Essential Sports Nutrition



Veggie-packed lasagna

It's not about the noodles. When it comes to lasagna, there's something about the combination of flavors that come in layers as you take each bite. I realize that my Lasagna doesn't compare to Carraba's Italian Grill Lasagna but maybe that's because a serving of lasagna in the restaurant can give your body ~750 calories, 45g of fat and 2500+ mg sodium. My creation fuels an active body.
When it comes to my diet, I don't have off-limit foods. I have a way of eating that allows me to fuel my active lifestyle. When I make my creations, I like to taste each ingredient and get lost in flavor. There's nothing worse than eating a meal and having the mind rolling w/ thoughts as to all the reasons why you "shouldn't" be eating it. It's no fun eating when you have an unhealthy relationship w/ food and your body. It's not the food that you need to evaluate....consider your mind.
I encourage everyone to eat in a way that makes you feel good. I don't want to give up food and the opportunity to eat foods that make me feel good, just because someone tells me they are bad. Certainly, gaining weight doesn't happen overnight and from one meal and I will not dismiss the fact that we should all emphasize foods that will keep the human body in optimal health. Perhaps eating when you aren't hungry, eating for emotional reasons, eating because you are sleep-deprived, eating because of poorly timed eating habits, overeating because you "deserved it" and any other "reason" you can come up with may better explain the gradually changes in body composition.....and not the lasagna noodles that I used in my creation and the "carbs" in my meal that are "bad".
When was the last time you had a snack after you ate dinner? Why doesn't your dinner meal leave you satisfied? I'm not talking about a small piece of dark chocolate which is my favorite way to finish any meal, but instead, why are you finishing a meal and immediately thinking to yourself...what's next or justifying the late evening snack?
I feel snacking serves 3 purposes: compliment meals so that your daily diet is balanced and to fill in nutritional gaps, control the appetite before the next meal or to prevent drops in blood sugar. There's nothing wrong w/ a snack after dinner and I encourage eating every few hours during the day but depending on your reason for snacking, this can help you decide what you really need for a snack. Do you need 3 almonds to prevent a drop in blood sugar or do you need cottage cheese or yogurt w/ fruit because your next meal is 5 hours away? It's not that you can't eat the granola bar but instead, would an apple serve a better purpose of "snacking" if you answered the questions above? 
When it comes to meals, I believe many people need to rethink the composition of meals so that they leave you bite short of feeling too satisfied and just enough room for you to have an after meal snack BUT it is not needed because you know you will survive going to bed a tad bit hungry. With a balanced daily diet, your dinner meal should leave you complete so that you not only enjoy the fruits of your labor w/ meal prep but you are not snacking your way through the eating and post-poning a good night of rest.
I hope you enjoy my veggie-packed lasagna. Feel free to choose your own protein, veggies and lasagna noodles, based on your liking.
Veggie-packed lasagna
Serves 2
Lasagna noodles - 4-5 cooked to al dente (you will likely use less)
Boca veggie meat (1 - 1.5 cups)
Firm tofu (1/2 container)
1 large sweet bell pepper (sliced)
1/2 cup chopped onion
Herbs/spices - rosemary, basil, oregano, pepper, chili pepper
Shredded cheese
Garlic - 1-2 cloves chopped
Marinara sauce
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Gently rub glass casserole dish w/ a little olive oil (I used a small loaf-like casserole dish. For more servings, I recommend a rectangle dish).
2. Spoon a little marinara on bottom of the dish.
3. Place noodles on bottom of dish, not overlapping (I used about 3/4th noodle, sliced w/ a knife to allow for even layer).
4. Sprinkle a little veggie meat (thawed a little or microwave for 15 seconds), tofu, onions and sliced peppers on noodle. Sprinkle w/ herbs of your choice and a little sliced garlic.
5. Top w/ spinach to cover and then sprinkle w/ shredded cheese (small handful - it does not need to be covered)
6. Place another noodle (sliced as needed to prevent overlapping) on the spinach and top with meat, tofu, pepper, onion, garlic and then marinara spoonfuls. Top with more spinach and then a sprinkle of cheese.
7. Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes.
Recommend serve w/ large salad w/ fruit and nuts (ex. spinach, pear and walnuts).



