Essential Sports Nutrition


Block Island Organic Sunscreen review (and discount code)

There are a few things that I can not train without on the bike, especially during Ironman training. Spending at least 7 hours (total) outside each weekend, sweating and training my body on the bike and running, means that I get a lot of sun exposure. 
Now I have to thank my dad for my naturally dark skin, unlike my mom and my brother who are a bit on the pale side (thanks Dad!). However, even though I do not burn very easily, I never take advantage of my time in the sun and I always put on some type of sunscreen to protect my skin from UVA and UVB rays. 

(specifically UVB and UVA, not discussing UVC) 

UVB (B for burning) rays cause sunburns and cancer. UVB rays damage the skin's more superficial epidermal layers.
UVA (A for aging) rays increase skin aging, suppression of immune system and can cause skin damage. UVA contributes to and may even initiate the development of skin cancers. 

The American Cancer Society recommends to use a Broad Spectrum sunscreen which blocks UV radiation with a SPF greater than 30 and to reapply for continuous protection.
The U.S. FDA has recently changed labeling rules to help consumers better understand sunscreen products and how to best use them. 

According to, there are currently 17 active ingredient approved by the FDA for use in sunscreens. These filters fall into two broad categories - Chemical and Physical.
Most UV filters are chemical which means they form a thin, protective film on the surface of the skin and absorb the UV radiation before it penetrates the skin. The physical sunscreens are insoluble particles that reflect UV away from the skin. 

The most common sunscreens contain chemical filters like oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate whereas mineral-based sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium oxide. 

Titanium Oxide and Zinc Oxide are used alone or in combination with other inactive ingredients to protect against both UVB and UVA rays and are broad spectrum. 

A sunscreen's efficacy is measured by its SPF (sun protection factor) and this indicates how long it will take for UVB rays to redden skin with using the sunscreen compared to how long skin would redden without the product. SPF is not the amount of protection necessarily. 

An SPF 15 sunscreen screens 93% of the sun's UVB rays, SPF 30 protects against 97% and SPF 50 protects against 98%. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a SPF of 15 or higher is necessary for adequate protection. 

Believe it or not but there are actually a few household items that have a natural SPF:
Almond oil, coconut oil, zinc oxide, shea butter, red raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil!

As you know, there are many sunscreen products on the market to protect your skin but many of them contain ingredients that may protect you from the sun but may not be very safe for your skin as they can disrupt hormones, cause skin irritations and may be toxic in other ways. 

Because I am not a dermatologist or your primary care physician, I am not comfortable telling you what sunscreens you should use or not use. When it comes to food, I have a license to cover me in that area. 

However, when it comes to sunscreens, I prefer a mineral based sunscreen and one that is comfortable on my skin. If I am spraying/rubbing sunscreen on my skin before a workout or race, I not only want it to protect my skin from the sun's beautiful, yet harmful rays but I also want it to be breathable and comfortable when I am sweating. I hear very often that athletes do not wear sunscreen because they feel it is not "airy" on the skin, they feel like they have a layer of lotion on their skin that makes them feel like they can not cool the body in the heat through sweating and because they feel they do not need it. 

Well, to answer the last part, you do need to wear sunscreen and it is possible to find a sunscreen that feels good on the skin. Although sun exposure at some length is healthy for the skin for vitamin D absorption, it is important that athletes take precautions to protect the skin for we also compromise our immune system thanks to hours and hours of heart beating, muscle contracting, body-part moving working out and racing on a daily/weekly basis. Wear your sunscreen when training for there's no need to damage the body any more so than we are already doing with long or intense exercise routine. 

I was recently contacted by Block Island Organic Sunscreen a few months ago to try one of their products. I was not asked to write a review or provide a giveaway and I was not paid to write a post.
Since I am always up for trying something new (only if I believe in the product or if it is safe and there is good research on the use of it), I was looking forward to trying a new sunscreen to add to my training accessory list. 

I did not write about this product right away because I wanted to truly test it out in training and with IMWI on the horizon after just racing in IM Austria in June, I have had plenty of long weekend workouts to try out this mineral sunscreen, which is fragarance free and is a broad spectrum UVA/UVB protective sunscreen (and synthetic ingredient free). 

Although this sunscreen only has around 40 minutes of water resistance, I can say that I have had no issues with this sunscreen on my skin for long bike rides and runs. Although I am always hesitant to rubbing white lotion on my skin for the fear of it being thick on my body when I am working out and sweating (or skin irritation), this lotion felt more like a soothing cream and didn't leave any bad smells or greasy, thick residue. You do have to rub it in a little as it is not a spray but I had no issues spending a few seconds rubbing this sunscreen on my face without irritations or on my exposed body parts. 

