Essential Sports Nutrition


Training for the perfect body image?

If you are currently changing (or trying to maintain) your eating/exercise habits in a quest to change your body image in order to be a faster, stronger, healthier or more powerful athlete, are you changing habits that will concurrently make a positive impact on your performance as well?

Are you driven by performance gains or by a body image?

What if you reach your ideal body image but performance doesn't improve?
Is it assumed that if you lose weight you will automatically become faster, improve strength and endurance?
What if your new body image (which was once desired) becomes more of a highlight to you than the initial gains in fitness that you were once seeking in your quest to achieve the "perfect" body image to become a better athlete? 
As an athlete/fitness enthusiast who is hungry for a change in body composition (in a body-image obsessed society), how will you be able to keep yourself from crossing the line from being a dedicated, passionate, performance-driven athlete to becoming the athlete who is more obsessed with what the body looks like than what you can do with your body?

What's the point of having a lean body if you can't do anything with it?

  • 41.2 percent of women, 50+ years of age and older, check their body size or shape once or more a day. (source)
  •  Over one-half of teenage girls and nearly one-third of teenage boys use unhealthy weight control behaviors such as skipping meals, fasting, smoking cigarettes, vomiting, and taking laxatives.
  • 69% of girls in 5th-12th grade reported that magazine pictures influenced their idea of a perfect body shape.
  •  20% of people suffering from anorexia will prematurely die from complications related to their eating disorder, including suicide and heart problems.
  •  Female athletes in aesthetic sports (e.g. gymnastics, ballet, figure skating) found to be at the highest risk for eating disorders
  •  Anorexia is the third most common chronic illness among adolescents
  • An estimated 10-15% of people with anorexia or bulimia are male.
  • Almost 50% of people with eating disorders meet the criteria for depression.
  • The mortality rate associated with anorexia nervosa is 12 times higher than the death rate associated with all causes of death for females 15-24 years old
  •  Only 1 in 10 men and women with eating disorders receive treatment. Only 35% of people that receive treatment for eating disorders get treatment at a specialized facility for eating disorders
  • A comparison of the psychological profiles of athletes and those with anorexia found these factors in common: perfectionism, high self-expectations, competitiveness, hyperactivity, repetitive exercise routines, compulsiveness, drive, tendency toward depression, body image distortion, pre-occupation with dieting and weight

As a society, there is a constant desire to be thinner or leaner. A perception that less body weight automatically equates to better health, improved performance, more success, better physical appearance and beauty and more self-confidence. 

We live in a society that idolizes perfection, body image and beauty when it comes to the human body and because of that, you have let something (or someone) have a powerful influence on your sense of self confidence, worth and satisfaction when it comes to your own person body image or appearance.Because of the high levels of body image disturbance that you face on a daily basis, you may find yourself spending decades of your lifetime feeling dissatisfied with the body that you were given. 

When was the last time that you have gone a full day without doing the following:

-Call yourself fat or ugly
-Tell yourself that you should not have eaten something you just ate
-Tell yourself that you hate your body
-Google a diet plan
-Purchase a diet book
-Look at another person's body and feel worse about your own
-Let the number on a scale ruin your day
-Tell yourself you'd be faster or more beautiful if you lost weight
-Tell someone that he/she is lucky because of how they look/eat
-Purge because you ate too much
-Starve yourself because you want to lose weight
-Restrict carbohydrates before/during a workout in an effort to lose weight
-Bonk during a workout because of intentional inadequate fueling
-Touch yourself somewhere and get upset
-Purchase diet pills for a quick fix
-Overexercise to burn calories
-Have a bad workout and blame it on your weight

It's almost impossible to alter your image of your body in one day, let alone a few weeks.
The media and social media has a powerful influence over what you deem as the ideal body image. Whether it's models, athletes or celebrities, it's likely that you have found yourself disturbed by your own body as you compare yourself to someone else. 
Perhaps you have even gone so far to create a realistic and attainable body image for yourself as you compare yourself to others, forgetting the characteristics about your own body that make you unique, special and beautiful. 

When was the last time you thanked your body? 

Self-esteem, self acceptance and love for your body are requirements for you to change.
And if you want to change your body composition, the purpose for change must have a positive outcome.
There are healthy ways to change your body composition as you become a stronger, fitter, faster and more powerful athlete and then there are a lot of unhealthy ways to just lose weight. 
Without having an appreciation for the body that you have, you will constantly find yourself searching for something better, more quickly, rather than making progress which requires patience.
Many times, you are doing exactly what you need to do in making progress with your fitness/body composition or all is going as planned with training and your fueling regime but the moment you compare yourself to someone else or feel frustrated with your body for whatever reason, you extinguish your fire for individual success all at the expense of wanting more than what your body is capable of giving you at this moment in time. 

