Essential Sports Nutrition


Coconut tumeric stir-fry with golden potatoes and tofu

Coconut tumeric stir-fry with 
golden potatoes and tofu

Ingredients to serve 2 
1 medium golden potato (cubed)
1 package firm tofu (cubed)
1 bag Asian style veggies (Frozen) - if you have extra time, let them de-thaw in 'fridge or counter top for at least 30 minutes, until soft.
1/2 - 1 cup coconut milk
Olive oil
(Want leftovers? Double up this recipe!)

1. In large skillet, (or wok) heat to medium and add a little olive oil and cook tofu until slightly brown on the sides. Toss every 2-3 minutes for even cooking.
2. While tofu is cooking for 5-8 minutes, place cubed golden potato in microwave and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft (you may also boil or oven-bake your potato until soft). Keep skin on for more nutritional value. 
3. Add potato to tofu in skillet/wok and add 1/2 cup coconut milk and 2-3 tsp of tumeric. 
4. Add frozen veggies to your skill and stir until veggies are lightly tossed in coconut milk. 
5. Cook for 20-25 minutes until veggies are soft. If needed, add more coconut milk, however, your mixture should not be boiling so if the liquid is disappearing, turn down the heat a little.
6. When finished, season with a pinch of salt (if needed) and top with a few peanuts and enjoy!
-You may use any lean meat instead of tofu or you can use beans/lentils
-You can use your favorite can of soup (we use Amy's) for the "broth" instead of coconut or any stock that you'd like
-You can choose any veggie mixture (fresh or frozen)

Trimarni produce tip:
Make sure you always have at least two bags of recipe-ready frozen veggies in your freezer for an easy yet healthy, go-to meal. This is a must-have for busy athletes for you never know when you will need/want something quick and healthy or to simply bump-up your veggie intake at one meal (either as a side or mixed into your meal).
Whereas canned fruits and veggies tend to lose nutritional value during the canning (or preserving) process, frozen fruits and veggies may be an ideal choice if your favorite (or most commonly consumed) produce is not in season or you just can't get to the store for a few days. Frozen produce is processed at peak ripeness which means they are nutrient-packed. Regardless if a fresh produce item is organic or not, the "best" produce is always local so if you are anti-frozen foods or haven't yet learned to appreciate how they can be incorporated into your diet, keep in mind that fresh produce is shipped around the country. It is picked before it is ripe so it has less time to develop it's full package of vitamins and minerals. This doesn't mean you can not eat produce from another state (as we do all the time) but if you have been steering clear of frozen veggies and fruits, understand that flash-freezing locks veggies into a nutrient-rich state. Even during shipping, they do not lose nutrients during their haul to your grocery store as they are not exposed to heat and light (like fresh produce). 
We always have a variety of fruits and veggies in our home as we are lucky that we can shop for produce at least 2-3 times per week (I can easily go through a container of blueberries and  raspberries in one a day so when my fav berries are in season or on sale, I get super excited!). We love adding a variety of simple or mixed recipe-ready frozen veggies to soups, stews, stir-frys, pasta/rice mixtures, omelets or as a simple side to a meal or as a snack. 


Everything you need to know about rice and grains

Whole grains are the entire seed of a plant. Rice is a seed of a plant.
The seed of a plant is made up of three edible parts - the bran, the germ and the endosperm. The endosperm is protected by an inedible husk that protects the kernel from natural killers - like sunlight, pests, water and diseases.

After the rice is harvested, the inedible husk (endorsperm) is removed, which results in a whole grain rice kernel. Now the rice (or grain) is ready to eat. Through processing (milling), the bran and germ can be removed from the rice (or grain) results in white rice. Without the bran and the germ, about 25% of the grain's protein is lost along with at least 17 key nutrients, according to the Whole Grain Council.  However, if a processor chooses to enrich a refined grain, some vitamins and minerals will be added back to give the grain valuable nutrients. There are many advantages of having/consuming fortified foods as they are beneficial in filling in gaps for possible nutrient deficiencies.
As a vegetarian, I rely on fortified foods (ex. cold and hot cereals and grains/rices) to fill in nutritional gaps such as B vitamins and iron in my meat-free diet. Thanks to food fortification, nutrient deficiencies are not as common in certain parts of the world, although many people still experience serious health conditions from not obtaining adequate vitamins and minerals from starvation or not enough varied food choices. Serious conditions such as goiters and rickets no longer are a primary concern for many thanks to fortified foods like orange juice, fortified milk and iodized salt. 