After trying this sunscreen out a few times, I am very comfortable writing this review and recommending this product to my readers.

Because I want to make sure you are protecting your skin when you are training, Block Island Organic Sunscreen has provided me with a discount code of 20% off your order by using the code TRIMARNI at checkout. This discount only runs until 8/24 so be sure to take advantage before your next race or long training session. 

Also, to stay on the topic of UVA and UVB protection, did you know that clothing and sunglasses can protect you from the skin? 

If my dad (Dr. Rakes - optometrist and former Optometric Physician of the VA Clinic of New Port Richey) was still here, I know he would be proud to read that I am recommending all of you to invest in a quality pair of sunglasses to not only protect your eyes from debris but also from UV rays. As an Oakley Women ambassador, you know I love my Oakley glasses because they are comfortable and safe for my eyes. I do not trust any other sunglass lens on my face except Oakley because I have seen how they make and test their sunglasses and why they are the best sunglassses out there for active bodies (disclaimer: I have been wearing Oakleys way before I became an ambassador as Karel turned me on to Oakley's when we were dating - he wouldn't let me wear anything else :)
Oakley glasses are made with Plutonite which filters out 100% of all UV rays and harmful blue light up to 400 nm.
Learn more HERE for Oakley's incredible technology. 


French Toast Pizza and veggie-packed soup

Veggie Packed Soup
(serves 2)
1 can of your favorite soup (or dried soup package)
1 cup noodles or whole grain of your choice
1/2 cup each (canned, rinsed and drained - chickpeas, black beans, white beans)
Chopped cauliflower
Sliced leeks
Cracked pepper

1. In large pot, combine 1 can soup + 1 can water.
2. Turn to medium heat and add noodles, beans, cauliflower and leeks. 
3. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until all ingredients are soft and evenly cooked. 
4. Stir in parsley and pepper to your taste.

French Toast Pizza
Serves 1
two of my favorites combined into one!)

2 slices favorite bread (we love rye and sourdough)
2 eggs (1 whole and 1 egg white)
Marinara or tomato sauce
Shredded cheese
Fresh basil
Olive oil

1. Scramble eggs together in shallow bowl.
2. In a large skillet, drizzle a little olive oil (about 1/2 - 1 tbsp) and turn to medium heat. 
3. Soak bread on both sides in egg mixture. 
4. Cook each slice of bread in skillet for around 2-3 minute or until firm and the flip to cook the other side for 1-2 minutes. 
5. Remove bread from pan (you can then scramble any extra eggs) and place on your plate.  
6. Spread a spoonful or two of sauce on your french toast and add a little cheese and top with fresh basil.
7. Cook in microwave for 20-30 seconds to melt the cheese.

According to a recent study, researchers at Cornell University found that when people perceive exercise as fun, they are more likely to choose a healthy snack over a more indulging snack and end up eating less calories post workout. The study demonstrates that when people think of a workout as an obligation, a reward is desired afterward.

Do you find yourself working out to eat more than you eat to workout? Do you find that you want a reward (or something sweet) after a workout because you deserve it? 

Although athletes must make sure to fuel the body properly before, during and after workouts and there is certainly nothing wrong with indulging every now and then (athlete or not), be sure you are eating and training (working out) with good, healthy intentions. 
Is your exercise routine and food choices making you feel good about your body or moving your body into a positive, healthy place?

You know that saying "you get out, what you put in."

Well, consider the energy you can (and should) spend on prioritizing and enjoying a real food diet in order to fuel your active lifestyle. This dies also keeps you well so that when you do work out, you can not only enjoy the performance benefits of consistent, quality training but you can also enjoy the gift of good health. 

Happy Training! Don't forget to thank your body!


Simple and effective triathlon racing fueling tips

Last Sunday I had a wonderful time "speaking" to some of the members of the Strong & Focused triathlon club with a Webinar on Race Day Fueling Tips. 

In an effort to help as many triathletes out as possible to reach personal racing goals, I would like to share some helpful information with you. 

First, I want to share a brief story. 

IMFL Finisher 2006

Boston Marathon Finisher 2006

When I started endurance racing back in 2006 at the young age of 23, I had some knowledge of sport nutrition and training thanks to recently graduating with my Masters in Exercise Physiology. But I certainly did not know what I know now as sport nutrition science is always evolving. 
Also, as a 8x Ironman finisher, I've learned that many times, experience in real world settings many times trumps science in a laboratory.

So as I was training for my first Boston Marathon and first Ironman (IMFL), I had some understanding of how to fuel my body for sport nutrition. It was enough to help me to finish my first Boston Marathon (2nd Marathon) and win my age group at my first IM (18-24 age group) and qualify for Kona but I sure did experience a host of nutrition related issues on race day. And so, the learning continued. 

