Essential Sports Nutrition


Less is more..newbie perspective

I just finished my yummy French Toast dinner, served with a beautiful side of blueberries and plum slices with yogurt. For my veggies, I sauteed some mushrooms, green peppers, onions and garlic. Sorry no pics...I was ready for dinner after a really busy day at the hospital.
I'm so excited for my last weekend build before a recovery week. The past 2 weeks have felt amazing and I respected my body on Monday and Tuesday with an "off" day on Monday and a form-focused swim on Tues morning. My typical week includes a brick on Tues and Thurs but I moved my brick to Wed and swam again on Thurs and Fri. I rested my running legs a lot this week and added in an easy spin on Thursday evening in order to clear my head and legs (my brain was fried at the hospital while working in the CCU (critical care unit)).
Although I now feel rested and continue to feel hungry for my training, come Monday I will gladly welcome my recovery week to clear my mind and rest my body. Karel has two intense IM-focused bike + run workouts planned for Saturday and Sunday and with only 7 weeks to go, I continue to focus on quality training. I have yet to do a 100 mile ride, ride over 5 1/2 hours or run more than 2 1/2 hours. Every run has been off the bike (including my long runs), almost every workout has planned intervals and my aerobic engine feels stronger than ever.
But enough about me....
I coach 7 amazing athletes, each one with his/her own story and individual goals. I care about each of my athletes in a very special way and I am inspired by their dedication and passion for triathlon training.
One of my athletes, Taryn Fimiani, shared a wonderful note on Facebook and with her permission, she is allowing me to share it with all of my fabulous blog readers. Although I have my own personal philosophy when it comes to training AND nutrition and I understand that every athlete is different and unique, there is nothing more gratifying than having my athletes believe in my philosophy and feel a sense of balance while training for a multisport event. I hope you enjoy Taryn's note and her thoughts on the less is more approach.

Your ultimate athletic development is determined by your athletic consistency, not the nature of your toughest sessions. Protect your consistency and your fitness foundation; these are the keys to reaching your fullest potential.

-Gordo Byrn

Today was my Wednesday bike+run. A couple of months ago my coach began scheduling all of my runs with some sort of bike beforehand. At first I resisted (I love simply heading out the door for a run), but I've grown to love her approach. Not only am I getting loads of "experience" feeling the transition from bike-to-run, but I am completely warmed up by the time it's time to run.

I think one of the toughest transitions I've had with triathlon is growing away from the simple run. I love running. It's my soul balancer. My favorite. I'll admit to some days when I miss just simply running, and wonder what I'm doing with all this multi-sport stuff. But at the end of the day, I love the triathlon lifestyle much more. Triathlon's led me to feeling the best I've ever felt. I know part of this is from the diversity of the sport (swim, bike, run, yoga, strength), but also from everything I've learned from Coach Marni along the way.

When Marni & I first started working together in January, she had me list 3 short-term & 3 long-term goals. Completing an Ironman was the long term goal. Short terms were a sub-5hr marathon & sub 2-hr half marathon. She quickly introduced me to interval training and a few weeks later I hit my sub-2 at Rock 'n' Roll Phoenix. I then clapped my hands, ready to take on the marathon.

She never came outright and said, no, you're not allowed to put a marathon on the schedule, but she had all sorts of ways to suggest around it. My goal was Ironman, not running marathon. I stuck to her schedule for a bit, but then came back with a, what about a 20mi race? Again, keep your eye on your long term goal and let's focus on the steps to get you there.

We did a lot of strength work in the first few months. Built into circuits and plyos. Did a lot of stretching and yoga. I kept chomping at the bit to increase my running, but her schedule held me to a slow build. And I finally started understanding and really appreciating her approach...

Less is more.

8 months into this, I'm feeling good. So, so thankful to be feeling strong. Healthy. Which I think is pretty incredible. I'm hitting the final builds with a relatively fresh mind. I haven't felt "burned out" at all this year. And I really think I owe it to all the time we spent focusing on strengthening my base. Strengthening me! When I was quietly wishing I could ramp up my volume, ramp up the intensity, she was having me do all kinds of stretching and new-to-me exercises. And I think I get the "why" now...

Injuries can often happen we're increasing volume and intensity too quickly. Especially when muscle groups are weak and tight. Looking back, I'm grateful that my off-season was spent focusing on strength, plyos, stretching and flexibility, and building that base. All those winter days when I just wanted to get out and run, run, run... I was doing glute, core, lower back & hip exercises. I've learned from her that this kind of strength training (and stretching) is so important in endurance training when it comes to our hip flexor strength. When our hip flexors are tight or weak, other muscles step in to help... often bringing quad, knee, & itb pain.

