Essential Sports Nutrition


Berry Crunch Cake

When it comes to food, I'm a believer in special occasions and enjoying a little of everything. When I work with athletes on daily and training nutrition, one question in my write-up asks "what are you least looking forward to with your improved/new eating habits".
I'd say, on average, most people say "giving up my favorite foods".
I think we all have favorite foods. Perhaps some aren't so healthy for the heart but hopefully, you have a long list of heart friendly, performance enhancing foods.
If your favorite food is a chocolate chip cookie, 1 cookie, once a week, is no big deal. But if your favorite food becomes a daily indulgence you may have difficulty reaching your training and weight goals. But even if you have your favorite food in a small portion, every day of the week, it's important that you are still consuming a balanced diet and not just saving your calories so that you don't have to give up your favorite treat.
Not sure if it is due to fast food, restaurants, an event for everything or a reason to celebrate with food for every occasion, but it is really easy to enjoy "favorite foods" on most days of the week.
You'd think that having birthday cake once a year is a great way to mark a growing age but it's likely that you have eaten cake on more occasions than just on your birthday.
My mom gave me this recipe and I have to say, after she prepared it for Karel, Aaron (my brother) and me last Saturday, my tastebuds were super happy. I have to admit that this cake was hard to resist on Sunday but I think we did pretty well with portion control.
Although this cake may have ingredients that aren't part of my daily diet, there is nothing wrong with enjoying the cake on occasion. Obviously, if we enjoy foods on occasion and stay true to a healthy and balanced diet that meets our individual needs, you will find it much easier to have a healthy relationship with food and not feel restricted or guilty when it comes to celebrating special occasions.

I think this cake would be PERFECT for a kids birthday party. They would NEVER know that there is fruit inside the cake!! I hope you enjoy...
Thanks to my aunt who shared the recipe with my mom, who shared it with me :)

Berry Crunch Cake
36 oz. any frozen berries
1 yellow cake mix
1 can die uncola (ex. sprite)

Put frozen berries into a 9x13 pan, sprinkle yellow cake on top, pour uncola over all-get all cake wet.
Bake covered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, uncover and continue baking for 40 minutes. Let cool completely-do not cover. Spoon fat-free cool whip on top and serve.


Veggie and chickpea wrap OR salad

Have you ever eaten watermelon until you physically couldn't stomach another bite? Certainly watermelon is not a high calorie food (46 calories for 1 cup diced) and it would be silly to tell yourself that you would get fat from eating too much watermelon.
Now, think about the last time that you ate a piece of cheesecake, had pizza, pasta or ice cream until you physically couldn't stomach another bite? As opposed to a nutrient-dense food like watermelon, it's very easy to feel stuffed after eating calorie-dense foods because it is easy to continue eating due to a delayed feeling of fullness due to quick digesting sugars. Although some calorie-dense foods offer health benefits like nuts, all foods should be consumed in moderation to give you a healthy and balanced diet.
I recently bought a giant watermelon from Publix for $3.99! Nice deal! I also picked up blueberries (2 x $3), 2 lbs cherries (1 lb for $1.99) and bananas. I just love summer fruit!
When I was a vegetarian athlete trying to turn healthy vegetarian (around the age of 20-22) I believed that my diet should be filled with fruits and veggies and very little fat and protein. Carbs like bread were ok but they had to be "light" or low calorie. Certainly, this is NOT how I eat today and I've spent the last 6 years (4 fabulous years with Karel) learning how to have a healthy relationship with food. I LOVE healthy fats, I LOVE LOVE LOVE my protein and I LOVE whole grains. I'm no longer afraid of being fat but rather I fear disease, illness or injury. I eat for health and performance not for aesthetics. However, with the focus off calories, I find that I don't have to eat a lot to feel satisfied.
Eating watermelon reminds me of the days when my "healthy eating" approach was all wrong. I would eat plenty of fruits and veggies and feel full or satisfied but the feeling wouldn't last very long. 1 hour or ever 40 min later, I would feel starving! However, I would dismiss the fact that I was hungry because I just had a huge salad and I would try to focus for the rest of the day, or until my next planned meal.
In an effort to feel satisfied during the day and still eat a high amount of nutrient dense foods, I have learned to appreciate the value of fats and protein. I have always been a lover of a recovery whey protein drink but I spent a good amount of my adult life not focusing on balanced meals and snacks.
Adding protein and fat to 98% of my meals and snacks (which are primarily whole grains, fruits and veggies) keeps me satisfied longer and controls my blood sugar. I do not experience any cravings for sweets or salty food (well, except after a 4+ hr workout but even then, I don't find myself overindulging or feeling restricted) and I feel in control of my food choices.
Here's my latest creation to show you that vegetarian eating can be filling and satisfying. Depending on your workout for that day, it is up to you how you plan your meals to factor in your daily workout for the day.
Hope you enjoy the salad or the wrap...