Almost a decade ago, most of my nutrition education not found in textbooks but instead from articles and books written by dietitians who specialized in sport nutrition. Authors like Monique Ryan and Nancy Clark. Back then, they were the nutrition guru’s of sport nutrition. Now a days, it seems like everyone is a sport nutrition expert and an exercise physiology coach. 

One interesting thing is when I started endurance sports back in 2006, it seems like all of the information on sport nutrition made sense for the average athlete. 
-Drink 20-28 ounces of water per hour
-Consume 30-60g of carbohydrates per hour in a 6-8% carb solution sport drink
-Consume electrolytes like sodium and potassium.
-Eat carbohydrates before your workout and rehydrate and refuel with carbohydrates and protein post workout, best in a 4:1 or 3:1 ratio of carbs to protein.

Simple information for athletes to understand and apply. And believe it or not, it actually worked! 
But fast forward to today and there’s a lot that’s different with sport nutrition and some that’s the same. 

What’s the same? 
The principles are still there. Consume fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates during workouts and races lasting more than 1 hour to hydrate the body, to maintain energy levels and to replace electrolytes lost in sweat.

So what’s different? 
Every athlete, coach, personal trainer and fitness enthusiast is an expert at every topic from sport nutrition to body composition which makes for a lot of different fueling strategies! The science of fueling an athlete’s body is evolving, there are new and different styles of training (with new gadgets and gear to give athletes the competitive edge) and the diet and lifestyle of the average athlete (specifically living in USA) is much different than it was 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. 

With all of this being said, there’s a lot of information to fueling a body in motion.

There’s nothing more gratifying than being able to put your hard work to the test on race day and execute. Think about the last time when you had a great race. Perhaps you overcame an obstacle on race day but it all came together. 

But far too many times, I see and hear of athletes who experience a host of nutrition-related problems on race day which negatively affects performance. And for a time-crunched age-group triathlete, I want to make sure that athletes can reduce the chance for any setbacks related to nutrition, specifically the most common four: GI issues, dehydration, cramping and bonking.

So as much as I would love to go into the specifics of what’s new and current with sport nutrition, what I’d like to discuss today are a few of my simple tips for how to fuel properly in your upcoming triathlon race.
And above all, no amount of sport nutrition information is helpful if an athlete does not have a healthy relationship with food and the body. If you feel you need help in this area, consult a sport RD who specializes in body image and understands how to help you with your body and food concerns before seeking a drastic change in your diet to improve performance or health. 

So when should you start fueling for your race? Well, it really depends on how long you are tapering your body before a race. As you decrease training volume and intensity, the body will naturally expend less energy which means that the food you are eating will be stored as muscle and liver glycogen. This is energy for race day.  

For a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon, you may be tapering for only 3-4 days. Whereas for a half or full IM, you may gradually start to decrease your training load 10-14 days out from the race. There are many styles of tapering but in relation to race week nutrition, I recommend to draw your focus away from eating an excessive amount of carbohydrates just because you have a race coming up in a few days. This doesn’t mean low carb but instead just re-thinking how you fuel your body during race week.

On race week, we are simply taking a normal diet and increasing the carbs just a bit and decreasing the fat. Typically, a balanced diet would be around 50-55% carbohydrates, 20-25% protein and 25-30% fat.
For race week, this would look like 60-75% of your total calories from carbs, 15-20% from protein and 15-20% from fat on race week. The biggest change would be to simply modify how you fuel before, during and after workouts to accommodate your decrease in training load. By doing this your body will have plenty of fuel on race day so for most athletes, there is no need to over load the body with carbohydrates on race week. Research shows that a fitter athletes stores glycogen more efficiently than an unfit athlete. But even more interesting, the body can still perform and muscles can be powerful even if the glycogen stores are not at full capacity (ex 2000 calories worth of carbohydrates in the muscles). However, you can imagine how an athlete can easily get by in training by not eating adequate carbohydrates and still feel just fine in training. But come race day and the low carb athlete who chooses to race at high intensity or high volume will ultimately sabotage performance if she/he does not eat a balanced diet on a daily basis and does not eat appropriately on race week.

  Because I find that many athletes have yet to master a “balanced” diet, I recommend on the few days leading up to the race to just add an additional 50-90g of carbohydrates a day to the normal diet.

Many times athletes complain about feeling heavy in the gut or in the legs before the race. Although some of this is taper related, adding carbohydrates will also add water to the body. Although this is perfectly fine and many times needed, the best way to ensure that you have plenty of usable energy for race day without feeling heavy, bloated or fatigued, is to consider when you are eating the majority of your daily carbohydrates. 