A few small changes before 2013

Over Thanksgiving I was talking with my 89 year old Grandpa who is mentally sharp, active and living independently in Reno, NV with his wife (re-married after my Grandma passed away a while back - they just celebrated their 19th wedding anniversary yesterday).

Like many people Grandpa Joe is still interested in the "best" diet out there. I think speaking to individuals on nutrition should be a case-by-case discussion, with similar recommendations but age-appropriate information that is also practical and realistic. I have spoken with a variety of people in and out of the hospital, from all different socioeconomic background, with all types of diseases and lifestyle issues (ex. wheelchair bound, no car, living off food-stamps, etc.) which make giving advice on the perfect "diet" near to impossible. Our society reads too much about what not to do and I believe we should be spending our energy on what we can do. There are so many diet books out there as to what not to eat but if you think about it, sometimes it is the habits that we are making that are driving our actions. It isn't the food itself but rather how we eat it and why. I would guess that many people eat when they aren't hungry, overeat because they are starving and eat for emotional reasons. It's not that wheat is bad or that meat will kill you but rather why we are eating what in the first place. Think back to the last time you ate....where were you? Were you eating with others and did they influence your eating style (positive or negative)? What time did you eat? What did you eat? Simply address the questions instead of the food to understand how you are living your life.

So, when it comes to healthy living, who's to say that there is a perfect diet out there that we all need to follow?

My Grandpa has the best advice and with his amazing memory, he tells the best stories. So giving him nutritional advice at his age was a bit difficult, as you can imagine.
When he asked me my thoughts on the "best" foods out there, I politely told him that as a society, we are always looking for the next best thing. We often forget to address what we have done in the past to get us to this point. Even if you feel like you aren't as healthy as you think you can be, something is working and we should never overlook that. To point blame on any one food or habit is not helpful when you think of the many things we do on a day-to-day basis that help us get to tomorrow. For my Grandpa, he has lived 89 amazing years, free of cancer. To me, that is a huge accomplishment and he has done a lot of "best" things that have worked for him. He does have a few health issues but to reference my mission in life - he is still living a quality life and is still making memories. I find it hard to accept that our society will spend a good 30-40 years of life "worrying" about weight instead of living life to the fullest and making things happen in a positive manner. Because eventually, when you hit a certain age - health will become more important than body image and there will be a time when you will say "I wish I would have." So, why waste your energy on looking a certain way or eating "perfectly" and instead direct your energy on living the best live for yourself.

You can spend your entire life trying to be perfect OR you can spend everyday being productive for a better tomorrow. Never a day lost and many days to be proud of the small changes you are making.

Since I don't believe in being strict or extreme when it comes to my life, I am constantly conscious of the actions I am making and if they are enhancing my life. One area that is a concern to many is body image. For me, at 5-feet tall, I suppose I should be 5 -10 lbs "lighter". I am around 110lbs and Ironman peak training weight I am around 107-108lbs unintentionally. So to make dietary changes to get to a weight that I feel is not "ideal" for me would only leave me feeling restricted on life. I can't live a fun, energy-filled, active life and make memories when my body image and diet are always on my mind. Food enhances my lifestyle and for me, seeing a number on a scale is not worth it to me to sacrifice my days on earth just to weigh less. I'd rather buy a bigger size of clothes and make more memories with Karel and Campy.

 I encourage you to aim for a body composition that allows you to do-more in life, with less injuries and health issues. There is a fine line between wanting to "look" a certain way for appearance or what you feel is "ideal" versus a healthy weight that keeps you living a great life.

Because I believe in making small changes for a better lifestyle, here are a few changes you can focus on before 2013 to make for a better New Year.

