Essential Sports Nutrition


Juicing, salt tabs, creatine, dairy, belly fat - your questions answered by an RD!

Did you participate in the Oakley Women chat on Friday? If not, no worries! 
I will be back next Friday to answer your questions on another great nutrition topic in honor of National Nutrition Month.

You can check out all of the great questions and my responses on the Oakley Women  page but I wanted to share some of the questions and my responses on my blog that I felt would apply to all of you athletes and fitness enthusiasts. 

Thank you everyone for your great questions and for taking time to pick my brain!

Hi Marni - Is there a big difference between peanut butter and almond butter? I have always eaten peanut butter, but I've been told that almond butter is healtier. Any insight you can provide there (note: I have a crazy addition to PB! hahah). 

A. don't worry - a peanut butter addiction is a good one to have. I recommend a natural  PB (ex. Smucker's Natural Peanut Butter) but any nut butter is fine. The key is just the nuts  and salt as the ingredients to avoid added sugars. Nuts are rich in heart healthy fats but they are calorie dense so portion around 1 tbsp per sitting. Enjoy!

Q. I have heard that peanut butter can be an inflammatory for some people while almond butter certainly is not. Any truth in this?

A. Great question - I try to not dissect food too much for I feel a varied diet is the best way to avoid eating too much of any one thing. Peanuts (being a legume) offer great mono unsaturated fatty acids for heart health but depending on what brand, they can be rather processed so avoid hydrogenated oils and added sugars.A great snack is to choose raw nuts over butters as another option. If you prefer almond or cashew butter there will be a different fatty acid profile which may be a bit better than peanut butter but which ever nut butter makes you the happiest, that would be the one I would recommend.

Q. Hi Marni! I travel a lot for work and have a hard time keeping healthy and fresh items stocked at home for when I'm in between travels. Often times I can't keep enough fresh produce on hand because I am on the road so much and it goes bad before I can enjoy it. Can you offer some advice of a few go-to products that I could keep in the kitchen to help make healthy meals an easier option?

A. Great question! My best suggestion for someone who travels a lot is to keep frozen foods handy for when you need them. Either make meals ahead of time and freeze them or you can stock up on frozen veggies (and fruit), proteins and then freeze cooked whole grains (or you can use quinoa which cooks fast or 10 min whole grain mixes) for a quick and easy meal. Also, the meal right when you get home (whether breakfast, lunch or dinner) doesn't have to be extravagant so as long as you have something like oatmeal, chia seeds, nuts/seeds and frozen fruit, nut butter, yogurt, banana, honey and Ezekiel bread or eggs and frozen veggies you can get some real food in your system and then go for a grocery shop to get a few options before your next trip. Here's a helpful link from Cooking Light magazine -  Best freezable recipes

 Q. Regarding salt tabs - is there an all inclusive tab that keeps from having to use both salt stick and amino acids! I get lost trying to keep track of which tabs I need to take next!

A. Great question. F
or endurance athletes seeking both electrolytes and amino acids, the best strategy is to try to get everything in your bottle through a sport nutrition powder to make it efficient and easy to meet your fluid, electrolyte and carbohydrate needs. I recommend my endurance athletes to have at least 400 mg sodium along with other electrolytes like potassium, chloride, calcium and magnesium. For BCAA's - most research studies mgs per kg so weight comes into play so to figure out your individual needs, consult a RD who specializes in sport nutrition. But a drink like Infinit Nutrition will cover the electrolyte and BCAA needs. There are other products for pills on the market like Hammer endurance aminos, liquid add-ins like eletewater and fizz/nuun electrolyte tablets that can also be used. For my racing (and my athletes) I try to keep things as simple as possible - everything in a bottle through liquid sport nutrition.

Do you agree with the suggestion of using at least 0.6 grams of carbohydrate, per hour, per pound of body weight, on the bike and ~0.3 on the run during IM? (source: Race-day nutrition)

A. T
hat's a good general suggestion to help athletes get started. But I feel that many things can affect that guideline so always good to met with a RD who specializes in sport nutrition to assist in individual needs. We need to consider the fitness level of the athlete (efficiency), type of energy systems being used during training, weather, terrain, intensity, duration. The best suggestion (aside from metabolic testing - although I would rather use real world settings than controlled lab) is to monitor training files and calorie expenditure and then to use that as a guideline - generally we can replace around 30-50% what is expended through sport drinks (if properly digested and absorbed).

