Essential Sports Nutrition


Success in Sport

Currently I am training for the Ironman World Championships. Just like you, I am balancing life with training and sometimes life will get in the way. But I often remind myself that triathlons are my lifestyle (and not my life) and I end up finding myself loving my sport of choice, that much more.
I am currently coach seven amazingly talented athletes (1 slot available for coaching) who live around in the US, each with their own personal and athletic goals. Should I consider myself more successful than they are just because I am training for a World Championship? Absolutely not.
Yesterday, a friend of mine from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (Tim Ziegenfuss) posted a link to a fantastic article that I could not wait to share. I invite you to read the entire article but I wanted to post a little of it on this blog post:

The Nine Mental Skills of Successful Athletes
Jack J. Lesyk, Ph.D.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete or an Olympic champion to be a successful athlete. Nor do you have to have a room full of trophies, win a state championship, or make the front page of the sports section. Successful athletes that I’ve worked with include an eleven year-old figure skater who has not yet won a competition, a high school golfer with a zero handicap, a middle-aged runner whose goal is to complete her first marathon, a weight lifter who holds several world records, and an Olympic medalist.

What these athletes have in common is that their sport is important to them and they’re committed to being the best that they can be within the scope of their limitations – other life commitments, finances, time, and their natural ability. They set high, realistic goals for themselves and train and play hard. They are successful because they are pursuing their goals and enjoying their sport. Their sport participation enriches their lives and they believe that what they get back is worth what they put into their sport.

There are nine, specific mental skills that contribute to success in sports. They are all learned and can be improved with instruction and practice. At the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology we work with serious athletes of all ages and ability levels to help them learn and sharpen these important skills.

We believe that our work is worthwhile because the same mental skills that athletes use in achieving success in sports can be used to achieve success in other areas of their lives.
A Brief List of the Nine Mental Skills
Successful Athletes:

1. Choose and maintain a positive attitude.
2. Maintain a high level of self-motivation.
3. Set high, realistic goals.
4. Deal effectively with people.
5. Use positive self-talk.
6. Use positive mental imagery.
7. Manage anxiety effectively.
8. Manage their emotions effectively.
9. Maintain concentration.

As an athlete, dietitian, exercise physiologist, coach and educator, I have a lot of responsibility to the public. I try to keep up with current research and keep an open mind. But above all, I believe in leading by example. While I don't believe that what works for one person may work for another, I do believe in respecting the human body in order to find success in your sport of choice.

Coach Matt Dixon has been an integral part in my coaching philosophy. I remember reading an article in Triathlete regarding training and his philosophy of training athletes to receive physiological training adaptations with the least amount of training stress. Although some may question his "less is more" approach as he often works with many professional athletes who may have had a huge base but struggled with overtraining but he also works with age groupers who also strive for "success", regardless of finishing time.
I recognize that there are many other qualified coaches out there that also believe in a less-is-more approach and I commend those coaches for not making their athletes do more than is necessary. Although we all love our sport, too much unnecessary volume may lead to overtraining, burnout, injury and a lack of enjoyment for the sport that you once pursued because you saw an avenue which allowed you to set goals and become the person you knew you could be in life. Therefore, I believe in his philosophy not only as an exercise physiologist and coach but also as an athlete.

My athletes have had great success in this quality-approach where we focus on the many small components that create a successful athlete. For I do not believe that success has to do with finishing times, mph on the bike, how fast you run or swim or how much body fat you have on race day or how fancy your bike looks in comparison to others.

For me, it all comes down to consistency. I believe that we will all be most successful in reaching personal goals (in sport and life) if we can focus on our own life as we are all special in our own way.
As a side note, I am not sure where the idea came from that it was necessary to ride 130 miles in order to train for the Ironman? For a few years ago it was 100 miles, then 110, then 120 miles...I know the desire is there for more, more, more, but sometimes we need to focus on the little things that will make training much more productive. Assessing where we want to be, looking at where we are now and then finding realistic, practical and healthy ways of working our way to those goals.

I took a minute to look back at my last few weeks of training. I see nothing but consistency, thanks to a fun, realistic and quality-focused training plan which is continually updated by Karel and myself. Sure, I have great workouts and a few "off" workouts but I'd like to think that if I am feeling slow one day, at least I can strive to be "consistently" slow for that workout. Thus I strive to always get something out of my workout and with that, I have lots of "successful" workouts and a few enjoyable "exercising" sessions.

