Essential Sports Nutrition


Childhood Obesity Grant

I have a few very special mentors in my life.
My parents have given me great advice over the last 27 years. I am certain that I didn't believe (or care) what they were telling me when I was a teenager but after I graduated college, my weekly phone calls turned into daily phone calls (sometimes 2-3 times a day) and you better believe that I needed them more than ever while I was in graduate school, in addition to after graduate school when I only had $10 in my checking account. Now as I embark on another chapter of my life with my dietetic internship, I am so fortunate that my parents don't charge interest because my education tab is getting rather large due to this expensive internship (on top of the past 2 years of my distance dietetic courses - thankfully, I have most of it paid off). Last night, as I was going through my distance dietetic internship handbook I had a little breakdown once I started calculating the costs and fees for everything. Let's just say, another year is going to go by and another downpayment for a house (in addition to the generosity of my parents) is going to go to my education. However, I could not thank my parents enough for giving me great strength and a solid direction as I continue my passion of helping others live a healthier and more active lifestyle.
Judy Molnar (Iron Girl VP) has been very influential in my career path and she has given me countless opportunities to get myself out there in the public and do what I love to do - write and speak. Out of every opportunity and experience she has given me, I don't think I have ever said No. I am a go-getter so any opportunity is a good opportunity. I wish more people had a Judy in their life because there would be much more positivity and optimism in this world. Although the entire Tampa Ironman corporation is my family (I just love them all), Judy has taken me under her wings and has given me such great advice over the past 4 years. I honestly don't think I could be where I am now without her.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to volunteer at a Nursing Home (and Long-term care facility) with a wonderful woman who owns a Medical Nutrition Therapy company in Jacksonville. Although the volunteer hours were for my clinical nutrition dietetic course, Donna taught me so much in the few short weeks that we were together (8 weeks). I loved every minute of working with her and I learned so much in a hands-on environment. She allowed me to take charge (which I love to do) and feel confident about my nutritional choices for the patients in her facilities (of course, she over-looked everything I did and she had the final approval since I am not an RD). I will be doing the majority of my rotations/hours with Donna (Food service/production and Clinical, still looking for my community rotation) and I am so excited to start.
When I was nearing the end of my volunteer hours, Donna told me about a grant she was applying for and if I wanted to be the exercise expert for the grant. Without even asking any questions I said "YES!".
A few months later, Donna and APEL Health services were awarded a DCHD/BCBS Childhood Obesity grant.
Lauren (a Registered Dietitian) and myself (the exercise expert) are currently in week 3 of teaching 6 teens (16-18 yrs old) about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. We have 4 more weeks go before the teens then teach 120 middle and high school children, the information that they learned from us.
Lauren and I meet with the teens once a week for 7 weeks. We have 2 hours with them (not enough time!) and we spend 90 min. on nutrition (broken down into sections in their binders that Lauren created) and then I exercise with them for 30 min.
On weeks 1, 4 and 7 I have them do a fitness assessment to track their progress. We also weigh the teens twice to see if they have made any improvements. The teens keep food and exercise logs and we review them.
Here's the description of the program or project to be funded:

YouthLink Healthy Kids Outreach Program is an expansion of APEL Health Services Center, Inc.’s youth program. Teen Peer Educators (TPEs), trained in nutrition and physical fitness, will educate 120 low-income, mainly African American youth living in three (3) low to moderate income apartment communities, with poor nutritional habits and with little opportunity for physical fitness or recreation activities. TPEs will also provide healthy lifestyles in nutrition and fitness messages on-line. Six (6) teen peer educators will be trained by Medical Nutrition Therapy of Florida, Inc., nutrition services consulting company with lead instructors, Registered Dietitian Lauren and fitness professional Marni.
Outcomes include better health education and nutrition practices and more physical activity.
1. Increase by 25% of participant youths’ vegetable and fruit servings to 5 per day over nine (9) months.
2. Increase youths’ knowledge of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Food Pyramid for good nutrition by 50%, as measured on pre- and post-session tests for youth ages 12-18.
3. Increase youths’ intent to perform physical exercise by 50% among 75% of participants.
4. Improve teen peer educators’ knowledge of nutrition and physical fitness by an average of 50%.

