Essential Sports Nutrition


Making every minute count

 Everyone talks about the lifestyle component of healthy living. Certainly, it's easier said than done.

In looking back at my life over the past 6 years, I have stayed extremely active with  my triathlon lifestyle but I have also created some awesome habits that keep me happy, consistent and healthy.

It isn't rocket science to create this lifestyle habits but it's so hard at times because of all the chatter out there as to the right, wrong ways of doing things. It's like everyone is an expert out there as to how you should live but obviously, they don't walk in your shoes.

I think one of the hardest parts of training for sports or appreciating a more balanced diet is the trust factor. It's almost as if athlets fail at their continual attempts to live a healthier lifestyle by losing trust in their own actions as soon as someone starts talking about a better, newer, faster or easier way to do things. One thing I've learned over the years is to focus on myself. Sounds sellfish but hey, it's my life and I have a lot of responsibilities in my life.

As a professional, my knowledge comes from textbooks, journals and scientific research. I will occasionally read the outrageous blog posts, articles and facebooks posts from people talking about x-diet or training advice...but I always go back to applying scientific evidence to real world settings. I just don't have time to waste energy on people screamng to others to DO THIS AND DON'T DO THAT!!! Yes - that is how people talk on the web...why do people sound so angry all the time when their intent is to convince you to change something in your life to "be heathier"?

Again- I just don't have the energy to focus on what I am not suppose to do....I suppose that is because I am doing too much of the right things in life, that make me feel good.

Tuesday morning was an early workout on the track. What a great feeling to be excited to train with others - running in circles at 6:30am. I joined Karel and Jeff for the same workout as last week - 3 x 1 miles w/ 400 meters jog/walk in between.
6:12, 6:08, 6:07 per mile.
Thank you legs for that one!

I wasn't able to bike with the guys for I had to work at Baptist South. I suppose I could have made the time to bike but it's all about balance.
Recovery drink
Shower/change/get ready

For me, the extra time spent on recovery is more worthwhile than an hour on the bike for with proper recovery, I train more consistently and I don't have to worry about getting injured or gettng sick.

Around 5:15pm, it was time for workout #2.
1 hour bike + 2 mile run
It was a quicky but a goodie.
Main set on bike: 5 x 4 min upper/mid Z4 w/ 2 min EZ
Run off the bike - 1 mile "hard", 1 mile cool down.

Every workout has a purpose and this was a great finish to the day.

But, my day wasn't over at 6:45pm.

I had a few more priorities to keep my consistent with my "balanced lifestyle"
-Run 1/2 mile with Campy around the block
-Make dinner - quick!
-Make breakfast for Wed (due to going straight to work after swim/weights)
-Make lunch for Wed

As soon as I finished my run with Campy, I turned on the oven and a pan on the stove (to medium heat).
I ran upstairs for a quick shower, then back downstairs to prep dinner.

I chopped eggplant, washed mushrooms, chopped onions, steamed corn and broccoli and sliced tomatoes.

I put 3 tilapia in the oven (marinated with dressing) for Karel (dinner and lunch the next day) and cooked my veggies on the stove in olive oil.
As the veggies were cooking, I scrambled 2 egg whites + 1 whole egg in the microwave for my protein the next day.

As I was cooking dinner, I had a glass of milk + handful of shredded wheat cereal and a few strawberries.

And just in time - Karel came home around 7:20pm from work and dinner was ready....
And so was breakfast, snacks and lunch for the next day.

Breakfast - leftover smoothie from Tues morning, consumed after swimming on Wed w/ banana and PB.
Mid morning snack - non fat dannon yogurt + nuts/seeds + blueberries, cinnamon, cheerios and pecans (more like breakfast #2 during my break teaching the Diabetes Class at Baptist Beaches) pictured below....bed of dark greens, w/ leftover veggies, scrambled eggs, leftover Basmati rice and topped w/ mozzarella cheese, drizzled with sunflower oil and for crunch, some pistachios on the side.

My lifestyle works for me. I think ahead, plan ahead and work ahead. The other day I received an email from a Trimarni Nutrition athlete who told me at 9pm she decided to bake some veggies in the oven for lunch the next day - for she was busy around the house so she thought she may as well make lunch the next day. Funny thing is that she said that that idea would have never occured to her before we started working together. I guess a few years ago, it didn't occur to me either but I desired more consistency in my life and I discovered better use of my time.

