Essential Sports Nutrition


Staying active and healthy during travel

Yesterday morning we said good-bye to our East Coast to head to the West Coast for a few days of fun, activity and making memories. 

Traveling is fun because you get to see new sights, eat at new places and make memories or learn (depending on your reason for travel). We have all traveled for a sad or personal reason and certainly those times are not fun. But no matter the reason for travel, having to take yourself into a new environment where your normal routine is off and things are out of your control, this can be extremely stressful. 

I find the most important thing about traveling is to learn from each experience, be flexible and be prepared. 

As athletes and fitness enthusiasts, our normal lifestyle is likely different from the majority of people who travel because we have specific eating and workout habits that we consider "normal" - not forced or difficult to accomplish on a daily basis. Perhaps you have found that things that are easy for you to accomplish are seen as difficult for your friends/colleagues. It isn't that you have more discipline than someone else or that others are lazy but you have specific standards for yourself because of your every day lifestyle. It's not likely that someone would aim to start exercising or eat better on a vacation or work trip. For those who exercise and eat well on a daily basis, you know what makes you feel the best and you don't want to give those things up (or change it), even when you travel. 

For example, there are specific things that we expect from ourselves in terms of how much we need/want to eat to feel satisfied and feel fueled. A granola bar and yogurt may not cut it before an 8-hour seminar especially if you made an effort to squeeze in a 6-mile run on the hotel treadmill. Perhaps for someone else, she/he may not eat anything until lunch and be just fine but then end up overeating at dinner. You likely make it a priority to get in some type of workout because it makes you feel great when you are traveling, even if that means scoping out the closest gym or pool, renting a bike or contacting a local tri/run club. Taking the time to research your options may be normal for you whereas it may be an after-thought for someone else. 

There is no right or wrong way to travel and I know for me and Karel, there are many times when we travel and we don't stick to our normal routine or have high-standards for eating and training. It's all on a case-by-case basis. Often this is because we see traveling as a special occasion, so deviating from our normal training is looked-forward to and having food that we normally wouldn't eat on a daily basis is actually a nice treat from the day-to-day. 

We are traveling to Sacramento to see our friends Gloria and Ken, and then to Lake Tahoe to see my Grandpa and do some snow sports. This is a vacation for us. I can't remember the last time we took a vacation and it wasn't for a race. We love our race-cations when we travel to race but it's really nice to travel and not have to feel pressure to train/race or eat for performance. 

Karel and I are super active and enjoy food that makes us feel great inside. This is just part of our lifestyle and doesn't change, no matter where we are in the world. But there are a few tips that I can share that help us stay active and healthy when we travel. 

Healthy snacks
I always have a snack bag with me. You should have one too. You never know if you are going to have a delay, if hunger (or low blood sugar) will strike or you just need something in the belly.

I focus on foods that make us feel good inside but also food that we may not be able to conveniently find (cost effective) on the airplane, at a gas station or on the road.  When I pack our snack bag (and/or cooler for the car), I consider the hours that we will be traveling....where we are going/what's available when we get there, what's along the road (or in the air) or what meals will occur when we travel? This all helps me plan our snack bag. 

We are not anti-eating out when we travel and almost always we try to find local places to enjoy/try new things but certainly, fast food/restaurants may not understand our nutrition/fueling needs and requirements for portions of specific macronutrients. And it's not fun waiting for food or going into a meal starving. As athletes, we need a lot of food and I don't expect others (outsiders) to understand this concept, especially if I am on someone else's schedule. It's really up to me to be prepared to meet my nutrition and energy needs.

There's no way I am going to feel satisfied with a salad (sans vegetarian protein) at the airport and although I love my veggies, spending $12 on lettuce is not the best nutritional bang for my buck. When I have a cooler, I can get by with more protein for me (and Karel) and perhaps create my own semi-homemade satisfying meal.  

Typical Trimarni snack-bag options:
Dark chocolate
Fruit - whole and sliced
Trail mix (Veronica's Health Crunch has a new flavor coming out soon!)
Celery - love the watery-salty-crunch and transports well
High fiber cereal/granola
Natural bars - KITs Organic

I often pack sandwiches (PB&J for me) but we opted to eat breakfast at the airport during our long layover. However, we always eat within an hour of waking so we both had a mini protein-rich breakfast before we left (I had a Greek yogurt and some nuts/cereal).

