Essential Sports Nutrition


Enjoy the view!

After almost two years of living in Greenville, SC., I've learned that there are no "easy" days for cycling when you ride near the mountains.

After another strong week of swim, bike, run and strength training, my legs felt a bit trashed this morning.
Well, we all know that you can't get much done if you only work on the days that you feel good.

With our new Alto cycling race wheels arriving last week, we couldn't wait to take them for a test ride.

With legs that were not interested in pushing hard, I found myself with a few different conversations in my head...
"I feel so slow."
"I wish I could ride stronger."
"This is so  hard."
"This is not fun."
"I should be faster."

Every time a negative thought came inside my head, I looked at the mountains and stopped my negative thinking.
With 4 hours of riding and over 5000 feet of climbing, I had plenty of opportunities to enjoy the views with Karel as my cycling guide. 

I knew going into this ride that I had a solid week of training and that my legs were really tired. I actually even told myself "Wow, your fitness is really building this week!"
This was one of those weeks where after several weeks of consistent training, I really felt a big jump in fitness.

Every now and then, we, as athletes, are going to have a rough training day. If form suffers or the body is sleep deprived, injured or sick, it's best not to train as you can't gain fitness from a body that isn't in good health.
But if the body is healthy and feeling slow or tired is the biggest concern in your head, give it a go, workout and enjoy the views.

Remind yourself that your body puts up with a lot to keep you functioning well in life. Training for an event is a hobby. You don't have to be an athlete to be healthy. 

If you find yourself suffering through most of your workouts, something needs to change with your life, diet or training as your body isn't adapting to your training.

But if you find yourself having the occasional off day, be grateful that at least you can still train even while feeling off.

Don't forget to thank your body....even on the off days.

And always enjoy the view!


Stewed vegetables with barley


Wouldn't it be nice if you always had a meal ready for you immediately after your workouts?

Think about it.
No more processed food because you are too hungry to cook.
No more fast food/take-out because you can't find time to cook.
No more incomplete meals because your food options are limitless.
No more snacking your way to a meal because you are too starving to wait for a meal.
No more sabotaging workouts from not eating the right foods at the right time to repair and recover. 

Sadly, athletes are busy and ironically, food is an afterthought. Well, not so much food being the afterthought (as athletes do eat) but food prep isn't always a priority. With every minute of the day planned and occupied, many athletes don't put meal prep on the hierarchy of "things to do" each day.
This often backfires as athletes will find themselves not meeting energy needs, not recovering well, eating too much convenience/processed food (quick and easy), struggling with aches and colds (immune system depression) and not feeling good inside.

Simply put - food is your fuel!

When you eat well, your body performs well.
When your body is starved for energy or key nutrients, it's easy to reach for pick-me-ups like energy drinks and/or caffeine. It's also common for athletes to overly use NSAIDs and sleep aids because the body is not recovering well from workouts. 

If you read the recent article on Gwen Jorgensen, you'll see that Patrick (her husband) makes sure that Gwen always refuels and fuels. 

"Food preparation is arguably Lemieux’s most important job. When they travel to races, Lemieux turns the couple’s hotel room into his own kitchen. He insists on packing his own knives, cutting board and rice cooker. He gathers food from a local grocery store and uses his rice cooker to prepare everything from meat to vegetables to quinoa.
During the season, Lemieux shops at a grocery store six days per week. 
After serving Jorgensen her morning oats, Lemieux transitions to preparing lunch, which usually consists of rice with meat and vegetables, followed by a piece of dark chocolate, a staple for Jorgensen after every meal. Lemieux looks at his watch often, knowing his wife will return home from her swim workout at 12:30 p.m.
“Lunch needs to be on the table immediately,” Lemieux said. “She is hungry.”
Jorgensen is grateful that lunch is served so soon after her morning swim. This allows her to relax and stay off of her feet for several hours until her next workout at 4:00 p.m.
Not all triathletes are as fortunate.
Many of Jorgensen’s rivals spend this critical recovery period between workouts shopping at the grocery store, cooking lunch and cleaning dishes."

I realize that not every athlete is this lucky but it is important to emphasize how critical nutrition is as it relates to how your body adapts to training stress.
Because you don't have to be an athlete to be healthy, I suggest to see meal prep in another light - it nourishes your body for disease prevention and healthy weight maintenance. 