And pleeeease go knock on some wood, because I've got none of that going on right now.

Sitting where I am now, sure, there are days when I have mini freakouts when I see how much lower in volume my training plan is compared to other plans. But I have faith in my coach's knowledge. I know for me, for where I was athletically and where I am now, Marni's less is more approach is working. She's getting me to my goal. I know each of her workouts has a purpose and I'm still excited to do each workout. There are no miles just for the sake of miles and, because I'm not doing "too much" volume, I'm recovering well (quickly) in between workouts. For my first Ironman attempt, I couldn't ask for anything better!

So today. Bike+Run. I started out early and rode under a cloudy, sunrise pinky sky. Love those sunrise skies. One hour ride, no set, just ride. I increased my heart rate to upper Z3 (tempo, close to anaerobic) towards the end. I did a quick transition in the parking lot and decided, since it was still cloudy, to embrace the humidity and run outside. Ouch.

Once I got past the hissing passel of Canada Geese (seriously loathe those things), I was good to go on a wide open road. 1:10min run with 2x 15min of Z3 & Z4 (averaging HM pace) with 10min easy jog in between. Felt great until 40min when the clouds burned off and my heart rate refused to go down. I finished hovering the low end of Z3, walked a good cool down before heading to my car for stretching.

Another training day on the books!


Bike: 1hr, 17mi

Run: 1:10, 7.3mi


My favorite pre-training meal

Finding balance. For most of us active individuals, it is very hard to find the perfect balance in life. I try to avoid using the word "perfect" as I don't believe that we need to strive for a state of "completeness and flawlessness". However, when we do find balance in life, life feels absolutely perfect.
In the past month or two, I have found balance. It feels absolutely wonderful. With a training plan that has allowed me to be extremely consistent with training as well as a diet that fuels my workouts and my lifestyle, I have been able to balance Ironman training with the rest of my life. The funny thing about balance is that it is not always present as our life is ever-changing.
Perhaps you are starting a new job, welcoming a child, training for a new event or new distance, working on dietary habits or changing your lifestyle routine. Regardless of the situation, you must welcome new changes with an open mind and not compare the current situation to past situations. Life is going to change and you must be willing to make the necessary changes to find a sense of balance.
I would love to share with you my favorite pre-training meal, which is typically consumed on the eve of a hard weekend of training. With only 7 weeks (50 days, just in case you aren't counting :)) until I "float" at the starting line of my 5th Ironman and 2nd Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, I feel great being fueled with my balanced approach to eating as well as finding balance in everything I do in life.
How do you find balance in life?
Enjoy and feel free to be creative and use your favorite whole grain bread (I recommend >3g fiber, <150 mg sodium and >2g protein PER slice) as well as your favorite easy-to-digest veggie to make this meal "balanced" just for you and your personal needs.

French Toast w/ garlic butter asparagus
2 slices Whole Grain Bread (I used Arnold healthfull Nutty Grain) -
3 eggs (1 whole egg + 2 egg whites)
1/8 cup skim milk
Non stick spray
Fruit of your choice

1. In a large skillet, heat to medium heat.
2. Scramble eggs w/ milk.
3. Soak bread in egg mixture. Spray non stick pan with spray.
4. Cook bread for 1-2 minutes (or until toast turns slightly golden on bottom), then flip.
5. Top with fruit of your choice
*As an additional topping, I typically top my french toast w/ Dannon Non Fat plain yogurt mixed with a little 100% strawberry jam (no high fructose corn syrup added).
*I cooked the leftover scrambled eggs and adding fresh diced tomatoes with swiss cheese.
For asparagus...
1-2 cloves Garlic
1 tbsp Butter

1. Cut off tips and wash.
2. In a large pot (large enough to place asparagus), head to medium heat.
3. Cover bottom of pan with water and place asparagus in water. Cover.
4. Cook asparagus for 5-8 minutes, or until soft.
5. Drain water and add 1 tbsp butter to pan, toss with garlic.


