Essential Sports Nutrition


When's the best time for a salad?

With so many recipes on the internet and in bookstores, you have no excuses when it comes to healthy eating. 

Planning is often the hard part.  

Athletes, I know you have a lot on your daily plate but if you keep putting workouts and life ahead of planning a diet that nourishes and fuels your busy and active lifestyle, there is a good chance that you are limiting your athletic potential and risking a possible health issue. 

Easy fix: 
Eat a salad for lunch, every day.
Include at least 20-30g of protein, 1/2 - 1 cup grains or small potato and at least 15-20g fat (ex. avocado, nuts, seeds, oil, cheese) with a variety of colorful fruits and veggies.

For example:
A few handfuls dark leafy greens
Unlimited veggies and fruit
1 cup quinoa or barley
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup cubed avocado
4 ounce chicken or fish OR 4 ounce tempeh OR 1/2 cup edamame and 1/2 cup cottage cheese

A time saver for busy athletes is prepping these ingredients ahead of time so that you can put together a salad in less than 5 minutes, every day, and you don't have to chop and dice the same produce every day.
Same goes for grains, potatoes and protein. Prepare a few go-to items ahead of time so it's easy to put together a meal.
Turn your refrigerator into a salad bar for easy meal prep. 

A salad at lunch is far enough away from an early morning and evening workout that you will reduce the risk for digestive issues as a lot of roughage/residue in the gut can be uncomfortable if you are working out within 1-3 hours of eating a high fiber meal.

Depending on the day, your salad could be hot or cold.

It's important to eat vegetables throughout the day but depending on your workout schedule, some athletes may be better off with steamed or cooked veggies at dinner instead of raw veggies specifically if you have an evening workout before dinner or struggle with GI issues early morning after you eat a high fiber dinner meal the night prior.

If you just can't eat a salad for lunch due to having to eat with your hands and not with utensils (or having to eat a catered lunch), opt for a pita or sandwich with a protein of your choice and combine with a bag/Tupperware container of mixed raw veggies (ex. celery, cucumber, baby tomatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers, etc.). You can either dip your veggies in a hummus or avocado dip or add cheese, avocado or hummus to your sandwich/pita.

Plus, every bite of a salad is packed with vitamins and minerals which is important to supporting your immune system health.

Happy plant strong eating!


Muscular endurance treadmill workout

I love running on the treadmill and I love cycling on my indoor bike trainer.
Perhaps my love of indoor "stationary" workouts comes from following a black line for 25 yards in for 23+ years as a competitive swimmer.

I enjoy being able to control my workout when I train indoors and to minimize all outside influences like terrain, traffic, wind and cold/hot weather.
But I also love training outside as this is the best environment for me to mentally and physically prepare for my upcoming races.

It's easy to make excuses when it comes to weather and available time to train (morning and night) so for me, I always seek the best environment for a quality workout. Sometimes it is indoors and sometimes it is outdoors.
At time in the year, most of my workouts are indoors - but as soon as it gets warmer, it's hard for me to stay indoors to train. I love the sun and the heat!  

Karel, on the other hand, will make every attempt to train outside, as much as possible. 

For my run workout this morning, the focus was endurance but there was also a heavy strength component. 

My key runs often include a very specific main set whereas my optional and/or EZ runs are form focused and pace and miles are not a priority.

If you are one to despise the treadmill, I challenge you to my run workout as I hope that you love the structure as much as I did as you feel yourself staying focused on each segment and determined to finish all three rounds.

I strongly advise having a pre-workout carb snack before this workout (I had some oatmeal with raisins, cinnamon and honey), at least 1 bottle water (and a gel or energy chews/blocks in case you need a pick-me up in the last round) and a post workout snack/meal with protein and carbs as soon as you can to start the rebuilding. 

I suggest to pace yourself and to go by RPE. This is an endurance focused run so you shouldn't be taxing the heart too much. Your muscles are designed to get tired but not at the expense of your heart working excessively hard.
Keep the effort steady and strong. 

With every segment of the main set, you will have the opportunity to get the HR up a little by increasing the speed and when you run at an incline, this should make you feel powerful. When you finish an incline run and return to 1% grade, this should feel like a slight recovery.

Imagine yourself running up and down hills with a little hard effort before and after each climb. 

Try to keep the same speed throughout the entire round, but adjust if your form starts to suffer. You are better off adjusting your pace, than calling it a day, if you find you were over-ambitious with your intensity at the start of this workout. 

Happy running!
5 min Dynamic warm-up

15 min jog warm-up (very EZ, light on the feet)
10 min power walk at 15% incline, fast walk (ex. 3.5 mph)

MS 3x's:
3 min at 1% incline (last 30 sec strong)
3 min at 4% incline (last 30 sec strong)
3 min at 1% incline (last 30 sec strong)
3 min at 4% incline (last 30 sec strong)
3 min at 1% incline (last 30 sec strong)
30-60 sec break (straddle treadmill and lower HR as much as possible)
Repeat 2 more rounds

Walk to cool down

(if you are not comfortable performing this all running, you could also use this as a walking workout).