Imagine a world where you had no one to compare your body to and you created your own standard of beauty. Imagine winning an event with the body you have now and everyone applauding your effort because of what your body allowed you to do. 
Imagine going to bed every night without food-consumption regret and waking up with body satisfaction. 
Imagine a lifestyle where your main priority was to live a quality-filled life, reduce the risk for disease, receive love and kindness from others and to set goals and reach them and to not waste your days on earth, wishing for the lifestyle and body of someone else or thinking that you aren't capable of change.  

Why aren't you living the lifestyle that you want, in the world that you live in? 

Starting right now, I want you to stop bashing your body if you are at a healthy weight yet feel as if your body is not good enough for your standards. 
Stop spending energy on telling yourself what you need to change in your diet or with your body, if you are in a place where you need to improve your health. Don't expect change by doing the same thing over and over.
It's likely that you are vulnerable to your body image when you are working out/training in tight clothing and sweating buckets. But if you want to change your body composition, the goal is to gain strength for your body is an athlete's body.

Your amazing body was not designed to model sedentary clothes, but instead, to perform in athletic wear. 

You and your body run, do zumba, swim, bike, do yoga, take aerobic classes, walk, chase your kids in the park, rock climb, hike, MTB, play tennis or surf, etc.

Whatever you choose to do for a sport, it's because of your body that you are able to move and experience the amazing rush of endorphins as your heart beats and muscles work.
It's because of your amazing body that you are living the life that you want to live.

And it is because of the food that you provide to your body, it is fueled by nutrients to support all metabolic processes to keep you making fitness gains.

An underfueled athlete will underperform. 

It's up to you, right now, to make the decision as to what you feel is beautiful and healthy about your body and to not sabotage your athletic performance because of your aesthetic desire to look differently.

Guess what?
You can have it all. 
You can reach personal bests or successful racing performance with a strong body so long as you fuel your body to perform, eat for health and love the body that allows you to train for start lines and race smart to cross finish lines.

But you can't build a better body image if you aren't setting yourself up for success. 
 Love your body in motion and you will quickly find yourself fueling the body that is training to perform and thanking your body for every great milestone that you reach in your own personal fitness/athletic journey. 

What do you love about your body?


How to create the perfect meal smoothie

CREATING THE PERFECT SMOOTHIE TV SEGMENT(click above to watch my live TV segment from this morning)

This morning I had a great time talking with Melanie about how to create the perfect meal smoothie on News4Jax during the 8 o'clock hour of the Morning Show. 

Meal replacement shakes and workout recovery drinks have been around for some time and if you are on social media, it's likely that you have come across one or two smoothie the last hour.

But over the past few years, smoothies have been given a lot of attention from medical professionals, the health conscious, celebrities, dietitians and trainers for a lot of great reasons.

When you are in control of the ingredients in your top of the line, heavy duty blender, smoothies are a delicious and easy way to hydrate and fill your body with powerful vitamins and minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats and quality protein to nourish your immune system, energize your muscles and brain and to keep you satisfied. 

In other words, smoothies are a yummy way to drink your medicine.

The key to making the perfect meal in a cup is it's all about the ingredients. 

I will give you a few ideas on how to create a healthy and satisfying smoothie that can be used a meal to nourish and energize your body.


No smoothie is complete without a liquid base. If you love a milkshake type consistency of a smoothie (like me), the key is to not overliquify your smoothie.

For a single serving smoothie around 16 ounces or more, aim for around 1 cup of liquid to start (you can add more water during the blending process. Also leaving your blender running will add volume to your smoothie). 
A few great choices include milk or a milk alternative to provide your body with calcium, potassium, naturally occurring sugars and carbohydrates. Be mindful of the protein content in almond milk (1g) compared to milk (7-8g) if you are using your liquid to add protein to your drink.  Another option, although a bit higher in natural sugars, is coconut water which has an extra dose of electrolytes if using a smoothie as a post workout rehydrating meal. Additional water can be used to meet your consistency needs. Pass on the fruit and vegetable juice so that your smoothie contains intact fibers from real food.
Liquid options: 
Almond milk
Soy milk
Cow’s milk (lactose free is fine)
Coconut water

Fruits and veggies
Here lies the beauty in smoothies. This is why MDs and RD's LOVE smoothies - it's medicine in a cup! 
Not only do nutrient and water dense fruits and veggies bulk up your smoothie with fiber and other vitamins and minerals like vitamin K, C and potassium but this is an easy way to enjoy a synergy of nutrients to maximize your health. Think of a smoothie as colorful salad in your blender.

