Essential Sports Nutrition


Honor your hunger

Our society loves to focus on foods that we should eat but rarely do we address the lifestyle that could be affecting our food choices and habits.
Often do I hear people saying that they don't have time....time to strength train/stretch, time to cook, time to sleep.
But if you are sick - how can you work?
But, if you are injured - how can you workout or race?
But if you are exhausted - how can you make smart choices, be productive and be consistent in life?


When you think about a hunger scale, it's evident where we should be staying with our body when it comes to identifying the biological hunger cues for eating as well as when to finish a meal. So when someone speaks about not eating x-y-z food because it is bad or regretting eating too much at once, it may be helpful to refer to this scale..... or the lifestyle.

I don't believe in bad foods. I think our society has it all wrong when they talk about how bloating, feeling lethargic, tired and unhealthy are contributed to certain foods. I think about how people eat and why and that is why when I work with an athlete or fitness enthusiast on their nutrition, I use a lifestyle log as I want to see how food does or doesn't enhance life. I want to see when, what and how you are eating something and any comments that may help me better understand an athletes eating "style" and choices.

So when I think about why people jump to fad diets, quick fixes and off-limit foods lists, I can easily see why that happens. It's most common that a person will address what not to eat when they are not feeling in good health or feeling good about their body. This saddens me because we have many ways to describe optimal health and it can't be told by just a number on a scale. Also, I'm very passionate about helping people develop a healthier relationship with food and the body and I would love to hear less body bashing and more body thanking.

So, let's look at why you or someone you know may feel frustrated when it comes to "healthy eating" - not because of good food/bad food but instead, how your lifestyle impacts your food choices.

When you are at a 0,1 or 2 - you will eat anything and anything that is in sight. You need something fast and that often means convenient food or fast food. Rarely is it broccoli and cucumbers but instead, to relieve your low blood sugar, you desire something sweet or high in sugar. It typically feels great going in but then the feelings of guilt come about and then that brings you to a place of regret.

Whether you get to 9 or 10 because you went into a meal starving or you just couldn't stop (because of the food tasting so good, emotional or stressful reasons, etc.), then that brings you to a place of need. The need to do something fast. Often, the outcome is restriction. Whatever you ate or something on your mind that you think you shouldn't be eating is removed and restricted and then starts the phase of eliminating foods in order for you to get yourself back into control. Often times, the lifestyle is not balanced and as a result, many heart healthy choices are eliminated and you find yourself in food/calorie deprivation (by choice). This cycle continues, on and off, for a while for many people.

Weeks turn into months and months turn into years. But the easiest thing for many is to keep with an off-food list instead of thinking about the lifestyle.

Set yourself up for success.

I encourage you to appreciate real food. But in order to do so, you have to have a plan. You can't find the time, you have to make the time. You have to think of it as an investment to your health and well-being. You have to set yourself up for success but you do not have to aim for perfection.

All I ask is that for the next 1.5 months, please do not jump to a quick fix. Your body does not need to cleanse, detox or fast and you do not have to live a diet of restriction, guilt or body bashing.

I know you can do this.

I am confident that you can keep veggies in your fridge and make your own hummus and chop your own nuts for a heart healthy snack.
I know that you can start your day with breakfast, think about the composition of your meals to leave you satisfied with nutrients and I know you can slow down to eat and not eat meals in your car.

Use your silverware, yum when you eat and don't compare yourself to others.

Appreciate food from a garden and take time to prep your food so that it is convenient for you to serve yourself.

Don't wait.....start your healthy relationship with food and your body, starting today.


3 Holiday creations - hummus, barley mint apple salad and fruit pizza

My favorite part about the holiday season is being around family. But like any holiday, memories are typically being created when food is involved. And when it comes to the holiday season, I couldn't believe more in my saying that "if you eat well most of the time you don't have to worry about the rest of the time." 

I will never diet, fast, cleanse or detox before during or after the holiday.... or anytime of the year. EVER.

Despite enjoying occasional treats and eats, the same relationship with food and my body alongside the same tips and tools are carried with me during the holiday meals. I'm not alone in this, for both Karel and I love traditional foods around the holiday and neither one of us want to be served anything sugar-free, fat-free or anything that has some restricted word in front of it. Don't tell me what I am not eating - tell me what I get to enjoy. We do not leave our meals feeling stuffed, horrible or miserable but instead, we smile because we enjoyed a fabulous meal (and dessert) with our family and feel thanks that we get to reflect on another year of crossing finishing lines and being in great health. We also think about those who may not be in good health and wish that they could share these special moments with us. 

