8/15/15

All-day nutrition tips for athletes: Dinner

DINNER


Now that I have discussed my breakfast and lunch tips, it's time for dinner!!

First off, before discussing my tips, I want to preface by saying that my all-day nutrition tips are designed to help you fuel smarter, eat healthier and develop or maintain a healthy (or healthier) relationship with food and your body. There are no rules or guidelines as to when to eat or even exactly what to eat. There are no bad foods to avoid or even a list of clean foods to eat.
My goal is to help athletes fuel and eat smarter all in an effort to maintain a healthy body composition, keep the body in good health and of course, boost fitness and perform amazingly well on race day!!

-Dinner is often the "Achilles heal" of most people in our society. For a variety of reasons like being tired and hungry, wanting food fast, feeling too busy or not liking/wanting to cook, sitting down at the table to a home-cooked meal is not an every day occurrence for many. But for athletes, with so much to squeeze into the day, there is great reason as to why dinner may be an afterthought. BUT - that is no excuse. You have to prioritize dinner.

Here are my big tips for ensuring that you can enjoy a dinner meal even as a super busy athlete:
-Prepare meals on the weekend and always plan for leftovers.
-A little meal prep goes a long way. Dice, chop, wash, cook - do as much as you can when you have the time so you at least have options for a upcoming meal.
-Prep a meal (as much as possible) before a workout so you don't finish your workout hungry with no patience to meal prep. 
 -Have a menu for the week. Knowing what you will eat for dinner will ensure that you have those items for dinner. No need to make this menu extravagant, just make a plan. As far as I know, athletes love having a plan to follow.
-Allow yourself one night a week to get a little help from a pre-made meal. Rather than dining out (which takes time to wait for food, eat and pay and travel to and from the restaurant), order out or pick-up food and then use your extra time after dinner to prep a meal for the next day.
-Stop wasting time on stuff that takes up time. Think about your day when you are home. Often times, the cooking and meal prep is an afterthought and athletes get busy doing something else and then when it is time to eat/cook, hunger is too great that the athlete needs something quick and easy. Look at your day to see if there is 10-30 minutes in the morning, when you get home from work (or a workout) or evening that you can do some cooking. 

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As an athlete, food should be high on your to-do list. This means eating, cooking and planning. There's no need to be obsessed and there is nothing wrong with the occasional off day of eating food prepared outside of the home.
Above all, you should love to eat as it is the best way to keep your body in good health and boost your fitness - and who doesn't want both of those??

You know how important consistency is with training and the results you get when you can stick to your training plan. Put a similar amount of passion, effort and enthusiasm into your daily diet (and fueling regime) so that you can feel what it is like to properly fuel and nourish your body in motion. 

If you struggle with daily eating as it relates to your busy lifestyle or body composition or performance goals, send me an email so we can work together to figure out the best fueling plan to meet your health and fitness goals. 

8/14/15

All-day nutrition tips for athletes: Lunch

LUNCH


Now that I covered my Breakfast Tips, it's time for lunch!

-Regardless if you love lunch foods or not, lunch is an important meal of your day as an athlete. Unlike breakfast which is super important as it kick-starts your day (and helps you refuel from your morning workout), lunch is a prime opportunity to nourish your body and fill in some nutritional gaps between breakfast and dinner. Whereas a high fiber, high fat and/or high protein meal is not in the ideal composition from a "fueling" perspective in the morning or evening if a workout precedes the meal, lunch is a great opportunity to fill in the nutritional gaps that may occur throughout the day in an athlete's diet. I highly suggest to emphasize a large salad for your lunch and to make your lunch very "plant strong."

-Many athletes eat lunch and then feel hungry just an hour later. This starts an afternoon of trying to mask hunger with unhealthy methods (drinking coffee or diet coke, chewing gum, eating sugar-free/low calorie processed foods, drinking energy drinks) or giving in to hunger with unhealthy snack options. Or just feeling like hunger never settles. The key to taming hunger in the afternoon is to ensure that your lunch meal is well balanced. I've worked with many athletes who eat a super healthy lunch but because of lack of protein and fat, the healthy lunch ends up becoming unhealthy when the athlete indulges post lunch due to not feeling satisfied. Whereas breakfast and dinner may be more carb-rich, be sure to incorporate at least 25-30g of protein and 10-15g of fat with your plant-strong lunch meal. Along with a heavy dose of fiber from a variety of vegetables, you should find your digestion slowing down and providing satiety for at least 2-2.5 hours. 