Yummm, french toast with syrup, fruit, greek yogurt and sunny side up egg. A delicious breakfast on the morning before IM Lake Placid last year. 

I recommend to focus on a very satisfying carb rich breakfast after your morning workout on the 2-3 days leading up to the race. This should be in addition to a pre training snack before your morning workout. Rather than the typical carb rich dinner meal, think about eating your carb rich meal in the morning. An example of this would be pancakes, French toast, granola, oatmeal. Something that sits well in your stomach but is not too heavy and who doesn’t love breakfast foods? Dress these items up with some fruit, honey or syrup for additional carbohydrates and combine a little protein like some eggs or yogurt for a complete balanced meal. As for eating the rest of the day, I advise my athletes to eat mini meals of carbohydrates and quality protein throughout the day so that no one meal after breakfast is too large or small. Fruits are great to snack on and foods like wraps, sandwiches and soup as well as potatoes or rice as these items are very easy for the digestive system to digest (especially in a nervous athlete) without a lot of residue build up in the gut. 

My top tips for eating in the 2-3 days before a race is to focus on low fat and fiber foods and focus on foods that do not require a lot of chewing. A moderate amount of protein is fine, around 15-30 g per meal which looks like 4 ounces of lean meat or fish or ½ package tempeh. Focus on carbohydrates and a little protein every time you eat and lots of water.

Lastly for hydration, I recommend to aim to drink around 16-20 ounces of water between meals and at least 8 ounces of water with meals. Also you should have a sport drink during all workouts on race week. Also you can add an electrolyte tablet to your drink on the 2 days before the race, just once a day is fine and this may help out those who are not big fans of plain water. If you are concerned about your electrolyte needs on race day, consult with a sport RD who can help you out.


Now on to race day morning. I’ve worked with many athletes who have to deal with different scenarios on race day such as when transition opens/closes, a late wave start, delays on race day morning, having to wake up early to drive to the race, etc. But for the purpose of this blog, I am going to give some tips for the typical race start at 7am and transition opening at 5:30am.

I recommend to have your pre race meal around 2-3 hours before your race start. I have a few helpful videos/articles for those who aren’t quite sure what to eat before a race (see links below).

If you are eating more calories to support the longer racing distance, allow more time to digest. A good rule of thumb is to plan for around 50g of carbohydrates (or 200 calories) for 1 hour or less of racing. 60-90g of carbohydrates (or around 240-360 calories) for 2+ hours of racing. In addition, I recommend 10-15 g of protein or fat. So if you are racing a sprint distance triathlon, aim for around 250-300 calories around 2-2.5 hours before. An Olympic distance triathlon, aim for around 300-400 calories and for a half IM triathlon, around 450-600 calories.

As for what to consume before the race, pass on the broccoli and salsa on race day morning .OK, not sure if any athlete would want to eat that at 4am but the focus here is on foods that do not irritate the GI tract during digestion. 

I recommend foods that are carb dense but low in volume. A few options: Granola, oatmeal (no more than 1 cup), rice cakes, jasmine or basmati rice, WASA or crisp bread crackers, Pita bread, frozen waffles, applesauce. A bagel or toast is fine but I have had great success with my athletes consuming foods with less residue so think the low volume foods. Also, these foods should not termed “healthy” so if you would eat them on a daily basis to stay full for a few hours, these are not the carbs you want to be eating before a race. Pass on the on  ultra grain breads or super high fiber cereals. 

The reason why I like the rice cake, pita bread and wasa cracker options or only using ½ - 1 cup oatmeal is because you can dress these things up. You can add carb dense options like raisins, granola, banana, applesauce, or fruit, juice honey or maple syrup to your meal and easily get in 150-250 additional calories from carbs without requiring an extra load on the gut for digestion. This is going to be much easier to digest than eating 400 calories worth of bagels or plain oatmeal.

Coffee is fine in the morning but be sure to drink around 12-16 ounces of water with your pre race meal.

After your pre race meal, you need to allow this solid food to digest and give yourself time to have a good bowel movement from digested food consumed over the last two days. If you have trouble going to the bathroom in the morning, be sure to move around after you get up, don’t just get up out of bed and start drinking your coffee and then sit down. Stand up and walk around for 10 minutes, this may help move contents through the gut.

All ready for IM Austria 2014!

When you get to the race venue, I recommend to sip on an electrolyte rich sport drink of around 80-120 calories and one that has no artificial flavors, food dyes or sweeteners. This will help you maintain blood sugar levels before the race and will also help provide your body with additional calories if for some reason you were unable to stomach all of your solid food before the race.

Just a helpful tip, I recommend a plastic water bottle for your pre race sport drink so you can toss it in a garbage can before the race start.

