Essential Sports Nutrition


You must have motivation to build your foundation

I love the first few months of working out as it relates to my periodized training plan. The intensity is fairy low which makes it easy to function well in life, socialize and partake in other non-sport activities, no workout seems to short or long, frequency training provides many opportunity to work on skills without sacrificing poor form and there is a heavy emphasis on strength. 
As I tell our athletes over and over, when a new season starts after the off-season, it's time to start building your foundation. And it turns out that the analogy "training is like building a house" could not be more true for athletes who seek consistency, great health and great performances within a season. 
If you were to start construction on a house, what would be the first thing that you would do? 

Would you hire an interior decorator to help you pick out window treatments and wall paint?

Even if designing the interior of a house is fun, if you spend most of your time and money on something that is not needed for 3, 6 or 8 months down the road, it would all be a waste of time as there are more important things to focus on.
It's easy to understand why athletes do not appreciate the foundation phase of training and often rush through phases or neglect the little things that make a huge difference later in the season. Building a proper foundation takes work and time. 
With a key race so far in the future and many workouts not providing the rush of endorphins that one would feel 6-8 weeks out from race day, many athletes actually skip this phase of training all together and advance into more intense training or haphazard high volume workouts or just exercise for a few months and then start an 8, 12 or 20 week race-specific training plan. 
 The foundation phase can be challenging for some athletes as they don't like addressing weaknesses or limiters and would rather train in a way that gives instant gratification, often repeatedly doing workouts that come easy and natural (and neglecting workouts that are difficult, uncomfortable or not fun).

And for any athlete who seeks quick results, it's likely that the foundation phase isn't even considered. 
How would you feel if the builders and contractors responsible for laying the foundation of your new home wanted quick results too?

The problem that many athletes face is that they don't realize that what they are doing is a problem....until it actually becomes a problem.

As a coach, I see it all too often that the athletes who skip steps in their athletic development eventually pay the price with burnout, overtraining, injuries, sickness and/or peaking too soon (or not being properly prepared) in the 4-12 weeks leading up to a key race.
 It's actually quite easy to train the body to get fast and fit very quickly but with (most) triathletes racing from spring to fall (at least twice over 4-6 months), there is a specific type of training that is needed in the beginning of a training season to ensure proper development and physiological preparation for peaking adequately for key races. 
A great way to appreciate this phase of training is to recognize that you are actually building the foundation from which you will work from as the training progresses. 
A strong, well hydrated, nourished and healthy body has a great opportunity to tolerate upcoming training stress as the season progresses.

Sadly, a weak, injured, nutrient-deficient, calorie-restricted, dehydrated or exhausted body can not tolerate intentional intense or high volume training stress very well, even if the training that is given is designed to properly prepare the body for race day. 
Athletes, recognize that your ability to improve fitness throughout the year is constantly dependent on your ability to tolerate, absorb and consistently train with variable training stressors.
If a foundation is not properly built with consistent, smart training in early season, there is a great risk for inconsistency in training as injuries and sickness are likely to occur and ultimately, you may find yourself taking risks and guessing your way through how to train for your upcoming races solely on how you feel each day.
 Because most athletes can not rush physical development and expect to maintain that fitness level and/or stay in good health throughout the entire season, in my next blog I will share some of my tips to help you maintain motivation for your foundation phase of training.

Remember, the longer your race distance and/or the more races on your schedule, it is critically important to develop your body in a very smart way, starting with a solid foundation and sport-specific training. 

If you need some guidance with building your foundation, let us help. 
Consider our 8-week Transition plan specifically designed to help you improve your skills, strength (with specific strength exercises and videos), form and fitness before advancing with a more specific training plan.

Also, all of our 20-week endurance training plans (Half and Full Ironman distance) include 8-weeks of transition phase training to help you properly build a solid foundation before you master more specific endurance training).