Move your body
Aside from "working out", there are many ways to stay active when you travel. Remember that the little stuff does count and will add up. If you have time, walk to your next terminal at layovers, take a short jog or do some hip/core exercises when traveling by car at your next pit stop, take the stairs, etc. Traveling (just like work) can be exhausting because sitting all day is tiring. Your body loves to move and it was designed to move so find any way possible to move when you are forced to be sedentary for long periods of time. 

Eating out
Karel and I really eating out when we travel. We love being part of the community and trying new foods from favorite hot spots. It is something we really look forward to when we travel as we do not associate eating out as part of our normal routine at home.

We also carry a healthy relationship with food when we travel so despite eating some occasional indulgences, food still needs to make us feel good inside, while we eat it and afterward. So there is no feelings of "I'm being bad, I shouldn't eat this, I'll be better tomorrow, etc." Certainly, it's easy to feel a bit blah if you are being served food on a limited menu, that you know is not packed with nutritional value and does not sit well in your belly, but in terms of having a healthy relationship with food when you are in control of what you can put into your body, eating out can be a positive experience and can introduce you to new foods and inspire you to new flavors and food combinations. 

My suggestions for making eating out a positive experience:
-Review menu's ahead of time for the best options for you (you decide what you want to get out of the meal)
-Don't let one meal throw you off. It's just one meal or just one day
-Share entrees or desserts. Enjoy a little of everything instead of a lot of one thing.
-Do not go into a meal starving. Try to start your meal with a salad at the restaurant/eatery and even a pre-meal snack (ex. high fiber piece of fruit)
-Talk more, eat slower.
-Stay hydrated with water. Try to drink at least a glass before the meal and before the entree is served.
-Eat until you are 80% satisfied. Once you digest your food, you will feel 100% satisfied.
-Ask for substitutions (if needed) for your dietary preferences to help you create a meal that will meet your needs, especially in the case of limited options
-Ask locals for recommendations on places to eat. As an athlete, the best people to ask are your fellow athlete friends. There's a good chance that your fellow like-minded friends in another state will have a few options that will meet your dietary expectations (whether it is to eat "healthy" or to indulge). 

Gloria and Ken took us to Hot Italian. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere is perfect for all the bike-lovers/triathletes. As you can see in the pic, you now know where Campy's hot Italian shirt is from.
For beers, Karel and Ken got the Racer-5 IPA and Karel, Gloria and Ken split three pizzas (yep - three of them!) and everyone left satisfied, not stuffed.
I ordered: 45 Aquilani insalata -  


Don't interrupt my pizza salad consumption - I'm yumming over my pizza!

Getting in your workouts
Hotel gym, outside, stairs, room, local gym, training group.
There are so many options to stay active when you travel and odds are that there is a local triathlon or running group in your area to give you ideas of how to take your workouts on the road. Your available time/options to work out will likely vary depending on where you travel but don't hesitate to do some research of where to train/workout when you travel.
As athletes, you will likely place more stress on working out during traveling if you have a race coming up in the next two months. Just be sure your time away from home is conducive to performance gains and not just going through the motions in a stressed, hungry, tired body. 

I typically encourage my athletes to get in 30 minutes of activity a day when they travel. No excuses, find a way to make it happen without compromising sleep or diet.
If an athlete is traveling for a vacation, well this is a tough situation because often times, I encourage my athletes to take a break from structured training and just stay active without the need to stick to a swim-bike-run routine. However, for some, a vacation may include plenty of time to recover with free time so it really depends on the athlete and the reason for the vaca (play vs work vs personal). 

We enjoyed a 6am swim (West Coast time) with the DAM swim team and it was fun to swim with other swimmers and be pushed in the water, in a new swim environment. One of the best parts of working out when you travel is having the opportunity to meet like-minded athletes. Maybe it's in the hotel gym or at a local health club or even outside. Maybe you don't make friendships but just knowing there is someone else with your passion for activity/working out can really keep the motivation high when you are trying to make the time to workout when you travel.

Stick to your routine
Hopefully you know what works for you in your day-to-day routine. Don't expect everything to feel the same as it just isn't practical to take your entire normal life on the road or to a new location.
Place priority on a few things that are important to you when you travel, things that you know will help you feel the best when you travel. Who knows, maybe you need to take a few days off from training and just walk instead of run. Maybe you need to be inspired by a new restaurant to light the spark for home cooking.
Because the most important thing when you travel is to keep yourself well, make sure you focus on good hygiene habits and stick to a very strict sleeping routine. Slacking on sleep can be a big red flag for getting sick during/after your vacation or increasing your appetite/cravings.