Week 1 was great because we got to know the Teens and their knowledge of nutrition and exercise. The assessment was fun because they got to see how "fit" they were and learn about Heart Rates.
Week 2 was a bit different because Lauren brought in homemade hummus, carrots, apples and water for our pre-training snack. On Week 1, the kids brought subs, cokes and chips. Let's just say this was the first time that the teens tried hummus.
Week 3 was a bit more stressful. The teens seemed to be unmotivated to exercise. In my opinion, my 30 min. session (which we do outside) is not boring and is fun. I have them doing circuits, following a 5-10 min. warm-up. Considering that many of the teens find my warm-up of walking in place, imaginary jump rope, football run, jumping jacks and punching bag difficult, they don't give up. We don't do any exercise more than 1 minute and still they need several rest breaks.
As for the nutrition part of Week 3, Lauren talked about the food label and how to read it, as well as discussing sugar in the diet. We both brought in several food labels of foods that we had in and out of our house and Lauren also had test tubes (filled with sugar) to demonstrate the sugar content of various products. I think the biggest eye-opener was Gatorade (which is filled with sugar) because it is an easy-to-afford drink, it tastes good and often it replaces water and milk.
I discussed fat in the diet and how to incorporate more healthy fats (Unsaturated) into their daily diet and reduce the saturated fats. As you can imagine, fast food is a daily occurrence in low income neighborhoods because it is cheap. I used a model of 4 different arteries, each "clogged" with different amounts, thus demonstrating the effects of eating too much saturated fat.
As much fun as this is for Lauren and I to teach others about the importance of living a healthy and active lifestyle, we find ourselves stuck right now because we don't think the kids are getting it. I think they had a wake up call with the models of sugar and fat but I am not yet convinced that they are going to be able to take home our information and expect their parents and school friends to change. There is so much outside pressure to eat unhealthy especially when you are lacking in healthy resources. Obviously we can't expect these teens to eat at home every night so we are simply teaching them better choices (grilled chicken instead of fried, plain baked potato instead of french fries or skim milk instead of coke). After reviewing their foods logs, not one teen had a fruit or glass of milk all week last week!
I hope the next 4 weeks get better. I really care about these teens and they are really smart and nice. Considering that they signed up for this grant and to spend much of their summer educating 120 kids, I know they are great people.
I just want to make a difference in their lives. I know these teens have a lot of negative influences persuading them to live an unhealthy lifestyle but hopefully this educational opportunity will stay with them and they will learn to appreciate a more healthy and active lifestyle.
I think this is a real eye-opener that there are lots of definitions of what it means to be healthy and to stay active. The fact that the media and so many "nutrition/exercise" non-credentialed guru's are telling you that you have to eat like this or exercise like that, to look like this, is totally out of proportion from your own reality. How can someone tell you what to do or eat if they don't know your lifestyle, diet requirements or activity routine. Sure, you can get some tips and tools from a professional who is passionate about exercise and nutrition but it is only when you take the time to find what works for you, that you will see and feel results.
If you consider yourself a person who feels "guilty" when you don't get in your 90 min run (or only run for 45 min) or eat a piece of chocolate in the evening after you eat a homemade meal, take some time and recognize that eating healthy and staying active is all about balance. If you put too much pressure on yourself to change everything in one day or expect to eat/exercise unrealistically for the rest of your life, you are going to fail at your own unreasonable expectations. Find what works for you and learn to enjoy your healthy and active lifestyle which you can maintain.

Here's some pics from our last session.
I was happy to see that they enjoyed making their own parfaits w/ my homemade granola.
(I also brought in plain nonfat yogurt, strawberries mixed with crushed pineapple and cheerios).


Fiesta Salad and Peanut Butter walnut granola

According to Karel, Americans' have a day for everything. Coming from a Czech, I guess he is right..... however, he isn't complaining for a few days off from work every now and then :)
We celebrate all professions, all types of individuals/creatures and of course, all national holidays. In honor of Cinco de Mayo and Mother's day, I created two fabulous recipes to share with your friends and family (of course, any day).
No need for a wrap or tortilla with this "hot" salad. You can find plenty of fiber in this meal. And when you take a bite (if you can stop at that) of my best granola EVER (seriously, I am not lying!) all of your childhood memories of eating peanut butter or cheerios will come to mind.
Enjoy my latest creations!

Fiesta Salad

2 tsp olive oil
Frozen vegetable mix (1-2 cups)
Green peppers
1 can black beans
1 cup brown rice
Block Jalepeno cheese (about 2 tbsp per person shredded)
Romaine lettuce

1. Cook rice on stove according to directions. Add any additional no-salt seasonings (basil, pepper, cumin, etc.)
2. Rinse beans from can and heat on medium heat for 10-15 min in a small pot.
3. On medium heat, cook veggies in olive oil for 10-15 min. or until soft.
4. Chop a large handful of washed romaine lettuce and place in a shallow bowl.
5. Top with a large portion of veggie mixture (it's up to you how much you want to prepare-leftovers are always great!) and top with 1/4 cup rice and 1/4 cup beans.
(depending on your workout routine, feel free to add more rice or beans).

