Essential Sports Nutrition



Oh do I L-O-V-E oats.
I find myself being really creative with oatmeal and not just eating it for breakfast.
I typically use instant oats and add in fruits, raisins and nuts. I've never used Steel Cut oats but I'm always open to trying new things. Although any food that undergoes processing will be lower in certain vitamins and minerals than a highly processed food, I am not suggesting that you have to use steel cut oats over instant.

For most of us, we choose from 3 different types of oatmeal. While oats provide a number of health benefits, some oatmeal's are better than others.
I found this on
For every type, the oats first undergo cleaning, hulling, and conditioning, which removes the outer shell (called a hull), leaving the inner kernel or oat groat. The groat is then brushed clean in scouring machines. Next, a kiln heats the groats to about 215 degrees Fahrenheit to deactivate their enzymes, which limits how the oils present in the germ can react with oxygen, making the oats stable for storage. Chelsea Lincoln, a representative from Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, says this is important because “oats go rancid very quickly if not stabilized.”

Depending on the type of oatmeal being made, whole oat groats are processed differently.
Steel Cut Oats - groats are chopped up with steel blades and then ground. From there, you can cook steel cut oats for 20-30 minutes to create a soft and creamy oatmeal.
Rolled or old-fashioned oats - whole oats are rolled flat.
Quick oats - rolled oats are ground up a bit, creating a quicker cooking oat.
Packaged oatmeal - quick or roller oats but typically high in sugar and additives.

As far as steel cut oats versus rolled oats, a serving for steel cut oats is 1/4 cup. Because they are more dense than rolled oats, you will notice that rolled oats have a serving size of 1/2 cup. It’s the same amount of oats in weight, but not volume, since a rolled oat takes up more space.The steel cut oats will also expand more when cooked since they will absorb more water than the rolled oats.
As far as cooking time, quick oats take around 1 minute, rolled oats take around 90 sec - 3 minutes and steel cut oats can take up to 20 minutes. For one serving, we’re talking 1 minute, 2-3 minutes, and 4-6 minutes, respectively.
Here's the nutrition breakdown:
1/4 cup of Quaker steel cut oats-
Calories – 150
Fat – 2.5g
Carbs – 27g
Fiber – 4g
Sugar – 1g
Protein – 5g

1/2 cup of Quaker old fashioned oats and quick oats-
Calories – 150
Fat – 3g
Carbs – 27g
Fiber – 4g
Sugar – 1g
Protein – 5g

While all oats offer countless health benefits due to the insoluble and soluble fibers found in oatmeal (ex. reducing LDL cholesterol, slows down digestion, good source of nutrients) it is important that you compare labels on your oatmeal in order to opt for the lowest sugar content for your oatmeal pick.
Even though I feel that people should reduce the amount of processed food in the diet, especially foods high in sugar, sodium and fat, I believe that packaged instant oatmeal is a much better choice than no breakfast, a vending machine snack or an enriched/simple sugar breakfast (donuts, bagel, muffin). Some instant oats, such as low-sugar oatmeal, provide a lower sugar alternative, however you always need to read the label to know exactly what you are getting (focus on the first 5 ingredients, fiber, sugar and calories per serving when comparing oatmeal). Also, because many of us (myself included) enjoy oatmeal before a long workout, it is likely that you will be preparing packaged oatmeal in your hotel microwave or coffee maker (gotta be creative) on race day in an effort to not have to wake up at 3am to prepare your steel cut oats before your race.
My suggestion is to use plain rolled oats and add in your own fruits (dried or fresh), nuts/seeds, flavors (brown sugar, honey, agave nectar) and protein (Peanut butter, protein powder, milk, yogurt) to make a healthy and yummy morning oatmeal. If you are like me and can't stomach oatmeal before a long run, be sure to focus on what works for you rather than trying to make something work for you. I think oatmeal is a great breakfast on a daily basis and if you don't feel like having 1/2 cup oats every day of the week, decrease the serving size and add in a whey protein smoothie, yogurt or egg omelet to your morning oatmeal.
You don't have to always use 1/2 cup serving for your oats. While 150 calories is certainly not a lot of calories for your morning meal/pre-training snack, I recommend adding in a little protein and fat to your oatmeal to help you fill up on a more balanced meal. Therefore, rather than starting with 150 calories and adding in a banana, PB, raisins and nuts to bring you close to 350 calories before a 2 hour ride, start with 1/4 cup oats in an effort to not overdo-it on calories before a morning workout. The key to fueling before a workout is to keep blood sugar stable and prevent you from feeling hungry. Hopefully, with a well balanced diet and proper recovery nutrition, your muscles will be stocked with fuel and you won't be relying on your pre-training snack for immediate fuel.
If you are choosing oatmeal for your pre-training snack or afternoon snack (I occasionally choose 1/4 cup oatmeal and fruit for my 3 or 4pm snack, typically on Wed due to my long and hard am workout) you can use the following serving sizes as a start to building your yummy and healthy snack/meal:
1/4 cup oats - 75 calories
1/3 cup oats - 100 calories
1/2 cup oats - 150 calories