After not running for 10 weeks, followed by a month of stressful studying in preparation for my RD exam, I resumed "run" training around the end of June. It was a LONG journey to get to June but I knew where I wanted to be and I was determined to focus on what I CAN do and not what I CAN NOT.

Looking at my garmin running splits, power files and swim times, I would like to think that the less-is-more approach is allowing me to feel "successful" in my own pursuit towards my individual goals as I am filled with lots of energy and a total sense of balance as I train for my 5th Ironman event.


Salad for two

Karel is on his way home from 2011 Trek World. I'm so excited to hear the latest news in the cycling/triathlon world as Karel always comes back with knew knowledge and lots of surprises.
What started out to be a bummer of a weekend for Karel, turned into a once in a lifetime trip. Karel was excited for the 100 mile Centurion Wisconsin Cycling Event but after a 2-hour storm delay, followed by 3 flats within 10 miles, Karel ended up cutting the course short and finishing with 50 miles. He was super bummed as he loves riding in the hills but from the pics he sent me, I think he got over the flats by.....

Checking out Lance Armstrong's TT bike from his last TDF

Riding with Chris Lieto, Frank Schleck and Fabian Cancellara

Hanging with Jens Voigt

And Andy Schleck

Karel told me that this trip was one of the best trips he has ever been on and I'm sure he will remember that bike ride for the rest of his life. I am so excited for him that he had this opportunity as life is all about experiences, love and learning and making wonderful memories with an active and healthy body.

One of the most common questions I get from people concerns me being a vegetarian, endurance athlete and Karel being a meat-eating, elite category 1 cyclist. I simply reply that the only thing that differs between Karel and myself is that I don't eat meat or fish. Furthermore, I think it is important that we accept people for having different passions in life but I feel it is important that we encourage our loved ones to embrace an active lifestyle. I would never ask Karel to do triathlons for he is a cyclist and will always be a cyclist. His love is for riding bikes and as long as he enjoys what he is doing on a daily basis and finds a way to stay active in order to increase longevity and quality of life, I am there to support him and be his number one fan.
I just love creating yummy meals for Karel as I don't need to go out of my way to provide my husband (who I plan to spend an active-forever with) with a satisfying meal. I can't always ensure that my meal will fill him up, but at least I start off his dinner (every night) with a plant-based meal that tastes good and provides his body with lots of powerful nutrients. So although we have different lifestyles, different diets and different needs, I recognize that we should eat similar foods but in different quantities.
I hope you enjoy my latest creation. The "salad" is perfect for everyone so it is up to you to get creative on what you will put inside your pita.

Egg or Tuna Pita w/ Broccoli, Mushroom and Chickpea salad
Tuna Pita:
1 can tuna in water
Black beans
Greek yogurt (for the spread)
Swiss cheese (sliced)

Egg pita:
1 sunnyside up egg
Greek yogurt (for the spread)
Swiss cheese (Sliced)

Steamed broccoli
Sauteed chickpeas, mushrooms and onions (in 2 tbsp olive oil)
Chopped garlic
Chopped basil
Sharp cheddar shredded cheese


Black Bean Salad

I went to a lecture a few weeks ago and listened to a fabulous talk on increasing lean body mass in the hospitalized patient. The talk was super fascinating and although it was a Clinical Dietetic meeting, this specific lecture made me feel so comfortable as my background in exercise physiology was completely applicable to this topic of discussion. I am finding the more that I work in the acute care setting (as a clinical dietitian) the more I am able to better understand the body and how it reacts to drugs, diet and therapy.