Modification if you are short on time:
5 min Dynamic warm-up
5 min jog warm-up
10 min power walk (this will wake-up your glutes)
2 rounds of the main set instead of three - still keep with the same focus and intensity. 


Simply delicious homemade granola


I love simple recipes. 
The less ingredients the long as the final product is packed with flavor. 

There's so much to love about granola BUT when an ingredient list reads:
Whole grain rolled oats, whole grain wheat, sugar, rice, corn syrup, almonds, contains 2% or less of molasses, modified corn starch, palm oil, salt, cinnamon, nonfat milk, malt flavoring, polyglycerol esters of fatty acids, natural and artificial flavor, guar gum, BHT for freshness.

I would much rather make granola at home, than eat a concoction of ingredients from a box/bag.

For athletes, granola is a fantastic energy-dense snack which can pack a lot of calories to help meet energy needs on high-calorie expenditure days. Depending on the wet ingredients (honey, syrup, oil), granola can also be a substantial pre-workout snack as you will receive a nice mix of carbohydrates with a little fat but without a lot of fiber.

However, most store-bought granola's or granola recipes are overloaded with added sugars which makes it hard to call this cereal alternative a "healthy" option.

Although society/media does a great job of making you feel extremely guilty when you eat anything with sugar in it, you are allowed to eat sugar in the daily diet without health implications. And this is specifically talking about the daily diet and not sport nutrition consumed during workouts (this is another topic).
In other words, your diet does not have to be 100% sugar-free as that would eliminate sugars found in fruits, grains, dairy and vegetables so it's important to evaluate your dietary choices and limit/reduce the added sugar.

To start, check out the ingredient lists of the packaged goods/products in your pantry and refrigerator that you typically consume in your diet on a daily basis to better understand how much added sugar you consume each day.

The best part about moving toward a more real food diet is that you will automatically reduce your added sugar intake.
A great real food swap is to make your own granola. But no need to stress about adding sugar from a natural source (raisins, dates, honey, syrup) to your granola recipe, especially if you are making granola in place of buying cereal, eating a heavily processed food snack or eating a sugary-treat alternative.

When I need a little crunch and a hint of sweetness to top my yogurt for a snack or to munch-on before/after a workout or for a treat, I love my homemade granola mixture. 

It's simple and deliciously good. 

The great thing about granola is that you can be in charge of the ingredients.
Unless you let the granola bake too long, you really can't mess-up your recipe.

I personally prefer to keep the added sugars on the minimal side when I make granola. I don't need a lot of sugar to make my taste buds happy with my granola recipe so I add just enough honey to coat the oats but not to much that my granola is extra crunchy and clumpy.

If you prefer the typical crunchy, bite-size chunks of granola, you will want more of a binder (more wet ingredients like syrup or oil). 

My typical ration of oats to honey is:
2 heaping cups instant oats to 1/2 - 3/4 cup honey.
(if you are using oil, a typical ratio is 3 cups oats + 1/2 cup honey/syrup + 1/2 cup oil)

Here's my go-to granola base recipe:
2 cups instant oats
1/2 cup honey (plus a little extra if needed)
2 tbsp chia seeds (you can omit these if you don't have them)
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp cinnamon

Veronica's Health Crunch mix (chopped) - or any nuts/seeds that you want

To prevent honey from sticking to a measuring cup, I lightly spray the cup with non stick spray before pouring in the honey to measure.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Lay out a non stick baking sheet by your mixing bowl.

3. After you mix together the ingredients with a wooden spatula (except crunch/nuts/seeds and raisins) in a bowl, spread out the mixture evenly on the baking dish (it's ok if a few clumps remain on the sheet).

4. To prevent the edges of the granola mix from burning, lightly turn the mixture with a spatula around 10 minutes.

5. When I begin to smell the granola (around 14-17 minutes), I remove the baking dish from the oven and add the last two ingredients - sprinkling a small handful of raisins and chopped nuts over the granola.
(you can add the nuts/seeds to the mix before you bake the granola but I don't like crunchy raisins so that is why I add them later so they stay soft).

6. When the granola is lightly brown, I turn off the oven and let the granola sit in the oven for a few more minutes.

When you first start making granola, you will want to start watching the granola around 10-12 minutes (keep the light on in your oven) so that you can determine the perfect time baking time for your recipe.

There are SO many granola recipes so have some fun being creative in your kitchen!

Here's a good tip article on making granola. 

I promise that once you start making your own granola, you won't find yourself spending the time (or money) searching for the "best" or "healthiest" granola in the supermarket.