Veggie and chickpea wrap

2 large steak tomatoes (chopped)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup jalapenos (chopped)
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup corn (frozen)
1 can chickpeas
pepper, curry powder
1 flat out wrap
Romaine lettuce
Block of Pepper jack cheese (shredded)
Spicy horseradish mustard

For the salad:
1 hardboiled egg
Romaine lettuce
Carrots (shredded)

1. In a large pot, sautee garlic in olive oil and add corn, jalapenos, chickpeas and tomatoes. Heat on medium heat for 5-8 minutes. Take a spatula and lightly break up tomatoes as you stir all ingredients. Cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add seasonings to your likely and stir.
2. Place a little mustard on wrap.
3. Take a draining spoon and place a few spoonfuls of mixture onto wrap. Top with romaine lettuce and fold. Add a serving of salad to your plate.
4. For your salad as a meal, spoon mixture onto salad mixture and top with egg.


Recovering nutrition & cherry berry smoothie

My morning workout was a toughy on Tues. Trainer interval workout + run.
I entertained myself by watching Ironman Wisconsin (for the 20th time) on my DVR during the beginning part of my workout.
Karel is making me work hard but the hard work is paying off. My cadence has increased by a good 10% over the past few months and I am finding myself maintaining my goal watts at a much higher cadence than in months past. Even though my zones have increased, due to my previous 20 min effort in the group ride on Sat, I am finding myself improving with each workout. I try to gain something from every workout. I don't let myself think that I am ever having a bad workout. Rather than just "getting through" the workouts I am waking up recovered from previous workouts and ready to give a sweaty 100%.

Warm up 20-25 min:
3min @ LT (161-187watts)
5min @ Tempo ( 135-160watts)
4min @ LT ( 161-187watts)
5min @ Tempo (135-160 watts)
10 min recovery
5min @ LT (161 – 187watts)
10min @ Tempo ( 135-160watts)
6min @ LT (161-187 watts)
12 min @ Tempo ( 135-160watts)
5 min recovery
10 min @ Tempo ( 135 – 160)
Recover and cool down (about 5 min).

The hardest part about this workout was the tempo after the LT intervals. Having to maintain tempo watts after a LT effort was mentally tough but with a high cadence (around 90-95rpm) I managed to get through the workout.

Off for a run after the bike and my legs surprisingly felt amazing. I got into a zone and gave a good, but comfortable, effort for the middle 2 miles.
Mile 1: 8 min
Mile 2: 7:32
Mile 3: 7:35
Mile 4: 8:05
Total: 4.3 miles
+.5-.75 mile Campy run/walk/jog :)

After my workout comes recovery nutrition. I find that many athletes forgo the recovery nutrition or just eat the same way every morning (or eat whatever) and then as the day goes on, the body starts reacting in a negative way. It's likely that because you worked out in the morning, you eat according to how you feel. If you feel tired or extremely sore later in the day, due to not properly recovering in the morning, you are going to find yourself using more "excuses" for your food choices and eating more calories than your body needs at one time. More so, if you are exercising or training for performance and weight loss goals, you are going to struggle with your individual goals by not recovering and refueling properly.

Within the 30-45 min. after exercise, your body is ready to go from a catabolic to anabolic state. There is no other time during the day that is more important to focus on what you put in your body, than after a workout. The body is damaged after exercise, specifically intense or endurance activity. With the right nutrients in your recovery nutrition, you can quickly shift your body into an anabolic, muscle building state. However, if you neglect proper recovery nutrition, your body will stay in a catabolic state and you increase the chance of insulin resistance. Although many people assume that insulin is bad for the body, it is actually the most important hormone to regulate energy and glucose metabolism. Stimulating insulin release after exercise is the easiest way to support muscle growth and tissue repair as well as quick refueling.
In order for protein synthesis to occur, amino acids must be taken to the cells as soon as possible. However, outside your metabolic window (after 45 minute post exercise) insulin resistance may result and you will have a hard time repairing and gaining strength, no matter how much you are eating. It's all about the right nutrients.
I encourage my athletes to have a 2:1 carb to protein ratio (grams) after short, intense workouts and a 3:1 carb to protein ratio after 2+ hr workouts. If you are doing a 1 hr interval run a glass of skim milk (7g protein and 12g carb) will give you an almost 2:1 carb to protein ratio. Add in a cherry or a few blueberries and you have a perfect combo. You don't have to be perfect but the idea is to emphasize both protein and carbs immediately post workout before you eat your meal. Obviously, the longer you workout the more calories you should give yourself in a recovery snack as well as in a recovery meal. However, by focusing on your recovery nutrition, you will find yourself eating a large portion of calories in the 45 min - 4 hours after your morning workout as opposed to most of your calories from 5 - 10pm because you are starving, sore and tired.
By consuming both protein and carbs after exercise you are going to replenish glycogen stores faster, increase protein synthesis and net protein balance, increase fat oxidation and improve muscle mass (taken from my fav. book Nutrient Timing by Dr. Ivy).

