Essential Sports Nutrition


Right Stuff and Food Porn

Since another issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter just arrived in my mail, I had to immediately flip to the back to read my favorite section "Right Stuff. Food Porn"
Enjoy the following directly from the magazine (back page).

Muesli Marvel
"Originally developed in the late 1800s by a Swiss nutritionist, Muesli is a delightful cereal made from a blend of whole grains, dried fruits, nuts and seeds," explains the label of Bob's Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli.

Delightful is right, whether you microwave or boil it for 3-5 minutes with milk or water to make a hearty hot cereal, or you just stir it into your milk or yogurt cold.

Either ways, you've got a bowl of "whole grain rolled oats, wheat, rye, triticale and barely, along with sweet and chewy dates and raisins, sunflower seeds, almonds and walnuts for a high energy Muesli," according to the label.

Okay. Forget that last part. When a label talks about "energy," it means "calories" and not an energy boost. And speaking of calories, odds are you'll get more than the 110 that are listed on the Nutrition Facts panel. That's for a quarter cup serving that won't even cover the bottom of some bowls.

So let's say you use half a cup and get 220 calories' worth of cereal. Don't worry. They come with 8 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein and no sodium. And the Muesli's whole grains are intact which means they'll help keep you regular (and help keep a lid on your blood sugar levels) better than whole grains that have been ground into flour. Bonus: There's no sugar beyond what comes naturally from the raisins and dates.
When Bob says "Old Country Style", he means it.

Don't Know Jack
T.G.I. Friday's is big on poultry. You can choose from a BBQ Chicken Wrap, a California Club, a Caribbean Chicken Sandwich and a Jack Daniel's Chicken Sandwich. Is this a health-conscious chain or not?
NOT. Take the Jack Daniel's. "A grilled chicken breast basted in Jack Daniel's glaze and topped with bacon, mixed cheese and Cajun onion straws, not to mention lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and Jack Daniel's mayo," croons the menu.
We didn't notice any crooning over the sandwich's 1,140 calories and day's worth of saturated fat (18 grams) seasoned with close to a two-day supply of sodium (2780 mg). It's like eating a full rack of Friday's Baby Back Ribs. The chains other chicken sandwiches are in the same ballpark (complete with oversized white-flour bun).
Oops. That's without any sides. You've got your choice of seasoned fries (290 calories), side salad (40 calories without dressing), or for another 99 cents, sweet potato fries (390 calories).
To its credit, that chain has a "Right Portion, Right Price" menu. Each item (though still too salty) has less than 750 calories. Some like the delicious Shrimp Key West and Dragonfire Salmon, even come with steamed broccoli.
Hey Friday's! Why not keep your entire menu under 750 calories? Or does your name really stand for Thank Goodness It's Fattening?

*As a dietitian and writer of this blog...I try to keep a positive food vocabulary. Therefore, as I post this article and write the last sentence of the above article, I would like to say that I avoid using words like "fat, skinny, bad food, off-limit" in order to maintain a healthy relationship with food. I believe that there is a time for everything and if we eat well most of the time, we don't have to worry about the rest of the time. Reading the last sense of this article does not make me feel good to write as I would never use those words to describe a food, restaurant, etc. Rather, I focus on the positive, the good and what we CAN do to keep balance in our life. I do not like reading blogs who SCREAM at you about changing your dietary habits by using negative words to make you FEAR food. That is not my intention and I want you to continue working on your journey of developing a healthy relationship with food and appreciating the food that you put into your body.


A diet to reduce risk for injuries and inflammation

According to the Wall Street Journal (11/1/11), of the 60,000 runners who registered for the NY Marathon, around 45,000 will show up on race day. On the ING NYC marathon website, 47,438 athletes started, 46,795 athletes finished the 26.2 mile event. "An obsession with fulfilling training regimens may prompt some runners to drop out of races they could easily finish" - The Wall Street Journal.

As an ...athlete and coach, one thing I have learned over the years is that I receive little gratification of trying to finish a race with an injury. I believe that racing (or participating) in an event should be based on training. Therefore, if you are unable to put your training to good use, what's the point of "getting through it". Is a medal or t-shirt more important than your health? I believe that the body should be respected and if you are injured, do not make the body perform if it is screaming at you to recover. In order to not risk a deeper/more serious injury, remind yourself that there will be plenty more races in your future and to NOW focus on what you CAN do in order to stay in good health for the future.