I've read a few research studies showing that consuming a lot of protein at one time (one big meal) is no more beneficial to increasing lean body mass than consuming a smaller, more regular amounts throughout the day. Furthermore, with more protein at each meal (especially when consumed with carbs), the easier it is to regulate blood sugar levels and promote satiety at meals. So, my suggestion is to spread out protein throughout the day and do not skimp on protein at breakfast. With the fundamentals of "carb counting" on my mind (dietitians receive a lot of consults for diabetes education in the hospital), I find that both carbs and protein should be spread out throughout the day, consuming adequate amounts at every meal and snack. I think athletes really struggle in this area because there is less emphasis on non-starchy carbs and a major emphasis (or should I say Craving) for sugary carbs surrounding workouts. But because we want to aim for balance, it is encouraged to provide your body with many opportunities to help meet our individual nutrient needs by focusing on wholesome foods, eating every few hours and prioritizing recovery nutrition.
I encourage athletes to specifically focus on their post workout protein in order to rapidly repair. I believe in aiming for around 7-15 grams of QUALITY protein of high biological value (not bars) immediately post workout, depending on the workout intensity and volume. Additionally, depending on the workout (intensity and volume) we can toss around the idea of adding in the same ratio of carbs or aiming for a 2:1 or even 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein. The more I work with athletes and discover more about myself as an endurance vegetarian athlete, I am finding that this ratio will vary on any given day. Therefore, I strongly encourage to aim for protein post workout (following re-hydrating with electrolytes if needed) and then focus on a balanced post-workout meal.
As for protein intake at meals and snacks, I encourage athletes to focus on around 1.1-1.3g/kg body weight per day of protein if you are engaging in moderate-intense activity on most days of the week. I am a BIG fan of protein in the diet for many reasons and with recent research showing that most individuals may require .9g/kg/d rather than the well-known .8g/kg/d, I think 1.1-1.3g/kg/d is a great starting point for most active individuals. As for the extremely active, I would feel good recommending 1.3-1.5g/kg/d as a general recommendation.
So, if you weigh 130 lbs (59kg) and use an average of 1.3g/kg/d of protein, this would give you around 77g of protein a day.
The speaker recommended consuming around 20 grams of protein at each meal which would give you plenty of room to add in 5-8g of protein at each snack with some wiggle room for recovery protein as well (which should be prioritized).
For my vegetarians/vegans and individuals seeking more plant-based protein in the diet, here is a great link:
Vegan Protein

Keep in mind, we don't need to strive for a perfect diet. I believe in focusing on nutrient timing and letting your food fuel your workout. Therefore, focus on your training nutrition (pre, during and post) and then plan out the rest of the day. Striving for balanced meals would be my #1 suggestion if you don't know where to start in your nutritional journey. Keep it simple... plan ahead, don't forget about your fruits and veggies throughout the day (especially as snacks), drink plenty of water throughout the day, build a plant-based meal as often as possible, give yourself a healthy serving of whole grains a few times throughout the day (to help meet recommended 25-35g fiber/day), serve yourself a healthy serving of quality protein and finish off the meal with a healthy fat to keep your tummy, heart and brain super happy.

I hope you enjoy my black bean salad!! YUM!

Black Bean Salad
Black beans (drained and rinsed in can)
Corn (frozen, defrosted for 1 minute)
Chickpeas (drained and rinsed in can)
Broccoli (fresh - cooked in microwave with a little water)
Mushrooms (fresh - cooked in microwave with broccoli with a little water)
Garlic (chopped, raw)
Olive oil
Shredded Cheese
Optional: Pita bread

1. Preheat a skillet to medium heat. Add 2 tbsp olive oil and cook first 5 ingredients.
2. Gently toss and cook for 8-10 min or until the veggies begin to brown. Add a little more olive oil (around 1/2-1 tbsp) if needed.
3. In a large bowl, fill with a large handful spinach. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
4. Add hot cooked veggies and top with raw chopped garlic.


Monday Product Review

I just finished another great week of training (week 5 out of 14). I thought I would share some of the every-day products that keep me feeling safe, fresh and healthy as I embark on this 140.6 mile journey.

Road ID

I never leave the house for outdoor training, without my
Road ID. If you don't believe me, my Road ID tan line is catching up to my watch tan line :)
Both Karel and myself have Road ID's (Karel has yellow, I have pink) and I find it a necessity when it comes to training gear. There are so many options as to what type of ID you can purchase and for the price, consider it the cheapest investment to your health while training. I compare the Road ID to a dog tag. The only time Campy gets to run off his leash is when he is at my parents house, in the backyard. But still, he is a sneaky little guy and enjoys finding holes in the ground/fence for a quick escape. I always make Campy wear his dog collar when he is outside for if anything were to happen to him, at least he could be identified. Although us humans can speak, an accident may leave you unconscious or out of it. I believe that we have a deep inner-power to recognize our name even if we aren't totally there. But above all, the Road ID allows a person to recognize any allergies and provides a contact in the case of an emergency. Plus, I feel cool when I wear it cause it is pink and matches my fuel belt, glasses and bike - which are all PINK!