-You need a substantial afternoon snack. I feel this is where a lot of athletes go wrong. Don't expect (or plan) for lunch to hold you over for 4+ hours, especially if you are doing an afternoon/early evening workout. And if you workout in the evening, you may need two snacks! Don't be afraid to eat in the afternoon. You are not dieting so you don't need to "save" calories. The goal is to have a substantial snack that looks like a mini meal. It could be a 1/2 sandwich or wrap, granola, yogurt and fruit or a small potato with side of cottage cheese. Whatever your mini meal looks like, consider the evening workout so that you allow adequate time for digestion (at least 2-3 hours before the evening workout).

-Simple pre-workout snacks before an evening workout can be very similar to a morning workout. Ideally, athletes should still consider a small afternoon snack in addition to a pre-workout snack. This may look like a lot of eating but in the big picture, you are trying to manage your appetite throughout the week, minimize overeating in the late evening when you are sedentary and seeking good digestion before bed and to ensure great workouts on a daily basis.

-Don't be afraid to get a little help from others. There is nothing wrong with relying on eating-out once a week, picking up a pre-made salad or selecting from a salad bar. Just always keep your goals and appetite in mind. A pre-made salad at the grocery store or restaurant may work for your sedentary co-worker but it may not be enough for you if you are training for an Ironman!

-Lastly, I have worked with many athletes. I try to help my nutrition athletes better plan their day rather than abiding by a standard meal plan that may or may not work for their lifestyle. If you are a retail employee, emergency room nurse, lawyer, doctor, teacher, stay-at-home parent, vet, accountant.....whatever your job  may be, you must eat based on your schedule. Consider your day and how your job requirements impact your food choices, timing of food, energy, cravings and anything else that will help you be a better planner (and healthier eater). 

Stay tuned for dinner tips!


8/13/15

All-day nutrition tips for athletes: Breakfast


Would it surprise you to hear that many athletes express that they are too busy to eat?
Yes - too busy to eat!

I am a very busy person but there is always time to eat. And plus, food is my fuel.
How can I expect my body to perform well in training and throughout the day if I do not make time to nourish it? 

I wanted to share a few of my nutrition tips to help with meal planning, nourishing and fueling your body throughout the day so that you can set yourself up for great health and great performances.

BREAKFAST


-For the athlete who works out in the morning, there are two priorities. First, you need to focus on what you will consume before/during/after your workout. I call this your "sport nutrition". Next you need to plan what you will eat post workout for your post workout meal (or breakfast). Also, do not neglect your hydration in the form of sport drinks (during), water (before/during/after) and electrolytes (during/after).
-Keep your morning nutrition super easy. This is often the time when busy athletes are extremely rushed and tend to prioritize working out. Don't make your sport nutrition or post workout meal super complicated. In the best case scenario, you should be able to prep your meal/snacks in less than 10 minutes. 
-Create a list of 2-3 pre and post workout snack options (depending on the workout) and make sure you always have those foods available. To that list, add 3-4 staple breakfast meals. Your house should always be stocked with these 6-7 food items to ensure that you set yourself up for great workouts and a great recovery.
-Consider your routine, environment (home/work), travel and anything else that makes your fueling/nourishing/eating regime specific to you. Depending on your commute to work, your job requirements, your morning workout (time/volume/intensity) and anything else, this will factor into what you plan to eat.
-Prioritize carbohydrates and protein, with a little fat with your breakfast meal if you are working out in the morning. This is a prime opportunity to replenish liver and glycogen stores and to help reduce the chance for any afternoon/evening cravings. Focus on wholesome foods that leave you satisfied. 
-For athletes who work out super early and eat breakfast soon after, you may find yourself snacking your way through the morning simply because the breakfast (or post workout meal) and lunch occur more than 4 hours apart. In this case, it may be helpful to eat two mini-meals as oppose to one big breakfast post workout (or first thing in the morning). This can also offset extra calories that you may be consuming in the morning simply because you can't seem to feel satisfied. Two mini meals can often solve that problem (example: instead of eggs, oatmeal and fruit at 7am post workout, have 1 hardboiled egg + 1 banana + smear of PB and handful granola at 7am and then your oatmeal creation with fruit and nuts/seeds at 8:30/9am). 
-No two days will be the same. Never get mad at your body and always honor your biological hunger. Make notes (mental is fine) as to what workouts bring on more/less hunger and how to plan accordingly with your morning meals/snacks. 
-Bring finger food for morning snacking. Many times, a few almonds, a handful of grapes, apple slices or chopped carrots can do the trick to hold you over until lunch. 

Stay tuned for lunch tips!

8/11/15

It's ok to make mistakes: reflect, learn and move on


You've probably heard the expression: Hope for the best and plan for the worst. 