According to the article (Health & Wellness section, D2, 11/1/11), "As easy as that may sound - resting ahead of a race - many runners find that advice hard to follow. Bodies trained to run want to run, especially as nervous energy mounts ahead of race day. Some coaches recommend light yoga as a way of burning off energy while stretching. Sports medicine specialists say that predicting and preventing running injuries is an inexact science. But a long and slow increase in long runs is generally safer than a quick escalation, says Stephen Pribut, a Washington, D.C., podiatrist, marathoner and past president of the American Academy of Podiatric sports Medicine. "Six months to build up mileage is better than two," he says."

In the November 2011 issue of Today's Dietitian, there was a great article "Is there a link between nutrition and autoimmune disease?
I think it is important to note that diet plays a vital role in how people recover from well as reducing inflammation in the body. Rather than contributing certain foods like wheat, dairy and fruit to increasing inflammation, the focus should be on what people are NOT eating enough of...FRUITS AND VEGETABLES and what people are eating TOO MUCH of...processed "healthy" food. With a balanced diet, no food needs to be "off limit" because the foundation of the diet is built on nutrient-rich foods to promote optimal health and to maximize performance.

In a study published August 15, 2006 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, researchers found that diets high in refined starches, sugar, saturated fats and trans fats and low in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids appeared to turn on the inflammatory response. However, a diet rich in whole foods, including healthful carbohydrates, fats and protein sources, cooled it down. There's no harm in supporting a diet-optimal for just about everyone-that's rich in whole plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds; is rich in healthful fat sources such as extra-virgin olive oil, avocado, nuts and fish; and includes foods such as tea, dark chocolate, spices and herbs and red wine in moderation.
-Article by Sharon Palmer, RD

Here is my latest creation that I made in 26 minutes!!!
For my vegetarians, you can substitute tofu, tempeh, low fat cottage cheese, 0% greek yogurt or eggs for the fish.
Here's a great article on Omega-3 Fatty Acid recommendations for vegetarians

Baked fish, cauliflower and onions with brown rice and feta

Tilapia (or your choice of fish)
Olive oil

Brown rice
Feta cheese

1. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Prepare your choice of fish to your liking (I use about 2 tsp butter, a drizzle of olive oil and a squirt of lemon juice, seasoned with pepper for Karel. I can't taste the fish but he never complains about the taste). Place on glass cookware and put into oven.
3. While fish is cooking, steam cauliflower and broccoli in the microwave. Slice onions.
4. On a sheet of tinfoil, place steamed cauliflower, broccoli and olive oil and drizzle with olive oil and season with no-salt seasoning, paprika and pepper. Cook in oven.
5. Cook fish to reach minimal temp of 145-degrees (around 10-15 minutes).
6. When fish is cooked and veggies are slightly brown, remove from oven (turn off oven).

7) As fish and veggies are cooking, cook 1-minute brown rice (or use leftover rice) and place over bed of spinach. Top with sliced tomatoes and a sprinkle of feta cheese.


Feta and pear salad, mushroom pilaf & staying hydrated in the winter

Although the weather is a bit on the warm side for running in November, we welcomed a few chilly days here in Florida last week...which made for great workouts and yummy meals.

To warm our insides, I made a colorful and comforting meal to cover all my taste buds.

I am to eat 3 servings of whole grains a day, spread out at each meal (or snacks). For dinner, I made a beautiful salad and decided to complement the meal with a side of whole grain brown rice. I made my own pilaf and it came out amazing!

Feta and Pear salad
Feta cheese
Hard boiled egg
Dressing- balsamic

Mushroom Pilaf
Brown rice (or your favorite whole grain)

1. Cook mushrooms on a non stick skillet in a little olive oil on medium heat, until lightly brown.
2. Cook brown rice and serve 1/4 cup into small bowel.
3. Add a few mushrooms and a little cooked corn and top with chopped garlic.
4. Mix well and enjoy!
5. Optional: for a little kick, add a little salsa.

With the winter months approaching, it is easy to forget to drink while exercising/training outside. More so, with soothing sweet and hot drinks alongside comforting food, water may be the last thing on your mind when "quenching" your cravings.

I hope you enjoy my latest article on LAVA online in my "Plate not Pills" column.

Plates Not Pills: Water : LAVA Magazine


My first WIN and 2 PR's!

This is my "why"....