Here are some of my favorites to add to oatmeal:
*flax seed
*Nuts - almonds, walnuts, peanuts
*Seeds - sunflower seeds
*Granola/dry cereal - as a topping
*Whey protein powder - add after the oatmeal is fully cooked
*Light Brown sugar
*Greek yogurt
*Fruit - apples, peaches, strawberries, banana, apricot, blueberries
*Dark Chocolate - a few chocolate chips or a small piece of bar dark chocolate before cooking

Other uses for oatmeal:
*topping on salads
*topping for yogurt
*mix with fruit
*Add in batters (muffins, pancakes, breads)
*mix w/ or in place of bread crumbs for breading/crusts of meats/fish
*binding agent in vegetarian loafs/stir-fries/burgers

Do you have a favorite oatmeal concoction? I'd love to hear how you eat your oats.


Couscous-stuffed tomatoes and easy roasted veggies

Last night I spoke to 25-30 members of the TRILEWIS triathlon club in Largo, Florida. The talk was geared towards Long-Distance Fueling. I created a detailed hand out regarding the specifics of pre, during and post training calories and timing of sports nutrition products so that I could spend the bulk of my talk (50 minutes) discussing the WHY's to pre, during and post training rather than just telling everyone to consume x-calories. It's really important to me that others understand how to be an efficient long-distance athlete. Because there are a million articles in magazines and on the internet regarding sports nutrition, I believe in educating people about the body during exercise (in non-complicated terms) and how certain products/foods can hinder or benefit performance. I was thrilled to answer so many fabulous questions by such a passionate group of triathletes.
The best part of the talk was walking into a packed room and seeing 3 of my recipes for the members to try. Even better...I didn't make my creations! Sure, I've gotten lots of emails and comments about my recipes being made by others but to see my creations in real life, made by other people, was such a great treat! 3 wonderful ladies made my zucchini fries, pillsbury pizza dough pizza and chocolate and peanut butter pretzels. I think the members enjoyed them because by the end of my talk, there were no leftovers.

I've been super busy the last few weeks and loving every minute of my jammed-packed days. However, 5:30pm creeps up on me quickly. Before I know it, it's time to turn on Ellen (on my DVR) and start cooking my creations.
While I absolutely love cooking, some days are less creative than others....but always healthy and yummy.
The other night I was in a rush to make dinner, fold laundry, feed the critters (the furry ones), feed 3 fishtanks and sort through my growing stack of papers, mail, magazines and handouts. I decided it was an Oven night so I cut some veggies (onions, zucchini), chopped 2 cloves of garlic, opened a can of chickpeas, sliced some tofu, washed a few whole mushrooms and put them all on a non-stick baking sheet. I also cooked some couscous w/ parsley in a pot on the stove. I preheated the oven to 375-degrees, drizzled some olive oil over my veggies, seasoned them with paprika, pepper and no-salt seasonings and popped them in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
Since couscous takes all of 5 minutes I figured I had a little more time to be creative and with my lack of bright colors in the oven, I decided to steam some broccoli and stuff two vine tomatoes with the couscous. Super easy and quick and after popping the tomatoes in the oven, while the veggies were cooking (about 20 minutes) the crunch of the couscous with the warm tomato was absolutely delicious.