It's moment like those that make me really happy that I can inspire others to live a healthier lifestyle. I suppose I could rejoice with you that chocolate is now "approved" to be "healthy" (According to this study) OR you can just eat dark chocolate because you like it. In our household, dark chocoalte is a daily thing (1 ounce for me). But believe it or not, I don't eat chocolate just because a research study tells me it is healthy. I enjoy it, I savour it and it works for me.

Even for myself, it is difficult to put all your trust into research, articles and the media. Because food is such a sensitive topic for many, the best advice I can give in this blog is to make every minute count. Take that advice as you wish but perhaps next time you are eating because you are bored, trying to put off something that you don't want to do, emotional, stressed or sure to let food enhance your lifestyle, not control your life. You can't live your life fearing cancer and at the same time, you aren't living life if you are constantly obsessing about your body. Let your choices in life, work in your favor and before you know it, you will be living the life you never could have imagined....and yes, it feels that  good to live a balanced lifestyle.

Disclaimer: I have to admit that this little guy make me feel so lucky to be alive and healthy. I just love making memories for him in his short little life.


Race week tips - Endurance events

May 2006. My very first endurance triathlon - Ironman Florida 70.3. I had no idea if I trained right for the distance or what I needed to be aware of on race day. So, the only thing I had control over was my attitude and at the ripe age of 23 (almost 24), I was overly confident and I was stubborn enough to believe I had done everything right to race my first half ironman.

As for packing my transition bag - well, that was another story. This is totally a newbie picture.

But we all know that race day performances are built on consistent actions. You eventually learn how to train smarter, pace better and plan ahead. Eventually, if you set your sights on your goals - dreams reallly do come true....even if you still feel like a newbie - 6 years later.

For when you train the body to perform, your race day performance is solely dependent on your fitness - on that day.

When I work with my athletes, I thrive off seeing them progress with their training, only to get ancy the week or two before a race. The best feeling I can get as a coach is knowing that my athletes are ready to jump out of their skin to get to the starting and that they are hungry to race.
As for my nutrition athletes, I realize that I am not always working with them on a daily basis, leading up to their key race. Many times, they have a coach. However, I still find it practical to help athletes with race week and race day nutrition in order to perform optimally on race day for many times, not having a well-laid nutrition plan is a missing link in how athletes perform on race day.

I wanted to provide a few of my favorite blog posts on gearing up to an endurance event in order to help prepare others for a successful race day. Knowing that an endurance race is mostly mental, it is critically important to understand the other variables that may affect performances:
1) Attitude
2) Gear/clothing
3) Nutrition
4) Pacing

When you consider the above categories and what you can control on race day, you are going to be in a bette frame of mind and with that, confidence improves and you will race smarter.

Enjoy some of my favorite posts:
(Any questions - please comment or send me an email)

A balanced pre race diet

IMWI race report

IMKY race report

2007 IM World championship race report - warning: I was injured and do not encourage athletes to race an endurance race injured or ill

Keep your mind focused and pace your own race. Getting to the starting line is the hardest part of training. The fun starts and continues until you reach the finish line.


Salad Pizza - YUM!

Sunday morning was a toughy.
Karel kicked my butt...more like, he made my butt work hard!!

On my Training Peaks schedule, Karel had "Brick with Karel" .That's it and I didn't ask questions. When I train with Karel, I've learned that to be mentally strong, I have to be willing to try to stay on Karel's wheel and with that, I can't psyche myself out before the workout starts.

On Saturday, after Karel's race, I did a Z2 3- hour endurance ride just to loosen my legs from one of my toughest long runs, on Friday (10.5 miles). I had no intentions to run on Saturday for I wanted as much recovery as possible before Sunday's workout.

At 6:30am, we were out the door. Karel said he was a little sore but he was glad he had the day off on Saturday from work, to recover from the intense effort of the sprint triathlon. Although it was only a sprint, it was an all out max effort for one hour. I think many people downplay the stress on the body for a sprint or Olympic distance race and overlook the changes with the diet, altered sleep and recovery that comes with racing. For even if it is "only" a 1-2 hour race, the body still suffers and with that, always be mindful of how you choose to reward it or punish it after a race.