Practicing hot yoga, and running in NYC during these cold months... What is the best way to stay hydrated ...besides just water????

Since you will still be losing water through breathing in the cold air outside as well as hot yoga (sweating) I recommend an electrolyte tablet such as FIZZ ( Hammer Nutrition) or Nuun Hydration. 1/2 tablet per bottle per hour. Also, think about hydrating foods (fruits/veggies) as well as smoothies and soups to keep you hydrated throughout the day.

 Hi Marni! So lately I've been told by some friends and various media sources (like magazines and health websites) that I need to stop eating dairy. Am I harming my body by consuming these kinds of products? What are your views on this?

A. From a health perspective, there are many great benefits in low fat dairy, specifically yogurt and milk. Depending on your dietary preferences or ethics, you can choose organic or non organic (I recommend organic). You will find probiotics as well as quality amino acids and protein (and other nutrients like calcium, potassium, sodium) which make for great recovery snacks from workouts as well. Every human body is unique so if there is an intolerance of milk, there are many alternatives to meet calcium and protein needs. Soy and lactose free milks will give you calcium and protein whereas almond milk will give you only calcium so if needing the extra protein (~7-8g) a protein powder can be added or real-food source. Some of my favorite (and daily) dairy products are Daisy Brand 2% cottage cheese, Chobani or fage 0% greek yogurt, cabot cheese (any kind) and milk (skim or soy).

Q. Hi Marni! Lets say I really forgot to plan, am short on time and am looking to fuel up at a grocery store after a workout. I often have a hard time finding something quick and easy to grab that I don't have to cook and that I know will help supplement my workout. I have a bit of an allergy to dairy (so don't normally consume it) and really not a fan of all the sugary 'protein bars' and often a handful of nuts just isn't enough! Any recommendations??

A.  Great question! A few options for you - I always recommend to keep a bar (store bought like LARA or KIND or homemade) and protein powder (Ex. whey or vegan) on hand in the case of a "oh no I need something now" moment after a workout to help with the recovery process as a snack. If you are needing a quick meal from the grocery post workout, I recommend edamame, avocado, brown rice (10 min or less) and frozen veggies and you can make a balanced vegan/vegetarian meal super quick when you get home. Also, a soy based yogurt with granola is also an easy snack from the grocery. For those who do not have an intolerance to dairy, greek yogurt or cottage cheese with chopped fruit from the grocery and raisins can make for a great recovery snack. Hope this helps!

Q.  I have a question about avoiding getting headaches and dizziness, It usually happens the day after a tough workout or if I don't eat for a few hours... Is there anything in my diet that could be triggering ? I don't eat any processed sugars, 98% of my diet is what I wash,chop,cook at home.

A. Thanks for this question. It sounds like your symptoms are from low blood sugar and/or dehydration. I would recommend to perfect your pre-training snack so that it is high carb and not fat so that you are fueling your brain and muscles for the workout. You may benefit from a sport drink or at least an electrolyte tab like FIZZ or NUUN during your workout (if over an hour, I do recommend additional carbs from a sport drink powder). This is a serious thing and something you want to tackle as soon as possible so if the nutrition suggestions I recc do not help, discuss with your primary physician to talk about the health of your kidneys, blood pressure and blood sugar. Typically, it's the fueling around/during workouts that can help with these symptoms during/after workouts. Also be sure to keep yourself hydrated during the day but don't overdrink. aim for at least 8 ounces water per meal/snack and around 16-20 ounces water between meals. 20-28 ounces water during workouts.

Q.  Can you tell me if a drink says it is sweetened with fruit juice concentrate, if there are hidden added sugars? I have been letting my kids drink these and I'm skeptical. 
Bolthouse beverages
And as a follow up question, would this be a good recovery drink after a long workout? I know people drink chocolate milk and I feel like this would have to be a better choice? This would not be in place of a healthy meal.

