Essential Sports Nutrition


Spectator advice at a race

Tampa Twilight Classic

IMWI 2010
For the past 6.5 years, Karel and I have spent many of weekends on race courses. I've always felt we make a great team because we both share a similar lifestyle with different passions. Well, different passions until this May when Karel decided to embrace the challenge of triathlons after racing competitively as a cyclist (in Europe and USA) as a top cyclist.
Watching Karel race in cycling races was so exciting and I loved the energy and vibe at cycling venues. Unlike triathlons, I never knew if Karel would finish a race for a crash, bad luck or not having the legs to keep up with other teams/riders was always a "what if" scenario. But nevertheless, Karel never stopped enjoying cycling races....he just wanted to a new challenge.
In triathlons, Karel has been my #1 fan (tied w/ my parents) and he helps me reach my full potential. When I have doubts, worries or fears, he keeps me calm and gives me the confidence I need to succeed.
This weekend we are heading to Venice Beach, FL for the Rev3 half iron distance triathlon on Sunday. Karel is racing, Campy and I are spectating.
I've received several questions as to why I am not racing or if it will be hard to not race while watching Karel. Absolutely not.
I gave everything I had at Branson 70.3, I am not injured, not over trained/burnout and I am enjoying focusing on an upcoming half marathon. All good reasons to not feel the need to test myself or prove anything just to share another triathlon with Karel.

The best part about being a spectator (athlete or not) is being able to make memories and celebrate with someone else....without having to be in the race. Watching someone race can be very inspiring, motivating and exciting and should not be done with jealousy or spite. Although Karel and I both share a triathlon lifestyle together, I am looking forward to being on the sidelines and feeling the energy of this event.
Being a spectator can be exhausting. Also, for anyone doing an event or distance for the first time, spectators (ex. family/friends) may feel draining as you prep your mind and body for the big day. Certainly we need our support crew on race day but it is important that our biggest fans follow a few guidelines so that you (athlete) can execute your race day plan and put all your hard training to the test.

1) Stick to the plan - athletes will likely have to-do's on the days leading up to the race. In order to keep the athlete relaxed, don't try to change the tentative schedule.
2) Eat on his/her schedule - an athlete is going to know what foods work best and when to eat them. Don't encourage an athlete to try new places or to stick to your eating routine. Likely, an athlete is going to prioritize digestion and eat to allow for a happy GI system on race day.
3) Don't ask too many questions - athletes can be a bit jumpy on race week.Wanting to know how they are feeling, if they are ready, if they know their finishing time, why they are doing this, etc. can bring self-doubt to an athlete or can bring anxiety on the days before a race. There's nothing wrong with wanting to give positive energy to an athlete but be careful of your words as athletes are often on-edge on the days leading up to a race (they still love you but they can't always control their emotions and words).
4) Review the athlete and spectator guide - almost all your questions can be answered in the program guide (often found on the race website). Course maps, race day schedule and other important details/rules for spectators can be found in the guide and can be very helpful for a fun race day experience. Also, use technology such as Iron Trac app, live tracking on the race website (if applicable) or connect with friends who may be "watching" the event online.
5) Be prepared for a long day - no matter the distance of the event, you will likely be up early and there will be idol time throughout the day. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water and dress appropriately as the weather may change between 5am and 10pm. Expect extra time for awards and to allow an athlete to properly recover post race and expect to wake up early as most races start very early.
6) Be a superstar spectator - once an athlete is out on the course, he/she will need your help to get them to the finish line. Dress in fun costumes, make t-shirts and signs and give a loud cheer. Bring a camera and wear comfortable clothing to move quickly to spot your favorite athlete along the course (Just don't support them by giving them anything during a race or running along with them as that can be a DQ for an athlete or penalty). Come up with funny phrases and avoid any phrases that may discourage an athlete. Also, do not give wrong information. Don't tell athletes where to turn or how far they have left in the race, unless you are positive the information is correct. Often, athletes are in a zone and too much outside information can distract and overwhelm an athlete. But, if an athlete is a few miles from the finish line, get out your loudest cheering voice for he/she will likely need it.

7) Don't bring up time goals - A successful race is best told from the athlete, not from a piece of paper. Even if an athlete has a time (or place goal), allow the athlete to give his/her race report before asking about places and times. Sometimes the best performances come from overcoming obstacles rather than finishing with a PR.
8) Have a finish line plan - Certainly, the finish is the most exciting part of a race. Don't miss your athlete at the finish! Encourage your athlete to communicate with you about estimated finishing time just to have an idea as to when they may finish. When all else fails, be sure to snap a pic in the last 1-2 miles of the race and have a designated spot to meet your athlete post race.
9) Dream big - There's a reason as to why your athlete has decided to participate in this race/event. Be inspired by his/her commitment to dream big and don't take that away from him/her. Even if an athlete has a "bad" day, don't discourage your athlete from having big dreams. Every athlete is bound to have a bad race but hopefully, it doesn't have to be his/her last race. The more you support and give love to your athlete, the better he/she will feel about him/herself on race day. Many times, athletes will feel guilty that they are too selfish or spend too much time thinking, training and preparing for a big race (not to mention the money spent on races/training). Although a balanced lifestyle is important, communicate with your athlete that you enjoy being their #1 fan and can't wait to be out there on race day to make memories with your favorite athlete.
IMWI 2010


Is your brain aging faster than your body?

