Essential Sports Nutrition


Roads worth exploring

Today's workout required a lot of mental focus, strength, fuel and well, a really strong body. I can't believe that I will be racing my first key race of the season here in two weeks at Challenge Knoxville! Karel and I will both be racing and we are excited to race a Challenge event and explore Knoxville by swimming, biking and running in the city. 

I had no time for pictures this morning so I am sharing a few pics from earlier this week (including the pic above from climbing up and over and then up and over again on Paris Mountain). This was the view on top of Paris Mountain (above).....which is now a 10 min bike ride from our new home. 

Oh yes, I forgot to blog about that so that will come soon....we moved out of our rental home and we are now first time home owners!

The Swamp Rabbit Trail (SRT, pictured above) extends from downtown Greenville to Traveler's Rest. We are now less than 2 miles from Furman University which makes for a lot of new running routines to explore. I prefer to stick with rolling hills as they are better for my hips and running form so I don't do much, if any, of my running on the SRT which is flat for almost 30 miles. 

This is our new running route to leave our neighborhood. We have a .25 mile climb out of our neighborhood and then endless country/neighborhood roads to enjoy on two feet. It's like running freedom! 
I've decided that every athlete or fitness enthusiast who lives in Greenville is strong because it's nearly impossible to have an easy workout here. You get strong by default because simply training outside toughens you up in our nature-filled, yet challenging environment.

I made sure to take a lot of mental pictures on today's route. I just love that I can leave for a ride (today I was alone as Karel did his own workout) and not have a plan as to where I will ride and just discover new roads/routes, feel safe and love every mile of it. 

Karel and Campy chilaxin in the back yard after our morning workout. Campy loves our new yard, especially squirrel and bird watching!

Here was our morning workout: 
3 hour ride (which included 4000 feet of climbing)
MS: 5x6 min best effort with 5 min EZ spin.

Followed by a 7.5 mile/1 hour run with 1000 feet of climbing.
Karel's workout: 
~70 miles
MS 9x6min best effort with 5 min EZ.
Followed by a 20 min run

This evening we had my mom over to watch the Derby and then we watched Unbroken (which is a GREAT movie!). I made this beautiful and delicious salad, topped with Veronica's Health Crunch.
I used petite lettuce, napa cabbage, pears, carrots, thinly sliced onions and celery. 

Hope you are having a great weekend! 
Make sure you enjoy your views on your favorite and new routes! 


Appetite Awareness tips

If you missed the last two blogs, I recommend to read before continuing on:
Appetite Awareness
Is hunger a bad thing?


-In reference to the above hunger rating chart, numbers 4 and 5 are ideal when you think about when you eat and how you feel when you eat. It is normal to feel number 3 as an athlete and often times, you may experience number 6. You should be able to identify the numbers that you do not want to experience as an athlete and if you do experience an unwanted number, recognize how to prevent that from happening again. Feeling very full or irritable are not enjoyable outcomes from eating (or not eating). 
Use this chart to think about your current eating habits on a daily basis and if you are eating too much or too little, focus on that one specific meal/snack in your day to try to tweak. Ideally, you should be eating three meals that leave you satisfied for at least 2.5-4 hours. Although a mid morning snack may be needed to honor a little biological hunger, almost all athletes would benefit from having an afternoon snack to avoid lower numbers on the hunger rating scale and additionally will prevent 6+ numbers in the evening. For many athletes, there is often a missing link in a meal that is causing hunger too soon after a meal. Often a little more carbs, fat or protein to a meal will help you feel more satisfied. Neglecting fueling before, during and after workouts may be causing you to not meet your energy needs which leads to more fatigue during/after workouts and to overeating, overindulging or ow blood sugar.  
Before you blame a food or food group, reflect on your typical diet. Do not overthink the chart - become aware of how your current eating style is working (or not working) for you.

-Every athlete/individual has an appetite control switch, even if you think you don't. Depending on what you eat, you may not receive the signal to stop eating and depending on your energy, mood, emotions, sleep or stress level, you may ignore that signal. Processed foods are much more calorically dense than real foods and per bite, it takes much longer to feel satisfied with processed food despite providing your body plenty of "energy" while eating. A diet rich in nutrient density, like fruits, veggies, high quality proteins, healthy fats, grains/high fiber starches and low fat dairy will help to control your appetite so that you feel more satisfied without over-exceeding your energy needs.