 If the kids are needing to drink this drink to boost fruit/veggie intake because they have not yet appreciated the goodness in fruits/veggies, then this brand is a great choice. When you read the ingredients, if any form of sugar is in the list that means that sugar has been added. In the case of juice concentrate with added sugar, the sugar is coming from the fruits/veggies so it is natural sugar and this is what we want in our diet (same thing with milk - lactose is a natural sugar just like fructose). 
The concentration process works to hold on to the nutrients found within fruits and removes water which will then dilute the overall mixture. I will also recommend real food over juices if trying to eat a heart healthy diet but there are some cases when a drink like this will come in handy either traveling or to fill in nutritional gaps. Just be aware of portions for the serving size is generally 8 ounces so even if sugars are natural, they will still add up if the kiddos drink the entire drink. 
Here's a great read from my favorite magazine Nutrition action on sugars: Sugar by any other name
Part 2: when it comes to recovery drinks the important components are protein and carbohydrates and typically in a ratio of 2:1, 3:1 or 4:1 of carbs to protein (Ex. 20g of protein 40-80g of carbohydrates). But the key is what type of protein. With the bolthouse smoothie drinks which would be better than a juice post workout because of the protein, they use whey concentrate. It's recommended to use whey isolate, a more purified form of whey. Also the key to recovery drinks is leucine (a BCAA) which works with insulin to maximize protein synthesis with carbohydrates. Leucine is also oxidized at high rates during activity. This is why chocolate milk is shown to be effective (milk is 20% whey and milk also contains leucine). My suggestion is to focus on a high quality protein source such as 20-25g whey or vegan protein powder and you can mix with 8 ounces of this juice for carbohydrates after a long (2+ hour workout). Chocolate milk is fine but I do find it's hard to find a quality chocolate milk.

Q. Signed up for my very first 10K race on March 15th? Is there a good meal plan I should stick to for this next week?" 

A. Here's a TV segment on did on nailing your pre-race run nutrition, I hope this is helpful.
Pre race run nutrition

Q.  I've been hearing some talk recently about the benefits of using creatine to help increase speed and aid in recovery. I'm not sure if this is a "nutrition" question, but have been dying to ask you if you feel that creatine would be of any benefit for an endurance athlete.

A. Creatine monohydrate is actually one of the most studied supplements for a very long time and is actually one of the safest supplements to consume (I learned a lot about it while in graduate school as it was a popular supplement for our researchers to use in studies). In terms of taking supplements, we always want to address what is the reason behind the supplement? Many times we supplement what we lack in the diet or for athletes, supplement to gain the competitive edge. In the case of creatine, it is most beneficial for power/strength which even for endurance athletes, there should be time in the training cycle for the athlete to benefit taking creatine post strength training workouts. For endurance athletes the research has not be consistently clear if taking creatine will make you a better athlete and most of the research says no because as aerobic athletes, we generate our energy (ATP) by oxidizing glucose (and fats) which is much slower than through the anaerobic systems in which creatine is needed to help keep ATP levels elevated. 
I do not take creatine through a supplement (Karel does) but here is a blog that I wrote in 2010 discussing creatine. If you are interested in taking a supplement, always discuss with a RD specializing in sport nutrition as well as with your primary physician. 
Creatine and dehydration

Q. Which greens are the best for nutritional value and if romaine was on that list? 

A. Absolutely - romaine is a great pick because of its high water volume and is very nutritious as well with a high vitamin K content. The darker the green the more nutrient density but all greens are great sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. I personally enjoy arugula because it is rich helps produce nitric oxide to increase blood flow. It also has a nice peppery taste. Here's a blog I did discussing the many types of greens: Going green-er

Q. What do you think of salt tabs or sodium intake during a marathon? Last year I started craving salt halfway trough the marathon but only had gels (which is what I trained with). Would you suggest adding in something salty while training and on the course? Salt tabs okay?