Sometimes on race day, everything comes together perfectly and sometimes, well, it seems like a fight just to keep your body moving in a forward direction. 

No matter how prepared you feel going into a race, there is absolutely no way to know how your body will respond to the course, weather, nutrition or effort.
So instead of stressing about things out of your control, embrace the unknowns!
 This is all part of being an athlete and the unknowns make race day so exhilarating. That is, if you choose to accept the obstacles instead of complaining (or settling for a DNF) when things do not go how you planned.

Every athlete makes mistakes on race day. Struggles are not limited to age group athletes. All athletes, of all levels, experience battles with the mind and body in almost every race. 

Even if you think a race is going perfectly, it is really your ability to handle situations that makes for a "perfect" race. 

To help yourself out for race day, use every training session to better prepare for your races. Don't settle for easy courses, easy conditions or easy workouts. Challenge yourself and get out of your comfort zone.
 R
ather than going into workouts focusing only on the metrics, focus on your execution and how your body responds to given efforts. Complaining over a bad training session doesn't prepare you better for your race. It only causes you to question your abilities. Don't take the easy way out and just call it a day every time when you feel like your workout isn't going as planned. 
Adjust and keep adjusting until you figure it out. 

Every time you embrace uncomfortable situations in training, you will better prepare yourself mentally and physically for race day. 

 It may seem silly but enjoy the moments when things don't go as planned so you recognize that you are being given a great opportunity to learn and better prepare for your upcoming race. And on race day, remember that every race should provide you with an opportunity to reflect, learn and move on so that you can feel more prepared to handle situations at your next race. 

Every athlete wants to be fast on race day. Fast is relative to the course, distance racing, weather and your closest competition but it is typically defined as a personal improvement from a previous race.

But amazingly, racing is far more than the fitness that you bring to the race. You can be extremely fit to race but it takes great strength to be prepared to handle the obstacles that arise on race day. A weak mind or too strong of an ego can destroy great performances. 

In order to make improvements in your fitness AND to execute on race day, you must be able to reflect properly on your training sessions AND races and to learn throughout your individual training journey. Sure, you can tell yourself over and over that you need to train harder, train more, eat better and stay more mentally tough on race day but it isn't until you begin to accept the mistakes as great opportunities for personal growth that you will really see an improvement in your fitness and performance. 

8/10/15

9 weeks out 'til Kona - "all-in!"


This past weekend included a lot of training, which followed 5 previous days of training (with Monday/Friday being recovery days). With 9 weeks left until the 2015 IM World Championship, I finally experienced my first week of Ironman training and included a lot of swimming, biking and running!

If I were to reflect back on the past 10 months of training, when I started an 8-week plan to build my foundation back in November, a part of me was not fully committed to my training. I was still following my training and I was not slacking on strength training or key workouts but I never found myself "all-in" at any point in my training over the past 10 months. 

This was quite evident as I was gearing up for my first half IM of the season, at Challenge Knoxville. I felt strong and healthy but I questioned my why as to why I was racing. I love competition and I love training but some part of me wasn't "all-in". Four weeks later, at Challenge Williamsburg half IM, I started to feel a bit more "in" as I felt healthy and strong but oddly, I still felt neutral about my passion for training and racing. 

As I stuck to my training plan and continued to trust the process of my season development throughout the spring and summer, I continued to excel in my races with a fantastic season to give me confidence going into my 10th Ironman and 4th IM World Championship. 

With so much to balance in my very busy life, a big part of me intentionally did not want to fully commit to training. Deep inside, I felt like I could be faster and I knew that if I devoted a bit more time and energy to training, I would be able to take my fitness to another level. I would often think, "if only I could shut off my life/mind when I was training, I could really devote myself to what I feel it would take to get to that next level."

 In no way do I feel I got lucky or slacked my way through two great performances at Knoxville and Williamsburg half IMs with 2nd place overall amateur female and overall amateur female winner, respectively but I knew I had more in me and for some reason I wasn't allowing myself to be "all-in."

Last Monday, Karel told me that our Kona training was about to get real...really hard. Karel is coached by Matt Dixon with Purple Patch Fitness and I piggyback off some of his workouts. We love Matt's coaching philosophy and he has a lot of experience and knowledge to pass along to us as athletes and coaches. 
So when Karel told me about our Kona build, I knew that it was time to make the decision to either continue to get-by or to be all-in.

I choose all-in. 

So what's changed in the past week versus the last 10 months? 