I recommend to use fresh, local fruit when it’s in season but frozen fruits make a great consistency in a smoothie so you can buy frozen fruit or freeze your own. Aim for around 1-1.5 cups mixed fruit and around 1 handful leafy greens or 1 cup mixed veggies. 
Fruit not only adds sweetness to your smoothie but also masks the taste of veggies if you are bit hesitant to drink spinach or kale. 
Some of my favorite fruits and veggies in smoothies include leafy greens, cooked sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, sprouts, peaches, mango, pineapple, bananas, berries, oranges, kiwis and apples.


Satisfying fats
This is typically the one area where smoothie lovers fall short when it comes to making a volume rich smoothie hold you over for a few hours (as a meal should do).
Not only will healthy fats provide a creamy texture to your smoothie but fats will also slow down the digestion of the natural sugars found in your ingredients and will leave you with energy balance which is the main purpose of using a smoothie as a meal replacement. 
What’s great about fats like avocado, oil, flax seeds, nut butters, chia seeds, coconut, nuts and seeds is that they provide antioxidants, they can help with absorption of fat soluble vitamins found in veggies and can assist in proper brain and cardiovascular health. Aim for around 10g of fat in your smoothie and feel free to mix and match your tasty fats.


Bone building protein
No smoothie meal is complete without protein. Protein gives a smoothie substance. Ideally aim for around 20-25g of protein in your meal smoothie. There’s a variety of options depending on the source but what we want to look for is a complete protein to provide the body with all of the essential amino acids that your body can not synthesize on it’s own. 
Some of my favorites include whey isolate, soy isolate or a vegan (brown rice/pea) protein powder, kefir or greek yogurt (rich in probiotics), silken tofu or cottage cheese. To give your smoothie a creamy texture and to avoid a clumpy or chalky smoothie, add your proteins last and then add additional water as needed.


Spice it up
The last category includes maximizing the smoothie’s nutrient profile and giving the smoothie a burst of flavor. What’s great about these flavor enhancers is that they all contain a long list of health benefits from helping with blood pressure, controlling blood sugar and reducing inflammation.

Some of my favorites include coffee beans, cacao powder, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, wheat germ, honey, lemon zest.


What’s great about smoothies is that all of these ingredients can boost your health and taste great when mixed in a blender, but they are also super delicious when consumed on a plate with silverware. 


It's important to maintain a balanced diet for overall health and smoothies are an easy way to help boost your intake of vitamins and minerals. Always consult with your primary physician before starting a new diet/eating plan, especially  if you are currently on medications (ex. blood thinners) or have a clinical condition (ex. gout, etc.) that may prohibited you from over consuming certain vitamins and minerals in excess (which is easy to do in a smoothie). And if you really really really love your smoothies, keep them to one a day and enjoy chewing your food for your other two meals. 



Triathlon Science By Joe Friel and Jim Vance - Book review

When I started graduate school in the fall of 2004, I saw myself as a former college swimmer. I was exercising to stay in shape but I really missed competition. 
As a long-time athlete, my mind functions best with structure. When it comes to exercising, I enjoy it but I like to have a plan. I like to work hard within my plan, knowing that I am moving closer to my goals. 
Exercising is fun and it makes me feel healthy but a structured plan helps my body get faster, stronger and more powerful for a bigger goal than just to "be healthy."

During my studies to earn a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology, I started to inch my way into endurance sports. Well, more like jump in with a smile on my face as I starting training for my first marathon without ever completing more than a 10K road race. 

Throughout my educational career, I found myself overwhelmed with the information that pertained to the human body in motion. Although I was forced to learn it in order to pass my classes, it wasn't until I started to apply the information to my training (more so than when I was studying Exercise Science in under grad as a collegiate swimmer) for my first marathon did I really begin to grasp a good understanding the physiology of the body as well as metabolic processes. 

When it comes to coaching athletes, I find it more important to accept the human body and to thank it for what it allows us to do on a daily basis than to constantly try to challenge it, always expecting it to be better, slimmer or fitter. 
Many times, athletes improve just be following a structured plan but if athletes can learn how to train smarter, not only is the athlete more respectful to the body during intentional physiological stress but there's a greater sense of enjoyment when it comes to receiving performance gains. Although we, as athletes, do want to challenge and test the body in order to discover our greatness, it's important that we, as athletes, accept how physiological adaptations are made. Sometimes we get quick, strong or fast rather quickly and other times, it takes a while to receive gains (ex. improved aerobic threshold). 

When Human Kinetics contacted me to review Triathlon Science, I jumped on the opportunity to add another well-written book of information to my textbook library. 

This book is filled with information and when I saw filled- 651 pages to be exact. 
There is a long list of knowledgeable contributors, each with a specialty area that is included in a chapter in this book. 

