Essential Sports Nutrition


Friday night eats - Eggplant Lasagna

There are two things that I love about Friday night cooking - creating a delicious meal to fuel the weekend workouts and having delicious leftovers. 

Last Friday I made this delicious eggplant lasagna. No recipe, just a bunch of delicious foods in the refrigerator for me to use. 

Plus, Karel and I had just shopped at the Tomato Vine early that day, so we had lot of local, fresh produce to use. 

With two endurance triathletes in our household, a lot of food needs to be in our house to keep us well fueled and happy. We shop a lot, we cook a lot, a lot of dishes get washed, we eat a lot and we yum a lot. 

The weekends are often hard for endurance athletes when it comes to meal prep and planning. Endurance athletes have every reason to feel too exhausted to prep and cook food but that is no excuse not to do it. If you want your body to perform and stay in good health, you have to nourish it on a daily basis - especially on the weekends when you expect your body to workout for long hours.
Eating should not be an afterthought when your 5 hour bike workout or 2 hour run is over as that is the time when it's easy to give into post workout "reward" foods and cravings, particularly when you are too tired or hungry to cook. If the right foods for your body and workout load are available and ready in your house, then you will be fueling in the right way for your body on the weekend. 

My eggplant lasagna was perfect on Friday evening..... and on Sat afternoon after training. Karel enjoyed his vegetarian lasagna on Friday night and then added some meat to his Saturday post-workout portion. 

When making your own lasagna, be creative. There are no rules or guidelines when it comes to how you dress-up (or fill-in) your casserole dish. 

Here are the ingredients in my eggplant lasagna (by layer):
Marinara sauce
Thinly sliced eggplant
Crumbled tempeh (~half package)
Thinly sliced eggplant
Marinara sauce
Sliced onions
Garlic (powder or fresh)
Thinly sliced eggplant (whatever is left)
Crumbled tempeh (the rest of the package)
Shredded cheese

Bake at 425 degrees for ~45 minutes

What are you making for dinner tonight? 


Board Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics (CSSD)

After a few years of working as a clinical RD (PRN) while also working as a registered and licensed dietitian specializing in sport nutrition, I was finally eligible to apply and take the Board Certification exam in Sport Nutrition from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. With two application and exam window periods available every year, I applied to take my exam back in February 2015 and spent all of the spring and early summer studying to take my exam in the late June 2015 testing window.
This has been a big goal of mine for several years. 

I'm a big believer in higher education and I enjoy advancing my knowledge in specialty areas. Certifications and advanced degrees also force me to stay educated in my specific areas of practice. 

The CSSD (or Board Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics) focuses on fueling athletic performances. Unlike other nutrition certifications, the CSSD is a highly credible specialty certification. 

Content area for the CSSD exam include: 
Energy metabolism and weight management
Macronutrients and micronutrients of active individuals and populations
Nutrition assessment
Training, competition and recovery
Disordered eating and eating disorders
Nutrition for specific populations

After several months of intense studying, I took the 3-hour, 140 question exam on 7/17 at a testing center in Spartanburg, SC and then after many weeks (over 5 weeks!) of waiting and waiting and waiting for the results to be mailed to my house..... 

I recently found out that I passed!!

I'm a Board Certified Sport Dietitian! 
Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, CSSD, LD/N
I'm so honored to now be part of a select group of dietitians who hold the CSSD credential.
With this credential, I will continue to focus on my specialty areas of practice which include;
Fueling endurance athletes (ex.triathletes and runners) before, during and after workouts
Fueling endurance performances (race week/day nutrition)
Helping athletes maintain/create a healthy relationship with food and the body
Fueling vegetarian/plant-strong athletes
Helping endurance athletes keep the body in good health while training for endurance sports

Additionally, I now meet the criteria to apply to be part of the USOC (United States Olympic Committee) sport dietitian registry which is an available roster of pre-screened sport dietitians as resources for National Governing Bodies of Olympic, Paralympic and Pan American Sports. I plan to submit my application in the next few months. 