Here's my latest smoothie....
Cherry berry smoothie

1 scoop Body Fortress (vanilla)
1/4 cup blueberries (I buy fresh, unwashed and then stick in freezer in a baggy)
1 small banana
10 fresh cherries (without the seed)
1/2 cup skim or soy milk
A few dashes of cinnamon
6-7 ice cubes
A little water to meet your consistency needs

1. Blend all ingredients in a blender. Add water as needed.
2. Top with .5 cup Kashi crunch.

Calories: 305
w/ cereal: 400 calories
(this would be a breakfast "meal" for me after my 2 hr or less workout). I usually have lunch 3 hours later and have a small snack of fruit or veggies a little before lunch.


Family time, good eats

Karel and I enjoyed delicious meals with the family.
Karel rarely eats red meat (maybe once every 3-4 months) but he does enjoy an occasional steak when we go to Outback (pre-race for me) or when we visit my parents.
On Fri evening we enjoyed a beautiful salad w/ spinach and kale, oranges and lots of veggies, corn on the cob, steamed zucchini w/ garlic and grilled asparagus.
My carnivorous family (dad, mom, Karel and Aaron) had chicken for their protein and I enjoyed 2 hard boiled egg whites and 1 yoke w/ the rest of my beautiful meal. I had a big glass of soy milk and a few walnuts and pistachios as I was preparing the salad.

Here's the Grilled Chicken Bruschetta recipe:
Serves 6:
* 6 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
* 1 Tbsp. olive oil
* 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
* 3 plum tomatoes, chopped
* 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped (my mom used basil seasoning)
* 1/4 cup chopped onions
* 2 cloves garlic, minced
* 1/8 tsp. pepper
* 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
* 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (my mom used shredded cheese)

Prepare and preheat grill. Brush chicken with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic seasoning. Place on grill, cover, and cook for 10-12 minutes until chicken is almost done, turning once.

Meanwhile, combine remaining ingredients except cheese in a bowl and mix well. When chicken is almost cooked, top each piece with some of the tomato mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Cover grill and cook 2-5 minutes longer until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

On Sat evening, we had a wonderful dinner, once again. Steak was on the menu for the meat-eaters and for my main dish (and for others as a side dish) I grilled a tofu alongside a bunch of veggies.
Did you know that 1 cup sliced mushrooms has 44 calories and 3 grams of protein!
I took cherry tomatoes, onion, garlic, mushrooms and tofu on placed them all on a heavy duty piece of tinfoil. I drizzled it with some of my mom's homemade dressing, closed the tinfoil like a package and cooked the veggies on the grill for 20-25 min.
Olive oil balsamic dressing:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
1-2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

We also had grilled asparagus (love it!) as well as a salad and quinoa w/ cranberries.

I never think twice about a healthy and balanced meal on a daily basis but I really prioritize plant-based foods after my long and hard training. Although recovery nutrition is key to restoring glycogen and repairing damaged tissues, the essential vitamins and minerals found in foods with little to no ingredients will help keep my immune system strong and give my body the nutrients it needs to stay healthy during my Ironman journey. Sure, I enjoyed some pita chips w/ hummus, a few pretzel sticks and yogurt and fruit topped with trail mix and cereals during the weekend, after my 3-4 1/2 hrs of morning training, but those come second to balanced and healthy meals.

What a great weekend. The furry little ones (all 3 of them) enjoyed their time.
Two BFF's traveling in the car...Is this normal??? :)

Please take me wherever you go...