Peanut Butter walnut granola

1 1/2 cups instant oats
1/2 tbsp blackstrap molasses
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup Cheerios cereal (I used an off-brand called Toastios)
1/4 cup walnuts (chopped)
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp all-spice
2 tbsp natural Peanut Butter (I used Skippy Natural)
1 egg white
1 capful almond extract
2 tbsp dark chocolate chips
1 tsp olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients and stir well (I used a fork to stir).
3. Spread olive oil over non-stick baking sheet.
4. Pour granola mixture on sheet and press down.
5. Bake for 25-30 min. or until slightly firm.

Understanding Your Training and Racing Nutrition

My latest article for Iron Girl (in the FREE newsletter) could not have come at a better time. I have received countless emails in the last few weeks concerning training and racing nutrition. As the weather gets warmer in Florida (and most states in the US), it is a sure sign that triathlon season is quickly approaching.

I firmly believe that your racing fueling strategy is both dependent on your daily diet and your efficiency as an athlete. Bottom line - If you find yourself racing at an intensity that you did not train for and can not sustain, be prepared for nutrition-related problems. If you want to race fast, you need to train your body to do so. Regardless if you are shooting for a personal best or a "just finish" experience, a well-trained, efficient body is an easy-to-fuel, and well-performing body. You don't have to run a sub-20 min. 5K or finish an Ironman in under 11 hours in order to be an efficient athlete.
Unfortunately, consuming extra energy gels, sport beans and high-calorie drinks at the aid stations of a race will not give you energy to maintain an unsustainable/untrained effort. Sadly, we can't blame everything on our race-day nutrition.

Although having an idea of what to do (or not to do) during a race can help prevent many nutrition-related problems, when was the last time you measured your fluids at an aid station (during a race) to make sure you sipped 4 ounces, every 15 minutes, to prevent cramping? Because there is a lot of information available to athletes in magazines, books and on the internet, it is no surprise that many athletes are overwhelmed when trying to create a no-fail nutrition plan.

Because race day is the culmination of weeks or months of training, it shouldn’t take a magazine article, a day or two before your race, to tell you exactly how many calories, electrolytes, amino’s, liquids or carbs your body requires to perform at your best.

My motto in life is BALANCE and I am striving for quality over quantity. Too much of one thing is never a good thing. As I continue to live a healthy and active lifestyle and try to make the most of my days here on Earth, I hope I can inspire/motivate others to do the same.
I hope you enjoy my article :)

Do you have any nutrition-related (good or bad) racing stories you'd like to share?

Understanding Your Training and Racing Nutrition
Your friends/co-workers may think your exercise routine is crazy, but it is your passion and it is, and always will be, part of your lifestyle. However, considering almost every athlete has experienced issues including GI upset and sudden fatigue or dehydration at least once during a race, perhaps it does seem a bit crazy what you put your body through to earn your race T-shirt and finisher's medal.

Your daily training and nutrition should correspond with your fitness, age, gender, dietary preferences, training volume/intensity and your environment. The most effective racing nutrition plan for you will be supported by a well-balanced diet and practical training routine. Experience and experimentation will help you find what works best for your body during a specific racing distance, so it's important determine your nutrition plan and racing goals well before race day.

Although almost everyone will have a race (and many training sessions) where they see a nutrition-related problem, seasoned athletes know how to prevent issues and also how to overcome them when they arise. As continue your multisport journey, try not to simply mimic other people's nutrition plans. Focus on yourself when you're developing your personal training and racing nutrition plan. If you stay consistent with your training and nutrition, you will slowly find what your body needs to perform at an optimal level and not just what you think it needs because you read it in a magazine.

The athlete who practices her nutrition well-before race day is destined for a great experience. With countless non-nutrition issues to consider before and during a race, your diet should be simple and the least of your worries.

Stay tuned for the next Iron Girl newsletter for easy and effective nutrition tips for your upcoming race. For now, try out some simple and popular pre-training/race snacks, which include a range of calories, to find what may work best for you.

Note: It is recommended to consume at least 12-20 ounces of water with your pre-training/race snack at least 90 minutes prior to race/training start and an additional 8-16 ounces of water (or maltodextrin-based sport drink) in the hour leading up to the activity. A tall cup of coffee may also be consumed 45 minutes prior to race/training start.

