Essential Sports Nutrition


Mmmmmm Chili

Brrrrr, it's cold out!

When the weather makes your bones cold, you know it's time to get out a big pot (or crockpot) so you can make yourself a big bowl of chili. 

I love chili.
And this is coming from a vegetarian!

When it comes to making chili, here are a few tips to consider when making your favorite chili recipe:

-Soak your bean mix (I use Goya 15-bean mix) overnight. Although this step isn't necessary, especially if using a pressure cooker, soaking the beans will decrease overall cooking time (without sacrificing flavor) and will make beans more digestible (reducing gas/bloating). 

-To enhance the flavor of chili, sautée onions, mushrooms, peppers and garlic in a skillet before adding to the pot. You can still add raw veggies but this step will really take the flavors up a notch. 

-Season early. Although it's hard to know how much herbs and spices to add to give the chili the right flavor (without it being overloaded), you are looking for a rich (not dull) flavor. 

-Don't oversalt. The beautiful thing about chili is that it can be extremely tasty without a lot of salt. Too salty and you miss out on all the different flavors from herbs and spices. However, some salt is a necessary component to great chili. Keep in mind that if you are using a stock (instead of water), canned beans or tomatoes or some spices (ex. garlic salt) you are already adding salt added to your recipe. 

-Consider making a base chili (vegetarian) with beans and tomatoes and then adding extra ingredients to leftovers. Seeing that if you make a large batch, you may find that by chili meal 4 or 5, you are tired of the same chili recipe. By making a base chili recipe, you then can add different meats, rice, whole grains, veggies or potatoes to your portioned chili bowl base, each day, so your taste buds never get bored. 

-Chili is always better the next day. If making chili for a cook-off or event or to impress your taste buds, just remember that your chili will be even more yummy after 12-24 hours in the refrigerator. 

-Add enough water/stock but not too much. To avoid soup consistency, you want a thick mix. It's better to not add enough water than to add too much.

-Add a surprise hint of flavor. Karel likes to add a little dark chocolate to chili.

-Don't forget about the toppings. Chives, sour cream, greek yogurt, cheese, crumbled chips, nuts, avocado chunks....there are so many options. As if the chili wasn't flavorful enough, when a new flavor your taste buds first and then you get to yum over your chili, it makes for a yum-yum meal. 

There are no shortage of chili recipes in cook books, magazines and on the internet.

So, what are you waiting for?

It's time to start cooking chili! 


Maintaining motivation to train - swimming

As I was swimming the other day, I started to think about the many, many years that I have changed out of warm clothes and into a swimsuit, cap and goggles, only to jump into a cold pool, to swim back and forth for thousands of yards at a time.
Even after starting competitive swimming at the age of 10, I feel so lucky that I still love to swim. However, I can't say that over the past 23 years, it has always been easy to drive myself to a pool, get excited to go from perfectly dry to soaking wet and stay committed to a swim workout.
Of course, when there is a coach on deck and your teammates are working hard, you don't make excuses, you just do the work. 

But the pool is still my happy place. I love the way my body feels when it is non-weight bearing and the fact that I can get a great cardio and muscular workout in the water.  

Now that I am in my 10th year of endurance training and racing (and 23rd/24th year of being a competitive athlete - wow, that is a LONG time, thank you body!), I want to share some of the motivational strategies that I have used over the years to keep me training consistently in the pool.


~1999-2000 - YMCA Swim team (Dolphins)

I like to have a focus for my workouts. While there is always a warm-up, pre-set and main set, I like having a specific focus for what I want to achieve during the workout. I've learned that it's not good to go into a workout with high expectations with specific paces or time goals because a well-executed workout requires adjusting as you go. You can feel horrible before and have an awesome workout or feel absolutely fresh and amazing and struggle to finish. Although sometimes I do look forward to a specific set and the effort required, I find it beneficial to focus on a skill or mental tactic as these are two very important things to make for quality workouts (and you can bring trained skills and mental tactics to race day).
To help me understand a workout, I always write it down on a piece of paper before the workout. This allows me to walk myself through the entire workout AND to adjust the workout if needed based on time constraints (ex. do I have enough time for 3 rounds of the main set or only 2 rounds?). 
If I really need help, music and a good motivational quote help, especially if I am months away from a key race.
And above all, I always remind myself how great it feels when the workout is over.


2004 - Senior year
It's very easy to lose focus during a workout and to find yourself just going through the motions. Depending on the time of the season, it's hard to mentally see yourself on race day and put yourself into race-day scenarios. Therefore, with every workout, I focus on staying present.
Whereas nature is a great distraction when running or cycling, it's very easy to zone out and lose focus when swimming alongside a black line. Although I have to admit that swimming is very therapeutic when you can zone out and move through the water, when it comes to swim training, it's important to be engaged and attentive to the task/workout, at hand. 
Being present is WAY harder than it sounds because it is so easy to think about what I need to accomplish for the day (in the case of an early morning workout) or what I still I have on my to-do list or to think about something that has nothing to do with working out but is on my mind. Although it can be motivating to zone-off and think about inspiring moments in life, I find it really important to be present so that I take full advantage of my time working out and execute to my full ability.
Having said this, there are some workouts when the workout purpose is to zone out, to have fun and to not be engaged. I really appreciate the workouts when there is less structure and more freedom because when it comes to training, being mentally engaged in specific training can take fitness to another level but it can also be exhausting to be "on" all the time. 