I look forward to helping many more endurance athletes fuel smart for training and performance all while keeping the body in good health. 


Conquer yourself

If you want to conquer yourself and reach your goals, you have to believe in yourself.
It’s human nature to enjoy doing things that you do well in and enjoy the most and to put off things that are uncomfortable or difficult. 
Don’t be afraid to fail when trying something new.
Many people resist making changes because it is uncomfortable to change. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone.
If you believe in yourself and your own ability to be successful, you will put yourself into a position to be eligible to reach your goals.
Beliefs drive behaviors. If you believe in yourself and your abilities, you will succeed.

If all an athlete had to do was to follow his/her training plan to be successful, “coaching” would be an easy job.
One of the most important, yet overlooked, areas of fostering performance gains is the mental side of training.
Many athletes let their mind get in the way of the body.

As a goal-driven, hard-working and dedicated athlete, it’s very easy to lose enjoyment of your sport simply because there are too many self-defeating thoughts and behaviors that weaken great training sessions and race-day performances.

It is important to have a heart-to heart with yourself and identify why exactly, you are getting in your own way as you train to reach your performance goals.

Here are two common reasons as to why athletes struggle with training for a race.

Are you never satisfied with your effort or performance?
Are constant negative thoughts filling your head as you are too self-critical with every action? Do you feel as if you are never happy with yourself or you can never do well enough?
Training and racing with a constant fear of failure and a very critical mindset will not only damage a successful performance or training session but can negatively affect self-esteem and enjoyment for your sport.
For better results in training and racing, focus on small, manageable goals. Even better, focus on executing to the best of your ability and just see what happens.
Stop the unrealistic, high expectations or being too focused on the outcome or metrics.

Lack of motivation and distractions
Do you live a conflicting lifestyle?
You have goals and you love to race but it can be a struggle to put in the work to train?
Or, do you find yourself just going through the motions when you train but without passion, joy and excitement?
Motivation has to come from within and you must be willing to do the work.
Do you often ask yourself why are you so afraid to be the best athlete that you can be?
As you are doing the hard work (that you secretly love to do), you have to have a deep, burning desire that no matter what else is on your daily plate, you are going to do your best, with the time that you have, to reach your full potential.
Release your inner strength and stop the excuses – even when you are feeling off, you still want to believe that you have it in you to perform at your best.

Like anything in life, sports require hard work.
If you stay focused, determined and motivated and find a way to have fun, your goals will become reachable as you turn into the athlete that you have always aspired to be. 

Next time you find yourself mentally unfocused or in an uncomfortable situation, pull-out your champion mind-set.
Show-up and give your best effort.
Conquer yourself!

Create your own nutrition plan

If I had to give only one tip to an athlete who was training for an endurance race (marathon, half or full Ironman), my suggestion would be to always have a plan. 

Now, I am guessing that most athletes who are training for an endurance race, have some type of training plan to help ensure that the training provides the most appropriate training stress to induce performance gains without risking injury or burnout. 

But what about a nutrition plan?

I'm not talking about a meal plan that tells you to eat the same thing every day but instead, a plan that you create for yourself, on a daily basis, that assists in making sure you meet your health and energy needs. This plan doesn't have to include percentages, grams or calories but instead, it is a plan that you create, describing how you will nourish and fuel your body, dependent on life, training and the past. 

There are some endurance athletes who are excellent planners when it comes to the diet. They prep food ahead of time, always have a variety of sport nutrition products in stock at home and have an idea of what they will eat for all meals and snacks, most days of the week. Even on the weekends, there is a plan.
But there are also athletes who are not so great planners when it comes to the diet. Eating is often an afterthought and sometimes it is even stressful and overwhelming. The concept of meal planning, meal prep and being proactive with eating just instead part of the lifestyle regardless of how dedicated and committed the athlete is to his/her training plan. 