Weekend training

I love training. Probably more than racing. I don't race a lot because it takes me a while to get my body to a healthy place that allows me to reach for my short term (and long term) goals.
When I did my first IM, I had Karel (who was my Boyfriend at the time) and my family there to cheer me on and to support me at this crazy long race called the Ironman.
Before the race, I gave my parents "estimated" times of when I would finish the swim, bike and run. I gave them a range starting with my perfect day times and ending with my "oh no, something went wrong" times. Luckily, nothing went wrong and I ended up matching every one of my predicted times to the minute! How did I know what I would be able to do for the swim, bike and run? I just thought back to my training and by being realistic, I felt pretty confident predicting my times.
By spending many months of my year training for a few key races, I don't feel rushed to improve. With a gradually building training plan, which emphasizes periodization of cardio, alongside strength and core work and lots of recovery, improvements should come on a daily basis. So, with base training and build training behind me, I am now in the peak of my season and feeling stronger than ever.
This past weekend was epic. Probably one of my hardest and most challenging workout weekends, but surely, there are more to come. It was just a great weekend to share with Karel, my friends and my family and to re-confirm that my quality training is actually working. Compared to seasons in the past, I am doing less weekly training volume but higher intensity (on average over the week) but I'm doing more race-specific workouts.
Saturday morning:
I dropped Karel off at a friends house and Bill and Karel rode to the group ride. I drove to the ride start because I was planning on running after the group ride.
The ride was kinda up in the air because of the forecast of storms in the south so our 50 mile planned ride to Madiera beach and back turned into Panera ride (a very fast ride).
The Gearlink group and I (and Karel) headed south to meet up with the Panera group and when we saw them they were going super fast (north). We tried to turn around but 3 cars were behind the group so we never got on. Karel and Bill have sprinting legs so they managed to catch the 26+ mph group of 40+ but for the rest of us (about 15) we didn't get on. I wasn't ready to give up so I got aero and started time trialing it towards the group. 2 other Gearlink guys joined in so we rotated to catch the group.
After 10 min. of sprinting at 25 mph we finally caught the group.
Looking back at my power file, Karel was amazed. I ended up producing my best 20 min effort to catch the group and to hang on to the group. I went 7 watts higher than my 20 min power test on Thurs (2 days earlier!). The group ride was challenging but doable. I didn't really know where I was going so with the speeds getting up to 28mph, I found myself losing some confidence with the big group.
I ended up getting dropped after 40 min with the group but that's ok. I did the best I could to stay on and I really worked hard at the beginning (which totally trashed my legs).
I made my way back to the ride start riding alone, and got myself ready for a run.
Ride: 38 miles, 1 hr and 58 min.

I had a feeling the run was going to be tough but I was ready. I haven't had any leg problems since my recovery after Macon so I was only thinking about my energy.
I had a gel before the run and also finished 1 1/2 bottles of Hammer heed (1 scoop) during the bike. I had 2 hammer aminos before the run.
Wit my fuel belt, music and visor I headed to the Pinellas Trial.
Karel and I use to live in Dunedin and we really miss the trail for biking and running. It was great to be back in my old neck of the woods and to just zone out like old times.
I ran continuously for 5.5 miles and stopped to refuel my flasks w/ water. I had 2 flasks w/ hammer heed and also had 2 aminos during my water break. I also had a gel around mile 4.
I finished the run by running about 1.5 miles on a steady incline road back to the car. My legs were officially trashed but for some reason, I felt surprisingly great. I was visualizing myself in Madison loving my IM experience and I was smiling (like always) because I feel so special to be able to do what I do on a daily basis. The body is just amazing.
This workout was one for the books.
Run stats:
11.37 miles
Pace: 8:21
Time: 1hr and 34 min.

My recovery was good on Sat. Yogurt parfait, stretching, french toast, a few walks with campy, compression, snacks (mix of carbs and protein) every 2-3 hours and lots of water. A yummy dinner and early to bed (9pm).

Sunday came super early. Karel and I were up at 5:15 to get ready for the hills of San Antonio. Karel was excited to do the group ride and I was excited to ride some hills!
We drove 45 min. to San Antonio and some how managed to avoid the rain/storms during our ride. Karel ended up doing 70 miles (20 with me) and I ended up doing 2 x 20 mile loops of Karel's race course. LOVE the hills! I could have rode my bike there ALL day. Karel wanted me to take it easy and focus on a steady cadence up the hills. I didn't push hard during the ride but my legs were really feeling Saturday's workout.

As I was heading back to the parking lot, I ended up meeting up with Karel by accident. He did most of the ride with the group but with the dark sky getting closer to us, he decided to head back early and finish the ride by himself. We rode the last few miles together and as I gathered my stuff for my run, Karel did an extra long cool down.
I guess I timed it right because the rain came down quickly as I was getting myself ready for my run. I LOVE running in the rain so I gladly welcomed it during my quick run.
Stats for the run.
Distance: 2.7 miles
Time: 20.49
Pace: 7:43
Mile 1: 7:34
Mile 2: 7:38

What a great weekend. I could not have been more happy about my training but I was just loving my time with my family. We had Smudla, Madison and Campy with us and they LOVED staying in the "resort" (aka House, not apartment). It was great to see my brother and have the whole family together. I am very happy that my parents and brother support the endurance lifestyle of Karel and myself but when we are out doing our thing, my family is usually staying active either running or doing pilates/yoga (my mom).

Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Besides me (who LOVED my day off from exercise today!), guess who is REALLY tired???