Whole Grain Council:
What is a whole grain?


The bran is the multi-layered outer skin of the edible kernel. It contains important antioxidants, B vitamins and fiber.


The germ is the embryo which has the potential to sprout into a new plant. It contains many B vitamins, some protein, minerals, and healthy fats.


The endosperm is the germ’s food supply, which provides essential energy to the young plant so it can send roots down for water and nutrients, and send sprouts up for sunlight’s photosynthesizing power. The endosperm is by far the largest portion of the kernel. It contains starchy carbohydrates, proteins and small amounts of vitamins and minerals.

Rice is typically rinsed before it is cooked to remove excess starch and to improve texture and taste. Rice can also be soaked to decrease cooking time and to minimize stickiness. 

Types of whole grains: 
Corn, including whole cornmeal and popcorn
Oats, including oatmeal
Rice, both brown rice and colored rice
Sorghum (also called milo)
Wheat, including varieties such as spelt, emmer, farro, einkorn, Kamut®, durum and forms such as bulgur, cracked wheat and wheatberries
Wild rice
Other types of grains:
Raw buckwheat groats
Rye berries

 Grains with Gluten:
Wheat - including spelt, kamut, farroa and durum, bulgur and semolina

Types of rice: 
Short grain brown rice
Long grain brown rice
Basmati rice
Jasmine rice
Sweet brown rice
Black japonica
China black
Long grain white rice
Arborio rice
Black japonica
Wild rice

Cooking grains: 
Rinse the grain in cold water before cooking. Bring water to a boil and add grains and a pinch of salt and return to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to a simmer for recommended cooking time. When done, remove from heat and fluff with fork and let sit (covered) for 5 minutes.

Cooking rice: 
Add rice and water to a pot (together) with tight-lid. Add 1 tbsp butter or olive oil and optional salt. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer for recommended about of time. When cooked, removed from heat and allow the rice to sit for up to 10 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with fork. 

Central Market's guide for cooking rice and grains:

                1 cup riceWater/LiquidTime
Short Grain Brown2 cups50 min.
Long Grain Brown2 cups50 min.
Brown Basmati*2 cups50 min.
Brown Jasmine*2 cups45 min.
Sweet Brown2 cups50 min.
Wehani*2 cups45 min.
Black Japonica*2 cups45 min.
Red Bhutanese*1½ cups20 min.
Forbidden Black*1¾ cups30 min.
Long Grain White*1½ cups15 min.
White Basmati*1½ cups20 min.
White Jasmine*1½ cups20 min.
Wild4 cups45-50 min.
Sushi1.5 cups15  in.
Saffron Rice1.75 cups20 min.
Bamboo Rice2 cups20 min.
*   Rinse before cooking

Grain (1 cup)WaterTime
Amaranth2 cups25-30 min.
Barley, Pear2.5 cups40 min.
Barley, Hulled3 cups60-75 min.
Buckwheat, Raw Groats2 cups15-20 min.
Buckwheat, Roasted (Kasha)2 cups15-20 min.
Bulgur2 cups15 min.
Couscous1 cup0 min.*
Couscous, Whole Wheat1 cup5 min.
Couscous, Israeli4 cups8-10 min., drain
Farro5 cups50-60 min., drain
Freekeh2 cups30-40
Kamut3 cups40 min.
Millet2.5 cups20-25 min.
Oats, Regular2.5 cups5-10 min.
Oats, Thick2.5 cups15-20 min.
Oats, Steel Cut3 cups45-60 min.
Oats, Groats3 cups60 min.
Polenta, Medium Grind3 cups20 min., stirring often
Quinoa2 cups15-20 min.
Rye Berries2.5 cups60  min.
Spelt3 cups60 min.
*  Add to boiling water, cover and remove from heat. Let sit 5 minutes 


Fuel smart on the bike - Easy sport nutrition tips

In case you missed it, check out my previous two blogs discussing:
Cycling nutrition: keep is simple
Debunk the myth: Do you need sport nutrition?