Whether you see food as fuel or nourishment (or both, as I do), I encourage you to make an added effort to not let meals be an afterthought in your busy life.

Try this.....
Think about how you eat when you don't have a meal planned for after the workout.

Now, plan a meal for post workout.
No, not right now, but in your head. What would you eat after the workout? Maybe oatmeal, eggs and spinach or chicken, a baked potato and sauteed kale or homemade pancakes with eggs, yogurt and fruit.

Think about how you would eat differently if you had your meals planned ahead of time, before the meal. 
Instead of having a bowl of cereal, a packet of oatmeal with a protein bar or a rice cake plus avocado and a hardboiled egg for a meal, you could have something more substantial and filling.

But the only way to make this happen is by preparing your meals ahead of time.

Try to make this more of a habit. Tell yourself that you can't start a workout unless you have food options or a meal ready for after the workout (I suggest to have a meal ready as much as possible because we all know that food cravings change post workout - it's easy to eat what's craved versus what is most "healthy" and practical for post workout.)  

If you make time to train, you should make time to fuel and refuel with nourishing food options. 
If you complain that you just don't have time for meal prep or healthy eating, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities as you can't optimize your fitness and health with a poorly planned diet. 

Stewed Vegetables with Barley
1 cup barley (measured dry) - or your choice grain or potato
1 eggplant
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
Pasta sauce
Olive oil
Protein of your choice

1. Cook barley. Rinse, then cooked in 2.5 cups boiled water, on low heat, for 40-50 minutes. 
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
3. Chop peppers and eggplant (into chunks). 
4. Drizzle olive oil on bottom of large casserole dish until evenly coated (thin layer, a few tbsp). 
5. Toss peppers and eggplant in olive oil and spread over casserole dish.
6. Add pasta sauce (enough to cover the veggies). Toss to evenly coat. 
7. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Let veggies sit on oven (turned off) while barley continues to cook.
8. Cook protein of your choice (I made tempeh, Karel made chicken). 
9. Prepare your dish: 1/2 - 1.5 cups barley tossed with veggies (as much as you want), topped with 4 ounce protein.

This is an easy hassle free dish as you can let veggies and barley cook without having to stand around in the kitchen. You can ride your trainer or run on the treadmill for 30 minutes or fold laundry, pay bills or play with your kids. There's no reason that you can't find 60 minutes to prep and cook this dish in your day. Be sure to plan for leftovers. You can add dark leafy greens and a different protein to leftovers the next day to make it a whole new meal! 


Changing negative thinking


Life is hard.
We have our good days and our bad days. 

Consider a change from negative thinking to help you function/perform better in your awesome life.  

1. Accept where you are now and be happy about it.
It's easy to spend much of your life thinking that you would be happier if or when......
Despite life moving forward, it can seem that no matter what you receive, earn or achieve in life, you have a way of postponing happiness because whatever you have now, could be better and could make you happier.
Or so you think.  

Life is filled with challenges and life is hard. You can either be frustrated, angry, anxious or overwhelmed by this fact or you can be happy anyway. 
If you are constantly comparing yourself to an old you or to someone else, consider what you would need to sacrifice, give up, change or restrict in order to achieve what you feel will make you happy. Change your perspective on life as to what truly makes you happy. Why are you not happy now and why is it that you feel you can only be happy when you achieve or conquer a goal?
Whether you like it or not, this is your life.
Don't waste your life journey by waiting for the "right" time to be happy.

Continue to dream big and to be willing to work hard for what you want in life but never let the process of achieving something make you feel inadequate, unhappy or frustrated. 

2. Stop your negative thoughts. 
We think every day.
We have happy, productive and exciting thoughts and negative, worrisome, anxious and pessimistic thoughts.
It's not critical that you have happy thoughts every day but instead, choose to do something positive with your thoughts, particularly the negative ones.
Try to not take yourself so seriously or be so perfect with everything task in your life Be okay with failing and redefine what it means to have a "good" day, workout or meal.
Sometimes thoughts make sense and sometimes we don't know why we are thinking what we are thinking. When thoughts get out of hand and turn into a mental snowball, it's important to immediately stop the thought process, relax and try to dismiss the thought(s).
Create a more positive mindset by bringing positive, fulfilling and peaceful thoughts to your workouts, job, family/kids, body and diet and stop the negative thinking before it gets out of hand. 

