Essential Sports Nutrition


Two simple swaps for more real food

Over several years, I've slowly changed my lifestyle habits and moved myself more and more away from a heavy processed and convenience-food diet toward a very real food diet.

Some dietary changes happened quickly whereas other changes required a different appreciation and time to create new habits.

I really value what real food can do for a body, when it comes to health and performance so I've worked really hard over many years to make some swaps when it comes to incorporating more real food into my diet.

I'm not against processed food and don't cringe at the thought of "food" in a bag but I do believe that some foods, like well-fortified foods, help to keep people healthy in all parts of our world. And since I don't have an off-limit food list, I never feel guilty, anxious or remorseful if I eat something processed.

I have a most of the time diet and then there are foods that I eat some of the time/on occasion. The great thing is that neither one is a mass-marketed diet plan so I am able to eat intuitively and mindfully and it's up to me as to what I put inside my body and when.

And I ALWAYS feel great when I eat and even better after I eat.

One of the biggest lifestyle changes in adopting a more real food diet is breaking away from food that is bought or consumed out of convenience. Certainly, it is just as convenient to snack on a washed and chopped fresh fruit salad that you put together and stored in your fridge and combine with Greek Yogurt or a hardboiled egg, as it is to snack on chips, cookies and bars, but it takes a lifestyle change to make sure fruit is available. 

I really believe that something magical happens to the body when real food takes the main stage. With a more real food diet, there is flexibility so that no macronutrient (carbs, protein, fat) takes the center stage. I prioritize proteins and fats, alongside carbs that pack a lot of nutrient density and give me the energy I need to train consistently well. In my diet, plants certainly get the spotlight and I feel this approach is great for everyone to ensure that your body stays in great health with a variety of vitamins and minerals.

I would like to share two simple real food swaps that you can easily try-out next week. 

For lunch the other day, I had this beautiful stir-fry dish.
Would you believe that this dish only had 5 ingredients???
Mixed frozen veggies, cooked black rice, cooked jasmine rice and tempeh cooked in olive oil.

Instead of a fast-food sandwich or wrap, with the meat and veggies in the inside, let's turn that sandwich inside out and fill a bowl with lots of nutrient powerful ingredients and add a grain instead of the bread.
I'm not anti-sandwich but there is only so much "plants" that you could squeeze between two slices of bread.
This swap does mean you have to eat with a fork and not with your hands but perhaps this can be the start to a new lifestyle change of sitting down to eat - with utensils. And, if you have all these items prepared ahead of time, this dish takes less than 10 minutes to assemble and heat.

This real food swap is so simple.
Consider turning your favorite sandwich, wrap or pita inside out for a more plant-strong meal. 
Your goal is to combine lots of veggies, a grain/starch, a protein and a fat for a balanced meal. You can use any meat instead of tempeh and add any fat that you'd like inside of olive oil.
Ready for another swap?

Before an early evening workout this past week, I was in need of a snack. I had some cooked sweet potatoes in my fridge so I took a few out and drizzled them with a little honey and topped with a little butter and cinnamon. I then added a small handful peanuts for a delicious and nutritious pre-workout snack. 

Eating a granola bar or a sport bar didn't even come to mind as I had real food waiting for me for a yummy snack.
Ironically, as I was eating and thinking about the composition of this snack, it hit me that this pre-workout snack had almost the same calories, carbs, protein and fat as a sport bar! Plus, you save a wrapper by eating real food instead of a processed bar so it's great for the environment too.

1 sport bar - ~240 - 300 calories, 5-10g fat, 45-50g carbs, 5-15g protein

Real food swap:
1 cup sweet potato
1 tbsp honey (or 4 pitted dates)
10 peanuts
~240 calories, ~5g fat, ~43g carbs, ~5g protein

What real food swaps will you make next week?


Let go of your psychological safety net

As a lifelong athlete, I have found that when I train my mind as hard as I train my body, I perform well, often exceeding my personal expectations.  