Here are some additional add-in's to your oat mixture:

Wet ingredients: Coconut oil, maple syrup, agave syrup, honey
Dried fruits - cranberries, cherries, figs, dates, apricots, blueberries, raisins, mango, pineapple
Shredded coconut
Ground flax
Cacao nibs
Goji berries

Toasted wheat germ
Cashews, almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans

Spices: Ginger, pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves, allspice
Fresh fruit (chopped apples, pears, apricots)


Plates not pills - Anti-inflammatory diet

There are many amazingly wonderful nutritional properties found in real food.
Sadly, much of our society overlooks the power of food as medicine and in return, abuses anti-inflammatory meds to reduce pain, aches and niggles (and athletes are not immune to this statement).

Certainly, there are times when medications are necessary but with so many people following restrictive diets these days to "be healthy", I do worry that many people are missing out on the many amazing nutritional benefits of a varied, wholesome, real food diet.

To get you started with an improved anti-inflammatory diet, consider adding the following food items, rich in antioxidants, to your diet:


-Cayenne pepper 


-Rosemary -Turmeric 
-Sesame Seeds 

-Omega-3 fatty acids - fatty fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax 
-Whole grains
-Dark leafy greens
-Fermented food - kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, yogurt, miso, kombucha 
-Vitamin C rich foods - strawberries, kiwi, tomatoes, citrus fruits, peppers, mango, cherries

Although inflammation is a normal process, it is through a smart training plan and well-balanced diet that you can reduce the chance that your inflammation does not get out of control inside your body.

A more natural, less processed diet can do wonders for your health and well-being.
If you find yourself constantly reaching for anti-inflammatory medications every time you have a problem (ex. you feel sore, tight or inflamed), do your body a favor right now and be pro-active with a more natural, anti-inflammatory diet.

Let your diet be your best source of medicine.

For more info: 


Snow day!

Although we have lived in Greenville for 1.5 years, we were so unprepared for this snow and ice storm in Greenville, SC. 

But thankfully, we survived no power for 24 hours.
We know that many people, all over the US, had it a lot worse so my hope is that everyone is safe, warm and healthy. 

Check list for the next ice/snow storm:
 Batteries, all types (especially for portable bubble-makers for fish tanks)
Battery radio
Be sure portable phone charger is fully charged (thankfully it was this time)
Make sure propane tank is filled for grill outside
Be sure both cars are filled with gas
Buy a shovel and ice scraper
Make sure Campy, Smudla and Madison have more than enough dry food 
Buy books to read and games to play
Buy water jugs (just in case water goes out)
Make more "prepared" meals ahead of time for easier meal prep/consumption
Buy a generator?

With cold rain through the night on Thursday til Friday morning and a little snow, I never expected our power to go out as Charlotte was predicted to have lots of ice and Greenville was expected to get a little ice and a few inches of snow.

After my trainer ride in the morning, I ventured out to get a few extra food items for the weekend (fresh produce, eggs, yogurt, milk and fresh bread - our typical staple foods) on Friday morning and as I was putting away the groceries, the power went out. 

Although it was only 24 hours without power (Thanks Duke Energy for working hard), we were not sure when it would turn back on again. The roads were getting bad and per Duke Energy on the phone, over 1000 houses were affected around our area. I wasn't sure if the power would be out for a day, two days, three days or three weeks. You just never know in these situations so it's best to be prepared for the worst but hope for the best. We were not prepared!

It was a cold night on Friday evening and a loss of power, even for such a short time, really put things into perspective as to how much we use power - even little things like turning on a light to see, charging a phone, keeping our food at the proper temperature in the refrigerator or freezer or heating a cup of water.

It also made me think about all the advances in technology and perhaps, how much we take for granted.

When was the last time you told yourself "wow, I have so much - I feel so fortunate." 

This power outage really had me thinking a lot.
It also really made me think about what's most important in life. 

Thankfully, we were able to Facetime with my brother and his wife Dana, who live in Pittsburgh, who just had their first baby on Friday evening!
Welcome to the world Jackson (Jack) Aaron Rakes!

In the end, we all remained safe and healthy for 24 hours without power.
Again - some people had it much worse as many people depend on power for medical reasons.
I am grateful for our healthy bodies and this storm made me appreciate my good health even more than before.
Campy had his first real experience with snow and Karel and I (and our friends Joey and Tim up the street) explored a lot by foot.

The kids in our neighborhood had fun sledding down our street and there were lots of doggy feet exploring the fresh snow.

With several trips to and from my mom's house (1 mile away) and extra walks to pass the time away, Karel and I guesstimated that we walked a total of 15 miles (or more!) in 24 hours.
It was not safe for us to workout outside so that wasn't an option. Instead, we just explored by foot to move our body. 

Here are a few pictures of our our beautiful snow fall. 

Down goes the tree - down goes the power line. 

Swamp rabbit trail

Swamp Rabbit Trail

Furman University

Furman track - wanna go for a run?