And for the month of January, you can join our Performance Team and receive 4 FREE detailed handouts on nutrition, sport nutrition, swim training and run training. And, with the purchase of any endurance Trimarni training plan, you will be eligible to win a FREE entry into a Rev3 Triathlon race. 


Forbidden Rice

I am really excited to have recently discovered black rice.
I love all types of grains and not shy to try them out in my plant-strong diet.
Rich in antioxidants, phytonutrients, protein, fiber and iron and gluten free (for those sensitive/intolerant to gluten), this popular Asian rice has been known for being great for the kidneys, stomach and liver.
I cooked a big batch of rice on Sunday so I could combine it with any meal.
Earlier this week, I added it to a stir fry veggie dish with edamame and tossed with pesto sauce and yummed until the last bite

And for your further reading, you are probably familiar with one of the grains on this list but have your taste buds become familiar with the other four grains mentioned in this article?

5 must-try grains


Did/Will your "healthy" diet turn unhealthy?

If you have been trying to train your way to great fitness with a dieting mentality, you better believe that in your attempt to improve performance, you may actually be becoming less healthy.

Don’t assume that just because you are an athlete, that health and fitness are interrelated because for many athletes, they are not.

Just because you can run for 2 hours, swim 4000 yards or bike 100 miles, perhaps all in a weekend, this doesn’t mean that you are healthy, especially if you are not fueling and eating adequately and making smart lifestyle habits (like good sleep, good stress management, etc.).  

I have witnessed many athletes who are extremely active, look fit or are dedicated to training, yet when it comes to making smart choices with their diet, they are either too extreme and restricted or too careless and negligent.    

Have you or someone you know, experienced one or more of the following while training for an event? 

Hormonal dysfunction, poor bone health, stress fractures, decreased thyroid output, increased cortisol, impaired mood and cognitive functioning, suppressed immune function, muscle catabolism, anemia, inadequate hydration, hypoglycemia, constipation, diarrhea, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, interrupted sleep, inflammation, sudden/chronic loss of motivation, trouble sleeping/restless sleep, preoccupation with food, eating disorder, nutrient deficiencies, unintentional weight gain or loss, chronic muscle cramps/weakness, kidney issues, adrenal fatigue, cardiovascular stress, respiratory issues, gastrointestinal disturbances, nausea, intense headaches, skeletal, tendon and ligament injuries, thinning hair, decline in performance. 

Whereas we all know that injuries and sickness are typical health issues that affect athletes (especially endurance and high intensity athletes and new athletes), the above list features some of the health issues that are becoming more and more common among athletes, especially new or endurance athletes, due to not fueling properly around and during workouts, training too intensely or too long or due to food or calorie restrictive diets.

The physical demands of training and racing, especially in endurance events can be so extreme that it is no surprise that many athletes are unable to maximize performance and keep their body in good health at the same time. 

But, when an athlete intentionally restricts food, sport nutrition or calories in an effort to lose weight or to get leaner, you can see why health issues, beyond sickness and injuries, can occur. 

And the above list does is not a list that should be brushed off as "well, I'm training for an event and this feeling/issue is "normal".

If you do want a change in muscle or body fat for performance or health and want to ensure that your season is not derailed due to a nutrient deficiency, low energy availability or a complicated health issue, you must have an appropriate, safe plan to ensure that health is not compromised in the process of improving performance.  

If a body composition modification is a desired goal to enhance performance, the methods should not be strict, limited or extreme. You should allow for gradual weight loss (not a quick fix), without extreme food restrictions, excessive exercising, unsafe behaviors (starving, purging, laxatives) or use of weight loss supplements.   

If there is too much focus on what not to eat in an effort to be thin, rather than what to eat in order to win, an obsession and hyperawareness with food may intensify disordered eating patterns, which could turn into a clinical eating disorder and severely affect your health and quality of life. 

If you are constantly focused on the outcome, like being a great fat burner and/or getting leaner, you will find a constant struggle as to how you can actually improve your performance to be fit enough to race well on race day while intentionally trying to lose weight.