Ellie is the reason why I love, respect, appreciate and honor my body. Ellie is 89 years old and I had the privilege of "racing" with her on Saturday the 12th, 2011 at the Run for Rotary in Holiday, Fl.
Ellie participated in the 5K and finished in 1 hour and 6 minutes. Although she placed second to a 75 year old who finished in 47:37, Ellie is my "why".

Understanding that it is necessary to exercise for longevity, heart health, weight control and stress relief, I find it fantastic that "triathlons" are my lifestyle.
I have a clear intention when it comes to training for a race. I do not "train" for weight loss or burning calories. I do not associate training with being able to "reward" myself for something sweet nor do I feel as if I need to be strict in my diet because I am an athlete. I find beauty in the food that I eat and I am so passionate about moving, using and nourishing my body because I do it all for longevity. When I train, I have a purpose and a reason. Although my "race day" plan is dependent on my fitness on race day, I train with a goal in mind and I am not afraid to challenge myself to reach that goal.

With every challenge that I face in reaching my goals, I focus my energy on a balanced way of overcoming those challenges. For example, in the case of my 3-year history of chronic hip problems, I discovered that riding my bike before I ran was a monumental change in how I felt during running. With that change in place, I focused on strength training, proper stretching and recovery after workouts alongside compression. Every day brings opportunities to make me a stronger triathlete, but I find it helpful to look for them when I am not swimming, biking or running.

One thing I have learned in life is that challenges should bring out the best in you. I am not afraid to fail but I a thrive off goal setting and individual success. In an effort to maintain a healthy balanced between exercise/training and the rest of life, I would say that I absolutely love simplifying every racing goal into small pieces, thus allowing me to really understand what it takes to reach my goal and what steps I need to take to get where I want to be and to feel a certain way, by x-day.

After I finished the 10K race, I was warming down for 2.5 miles and stopped around 1 mile in order to walk with Ellie. She was finishing her race (about 1 mile away) and I told her she was an inspiration. After asking how "young" she was, I asked her what keeps her going. She replied something like..."When I was 60, I watched a race and saw a 75 year old walking in the race. I figured I could do that since I was 15 years younger than him."

For many of you all (me included), exercising for health gradually turns into the desire to traini for an event. For it is only a matter of time before you are ready to set goals, have a plan and embrace the opportunity to answer "can I do this??"
There's something magical about training for an event, but it can also be bitter sweet. For the sport that you are training for, that makes you feel amazingly healthy and full of life, can also tear you down, making you feel tired, fatigued and often injured.

As competitive athletes (regardless of fitness level), we are always teetering on the edge of burnout, overtraining and a possible injury. Inspired by the fact that I have the opportunity to make sure that I am physically active, healthy, free of disease (or at least, reduce the risk for disease) and still enjoying life at the age of 90, I take pride in balancing training with the rest of my life. I am not afraid of rest or changing my routine based on what my life brings to me on a certain day. I recognize that I have many ways to move my body and swimming, biking and running are not the only ways that I can do good to my body. Knowing that "putting in the miles" is simply one part of a long equation of personal success, I recognize that there is no rush as to when I will get "there". By setting goals, focusing on the individual components that allow me to be consistent with training and recovery quickly from workouts, and creating a colorful foundation to fuel my active lifestyle, I not only reap the many benefits of exercise but I also find myself becoming a smarter, fitter and faster athlete in the process.

With every race, I realize that there is an opportunity to set a personal best time. In the case of the Run for Rotary, I feel that I achieved more than I could ever imagine.

Run for Rotary 10K race report

It was a last minute decision around 7pm on Friday evening, that I would do the Run for Rotary in Holiday, FL on Saturday morning at 7:30am. I was visiting my parents and my brother and his girlfriend were in town. Karel had to stay in Jax because of work but he mentioned to me that he was going to the Native Sun 10K.

Inspired by my hubby, who decided to "race" the 10K after only running 3 times since his cycling season ended in late October, I was excited to see if my interval training had paid off.

Although my body does not require a lengthy taper for a short-distance race, I was going into this race with 2 tough weeks of interval training in preparation for the upcoming Subaru Half Marathon on November 24th (here in Jacksonville). it has only been 5 weeks since the Ironman World Championships but I truely feel as if I recovered incredibly fast from Kona..and in the best shape of my life. Therefore, I really focused on a good recovery from Kona and not loosing what I had worked so hard to create over the past 14 weeks in prep for Kona.

Focused on intense intervals in order to increase my lactate threshold and build my anaerobic engine, I took advantage of my endurance base and decided that if I paced myself properly during this 10K, I could have a great race.