Snack examples depending on the length (amount of time) of your upcoming training session or race:

1 hour or less: 100-150 calories
Peanut butter and toast; Wasa cracker and hardboiled egg; yogurt and granola; nuts and fruit

1 to 2 hours: 125-225 calories
Oatmeal with nuts; toast w peanut butter and banana slices; whole grain cereal with berries and flaxseed

2 to 3 hours: 200-350 calories
Oatmeal with nuts and raisins; half of a bagel w with banana and peanut butter; English muffin with cheese and deli meat; brown rice with cranberries and egg whites

3 to 4 hours : 300-400 calories
Oatmeal with granola, nuts, berries and skim milk; full bagel with peanut butter; yogurt with granola, trail mix and fruit

Marni holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach and is currently pursuing a registered dietician degree. She is a 2007 Ford Ironman World Championship finisher and finished the Ford Ironman Louisville Triathlon on Aug. 30, 2009, in less than 11 hours. Marni enjoys public speaking and writing, and she has several published articles in Hammer Endurance News, CosmoGirl magazine and Triathlete Magazine, and contributes monthly to and


USA Crits: Speedweek pics

For the first time ever, Karel did every race of USA Crits: Speedweek

Terrapin Twilight Athens,GA April 24
Historic Roswell Crit Roswell,GA April 25
Beaufort Memorial Crit Beaufort,SC April 27
Downtown Walterboro Crit Walterboro,SC April 28
Spartanburg Downtown Crit Spartanburg,SC April 30
Dilworth Crit Charlotte, NC May 1
Global BMW Sandy Springs Crit Sandy Springs,GA May 2

Karel seems to be doing really well post-Speedweek, despite doing 7 races in 9 days. I'm making sure he is re-fueling from all of his hard efforts last week, as well as making sure he is recovering quickly for this coming weekend (Florida Cycling State Crit Championships). Every race was at his max (or above, if possible) and required a lot of mental and physical toughness. Although he didn't finished the notorious Athens Twilight Crit, he finished every race, alongside some of the fastest and most talented professional domestic riders. Most of the races started at 7:30-8pm at night and lasted 90 minutes. Every course was ridiculously hard and included at least 1 crash (except Dilworth, which was a super tough race).

Karel's results:
Athens - DNF: 36 finishers/150 starters
Roswell - 67th: 117 finishers/137 starters
Beufort - 49th: 66 finishers/120ish starters
Walterboro - 46th: 72 finishers/120ish starters
Spartenburg - 37th: 86 finishers/130ish starters
Dilworth - 35th: 71 finishers/120ish starters
*Sandy Springs - 44th: 52 finishers/120ish starters
*there was a nasty crash at the top of the hill (they did 47 laps, which included a steep climb before the start/finish of each lap) with 1 lap to go so Karel barely squeezed through (and dodged the crash) in order to finish. He was placed much higher before the crash but that's part of least Karel didn't get caught in the crash (or any crash during speedweek).

Overall (based on points, including race starts, race finishes, laps completed, prem's, etc.): 49th out of 215

I hope you enjoy some of my favorite pics (in no particular order):


Fish and inflammation

Campy and Milo...

Race #6 was in the books on Sat. Wow, 6 races in 8 days! Karel's last race was yesterday (he finished!) and he is officially tired (I will be posting a short recap w/ pics tomorrow).
I have no idea how he stayed so tough day after day, but if his determination to finish these races speaks on behalf of his character, you better believe that he gives nothing but 100% no matter what he does. I am really happy to be married to one amazing Czech cyclist! Karel doesn't take anything for granted and he isn't one to complain. I know he has toughen me up over the past 4 years!!

After Karel's race in Dilworth NC on Sat, I made Karel and Christi dinner.
I always try to get Karel fish after his "hard" races in an effort to speed up the recovery process. Fish is not only healthy for the heart, but the inflammation-fighting effects of the omega-3 fatty acid's (found in fish) help lower C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker). Of course, us vegetarians miss out on the many healing properties found in fish but I would like to think that our high consumption of veggies and fruit puts us in a similar "healthy" category as far as keeping our immune system healthy. There are lots of research articles supporting vegetarianism and longevity so I think it would be silly for me to say that just because we don't eat fish doesn't mean that we can't receive similar health benefits from consuming a plant-based diet.
I found this excerpt on WebMD and thought I'd share it for my fish-eaters:
Researchers say an average daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids of about 0.6 grams, regardless of the fish source, appeared to be the optimal level to achieve the inflammation-fighting benefits and lower the risk of heart disease.

Three ounces of the following fish provide 1 gram of the omega-3 fatty acids known as eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

* Herring, Pacific, 1.5 ounces cooked
* Salmon, chinook, 2 ounces cooked
* Salmon, Atlantic, 2.5 ounces cooked
* Oysters, Pacific, 2.5 ounces cooked
* Trout, rainbow, 3.5 ounces cooked
* Tuna, white, packed in water 4 ounces cooked

The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish) at least twice a week. Fatty fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, albacore tuna, and salmon.