Ironically, when you put emphasis into how to train and eat in order to optimize performance, thus becoming "performance adapted", favorable body composition changes occur naturally because you are trained, fit and strong for your upcoming event.

Athletes, it is time to forget the diet mentality. Let’s make peace with food. Stop associating all of your health, performance and body issues with carbohydrates. 

Instead of trying to manipulate your diet or training regime to become better fat adapted, how about train and eat in a way that helps you become more performance adapted. 

Please love your body in motion. 

Respect it with food and exercise. 

Stop the body bashing, food restriction and overexercising.

YOU are an athlete.
Train smart, fuel smart and don’t forget to thank your awesome body.


A positive experience while dining out

For Karel and myself, eating out is typically reserved for special occasions and traveling.

This pic (above) was taken a few years ago when we were in Athens, GA for the Athens Twilight Crit. Campy looks so young!
Of course, we love dining out at pet-friendly restaurants. 

I have ordered a few meals in my time that did not meet my nutritional needs and I was hungry after I ate (not a good experience especially when paying for food outside the home). I have also ordered meals outside the home that did not give me a memorable experience. 

I don't stress about eating out or try to change everything on the menu so that I can order a "healthy" meal but what I don't like is when the flavors of my meal do not meet my expectations, the presentation lets me down and I am not inspired.
And I still have to pay for it. 

No chef or menu item knows what I need as a vegetarian endurance athlete and health conscious individual, on any given day or meal. 

But this doesn't mean that Karel and I don't eat out on planned occasions and really, really enjoy our meals.
If we are going to eat out, we want to enjoy a meal that leaves a positive impression in our mind and tummy. 

I do feel strongly that eating at home (or preparing meals at home) should not be a typical daily/weekly occurrence but if you have the opportunity to eat out, make it one to remember and enjoy it!

Rather than repeating from the internet and giving you a dozen tips on how to order/eat healthy meals, here are three factors that are important to me while eating out. 
Perhaps you can carry these tips with you at your next dining out experience. 

1) The flavors - 
I'm no trained chef so my creativity in the kitchen is simply based on my learned culinary skills. I love it when I have a bite of something for the first time and it's a flavor explosion in my mouth. I read a menu option and it sounds delicious but I have no idea what it will taste like when it reaches my mouth. I just love the experience of tasting new flavors. 

2) The presentation - 
It's no surprise that I love to take pictures of my food/meals. I love to capture the meal before it meets my mouth. When eating out, I have no idea how a meal will taste yet I take a picture of it before I even have the opportunity to yum over the first bite. There's something to be said about a beautiful food presentation. 

3) Inspiration - 
Karel once told me that it is rude to tell someone that a home-cooked meal tastes like restaurant quality. Of course, I think he was speaking about someone who lives outside of the US (perhaps in Europe where he grew up with 99% home-cooking for all of his life while living in Czech). When I eat out, I love trying something that I can attempt to re-create at home. Having a trained chef at a restaurant, inspire me, is exactly what I seek when eating out. There's no need to order a plain salad when I can eat/make that anytime. Instead, I order something that sounds amazing but challenges me to find a way to prepare it at home.

4) Healthy relationship with food - 
I'm not going to enjoy my eating out experience if I go into the meal starving and I am not going to enjoy my meal if I fill my belly with appetizers before a meal. And I am not going to remember my positive eating experience if I leave a restaurant stuffed and uncomfortable. I find it extremely valuable to bring a healthy relationship with food to dining out experiences because I always want food to make me feel great when I eat it and feel better after I eat it - always. Because eating out is not typical for us, I do enjoy eating foods that I don't typically eat. But this doesn't mean that I bring guilt and anxiety with these meals. I actually order with good intentions and eat with great intentions so that when I finish my meal, I can go home and continue on with my life and not feel pressure to adjust my diet the next day.