3. Quiet the mind
I often tell my coaching athletes to stay present during their workouts. This means ignoring/forgetting about all the many to-do's and struggles in life and simply enjoy the 30, 60, 90 or few hours that you give yourself each day to train your body.
Focus on the present moment. 

Don't let your brain multi-task when you are training.

Staying present during workouts is extremely important but it's not easy to jump in the pool, get on the bike or start running and assume that every stress in your life will magically disappear.
Give yourself 2-5 minutes before your workout to meditate. If this word makes you feel uncomfortable, consider giving up 5 minutes of your busy life for silence, before you stress your body and mind.
Giving yourself a few moments of peace can make you feel less irritable, angry and overwhelmed with your daily life responsibilities but this strategy is very effective for athletes before workouts.
This is not visualization or mental strength building exercise but instead, a practice of emptying your mind as much as possible in a very quiet environment. Whenever a thought, like groceries, a work assignment, laundry, travel or dirty dishes or an argument with your significant other 
gets inside your head, let that thought pass and forget about it. 

By training yourself to quiet your mind before you need it the most, you will find yourself more focused, attentive and most of all, more happy and relaxed. 

It's normal to have negative or unhappy thoughts but a problem occurs when you think that negative thoughts could be true. When you begin to believe that you are not good enough, you are not lean enough, you are not fit enough or any other thought that makes you feel like you are just going through the motions of life, it's important to take a step back to understand where this thinking is coming from.
Although mental skill training and confidence coaching are effective strategies to improve your happiness and confidence, it's important to reach out to a clinical psychologist who can help you understand your thoughts (relating to athletics/family/career/body image/food) if you find that your thoughts don't make sense and they affect your daily activities and quality of life. 

Lastly, don't let social media make you believe that everyone except you has a perfect life and everyone seems so happy all the time.

There are many ways to capture your positive moments in life.
Some choose to share experiences on social media and others are doing amazing things but life a less documented life.

By changing negative thinking, you may find that you actually have more than you think you have in life.

And that's something to be happy about.


Fuel for performance adaptations

Every morning, no matter the workout volume or intensity, I eat a pre-workout snack of carbohydrates with a little protein/fat. Sometimes it is a rice cake w/ nut butter, syrup and banana slices.
Sometimes it is a banana w/ nut butter.
Sometimes it is a waffle w/ nut butter, banana slices, honey and a scoop of Greek yogurt.
Sometimes it is oatmeal with raisins, berries and chia seeds. I am well educated in the field of sport nutrition and exercise physiology. I am a Board Certified Sport Dietitian with a master of science in Exercise Physiology. I understand the benefits of manipulating the diet and training regime in an effort to metabolize different fuels for energy.  With many different well-researched fueling strategies marketed toward endurance athletes, it's important to understand that the best fueling strategy in the lab or for another athlete may not be the best strategy for you to function and perform well in training and in your life.  When it comes to prescribing an effective fueling and training plan to boost fitness and to change the physiology of the body for performance adaptations, the best dietary and training regime is the one that will work best for you. The best dietary strategy to optimize endurance performance is the one that allows YOU to complete high-quality training sessions to maximize fitness, on a consistent basis, without risking illness, injury or a more complicated health issue. That is why I choose to eat before every workout.
I train better when I eat before a workout. I recover better when I eat before a workout.
I think better when I eat before a workout. I eat better throughout the day when I eat before a workout. I sleep better when I eat before a workout. I can go longer and harder when I eat before a workout. I am happier when I eat before a workout. I feel more energized when I eat before a workout. The moment you let yourself get fixated on one style of fueling or training, you will likely overlook the many different strategies that are effective for maximizing fitness and helping you achieve optimal health. Be honest with yourself. Don't let weeks and months go by, hoping that you need to just "give it more time" for your claimed fueling (or lack thereof) strategy to work for you. If you don't know what will work best for you, reach out to a sport nutrition professional who can help you better adapt to training stress. Whether you are a professional or age group athlete, if you want to achieve favorable performance and body composition results, learn how to train and fuel smarter so you don't have to train any harder than needed.


