4/18/13

What's more important? Diet or Sleep?


There was a really interesting article that I came across a few days ago: Workout or Fix a meal? In the article, "findings suggest that one healthy behavior can take time away from another healthy habit, and that public health recommendations need to take into account the time people have for beneficial lifestyle habits on a given day."

Now if you want to lose weight or change body composition , you may be thinking to yourself that you know that diet is just as important as exercise but if you are an athlete, this is likely going to ring a bell when you think about how much attention you place on your cardio routine but often feel like you don't "have time" for stretching, good sleep or meal planning. I think one of the most common reasons why triathletes don't strength train is because they say "I don't have time."

"There's only so much time in a day. As people try to meet their health goals, there's a possibility that spending time on one healthy behavior is going to come at the expense of the other," Tumin said. "I think this highlights the need to always consider the trade-off between ideal and feasible time use for positive health behaviors."

I remember writing an article not too long ago (December) on my blog about sleep and exercise and which one being more important? So many athletes sacrifice quality sleep for training and I often find it being a limiter in quality, consistent training and racing. Not to mention that culprit for moodiness, stress and feeling exhausted throughout the day. There are many people who have extremely bad sleeping habits and choose to eat large meals before bed, sleep on the couch or just don't feel as if sleep is important and then there are those who won't even think twice about skimping on sleep. 

I wanted to repost my article along with a yummy recipe as you think about some of the habits in your life and how you can tweak things to create a more balanced, healthy and active lifestyle. 

SLEEP



The other day I posted on my Trimarni facebook page about how much I value sleep. Appropriately, there was an excellent article from the Washington Post showing and explaining how sleep can affect disease, appetite and other health problems.

                                    

I highly encourage you to read the article if you are someone who struggles with getting a restful night of sleep, most days per week.

As for how much is enough?  I think that differs person to person but it also has to do with your lifestyle routine. We know that the body is constantly repairing when we sleep...and working. So for an age group athlete who not only trains for races/events but has a full-time job (parent or in an office), sleep is vital for consistent gains in life and to minimize risk for illness and injury. You do not have to prove you are a superhero by being able to function with only 4-5 hours a sleep.
Additionally, as you will read in the article, a restful night of sleep is the key. Good sleep means that for most nights, when you fall asleep, you are out for enough cycles to wake up feeling rested. I know for myself that I've learned that I can only afford one to two nights of sleeping 6.5-7 hours for anymore I struggle with activities of daily living. My energy fads as the week goes on, I have more afternoon cravings, I don't think as clear, I don't recover as quickly, I feel moody at times and my performance suffers with training. However, with only one to two nights of 7-hours of sleep, I know that a good night of sleep for 8-8.5 hours (depending on my training phase) most days of week will help keep my life in balance. So, the issue is not trying to make time for more sleep but rather, making sure sleep is the priority and making everything else fit in for a consistent life routine.

In other words....are you the athlete/fitness enthusiast who falls asleep at 9pm, wakes up at 11pm to get a snack because you are hungry, you go back to bed at midnight (falling asleep with the TV on or browsing through your iPhone/pad) and then wake up at 3am to go to the restroom because you had a bowl of cereal w/ milk at 11pm (or before bed) and then you jump out of bed at 4am when the alarm goes off so that you can do your 3-mile recovery run?

Sit down with a piece of paper and make sure you have your priorities in the right place:
Make time for sleep
Make time for a healthy diet

Don't expect to life a busy, go, go, go life and hope to find the time tomorrow because you will be "good" tomorrow. If you are currently training for an event and find yourself like a zombie by thurs or friday, perhaps it is more beneficial for consistent quality training to take a rest day on Wed or get a little extra sleep by modifying workouts mid week than trying to be a superhero and expecting your body not to fail you from Mon - Sun, week after week after week.

DIET
So, then the question comes into the diet - does a healthy diet override quality sleep or is sleep more important than a healthy diet?
I am sure you can guess my answer.

It's all about balance.