~1996-1997, Dolphins Swim practice (post workout playtime)
It shouldn't be a surprise that I thank my body after every workout. I try to not rush away from a workout only to return to a busy life but instead, I try to give myself a few extra minutes post-workout to reflect. It's easy to overlook great workouts and to ignore what didn't go well and hope for better next time. Whether it's walking after a run, spinning easy after a bike or floating in the pool (or taking a little extra time in the shower), I factor in this extra time into my busy day as I feel it's important to slow down after the hard work is over and to think about what the body allows me to do each day.
I remember some of my favorite memories as a competitive swimmer and they were in the locker room, with my fellow female swimmers, after swim practice. Now as a triathlete,, my favorite part of racing is sharing the race day experience with Karel and other athletes, after the race is over.
I feel that workouts should be just like race day in that no matter how good or bad the workout, it's worth talking about and reflecting.
Some workouts are not fun but you have to do them anyways and some workouts are exciting and fun.
A variety of easy, hard, bad and good workouts are part of being an athlete.
You can't choose easy all the time and expect to get better.

Although it sounds silly, as hard as the body has to work when it exercises or trains, I find that one opportunity, when you are fully devoted to your body working out, is so needed on a daily basis.  

Next time you go into a workout, give yourself a focus/purpose for the workout, stay present and reflect. 

Thank your body. 

Be happy. 

The next time you struggle to get yourself in the pool, remind yourself how great it feels to be an athlete.

And swimming is the best sport ever! :)

2003 - College swim meet (Transylvania University)


Powerful food bowl

I'm not a fan of fad diets that promise "too good to be true" health or weight loss results or require extreme, restrictive eating choices but I'm all about food trends that encourage healthy eating.

If it wasn't for food trends, you probably wouldn't be eating so much kale, avocados or chia seeds!

If you've been a long-time Trimarni follower on Facebook or Instagram, you've probably noticed that most of my meals are eaten from bowls.

Well, wouldn't you know that it is now trendy to eat a meal out of a bowl???

I love the idea of eating out of a bowl for several reasons:
-Flavors are enhanced when combined
-You can incorporate a variety of nutrients into one dish
-You can see what you love to eat
-You can hide what you don't like to eat
-You are forced to sit down and eat with silverware
When I plan meals, I always focus on a template for every meal:
-Plants (fruits or veggies)
-Starch or grain

Without getting too deep into numbers, here are some numbers to ensure that you are eating "enough"  PER MEAL.

-Plants: Unlimited
-Protein: 25-30g
-Starch or grain: ~50-70g
-Fat: ~10-20g
Certainly, adjust based on your energy and appetite - just make sure all adjustments work for your active lifestyle and health goals.

Note: I like my athletes to think of meal planning as "am I eating enough?" not saying "I am eating too much!" as it helps create a better relationship with food when you focus on eating enough to meet energy and nutrient needs.

As you can see from my powerful bowl of nutrients (lunch yesterday), I have the following in my bowl:
-Plants: mixed greens and arugula, tomatoes, grapes, red and orange peppers, onions
-Protein: Cottage cheese (and some from quinoa)
-Starch or grain: Quinoa
-Fat: Olive oil, chopped walnuts, goat cheese


Are you ready to start this Trimarni-approved food trend?

Here's how you can get started: 
1) Buy some awesome bowls in all sizes (I prefer shallow bowls)

2) Think about your favorite recipes/meals and how you can eat them in a bowl
(for inspiration, check out this blog)

3) Don't feel the need to combine everything. If you don't like foods to be mixed or prefer one type of texture at a time while eating, divide your bowl into sections so that you have all the components of a healthy and balanced a bowl.

4) Are you worried that you can't change old always eating sandwich for a meal?
Turn that sandwich, wrap or pita inside out and serve the bread on the side (you can top with smashed avocado, cheese or hummus)

What will you yum over in your bowl?


Feeling off track?

Whether it's traveling, life stressors or multiple events occurring in a short time period, it's easy to feel off track with your diet and workout routine. 

A common tendency for athletes is to see the next "normal" day of life as an opportunity to get back on track. 

With an intense desire to "be really good" until life feels normal again, there's nothing wrong with this, right? 

Well, it's a problem if your "normal" lifestyle habits are so extreme that you can not function well in life when you feel a loss of control over every situation relating to your diet and workout regime. 

For athletes who don't feel safe with their thoughts, choices or feelings when they can not control normal life situations, getting back on track may require an extremely disciplined and restrictive style of eating and going a bit longer and harder with training for the next 48-72 hours, all in an effort to regain control over what didn't go as planned.

This is not only risky for your health but it can cause a roller coaster of emotions too.

The important thing to remember is that we don't have to control every situation to feel and to be "on track".
You can't make up for what happened in the past and you can't control the future, so why not focus on the present?

Give yourself 4-5 days to slowly get yourself back to lifestyle habits that are healthy and productive to your goals.
No need to go to the extreme as being too fixated on "healthy" habits can actually be unhealthy.

As athletes, we already live a very extreme lifestyle and with so many daily decisions and responsibilities, it can be exhausting to feel the need to control everything.

You know that life is going to happen and you will need to travel to work, you will be invited to a party with a smorgasbord of food that you normally don't eat and you are going to miss workouts because life is stressful and busy. 

Rather than letting yourself feel insecure when life is out of your control, perhaps it is time to focus on how you can feel more calm, at ease or at peace with your choices when you find yourself deviating from your "normal" routine.
Remember that anytime you feel off, getting back on track should be focused on you functioning well in life rather than trying to fix what you couldn't control, because it wasn't exactly like you wanted it to be.