A. Every athlete needs electrolytes but it's very tough to understand exactly how much of each electrolyte you need which depends on what you are losing through sweat. I find that many athletes are not meeting their hydration needs because the nutrition consumed during training/racing is not being properly absorbed and digested. Because we need sodium and water to empty contents from the GI tract, it's important to consider the osmolality of a drink (or sport nutrition) to ensure that it empties quickly from the stomach to be absorbed in the small intestines. For hotter races, you want a low osmolality drink (low carb concentration closer to 4-6%) and to drink it every 10 min or so to ensure you are getting adequate energy. Instead of taking 1 gel per hour or every 30 min, I recommend gels mixed with water (ex. planning 1-2 gels per hour)so that it's easier to take a swig of your gel mixture and to help postpone fatigue. Through gel/sport drink or salt tabs, give yourself at least 300-400 mg of sodium + 100mg of potassium per hour (+ the other electrolytes I mentioned above) or NAPALM which is a powder from Infinit Nutrition which is like a concentrated sport drink that can be mixed with water and then you can take in water at aid stations. I also recommend to stick with liquid sport drinks (pass on the solid food) to ensure that everything you are consuming for "energy' is being used by the muscles.

Q. If you have difficulty eating really early in the morning...What might you eat before an early morning workout that starts at like 5:45/6 am

A. Great question! I just tackled this question in the recent issue of Triathlete Magazine where I talked about different workouts and timing food with workouts. For an early workout, we still want a pre training snack but let's keep it low in fiber/residue and energy dense. In other words, high carbs but low in volume. I posted a pic on my TriMarni Coaching and Nutrition FB page this morning with some of my favs like WASA crackers, seasonal fruit, honey, maple syrup, dates. A few others: BUDDY FRUITS.PowerBar Fruit blends. Applesauce. Granola. Juice. Rice based cereal w/ milk/yogurt. For a 90 min or less workout, aim to start with around 25-40g of carbs around 20-45 min before the workout to find the best foods that work for your body. From there, if you need to add a little fat/pro to keep your tummy happy during the workout (since your muscles will be getting the quick digesting carbs), aim for around 5-8g of pro/fat.

Q. Hi Marni, 
My fiance and I have been wanting to juice for dinner, but I usually work out after work/before dinner. Is juicing (kale, spinach, apple, mixed berries and apple juice) enough nutrient after a high intensity work out? If not, what could we change or add to our current mix to make it enough to refuel my body?

A. Great question! Your ingredients sound delicious but I recommend to use juicing to compliment meals - example, a homemade juice with your choice of protein, whole grains/starches and heart healthy fats so that the juice is not the star of the meal but provides the veggies/fruits that you'd like to help you create a plant strong meal. Example, a juice with your choice of protein (ex. tofu/tempeh or chicken/fish w/ olive oil or avocado and brown rice or quinoa). To help you recover (when the magic happens) after a workout, we don't want to slack on protein as well as carbohydrates (we need both post workout as well as at meals) to refuel the muscles for consistent workouts. So a better option than juicing after a workout (or for a meal) is to make a smoothie as a meal. This way you are able to add fats and protein (which will leave you more satisfied as well) to your veggies/fruit. I have several smoothie creations on my blog but here is one you may enjoy for a meal to share with your fiance 

Q. Hi Marni! I became a vegetarian a few years ago and although I feel like I've been eating a pretty well balanced diet and I definitely feel that I get enough protein, I'm wondering if there are any supplements I should be taking or anything I should be making sure to get in my diet that may be lacking now that I'm not consuming meat?

A. that's great about your plant strong diet! I have enjoyed my plant strong diet (lacto ovo vegetarian) for almost 21 years. I would recommend to use nutritional yeast to make sure you are getting adequate B vitamins (depending on what types of protein you choose most regularly - eggs are rich in B vitamins as well as dairy). You can add a serving once or twice a day to help meet your needs. 
I would focus on your omega's - either from plants or a capsule. The key omega's are EPA and DHA and you want to aim for around 1mg a day (Min - depending on your cardiovascular risk) . 
I also use fortified foods like cereals to increase my intake of iron and B vitamins - check the label but you want to aim for at least 50% (some cereals have closer to 100% of vitamins and minerals). There are other ways to increase iron absorption (non heme iron) like adding citrus to dark greens or using a cast iron skillet. 
Lastly, the key is aiming for around 20-30g of protein per meal (for every diet) for best absorption. 
Hope this helps. 

Q. What do you recommend to blast stubborn belly fat? I have been running, just started cross training and do protein shakes and supplements. 