There is a great saying that "you can not out-train a poor diet". In other words, if your diet is not balanced in a way to support the metabolic processes during activity, don't expect to eat whatever you want and however much you want and then just "exercise" your way to "good" health. Sadly, it doesn't work like that.

I find that when it comes to creating an individualized, balanced lifestyle, people are always quick to think about the person who is an anomaly. You know, the one who can eat whatever she/he wants but still has great race results or has the "perfect" body (if there is such a thing). Or the person who ate only x-foods (aka followed x-diet) for 3 months and lost 30 pounds and now feels amazing. When was the last time you just thought about yourself and didn't compare your life to others....wishing that you could be like others or questioning why others have it so easy or why they can do it and you can't?

I think about my own journey in the past few years and I am very proud of my own changes in regard to living a lifestyle that I feel is balanced and healthy. As a health professional, I am not forcing my lifestyle on others but rather helping to inspire and motivate you to think about what it is you can do to make for a balanced life. Certainly, some of the things that make me feel healthy now were established overtime so when it comes to the diet, you can't expect to feel the positive rewards overnight.

This blog post is simply to show you that your life is your life. If you can give a little thought every day as to what works and doesn't work (depending on what you want to "feel" like and be doing now, in 10 years and in 50+ years) and how you can make small changes for tomorrow, I have a feeling you are going to feel so much more balance in your life and overall, a better way of enjoying your time on Earth.

To keep you motivated in the kitchen, here are two yummy creations that will make you feel great....and with a happy belly, I am sure you will sleep better in the evening.

Enjoy!

Colorful Seasonal saladOrange slices
Carrots
Celery
Tomatoes
Leeks
Leafy green lettuce
Edamame
Corn
Quinoa (Red or white)
Cranberries
Pumpkin seeds
Sliced almonds


Lemon Tahini Dressing (or spread)  
(As featured in my lastest monthly Plate Not Pills Article on LAVA: Manganese)
3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/2 cup lemon juice (1 large lemon)
1 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp water (add more for desired consistency needs for a dressing)

1. Combine ingredients in small blender (ex. Ninja cup blender) and store in glass jar or Tupperware container in refrigerator.





   

4/17/13

Keep moving forward - it's what we do best!

 
As athletes and fitness enthusiasts, we are notoriously stubborn. Perhaps that is why many of us need a coach in that we love to go, go, go and push, push, push and we do not like to slow down. With an admirable worth ethic, we love to be "on" all the time. Certainly, we need a return on all that investment so with every off day comes the build-up of energy for another quality week of training.
 
In light of the recent Boston Marathon events, I can't help but feel an amazing amount of energy from social media and from others who refuse to let this event slow them down.
 
As a coach to a group of amazing athletes (feel free to read their inspiring bios HERE) it is my responsibility to make sure my athletes are on when they need to be on and are off when they need to be off. Sometimes I prefer to keep their switch on dim as I know they all love to work hard for their goals. I am sure you are the same in that you'd rather keep moving forward than to find yourself making steps backward.

With everything that went on in the past few days, I wanted to make sure that all my athletes were still driven to succeed. Seeing that everyone grieves differently and is affected by events differently based on past experiences, it was important to me that I do not assume my athletes are on when they need to be off.
 
Although not surprised, when I emailed each of my athletes in the afternoon yesterday, they all responded back before the end of the night yesterday. The responses I received were amazing and although not my intent to share, I just can't help but spread some of the energy that my athletes are feeling right now. Although each of them are sad and feel horrible for the individuals affected in the event (myself included), they are all choosing to move forward as that is what they do best.

I hope you can do the same for that same stubbornness that keeps you from slowing down when you should probably stretch more and rest more is exactly what you need right now to keep on moving along in your journey of life.
 
 
 
*The newsreels showed incredible courage and bravery as everyone pitched in to help so the folks responsible not only did not scare us but showed how incredible we are. We are praying for all the people who suffered loss. They would like for us to be afraid and change our lifestyle and if we did then they would be the winners. So, I am with you and refuse to back down in any way and I will be at my upcoming event and with all the crowds in total defiance to what they would like.
 