Happy active and healthy travels!


Body image and sport performance - make the changes, now.

There is so much nutritional dogma out there and it's hard to go a day without feeling overwhelmed by nutrition and body composition. 

 On social media, TV, in magazines and pretty much wherever you go, nutrition is the most dominant topic when it comes to health, wellness, performance and disease. Of course, there is a great reason why we should focus on nutrition for it is the vital component in our life that keeps us healthy and well. But, would you be surprised if I told you that much of my work with athletes as a sport RD is clearing up confusion, worry, fear and guilt about eating and fueling a body in  motion?

Can you be fit, healthy, strong, lean and fast and eat carbohydrates, drink milk, use sport nutrition products and eat before a workout?

Probably not if you have been listening to the loudest voices in today's sport nutrition/diet industry. 

Rather than learning about moderation, balance, mindful eating and nutrient timing, you may find yourself drowning in information on what not to eat. Now a days, many athletes feel pressure to pick a diet fad to "fit-in" and to find comfort in controlling your food intake. 

I work with many athletes who adhere to a gluten-free, vegan, dairy/lactose-free or vegetarian diet but it's not because media or someone on a forum told them too. There are underlying issues going on and they are seeking help to stay healthy and take performance to the next level. 

Healthy eating is a lifestyle 
Not that it was ever a focus of our society, but we have completely overlooked the necessary component of making healthy eating part of our lifestyle. Learning how to cook bread, slowing down for meal time and eating around the table, having a meal plan for the week on Sunday - with a grocery list  and recipes - for you and your family, making it an effort to prepare leftovers, seeing eating out as a special occasion, making time to soak grains and beans and lentils overnight, finding fun ways to eat your "5-a day" of fruits and veggies and making a few swaps from eating entertaining foods to eating more sustaining foods. 

Nope, now we live in a world of shame, guilt, self-hatred when it comes to food. Just eliminate these x-foods foods and you will be healthy...even if that means sticking to a diet of broccoli, sweet potato and chicken for the next 30 days. 

It doesn't hit every athlete or fitness enthusiast this hard but I do believe that people are becoming much more vulnerable to their bodies these days and a dietary fad or extreme measure is the quick fix. 

Developing a healthy relationship with food and the body
  I'm proud to be one of the few sport RDs who make an effort to focus on sensitive and not commonly discussed issues like body image and learning to develop a healthy relationship with food in athletes. 
And I'm also proud to be one of the few sport RD's who still advocates eating carbohydrates, using sport nutrition products (yes, the ones with sugar in them) and eating before every workout because I know these things boost performance and keep an athlete healthy.
Yes, I said it - these things can be done and you can still be fit, lean and healthy. 

You can still be metabolically efficient by eating before a workout.
Sugar is not evil or poison.
Carbohydrates will not cause inflammation or make you experience more sugar cravings throughout the day. 

However, you must ask yourself what does your typical diet look like throughout the day that would favor fueling properly before, during and after workouts? If you want to take your training to the next level, you have to see your daily diet and fueling regime as two different entities. 

As a coach and dietitian, before I give an athlete the best training plan I can create or provide the best fueling strategy before, during and after workouts, it is critical that my athletes have a healthy relationship with food and the body. And this doesn’t happen overnight and it's no quick fix. 

But no female OR male athlete is going to reach her potential if she/he doesn’t learn how to have a healthy relationship with her body. 

Changing your body on the outside, doesn’t always make you healthier, stronger or fitter in the inside and there is a fine line as to how much weight should be lost before performance and health are compromised.

Certainly, let's not make the method of losing weight be counterproductive of the goal of improving health and performance. 

Stop the body bashing
 In the mix of hundreds of pictures on social media of athletes showing their ripped abs and flexed legs and biceps, there are many athletes who struggle with body image to the point that they  sabotage performance and even health in order to “look like an athlete."

Guess, are an athlete and no one can take that title away from you - no matter your weight, body composition or speed. 

Let's not forget that personal best performance comes from a well-laid training plan and a well-fueled body. 

You can't put a specific number on the scale or body fat percentage on that fact.

There is a broad spectrum of shapes and sizes when it comes to the physiques of female and male athletes, specifically triathletes. Athletes of similar sports tend to carry similar physiological traits such as runners legs, sprinters butt, swimmers shoulders/back, gymnasts abs, cyclists quads. 