Excited to race my first 10K in the past 3 years, I registered around 6:30am on race day morning and had a great 1.75 mile warm-up. It was a chilly 47 degrees when I arrived to the race venue but after warming up in my compression socks, CEP compression tri shorts and my yellow Oakley Women tank, I was ready to go.

The event was a small race, but I absolutely love supporting small, local events...especially when the event is USATF sanctioned.

When the race started, I started out fast right from the gun. Knowing that the 5K runners were with the 10K runners, I was excited to push myself for the entire 6.2 miles.

The course was beautiful as we ran through quite neighborhoods. There were several water stops with lots of volunteers. I grabbed a cup of water at most of the aid stations but I was lucky to get 2-3 ounces into my mouth.

By the first mile I was 4th overall runner but I was completely focused on my race. With my garmin as my "racing partner", I focused on what I had trained myself to do. With all of my intervals between 6:05 and 6:30 min/miles, I figured I would be able to set a PR from my best time of 42 minutes in 2006 (and 44 minutes in 2008) if I could be consistent.

Therefore..bring on the intervals!!

Within every mile brought an interval. Run hard..focus on form and breathing and recover at the mile marker. I would "slow" down to 7:15-7:20 min/miles for 10-20 sec or until I felt "fresh" again. Of course, as the race neared 3 miles, I was really fighting the desire to slow down longer and longer. Therefore, when I got to 3.5 miles, I stopped. Just for 5 seconds to stretch my hips with a slight lean backward, I took a few deep breaths and picked up the pace again.

I felt a bit fresher but I knew the last 3 miles would be tough. With a little change in the bank, I had a little wiggle room to slow down but it was going to be close for me to achieve my ultimate break 40 minutes!!!

All alone, I was really battling with self talk. Unaware of how my body would deal with this speed at this distance, I just broke down the race into 2 more miles to go, 1 more mile to go.

Still alone, I was hearing some cheers from the other runners and it gave me a good little burst of energy. With good form and heavy breathing, I tried to crank it into the next gear with less than 1/2 mile to go.

Unfortunately, my Ironman-trained body doesn't have many gears but with only 4 weeks of training, I was relishing in the fact that I was nearing the finishing sight of a HUGE PR!!

As I crossed the finish line, I heard someone say "congratulations to the first overall female".

Completely unfocused on my place, I was joyful for the fact that I set a huge PR. After 3 years of long-distance focused training and 5 years since I set a personal best of 42 minutes in a 10K, I crossed the finish line in 1st place and barely missed my goal of a sub 40 minute 10K.

Finishing time:
6:29 min/mile pace
1st Overall Female
2nd Overall 10K athlete

I was super excited to call Karel but I had to wait until he finished HIS 2nd EVER 10k!

After the award ceremony, I received a call from Karel, letting me know that that was the hardest race of his life. Spoken like a true cyclist, Karel told me that he couldn't hang with the fast guys and they dropped him after the first mile.

However, I am always impressed with Karel and somehow, he managed to set a 10K PR of 38:59!!!! Naturally talented, Karel managed to run 6:16 min/miles with almost no training. Absolutely amazing.

Karel is excited to see if he can continue progressing with his run times...although his running is just a piece of his off-season training. The road bike isn't being used a lot, however, Karel is spending a lot of time in the weight room, on his new mountain bike and on his fixie bike.

Campy, my family and me enjoyed the afternoon at the Sponge Docks in Tarpon Springs. Once again, I am thankful for my body for letting me reach my goals and for helping me live a quality, balanced life.


Monday product review - power meter

Now a day, it is super easy to get the itch to sign up for a race distance, longer than what appears "easy". Perhaps you have done a 5K or 10K or a sprint triathlon and are ready to make the leap to register for a long-distance event. Whether you are seeking an Ironman distance triathlon or marathon, or perhaps even an olympic distance tri or half marathon, it is really easy to get caught up in the "mileage" and loose sight on all of the other areas (nutrition, sleep, sports nutrition, stress management, strength training, mental toughness, support from others, periodized training, etc.) that contribute to consistent training and a great race day performance. It is also important to address the topic of training versus exercise and to not overlook the importance of properly fueling before, during and after training in order to experience optimal performance gains. For once you transition into athlete training for an event (from individual exercising for weight management/loss), the equation of calories in/ calories out should be removed so that training gains are not compromised due to fear that you will "gain weight" from consuming proper training fuel before, during and after training.