-A little hunger is not always a bad thing. For example, if your belly feels empty before a workout this may, in no way, affect your performance because your liver and muscles are stocked with available fuel, along with thousands of calories worth as stored body fat to use for energy. Also if you allowed 1 hour to digest your pre training snack, you may not only feel light but you will also more effectively metabolize fat for fuel (yes, even if you have a pre training snack). Many athletes prefer going into a workout feeling "empty" in the gut for the sake of feeling lighter, less bloated and less uncomfortable while working out. However, you can still feel this way and eat before a workout but allow time for digestion and consume low residue/fiber foods which clear the gut in less than an hour.

-If you experience a drop in blood sugar and ignore #3 on the hunger rating chart and find yourself into a place of #1 or 2 on the chart, you are putting your body into a dangerous and uncomfortable situation as you have low blood glucose levels with extreme hunger and it isn't until you eat food that will raise your blood sugar (not nuts, fat or fiber but instead, sugar/high glycmic carbs) that you control your irritable mood, depressive/angry state and extremely weak/vulnerable body. Don't keep putting yourself in this situation!!! Many times, the athlete who has let their blood sugar drop (intentionally or unintentionally) will find themselves overeating at the next snack/meal which is no less uncomfortable than low blood sugar. Consuming a low glycemic index diet has not been shown to solve the issue of low blood sugar but instead, a balanced diet that is timed appropriately with your life. Many high glycemic foods are healthy and when combined with protein/fat, they do not affect blood sugar levels and can leave you satisfied and nourished.

-Sleep, stress and exercise intensity/volume all after your appetite. Sleep deprived athletes will often find it harder to feel satisfied when it comes to diet and will additionally seek pick-me-up options that are often not healthy (ex. energy drinks, sugar, sweets, etc.) Regulate your appetite by focusing on restful sleep most days per week. Ideally 7-8 hours per night and an additional 30 minutes after very intense or long workouts. 

-We all know that cortisol increases belly fat as the commercials have embedded this into our brain. But it is true that stress affects appetite and hormones. Food doesn't solve problems so seek a healthy alternative to alcohol, sweets, processed food or overeating when you feel stressed out. I like to watch cute doggy videos on YouTube. 

-As exercise volume/intensity increases, you will receive a natural increase in the appetite as this is a signal that your body requires more energy to support the increased training load. Although you may feel like you are eating all the time compared to your co-workers/family, it is your  responsibility to meet your nutrition/health and energy needs through your diet and sport nutrition regime. If you don't understand how to do this on your own (and fear gaining weight or overeating/causing GI issues) consult a sport RD to help. 

For the next week, use these tips to better understand how you are eating and how it affects your quality of life. As I do with my nutrition athletes that I consult with, I encourage you to plan out your day before it happens. Write down what you will eat before during and after workouts, what meals you will eat and when and what snacks. Once you have this plan, you can then hold yourself accountable to this plan by preparing food ahead of time, thus consciously preventing overeating or underfueling. 
If  you can eat in a way that improves your quality of life, we can assume that health, happiness, performance and a better relationship with food/body will also improve. 

Happy eating! 


Is hunger a bad thing?


Although perfecting the appetite control centers seems overwhelming, there are a few ways to help you become more aware of your appetite and to better manage your hunger, all in an effort to help you meet your energy and nutritional needs for a quality-filled life. 

But before I go into these appetite awareness tips (next blog), I want to touch on a topic that I mentioned in my last blog.

Appetite is the desire to eat. Often times, we associate appetite to hunger. 

There are so many diet pills on the market marketed to "stop hunger". Just take a pill and you will not be hungry.
You may have recently heard a friend or training buddy say that since they started their new diet, they are never hungry. They can go long hours without eating, they have no cravings any more and they are just never, ever hungry!
Sounds too good to be true, right? 
What lucky people to never feel hungry!

Wait a minute....why are we applauding this? 
Since when is not feeling hungry a good thing? 

As I mentioned before, hunger is interesting and for athletes, it is extremely misleading.
For example, think about what you feel between lunch and dinner. From around 2-5pm, how would you rate your hunger? Do you feel like you are always hungry yet you are just sitting around at the computer, only moving your body to answer the phone, go to the restroom or walk down the hall?
Yet when you workout, hunger is gone. You are burning hundreds if not over thousands of calories and the thought of even eating a gel or drinking a sport drink sounds unappetizing. Heck, I bet there have been times when you have worked out for over 2 hours on only water (not that I am endorsing that!) yet when it comes to after dinner, you constantly struggle with saying no to the late night snacks.