First off, I have been 100% committed to building a strong foundation so that I can properly absorb my Ironman training load. In other words, the training over the past 10 months was not specific to helping me prepare for Kona but instead, to help me prepare for the training that was preparing me for Kona.
Hope that makes sense. 

Up until last week, I never fully allowed myself to be "all-in" because there is only so much mentally I can handle when it comes to dedicating myself to training. As for the physical part of training, I love to workout so it's never a mountain to climb to get me out the door to train (ok - that was a bad analogy as I do love my mountains!)

This restraint that I put on myself to not be "all-in" until I reach 8-10 weeks out from my upcoming Ironman is something that I knew I needed to have going into IM #10 and at this point in my athletic career.
Although I have remained injury free for well over 2 years and never battle with sickness or burnout, it's always a thin edge that I feel I am balancing on when it comes to being a competitive age-group endurance triathlete who also has a business, a marriage, a furry family and a life to balance. 

In no ways has my life, commitment to my business and helping my coaching and nutrition athletes, diet, sleep regime or love for life changed for the worst in the past week but I have chosen to allow myself to check out of life and be "on" only when I train.

Amazingly last week, I instantly felt a difference in my training.
When I use to train, I was always thinking about everything I had to do. My mind was elsewhere and I would be satisfied with "enough." My work load has not lightened and my to-do list is still long (often, longer than ever before) but I have given myself permission to be "all-in" when I train as I work hard for a great performance in Kona, Hawaii on October 10th, 2015. 

Many times, I see athletes who are "all-in" all season long. Starting from very early season, they either train too much or race too much. I feel a lot of the problem is lack of patience and/or trust in the development of building a great performance.

With so much hard work going into developing the strength, skills and resilience that I felt I needed before my Kona build, I find myself in a great place now, physically and mentally. The training load changed but it was designed to change because I was mentally and physically ready to handle the increased load without setbacks. 

Because consistency brings great performances, I am incredibly happy that I resisted the urge to be "all-in" earlier this season nd stuck to my game-plan of getting stronger before going longer. Getting faster has not been a direct priority of mine with my training this year so speed work has not been part of my training vocabulary. I knew that if I could follow my training plan to build a strong foundation, then I would be able to confidently use the 9 weeks leading up to the IM World Championship to get myself in the best shape possible to race a strong and "fast" race for 140.6 miles. 

There's no way that I can predict the future but I can confidently say that I feel like I am in the best shape ever and I still have 7 more weeks of training before taper to be "all-in" and see what I can do on race day. 

As for my first big weekend of training (which followed 3 days of two a day workouts on Tues, Wed and Thurs):

Saturday
100 mile ride (120 miles for Karel) followed by a 5.5 mile run



Karel took me on a route that he has done 5 times. I accepted the cycling challenge and joined him for the first time. We did over 11,000 feet of climbing and explored Table Rock, Rocky Bottom, North Carolina, Ceaser's Head and so much more. It was a nature-filled, absolutely beautiful 6 hours of riding.

I was able to ride "with" Karel for some parts of the ride but when we would climb up a mountain pass, he would often regroup with me after he got to the top (or bottom). After we descended down Ceaser's Head, we parted ways and Karel extended his ride for 120 miles and I finished with 100 miles. This was only my 2nd 100 mile ride since moving from FL and Karel and I both felt really strong.

After the ride, I put on my Nathan fuel belt and got myself together for my run.
1 mile easy
2 miles IM strong
The rest of the run easy

Somehow, with a good state of mind (and good fueling/hydrating on the bike), I managed to run 7:45 min/mile average for the strong, which was a bit challenging considering it was past 2pm and it was well over 90-degrees.

As for the rest of the day, I got to work with a few emails to athletes and ate and ate and ate to try to do my best to refuel and rehydrate. 


Sunday: 

Thankfully, "only" a 90 minute run on my schedule and all low-stress. Although I only run on hilly terrain (my hips don't do so well on flat roads), it was an enjoyable 10.3 mile run which included a little over 1300 feet of elevation gain.

Karel had a RETUL fit later that morning so after his run/walk (he is slowly returning to running after his foot injury 9 weeks ago) he got to work and then we had some Jacksonville friends coming through town who raced Lake Logan.
After everyone left, Karel and I had some work to do for 2 hours and then we headed to the Furman pool for a swim:
500 warm-up
1500 (buoy/paddles/ankle strap)
3 x 500's descend 1-3 from 75-85% w/ 45 sec rest
Total: 3500 yards

Thank goodness for a rest day today. Aside from walking Campy, there will be no cardio (or strength training) performed by our bodies. 
Can't wait for what's in store for another week of "all-in" training.