A few weeks ago I went to a seminar, by the Jacksonville Dietetic Association, and Dr. Anne-Marie Chalmers gave a great talk about fish oil. She explained that many fish oil capsules do not contain the right ingredients to provide health benefits, nor are American's taking the right amount.
Here's her website (check out the Cookies in the upper corner-She gave some out at her talk and Karel LOVED them!!!):

To sum up her talk, there are different types of omega's:
Omega 3: Linolenic - flax, canola and soybean

Omega 6: Linoleic - corn, safflower oil, sesame oil, walnut oil, wheat germ oil, sunflower oil

Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation but some omega-6 fatty acids tend to promote inflammation. The typical American diet tends to contain much more omega-6 compared to omega-3, with as much as 14 - 25 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3 fatty acids! The ratio should be in the range of 2:1 - 4:1, omega-6 to omega-3 so if you think about it, omega-3 supplementation is much more necessary than omega-6.

EPA (found in cod liver, herring, mackerel, salmon, menhaden and sardine, as well as in human breast milk - another reason, out of many, to breast feed) and DHA (mostly found in fish oil) are essential long chain fatty acids and must be consumed in the diet (the body can not manufacture them, that is why they are called "essential"). Our body can make a little DHA by consuming α-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid found in flaxseed (and other seeds and nuts) but you would need to eat 1 cup of flax seed to equal the amount of 1 tsp EPA.

Without enough EPA, you may experience moodiness, depression, lack of focus and anxiety. However, with an emphasis on healthy omega-3 fats in your diet (EPA and DHA - NOT just ALA, which is found in walnuts) you will find yourself with less pain, less inflammation and a healthier heart.

According to Dr. Chambers, she suggests the following recommendations:
Anti inflammatory benefts: >2g/d EPA/DHA
Heart protection: > 1g/d EPA/DHA
Pain relief: > 3-4g/d EPA/DHA

She mentioned that a quality fish oil should not have a rancid smell or taste, which is typical of "cheap" fish oils. Also, she said to refrigerate or freeze to maintain freshness.
If you can not eat fish (around 3 ounces) 3x's per week, she suggests 2000-3500 mg EPA/DHA day in capsule form, which is equal to about 2-3 tsp liquid fish oil. She suggests to take with food and you don't need more than 5g/day (5000 mg/d).

As for vegetarians, there are algae-based omega-3 alternatives but the amount of omega's found in those capsules is very small, compared to actual fish. However, I'd like to think that with any "supplement", if your diet is lacking in that key nutrient, you should notice a difference once you supplement with a little, as compared to being deficient in that nutrient and continuing to be without it. I you can find a liquid algae omega-3 (EPA/DHA) I believe that would likely give you more bang for your buck as opposed to taking 10-20 capsules a day.

Something to think about.....
Did you know that there is a strong correlation between high sugar consumption and inflammation (not to mention obesity)? Due to too much processed sugar in the American diet (in addition to lack of physical activity), sugar is absorbed and the pancreas is forced to work overtime by releasing too much insulin, thus increasing inflammation in the body. Sure, inflammation can be a good thing (ex. when you get injured or cut yourself) but your best bet to reducing inflammation through the diet is decreasing your consumption of pro-inflammatory foods such as added sugar and focusing on anti-inflammatory foods such as fruits and veggies. Also, as you work on your anti-inflammatory diet, try to reduce your reliance of NSAID's (ibuprofen, asprin) after a hard workout and focus more on sleep, light exercise (active recovery after a hard workout), focusing on recovery nutrition (ex. whey protein, milk or yogurt mixed with healthy carbs) stretching and a gradual progression with your training/exercise load.

Dinner Sat night:
Talapia - cooked for 4-6 minutes (each side) on medium heat (covered) in a few tsp olive oil and sprinkled with lemon pepper
(Although I don't eat them very often, I had a yummy Veggie burger, cooked in oven)

Mashed Potatoes - 2 medium potatoes (without skin) cooked in a large pot (w/ water) until soft (around 20 min. on medium/high heat). I emptied the water and mashed w/ skim milk (about 1/3 cup) and 1 tbsp butter (after I emptied water when cooked) on low heat.

Beautiful salad - spinach, red peppers, cucumbers, apples, almonds, oranges, strawberries w/ balsamic dressing.

Although I don't drink, I am sure I can pull up some research articles of the health benefits of small consumption of beer and wine, to validate Karel wanting (and drinking a beer) a few times during Speed Week. :)