Despite the large portions and higher calorie/fat/sugar meals that people are served, there really isn't a lot that we should stress about with holiday eats. If anything, the BEST thing I see coming from holiday eating is holiday cooking....which typically involves REAL FOOD!

Unless you are microwaving a frozen turkey dinner or buying store-bought pumpkin pie, I'd imagine that most people out there would enjoy grandma's cobbler or your family members secret gravy for the turkey.

Oh - and Campy loves the holiday's as well.....especially when anyone "accidentally" drops something.


Lucky Campy - he gets his own Thanksgiving plate....

Too much Turkey?

So despite a few holiday-themed chemical concoctions...

And delicious looking, yet "a thanksgiving meal in disguise" drinks and eats...

Starbuck's Venti 2% Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha
660 calories
22 g fat (14 g saturated fat)
95 g sugar

I'm all for the holiday eats and being super creative in the kitchen.

I have a few recipes that I created yesterday for two holiday edition of my normal  HeartWise (for men and women) class that I teach at Baptist Medical Center Beaches as a clinical Registered Dietitian. It's important to me that although I am speaking to a room of heart attack victims and individuals who are at risk for cardiovascular disease that they do not leave the room feeling overwhelmed or restricted with their food but instead inspired that they have a new way of living life - yes - for many it's a new lifestyle and way of thinking about food but it isn't until you have to make time for illness that you are reminded of how important it is to take care of your health. Prevention is cheaper than medicine.... and it tastes/feels better too :)

The creations were well-received so I thought I'd add a little inspiration to your holiday menu (or daily eats).....enjoy!

Lemon Garlic Hummus

2 heads garlic
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
3 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp tahini 

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth (or to the consistency of your liking).
(very garlicky! If you'd like a little less garlic, use 1 head of garlic)

Makes ~1.5 cups


Barley salad with apples and mint

½ cup orange juice
1 ½ tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp chopped fresh mint leaves
2 cups barley
2 tsp grated orange zest
1 large green apple - chopped
1 large red apple - chopped

1. Cook barley according to package.
2. Combine orange juice, vinegar, orange zest and mint leaves in a bowl and combine.
3. Add barley and apples dressing and stir until coated.
4. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. 

Fruit pizza
1 sugar cookie dough
Whipped cream cheese
Fruit of your choice (seasonal)

1. Press cookie on nonstick large pan (sprayed with nonstick spray) until ½ inch thick. 
2. In 350 degree oven, bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool. 
3. Spread a light layer of cream cheese on cookie and top with fresh fruit. Refrigerate before serving. 



Accepting a failed racing performance

When I met Karel in 2006, I knew him as a corner hoping, crash dodging, race in the hurt-box type of guy. In other words, I feel in love with a cyclist. 

For a little over 6 years, I watched Karel race all over the east coast as a cat 1 cyclist. There were times when he would be on the podium, other times when he would just be happy he hung on to finish the race. There would be times when he missed a break and would have to settle for a sprint in the mid pack and times when he would be stuck behind a crash and his race would be over. No matter how good he felt going into his races, the tactics of cycling can be just as exciting as  they are frustrating. 

Karel's transition to triathlons in the summer of 2012 meant that Karel was embarking on a new challenge. Not only with his fitness but also with learning about the sport of triathlons. 

Karel brings a very interesting thought-process to the sport of triathlons and he owes a lot of it to his 20+ career of racing bikes and following the careers of professional cyclists. 

In cycling, you do not chase a finishing time. You don't need a computer to tell you to go faster. It's good to have gadgets to review training files in order to know how you squared up to the other rides but no one focuses on how fast they rode and in how quick of time. If a race is 60 or 90 minutes, that is how long you ride and you better be on your A game in order to see how long you can survive and still put out a strong sprint at the end for a possible podium finish.

Unlike triathlons, in cycling racing it doesn't matter how fast you are or how quick you can cover x-miles. There are no PR's but instead, races that you finish and races that you don't finish. In cycling racing, your best fitness shape ever may be overshadowed by someone who is just in a little better shape...or perhaps a person who responded to an attack before you or someone else who could stay in the hurt box just a little longer than you.

Karel has taught me well over the years and now that he has transitioned to a triathlete, I really embrace Karel's mentality toward racing.