While watching athletes reach the verge of overtraining/over-reaching and getting so close to losing all motivation in the last 2-4 weeks before a long-awaited long-distance or important race, I strongly encourage athletes to consider some of the many tools that are available to help reach your individual training and racing goals. For so many athletes neglect areas such as proper daily nutrition, individualized, distance-specific sports nutrition, adequate sleep, strength training and stress management, which affect how you perform both in training and racing. Although I love putting in the miles, just like you, I personally do not get obsessed with the idea that I am "not doing enough" or "need to do more". Because I believe in quality training, athletes who set out to just do x-miles or x-time, without a plan or a reason, often experience in-consistent performance gains, gradually notice that the weight that was once soooo easy to lose by training/exercising is no longer coming off (if anything, coming back on) and often experience more and more aches and pains. While you would think that the athlete would re-evaluate their training plan and possibly consult a coach to create an effective, quality training plan to allow for performance gains, the athlete ultimately feels pressure to do more and more mileage out of fear or doubt that they won't be able to perform x-distance on race day.

One of the best investments in my triathlon career has been a power meter. During the first week of using it (3 years ago) I was totally overwhelmed..just like I was when I started training with HR. However, after a few weeks of playing around with the power meter, I started to understand my efforts and I was able to stay in my zones. I find a power meter to be a valuable for ALL levels of fitness. If anything, newbies who train with a coach or aim for a more consistent training plan, should strongly consider training with power as an easy and effective tool to monitor progress and ensure quality training.

Quark crankset

Power meter (Cyclops G3)

Vector Power meter pedal

Karel has studied, worked on and raced bikes all his life. Ever since he was a young boy in Czech Republic, he has followed cycling and everything related to bikes.
As a coach, I receive a lot of questions from my personal athletes and from other individuals who are athletic. One popular question that I receive a lot from triathletes is about race wheels..."will they make me faster?"

To respond, I typically say "Have you considered buying a power tap?"

As a coach, I want to make sure that my athletes arrive to race day physically fit. In order to achieve personal goals, I help them with their racing plan. In order to determine the race-day plan, I take into consideration training.

On race day, you are not there to "train". You are putting your "training" to the test. So regardless if you train in race wheels or just race in race wheels, you are relying on an efficient body, that is trained and well-fueled. Every training session builds on one another so that on race day you are ready to put your training to the test.

By training with power, you are able to directly monitor how much force you are exerting with each pedal stroke. Power is the most objective way to monitor your effort (in watts) while riding. Power says it as it is. Because heart rate can change on a daily basis (depending on fatigue, sleep, stress, etc.) your power will effectively measure you effort and will allow you to be consistent within each workout.

I find power meters most valuable for long-distance training..especially for Ironman triathletes. This year I did 1 x 100+ mile ride in my 14-week KONA training plan. It was a 110 mile ride and I had specific zones (power) to follow. Prior to that ride, I did a handful of 80 or 90 mile rides, around 4-5 hours, with specific zones (power) to follow. Every training session was based on my power and by reviewing previous workouts from my WKO+ power analysis program, I was able to monitor my profess and set tangible goals for each training session. Regardless if it was windy, breezy or hot, I was able to see myself improving on the bike WITHOUT focusing on my speed or mileage.

Although I recommend having a trained professional evaluate your training logs when training with power (Karel reviews my training as well as for my athletes who train with power), training with power is not difficult to do on your own.

I do not feel that a power meter should replace heart rate training or that you should never focus on speed. However, a power meter will give you a more accurate representation of your current fitness, what occurred during your last training/racing session and what areas you need to work on in order to improve. Once again, training is not just about the miles but rather what you put into those miles.

In March 2012, Garmin will release the NEW pedal-based power. Right now, Cyclops has a new power meter for the wheel hub (G3). I have an older model of the Cyclops hub power meter which is in my "race wheels" (which I use for training - tubular tires). Karel has a quark which is in the crank of the bike. This allows Karel to always train with power, no matter what wheels (training or racing) wheels he decides to use. We both have a software program to analyze and store our data.

Karel says that the pedal power meter is a great idea and he is excited for it to come out. However, he suggests that if you are the type to get the latest and greatest the day it is released, to wait until it is out for a little while. Just like with the Quark, the Speed Concept, etc., there are typically a few glitches when it comes to new products. Although Trek and other companies have exceptional warranties and customer service, the wait for the new pedal power meter is more for your sake so you don't have to deal with any potential problems that may be worked out in the first few months that it is released.