1) Warm-up  - maintaining a consistent and flexible exercise routine for an hour a day is encouraged in order to live a quality-filled life. You aren't required to run an hour a day for parking far away at the grocery, taking the stairs or dancing are all great activities to keep the body moving after (or before) you sit all day. Whether you struggle with the cooler temps or just getting the motivation to get out the door the best advice is to warm-up before you "exercise". Get the blood flowing and release some endorphins as you warm the body up. Walk up and down stairs for a few minutes, walk in place and pump your arms or do a little cardio and before dynamic stretching. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to warm-up the body and to get the energy you need to accomplish the activity ahead of you.
2) Don't go into a meal starving - It's not about being good or bad or getting upset at your cravings in the evening. To prevent overeating at a meal, eating too fast, overindulging after a meal (ex. desserts, snacks) and to feel better after you eat than before, plan a small snack around 30-60 min before your meal to keep your appetite and blood sugar controlled. Last night's pre-dinner creation was sliced vine tomatoes w/ basil and Brie cheese. Other options should compliment your dinner meal. Avoid  having crackers and cheese if you are planning pasta and cheese. Veggies, fruit slices, a few nuts or a little protein are all great options to keep your appetite and cravings controlled as you find yourself better enjoying your meal prep (and meal).

3) Progress as an athlete - Whether you are training for an event or exercising for fitness, all active individuals should have goals and should enjoy seeing progress within every workout. Treat yourself like an athlete, no matter your fitness level. When working with athletes, the biggest areas of concern that are overlooked by athletes are; flexibility, strength training, recovery, mental strength and intervals. Avoid the junk miles and the boring workouts and give your training a plan and a purpose. Establish short and long term goals and as you work on your weaknesses and build off your strength, be sure that you are seeing yourself grow as an athlete, doing the work to get yourself closer to your goals. I don't believe in training more to "get better". Train smarter to train harder and then recover to do it all over again.


Feel good Monday

I thought about giving this blog a title of "get back on track" but for many of you, you may feel as if the holiday was the "occasional" time to enjoy yourself with some treats and change in routine and come Monday you will be back to feeling good with your daily habits of living a quality, balanced lifestyle. For others, there's no reason to beat yourself up for eating a bit more than normal and taking advantage of some extra R&R over the Thanksgiving long-weekend. Even if you struggled with balanced eating and a consistent exercise routine prior to the holiday, there's no point wasting energy on complaining about the past.

I recently wrote an article for my monthly column on in regard to eating plant-strong all year long. I find that many people struggle with craving and enjoying fruits and veggies in the winter months so I came up with a few tips on how you can bulk up the diet with more nutrient-dense foods.

Plant-strong holiday eating

But it's one thing to know what to do. The hard part is putting ideas into actions.

After reading the following tips (below), here's an article I wrote earlier this month on building a better body image - an article designed for the individual who struggles with creating a healthy relationship with food and the body but has goals related to fitness, body composition and nutrition.

Build a better body image

Tips on having a Feel Good Monday:

-Don't expect to change everything in one day. Aim for progress as some progress is better than no progress. Give yourself 5 days to work your way back to a "routine" and more structure with your daily eating and exercise routine. Your goal is not to be perfect or strict but rather reflecting every day to see how you can make a better tomorrow.

-Lighten-up the diet. No need to commit to a juice fast or eat unfilling salads. Simply focus on foods that make you feel light and clean and be sure your food options make you feel satisfied and better after you eat, than before.

-Aim for one-hour of activity every day this week. Think small. Plan to walk 1 hour a day and if you are feeling energetic, make it a run or do an aerobic class at the gym. Break it up into 3 x 20 min sessions if you want to make the workout more intense or if you are pressed for time.

-Set goals for yourself. If you are stuck on a quick-fix or tend to be extreme when it comes to change, it's time to sit down with yourself and think about a few short and long term goals. Give yourself 2-3 goals in the areas of diet, exercise and lifestyle that will help you stay motivated to work toward short and long term goals. A year from now imagine saying to yourself that "I'm glad I did", instead of saying "I wish I would have".

-Don't multi-task when it comes to changing habits. Direct your attention on one or two small changes every 3-4 days in order to create long lasting habits. Avoid trying to perfect but instead, work on a good, better, best system. Whatever makes you feel good, now - work on it to feel better and eventually find the best option to help you meet your fitness and health goals.