Essential Sports Nutrition


Sweet treats for the holidays

I am not a baker but every now and then I put on my "dessert" apron in order to come up with a sweet treat creation. OK - so my creations are not that impressive and I wouldn't go so far as to call it "baking" but one of the best parts of making desserts is sharing the treats with others. I also believe that if I am going to make a dessert for someone else to enjoy, it better be enjoyed by all - including myself. I realize many people make desserts and never eat them because they are 'not healthy' but I don't understand the reasoning behind that - why would you serve something to others that you wouldn't enjoy? I feel that the better logic is to make sure that your portion at home is not too overwhelming that you feel triggered to eat that food morning, noon and night. Keep in mind that if you eat well most of the time, you don't have to worry about the rest of the time. Through a balanced diet and a healthy relationship with food, you will learn that when you emphasize the food that nourishes your body and fuels your lifestyle, there just isn't enough room for the rest of the stuff that is typically de-emphasized in the diet. Thus, you can still enjoy and not feel guilty when eating the occasional food but certainly, those first few bites should taste amazing because it is a special treat and perhaps that's all you need to feel satisfied after your meal.

For a sweet holiday gift, how about trying my chocolate drizzled popcorn. It's a very easy creation that is quick to make and super yummy to eat. I made some for the dietitians at Baptist South today since I was asked to work there today. Next week I will be at Baptist Beaches. I also made some for the employees at the Trek Store - hopefully to keep their bellies happy as they sell lots of bikes to bike-lovers, both young and old.

                                                           Chocolate drizzled popcorn
2 tbsp kernels (per person)
1/2 cup chocolate morsels
Sea salt
1. In brown paper lunch bag, place kernels (2 tbsp). Fold top over 2 times leaving plenty of room for the kernels to pop. Microwave for 2 minutes or until kernels stop popping. Empty popcorn into a large bowl to remove unpopped kernels.
2. Transfer 1/2 popcorn (without unpopped kernels) to a large shallow dish (a baking dish will work fine).
3. Microwave chocolate for 2 minutes in small bowl, stir w/ fork. If chocolate is not easy to stir, add a little water. If needed, microwave an additional 30 sec until chocolate is soft and is slightly dripping from spoon - it may be clumpy.
4. Drizzle chocolate on popcorn and wipe fork on popcorn to lightly cover the kernels. You will get a little messy doing this so make sure your hands are clean.
5. Sprinkle with a pinch of sea salt (or a few turns of the sea salt shaker).
6. Repeat w/ the remainder of the popcorn on top of the drizzled popcorn - this will help w/ even coating of the chocolate. May need to add a little water (1 tsp) and reheat for 15-20 seconds.
7. Place in refrigerator for 5 minutes to let the chocolate cool.
8. Place into zip lock baggies or bins and decorate as you wish (I added a silver ribbon the side).

My next creation was created for my Plate Not Pills monthly column for LAVA Magazine. I wanted to do a "dessert" for the holidays and with vitamin E as my key nutrient, I decided to come up with a sunflower creation.

Sunflower granola nuggets

This is one of my favorite creations I have ever  made and because it makes 22 nuggets, you can crumble a few of them to make your own homemade granola. These would make for a perfect after school snack for the kiddos, a sweet guilt-free treat after a meal or a perfect holiday gift or dessert at a party.

Makes 22 nuggets
¼ cup sunflower oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1 egg
1/8 cup water
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp brown sugar
2 cup oats
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup your choice crunchy cereal
¼ tsp salt
1/8 cup sunflower seeds
1/8 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1. Pre heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray two non-stick cookie sheets with a little nonstick spray.
2. Combine wet ingredients in small bowl and dry ingredients in large bowl. Add wet ingredients to dry and mix with a fork until evenly combined.
4. Roll or spoon golf-ball sized cookie dough onto the cookie sheets.
5. Bake for 18-20 minutes until the bottom of each nugget becomes slightly golden brown.
(if your nuggets crumble while eating, not to worry. Enjoy your sunflower granola!)

Nutrition facts (per 1 nugget): 72 calories, 4 g fat, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 62 mg sodium, 2 g protein, 1.13 mg vitamin E


Finding time for healthy living - no more excuses

We are expected to get relatively chilly here in Jacksonville over the next few days. I have two rides on the training plan for this weekend so I have my winter-riding gear all ready to ensure a comfortable workout. Campy was all bundled up last night as he was a bit chilly from his evening walk. 