Interesting, right? The times when you are burning the most calories, appetite can go away yet sitting around is often the time when you are reaching for energy-giving (pick-me-up) foods.
Certainly much of this has to do with how we metabolize our fuels and blood sugar control but nonetheless, the point is that our appetite/hunger cues can often be misleading as to when we need to eat/fuel. And more so, athletes are often "fueling" their bodies at the wrong times, eating energy dense foods when sedentary and underfueling when the body does need fuel - even when you don't feel that it does.
Let's get real here. In our society, we have formed such an unhealthy relationship with food. Seriously, how many people do you know have peace with food, see eating as a positive experience and do not follow a "diet" that heavily restricts food or food groups? 

 Hunger is seen as something that causes overeating, sugary cravings and obesity. But then again, for the weight loss seeker, hunger is also seen as a necessity - if you aren't hungry, then you aren't doing your diet correctly. 
In a world of voluntary food restriction, many people try to ignore (or trick) hunger in an effort to change body composition. 

Yet in other parts of our country (and even in the US), hunger is a real problem. A hungry child, parent, animal or grandparent suffers from food insecurity and malnutrition is a very serious condition.

Hunger is an important and positive part of eating. Because when you are hungry and you eat, you feel better. Or you should feel better because food tastes better when you are hungry. 

There are many concerns that I have in our population as it relates to how people honor their hunger and control their appetite. There are grazers who never allow the body to actually become hungry or feel full, there are individuals who mistake emotions for hunger (ex. lonely, bored, stressed, hormonal). Then there are those who choose food restriction and try to mask feelings of hunger with calorie-free chemically-made products (ex. diet coke, Crystal Light, sugar free candy/gum, etc.) because it isn't the "right" time to eat.

But you see, if you truly want to understand your hunger, you have to stop worrying about everyone else and focus on yourself. You have to honor your body and what it is telling you. You need to learn how to honor your hunger and create a diet that allows you to feel hungry at the right times and satisfied when the meal/snack is over. I call this eating with a purpose. This is not done with a diet fad but instead, simply making ongoing dietary swaps/additions so that you create a diet that works for you and your lifestyle. 

If this seems troublesome for you, send me an email or reach out to another RD.
This is an area that I specialize in and it is my goal to help athletes/fitness enthusiasts understand how to develop a healthier relationship with food and their body and to let food enhance their life, not control life. 


Appetite Awareness

As athletes, our appetite can be a bit interesting at times.
Have you ever been so hungry you can't even think straight?
Sometimes it feels like we can never feel satisfied whereas other times, the appetite is non existent.
So weird, right?

As you are aware from experience, your appetite is important because it regulates food intake and helps you fuel your active lifestyle. It drives you to eat and it also tells you when you can stop eating.
Your appetite can also affect your mood  - it's likely that there are times when your friends/family just know that you are hungry.

Although the appetite mechanism works well to help you meet your body's energy and nutrient needs, it is likely that as an athlete, you feel that you do not have a "normal" appetite.

Far too often, athletes put blame on themselves for not eating the "right" things at the "right" times. They get mad at their body for being hungry too often or for getting too full.
There is so much guilt, frustration and concerns with eating that it can eventually cause an athlete to experience disordered eating symptoms or dread/hate the act of eating. Some athletes are so frustrated with how to eat for health, body composition and performance goals that the most simple option or last resort is to just stop eating. 

Maybe you feel that you have the inconsistent ability to understand your appetite and that makes you feel as if you are not eating enough or eating too much all the time. Rather than food enhancing your life, it may feel like food is controlling your life.

As you can see, as an athlete, the appetite can be extremely confusing and misleading. 

Let's be honest, you are not always to blame when it comes to food choices. 
Increased portion sizes, food advertising, food in every holiday/work/event setting and other social factors can drive how you eat. Far too often, athletes get so obsessed with what they shouldn't eat because food is everyone and this can heighten a very unhealthy relationship with food. 

When you think you aren't hungry and you are presented with food, you may find yourself all of a sudden, hungry or you can't resist yourself. When you eat something that you feel you shouldn't have eaten or eaten too much, you may say to yourself that you feel gross, fat, guilty and even depressed. You may often find that you "feel" a certain way after you eat and this is something that every athlete needs to focus on - why is the food you eat making you feel this way?
Is it the food or your relationship with food or how you are eating, when you are eating, what you are eating?

When you have healthy relationship with food, you feel better after you eat than before and that meal or snack serves a purpose. It nourishes you, it keeps you satisfied, it controls blood sugar and it helps fuel your active lifestyle. And when you indulge responsibly, you don't feel guilty when eating. 

So, are you aware of your appetite and when you are biologically hungry and need to eat/fuel versus when you don't need food in your body? 
Are you able to identify times when you are eating for reasons beyond fueling and nourishing?

Do you find that you will consciously not eat when you feel hungry because you are watching the clock as to the "right" time to eat or trying to save calories or feeling too busy to eat but yet after you eat a meal, you can't help but have dessert or that something extra?