*I am both saddened and still shocked but uplifted by the wonderful stories of hospitality the people of Boston have shown.  I am more determined than ever not to let this stop me from living my dreams of racing.  They won't win!  I won't let them.  
 
*This inspires me more to continue with the lifestyle I have and if you stop doing what you love you allow them to win. If anything it has reminded as many things do, that it is okay to go for your dreams and reach big. It has reminded me that if you are not 100% happy in a situation then do something about it because you get one life. It has reminded me to thank my body for what is CAN do and not what it COULD look like if. It has reminded me to love with my whole heart because there is not room for anything less in your life. 
 
* While I am deeply saddened by the Boston event, I won't be letting it affect my lifestyle.  
 
*Honestly I think everyone around here is a bit shaken, myself included. I certainly have had a multitude of emotions concerning the events and really tried to avoid the gruesome photos. I didn't even watch any of the videos of the explosion because I just didn't want to know. I followed the updates on CNN but just tried to bypass the photos and videos. Overall, feeling ok. I'm very thankful that I was able to move my body this morning in honor or it all. I know I can take nothing for granted and that tomorrow is never promised. I also know that I can't live fearfully that it might happen to me. SO really just overall staying positive and trying to be of support to the running/triathlon community around me. 
 
*So many bad things happening around the world, but this one really hit close for me as well for a lot of people. I woke up last night and thought about the people in their hospital rooms and tried to imagine the pain they were experiencing and what was going on in their mind.  It must be extremely difficult for them and the families affected. I know you have an emotional connection with the Boston Marathon since you have done that race before.  So I'm sure it must be tough for you to comprehend something like this happening.This event has not affected my motivation to race and train and live a healthy lifestyle, but I do have a feeling of sorrow in my heart and ask myself why this has to happen. 
 Thanks for being so kind and supportive and reminding me how valuable life is and not take it for granted. 
 
*My heart goes out to everyone affected by this tragic event. I will not let this deter me from doing what I love. Plus, I think the chances of this happening again will be pretty low. You cannot live your life being afraid of what could happen. You got to do what you love and hope God keeps you safe. 
Again, thank you for checking on me. That really does mean a lot. As for training and racing. Well, I'm kind of an adrenaline junky, so I will keep doing it :)

*
thanks for reaching out. yeah. i'm not gonna lie, it really affected me yesterday. hard. not that any life should be more important than any other, but targeting a group of athletes at such a prestigious event and one that tends to be equated with so many dreams just feels even more devastating. i just felt numb yesterday. sad, angry, disappointed, and heart broken... but not for a second did i have any sort of emotion that made me question running and training. in fact, it was the only thing i wanted to do. this morning's run i ran for all the people affected. i ran for them, i ran for their families, i ran for those who were responsible, and i ran for me. it was the first moment of clarity and peace i felt since yesterday afternoon. i found myself running toward 2 white bearded men who were running the opposite direction and i started to let them take the inner section of the road's shoulder while i veered towards the traffic side, but they both pointed towards their center and motioned for me to run between them. one of them was missing his arm (guessing war injury). it all happened quickly, but the simple act of being friendly and protecting me made me smile but then i started to tear up. i imagined the runners and spectators yesterday who will be going home with one less limb than they arrived with. some may never run again. i choked back the tears and focused on what my body was capable of and it made me want to use it b/c as sad as it is, we never know what tomorrow holds. 
....and, marni, with that. i want to state right now that my goal is (now more than ever) to qualify for boston. i imagine next year will be an entirely different event but i don't want it to change the running culture and i don't want it to scare me away from something that is still my dream. it's giving me more fuel. 
will you help me choose the race and help me reach my goal?
 
