Essential Sports Nutrition


Disordered eating

We live in a culture that emphasizes, rewards, worships and celebrates lean, toned and fit bodies. Individuals with an unhealthy relationship with food and the body may seek extreme events to train for and restrictive methods of eating and fueling in an effort to control weight and to justify excessive exercise patterns.  

Many athletes succeed in sports (especially endurance events) because they are great at doing things in extreme. But extreme thoughts, attitudes and beliefs about food and the body (especially as it relates to performance improvements) can become obsessive and may lead to more serious disordered eating habits.

If your self-imposed rules, regulations and guidelines about what to eat and not to eat around and during workouts are taking precedence of what your body actually needs (and even with alarming symptoms like low blood sugar, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, blurred vision, headache, dehydration manifesting into your workout or day), you are manipulating your diet in a restrictive way as a coping mechanisms for not dealing with feelings about your body, relationships or in life, needing to feel more control, or you want to please others or you hate the way you look, don't wait for a serious health issue or a massive performance decline or blood tests to demonstrate an underlying issue. Get help now.

We live in a society where it's easy to get stuck into one style of eating and then to jump from one style to another when you no longer find success in one diet. 
Sadly, many athletes believe that the thinner and leaner you are, the better you will perform and the happier you will be. And when you don't succeed with your weight goals, the blame is often put on you that you "failed" the diet and that you didn't give it "enough time". You then scratch your head because you simply don't understand how the method that apparently works for everyone else (as claimed by social media, forums and word of mouth) is not working for you, despite every article and scientific research study proving that this is the best way to eat.
Athletes are exceptional at adhering to guidelines and rules and can believe that there's only one right way to eat, thus assuming that everything else (ex. sugar, carbs, sport nutrition, hydration, salt, grains, dairy, etc.) are "bad".
We live in a world where seeing is believing. 

What if the fitness experts, coaches and athletes (of all levels) that you look up to and follow are engaged in disordered eating? These disordered beliefs, attitudes and behaviors around food or exercise make onlookers and followers (YOU) believe that these depriving and restricting methods are "normal" or even required in order to be healthy and to perform at your best.

Athletes can easily hide or rationalize disordered eating behaviors under the claims "I'm training for an event and I need to get leaner" or "I'm improving my performance by becoming a better fat adapted" or "I can't eat that because it will ruin my health" or "I need to exercise more to get into better shape."

While every athlete can welcome a healthier style of eating and should consider working with a sport dietitian to master performance eating and fueling, extreme methods or unrealistic weight or performance goals can can easily foster unhealthy eating habits and disordered body image thoughts. These eating habits cause also cause great stress, anxiety and social isolation.  

To develop new skills and dietary habits that actually improve your health and performance you must be willing to welcome positive messages about food and your body.

The more rules, plans, experts, diets and nutrition information overload that you welcome into your life, the more likely that your your eating patterns (and thoughts about your body) will become more distorted and obsessive which will ultimately sabotage your performance and health goals.

If you are struggling with your relationship with food and the body, get professional help.
Let food enhance your life, not control your life. 


Rice and veggie bowl


We ate a lot during the two weeks that we were in Florida for our training camp in Clermont + another week in Jacksonville for RETUL fits (Karel) and I spoke to the Delafina Women Cycling club.

Despite eating a lot of food, no meal left us feeling bad, stuffed, bloated or guilty as we always eat with good intentions and have a great relationship with food.
(even when Karel eats his frozen chocolate "recovery bar" - inside joke, ask us about it when you see us in person :)

 During our trip, we had a nice combination of food prepared at home (well, our homes away from home) and a few inspiring meals from restaurants.

After our Clermont training camp, we spent a week in Jacksonville, FL (where we use to live from 2008-2014 and stayed with our friend Shawn B. and his family.

On Thursday evening (3/24), Karel, Shawn and I left the house around 5pm and met up with our friends Lauren and Jen. Karel, Shawn and a few others joined the Thurs night group ride in Nocatee and Lauren, Jen and I headed to A1A for 2 x 30 min intervals w/ 5 min EZ in between (GIRL POWER!).

After my 2:20 ride, I enjoyed 20 minutes of flat road running off the bike around Atlantic Beach before Karel and Shawn arrived home from their ride. 

After Karel and I had our recovery drink (milk and whey protein), we enjoyed dinner with Shawn and his family.
Andy did the prep, Shawn did the final touches and we all did the eating.

And when I say enjoy, I mean I could not stop yumming!!
This dish was so absolutely yummingly delicious!
(yummingly delicious is my new word)

I just loved the flavors of this multi-ingredient dish that I could not wait to share it with you.