Enjoy my latest creations!


Portion, Calories, Servings...OH MY!

No matter how much info is on the internet, I think people will always be confused on portions and serving sizes.
A portion is how much food you choose to eat.
A serving is the amount that is used to calculate a food's nutritional value.
The Food Pyramid tells us to eat 6-11 servings of carbohydrates/day and 2-4 servings of fruit a day, for example.
The following are suggested servings of carbs and fruit that I found on the internet:
*1 slice bread
*1/2 whole grain/wheat bagel
*1/2 cup pasta (choose whole wheat more often)
*1/2 cup brown rice or bulgur or couscous
*3/4 cup cooked oatmeal
*2.3 ounce sweet potato or white potatoes
*3/4-1 cup cereal (although servings of cereal vary)
* 1 small fresh fruit (4 ounces)
* 1/2 cup canned fruit
* 1/4 cup dried fruit (2 tablespoons)
* 1 cup melon, berries
* 2 tablespoons raisins
* 1/2 cup fruit juice

Here is a less complicated and more accurate guide to serving sizes from Consumer Reports on Health:
1 serving of cereal, milk, yogurt, raw leafy vegetables, soup = 1 cup
1 serving of cooked beans, pasta, rice, fruit or fruit juice, most veggies = 1/2 cup
1 serving of cooked fish, meat or poultry = 3 ounces
1 serving of cheese, nuts, snack foods (chips, pretzels, tortilla chip) = 1 ounce
1 serving of jam, jelly, salad dressing = 1 tbsp
1 serving of butter, margarine, oil = 1 tsp

As you can see, serving sizes can be confusing and a bit misleading. While a serving of bread may be 1 slice, there are so many brands of bread to choose from, with a different caloric value for each brand. Also, when it comes to nuts, some nuts are more calorically dense than others.

If you are seeking weight loss or athletic performance benefits, it's important that you focus on your portions, calories and servings. While you may, at first, notice a decrease in weight from decreasing your portions thus decreasing your total calories, it's probably more important that you focus on how many calories are in the servings of food that you choose and how many servings you may need to feel satisfied.
For example, if you are choosing a 'light' piece of bread, at 40 calories, rather than a piece of 100% whole wheat bread at 100 calories, you are certainly decreasing calories. However, if it takes you 4 pieces of bread to feel satisfied (4 servings) it is likely that you would benefit more from giving yourself the higher calorie food.

I think it is great that so many people are watching portions, calories and servings. All 3 will help you perform better with your fitness/training routine and will help you with your weight loss journey. More often than not, if you are consistent and conscious with your eating habits and exercise routine, you will find it very easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle for many years to come. However, a healthy lifestyle isn't about exercising a lot and eating low calorie foods (wow-I sure say that phrase a lot). Although I believe in low-er calorie diets, I believe in balanced meals, filled with fruits, veggies, quality protein, complex/high fiber carbs and healthy fats.
When trying to create a healthy eating routine, balanced with the items that I listed above, I think people avoid many healthy foods because of the serving sizes listed on the food label.
For example, many people choose fat-free cheese or reduced fat shredded cheese instead of the regular version because the calories are much lower on the package of the "reduced" version. However, just because the serving size is 1/4 cup, doesn't mean that you need to eat 1/4 cup. Sometimes, choosing 2 tbsp of real cheese, as opposed to 1/4 cup of fat-free cheese, is much more satisfying and filling. I would rather see people choosing sugar-free/fat-free versions of toppings/spreads/dressings (ex. jams, mayo, cream cheese, dressings, dips, syrup, etc.) to reduce calories, fat and sugar than choosing fat-free/low calorie/sugar-free ice cream, breads, cheeses, chips, crackers, etc. I believe strongly that people choose the fat-free/sugar-free versions of their favorite foods so that they can continue to eat processed foods but without the guilt of eating a lot calories, fat or sugar. When you seek lower calorie processed foods over the higher calorie alternatives, sure you are making "healthier" choices to reduce fat, calories and sugar. However, I find that for many people, there is no conscious effort to focus on fruits, veggies, healthy fats, complex carbs or quality protein IN PLACE of the processed foods that you crave on a daily basis. Therefore, rather than eating a piece of fruit instead of a serving of chips, you just choose a lower-calorie chip so that you don't have to break your chip-eating habit.