When you think about children and animals, they sure do to depend on us to keep them  healthy, safe and well. It's not like Campy can go buy himself a sweater and put it on to keep himself warm. It is up to me, his mommy, to make sure he is not suffering when he is out in the cold. I'm sure you do (or would do) the same for your children (furry or human) for they rely on you to make sure they have the right clothes to keep them warm when the temperatures drop. Always better to be safe than sorry.

Thinking about your own lifestyle as an active adult,  I'm sure you are quite impressive when it comes to planning ahead. You check the weather and depending on the forecast you know you have some shopping to do for some new "seasonal" clothing. Or, you get yourself ready for cooler temps by preparing your seasonal wardrobe well before your upcoming workouts. It's no different for work-clothes but of course, it's much more fun to shop for new exercise clothing when it comes to training throughout the year. 

You know how hard it can be to jump out of bed and start your morning workout without a glitch, so you discovered that having your workout clothes all laid out from the night prior makes it super easy to get into your rhythm in the early morning hours. You hate it when you don't have your Garmin or iPod charged for a workout so instead of making the same mistake twice, you have developed a habit of always charging your gadgets immediately after a workout so that no matter when you are planning your next workout, you and your gadgets are ready.  You probably have a few favorite outfits that you perform the best in so you make sure that days in advance, the outfit is washed so that it is ready for you to wear on race day. 

So, why can't we all have that same excitement when it comes to the planning of the diet or being consistent with daily exercise? 

Consider the time you spend throughout the day doing things that make you a better person. If you feel like your life is devoted to work, life and family, that is a good combination. However, in order to succeed in life you must find the time for you and your health before you have to make the time for illness. It may sound extreme but consider your diet and exercise routine as two vital components of the equation of living a long and quality-filled life. 

As a society, we love to compare ourselves to one another. So, let's stop that right now. Focus on yourself, your own family and your own goals. You have the time for meal planning and developing long lasting healthy dietary and exercise habits but right now you are too focused on other priorities which likely have immediate results. You show up for work late, you risk getting fired. You are behind on paying bills, your credit is affected. You accidentally slept in, you are stressed because you are sitting in traffic instead of being in a meeting. We immediately recognize the results of our actions in so many areas of life.....except for the diet and exercise routine - well, at least until it is too late. 

Perhaps we know that in today's society, we do not have to feel immediate effects of our actions when it comes to the diet because we don't have to risk starvation by not bringing meals/snacks to work because food is convenient no matter where we go. In today's society, we do not have to grow our own food or even prepare our own food because someone else will not only make your food but serve it to you and clean up after you. All you have to do is pay money for their time. 

Convinced you don't have time or just not recognizing how your life will change when you make the time? Give yourself 3 good reasons in the area of diet, fitness and lifestyle that will override a handful of excuses as to why you haven't made the time to move yourself closer to your goals. 

Don't be a victim of your own actions. Instead of making excuses, take action. Make things simple and not overwhelming. Whereas many things in today's society can make it conveniently easy to be unhealthy, taking the stairs, drinking water throughout the day, buying frozen veggies and going for a 10 min walk in the morning are four easy ways of healthy living and do not require a lot of time or energy. 

Take responsibility for your own actions and give up the excuses. Likely you are only disappointing yourself as you make an excuse that weighs heavy on your shoulders despite you having the ability to act in a favorable manner to move you one step closer to your goals. 

Give yourself a to-do list and use a day planner to schedule time for health living. Before you know it, your healthy lifestyle will be something that you have learned to love and you will question why it took you so long to stop the excuses and make the time for healthy living. 


Train smarter to train harder

Well, I'm happy to say that my injury is almost gone. YIPPE for being smart. What was likely about to develop into a really bad case of plantar fasciitis was minimized by icing, Alleve (since I rarely take anti-inflammatories, maybe 10 or less a year, they work when I need them to work), foam rolling, ball rolling and stretching. Realizing that I can still bike and swim, I did not "test" the injury at all with any running after my calf became extremely tight on Wednesday afternoon. Every day I am feeling better and better and I am more and more thankful that I acted before and did not react after the fact. No race but I'm likely back to running in less than 2 weeks. I'll take it!