A. Thanks for asking. I think some of the other posts may help with this as a lot of the info may apply. The two main focal areas : consistency and progress. 
For consistency - think about an exercise routine that you can maintain and move the body often. I encourage individuals to move more rather than to continue to "restrict" calories (especially heart healthy nutrients that will boost the metabolism). For progress, think about small changes in the diet that will help you focus on a more real food diet (if that applies) as well as making sure your meals include protein at each meal (to keep you from losing bone density with weight loss). The combination of consistent workouts and progress with the diet will help you tone up without feeling restricted or deprived. As for protein shakes and supplements, I don't know enough about your lifestyle, health, diet and goals to make any recommendations so I would focus on a consistent routine with exercise and wholesome balanced diet. Hope this helps thanks for asking!

Q. Hi Marni, I'm riding in a century tomorrow morning. Would you give me an idea what i should eat before, during and after the race?

A. Best of luck at the century! Since I don't know anything about you, your fueling regime and fitness routine, I will pass along this blog I wrote and a few recommendations: 
-Be sure to have a satisfying energy rich pre ride snack with a little pro/fat. 
-Be sure to have a sport drink with you to sip throughout each hour (every 10-15 min)for electrolytes, carbs and fluids. 
-If there are sag stops, you can refill your bottle with water/sport drink. There's the tendency to overeat at these stops and then feel a bit lethargic after the stop when you get back on the bike but if you are feeling the need to eat, keep the snack low in fat/pro/fiber and easy to digest carbs. 
-Pace yourself, if you are comfortable drafting this will reduce energy to help you postpone fatigue. 
-If it's a "race" and you are pushing yourself and there are no stops, be sure to stay consistent on your fueling with your sport drinks and if you need a tummy satisfier, take pieces of bar/gel as needed for a little extra energy. Hope this helps - have fun!

A. What % P/C/F do you suggest for daily requirements? I hear so many conflicting ideas. What do you eat post 2&3 hr w/o?

Q. Yes, a lot of conflicting info and it really depends on your activity level, if there is a goal for weight loss or body composition changes as well as your own personal lifestyle and often clinical issues. Through a diet that emphasizes real food, I recommend around 50-55% carbohydrates (ex. fruits, veggies, grains, starches), ~30% fat (heart-healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocados, nut butters and cheese) and then for protein, around 1.1-1.5g/kg/bw for most individuals. There's no magic formula so when I work with athletes I first try to get a meal balanced so that it is not lacking one macronutrient group and then depending on hunger/fullness, lifestyle, activity I can then tweak how much in each meal (I find most people benefit from a bit more pro/fat to feel satisfied, especially with plant strong meals filled with fruits/veggies). After a 2-3 hour workout, it depends on the intensity, but I typically start with something small like a glass of milk with a handful of cheerios or granola or if more intense, a smoothie with whey protein (check my blog for my many smoothie creations) and all the add-in's. after my recovery snack/drink I enjoy a meal. Here's an article I did for USA Triathlon on some of my creations that helped me fuel my IM training. 

Q. Looking for a good way to eat to help the ab section become more defined with healthy eating?

A. Thanks for the question! Two parts - first is from a fitness POV - try to make it a routine to devote 10-15 min of core work daily - key exercises like planks, leg drops, superman and stability exercises (ex. BOSU) will help with a stronger core. Second part - if it applies, read labels on processed food to reduce/eliminate sugar alcohols and focus on real food that is easier for the body to digest and absorb. Think about hydrating foods (as well as drinking water) and reducing added sodium in the diet (primarily from fast/restaurant food and processed food) that can assist to reducing any extra water, naturally. Some of my favs: chia seeds, fruit, yogurt (probiotics), leafy greens, oats, veggies, ginger.


Trimarni camp day 4 - putting it all together with the Trimarni Mock Tri!