 
 

4/15/13

Being thankful for life - Boston Marathon explosion


I was so excited to write my next blog today, talking about my training over the weekend. In view of the fact that many people are suffering from the explosions at the Boston Marathon today, I can't help but be extremely saddened by this horrific event. As a writer, I express myself the best with words on paper (or computer) so it only feels natural to write my blog but with a different take away message.

Life brings challenges, stressful situations and emotional times. It also brings success stories, inspirational moments and memory making experiences. Everyone is unique and comes with a story.

When I started my business, I thought long and hard about my philosophy and what I wanted to provide to others in this world. Over time, I took mental notes as to how athletes and fitness enthusiasts were living life and I loved the fact that so many people in this world have goals related to diet and exercise and wanted me to help them reach their personal goals.

With yet another eye-opening event that proves the fact that life is short with no guarantees, I am quickly reminded as to my mission with my business and how I choose to live my life.

Over the past few days, what have you complained about? Have you gone to bed upset at yourself? Have you felt stressed with things out of your control? Have you felt depressed that everything was "off" and not going your way?

I'd be lying if I said my life was peachy-keen and perfect. Far from it. For 8 weeks (Feb - beginning of April), I didn't run because of my long-time history with on and off hip/back issues. There were days that were exhausting and stressful with my business, sad days at the hospital and there were times when I asked myself "why me?"

Of course, I can't motivate others to be excited to change their life if I am complaining all the time so I use my social media networks (instagram, twitter, facebook, blog) to make sure that I am living a great life, hoping that I can inspire you to do the same. I don't choose to be fake so when I share something via social media, it is not only for you but for myself. If you are an athlete, you know the feeling when you cheer for someone who is hurting during a race...it doesn't only lift them up but it gives you a sudden surge of energy. That is what I love about life - we all can be cheerleaders for others just as much as we can be cheerleaders for ourselves.

So for every day when I thought about what I "couldn't do" with running, I found something I could do to stay active without pain and to promote healing. With every tiring day with my business, I thought of how grateful I am to do what I love to do every day and how much I love my athletes and fitness enthusiasts. And with every day that I thought "why me", I thought about my worst day being someone else's worst day.

You see, we all have off, bad and stressful days. If you don't, you are not normal. I don't consider you lucky if you have perfect days every day because I feel the lucky ones are those who experiences things in life and overcome them. For that makes you stronger, wiser and smarter. In racing, every bad moment has a good moment to follow. You just have to get there. And sadly, be prepared for when you are feeling good there is likely a bad moment around the corner. That's the way it goes as an athlete.....you just have to keep moving until you reach the finish line.

One of the best parts of my business is helping others change the way that they are living life. Because it is normal to have personal issues, thoughts and worries with diet, exercise and life, I love connecting with people and making sure that athletes and fitness enthusiasts are making progress in life and not wasting days on Earth. There's nothing worse in life than going to bed feeling like you took a step backward or not making progress. By identifying what you are not happy with and what it would mean to you if you changed it, you can easily find a few ways to tweak your life to move to a better place of waking up excited to live life in a great way and to go to bed being grateful for another tomorrow. 

I don't feel that we should feel guilty for living an awesome life. I think the issue is not feeling as if you have the ability and confidence to live a great life. The ability to worry less about your body weight and to focus more on your relationship with your one and only body. The ability to worry less about nailing every workout or reaching a PR or podium spot at every race and to focus more on the bigger picture and be lucky to push your body to higher limits. Yes, sometimes we get injured but many times we can prevent injuries by just training smarter. And lastly, the ability  to worry less about things out of your control and to spend energy on what you can control.

If you are complaining about your life or making excuses, ask yourself if it is important as to what you are complaining about? If it is, how will you change it? What would your life be like if you stopped wishing for things to happen and you just started to make things happen? Sometimes we have to let our ego stay at home, our comparisons to others be forgotten and memories of the past inspire us (or if hindering, don't let them hold you back). 

No one wants to say it but if you died tomorrow, would everything that you complain about be worth it? Striving for that perfect lean body, overtraining for an upcoming race or waking up every day hating the way your life is heading....is it worth it? 