I would say that I am 90% healed so I will wait until I can go a full day without feeling anything in my foot/calf and then I will wait 2 more days before I resume running. As a recommendation to others who are injured, do not neglect the other side of your body when you are injured.  The same focus I give on stretching and rolling (especially my ITB and piriformis which is a daily routine twice a day) is being given to my left foot.

Thankfully, I have learned that prevention is cheaper than medicine. But I can't hesitate to tell you that if you are someone who experiences ongoing or painful injuries, please get it checked out as you will waste more time and energy google-ing and trying to treat yourself. Visit a sport physician and then see a physical therapist. They know their stuff and they will give you practical advice and help you out to move in the right direction. Be sure to find one that specializes in your sport so that they are very familiar with your daily exercise routine and goals.

I am working on a few presentations for January and February in which I will be talking with running groups and triathlon groups on training smarter to train harder. As age group athletes, I feel there is a lot of confusion out there as to how we can reach performance goals or personal athletic goals and not feel overwhelmed in the process. One thing I am seeing a lot of right now is athletes who are eager to start "training" again and are jumping right back into structured training with all the intensity and volume added in like it was just yesterday that they were peaking for their A race. Or, the athlete has not taken a break (only to "recover" from the last race) and is going hard again.

I am noticing athletes with a lot of energy in the beginning of a training plan (especially at the beginning of the New Year) so any free time is being taken up with "exercise" - AKA "junk".

 For many of my athletes, they are in an unstructured structured phase of training. The progression to structured training can be hard for any athlete because you never know how the body will respond and with short term goals in mind during every workout, it's easy to want to do too much too soon because you feel good.

The transition phase to more structured training should be around three to four weeks depending on how long you took yourself out from structured training. It's good to take a break but what we need to avoid is losing fitness. We need a break for the mind and body and the first priorities when we get back into a routine is strength training, flexibility work, focusing on the daily diet (prior to working on "sport nutrition) and weaknesses. Keep in mind that as an athlete, you are training for adaptations to the physiology of the body.
If you are just "exercising" you are focused on achieving x-miles or x-amount of time.
When you are training, your body is under stress. Thus, the workout has a plan and a purpose. Changes in stroke volume, cardiac output, oxygen uptake, hemoglobin levels, lung capacity, resting heart rate, VO2, an increased size in slow and fast twitch muscle fibers and muscle hypertrophy are all adaptations that occur when you train smart.

Although I am all about balance in life and with sport, I constantly remind my athletes that it will get harder. For now, they can thank me now for periodized training and making consistent gains that will pay off by race day.

When you have a training plan from a coach or put together your own plan, avoid doing too much too soon. Be ok with having a lot of energy at first because you don't want to waste energy on the first month of training only to find yourself burnout and injured 7, 8 or 9 months down the road. I encourage you to think about your training in training blocks - perhaps 1 month at a time with goals that you want to accomplish in each month. Consider the other variables in your life such as diet, sleep, flexibility and stress management that will also play an impact on your progression in fitness.

Here are two really great reads that I came across to help you develop a healthier relationship with exercise/training and to help you train smarter. Any questions, send me an email or comment on my blog. I enjoy responding to comments personally via email (or phone call if needed).

The art of recovery - By Matt Dixon
Common Mistakes made by triathletes - By Wayne Goldsmith


Putting training to the test!

I have spent the majority of my higher education learning about the physiology of the body during exercise. Thus, I love creating training plans for myself and my athletes that when training stress is applied, the body adapts for physiological gains. No training session is without hard work and every workout has a purpose. I love training my body and mind knowing that come race day I can perform with my trained body and current level of fitness.

Every day we make choices. Some choices we feel the effects right away whereas other choices we don't realize the outcome of our decision until later in life.

With 13,500 yards completed between Thurs and Saturday in the pool, I had plenty of time to think about my decision to not race the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. The race that I have dedicated every run training session to in the past 8 weeks. The race that I was determined to PR and break 1:30 and the race that would take me to a new level w/ my run training.

I achieved a lot in my run training but I was bummed when my right calf got very tight on Wednesday afternoon. Wearing different dress shoes over the past few days was likely the culprit but you can't control everything in life..only your reactions. I couldn't stop reminding myself that I have come so far with my run training and that was not something that was making me determined to run. It was a positive thought that made me so lucky that I had the opportunity to come so far w/ my run fitness.