However, mental training is easier said than done!
There have been many times in training and racing when my mind just wasn't in it to win it!
In the past few yeas, I have actually had to work on my mental strength as I was finding my mind to be a major limiter with my training as it relates to the following:
-Overcoming injuries - a fear of an injury coming back, having fear when pushing hard or going long
-Bringing my work/life to a training session - not being 100% present during a workout and thinking about everything that I need to/should do

I've really worked hard on these areas over the past few years so that I can execute better in my training sessions. 

When athletes talk mental strength, I believe many athletes think toughness, digging deep, grit, perseverance. Absolutely, all of those components are important when it comes executing well on race day and in training.

But mental training is so much more than being hard core in the mind.

I think a great component of mental training is learning how to get through specific situations that may be keeping you from making the progress that you feel you should be making.
And sometimes, your biggest limiter may be that you think you can't get any better as an athlete!

Mental training isn't limited to your workouts or races.

A tough situation could be your relationship with your spouse/significant other, anxiety over a health issue (in a family member or pet), your job/career, a family member/child, relationship with your coach, lifestyle habits, past experiences......there is so much that could potentially affect your emotional resilience.
Many athletes create a team when it comes to training for a race and this team often includes a coach, bike mechanic, sport dietitian and a massage therapist/PT.
But how many athletes actually reach out to a sport psychologist for help? 

Sometimes you really need a professional/expert to guide you (the athlete) in your thoughts as it can be difficult to understand what specific barriers are in your mind and how they can/will affect how you perform on race day.

Having said all of this....
I feel so lucky to have Gloria in my life because she knows exactly what to say, when it needs to be said.

Gloria is a very close friend of mine but also a clinical sport psychologist who has helped me through so many situations in my life, personal and athletic.

Plus, her dog Frida kinda looks like Campy so it was kinda like we were always meant to be best friends....even though we live on opposite coasts. 

In Gloria's latest blog post, Psychological Safety Net, she writes about a topic that I feel so many athletes can relate to and should understand.
I could not resist the opportunity to share this great article with you. 

Here is a little from her fantastic blog post: 

There is a term in psychology that we call self-handicapping. Self-handicapping is a sneaky psychological safety net that athletes can get caught up in if they are not careful or honest with themselves.
Many athletes hold on to their psychological safety net (self-handicapping patterns) for many reasons, but the big ones – fear of failure, ego deflation, disappointment, failure to meet expectations, perfectionism, poor distress tolerance, fear of risking taking, staying in the comfort zone, lack of follow through/inconsistent training behaviors and falling into comparisons.

Check out the rest of the article to learn more and be sure to read her many examples of Psychological Safety Nets.

Do any of her psychological safety net examples apply to you?

How will you break your safety net? 


Super Scrumptious Blueberry Muffins

After my run check-point "test" on Sunday morning, I came home in the mood for a blueberry muffin.

 I didn't rush out to buy a muffin but instead, I went to the internet to Google "Blueberry Muffin recipe" and I combined several recipes based on what ingredients I had at home.

While drinking a glass of 1% Organic milk and about 20g of whey protein and eating a banana with a few pitted dates as my recovery snack, I went to work in my kitchen, making seven super scrumptious blueberry muffins. 

2 Tablespoons butter
1 egg
2/3 cup 0% Greek Yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour (you can sub with gluten-free flour if needed)
3/4 cup instant rolled oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp chia seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries (I used frozen)

  1. Preheat oven to 350-degrees F. 
  2. Melt butter in microwave. Then add egg, yogurt and vanilla until evenly combined.
  3. Add dry ingredients (flour through cinnamon) and stir until just combined.
  4. Mix in berries (ok if you smash them while stirring).
  5. Add a few tbsp of water to help with mixing. Your batter should be thick but a little water can help for even mixing. 
  6. In a non-stick muffin tin (you can spray with non-stick spray or use muffin liners), fill the tins 3/4th way full. You should get 6-7 muffins. 
  7. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. 

    If you or your family love muffins, I suggest to double this recipe to make 12-14 muffins and to freeze half.....these muffins will not last long around muffin lovers!