If you are currently struggling with your daily diet or fueling routine and feel you could use some help, let's get started right now.
Let's go old-fashioned and grab a piece of blank piece of paper and pencil (not your smart phone).
Long ways, on the far left side near the top, write down what time you will wake-up in the morning.
On the bottom of the paper, far left, write down what time you will go to bed.
You have now created your own personalized day of living which will be your template that you can use when planning your nutrition. 

1) Write down your workouts for tomorrow. Include morning and/or evening workouts and consider the intensity and volume when writing this down.

2) Now write down what you will eat and drink before, during and after the workout. If you are not fueling for whatever reason, how about writing down what you should be fueling with before, during and after (and maybe have a heart-to-heart with yourself as to why you are intentionally not meeting your energy/fluid needs around your training).
3) Next, think about your day and write down what responsibilities you have as it relates to work, commuting, traveling, family, volunteering, etc. Write down when you have to start and finish these activities as this will affect how, what and when you will be eating. This is often the area that gets forgotten (or overlooked) when an athlete tries to follow a meal plan. If the meal plan doesn't account for your "life", how do you expect yourself to be able to make the plan work? Don't make life fit into your meal plan...your style of eating should enhance your life (not control your life).

4) Now the easy part - plan your three meals. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It's ok if a meal is a mini meal or broken into two meals. There are no rules here! You don't even have to have a recipe. Just write down a meal.  It is important that you make time to nourish your body so now that you have prioritized your workouts and life responsibilities, it is important that you make the effort to eat three balanced and healthy plans.

5) Your piece of paper should look a bit more filled at this point (kinda scary how busy you are, right?) so now is the time to snack with a purpose. Anytime you are going more than 4 hours without eating, plan for a snack. Reflect back on the times when you feel most hungry and plan for a snack. If you tend to go into a meal starving, plan for a pre-meal snack. If you tend to always have dessert after dinner, plan for that too. Be honest with yourself as this is your plan. You don't want to plan for a "perfect" day but instead, a realistic day which means planning for social events, indulgences and anything else.

Now imagine if you did this every day?
Imagine how prepared you would be when it comes to your eating but more importantly, how good you would feel knowing that you made the effort to nourish and fuel your body?

If you feel like this would be overwhelming to do every day, this is just because this is not yet a lifestyle for you. For myself, this is how I maintain a healthy relationship with food and my body. I don't log my food, my calories or follow any type of "plan" on paper. And I certainly don't have rules or feelings of guilt as it relates to how I eat.
Since I live a very busy and active life, I constantly think about what's happening in my life to make sure that I can meet my health and energy needs as an athlete. Food is never an afterthought. Food doesn't control my life, I know that I can not control life and I don't try to control every food that enters my body but I do have a plan.
And with that plan, I am able to adjust as needed in order to set myself up for good eating behaviors and the ability to keep myself in good health.

Try this strategy out for the rest of the week and on the weekend (especially if you are training long on the weekends).
Even if you are not an athlete, you can still create your own nutrition plan.

Consider how having a plan helps with your relationship with food, your workouts, your hunger, cravings and appetite, your daily energy and health, your sleep, your comfort around food, your ability to plan and prep meals and your overall food choices. Also think about how one day of eating on your plan affects the next day (or how the previous day affects the current day). Continually reflect and tweak your plan until you create a style of eating that works for your lifestyle, your health goals and your fitness routine.

Eventually, you will be able to stop planning on paper and you will have the ability to plan in your head for all occasions, no matter where you are or what is happening in life.
And anytime you feel "off" with your diet or feel anxious about an upcoming eating event or occasion, just pull out a piece of paper and create a new plan.

Planning your diet is a realistic, easy and simple way to make sure that you are eating exactly how you want to eat. No rules, fancy methodology or bad food lists.
You choose what you want to eat and when.
Now that's a nutrition plan that you should be excited to follow!


Less is more...42 days 'til Kona!