I've always been that student. The one in the front of the class, asking "why". Throughout my post High School educational career (2000-2011) I have found myself becoming a better educator because I take the time to learn as much as I can about a topic before instructing, counseling or motivating others. One of the biggest problems in our society today is that most people like quick answers. When it comes to research and making conclusions, nothing is done quickly and that frustrates people. They don't have time to "work" on their own lifesyle so they need a quick fix (ex. meal plan, diet fad, answer from a forum) as to how make changes yesterday rather than learning how to make for a better tomorrow.

I never feel content just scratching the surface of any topic. I can't be an expert in everything but I can use my resources to be as up-to-date as possible to make educated choices and to better serve the public.

I recently read two great articles on the brain which ironically, got me thinking. It got me thinking about the value of our brain as the primary tool for keeping us healthy and well for the rest of our life. Without it...we couldn't make decisions that help us cross finish lines, eat a balanced diet, love others or perform well at work.


The first article was on the topic of Stroke (from Nutrition Action Nov 2012 issue) and how to keep the brain in working order. The second article was from The Wellness Advisor (Fall '12/Winter '13 issue).

Both articles were great with lots of research supported statements and practical suggestions. I wanted to share some of the article from The Wellness Advisor titled "Are your diet and lifestyle causing your brain to age faster than your body?" By Daniel G. Amen M.D.

A little about Dr. Amen:
Clinical neuroscientist, psychiatrist and brain imaging expert who heads the world-renowned Amen Clinics. He has authored 29 books and is an internationally recognized keynote speaker and host of six popular public TV specials.

When we think about how well we're aging, we care about wrinkles on our faces and the fat around our bellies. Those are the things we can see in the mirror. But we don't get that sort of feedback on how well our brains are aging until it's late in the aging process. In truth, the fountain of youth is between your ears.

When you get up in the morning and look in the mirro, you probably think "I need to wash my face and comb my hair." Because your brain doesn't have a mirror,we don't care about it until we can't remember things. Or we feel cognitively tired and start making bad decisions. A lot of people 40 years and older think that memory problems are normal. Not all of them are normal. It may be a sign of trouble.

Every choice you make today will either help or hurt your brain. Here are some concepts to consider:
1) Develop brain envy: You've got to care. You must start honoring, loving and respecting your brain.
2) There are many things we do to accelerate brain agining. A lousy diet,chronic stress, poor sleeping habits, being overweight and having hormonal imbalances are some of the most common. Hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and any other kind of vascular disease that decreases blood flow to the brain will also be detrimental.
3) There are many things you can start doing today to slow, or even reverse, the brain's aging process. Get enough sleep, keep your blood sugar in balance, get plenty of physical and mental exercise, have a sense of passion, meaning and purpose, maintain healthy cholesterol levels to keep a healthy blood flow to your brain.

Think of your brain as a computer. If the hardware isn't right, it will be more difficult to learn. It's critical to respect both your hardware and your software.


Successful dieting & Quinoa creation

First off..... HAPPY FOOD DAY!!

Lunch n' Learns are my favorite kind of talks. One hour of learning and the participants don't have to be hungry as I talk about food.

Yesterday I gave a local Lunch n' Learn to a wonderful group of individuals from Northwestern Mutual. I spent much of my talk discussing 3 common myths (gluten free diet, fruits and veggies to improve mood and fat burning exercise) but the underlying message was discussing lifestyle modifications and a different approach to thinking about life rather than spending so much energy on diet, the body and exercise. Certainly, diet and exercise make for a quality life but we all have our own personal goals and we can't wrap up all our energy trying to be like others, looking like others or achieving the goals of others.

At the end of the talk, a male asked me about quick meals. He said that he doesn't have time to cook because he comes home starving and he also doesn't want to make extravagant meals.

An easy answer would be to suggest foods that are "healthy" and "quick" for I think that was why he asked the question. "Can you tell me what to eat......"

But I knew that wasn't the right answer - just to tell him what to do and ignore the underlying issue. It wasn't that he needed something quick but rather than he needed to make more time for the nutrients that will fuel his lifestyle. Skipping over the underlying issue of his time management and addressing his thoughts of the all or nothing approach to "healthy" eating (ex. "I don't have time to make extravagant meals") would not solve his problem...which actually had little to do with his diet in order to be healthy but rather his lifestyle that was preventing time to be given toward improving overall health.

In my Fall 2012/Winter 2013 issue of The Wellness Advisor there were so many great articles, I stayed up extra late last night (9:30pm) in order to read the entire magazine. My stack of journals, magazines and research grows weekly so I try to read a little every night before I go to bed.