For triathletes, I recommend 1 water bottle cage for every  hour of training, up to 4 cages. Your hydration set-up should be on your bike at all times but certainly this will come in handy for your longer rides. If your bike does not hold 4 cages, you can alter the set-up with a bottle on your aero bars, two rear cages, set up an additional hydration system (ex. bladder if built in on the bike) or have, at minimum, 3 cages and plan to stop in training after 3 hours. I have 4 cages on my bike (2 in the frame, 2 in the rear) and I am very comfortable grabbing the rear bottles and moving around bottles as I am riding. As you can see from Karel's picture below that he has his bottle on his aerobars with computer attached on top of the cage. He only has three cages on his bike. 

Rather than fumbling with gels, use a gel flask. It's an efficient way to get a swig of gel whenever your want and you can wash it down with water (at aid stations in racing) or carry an extra bottle of water with you in training. 1 gel requires about 8-12 ounce of water to help empty it from the gut so small amounts consumed more frequently is an easier way to get those bursts of energy you are looking for. To practice, I recommend to start with 1 gel per hour, no more than 2 gels in a flask (and fill with water). Your gel intake should be on top of your liquid nutrition intake. I do not recommend to prioritize consuming hourly calorie needs from gels when instead you can simply get a sport drink powder to fill your water bottle to meet calorie and hydration needs. 

Simplify your fueling strategy. It is extremely inefficient and many times dangerous for you and for others around you to fuel with 2-3 different energy sources during your ride (ex. pills, solid food and water or gels, water, solid food or sport drink solid food and gels). You absolutely need, at minimum water and electrolytes when you ride and typically this is at minimum 20 ounce of water and 400 mg of sodium (100-200mg of potassium) plus electrolytes like magnesium and chloride. But when it comes to the energy that you need to keep your glycogen tank filled, brain staying alert and muscles working effectively, carbohydrates are your best friend and they need to be consumed in a way that they empty from the digestive tract quickly so those sugars can be taken up by the working muscles with the help of insulin. I typically encourage at minimum, 200 calories per hour from a sport drink for longer rides (ex. more than 2 hours) up to 300 calories as a start for men and women. The best strategy for you athletes is to rely on liquid nutrition as your primary fuel. You make it super simple this way to meet your calorie/carbohydrate, electrolyte and fluid needs.  I recommend between 50-75g of carbohydrates per bottle (glucose, glucose/fructose or glucose/maltodextrin/fructose combination).

Solid food, chewy blocks, beans and pills all have their place in your bike fueling regime but everything needs to serve a purpose (ex. to benefit your effort/experience on the bike) and it needs to be practical in training and in racing in multiple conditions. I find many athletes do really well with a little solid food in the gut, but small amounts at a time. Open your bar prior to the ride in the package and stick in your bento box or jersey pocket so it's easy to consume, immediately when you need it. Have a small bite as needed, every 20-40 minutes. Blocks are also just fine for a little energy burst or different consistency than gel so to make it easy, cut the package in half so you don't have to fumble with a large package in your bento box or jersey as it gets hard to squeeze a block from the bottom of a package. Sport beans (or any small, loose candy) can be challenging to handle and consume at high speeds or on technical courses and many times, it is challenging to get "energy" from these options - so it's likely you are using them as a fun treat. I would learn to pass on these for a safer ride. As for pills, if you are using electrolyte or amino pills (I do not advocate caffeine pills) under the direction of your sport RD, I recommend to create a range of times when you will consume these and just slow down. Always bring extra as pills like to fall out of coin purses, bento boxes or containers or get smashed. 