After a 35 min. warm-up, it was time for the main set.
2 x 8 min Z4 w/ 2 min recovery
4 min EZ
15 min upper Z3 w/ 4 min recovery
2 x 22 min upper Z3 w/ 4 min recovery

And the surprise at the end, just when I thought I had suffered enough on Karel's wheel,
2 x 8 min Z4 w/ 2 min recovery
Z2 ABP (Always be pushing) effor on the way home

I couldn't believe it but I made the entire set (with a great attitude) and felt super strong. I've finally dialed down my nutrition at this point in my training, for as I become stronger and more efficient, I know I need to be mindful of how I am fueling before and during my workouts. I have no problem recoverying from workouts for I believe I recover really fast thanks to a wheyprotein smoothie and cereal or milk + carb-rich breakfast (w/ protein).
Pre training I had oats, milk and banana slices with a few pecans. I have noticed that this combo sits better in me when I don't cook the oats so I have been eating it cold and it tastes delicious. Oh, I always have cinnamon with my breakfast - or anytime I can sneak it in for fantastic flavor. YUM!

We did a big loop, starting from our place and then through Nocatee, over the bridge, to A1A, to the Vilano bridge into St. Augustine area then back toward home on Philips Hwy/US 1. It was a bit cloudy out so that helped but it didn't make the workout any easier.

Stats from Karel's ride and me suffering behind him on his wheel....
2:42 total time
58.71 miles
Average speed: 21.71mph
Main set:
8 min - 24mph, power 162, HR 134 (my HR and my power - I just stayed behind Karel as he stuck to his zones and my workout was steady because of that)
8 min - 23.61 mph, power 171, HR 135
15 min - 23.69 mph (OMG - it was SO windy on A1A with a tough cross wind making it SO hard to draft), power 175, HR 141
22 min - 22.57 mph, power 162, HR 139
22 min - 23.17 mph, power 162, HR 137
8 min - 25.25 mph, power 168, HR 140
8 min - 24.72 mph, power 176,HR 140

Certainly, I can not hold those speeds alone but riding with Karel (who is really steady) only makes me stronger. As for being able to push a high power during my rides (not being able to sustain those watts on my own for this entire workout), when I draft there are microseconds here and there where I can recover so that helps vs pushing alone and not being able to take a breather here or there in an interval.

Karel was really impressed that I was able to stay on his wheel after each interval but as the workout went on, my responses of "I'm ok" turned into the look of "are we done yet?". But, I kept telling myself "Marni - this is doable! The bigger question is DO you want to DO this!". Thinking back to all the workouts in the past that I was not able to survive with Karel, I was ready to not give up and to just give my best effort. Thankfully, my best effort lead to one of my best workouts.

After the bike.....came the run.
Again, the look of "uggg, do we have to?" but Karel assured me that it was a conversational run. Once we started running, a mile ticked by with us chatting about training, races and how much we both wanted pizza for dinner.
It was super hot out but we managed to have a quality run to finish a really great morning of training.

Stats from run:
36 minutes
4.55 miles
Pace: 7:57
(last 1/2 mile w/ Campy)
Mile 1: 7:45
Mile 2: 7:48
Mile 3: 7:59
Mile 4: 8:00

Karel had to work 12-4 and I was on the computer all afternoon with training plans and nutrition for my athletes/fitness enthusiasts. It was a tiring day but I couldn't wait for our yummy dinner.

No food after tough training or a race makes me happier than Pizza.

It's all too often that I hear athletes say "I deserved it or I earned it". In my mind, you can have pizza or x-food anytime you want. For you need calories to survive on a daily basis, so it is up to you how you want to divide them out.

But for most of us, we'd agree that some days food tastes better than on other days and certainly, pizza is one of those foods.

In learning to develop a healthier relationship with food, I invite you all to learn how to speak about food more kindly and respectfully. For beating yourself up with every bite of food is no way to enjoy food. As we were enjoying local pizza, topped with my assortment of roasted veggies (eggplant, onions, peppers, broccoli, mushrooms and not pictured, tofu, pineapple and beans), it wasn't the pizza that was making me happy but rather the entire experience. Watching the Tour de France with Karel (and Campy), tasting each flavor in the "salad" pizza and talking about our morning workout and how I felt so strong. A few years ago, I was not able to even think about riding with Karel. Certainly, my two slices of pizza topped with my beautiful selection of veggies were enjoyed with every bite and I only had good feelings, thoughts and emotions as I refueled with Karel (we both had a smoothie post workout and a large glass of water with a splash of OJ and 1 hammer FIZZ).