    Sorry, no nutritional information.
    I give you permission to yum over your muffin because it is made from real food, because you prepared it and it makes you feel good inside with every bite.
    A great way to enjoy the muffin is as a snack (pre-workout or anytime) or for a balanced meal, yum over your muffin at meal time and top with honey, a little nut butter, Greek yogurt and fruit OR with a protein/fruit/veg smoothie OR with a veggie and egg scramble. 


    Find and KEEP your training motivation

    It’s normal to experience waves of high and low motivation throughout the year and the early months of training (in the cold, dark winter months) can often be a rough time for many athletes to stay focused with training and to remain present for workouts.

     Although there is no need to be hard-core with your training right now, it is extremely important that you do the work when it needs to get done because in a few months, you can't go back in time.

    You don't want to look back, wishing that you would have built a better base/foundation, wishing you got yourself stronger so you could adapt better to more intense training or wishing you would have taken the time to focus on weaknesses like skills, form, diet and/or sleep/stress management so you could stay as balanced as possible with training. 
    We all know that being a triathlete (especially long distance) really doesn't allow for 100% balance in life as some sacrifices have to be made in order to properly mentally, physically and nutritionally prepare for an upcoming event.

    BUT, as an athlete, only once per season do you have the unique opportunity to actually create a solid foundation and to get your body into exceptional health. 
    Every day, remind yourself that dreams don’t work unless you do. 

    If a workout doesn’t go as planned or doesn’t get accomplished, ask yourself if this was because of something within your control (diet, hydration, lifestyle habit) or a very good reason (ex. exhausting day at work, pool closed, traffic, family obligations, etc.). 

    There's no need to be hard on yourself when you miss a workout (it happens to us all!) but it is a responsibility to your body to put in the work to train AND to develop/maintain great lifestyle habits that will make it easier for your body to stay motivated to train.

    Here are a few of my tips to help you find motivation to build your foundation
    •   Don’t aim for perfect as you may set yourself up for failure. Focus on giving your best effort for the best possible outcome, every day and be sure to be practical with your available time and use it wisely for training. Always manage your time wisely.
    •   You don't have to be an athlete to be "healthy" but you can actually damage your health by not training properly for an upcoming event. Give yourself the time you need to get in a quality workout, including a proper warm-up, pre-set, main set and short cool down (this is also your "ME" time, which every person needs). Also, be patient with your fitness. It takes a long time to get the body into "race" day shape as there are many necessary physiological adaptions that need to take place to ensure that you can peak appropriately for race day. This advice is especially true if you are injured. Do you find yourself constantly jumping from race day race, feeling like you are spending more time in rehab than training? Sometimes the best strategy is to pass on your next race when you are recovering from an injury so you can properly rehab yourself to 100% great health so you can then train properly for your next upcoming event. 
    • Remember when you sleep and eat well, your body trains better. Review your week of training before it starts so that you can make the necessary investments with your lifestyle habits to set yourself up for great workouts.

      Always plan your meals and snacks in advice. You'll find healthy eating much easier this way.
    • Change-up your training environment or simplify your training environment when you feel stale or need a mood booster. Training should be fun (even when you are suffering through a workout) and many times, we just need a new scenery or training partner to give us a different perspective. When you find yourself seeing your working out time as a hassle, something needs to change.
    • Use social media and your friends/family for accountability. Tell others what workout you will do tomorrow so they can hold you to it. Of course, if something serious comes up, you must make the smart call to pass on a workout so that health is not compromised.
    • Stay processed driven, not outcome focused. This is the time in your season at you should stay more focused on the process than on the end goal.  You shouldn't be working out just to burn fat, get leaner/reach race weight or to be fast right now. Be patient with your fitness as you build your foundation. Appreciate the journey and train with a beginner's mind. 

    • Remind yourself why you wanted to register and train for your event. Never lose sight of the hard work that you were once willing to put forth to prepare your body and mind for your upcoming event. Yes, training is not always easy or exciting but in order to see what you are truly capable of achieving with your body, you can't skip steps, rush the process or follow another athlete's training plan.
      Don't overlook your progress because you are constantly comparing your journey to another athlete's journey or successes.