Although some of the information may not get you excited like I get when I read about the physiology of the body during exercise, I feel that reading this book will give you a great understanding of all that is involved when it comes to training smart, training hard and keeping your body healthy, strong and injury free. 
As an athlete, it's likely that you do not grasp the science of the body during exercise and that is OK. You are not suppose to and that is why there are individuals who devote their careers to coaching athletes like yourself so all you have to do is follow a plan. 
But if find yourself wondering why you are not improving as quickly as you would like, or if you find yourself signing up for racing and struggling to stay consistent with training, or if you find yourself wanting to "become one" with your body and mind and to learn how to have a better relationship with your body (and perhaps be a bit more appreciative of how awesome your body is and all that it allows you to do) I would recommend to get this book for there is a chapter that is written just for you!

My number one concern with endurance athletes (or any multisport athlete) is expecting too much out of the body too soon. Whether it's wanting to be fast and to have the endurance to go fast or making the body to do too much distance, too soon in a training plan, it's a common issue that I hear from athletes that the basic understanding of training the human body for performance gains is not well understood. 

This book will help!

Physical Attributes of Triathletes
Chapter 1: Physiology and the Multisport Athlete
Chapter 2: Genetics and Inheritance in Triathlon Performance
Chapter 3: Gender and Age considerations in triathlon 

Technical Execution and Efficiency in Each Event
Chapter 4: Swimming biomechanics for triathlon
Chapter 5: Cycling biomechanics for triathlon
Chapter 6: Running biomechanics for triathlon 

Environmental factors and equipment options
Chapter 7: In the water
Chapter 8: On the bike
Chapter 9: For the run
Chapter 10: Triathlon Training Technologies
Physiological Function in Triathlon Training
Chapter 11: Aerobic capactiy
Chapter 12: Economy
Chapter 13: Anaerobic Threshold
Chapter 14: Muscle Types and Triathlon Performance
Chapter 15: Fatigue resistance and recovery

Training modes and methods for triathletesChapter 16: Warm-up and cool-down
Chapter 17: Flexibility and core-strength
Chapter 18: Strength Training
Chapter 19: General and specific training
Chapter 20: Interval Training

Training strategies in triathlon 
Chapter 21: Duration, frequency and intensity
Chapter 22: Periodization
Chapter 23: Tapering and peaking for races
Chapter 24: Physiology of overtraining

Training base building for triathlonChapter 25: Swim base building
Chapter 26: Bike base building
Chapter 27: Run base building

Multisport event-specific training and racing tacticsChapter 28: Sprint
Chapter 29: Olympic
Chapter 30: Half Ironman
Chapter 31: Ironman
Chapter 32: Duathlon
Chapter 33: Combination workout training

Sport Medicine for TriathletesChapter 34: Triathlete body maintenance and medical care
Chapter 35: Triathlon injuries and preventive measures
Chapter 36: Triathlon injury recovery techniques

Nutrition for triathletes
Chapter 37: Energy needs, sources and utilization
Chapter 38: Nutrition periodization
Chapter 39: Nutrient timing for triathlon training and racing
Chapter 40: Supplements for triathletes

Psychology of MultisportChapter 41: mental toughness for triathlon
Chapter 42: Psychology of triathlon training
Chapter 43: Mental skills for peak triathlon performance
Epilogue: The Application of Science in Triathlon 

As you can see, there is a wealth of information from Joe Friel and the other contributors. 
The wonderful thing about sports is that the information to improve fitness, to fuel better and to build mental toughness is constantly evolving. As important as it is for coaches to keep up with research, webinars and real-world experiences, it is also important to recognize that the human body is unique and reacts differently to different situations. You will probably find that there are many different philosophies when it comes to training and fueling, perhaps some "by the book" and a few that break the mold as to the right vs. new way of helping the body reach performance gains. 

As an athlete, it's important that you not only do your research when selecting a coach or training plan to help your body train for a race but also, take some time to do some research on yourself. 
The better you understand your own body, when it is at rest as well as when it is active, the more you will appreciate how amazing it is when you ask it to swim, bike and/or run fast, strong or long.

I was not paid to write this review. I was provided the book for free and was asked to provide a review on the book.

My 2nd marathon was the 2006 Boston Marathon, just a few months after a finished graduate school. 

This was the start of my endurance racing career as an age-group athlete and the start of me being incredibly grateful for what my body allows me to do through sport. 
Since 2006 (24 years old), I have finished 7 Ironman triathlons and 7 half ironman triathlons (and a bunch of triathlons and running races). That's over 1476.3 miles of endurance-specific swimming, biking and running in 8 years....WOW!! Thank you body!!!