That was probably information overload so I will summarize a few tips for pre race nutrition: 

-You want a diet that is Low fiber and low fat on the days leading up to the race. Minimize processed foods and focus on real foods. 

-Sport bars are fine and can be convenient for traveling and eating on the go but do not slack on fruits to help provide electrolytes and vitamins and minerals as you hydrate your body. 

-Always keep a water bottle with you to stay hydrated and it’s good to have 1 electrolyte tab each day on the 3 days leading up to the race.

-Continue using sport nutrition drinks during your workouts on race week and continue eating normally for your meals and snacks. All that should change is how you fuel before, during and after workouts to accommodate for the lighter workout volume.  

-You should be eating similar foods on race week, similar to your normal diet. These foods should be practiced in advance and well tolerated. Consider your traveling/lodging logistics when it comes to planning what you will do on race week. It can be done but toasting your bread with an iron and eating oatmeal from a coffee pot is not the most ideal way to prepare your race morning breakfast. 

-Make your pre race and race day morning foods easy to find, easy to prepare and easy to consume.

Although there is not much nutritionally you can do during the swim portion of a triathlon, I can offer two big tips. Do not swallow water and do not start out too fast. Ok, I know triathletes are not trying to hydrate with ocean or lake water on the swim but even for an advanced swimmer, it’s very easy to swallow water from kicking/splashing/waves and not even know it. For less experienced swimmers, I find that another common issue is gulping air and shallow breathing. The reason why I bring this up is because These are two reasons that athletes may experience GI issues on the run. This is just a tip so that you can be careful during a mass start or if the water is choppy. Just be smart and do not start out too hard which may cause you to accidently swallow water or gasp for air. Try to stay calm in the water and this will also help your muscles stay relaxed.

As you exit transition and get on your bike, the first thing you want to do is settle into a rhythm. Spend the first few miles or 10 minutes getting your land legs comfortable from the swim. This can help reduce the risk for cramping and can provide the way for better digestion of sport nutrition. You should start hydrating and fueling within 10 minutes of being on your bike.

I encourage my athletes to keep nutrition as simple as possible on the bike. This not only makes for easy prep before the race and efficient digestion and absorption during the race but it also makes for a safer bike ride for you and others if you have everything you need in a bottle. 
So what do you need each hour? Fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates. 

Most sport drinks will provide a concentration of carbs to electrolytes and fluids that will meet your needs per hour when mixed in 20-24 ounces of water. However, when it comes to calories, I often find that athletes will either underfuel or overconcentrate a sport drink and this can severly affect energy and digestion. 
My recommendation is to aim for around 100-220 calories per hour per bottle from liquid calories on the bike in a 1-2 hour triathlon race. Around 200-250 calories per hour, per bottle in a 2-3 hour race and 220-300 calories per hour in a 3+ hour race. The most efficient way to digest and absorb carbohydrates and electrolytes are in liquid form, around 30-70g of carbs per hour. This recommendation will vary based on the athlete, intensity of the race and the race volume.

 The nutrition you consume on the bike is easier to digest and absorb than on the run so consider the bike is your prime opportunity to give your body energy for the bike and the run. Most sport drinks will provide adequate electrolytes and carbohydrates but if you feel you need more or need a better plan, consult with a sport RD.

When should you start drinking? As soon as you find your rhythm. I recommend within the first 10 minutes that you have already sipped your bottle once. Continue to Sip every 10-15 minutes. If you tend to get heartburn or burping or reflux, be sure to sit up when you drink. Generally, 1 sip is around 1-2 ounces so if you only sip baby sips from your bottle 4 times in 1 hour, you may find yourself not even finishing 1/3rd of your bottle. Sip frequently and to ensure you finish a bottle every 60-70 minutes, take 2-3 gulps at a time when you sip. Additional water can be consumed on your bike or from aid stations for cooling the body and for hydration.

A few other tips, you can consume gels or bars during racing but I would encourage solid food to be consumed in longer races when the intensity is lower. Also, solid food is simply to satisfy hunger and keep the belly happy, it is not a practical energy giver like sport drinks. I recommend only around 30-50 calories every 20-40 minutes of solid food if needed on the bike. 

Also for every gel consumed, you need around 1.2-1.7 cups (or 12 ounces) of water to ensure that the gel will be digested so be sure to take a few sips of water when you sip your gel or mix a gel in a flask and combine with water for easy sipping of your gel so you do not have to consume the entire gel all at once. Also, if you tend to get bored with only liquid calories while training, I have worked with many athletes who do just fine with some solid food (ex 30-50 calories here or there) to help the taste buds from getting bored from drinking the same drink so this is an option to just snack once or twice on the bike to help from taste bud fatigue. 