Rice and veggie bowl
Rice - jasmine or basmati (you could also do a whole grain of your choice)
Baked cauliflower and sweet potatoes - with turmeric and cumin
Sliced avocado
Chopped dates
Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese
Chopped cashews

1. Toss cauliflower and sweet potato in olive oil and season with turmeric and cumin. Bake at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes (or until golden brown)

2. Combine cooked rice and the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl. Be creative with your layering!
3. Yum!


Fueling the vegetarian athlete

Fueling the Vegetarian Athlete – nail the basics

In the current (May) issue of Triathlete Magazine (pg 64), I discuss some of the important considerations in fueling the vegetarian athlete.

This month I am celebrating 24-years of being a vegetarian (lacto-ovo).
In the month of April, when I was 10 years old, I came home from school one day and told my parents that I didn't want to eat animals anymore. I've always loved animals and even at a young age, it was my love for animals that prompted me to be a vegetarian.
I'm pretty sure I didn't call myself a vegetarian in my early years as that word wasn't part of my vocabulary but instead I just told people "I don't eat meat".
My diet has evolved over the past two decades, especially as I learned more about nutrition and sport nutrition.

But in all reality, my diet is no different than yours except for that I don't eat meat or fish.
I'm assuming you eat a lot of plants too, right?

Even though my diet has a name, there's no reason why athletes should shun away from plant-strong eating because the word"plant strong" does not mean "don't eat meat."

Regardless of what you name your diet, all athletes will benefit from a more real food (foods originating from a farm or garden, not made in a factory) diet.

However, for the vegetarian athlete (or the athlete who eats little to no meat or fish), I hope you find my Triathlete article helpful.
A few plant-strong, vegetarian takeaways.
  • Well-planned vegetarian diets can be very healthy and performance-enhancing but going meat-free doesn’t guarantee better health or podium-worthy finishes.
  • Carnivorous or plant-eating, a poorly planned diet can make you feel lethargic, sick and weak, especially if you are not eating enough to meet your energy and nutrient needs.
  • Relying too heavily on meat-free processed food, only eating fruits and veggies, consuming an excessive amount of carbs, consuming an inadequate intake of plant strong protein and consuming too little healthy fats, are reasons why athletes who go "meat free" often fail to meet nutritional requirements (or struggle with constant hunger or poor energy).
  • As for the vegetarian protein debate, if adequate energy and an assortment of plant foods, rich in essential amino acids, are consumed throughout the day, physiologically processes shouldn’t be compromised in a plant-based diet.
  • Vegetarian athletes should make an extra effort to consume nutrients like calcium, iron, zinc, omega-3, vitamin D, B12 and niacin, particularly if the diet is lacking in food variety. Understanding that many essential nutrients are required in the countless metabolic pathways that support a body in motion, a chronic nutrient deficiency (or absorption issue) may result in health and/or performance complications.
  • Although a real-food approach should be prioritized over nutrients found in a pill or powder, supplements and engineered fortified foods are an option to protect against (or to fix) a nutrient deficiency.
  • Considering that plant-strong diets are high in both soluble and insoluble fiber which are beneficial for blood sugar control (among many other health benefits), athletes should be mindful that if the diet is lacking in sufficient fat and protein at meal time, athletes can risk overeating due to constant hunger pains from too much nutrient-dense volume (or too many carbs) but not enough long-lasting energy.
  • Speaking of fiber, athletes will benefit from limiting high fiber foods close to workouts and race day due to possible GI distress and discomforting digestion issues (ex. stomach cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas) from too much residue in the gut.
  • As for long workout days when calorie expenditure is at its highest (and “reward” carb-heavy junk food is often anticipated), it’s important to be mindful of healthy lower-fiber carbohydrates (ex. rice, potatoes, juice, honey, syrup, watery fruits) which can help with quickly replenishing glycogen stores and meeting energy needs, without promoting uncomfortable fullness, while offering beneficial nutrients to your depleted body.
  • Whereas most American’s have an increasing obsession with meat consumption, there are many countries in this world that thrive off a mostly plant-based diet and live a long, healthy and active life. Therefore, it is inaccurate to view a vegetarian diet as “restrictive” because in America, we don’t really have a traditional American diet as a “healthy” reference.
  • Because athlete lab results may contrast with “normal” population ranges, consider periodic blood testing throughout your season and correlate lab numbers with how you feel and retest every 4-6 months (starting in early season) for a personalized reference range. For plant-based athletes, the following blood tests are recommended:
    CBC, CMP, ferritin, folic acid, homocysteine, iron (total and TIBC), lipid profile, vitamin B12, Vitamin D, 25-Hydroxy.
    Supplementation may be necessary but not without prior testing to confirm a deficiency. 