Most of all, you need to train your gut to tolerate nutrition on the bike and work your way up in nutrition. It can take up to 6-8 weeks to get comfortable consuming sport nutrition during a workout. Never be afraid to fuel your body while cycling but first you need to get use to consuming nutrition on the bike. Perfect your bike hydration set up and practice using water in a gel flask (sipping and returning to your jersey pocket or bento box). Practice moving around your bottles - this is a great drill for newbie athletes and coaches must understand that many new (or even veteran) triathletes are many times, not comfortable removing their hands from the bars or can't make this a habit if most of the riding is indoors in a controlled environment without gravity and wind affecting the ride. So practice, practice, practice - take  3-4 filled water bottles on your bike on a casual ride to get more comfortable with your bike fueling regime. Practice grabbing things from your pockets, bento box, etc. as you are riding so that you never have to put yourself into a scenario when you are underfueling due to lack of skills/knowledge on the bike. 

My last little secret tip is to change up the taste of your nutrition. This is especially important for the endurance triathletes. . Do not use the same flavor gel on the bike as the run as your taste buds will get very tired of the same taste. For the last hour of your long ride (or in a race), make 1 bottle be different - choose your absolute favorite sport drink and let this be a different flavor then the rest of the bottle flavors in a 3-4 hour ride/race.  Also, if you always get tired of consuming sport drinks and gels during long rides/races, have something that you can chew on once an hour (ex. 30-50 calories of bar or block) that is an entirely different flavor than your sport drink to help keep your taste buds excited. I don't encourage spicy but perhaps something bland or just a different taste/texture all together. 


Debunk the myth - Do you need sport nutrition?

Remember the time when women were afraid to lift heavy weights for the fear that Schwarzenegger-like muscles would start popping up on the arms, legs and back? 
Well, we all know that women (just like men) need to strength train and for any endurance athlete who is not strength training, it's time to get with the current research that functional strength progressing to dynamic strength training, can improve power, lean muscle mass and help the muscles resist fatigue all to improve endurance "cardio" performance. Strength training is also essential for every-day individuals to buildstrong bones and reduce the risk for fractures at an older age.

 Fitness and nutrition myths are debunked all the time and I'd like to make sure that you are not holding yourself back in your athletic performance by not fueling adequately on the bike.

In recent times, there is a growing (yet still relatively small) number of athletes who are anti-sport nutrition. They boast about how little they consume during a long workout as if it is healthier to consume no/limited amounts of fluids, electrolytes or carbohydrates/sugars during endurance events.  "I only need 1 gel during a 2 hour run. I only consumed water during my 4 hour bike ride. I only need 100 calories per hour in an Ironman."

 I realize there is a large percentage of athletes who do not understand the importance of meeting nutritional needs during endurance activity or get overwhelmed with sport nutrition and need help from a professional (sport RD) to ensure that nutritional needs are being met. So this is not the population I am referring to when it comes to athletes who are purposely underfueling during workouts.

Rather, I see this current trend of athletes feeling as if they don't need sport nutrition (or very little) as if the body will be able to stay energized, powerful and healthy without the nutrients that research has continued to prove does improve performance (and protects the immune system). So this is as another myth that I need to debunk.

 As athletes, shouldn't we be proud of how we fuel our bodies in motion? Rather than seeing sport nutrition as calories, sugars or carbohydrates, see it for what it is....fuel for your body in motion. 

In my career as a sport RD, I never have athletes come to me telling me that they wish they were hungrier in the afternoons to eat an afternoon snack. Instead, I get athletes who talk about their intense sugar cravings or extreme tiredness at 3-5pm and need a pick-me-up snack or even an "energy" drink. I don't hear athletes talking about how easy it is to eat dinner at 6:30-7;30pm and then feel satisfied until bedtime. Instead, I have athletes come to me who are starving in the evenings or can't break the sugar/salty craving habit late in the evening and feel like they can never feel satisfied during the day yet may not have the urge to eat before/after a workout or even drink from a bottle (or take a swig of a gel) during a 2+ hour training session or event. 