To help you reduce your fear of popular calorie-dense foods, I thought I would reduce the portions for you and give you calories, in an effort to help you add more healthy foods to your diet.

1 almond = 7 calories
1 whole walnut (in shell) = 26 calories
1/2 ounce part-skim cheese = 35 calories
1 dry roasted peanut = 6 calories
1/2 tbsp natural PB = 50 calories
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil = 60 calories
1 pistachio = 4 calories

Although natural sweeteners like Truvia, Splenda and Stevia are becoming really popular in the American diet, people still choose sugar-substitutes like sweet n' low and equal in order to "sweeten" up the diet and reduce calories.
I don't use sweeteners in my recipes or coffee but I do use low-sugar jelly on my PB&J sandwich. Just my personal decision.
It's always good to know what you are choosing to use or avoid (depending on how your body tolerates sugar) so here are the calories in sugars:
1 tsp granulated sugar = 16 calories
1 packet of sugar = 23 calories
1 tsp packed brown sugar = 17 calories
1 tsp light brown sugar = 15 calories
1 tsp cane sugar = 15 calories
1 tsp turbinado sugar = 15 calories
1 tsp Splenda sugar for baking = 20 calories
1 Equal Sweetener = 5 calories


What's New?

What do these products have in common?

They all come with claims:
Cheerios - helps lower cholesterol
DanActive Yogurt - boosts immunity
Subway - subs w/ less than 6g fat
Chocolate - special antioxidants to neutralize free radicals

While there is nothing new about these products, one would think that these health claims are backed by double-blind, placebo-controlled, scientific data. Sure, there is a tremendous amount of long-term research showing the association of soluble fiber with cholesterol and active culture foods (probiotics Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus) boosting the immune system. There is no arguing those claims.
So with a zillion products on the market NOT backed by the FDA, why would you be hesitant to try a line of products like this..

I mean, if Kim Kardashian uses this product, it must work? Who needs scientific research when you can boost metabolism, jump start weight loss and cleanse in only 14 days?

I have a stack of journals and magazines on my desk so I thought I would post the latest food and nutrition briefs and industry news for your entertainment. While you may run across some of these consumer trends at the grocery store or next time you go out to eat, you can be sure that reputable professionals researched these claims before submitting them to their respected journals.

Source: ADA Times Winter 2010. Volume 7, Issue 2

1) Nutrition Information on Menus seems to make a difference
2) Study says being obese is as dangerous to health as smoking
3) Consumption of soy food linked with lower risk of death and cancer recurrence in women with breast cancer
4) Natural components in pomegranates are showing potential in blocking breast cancers fueled by estrogen.
5) St. John's Wort Not Helpful in treating IBS
6) Coffee and tea associated with reduced risk for diabetes
7) General Mills will cut sugar in 10 cereals marketed to children to single-digit grams of sugar per serving
8) Kraft is unveiling 20 new food products, some claiming important health benefits
9) Kraft is advertising its Shake N' Bake product for a campaign using the language of body makeovers to encourage customers to give their chicken dinners a makeover.
10) PepsiCo will open a new research facility at Yale with a goal of creating healthier food and drinks.
11) In Mid-february, USDA will allow Hass avocados to be imported from Peru.
12) Burger King Highlights "Gluten-Sensitive" food items on menu
13) Applebee's 5 under 550 calories is a new category on the menu
14) Dunkin Donuts introduced a DDSmart menu featuring "better-for-you choices that keep you running"
15) Starbucks has expanded its food line with panini sandwiches with less than 400 calories and promoting all of its beverages under 90 calories.