But when it comes to triathletes, we are merging three different sports that require stamina, power and efficiency. When it comes to performance, leanness is not our missing link in triathlons.  The three big limiters in a poor endurance performance are fatigue, glycogen depletion and dehydration. Not being 5 lbs over your race weight or not being 12% body fat. 

I am sure we have all done some body examining, “oh she/he looks so fit, so she/he must be fast” but let’s not forget basic physiology. 

A body performs based on consistent hard work which happens with a smart training plan and good daily and sport nutrition. 

 Body image is getting in the way of happiness, health and performance for so many athletes. 
This must stop. 
 Let’s stop the body bashing and extreme exercise and dietary practices and let’s start living an amazing life with a healthy relationship with food and the body so you can finally reach your full athletic potential.
Put an end to the diet fads and off-limit food list because you need to start thanking and respecting your body in motion.

If you need help or have some questions that you want answered, reach out to a sport RD. 


Trust your sport RD

When I was finishing graduate school at FAU to earn my Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology in December 2005, I found myself obsessed with sport nutrition. I was reading every book, research article and magazine I could access in the Exercise Science department. When I heard Krebs cycle, I got excited and when we discussed metabolism of carbohydrates or anerobic training, I could not get enough of the topics. 

I became an endurance athlete in graduate school despite having very little time to train for anything. But after 4-years of collegiate swimming, something was missing from my student-athlete lifestyle and running and triathlons was my missing link. 

In January 2005, I crossed my first marathon finish line and qualified for the Boston Marathon which I ran in April of 2006, 1 month before my first half Ironman and 7 months before my first Ironman.
Yep, I got the endurance bug and it bit me hard. My boyfriend (at the time), Karel was along for the long ride after we met in May 2006. 

The more I learned about sport nutrition, the more I found myself feeling more confident with my training which was good because I found myself wanting to get faster in the Ironman distance. And without a doubt, no matter the training plan, you can't expect your body to train and race for 140.6 miles without fueling it properly and keeping it in good health.

 When I trained for my first marathon, I didn't know a lot about sport nutrition and found myself bonking quite often as I progressed to longer distances with my running. I found myself struggling to recover after workouts but dismissed that as part of the normal fatigue of marathon training. And on race day, I didn't have a well-practiced pre race meal because it was my first go-around at running 26.2 miles so a Clif Bar, Gatorade and a bagel fueled my first marathon which ended up being a pretty good run by Boston Marathon qualifying with a time of 3:38. 

After qualifying for the 2007 Ironman World Championship after my first Ironman in November 2006 by winning the 18-24 age group in 11 hours and 47 seconds, I decided that I needed to fill in some nutrition gaps with my ongoing sport nutrition knowledge, so my next venture was to earn my RD credential. 

However, I never wanted to step away from the sport nutrition field for not only was it something that I was heavily passionate about but it was also an area that I could relate to with my active lifestyle and endurance athlete background. 

Because I specialize in endurance sports, specifically triathlons and running (and single-sport cycling and swimming thrown in there too), I work with athletes who are very performance focused (regardless of fitness level) and desire a better understanding of nutrient timing, how much to eat around workouts and what sport nutrition products/fuels will be most appropriate during workouts.

But much of my work (which I enjoy very much) is dedicated toward athletes who feel limited by their restrictive or unhealthy eating regime and unhealthy relationship with the body. 

Thankfully, almost all of the athletes who reach out to me desire an improvement in performance and thus are motivated to make tweaks in the diet/fueling regime.

Each athlete has his/her own journey and that's what I love about being a sport RD. 

As a female athlete, I can identify with many of the concerns, struggles and issues that female athletes talk about on forums, social media, in the locker room or with training buddies.  

But as a health professional and endurance athlete, I strive to demonstrate my healthy relationship with food and the body and pass it along to others. I enjoy helping athletic women and men reach body composition and/or performance goals BUT without compromising overall health. 

When I titled myself as a sport-focused RD, I knew changing body image/composition was part of the "performance" package. 

But I find it extremely important that my method of helping athletes take their fitness to the next level never goes against my philosophy of making sure athletes create and maintain a healthy relationship with food and the body. 

And certainly the methods of changing body composition or boosting fitness should not be counterproductive to an athlete's initial goal of getting faster, stronger or fitter. 

There are several sport RD's out there who specialize in your sport of choice. There are also RD's who work with athletes with eating disorders.
Find the right one for you based on his/her personal philosophy and referrals from other athletes.
Take advantage of their knowledge so you can move closer to your goals and reach your full potential as an athlete without compromising your overall health.