Although there is nothing wrong with shooting for a PR or qualifying time, it's almost to a fault that an athlete who has a goal time in mind can very well put him/herself at a disadvantage compared to others. For you are chasing a time and others are chasing competition, the playing field becomes more of who's the smartest athlete instead of who's the fittest athlete. Many times, athletes who use competition as a positive, end up pushing their limits naturally...often with a faster time than what was planned for the day.

As I mentioned before, in cycling, there are no guarantees that you will finish a race. You may in the best shape ever and finish 20th and other times, depending on who shows up for the race, you may end up on the podium because of good tactics. In cycling you need skills and a bit of luck on your side.

In triathlons and running races, there's more to a successful racing performance than how fast you have trained to swim, bike or run in x-amount of time coming into the race. Instead of luck, you just need to know how to pace yourself to slow down the least amount possible with whatever is in your way - terrain or weather included.

In the Dec. issue of Runner's World Magazine (be sure to check out pg 44 for a few of my quotes on food pairings), there was an article called "BREAKING BAD RACES". 

 Even though cyclist don't like to fail, it's inevitable that at some time in a racing career, there will be a race that a cyclist does not finish - for whatever reason.  Unlike cycling, failing in triathlons and running races is not as accepted by the athlete her/himself.  I don't think anyone likes to fail but when a race is mostly within your control, it is up to only you to figure out a way to get from the start to finish line. And when you don't chase a time, this effort becomes a lot more manageable depending on how you handle the course, weather and your current level of fitness.

One of the side effects of chasing a PR, specific time or a person in front of you is the risk of not finishing a race or not having the outcome that you worked so hard for and dreamed about for months, if not years.

 Perhaps for many people, the worst outcome is bonking or slowing down but for other athletes, a DNF can be one of the hardest things for an athlete to handle. Even worse for an athlete's ego is finishing a race slower than expected and feeling like he/she let other people down (family, friends, coaches). Oddly enough, I started this blog in 2007 after I DNF my first and only race (Miami Marathon). But, as an athlete and coach, I really enjoy learning from my mistakes.

If you know how to move on, better times are to come.

Here is a little bit from the article (pg 51-52) that I thought would be valuable for any athlete and fitness enthusiast who has struggled in a race, especially when chasing a time or place (or, those who are nervous about their first race or a first-ever distance):

"A bad race is an opportunity to gather information, learn and improve. You need to embrace failure as part of the process." - Ralph Heath

"Turning a negative into a positive may seem impossible, especially when your war wounds still sting. But the sooner you accept the past and learn from it, the faster you can move on to a PR-filed future." - Bob Cooper (author)

"If you're invested in your running and don't get the expected return, these feelings of disappointment are natural and healthy to express. It shows your commitment and passion" - Gloria Balague

"Prolonged grieving lowers self-confidence and motivation. When you are unable to constructively evaluate what happened and point to a solution, it may signal some underlying emotional issues. Pinpoint the source of your anguish. Are you embarrassed by how others view your performance, ashamed that shortcuts in your training caused it or upset with Mother Nature for unleashing a heat wave? Whatever it is, isolating the source will help you work through your feelings and regain your emotional balance." - Balague

"Every race is a learning experience, so whatever happened is really ok. The first step is to separate what you couldn't control (poor weather, illness, a devious pothole) from what you could (uneven pacing, inadequate training, unrealistic goal) and make peace with the first and focus on rectifying the second." - Cory Nyamora

"Writing about the experience in a journal or blog can also be helpful. Your internal thoughts can be overly critical but when you write about an experience, you tend to be less negative and more objective" - Nyamora

"Think of the next race as separate and independent from the first - and not as a "do over". That mindset will make you feel extra pressure at your next event and that could hurt your performance. Space out events, don't rush to race again. You might be eager to redeem yourself, but if your muscles aren't fully recovered, you could be setting yourself up for another bad experience." - Nyamora

"Consider the emotional toll the bad race took on you. If you're feeling desperate to prove something to yourself or others, or you're still angry about the last race, wait. It might be best to take a break from racing until you feel emotionally recovered and really miss it. " - Nyamora

Sometimes the best successes come after initial failures. After you accept your failure, it's time to move on.

See you at the next starting line....


Lately in the off-season - workouts and creations

After a 3-week break from structure and giving my body the rest it needed from triathlon specific training, I am enjoying the transition to structured training. However, there will be no run-blocks in my training, no running races to train for and no extreme changes from "normal" tri training.