Fueling with the plate method

Yesterday I discussed the importance of using the plate method when planning your meals and snacks. As active individuals, I think it is easy for our body to crave carbohydrates considering that glycogen (stored carbs) is our primary fuel source during intense activity and endurance activity. However, the metabolism of carbs also depends on how you are fueling during exercise, with what you are fueling with during exercise, the intensity and duration as well as your overall daily diet.
I recognize that many athletes often reach a stopping point (or never start) when it comes to increasing lean body mass and decreasing fat mass when training for endurance events (or any distance for that matter). To be in good health and experience performance gains, I believe that we can change body composition without sacrificing performance by focusing on a plant-based diet, balanced with complex carbs, quality protein and healthy fats. But the key is BALANCE and consistency.
As an endurance athlete, I realize that starchy carbs (ex. bagels, waffles, pasta, pizza, bread) are very easy to consume after a long or intense training session. Sometimes our body will ask for certain foods based on how we utilize those fuels during training but sadly, our body can not always tell us how much we need to consume. Often, a full stomach and a feeling of tiredness is the result of eating more than our body can handle.
I ask you to try out the plate method for most of your meals today (and snacks). I don't believe in restriction when it comes to the diet nor do I believe in focusing on what to eliminate in the diet. Rather ADD to the diet. So if you are starting your day with 1 whole bagel w/ peanut butter, you have a great start!! However, because we are missing some color from fruits/veggies, how about having going down to 1/2 whole grain bagel with PB and adding yogurt (from the dairy group) with fruit. This way we are working towards a more balanced meal and over time, hopefully you will find yourself doing the same at all meals and snacks. Another example, rather than having a granola bar for a snack, how about having 2 WASA crackers w/ cheese and veggies. Here we have balance and you are using a snacking opportunity to get in quality vitamins and minerals. For dinner, rather than having pasta or just a salad, how about having a bowl of steamed veggies, with your choice of quality protein and then topping with your favorite high fiber pasta. Just a few suggestions to get you thinking like a well-fueled athlete who is striving for balance and working towards developing a healthy relationship with food.

Steamed Veggies w/ scrambled eggs and pasta OR Steamed veggies w/ fish and pasta (for Karel)

*For the fish, I used 1 fresh Talapia and marinated it in Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger Dressing for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator. I pre-heated the oven to 425 degrees F. I then chopped a few almonds and sliced some onion and cooked the fish for around 12 - 15 minutes (or minimum cooking temp of 150 degrees). Because I don't taste my recipes when I make them for Karel, I will pass along the message from Karel that "it was delicious!". My dish was super yummy as well!


Quality Protein

As a vegetarian athlete, I strive for quality protein in my diet. I am also a believer that if I emphasize wholesome food (with little to no ingredients) in the majority of my diet, my body will have an easier time digesting, absorbing and using the nutrients and fuel that I consume on a daily basis. Although my transition to vegetarian athlete has been an exciting and educational journey, I feel confident in my daily food choices because I focus on wholesome choices. Although we should aim for around 20% of the daily diet to be from protein, we want to be sure that we provide the muscles, brain and body with the BEST protein possible in order fuel workouts and your lifestyle routine. Because not all protein is considered equal when it comes to digestion, we want to focus on the amino acids within our protein choice, which help to increase lean muscle mass as well as fuel the brain and muscles during exercise (specifically, the branch chain amino aids). I recommend to aim for the most easy-to-digest natural protein sources that fit into our diet (regardless of vegetarian or meat eater).

(This table from has been around for a while but the protein quality hasn't changed much over the years)

Whey protein, milk and eggs are two staples of my diet. Veggie burgers and cottage cheese will certainly help me met my protein needs but when it comes to how my body utilizes the protein in my diet, I recognize that some proteins are more advantageous than others. And when it comes to supplements in the diet (ex. whey protein), I believe that we must supplement when we can not properly consume adequate amounts that will help us meet good health standards. Whether you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast, recognize that no one has a perfect diet and your body may lack certain nutrients based on training regimes, dietary preferences and lifestyle commitments.

The Biological Value (BV) of protein determines what percentage of protein is utilized by the body (in more detail, it is derived by determining nitrogen uptake vs nitrogen excretion). Ultimately, as athletes we want to strive for high biological value protein sources, with protein to comprise around 25% of our meal. When I work with athletes, I often focus on the Plate Method (new to the USDA as a replacement to the Food Pyramid, but many dietetic professionals have been using the plate method as a simple way to plan meals).