There are times when your body needs quick energy and other times when it does not. As athletes, we are not the "normal" population and our bodies require a specific (minimum) amount of fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrate/sugars to meet our physical demands when our bodies are under intense, physiological training stress. 

 If you do not supply your body with these critical nutrients, performance will suffer, health will be compromised or you will not see improvements despite your commitment to your training. And no matter how many times you hear from the athlete who says "You don't need it, I don't need it" me when I say you need to fuel your body in motion because you are likely underfueling your amazing body that you want to get faster, stronger and more powerful.

My easy cycling fueling tips are coming next....stay tuned! 


Cycling nutrition - keep it simple


If I had to describe Greenville cycling in one sentence it would read
"Beautiful, hilly, hard, bumpy, nature, country, farms, bike-friendly."

We absolutely love our cycling playground but easy riding doesn't get mentioned much, outside of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. (SRT). From downtown (where we live), you can find a side-road or jump on the SRT and in 6 miles you reach the first mountain, Paris Mountain, which sits right next to Paris Mountain State Park. (where Karel does his Mountain Biking).

In about 7 miles, you are out on some of the most beautiful country roads, with hardly a car in sight. The roads are not always paved well so  a smooth ride is always a treat when you can find one. Turn after turn, hill after hill, every ride requires concentration and focus and strong legs and a strong heart...and a very well-fueled body. 

The endless farm-like and nature-views that extend for miles make Greenville, SC absolutely magically for riding. A typical ride (for most of our routes) is around 1000 feet of climbing per hour on the country roads. We don't even bother looking at our speed or mileage covered because a solid 4 hour ride may average 16mph. It's hard to control your power because there is so much climbing and rolling hills so most of our rides is by RPE and we often do a lot of specific effort/cadence/heavy gear work rather than a MS of specific power zones. We never have an average ride even close to 18mph despite some fun descends and smaller rolling hill sections. Bottom line, every ride makes us stronger because you have to be strong to ride in Greenville, SC. 

Cycling in Greenville, or on any challenging terrain, requires exceptional use of bike handling skills. Never have I found having electronic shifting more beneficial than in my new cycling playground (which also comes in handy on race day as I can shift my gears in my base bars and aero bars with the push of a button). 

But in addition to great cycling skills, keeping up with sport nutrition is critical. I can easily feel exhausted after 90 minutes of riding, just because of the nature of our routes. We often get a hilly and windy ride which makes things a bit more interesting...and exhausting. And because we have so many routes to choose from, we don't get use to any routes....we never follow the same route twice - there is always a new discovery of a new road or we return home in a different direction than we came. To be honest, there are no boring rides - every ride comes with an added feature, from suffering to beautiful nature views. 

Although I have always been adamant about my coaching and nutrition athletes perfecting their fueling on the bike by relying on liquid nutrition, it is just as important that you have good skills to keep up with your fueling strategy no matter what fueling regime you follow. I see many triathletes who are not comfortable riding their bikes outside or are still progressing with bike handling skills on challenging terrains and this only increases the likelihood  that meeting nutritional needs will be compromised as safety on the bike is just as important as good nutrition to stay focused and alert.

If you aren't comfortable removing your hands from your bars or grabbing a bottle while climbing/descending or riding with others, it is very hard to meet your fluid, electrolyte and calorie needs. I can't tell you how many times I have seen/heard athletes with cages on their bike and filled water bottles that they are unable to grab/reach. Riding in windy or chilly conditions also makes it difficult to stay up with fueling so it is imperative that you simplify your fueling regime....immediately, as race season is approaching and learning how to fuel on the bike is just part of your athlete development. 

Stay tuned as I will next offer a few very easy tips to help you increase the chance that you will meet your nutritional needs on the bike, no matter the terrain, workout or race. 

After reading, if you have any questions, send me an email and I can help you perfect or simplify your cycling fueling regime.