Brrrrr - weekend training

It's always fun for us to have a friend in town. We absolutely love Greenville and it's special to be able to show off our beautiful area to an out-of-towner.
But when a friend has a similar love for endurance training, it makes for a jam-packed few days, filled with lots of miles, laughs and food.

Not complaining. 

After our friend Lauren and her doggy Jordan arrived from Jacksonville, FL, I made a delicious dinner of lentil soup, roasted potatoes, mixed greens with tzatziki sauce, corn on the cob and protein (tempeh for me, chicken for Karel and Lauren). Dinner was amazing.

Then it was off to watch the documentary Bikes vs Cars at the movie theater, hosted by Bike Walk Greenville

After moving from Jacksonville, FL to Greenville, SC, I can honestly say that I love where we live a very bike friendly community.

 However, after watching the Bikes vs Cars documentary, although it is evident that we are lucky to have so many cycling options as to where to ride (and not to mention the fact that cyclist are respected by cars when asked to share the road), it is acknowledged that we can continue to improve the safety, road conditions, accessibility and awareness for cycling in and around the Greenville community. 

With a large crowd in attendance for the viewing of the documentary (200+ individuals), it is obvious that many people in the community are invested in building an even more bike friendly community.
I'm incredibly thankful for the Bike Walk team for all that they are doing for Greenville, all in an effort to make Greenville a safer, more active and more environmentally healthy community.

After a good night sleep on Thursday evening, it was time to start the training fun with Lauren. 

I woke up at my normal time, 5:45am to get started on some work for the day while waking up my system with water, a cup of coffee and a waffle w/ PB, honey and banana slices (this has been my typical pre-training snack lately).
Around 7;15am, we drove to Furman for our morning swim, which totaled around 4000 yards.

6 x 100's 85% w/ 3-5 sec rest
400 snorkel, band, buoy, 1 min rest
8 x 75's at 85%, 3-5 sec rest
400 snorkel at 80%, 1 min rest
12 x 50's 90% w/ 3-5 sec rest
500 best effort

Whew. That was exhausting. Time to refuel!

I made scrambled eggs with mixed greens and a little cheese and served that with fresh bread (with an assortment of toppings - jam, honey, butter, nut butter). We also had orange and banana slices.

After letting our breakfast digest for 2 hours, we were about to change into our cycling clothes in anticipation for an outside 2 hour ride. 

Well, mother nature had other plans for us. 


So we changed the plans and rode inside for a mid-day trainer ride in our "pain cave."
MS: 4 x 12 minutes w/ 3 min EZ in between
(3 min Z2, 90+ rpm, 1 min Z3+, 65 or less rpm. x 3)

After the trainer ride, it was time to eat....again.
I had a quick glass of milk while preparing lunch and before showering.

I made a large salad with side toppings: chicken, cottage cheese, jasmine rice, quinoa, cheese.
Although a salad wouldn't be my go-to recovery meal, it was nearing 2pm and I was in need of some veggies. Plus, since we went into the bike trainer workout well-fueled, I wasn't too worried about our bodies being completely drained after a 2 hour trainer workout as the workout had a strength endurance focus and it wasn't intense or exhausting.

I was able to get some work done in the afternoon for a few hours and made a quick stop at the grocery store for some food for the weekend. I knew that we would eat the best if food was ready for after our weekend workouts.

We headed to downtown Greenville on Friday evening for dinner and yummed over a delicious dinner from Chicora Alley.
I had the tofu burger which is a marinated slab of tofu on a warm pita, spread with bean hummus.
So good! 

Although the weather was very chilly on Saturday, we were determined to enjoy the Greenville mountains with Lauren. We waited until it warmed-up to the 30's to start the ride so that meant not riding until around 11:30am. 

After waking up without an alarm, around 7am, we felt well rested for an exciting day of exploring.
After a small pre-workout snack (1/2 banana w/ a little smear of PB), we headed out around 8:30am for a 4-mile very easy, conversational pace run around our neighborhood (which is very hilly).
After the run, it was time for a pre-workout meal of eggs, fresh bread and fruit (and some toppings like PB, cheese, butter, etc.). Although the meal was larger than what I would have normally before a long ride, it was very needed considering that we would be out on our bikes all afternoon and our next meal wouldn't come until the evening. 