I recommend to not gulp your drink right before a climb. Review your course for ideal opportunities to eat/drink that are safe and will allow for proper digestion when the HR is not high.  

So now, we get off the bike and here is where the race is won....or remembered.  

On the run. I have seen many athletes win races on the run and many athletes suffer after an epic bike. When it comes to nailing your run which every triathlete wants to do, the most important thing is to pace your race on the bike and fuel consistently on the bike. To run fast off the bike, your body has to be set-up to run fast off the bike. Also, No amount of sport nutrition, gels, caffeine or sport drinks can make you run 7 min miles off the bike if you haven’t trained yourself to do so in training. So sadly, we can’t blame everything on nutrition.

So with the right pacing strategy, you will not only postpone fatigue on the run but you will also minimize chance of GI distress. These are two very big limiters for athletes. 

In terms of calories, it is much harder to digest and absorb calories while running so this is why liquid calories are preferred on the run.

The most important thing to consider with your racing nutrition is finding the perfect balance between minimizing GI upset and bonking so this means not taking too much but taking in enough. Ultimately, your fueling strategy compliments your pacing strategy and this works both ways. You have to be able to pace your effort so you can stay hydrated and energized but you also have to stay hydrated and fueled to be able to pace yourself. 

For athletes who feel like they can’t stomach anything when they run, they feel they don’t need anything on the run or aren’t sure what works, a simple suggestion is to train your gut in training.

 Every run you should be practicing your racing nutrition. Don’t wait until 24 hours before the race to put together a fueling plan for the run on race day.

There are two very simple strategies when it comes to fueling your run during a triathlon. 

One – you can use what is on the course. 
Two – you can bring your own nutrition and use water at aid station.
For most athletes, you may find yourself with a combination of the two. 

So just to repeat myself, every workout you should be using nutrition similar to race day. I also recommend doing race prep bricks to ensure that your bike nutrition strategy will be well tolerable on the run. For example, if you are training for a half IM, do a 2 hour bike and 1 hour transition run and include a few 20-30 min intervals at race pace on the bike w/ 2 min EZ in between and on the run, include 3-4 mile repeaters at race pace w/ 1 min walk in between. If your fueling and pacing plan works in training you should feel confident it will work on race day.

On the run, I recommend to aim for around 80-120 calories per hour as a start when training your gut. There is a fine line between meeting your energy, electrolyte and fluids needs to prevent bonking and risking GI upset. So it’s a careful balance to have enough but not too much. If you need more calories, up to 150 calories per hour. This should be from liquid calories, either gels or sport drinks. Aim for at least 16 ounces of water per hour as well.

A few strategies for run training nutrition: 
 You can use a gel flask with gels and top with water and sip every mile so that you do not have to take 1 entire gel all at once. For example, put 1 gel in a gel flask and top with water for 100 calories and around 8 ounces of water to use + additional gel flask with water only for sipping. This would be a total of 16 ounces fluid and 100 calories. 

You can also use a fuel belt for water and sport drinks.

Be sure you are sipping your liquid calories every 8-10 minutes so you may need to set up aid stations when you train or do out and back segments. I recommend to treat every training session like a race.

 I feel that most triathletes are not properly fueling their bodies during run training and this results in lack of confidence (and gut acceptance) with race day fueling and you certainly do not want your race to be limited by your inability to properly fuel for the last leg of your triathlon. If you need help, find a sport RD who can assist. 

I realize that this was a lot of information to digest so to summarize your nutrition during racing: 

-Prioritize liquid calories on the bike and run to meet hydration, electrolyte and carbohydrate needs
-Train your gut in training by using a similar fueling strategy for race day. 

-Consider the weather on race day as well as racing intensity and volume and how it impacts nutrition needs, pacing strategy, fueling strategy and toleration of certain sport nutrition products. 

-Be frequent and consistent with your nutrition intake. Start early on the bike when the body temperature is lower and HR is more controlled. 

-Any time you feel that your nutrition or pacing strategy is not working, slow down. If nutrients are not being absorbed and are sitting in the gut, blood needs to return to the gut from the working muscles to help with digestion.  

-Post race, allow time for your body to lower HR and body temperature. You will want to sip on at least 16 ounces of fluid for every lb lost in training/racing to rehydrate.

For some athletes, high intensity efforts make for not so wonderful gastro intestinal discomfort post race when the blood returns to the gut. Give yourself time after a race or hard workout before rushing to eat. If you can, the first thing in your body should be an electrolyte replacement beverage to rehydrate. It is not always easy to find (or digest) a recovery drink post race but if tolerable and accessible, a chocolate milk or whey/vegan protein powder mixed with milk/water/juice, along with carbohydrates of your choice can make for a quicker recovery. Then mini meals throughout the day (carbs and protein) to help restock muscle stores and repair damaged tissues. I encourage athletes to have an electrolyte tablet after really sweaty, intense or long workouts/races as an easy way to rehydrate but also curb some of those salty cravings post race/workout as you rehydrate. 