I am a triathlete and swim-bike-run is my lifestyle. There's a lot of work to be done this off-season and base period in order to ensure that my body is strong enough to withstand the training and racing load that I choose to put on myself in 2014. This is the time to work on imbalances and weaknesses with the body and to also maintain balance so that I do not peak too early and so I reduce risk for injury and burnout.

In the next week and a half, we will be launching our newest service which is a 5-week Transition Phase triathlon training plan. There will be more on this soon but Karel and I and our athletes will be following a very similar plan to address areas that can make for successful training performances and race day experiences.

The training plan is specific to lung capacity in the pool (and efficiency), power on the bike, form on the run and a heavy emphasis on core/hip/glute work (and plyometrics/cicuit training) as well as flexibility.

Here's a little peak at what my last week consisted of (not including Campy walks) with a few key workouts and yummy creations:

Mon: 6:30-7:45am: 2000 yard swim + 30 min hip/glute/core work
6:30-7:30pm: Yoga at the YMCA with Karel

Tues: 7:15am: 6 mile run (steady with short walking to reduce residual fatigue - first official run since Kona, aside from our run to and from swim start at IMFL. I didn't need to walk but choose to walk). 7:45 min/mile average pace

Wed: 6:30am - 8am - 2500 yard swim + 45 min hip/glute/core and circuit leg/upper body strength
Stretching throughout the day

Thurs: 7:00-8:30am: 1:30 bike (road bike)
Stretching throughout the day

Fri: 6am - 8am - 3000 yard swim + 40 min strength and hip/core work

Sat: 2 hour group ride (on my new Speed Concept)

Sun: 9.2 mile run. 1:11 (8 miles solo, walked every 2 miles to shake out the legs to reduce residual fatigue. The walking wasn't needed but choose to walk. 7:45 min/mile pace. 1 mile with Campy).
Stretching, foam roller, trigger point

Swim main set 2x's:
8 x 50's (25 as few breaths possible, open turn, 25 fast breath as much as you'd like) w/ 30 sec rest
300 steady swim
100 swim w/ pull buoy between ankles to work on core and upper body strength
(1600 main set, warm-up and cool down as needed)

Toasted quinoa and kamut, leftover baked eggplant, zucchini, onion and mushroom, fresh ginger, one scrambled egg, tempeh, spinach, asiago cheese, red pepper flakes and marinara sauce.
-For toasting cooked whole grains, heat skillet to medium heat and drizzle 1-2 tsp olive oil and toast grains until crunchy and golden. It gives them great flavor.
Veggies cooked in oven - 425 degrees for up to 35-45 minutes.
Tempeh - can be cooked in oven or skillet until golden brown

2 hour group ride - have fun and don't worry about numbers

For my 1:30 road bike workout on Thurs:
Main set 2x's:
5 x 1 min FAST cadence w/ 1 min EZ spin
Followed by 5 min steady effort
Recover 5 minutes then repeat
(40 min main set)

Oatmeal creation: raspberries, Bosc pears, chia seeds, raisins, almonds and oats.
-I recommend up to 1/2 cup oats (dry) and if you find that oatmeal does not leave you satisfied after 2-3 hours, add a bit more protein such as protein powder, milk or a side of yogurt.
-I recommend add at least 2-3 fruits to your oatmeal for more vitamins and minerals.
-I always add some kind of fat to my oatmeal to slow down digest. Enjoy any nuts or seeds for a little crunch too. 

Key hip/glute/core exercises:
Hip hikes
Bridge (w/ marching)
Planks on side w/ leg lift
Planks on side w/ hip thrust
V-ups or captain chair
Side crunches standing w/ weight
Bench step-ups

 Chocolate cherry sourdough bread (a gift from one of my nutrition athletes from NC) to compliment my plant strong meal of mixed greens, chives, tomatoes, grapes, avocado, sunflower seeds, raisins and cottage cheese (2% Daisy Brand) sprinkled with Parmesan.

As you probably know, I have a new bike in my life....

And I'm really happy about it!

Later next week I will be talking about the specifics of my new bike as well as an overlooked part of getting a new bike....getting a proper fit by an experienced bike fitter/mechanic.
Karel is the owner of the RETUL system and has over 20 years experience with bikes and in the bike industry. I like to call him the Bike Doctor. He knows his stuff and he has been really busy helping athletes around our area with their bikes so I will be talking about the RETUL technology soon which I highly recommend for any triathlete who is looking to reduce risk for injury, gain more power w/ a more comfortable ride and to help run more efficient off the bike. 

Oh, almost forgot.
My weeks are always filled with Campy love.