Train smarter, ride smarter

It's a completely different mindset to go by time instead of by miles.
Just think about the many different outcomes that could occur if a coach tells all his/her athletes:
Workout: Ride 100 miles.

Do you know how long it would take Karel and I to ride 100 miles in Greenville?

Well, we have ridden a century just a few times (2 for me) since we have moved to Greenville in May 2014 and the miles do not go by quickly here!

Regardless of where you live (mountains, hills, flat, by the beach, etc.), it's important that your workout has specificity, especially if you are training for an endurance event.
Seeing that changing your physiology and adapting to training stress is paramount to being physically prepared for race day, if your training plan asks you to complete x-miles and there's minimal structure or purpose to the workout, you are delaying the opportunity to experience significant gains in fitness. Additionally, your training will become monotonous and you'll find yourself going through the motions, week after week with little to no improvements.

 Furthermore, if you aren't comfortable riding your bike due to a poor bike fit, you do not know how to use sport nutrition properly to stay well fueled and hydrated and/or you lack the proper skills (climbing, descending or changing gears) to ride efficiently on your bike, you will struggle to improve your fitness (and you may risk injury or sickness). 

I often hear other athletes talk about how "fast" they rode for x-miles as if the only goal of the workout was to ride as fast as possible. Or athletes will boast about how many miles they accumulated in one ride.
While there's nothing wrong with either of the above statements, athletes should not make the only goal of a workout to see how fast you can go or how far you can go.

Instead, focus on what's happening within those miles and above all, be sure that you can actually absorb the training stress that you are putting on your body. With this comes a responsibility that you are incorporating great lifestyle habits like good daily nutrition, good fueling before/after workouts, great sleep and stress management and the ability to function well in life.

We are very specific with our workouts and within every workout is a main set - even for the long workouts. And for our Trimarni coaching athletes who are in cold conditions and are still on the trainer, they have a very specific trainer option which does not keep them on the trainer for more than 3 hours - ever!
With a time-based approach, you make training fit into your life and not the other way around (and that's how we like to train and coach our busy athletes who balance training, family, work, etc.). And since every triathlete wants to become a better, stronger and faster cyclist since it is the most covered distance in a triathlon, it's very important to train in a way that can help you develop the necessary skills, fitness, endurance and strength to excel on race day.  

Consider the following tips to help you train smarter to reach your cycling performance goals faster.
The tips are not focused on time-based training but instead, they are very important components that will help you ride more efficient and thus, ride stronger so that you can ultimately run fresher off the bike. 

Cycling tipsRather than chasing miles when you ride, consider these tips to help you become a better (strong, faster, more efficient) cyclist.
1) Create a positive training environment for consistent training (note the position of the TV below which is in our workout room which is low to the ground. This is very important to not stress the neck when riding in aero)

2) Create variable cadence so that you can adjust your cadence as needed on variable terrain (incorporate specific cadence drill sets)
3) Learn how to use your gears properly (and anticipate when to change gears) when riding in the wind and on hilly terrain
4) Develop great muscular strength so that you do not tax your cardio system when climbing
5) Learn multiple styles of climbing so that you are not stuck in only one position
6) Learn how to anticipate climbs/descends
7) Get comfortable riding in a group environment so you are comfortable riding around others on race day.
8) Learn how to descend
9) Learn how to descend (especially on windy roads)
10) Get comfortable eating/drinking on the bike when riding (at all speeds)
11) Get comfortable changing bottles around in your cages
12) Practice changing a flat tire - and keep practicing
13) Ride with your race wheels at least 1/2 a dozen times before your upcoming race to ensure that they are appropriate for you to ride as efficiently as possible
14) Don't ride scared on the road. Be comfortable and confident on your bike.
15) Enjoy riding your bike! Ride your bike anytime just for fun (you don't need to turn on your gadget just to ride your bike.)


Time-based cycling training

After two weeks of training in Florida, it was nice to be back by the mountains.

On Saturday morning, a small group of friends joined Karel and I for a long ride, which included almost 90 minutes of intervals on a rolling hill loop near Caesar's head mountain.

Warm-up: ~45 minutes (ride to the start of the loop), constant rollers and a few short steep climbs
MS: 6 x 10 minutes at Z3 mid to upper (odd: heavy gear, slower than normal cadence. Even: high cadence, higher than normal cadence) w/ 4 min EZ in between.

Compared to the ride I did the previous Saturday in Florida (picture below) which included a short warm-up on flat roads, a 40-min TT effort on flat roads (drafting behind our friend Shawn and two other strong girls), a group ride (with about 30 riders) on flat roads, followed by a solo steady effort on flat roads (while the rain was falling) and then a cool-down in the pouring rain with puddles all over the ground (on flat roads), this is evidence that the miles just go by a lot slower here in Greenville as we live near the mountains and we ride near (and on) the mountains. 