Here you can see that 50% of the meal is from non-starchy veggies (and fruit) and 25% from complex carbohydrates such as whole grains. Based on research, it seems as though 20 grams of protein is the magic number per meal, but I believe in focusing on two things as an athlete:
protein quality and nutrient timing.
The foundation of any training/exercise routine comes from great overall nutrition. Our body relies on a consistent intake of carbs, protein and fat as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. To improve the quality of your diet, aim to eat a little protein with carbohydrates (ex. when eating snacks such as fruit) and complement your plant-based meal with protein and healthy fats at meals.
Most importantly, focus on that post-workout snack... This is the PRIME time to become stronger from training, to quickly heal tissues and to help curb cravings and prevent overeating later in the day (by controlling hormones and blood sugar post-workout).
BCAA's(Branch Chain Amino Acids) are 3 very important essential amino acids which have anabolic effects on protein metabolism. By consuming protein with a high "gold standard" biological value (such as whey protein post workout) you will help increase the rate of protein synthesis, thus encouraging a more efficient use of fuels during exercise as well as rapid tissue repair post-workout.


Monday Product Review

Oakley Women Beach Bag

I rarely turn down an opportunity to go to the beach but despite being less than 20 miles away, I don't go there a lot. When I received my Oakley Women Beach Bag I wasn't sure how I wanted to use it so I decided to make it my work bag. When I go to the hospital, I just love carrying my binder and books in my bright blue bag. My calculator, tube feeding booklet and pen stay in my lab coat, since I use all three on a daily basis but the bag is large enough to carry everything I need for work (including my lunch). With the magnetic closure and interior pocket w/ zipper, the bag is perfect for any occasion.

Arnica Pain Relief Cream

Several months ago I was dealing with a lot of inflammation in and around my hips. I blame a large amount of it to stress and lots of sitting during my internship but I was also extremely tight, with weak surrounding muscles. My massage therapist
Marjorie suggested that I purchase Arnica Cream to help with inflammation and soreness. She assured me that the cream wouldn't "heal" me but it would make the inflammation subside so that I could progress more quickly with my strength-specific exercises as well as with more aggressive/specific massage therapy. I went to Native Sun and picked up a 2.5 ounce bottle of Boiron Arnicare Arnica Cream and started using it on a daily basis. I would bring it with me to my internship and re-apply around half day. I am now using it throughout my Kona training as I am happily without pain but experience soreness just like the everyone else. I highly recommend purchasing some from your local health food store.
Here's a little about Arnica from the University of Maryland Medical Center
Arnica (Arnica montana) has been used for medicinal purposes since the 1500s and remains popular today. Applied topically as a cream, ointment, liniment, salve, or tincture, Europeans and Native Americans have used arnica to soothe muscle aches, reduce inflammation, and heal wounds. It is often the first remedy used for injuries such as sprains and bruises. Arnica in herbal form is primarily restricted to topical (external) use because it can cause serious side effects when taken internally.


Just reading the word POPCORN makes me lick my lips. YUM!!
Although you may be hesitant to order the buttery popcorn at the movie theater due due to the calories, sodium and saturated fat (which may exceed at least a day's worth), I am a big fan of homemade popcorn. While popcorn may be the perfect addition to a weekend movie, I find popcorn to be a great, healthy and filling snack.
What you may not know (or have forgotten) is that popcorn is a whole grain!! Just a little about whole grains, whole grains contain the entire grain kernel -- the bran, germ, and endosperm. Refined grains have been milled, a process that removes the bran and germ. When grains are refined and enriched, the grains are given a finer texture, with an extended shelf life. However, in contrast the whole grain, refining removes dietary fiber, iron, and many B vitamins. Whole grains may reduce the risk of disease, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer and obesity and help to control blood sugar levels by controlling the release of insulin. Whole grains are also packed with fiber which slow down digestion and help you feel fuller, longer.

To give you an idea of the goodness you receive from 1 serving (2 tbsp) of un-popped popcorn, you get a wonderful 6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, with only 100 calories. Although you can buy popcorn in a microwavable bag, I recommend being crafty in your kitchen and making some at home (a few kernels go a long way when popped!).
Here's my simple recipe:
1/3 cup kernels
2 tbsp canola oil
No-salt seasoning
1 tbsp Olivio Spreadable butter (optional) - this is our favorite butter

1. In a deep, large pot (with lid), cover kernels with oil (give a good shake). Cover.
2. Heat pan to medium heat.
3. When first kernel begins to pop, lift the pot (covered) and give a shake ever 30-60 seconds.
4. When kernels are finished popping, turn off heat and add butter. Give a toss and sprinkle with no-salt seasoning.