I didn't cry, I didn't freak out and call every doctor I know and I didn't keep any emotions inside. I discussed my decision with my mental coach Gloria and of course, communicated with Karel in a calm manner.

With enjoyment that I have the ability as an athlete to make good decisions, I decided on Saturday (yesterday) that as my calf was feeling almost back to normal that I would not take a single risk in running the half marathon. Knowing that I trained for a PR, I purposely did not register just for the reason that if anything were to happen, I would not want to feel pressure to do this race. Also, I knew nothing good would come from running a race where I previously hesitated about running in it.

I am not in pain, I am not injured. I am taking precautions and I will not run until I feel 100% + 2 days. I can run without pain as Campy has made me run him two times around the block but I don't want to do any "tester" runs as I feel that is the worst thing an athlete can do is to "test" things out as the inflammation is going away and pain/aches subside.

I thought about this decision in the pool because I love to swim. I also thought about my decision today while I was on the bike because I love to bike. I also love to run.....but not in pain or with an injury. I love my active lifestyle and I believe that as a competitive athlete, I am focused on a consistent active lifestyle of training my body for performance gains. So, sometimes things change in the routine and instead of wasting energy on what you can't do - you just focus on what you can do. Instead of a minute decision turning into a 6-8 week mistake/regret, I am thankful for my acquired ability to not be a stubborn athlete. Not every decision is stubborn as I do realize that as athletes we have a lot of decisions to make on a day to day basis. But, there are times that we know what we should do and not what we want to  do.

Although I can honestly say that in the past two years, I haven't had to think about a possible injury, before then, I was constantly making poor decisions and not being respectful to my body. Now I am a smarter athlete who knows what it feels like to race and train to my full potential with a strong, healthy body.

So, here was my thought process...

A tight calf that could not be "healed" with a massage this week means something isn't right. A tight calf may not be the reason why I am scared to run but it is my limiter. A tight calf may turn into a calf strain, a hurt achilles, plantar fascitis, shin splints, ITB tightness and perhaps even a stress fracture. None of this is worth it for a one hour and 29 minute race (well unlikely I would have been able to PR if I was hurt) and a t-shirt and a medal.

My calf is much better but I wasn't able to pass my two day rule. I am still working on lingering inflammation around my foot. It is strange that this developed during my taper but after a massage and after wearing different shoes for my TV segment something happened not in a run and never before in my run training.  So all I can do is reflect, write it down in my Training Peaks and make sure I learn from this.

Learning lessons: I will go back to my two week prep for a race which includes 1 week of recovery then 1 week of taper (reduced volume, high intensity with adequate recovery). I get at least 1 massage a month but for my pre-race massage, I will get it on Sunday evening and take off on Monday. Lastly, I will remind myself that I have the ability to make good decisions with my body. I am so proud of myself for not racing and although at first it was a little frustrating, I did not waste any energy on this situation. My life is too good for me to miss out on anything.

So, now I can just live in Karel's success for he did race the Jacksonville Bank Half Marathon. Karel was a little sick with a stomach bug on Wed and Thurs and was really weak and tired for both days. He was able to bounce back to 70% on Fri and felt 90% better on Sat. I did not pressure him to do or not to do the race so he waited until 5pm on Saturday to make the decision to race. He did not train Thurs or Fri and did an easy 4 mile run on Saturday to test out his energy.

This morning Karel left around 6am for the race down the road and I was on my bike by 7am. I had a great pain free ride and anxiously awaited a text from Karel. I kept checking my watch and with the race starting at 7am, I figured he would text by 9am.

I pulled over on my bike to check my phone and received a text from Karel:

"That was the hardest thing ever! I suffered the last three miles. 1:22:22."

WOW - I couldn't believe it! A 7 minute PR for Karel in his 2nd ever stand-alone half marathon. He trained really hard and smart for this race and really pushed himself to see what he was capable of at this distance. He is now feeling "almost" back to normal and is looking forward to "triathlon" training. :)


6:17 min/mile pace
4th age group (35-39)

I am really looking forward to 2013 and excited for the opportunity to share a full triathlon season with Karel.

Here's to smart decisions, healthy minds and bodies and working hard for dreams and goals.