Electrolyte Fizz

As of this weekend, I have a new addition to my training nutrition.
Electrolyte Fizz. After my 2 hour run (which followed a 2 hour bike) on Sunday, I was ready to cool-off and let Campy take me on a walk to loosen my legs. I quickly filled a bottle with water and dropped an electrolyte fizz into the bottle. I gave it a shake and I was instantly refreshed when sipping on my drink. As you may or may not know, I do not suffer from cramps while training or racing. I also do not experience GI upset in racing. Perhaps I don't overexert myself, as cramping and GI upset are often at the result of pushing too hard and/or not adequately fueling (sadely, no amount of nutrition will allow you to push x-mph if you haven't trained the body to do so). However, I do get really hot when I train and I still require proper electrolytes during training. I do believe that diet has a major affect on how you perform during endurance training and what your body needs/requires to improve endurance and thresholds. As the most efficient athletes will be able to perform at optimal intensity, without a high amount of nutrition to maintain intensity/volume, thus minimizing the chance for GI distress or bonking. However, this efficiency training does not take and often a little help from a professional who understands both nutrition and the physiology of the body during exercise. With my scientific approach to training, I believe in efficiency training and really understanding my individual needs based on how I perform and feel during training.
As for others, I believe athletes consume far too much water when training, too much salt and too many sugary calories in the heat and I believe it is necessary to focus on a wide spectrum of electrolytes, 20-28 ounces of fluid per hour (give or take 10-15 min and 4 ounces) and a maltodextrin-based drink in order to cover your basic needs while sweating. I also believe in amino acids and protein during long distance training but that is another blog topic. Because every person is different as far as the quantity of electrolytes you lose through sweating, the electrolyte fizz is a great way to rehydrate prior to having your post-workout recovery drink as well as during training. There are a lot of electrolyte/salt pills on the market but competition leaves some products more excellent than others. I compare products all the time but sports nutrition needs to be very individualized. For one product may have an ideal spectrum of electrolytes but not adequate calories per serving, and may work for one person whereas another product may be low on electrolytes but adequate carbs and may work for another person. Then again, the same person may require different nutrition depending on the time of the year for peak training, the race environment and current diet and fitness. It seems a bit complicated but I suppose that is why I went to school...because I LOVE this stuff!
My number one recommendation is to not overhydrate on water and to be sure you consume a little of your sport drink every mile (when running) or every 15-20 min (when biking). Because we have weak hydration signals, it is important that you are staying well hydrated with water on a daily basis and to try to recognize the difference between dropping blood sugar and dehydration during training. To help with cooling, poor plain water on your body to help reduce core body temperature. Because we don't have the amazing support from aid stations until race day, my suggestion is to bring along Fizz or electrolyte tabs (which cover ALL electrolyte needs including calcium) with your sport drink, so that you can ensure proper electrolyte and glycogen status while training and not put yourself in a situation where performance and health may be compromised by consuming too much or not enough fluids, calories and electrolytes. Today I choose to use the Fizz post-workout because I did a great job fueling on my run and used pills to go along with my sport drinks in my fuel belt flasks. It was a hot day but I couldn't be more pleased with my consistency during my run. I think the electrolyte fizz have the perfect quantity of the necessary electrolytes and minerals that are needed in your active body, especially while training in the heat. If you would like to use other products such as sport drinks or pills, I would try to get as close as you can per hour to the Hammer Electrolyte Fizz product for chloride, sodium, magnesium, manganese, chloride, sodium and potassium.

Compression Tights

I follow the 5 R's after my workouts. Rehydrate. Repair. Refuel. Relax. Reflect. So maybe compression tights might not be your first piece of clothing as you are relaxing after a hot and sweaty summer workout but I completely believe in compression for effective recovery. So, after you ice with your 110% Recovery Ice Shorts I believe the compression tights would fall into the category of Relaxing post-workout. Compression socks are also a great product but I find the tights to be just perfect to regulate blood flow and prevent post workout soreness (in addition to the first 3 R's). Zoot Compression Tights