Let's be a bit more grateful for life, the opportunities that come our way and most importantly, your current state of health. 

You can still be competitive, goal-oriented and strong-minded and still live a balanced life. Just make sure that whatever you are wishing for is something that you will actually enjoy if you eventually get the chance to get what you think you want and how will your life change if you get it. 

Thoughts and prayers to all people affected by the Boston Marathon explosions and let's not forget the dedication, passion and inspiration by the 25,000+ runners who had no fears but only high expectations for an awesome day...doing what they love. 


4/14/13

Creations to fuel your lifestyle - pizza, recovery meal and veggie casserole


RECOVERY MEAL


Bread, fruit and eggs. A few of my favorite things in a recovery meal. 
Are you confused as to the best method of recovery after endurance activity? I know it can be confusing to understand sport nutrition because what you eat around workouts is not what is preached by the media in terms of "heart healthy" eating. This is why I am a firm believer, health first, performance second. When I was at the Oakley Women event in LA this past week, I talked about fueling around workouts and my primary focus was to help the audience understand that we don't need high fiber, high fat, high protein around our workouts. We want foods to be quick to digest and to be energy dense. So if you are snacking on quick digesting foods throughout the day when your body is not active, this is where the confusion comes in as you are likely very vulnerable to your body around a workout and want to eat "healthy and clean". Pass on the salads, high protein/fat foods and fibrous foods around your workouts as that is not the time to be giving your body slow digesting foods. Learn to create a diet that keeps your body nourished and with stable blood sugar and you will find yourself better understanding how to properly fuel around workouts....without feeling as if you are going to gain weight or change body composition with higher glycemic foods.

The immediate consumption of carbohydrates post-exercise is critical for muscle glycogen repletion. Although your recovery "window" is open for 24 hours, the keys to a quick recovery (based on research) are consuming liquid protein as soon as possible post workout (no more than 30g for best absorption) such as whey or vegan protein powder, milk or chocolate milk, followed by  a high glycemic carb breakfast with a little protein (a little fat is fine as well). Avoid stuffing yourself after a workout as the best recovery will come when you can eat every few hours to ensure adequate glycogen storage. If you are finishing a workout extremely weak or starving or feeling full/bloated, consider working with a RD specializing in sport nutrition to help you out with with your sport nutrition fueling regime.

For a yummy and healthy recovery meal: try to start with milk and cereal (ex. rice or corn based if you tend to have trouble with consuming foods after workouts) or fruit, veggie and whey/vegan smoothie as something small to kick start the recovery process. Then when you are ready for your actual meal, think about a variety of fruit for electrolytes, vitamins and minerals and to keep your immune system strong with lots of colors on your plate. Choose your easy to digest quality protein (ex. around 20-30g of protein in your meal such as 1-2 egg whites + 1 whole egg) and your starch/carb (around 40-70g carbs would be a good start to aim for depending on your workout volume/intensity) and I always believe in having some type of veggie with my meal so I used kale and garlic as pictured above with a little hummus on the bread and cheese on the egg. YUM!

VEGGIE CASSEROLE


Do you have those days that are super busy and the last thing you want to do is cook? Yeah, I have them too. BUT, I know that my busy and active lifestyle can be not be fueled off cereal and ice cream...or any other "quick" option that does not provide vital nutrients to my body and mind. My business keeps me busy but with athletes and fitness enthusiasts from around the world relying on me to provide practical information, to review food logs in a timely manner and to communicate passionately and realistically, I would be letting down others, along with myself, if I didn't make time to prepare nourishing meals. Additionally, with every meal comes a workout to follow the next day so it would be a disservice to my body to tell myself that I am too busy to cook and then get upset the next day that I didn't have the right fuel in my body to have an awesome workout. 