I have been hearing a lot of people say "I don't eat that" and that makes me concerned as to how that resonates to other. For if you hear me say "I don't eat that" and I am referring to meat, well you may think "meat is bad" or "off limit" if you didn't know I was a 19 -year vegetarian. Perhaps you are on your journey of developing a quality lifestyle and regardless of your fitness status or weight, you enjoy a slice or two of pizza (on any given day) with a friend, loved one or family member. Having someone tell you "I don't eat that"  could make you question your food choice, your goals and your body. There's so much wrapped up in food that if we could all just speak about food a little nicer, maybe we could all have a healthier relationship with food and feel more confidence about our food choices.

Regardless of where you are in your journey, there is no reason to justify your eating. You only cheat on your diet if you have rules, lists and restrictions..and that's no fun, who wants that?

Own your choices and be proud of your choices. Belive it or not, sometimes pizza is just the best thing that you can eat to reward your body when it needs to refuel. And boy, does it taste great when you can put a quality workout  in the memory bank!

My "Salad' pizza. Local cheese pizza topped with my own selection of roasted veggies. I saved a lot of money by buying local and it was filled with flavor (and nutrient density).


Race report - Karel's first triathlon!

I think we can all relate to the unknown that comes with doing something for the first time. Uncomfortable, exciting, weird, awkard,'s hard to describe what it feels like to do something new because well, it is unfamiliar to your everyday living.

I remember when I was less than 24 hours away from my first Ironman - IMFL in 2006. I was so freakin' excited yet a little scared of riding my bike for 112 miles. However, I could hardly contain myself. The only thing that really scared me was my heart and that it would have to beat for over 11 hours for a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. But thankfully, it did just fine since I trained it well and it worked great for 11 hours and 47 seconds.

Since I've known Karel, this has been his comfort zone. A frame and two wheels and handlebars for steering. Karel has been racing bikes since a very young age but a few months ago, he was ready for a change. He craved something unknown, new and challenging.

So, he turned to triathlons. Without a doubt, there's something magical yet intense when describing a sport that requires an athlete to be physically fit and mentally strong in three seperate disciplines.

After dinner on Friday evening, I helped Karel pack his transition bag for his first ever triathlon - the 2012 Montoya BFAST Sprint series #3.
Race belt, glasses, hat, water bottles, towel, computer, cycling shoes, running shoes, chip strap, body glide, goggles, aero helmet.
Just a bit more than packing for a cycling race :)

It's likely that any newbie would be nervous and overwhelmed for his/her first triathlon. For Karel, his nerves grew as the week went on although he has been training really smart over the past 6 weeks. Focusing more on the skills with swimming and learning how to pace better in his "tri-specific" zones (established from power tests on the bike and HR test on the run) he was capable of doing the distance of a 400 meter swim, 13 mile bike and 5K run but like any newbie - it's all about learning how to put those puzzle pieces together to make for a great race day experience. Funny thing - this is something that never goes away. I still find myself addressing my pre, during and post training/racing nutrition, pacing, zones, training, recovery, strength training, etc. to become stronger, faster and smarter in the sport.
Particularly throughout his work day on Friday, he got a bit more nervous than the days prior. Why was he nervous? Because it is absolutely natural and normal to question the unknown that comes with a new experience in life.

As a good wife sherpa, I was up with Karel at 4:30am and we were out the door at 5:20am for our 20 minute drive to the beach. I suppose my desire to not feel rushed at races transfered to Karel for we arrived in plenty of time to avoid the crowd at packet pickup. However, like every triathlete knows all too well - time rushes by before a race and it's better to arrive early than to be just a little late and feel stressed.
Karel set up his transition area and I walked him through the transition layout as to where to bike out, bike in, run out and run in. Karel officially felt like a triathlete when he was body marked and received his first ever triathlon's the little things that still excite me as a triathlete and I think Karel enjoyed these little things as well - for it was all new to him.

Our friend Courtney (who ended up winning the race for women), Karel and myself went for a warm-up jog around 6:30am and did a few dynamic drills to open up the hips. Karel wasn't saying a lot but I know him all too well so I just let him stay in his zone. It was hard for me to keep quite for I kept wanting to give him little pointers like where to put on the body glide, where to line up for the swim and where to mount and dismount on his bike.