On Pg. 4-5 there was a great article on "Confessions of Successful Dieters."
Here are a few of the strategies (from the National Weight Control Registry) and characteristics of people who have succeeded at long-term weight loss. Because I don't believe in diets or meal plans, I hope these suggestions are helpful to allow you to think differently about food and your body. Keep in mind that out of all the thousands of tips out there, the most important thing you can change is your lifestyle. It's not about one food group, how much/little you exercise or what you weigh. These tips are only suggestions for modifying the lifestyle is the best way for you to see progress and to have fun along the way.

1) They have changed the types of foods they eat, decreasing their intake of foods associated with weight gain (eating fewer foods that are high in fat and sugar).

2) They have learned to eat smaller portions (fill up instead on calorie-dense fruits and veggies).

3) They eat a low calorie/low fat diet (about 24% calories come from fat).

4) They count calories (not daily but if you start to see your weight go up a few lbs, it's time to assess your calorie intake. Use a food diary or other method to see where calories are coming from).

5) They self-monitor (they weigh themselves regularly. They've learned the scale is their friend because more than your favorite jeans (which can stretch), it can alert them quickly if they start to gain weight. That means they can take corrective action sooner).

6) They aren't afraid to ask for help (45% of registry members achieved and maintained weight loss on their own, the majority 55% sought some sort of support, such as weight loss programs or with a RD.

7) 78% eat breakfast.

8) They prepare most of their meals at home (they only eat out about 3 times a week and less than one meal per week is at fast food/quick serve restaurant. They've learned how to make healthier menu choices.

9) They watch very little TV (less than 10 hours of TV/week vs the average American spending about 28 hrs in front of the TV. These are people who believe in physical activity and realize they need to be up and moving).

10) They engage in regular physical activity (77% walk almost an hour each day).

When it comes to meal planning - consider the value of the foods you are putting into your body. Dedicate time to preparing and enjoying meals that will help fuel your workouts and your lifestyle. Don't put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Think about a creation as a meal - a simple mixture of foods that will make an extravagant dish.

Quinoa, black beans and pineapple stir fry w/ almonds

Quinoa - prepare according to package (allow 15 minutes for prep, plan for leftovers)
Pineapple (canned in juice, rinsed)
Black beans (canned, rinsed under cold water for 1 minute)
Tomatoes (chopped)
Leeks (or onions - sliced/chopped)
Almonds (slivered)
Olive oil
Black pepper
Sea salt

1. In large bowl, combine equal servings of pineapple and beans (ex. 1 cup of each).
2) Add chopped tomatoes (plan 2 medium vine tomatoes per person)
3) Add slivered almonds (~1/8-1/4 cup)
4) Add leeks and onions (to taste, around 1/3-1/2 cup)
5) Toss in 1/2 - 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil (to taste, add a little as you stir and taste)
6) Season w/ spices/herbs to your liking.
7) In your shallow bowl, mix together 1/2 - 1 cup cooked quinoa w/ the above mixture. Recommend top quinoa mix on bed of greens as a meal or serve as a side/snack.
(I don't measure - feel free to adjust as needed to your liking to make your own creation)


Time management

Not enough hours in the day? Here are a few of my tips to help you better manage your time.
Time management


Sweet potato pancakes

I hope you enjoyed the weekend as much as we did. The weather was outstanding and a nice taste of fall. Today I enjoyed the view of Karel's back wheel for an hour as he did an easy spin. I typically don't do bricks in the off-season but I couldn't resist the beautiful weather. I did my "long run" of 6 miles, keeping my heart rate controlled in low Z3. This is something that I am working very hard on during this off-season and a few of my athletes are sharing the same frustration of seeing a slower pace while teaching the body to run more efficiently. I am always reminding my athletes (and myself) that this pays off and I also enjoy having the opportunity to slow down for one run a week to really soak up the scenery and find the beauty in moving my feet forward.

A while back I was asked by Ted Spiker to contribute to his Runner's World article on pancakes. Sadly, there was too much content for his article so a few things got cut but thankfully, he took the time to write a directors cut and included my recipe. Who knew there was so much to write about in a pancake article? :)

Here's the recipe for my Sweet Potato Pancake creation:

Serves 8-9 pancakes
  • 2/3 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup soy flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • pinch of all spice, pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup sweet potato (cooked, skin removed)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 egg

  • Directions: In large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. In small bowl, lightly whisk together milk and egg. Mash cooked sweet potato into flour. Add milk and egg mixture and stir until lumps are gone. Add oil and mix well. On non stick pan, on low heat, drizzle oil for every set of pancakes to prevent sticking. Take 1/4 cup of batter and press with back of spoon, onto heated pan to form a pancake. Flip after 45-75 seconds, or when edges begin to firm. Monitor to prevent browning. Cook other side for 30-45 seconds and remove.
    Nutrition per pancake:
    70 calories
    1g fat
    13g carbs
    3g sugar
    2g fiber
    3g protein
    (an almost perfect 4:1 ratio of carbs to protein. For maximal recovery nutrition and for a balanced meal, I recommend at least 4 pancakes depending on how you dress it up or what you serve with the pancakes)

    Choose your topping:
    Need more calories and carbs? Top with dark chocolate chips, fresh figs and walnuts

    Need more protein and calcium? Top with greek yogurt.

    Need more electrolytes, vitamins and minerals? Top with fresh seasonal fruit