And I'm ok with that.

At Trimarni, we are time-based, quality training coaches.
99% of our workouts for our athletes are based on time and not by miles/distance covered.

We realize that all races/events are based on distance (and not by who can cover the most distance in a certain amount of time) but we are more focused on what's going on within those miles (process driven) than the total distance covered (outcome focused).

It's very common for athletes to obsess about miles covered, often forcing athletes to cover more distance than they can tolerate due to poor form and fatigue which accumulates over time.

As you can see from my two rides (just 1 week apart), it sure does look like I am a slower athlete here in Greenville. 
But slow is all relative.
(And in all honesty, the route that we rode on Saturday was a fairly "fast" ride. Karel did his own intervals and averaged around 19mph! We typically average around 16.5-17mph when we ride outside and average around 1000 feet each hour. I also didn't show or tell you what my speed was during my main set so once again, it's all about what's happening within the workout not just the outcome).

For my first 2-3 years of endurance training, I was very obsessed with metrics. 
I didn't like the idea of stopping a run at 6.8  miles so I ran until it reached 7 miles. Same went for cycling. I would think, "why finish a ride at 37 miles when you can ride 3 more miles to get to 40."
40 miles sounds so much better than 37, right?
For swim workouts, I would often swim 100-400 more yards just to finish a workout at 3500 instead of 3100.
Or, I would often find myself counting my total weekly miles as if I had this magic number that I needed to reach to validate my fitness improvements or readiness to race.
As you can see from my ride on Saturay, I rode 59.58 miles. Not 60 miles.
I'm pretty sure I will still be prepared for Rev3 Knoxville in 7 weeks even though I didn't hit 60 miles.

Now, I can't even tell you how many miles I run as I rarely look at my watch (or the treadmill) for total distance covered.
When I swim or bike (and run), I stop when my workout when the main set is over and I cool down - that's when I am done.

Although my fitness, skills and endurance has improved considerably over the past 6+ years since I learned how to train smarter as an endurance triathlete, the terrain in Greenville has provided me with a completely new training stress which I absolutely love.
With this training stress comes a different mindset when it comes to bike and run training.

I invite you to consider time-based workouts instead of constantly chasing the miles when you run and bike.

Now you may be thinking that time-based training is not the way to go as your workouts need to be specific to your upcoming distance.

Well, this is a very old-school way of thinking (ex. that you must get in a 100 mile ride or 20 mile run in order to train for an Ironman) and we know that periodization and specificity within workouts can prepare an athlete for the upcoming demands of training.
Furthermore, if a proper warm-up, good economy, great skills, smart execution, great fueling/hydrating and excellent recovery habits are not enforced, the workout stress is not well-tolerated (and consistent training may be difficult to achieve).

Let's consider four types of athletes training for a half ironman distance triathlon.
Athlete A has a 60 mile ride on his schedule. He is a newer athlete and chooses to ride with a group for his long ride every Saturday. He accumulates 60 miles in 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Athlete B has a 60 mile ride on his schedule. He is a newer athlete and rides alone on flat terrain and it takes him 3 hours and 50 minutes to accumulate 60 miles. But on this day, it's not windy. When it's windy, it takes him 4 hours to accumulate 60 miles.
Athlete C has a 60 mile ride on his schedule. He is a newer athlete and rides alone on hilly terrain. It takes him 5 hours to accumulate 60 miles.
Athlete D has a 60 mile ride on his schedule. He is an advanced athlete and rides alone on hilly terrain. It takes him 4 hours to accumulate 60 miles.
Athlete E has a 60 mile ride on his schedule. He is an advanced athlete and rides alone on flat terrain. It takes hims 3 hours and 25 minutes to accumulate 60 miles.

Who's the fitter athlete? 
Who's the stronger athlete?
Which athlete will be most prepared for race day? 

Hopefully, you struggled to select the correct answer because so many factors come into play when it comes to preparing the body and mind for an upcoming race, especially as it relates to cycling.

In my next blog I will discuss a few helpful tips for getting the most out of your cycling training as you prepare for your upcoming endurance event. 

If you are interested in training with us in Greenville to improve your cycling skills, explore our amazing bike-friendly roads and to enjoy our beautiful mountain views, contact us on our website to inquire about one-on-one training and your own personal private "training camp" experience in Greenville. We offer a variety of private camps from 1-3 days, covering all three disciplines - swim, bike and run. We can make your personalized camp as specific as you need based on your individual strengths and weaknesses.