Karel listened very well but he had this look like "there's way too much to think about at once." 

Karel's boss Jeff (pictured on the right above, Jerry - Trek employee on left) was racing for the first time since IM Texas and I think Karel was excited to have Jeff there with him to experience his first tri. Jeff and Karel are close friends and Jeff and his family are all great people to be around. By the way- Jeff ended up winning his age group! Congrats Jeff!

Karel warmed up - kinda - in the water. The last two races were duathlons because of the ocean waves and this time was a full tri despite the waves being super choppy. I knew Karel would have a tough time for his first time racing in the ocean (second time swimming in the ocean) so I did my best to give him some suggestions as to how the current was going, where to swim to and of course, to just stay calm and to not fight the waves.

Around 7am, it was time for the first wave - men 39 and under. Karel raced in the 35-39 age group (he will be 36 in Sept) and lined up in the middle of the group. Without a word by the announcer, the group was off. Karel still had his goggles on his head and quickly put them on as he was running (which caused a little water to get in his goggles) and he didn't get  a chance to start his Garmin 910XT.

Karel said the swim was bruttal and the waves made it incredibly hard to swim "normally" - which he has been working so hard on in the pool. He said it was hard to turn around buoys and got stuck in the ropes by the buoy because of the waves. Because of the conditions, the swim course was likely not the full 400 meters but it was the same course for everyone so it is what it is. So long as everyone is safe  - it's all about moving the body forward. Karel did a great job getting to the first buoy but we still have work to do with his skills in open water, especially spotting, breathing and reaching and rolling.

I was super happy to finally see Karel, near the end of the mid pack. Although Karel is super competitive, I know that this race was simply to see what it feels like to put all the sports together - in racing mode. For our big race is Branson 70.3 in late Sept. However, this is a new lifestyle for Karel and there is no reason to rush this journey. One step at a time.

I sprinted from the water to the bike-out and cheered for Karel as he "paced" his first sprint triathlon bike ride.

Well, despite Karel telling me that he held back just a little on the bike for the unknown of the final leg of the triathlon, I wasn't surprised to see him in 7th place after the bike. And to the surprise to many, I was excited to see what Karel  was going to do on the run for his running has really progressed over the past 2 months. Karel likes to run..and not just for the beer at the end (referencing to his "off-season" training and his occasional Trek Store beer runs)

Karel had a nice kick in his step when he started the out and back run and before I knew it, he was rounding the courner.... 5th place!!!

It doesn't surprise me that as Karel was running, his inner cyclist came out and he was likely pacing, drafting and passing people all by tolerating the lactic acid that comes with a long history of criterium racing.

Karel told me that he never thought it would be that hard and he said he had a really fun time....."after the swim."

Karel was greeted by many of his friends and customers from the Trek store - all congratulating him for his first ever triathlon finish. Our friend Owen (above) is a ridiculously talented athlete and won the race today with a blazing bike and run.

Jeff is now even more happy that Karel liked his first triathlon experience and that he know has a permanent triathlon training partner, early in the morning before the Trek Beach store opens.

It was so great to share this experience with Karel and to see him compete, do something new and enjoy every mile of it. I firmly believe that we should always have fun with what we are doing in life (specifically if it is voluntary and not mandatory)  but when it comes using our body for sports, it's important to understand that a lifestyle can be created from training the body on a daily basis. I see way too many athletes become overly obessed, overwhelmed and consumed with training and it begins to interfer with other areas of life. I believe in balance when it comes to doing something that you love - especially with triathlons. There's nothing wrong with being competitive and if anything, I invite more people to welcome competiton in order to be more confident with your strengths and to build off your weaknesses. But at the end of the day, triathlon training (or whatever activity you choose to keep you fit) should be an enhancer to life. Never stop thanking your body for what it allows you to do on a daily basis and more than anything, never stop having fun and enjoying moving and using your body.....and crossing finish lines.

Stats from Karel's race:
(Results found HERE)
Swim: 6:22
T1: 2:39
Bike: 30.08 (average 25.8mph, average HR 177)
T2: 58
Run: 20.06 (mile splits: 6:17, 6:20, 6:05 - average 6:14 min/mile)
Total: 1:00.11
5th place overall male
1st age group

Now that Karel got his first race out of his system, we will be doing our first race together (his first Olympic) on August 4th in Fernandina Beach, FL for the Jax Tri Olympic.