Source: Consumer Reports on Health - Volume 22 Number 3
1) For a happier marriage, do dishes together
2) Risk of blood clots syrockets after surgery, especially after hip or knee replacement.
3) People who drink 3-4 cups coffee a day have 25% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
4) Runners have longer telomeres (tip of chromosome where genetic material helps stem DNA decay) protecting them more than nonrunners, which explains why exercise is good for your DNA.
5) One of every 270 women at age 40 who has CT angiography will develop cancer from radiation used in the test.
6) Eating roughly 2 ounces of pistachio's a day for four weeks increases gamma-tocopherol in blood which helps ward off lung cancer.
7) Ginkgo Biloba doesn't improve memory or prevent dementia in a 6 year study of 3069 elderly people.
8) If you can't bring someone with you when undergoing a painful or stressful procedure, research shows that a picture of someone special reduces response to pain compared to pictures of strangers.

What was the last claim or health ad that you saw on TV, in a magazine or read in a journal?


Race for Humanity - Day #2

7am came early. I bundled up for a chilly 11 mile run but with beautiful skies, I was actually quite toasty.
Karel left for his race around 9:45 and my parents, Campy and I left around 10:45. The race was on-time (YAY!) so we arrived just in time to wish Karel and Jeff good luck.
Karel was pumped...yet calm. In my opinion, he looked super confident. As I mentioned in the previous post, this crit course is really technical and has a reputation of being fast and dangerous. For Karel, this course fits his need for speed.

The Pro 1,2 race started at 12pm. The race was 70 minutes + 5 loops. This criterium loop (each loop took around 1 minute) had 6 corners, cobblestones and one really HOT corner. If you have never witnessed a crit race, it can be scary and exciting all at the same time. Tactics and strategies are in play for 70 minutes and depending on how teams work together during those 70 minutes, the last 5 loops allow racers to prepare for the final sprint.

Karel didn't sit back during this crit. I've never seen Karel work so hard and change the pace of the group. Karel lead the first two loops and was in the top 10 for the first half of the race. With crit racing, you can never tell the winner until the end of the race and even though Karel was working hard, he remained in the front for at least 30 minutes. After around 30 minutes, Karel moved back towards the middle and Jeff took the lead. Jeff is a powerhouse and amazing TT rider so it didn't surprise me that Karel was resting as Jeff made a move to put some pressure on the other riders.

Around 40 minutes into the race, my dad and I were taking pictures and all of a sudden....CRASH!
Oh the sound of carbon on concrete....nothing worse than $$$ and body parts skidding on the road.

Luckily, Karel dodged the one rider who feel in the sharp corner and as other riders swung left and right to miss the fall, a group of 8 guys broke away.

The 8 man break started with a 15 sec. break but as the chase group compiled themselves after the crash, it looked as if the group of 8 was too strong for the pack. The lead went from 20 to 25 to 35 seconds in the next 10 minutes and with 5 loops to go, the chase group was sprinting for 9th place. Nothing like a group sprint for a top-10 finish.

I knew Karel had it in him for a great sprint however, it was up to him to move his way up to the front and put himself in a good position so that no one would get in his way.

After the lead group finished, it was up to the chase group. I felt it inside me that Karel was going to place in top 10. I knew how bad he wanted it and I knew unless he had a mechanical problem or another rider strategically cut him off, he could have a great finish.
As the group got closer to the line, I could see Karel sprinting his legs off in the front of the group. Because I was in front of the finish line, I couldn't exactly see the finish. The announcer was calling Karel's name as he sprinted towards the line but by a hair, Emile Abraham (2007 winner of US 100K classic) beat him to the line. However, if there was anyone to beat Karel to the line, I think Karel is happy that he had such a talented rider to challenge him to a sprint.

Karel ended up in 10th place. Another 10th place for the weekend and what a weekend it was. Karel said that he felt awesome and that he wanted to "punish himself" during this race (exact words). It is early in the season so if he is just using this weekend as a training race, I have a feeling that are many more great races to come.

Enjoy the pics!

I know you really just want to see Campy pics...