Happy Racing!

2013 Ironman World Championship - Kona #3!

Helpful Links:

Race week fuelingCarbo loading - friend or foe?Race week zenTraveling nutrition

Night before fuelingFueling before an evening race

Race morning fuelingRock your pre-race mealWhat to eat before your race
Pre Race Nutrition

SWIMMaster the mass swim startHow to fuel before a swim or track session

BIKETri tipsHydration tips: swim, bike, run
RUNIs your nutrition performance limiting or enhancing?How to fuel before a brick or long run


Healthy eating vs sport nutritionBuild a better body image


Women's Fitness Summit - fueling and training the female endurance athlete

Attention Female Fitness Enthusiasts and Professionals…
FINALLY! A Fitness Summit FOR WOMEN ONLY, PRESENTED BY WOMEN ONLY. Covering the Critical Exercise & Nutrition Topics Women Need to Know & Understand to Build and Protect their Strong, Fit & Fabulous Female Bodies for Life! Introducing the FIRST & ONLY Women’s Fitness Summit!
It’s time for an event featuring the best woman presenters covering the women’s fitness topic that women want and need to know about. Topics like:
  • Athletic Amenorrhea 
  • Urinary Incontinence (no, you shouldn’t pee your pants when you exercise)
  • Pelvic Floor Dysfunction in the Female Athlete
  • Specific Strength Training Needs and Wants of Women
  • How to Train and Inspire Your Female Clients Correctly
  • Pregnancy Training
  • Exercise and Training for Menopause
  • Influence of the Menstrual Cycle on Exercise & Nutrition
  • Management Weight and the Role of Carbohydrates in the Diet of a Female Athlete
  • Training Requirements of Female Endurance Athletes
  • Exercise To Be Strong, Sexy And EMPOWERED
  • Prevent Period Loss As You Get Leaner
  • Manage Hormones
  • Avoid/Reverse Metabolic Damage
  • Choose and Perform The Best Exercises For Women
  • Learn How to Inspire Other Women to be Fit AND Healthy for Life!
When: September 27-28th
Register this week for the Women's Fitness Summit in Kansas City to catch the early bird pricing (there is a student rate, contact me for more info)


With your registration you get: 

Transportation to and from the event 
Complimentary lunch (good stuff, not crap!) and breakfast items
A Women's Fitness Summit T-Shirt
Free swag given by awesome vendors such as Cavegirl Confections and Biotrust
The ability to hear in-person, presentations by amazing women, for amazing women on women-only topics
The opportunity to network with many like-minded women in a totally women-supportive, body image positive environment (this is not a figure/fitness event, but a knowledge-sharing event just for the ladies!) 

Are you interested in this awesome event just for women, by women?
Sign up today!!
Do you think someone you know may be interested in this summit? Pass this along! 

I am incredibly excited to speak at this amazing summit on a few topics that I am passionate about. I look forward to passing on research, experience and tips to improve the health and performance of endurance athletes of all fitness levels and ages.
Nutrition and training tips 
for the 
female endurance athlete
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

Over the past two decades, more and more women are training for endurance events, such as marathon running and triathlons. Female endurance athletes continue to break down barriers such as racing post pregnancy, balancing careers and training and keeping the body in good health all while training for long-distance events. 

However, even though women may be primed to tolerate the metabolic and mental demands of endurance training and racing, a female body is very unlike the male body and very limited research is conducted on the female athlete. Sadly, much of the training and fueling tips for endurance athletes is studied and applied to male athletes. 

In addition to body size, there are many physiological differences between the female and male athlete. Because of the continued number of female athletes in endurance sports, it is important that female fitness enthusiasts understand their unique physiological and nutritional needs when it comes to training for events lasting more than 3 hours. 

To ensure longevity as a female endurance athlete and to minimize immediate and long term health problems, the following objectives will be discussed during the presentation: 

1) Body image: learn how to develop healthy relationship with the body
2) Nutritional needs: essential nutrients to consume to reduce the risk for stress fractures, anemia and amenorrhea
3) Training considerations: the importance of strength training in a cardio-focused training plan
4) Menstruation - are female athletes limited by menstruation and should training/diet be modified during the monthly cycle
5) Sport nutrition  - understanding how to meet the demands of training by fueling properly before, during and after workouts
6) Mental toughness - destroy stereotypes, stay fierce and release your competitive side! 