Day 1: 1 hour swim, 1:15 hour interval run, 30 min strength
Day 2:  3-4 hour bike + 30 min run
Day 3: 3 hour bike + 60-80 min run

After our team dinner on Saturday evening, Karel and I relaxed in bed at our hotel and we couldn't stop talking about our campers.Over three days of quality and tough training, we heard no complaints and saw a lot of effort and heard no excuses. When discussing the plan for the mock tri on Sunday for the last day of camp, we could tell our campers were tired but smiles that we saw on Thursday, still remained on their faces. The camp was going so well, beyond our expectations and although we knew everyone was tired, we didn't want the camp to end. And what what we could not expect was how well everyone was getting along. There were no competition as to who's the best, fastest or strongest athlete but instead, each athlete pushed each other as comfort zones were stretched. Since Karel and I are all about teamwork, it was a beautiful sight to see friendships being made while bodies were in action. 

There was so much positive energy throughout the camp and we knew Sunday's workout would be a big confidence builder for all our campers. Not only were our campers able to apply everything they learned throughout camp and test clothing/gear that may be used on race day but our athletes were forced to be body/mind aware and everyone was in a positive environment to "race" their own race. Although we treated the mock tri as training, it was the last chance for our campers to push their bodies to have the best performance possible on the last day of camp. 

Since we are firm believers in getting adequate sleep to help the body rejuvinate and repair, our meeting time on Sunday was 7:15am with an 8am swim time for our mock tri. 

The athletes gathered in the parking lot of the NTC and after bottles were filled and tires were pumped, we did our normal pre-race routine and spent about 10 minutes with our campers, leading them through dynamic warm-ups. The weather was just perfect for our mock tri and it was already a great start to the day with everyone laughing and continuing to make memories with each other. 

We racked our bikes by the pool at the NTC and all the campers set up their transition area as if it was a race. 

Once everyone was ready, we went to our two reserved long course lanes to warm-up for 5 minutes. 

Mock tri:
30 min time trial swim (non-stop) - however many meters you can complete in 30 minutes.
26 mile bike ride (similar route to our Saturday workout so that the athletes were familiar with the route and could practice changing gears and pacing themselves on rolling terrain)
40-50 min run (or 10K) - on trail, which includes rolling terrain

Karel and I swam with everyone and it was great to just zone out and swim long course with everyone.
After our swim, we all got our gear ready for the bike and headed out to the trail together as a group. 
Over the next 20 min or so to get to our "course", the campers stayed in groups of similar fitness levels on the trail and once they were on the road, it was time to get into the zone.

Just like in a race, there was pacing and passing but we instructed to our athletes "safety first!" Karel rode out ahead of the campers so that he could help the athletes with any traffic on the road and I rode with athletes here and there during the ride - although Karel and I were not racing or training on the bike. We were out there to support our athletes, take pics and cheer them out. 

Karel made sure every camper got back on the trail safely and I made sure the athletes had cold water and coconut water in a marked box on the trail to hydrate as it was getting rather warm up. 

While our campers were out on the run, looking super strong, Karel and I made a last minute decision to run with our campers. Originally we were not going to run and just stay on our bikes to cheer for our athletes but when we saw our athletes running and really giving a solid effort out there we were so inspired that we put on our run shoes and headed out for a run. Karel ended up running a 10K in around 40 minutes on the trail and I ran intervals so that I could stop here and there to take pictures of the athletes running. 
Although so many highlights on Sunday, running the last 1/2 mile or so with my athlete Gary (65 years old) was a moment I will never forget. It was if the entire Clermont area was filled with positive energy from all the Trimarni campers. 

After the run (I ended up running 3.1 miles) I joined all the campers with Gary and we all celebrated the end of camp by soaking in the pool....and the smiles and laughs continued.

Words can't describe how much fun we (Karel and I) had a camp. It was all because of our amazing group of athletes that made our first camp experience the best experience ever. 

17 athletes now have new friends who can share a similar passion for an active and healthy lifestyle through triathlon training and racing. 

Karel and I look forward to putting on more camps in the near future so if you or your tri club/tri buddies have any interest in us putting on a camp in your area, just let us know.

Also, with much request, we will be placing another Trimarni kit order soon so stay tuned. 

Thank you again to the sponsors of the Trimarni camp! We had lots of happy tummies and well-fueled, strong bodies throughout the camp.

The oldest and youngest at camp. Colleen and Gary. 

My friend, web designer and the creator of the Trimarni logo - love you Doris!!

What an inspiring, motivating and amazing group!!
Until next time........