trying to eat breakfast, get the dog out, start the fire and organize your day.

19. When you’re eating, don’t talk about other past meals, whether better or worse. Focus on what’s in front of you.

20. After spending some time working with people with eating disorders, don’t create arbitrary rules for eating if their only purpose is to help you feel in control.

Pollan is the author of In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which was named one of the ten best books of the year by both the New York Times and the Washington Post. Pollan appears in Food, Inc. a food industry documentary and The Botany of Desire, recently broadcast on PBS. Pollan is a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine and the Knight Professor of Journalism at UC Berkeley.


Day #18: Learning from great resources

I don't know what it is with triathletes, runners and cyclists but they are among the smartest individual-sport athletes I know. A little obsessive at times but when you have to balance training around life (or is it life around training) how can you not be overly focused and passionate for what you do. Swimmers are in there as well but I think once you finish your collegiate career of swimming you either become a runner or triathlete if you wish to continue "training".
I bet I could put a bunch of triathletes in a room with a group of exercise physiologist PhD's and Graduate students and more than likely, the triathletes could carry on conversations regarding lactate, anaerobic, watts and fartlek training with a breeze. The conversation may be short (from my experience, PhD's know way too much, but all good stuff of course), but I am quite impressed with dedication that multisport athletes put forth in understanding their training and the human body.

I decided to put together a bunch of great links that may be beneficial in your weight loss and/or athletic journey. In my opinion, you can never stop learning and improving your nutrition and exercise routine.
I'd love for you to pass along your favorite links if you have others



Fast food facts

American dietetic association

U.S. National Library of Medicine
National Institutes of Health


US Department of Agriculture

Mayo Clinic

Sports Nutrition

Sports Nutrition Society

American College of Sports Nutrition

Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition

Science of Sport

BrianMac Sports Coach


Nutrition data


Calorie count

Calorie Lab

Inspirational cooking websites

Cooking Light

All Recipes

Food Fit

Eating Well

Vegetarian/vegan sites

Go Veg



Vegetarian resource group


Day #17: Boosting your energy

We all have highs and lows during our day. Some people experience the afternoon crash worse than others but for the most part, there is nothing exciting about working on the computer for 8-12 hours a day, sitting on conference calls or in meetings for 4 consecutive hours or being a mommy/daddy 24/7. Put exercise/training in your routine and it would almost be abnormal to not crave/need a nap by 3pm.

I'm sure you are well aware of all of the "natural" energy drinks out there.

Red bull and 5-hour energy probably come to mind due to excellent marketing strategies and due to their availability to the consumer.
I did a little googling and came across this product

Quick Energy Power Shot™, one of the world's strongest 4 oz. energy drink, delivers twice the rush of a regular energy drink.* Quick Energy Power Shot™ provides long-lasting energy, stamina and mental awareness with NO CRASH! One bottle gets you running on all cylinders!!! Quick Energy Power Shot™ has no sugar, no calories, is great tasting and loaded with vitamins, amino acids, nitric oxide (NO2) enhancers, plus a special vitality/performance ingredient called Horny Goat Weed. Quick Energy Power Shot™ goes where you go! Our little 4 oz. bottle can be carried anywhere. Drink half the bottle or less, screw the cap back on and save the rest for later. With Quick Energy Power Shot™, your body is ready for action!
Quick Energy Power Shot™ Contains:

* Vitamins
* Amino Acids
* Nitric Oxide (NO2) Enhancers
* Horny Goat Weed
* No Sugar
* No Carb
* Great Tasting Fruit Punch Flavor

Like the majority of sports nutrition, health and fitness products on the market, the fine-print reads: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

I took the liberty to bold the key words in the description in an effort to key in those special words that seem to grab the consumer.
While it is true that you can get energy from no calories or sugar (or carbs) in this 4 ounce drink, you are loaded with 2,205 mg of a proprietary quick energy blend of:
Nitroud malate (A-AKG), Taurine, USP Glycceine, Tyrosine, Glucuronolatone, DL-Phenylalanine, L-Theanine, Horny Goat Weed Extract.
You also receive 1000% of vitamin B12, 200% of Vitamin B6 and 100% of Pantothenic Acid.
It is very important to recognize that no person needs more than 100% of anything. Would you ever fill up your gas tank more than 100% full?
Many products will list "proprietary blend" on supplement facts for two reasons:
1) To hide the exact amounts of ingredients to mislead consumers
2) To hide information from other companies in an effort to prevent copying of ingredients and quantities.

As a consumer, you see a list of amino acids, nitric oxide (vasodilator) and horny goat weed extract. Too bad the product doesn't tell you that horny goat weed extract is similar to it's name. Several studies (predominantly animal studies) have shown that this extra increases nitric oxide levels, similar to Viagra, inhibiting PDE-5 enzyme and relaxes smooth muscles to increase blood flow to the penis or clitoris. I guess you should think twice about taking this product as a way to give you energy before you give a presentation to your company.

All kidding aside, energy drinks, especially in excess, are not worth the money. Even if they are sugar or calorie-free, they are likely not free of ingredients that produce a sudden surge of energy. While there is nothing wrong with a caffeinated cup of coffee or amino acids for endurance exercise, there can be serious side effects when stimulating ingredients in an energy drink combine with medications or alcohol. So, while you may feel that jolt or boost when you drink them, there are many healthy alternatives to this potentially addicting habit. Most of all, like any product that contains active ingredients to increase energy-reactions in the body has the potential to have side effects. Especially if you don't know how much of ingredient you are consuming in the proprietary blend.

How can you boost energy in a natural or more nutritious way?
1) Take a 10 min walk a few times during your day (inside or outside)
2) Get sunlight (vitamin D) for 10-20 min/day
3) Go to bed around the same time every night
4) Take a power nap after hard training (or just rest your eyes and legs)
5) Eat a complex carb, healthy fat and lean/low fat protein breakfast
6) Prioritize pre and post training snacks, specifically protein and healthy high-GI carbs post workout
7) Consume 3 balanced and portioned controlled meals and 3-5 carb+protein snacks on a daily basis
8) Eat at similar times during the day
9) Avoid simple sugars during the day (best to consume after 90+ min training w/ your recovery protein drink)
10) Consume protein w/ carbs and limit processed foods
11) Eat plenty of fruits and veggies
12) Avoid eating within 1 hour before you lay down for bed
13) Reduce stress through positive thinking
14) Drink more water (avoid alcohol or limit to 1-2 times per week or 3-4 ounces wine/night)
15) Consume at least 25g fiber a day
16) Start your day with coffee or tea (avoid the sugary, creamy and fattening drinks)
17) Eat an ounce of dark chocolate once a day
18) Exercise regularly (at least an hour a day-total)
19) Take mental breaks during the day
20) Surround yourself with people who give you energy and not take away your energy

Do you have other suggestions for healthy and natural ways of boosting energy?