After letting the meal digest for 2 hours, we bundled up for our ride in 34 degree temps. The sun was shinning which made it much more tolerable. 

We said a quick hello to Mr. Lama and then it was off to Caesar's Head.

Although climbing for 6.5 miles seemed like a great idea while it was happening (as we really warmed up), after taking pictures, we got really cold. Like really, really, really cold.

After a very painfully cold descend, it took a good 20 more minutes of riding to get slightly warm(ish) again.

90 minutes later, we were home after almost 4 hours of riding.

But as cold as we were descending, the views on top of Caesar's head were worth it.
Especially when we could look at our pictures when were nice and warm, sitting by our fire, at home. 

Thanks Clif Bar for fueling our workouts. The mint chocolate bar along with a few Clif gels and water were amazing throughout my ride! 

After the ride, we stuck with our plan to order out at one of my favorite restaurants in Traveler's Rest - Upcounty Provisions. We invited our good friends, Meredith and Lukas over (and their kiddos) and we all enjoyed dinner together (and my mom came over too). It was nice to yum with everyone and not have to go out to eat as we were still warming up from our ride.

Campy was clearly exhausted.
Or drunk.

After an early bedtime, we once again woke-up without an alarm and made it to 7:15am for a great night of sleep. 

After a pre-workout snack of waffle, w/ PB, honey and banana, water and coffee for me, we headed out for a "long" run around 8:45am.

We ran one of my favorite running loops which had no shortage of hills and climbs and great views. It was a great run to share with Lauren and Karel. 9.37 miles later we were home...and with not a peek of the sun, we were still a bit chilly as the temps out were around 23-27 degrees. 

After we came back, Karel was done for the morning and Lauren and I jumped on the trainer for one last bike workout. I only rode an hour and Lauren rode 1 hr and 45 minutes.

Bike trainer workout: 
15 min EZ
Pre set; 4 x 5 minutes Z1/Z2, highest sustainable cadence (~104-108 for me)
4 min EZ
MS: 6xs:
1.5 min build cadence and power from Z2-Z3, 80-100 rpm cadence.
30 sec EZ
Cool down

After our run/bike workout, it was time to eat. Karel made us crepes while we were on the bike trainers so it was nice to walk down to a nice smelling kitchen.
I had Greek yogurt and fruit w/ PB and cacao nib slathered crepes (with cinnamon).

After chillaxing a bit on the couch (while doing work on the computer) and watched Campy destroy his new Valentine's gift (nothing says I love you like ripping the arms and tail off a new bear), around 3pm we headed to the Furman pool for one last workout for the day. 

Swim workout: (2500 yards total)
2 x 25's
3 x 50's
4 x 75's
5 x 100's
4 x 75's
3 x 50's
2 x 25's
(all with buoy and paddle, 70-75% effort)

As much as I was not excited to swim, it felt good to move through the water with this recovery workout.

After the swim, it was time for grilled pizza. Seeing that I had this meal planned since Friday, I was so excited to get this pizza in my belly, all weekend long!

A big thank you to Karel for standing outside in the freezing cold to grill the homemade individual pizzas. 

Although there wasn't a lot of time to rest and relax, we did watch the Marathon Olympic Trials (DVR'd on Sat) and the indoor track championship on Sun (DVR'd).

As if that wasn't enough training over three days, we managed to have good energy for a 3800 yard swim this morning:

4 x 50's  kick with fins
200 swim with fins
4 x 50's buoy
300 buoy/snorkel/paddles
4 x 50's buoy/paddles
400 negative split
4 x 50's buoy recovery

It's a beautiful thing when motivation can stay high with training partners.
Anytime that you ask/want your body to train a lot, train intensely or train at different hours of the day (or two-a-days) you can not neglect proper hydration and fueling (before/during/after workouts).
You can be extremely dedicated to training but if you don't fuel, your body will not reach its full potential.

To think about this another way, wouldn't you like to receive favorable athletic results by doing less work?

Just because a workout is on your schedule, don't assume that just because you check it off your plan for the day that you will gain anything from it.
Proper fueling, hydrating, mobility, sleep, recovery and daily nutrition are essential to maximizing your fitness while helping to keep your body in great health.