About the speaker: 
Through her business, Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition, Marni coaches endurance triathletes and runners athletes all over the world and specializes in fueling the athletes' body and helping athletes learn how to have  a healthier relationship with food and the body. She is passionate about helping athletes reach individual fitness, health and racing goals but can identify with the specific needs of a female endurance athlete. Marni is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology. She is a 8x Ironman finisher and a 3x Ironman World Championship finisher and 22-year lacto-ovo vegetarian. When she is not public speaking or writing for magazines/websites, she loves spending time outside with her furry BFF Campy. She can also be found cooking in her kitchen, fueling her body (and her husband, who is a 2x Ironman finisher) and sharing her plant-strong "creations" on her blog and social media. 


Recovery days - why you need them and what you should be doing

The countdown continues. 27 days until IMWI!

Although you should always value recovery in a smart training plan, it's the 4 weeks out from your race that are the most important in terms of arriving to the start line healthy, injury free and hungry to race. 

1 month out, your goal is to recover as much as possible from every workout. It's very easy to put in random "confidence building" long or intense workouts but often times, more damage can be done if you are trying to "prove" something with your body in the last few weeks before a race. Fitness is gained over time and to race strong, you have to periodize your training so that you can build, peak and taper appropriately. 

To race strong, this doesn't mean just taking a planned or unintentional day off from working every now and then but being smart with what you do on your recovery days, when you plan them. 

Many athletes are great workout followers. They have a planned workout and at any cost, they will find a way to check it off. However, sometimes this comes at a cost. A tired, worn-down, malnourished, sore, fatigued and unmotivated body does not get stronger by just going through the motions, especially in a haphazard training plan. 

With the right yearly-plan structure, fueling strategy, workouts and focus on individual needs, you will find yourself reaching performance goals and peaking appropriately on race day.
Physiologically and psychologically, athletes need rest days!

Many athletes use Monday as a recovery or off day due to higher weekly volume occurring on the weekend. However, I am also a big fan of having a day off mid-week (ex. Wed/Thurs) for the time-crunched age group athlete who is balancing family, kids, work may find him/herself feeling more like a zombie by the end of the week as oppose to fresh and energetic at the beginning of the week. This type of athlete can greatly benefit from a 2 or 3 day workout routine followed by 1 day off (or active recovery) routine as oppose to 6 days working out and 1 day off (or even worse for the busy age group athlete, 10 days working out and 1 day off).
Bottom line, you can train as hard as you want during a workout but resting your body creates better balance between your life, family, work and fitness goals. 

It's important to consider the best days  to rejuvinate, refuel and rest your body and mind. (it's ok if there is more than one, I often plan two recovery days into my weekly routine in the few weeks leading up to my IM taper)

Keep in mind that a recovery day is not used to only help you recover from previous workouts but to better prepare for future workouts. 
You can be the toughest, strongest and most hard working athlete but continuous working out without rest is a recipe for an eventual weak body and mind. 

If you put too much stress on the body for too many days, it is nearly impossible for the body/mind to recover in just 24 hours. By training smart, you can train harder by including more recovery into your training plan and find yourself making more consistent performance gains. 

So what should you be doing on your off/recovery day? 

-Sleeping in
-Moving your body with light activity throughout the day
-Movement focused stretching (ex. yoga)
-Eating balanced carb/protein-rich meals throughout the day (emphasizing easy to digest foods)
-Staying hydrated
-Catching up on to-do's and not spending any energy on the fact that you aren't training today (enjoy it - no guilt!) 
-Reflecting on last week to see if any modifications are needed 
-Early bed time
-Making sure all your gear/gadgets are ready for another week of quality training

Could you be overtrained? 
Here are some subjective measures (in addition to blood work) measures that may tell you that you need to take action now and rest your body. If you tend to find yourself injured, burnt out or overtrained throughout or at the end of a training cycle, it's recommended to work with a professional who can help you create a plan that puts the appropriate amount of training stress on the body so that you can recover and train harder the next day:
Keep in mind that it requires a long term relationship with a coach and good communication between coach/athlete to develop the right plan to help you reach your season goals.

-tired, drained and little energy
-greater RPE for a given effort, inability to hit previous paces/efforts
-decreased appetite
-unintentional weight loss or gain
-amennorhea (females)
-unable to perform consistently
-decreased motivation
-chronic aches in muscles/joints
-inability to fall asleep (insomnia or get restful sleep) at night but feeling extremely tired during the day
-depression/mood swings
-loss of enthusiasm for the sport ("I don't want to do this anymore, I don't care about my goals")
-injuries popping up (or ones that won't heal)
-decrease immunity (increased colds, sickness, headaches, etc.)