We don't need to blame gluten, carbs or food groups for your eating habits. For many athletes, there is a clear disconnect as to why you are actually eating, what you are eating. 

To reduce overeating and to help you gain a better relationship with food, it is important that you take responsibility for your eating actions. Hopefully you are never forced to eat something and can politely say no thank you but because you do deserve to indulge every now and then, pay better attention of the physical signs of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction as it relates to how you eat. 


So what if there were ways to help you better understand your appetite as it relates to when you need to eat, what you need to eat and how much you need to eat? 

Stay tuned for my next blog post for some tips on managing your appetite. 


Athens Twilight Criterium - the need for speed!

I LOVE watching bike racing, especially criterium racing.
 The tactics, endorphin rush, speed....there is so much going on with every loop that you can't help but stay glued to the race to watch everything unfold. To really understand crit racing, you have to know the riders, the teams and well, really be in the race. 
Thank goodness I married a cyclist!

For 6 years, I would spend many weekends throughout the year at bike races because my cat 3 boyfriend, turned cat 1 fiance, turned cat 1 husband Karel (now turned triathlete) has been racing bikes for most of his life. I learned so much about cycling, bike racing/training and how much Karel loves to suffer. 

Karel's last season of bike racing finished with the NRC Speedweek in 2012 and a few months later, Karel started his first triathlon season with a sprint, olympic and then half ironman triathlon. In 2013 Karel raced his first Ironman (IM Placid) and in 2014, Karel qualified for the 2015 Ironman World Championship. 

Karel still has the need for speed on two wheels but now he is much more aero, has a bottle cage on the back of his bike, paces his own race, is not allowed to draft in races and rides a tri bike. 

On Saturday, Karel and I drove 1:45 to Athens to watch Twilight. Being so close now that we live in Greenville, we could not pass this up.

For several years, Karel went to Athens, GA to race the Athens Twilight Criterium. He first raced as an amateur and then once he was eligible to race with the pros in an NRC race pro, he stepped up his game to race with the professionals. Karel was still working up to 45-50 hours a week as the GM of the Trek Store so it was not easy to balance everything and still be in top shape to race with cyclists who race for a job. But nonetheless, Karel made it all work. It took Karel a few years to gain the fitness, tactics and confidence to race this one of a kind race but the message is true and should never be forgotten...... never ever give up even if you fail the first time!

2009 Athens Twilight recap  - pro race, did not finish
2010 Athens Twilight recap  - pro race, did not finish
2011 Athens Twilight recap - finished!
2012 Athens Twilight recap - finished!

If you are in or around the area next year, we highly recommend that you watch this race. If your town has a professional men/women crit race, check it out as you will not be disappointed. You will not believe the endorphin rush you get as a spectator in Athens, as you watch on the sidelines with 30,000 spectators, students (most of which are drunk) and cycling fans.  

This year we had an athlete, Magda (who just upgraded to Cat 1,2), participating in her first Athens Pro race alongside Trimarni athlete Jennie participating in the Cat 3 race earlier in the day.
Just like Karel experienced when he first raced Athens, the race is unlike anything you will ever experience as a cyclist - in racing or training. The race is on a whole other level and the intensity of racing is incredible...incredibly painful.

But for Magda to progress with her fitness, Karel wanted her to participate in Athens in order to gain experience. Cycling is unlike many other sports where you can gain so much from a race regardless if you do or do not finish the race. 

After winning many races as a Cat 3, Karel experienced his first and then several DNF's in cycling races when he upgraded to Cat 1/2. But he was determined to finish a race and then be able to race at a higher level in the NRC Speed Week. He did all of this because he wanted to reach his full potential and that meant never ever giving up.

Karel not only understands cycling training but also the cycling tactics so it was really fun to spectate Athens together, on the sidelines, for the very first time.
(I am a pro Athens spectator :) 

Here are a few pics of Karel racing in the Athens Twilight Crit. 

Athens Twilight Criterium fun facts

The women pro race starts at 6:15 and last ~1 hour. This follows the 1-mile running race (the male winner race 4:05 yesterday!!). The male pro crit starts around 8:15pm and the hilly course is around 1K in downtown Athens, with four corners for each lap. The male pro race completes 80 laps which is around 80K of racing in less than two hours. Typically, over 150 riders line up to the start line and every lap, the race field gets smaller and smaller. There are often crashes, mechanicals and a lot of crushed souls but the energy is so amazing that even if a rider doesn't finish, he is still handed a beer or given a high five and is treated like he won the race.

For videos of last nights race, check out the Trimarni Facebook page.