In 30 days, Karel and I will be boarding a plane to Kona, Hawaii.
Holy Moly.....we will be racing in the 2015 Ironman World Championship in 41 days!!

This upcoming Ironman is very special for three reasons.
1) I absolutely LOVE racing in Kona. The island, the competition, the energy, the elements, the race all makes me so excited to race for 140.6 miles!
2) This will be my 10th Ironman and 4th Ironman World Championship! I can't believe I have been racing endurance triathlons for 9 years and my body has allowed me to qualify for Kona at 4 of my 6 Kona qualifier Ironman races. 
3) I will be sharing the race course with my best friend and hubby, Karel. This is his first Ironman World Championship and 4th Ironman that he will finish. We love racing together and sharing our personal race stories to one another, after the race. 

Around this time of the Ironman journey, I find that Ironman athletes can make a few mistakes as it relates to training. There is a lot of self-doubt, worry, anxiety and fear that the body and mind is not and will not be ready for race day. This uncertainty and lack of trust in the training process often leads to doing more than needed in preparation for the upcoming Ironman event. 

You know what's funny...I don't believe you you need to feel in the best shape of your life, to race  for 140.6 miles. There's no magic number of hours you need to train or miles to cover for each sport to feel "prepared". And certainly, there is no "look" as to what your body composition needs to look like to race well for 140.6 miles. 

 As athletes, we are constantly developing, learning, gaining skills and improving. Year after year, we get stronger, faster, more efficient or smarter. 
Therefore, I do believe that you can feel ready, confident and prepared for your upcoming race. And that readiness comes from trusting the plan that keeps you healthy, injury free and hungry to race. 

Around 3-6 weeks out from an Ironman race, I often see and hear of athletes doing way too much volume and/or intensity. Perhaps it's inappropriately scheduled in the training plan or at fault of the athlete who feels she/he needs to do more as a result of fear-based training. 

This is my favorite time of my Ironman journey because every workout completed is one day closer to the race. Rather than chasing certain watts, times or paces, I chase improvements. 
Just improvements. 
Some days it's perfecting my fueling whereas other days I feel stronger or faster. Some days I feel like I am more resilient whereas other days I feel better with my endurance.

But this is not the time for me get greedy - wanting every workout to be perfect or better than the previous day. 

For Ironman athletes, the 3-6 weeks out from race day bring a lot of baggage. There is the emotional stress where your mind wants to be "all in" but as an age-grouper, we still have to balance work, family and other to-do's. Then there is the residual fatigue that we bring to every workout simply because we have been training for at least 3 months....if not way longer. 

With this baggage, we have to be extremely careful as to listen to the body. We must be ok to do less, adjust the intensity/duration, modify the week or take an extra recovery day. 
Certainly, work needs to get done to prepare the body for race day. There should be great dedication to every workout, workouts shouldn't be skipped because "it doesn't matter" and motivation should be at an all time high as this is the time when we execute to the best of our ability to feel as prepared as possible come taper. 

Sure, I have a few big time/placing goals for race day that keep me excited to train but above all, my focus is on arriving to the start line in Kona with a very healthy and strong body.

For the next 6 weeks - all I need my body to do is to stay healthy and I will be ready to race! 

More is not better. 

I trust my plan. I trust my previous fitness and I trust what I have learned in this Ironman journey. 
For the next 6 weeks, my main focus is on being smart so that I can be as consistent as possible with every week of training.
And most of all, I want to keep having fun. 

If you are currently training for an Ironman, it is important that you have the strength to adjust.
There's no good in taking risks 3-6 weeks out from race day because many times, these risks don't pay off. The fear-based training doesn't make for better race day performances. Being "in the moment" to get a workout checked-off for self validation may give you confidence but it isn't necessary in the big picture.
Remember that you are bringing months of fitness to your upcoming Ironman race...not one or two epic completed, haphazard workouts. 

Save your BEST performance for race day. 

Trust me - your body and mind will know what to do on race day.
Stay focused, stay smart and keep having fun.