I love casseroles because they are super easy. I think we all need go-to easy meals just as much as we should enjoy spending a little extra time in the kitchen. Although this meal took about 40-45 min to make, I wasn't in the kitchen more than 10 minutes so I was able to get things done around the house...thus still staying busy but with a meal ready for me and Karel when it was time to eat. 

1 can favorite soup
2 eggs
Frozen veggies (enough to cover bottom of casserole dish
Seasonings of your choice
Panko bread crumbs
Cheese
Grain or starch of your liking - I used brown rice, potatoes would be a yummy additional as well as you can stick them in the microwave or oven.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On a glass casserole dish, spray lightly with non stick spray and place veggies in dish until 1/2 full. Drain 1/2 liquid from soup (unless you are using a broth based soup - then you can keep the broth for another time, I recommend a vegetable soup (vegetarian) or your favorite chunky style soup) and pour over the veggies. Use seasonings of your choice on top - ex. garlic, oregano, chili flakes, pepper, turmeric, onion, etc. Scramble two eggs and a dallop of greek yogurt together and pour over the veggie mix and lightly mix in until evenly combined. Sprinkle with bread crumbs (lightly) and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove casserole from oven and turn off heat. Top with cheese when veggie casserole is firm and place in oven for 2-3 minutes to let cheese melt. Serve with 1/2 - 1 cup whole grain/starch and Enjoy! 

Matzoh Pizza and Salad



As you may tell, I am not much of a sandwich eater. I've said it in the past but you can only stuff so many plants between two slices of bread. I use to eat sandwiches and when I travel I love a good PB&J for the road/plane or a filling egg, cheese and veggie sandwich from a local eatery. But on a day to day basis, sandwiches don't work for me because I like the volume and nutrient density in plant strong meals and I prefer to use my "bread" for workout nutrition (pre and post) and incorporate more whole grains into my meals instead.

As you may also know, I LOVE pizza. I don't think it's the triangle shape but the combination of flavors - marinara sauce, toppings, bread...yum! In my mind you can make a pizza out of anything or at least, enjoy the flavors of pizza anytime if you want to be creative.

For this yummy creation, I first created a delicious salad of mango, spinach, leeks, celery, carrots, tomatoes topped with a sliced egg (I eat 1 whole egg daily for health benefits). I think used my oven to roast veggies - I tossed peppers, mushrooms, onions and then tofu in a little olive oil and placed in a casserole dish and baked at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes until roasted. Karel had some leftover chicken that he cooked so I was able to use chicken for his pizza (rt side pic - with a little tofu since he likes it) and tofu for me (left side picture).

After the veggies were roasted, I took two Matzoh's and spread a spoonful or two of marinara and then topped with basil, oregano and garlic (dried herbs/spices). The oven was turned off so I just placed the 'pizzas' in the oven for 2-3 minutes until the cheese was melted and then topped each pizza with the toppings. 

You could use any type of flat bread for this or fresh pizza dough which we often use. I really like Matzoh to eat pre workout because it has a good amount of carbohydrates for 1 slice to be combined with PB and banana slices but it doesn't leave you stuffed like bread or bagel before a workout.

DESSERT


It's not typical that Karel and I will have dessert after dinner.......I just don't see the point of eating after you eat? It's like everything that was prepared for dinner was forgotten and dessert is the only way to feel satisfied. Sometimes we need a little something sweet after a meal but that is often confused with a lot of something. Many times I find that people undereat throughout the day and thus overeat in the evening as our body has a natural way to regulate how many calories we need on a daily basis. Considering that we do very little activity after 8pm, it would be better for your metabolism to spread out your budget of calories throughout the day instead of eating a lot at one time or overeating on something sweet after a meal.

As you can see from my pic above, this is a "dessert" of mixed fruit. The key however is to not overdo it on any one thing. I used 3 strawberries, 4 orange slices and a few banana slices along with a few grapes. Not a lot as I was satisfied after my meal but just needed a little something after the meal. Another great option for dessert is 1/2 - 3/4 ounce dark chocolate which is another one of our favorites in our house.