Essential Sports Nutrition


Adjusting nutrition from short to long course racing

Endurance triathlon racing involves many complex physiological, sociological, mental and motivational factors. Therefore, when training for a multi-sport event of long duration, the human body experiences many metabolic, immune, hormonal and mental stressors in excess of what would be experienced in a single event of the same duration.

It's often said that triathletes and runners can get away with a lot in short course racing but without a well-practiced, well-planned and well-formulated fueling and hydration plan for long course racing, the body will not perform to it's full capabilities (and health may be compromised). 

This is why many athletes struggle in long course training and racing..... how can you expect your body to perform well, hour after hour, if you do not know how to fuel and hydrate it properly?
Sadly, it takes a lot more than motivation and will to get you to the finish line of an endurance race (or to successfully execute a long workout).

A successful endurance performance is not determined solely by how fast you can go, but by how successful you are at delaying fatigue. For a smooth transition to half or full Ironman training, getting your sport nutrition right  is paramount. 

Because it can be a great challenge to determine the ideal intensity which can be matched with proper
hydration and sport nutrition without causing GI distress when going long, practice your nutritional and pacing strategies in training to bring confidence to race day.
Thankfully, you have months of training to perfect your fueling and hydrating as you build fitness, endurance and resilience, so that you can go into your race day with confidence that you practiced and tweaked, practiced and tweaked and practiced and then perfected your ideal fueling and hydration strategy. 

To learn more about how to adjust your nutrition to long course racing, you can check out my article in Triathlete Magazine or online:


Blueberry & cream cheese stuffed french toast

 For over 2 weeks, I had most of my meals prepared by Karel's mom.

And we only ate out five times in the 3.5 weeks throughout our time in Austria and Czech.

I can't tell you how many new foods I tried or how many times I yummed.

It's very common that eating outside of your home environment, whether for a work conference, an event, vacation or celebration, can make you feel a lack of control, thus making you think you are doing something wrong.

I also hear individuals talking about how they feel after eating when traveling, using words like gross, fat, heavy, bloated and uncomfortable.

After extended periods of eating outside of the home environment, it's common that individuals will say things like "I need to cleanse" or "I need to get back on track" or "I'm going to be really good for the next 4 weeks" or "I need to diet".

There can be an immediate need to gain control and in the mind, the "best" option is to be extreme and restrictive with eating choices in order to feel better again.

I understand that sometimes we have great eating intentions and try to make good eating decisions in certain situations but hunger, wanting to please others, peer pressure, lack of variety or minimal available food options can lead to eating choices that are not nutritious, performance enhancing or comfortable in the belly.
I think it's normal to very occasionally eat too much or to indulge too much as that is simply being human.
Life will still go on, you'll digest the food and you'll be ok. 

Many times, the vast freedom of not eating on a set schedule and having a too many food options that are not normally in your daily diet can make you feel as if the eating that occurred while on vacation was bad and in order to be good again, drastic measures need to occur.

I can't speak for every situation but I will encourage you to think about your eating choices when you travel.

First off, I don't believe that you should ever eat something that makes you feel physically bad inside.
This extends beyond clinical issues or a food intolerance or allergy.

You do not have to eat something just to please someone else.
You do not have to eat something just because everyone else is eating it.
You do not have to eat something just because you feel you  need to clean your plate.
You do not have to eat something just because you are on vacation or traveling. 

You are allowed to say no to food.

However, sometimes, it is good to say yes.

Broaden your taste buds, try new things, indulge yourself and get inspired by new creations.
Don't eat on a routine, eat only familiar foods, bring all your "good" foods with you in Tupperware containers, eat only the foods that have a specific calorie count or eat alone for fear of eating food prepared by someone else. 

If "healthy" eating takes up way too much space in your life, meaningful life experiences will be missed because of extreme thoughts about food and the body.

As I return home from 3.5 weeks of eating a lot of bread (every day), eating dessert at least once a day, having lunch as my biggest meal every day and trying a lot of new creations, I feel just as healthy now, as when I left for Europe.

As I mentioned, not every traveling experience is the same but I feel that sometimes, we all need these eating experiences to break out of the normal routine and appreciate (or at least try), a new style of eating. 

My biggest take away during my 3.5 weeks in Europe was not thinking about food as being only healthy or performance enhancing. While I feel these are two important reasons as to why we should select the foods that we eat, I also felt a tremendous amount of joy by just eating.....for pleasure and not just for "nutrition". 
Not even 24 hours have passed since I arrived back to Greenville, SC and I have already caught myself wanting to go back to my normal routine - making a smoothie as a meal, eating peanut butter from the jar, preparing a hearty salad for my lunch, etc.

It's so easy to make food/meals quick, easy and tasteless or feel uninspired by food, stuck in a food rut.

While there is nothing wrong with the foods I mentioned, I was so inspired by my trip to Europe that I really want to continue to try new things when it comes to food and eating.

Even though nothing was wrong with my previous eating habits, my eating in Europe was such a pleasurable experience and it reminded me how much I love to yum over food. 

It also showed me that even as a board certified sport dietitian who spends every day helping athletes with body composition goals, health and performance, I spend a lot of time talking about health, nutrition and performance but not nearly enough time encouraging athletes to simply eat for pleasure.

Sadly, in our body obsessed society, I believe that our culture has lost the need to eat for pleasure as it's easy to assume that only those who eat for pleasure will eat "too much" or eat "unhealthy or will not lose weight or will gain too much weight.

Is it not possible to eat for pleasure and still reach and maintain health and performance goals?
I believe it is possible.
Grateful for our amazing neighbor Joey, who took care of our cats, fish and house while we were away, she made sure we had a delicious breakfast for our first meal home, which could be quickly prepared on the morning after returning home from 24-hours of traveling.

Not only was this meal super scrumptious, but it prompted me to write this blog.

You can't ask for a better meal to practice your "eating for pleasure" skills.

I believe this meal is healthy and performance enhancing but I have no doubt that you will yum over every bite, thus feeling great pleasure when eating it.

And no, you do not have to wait for your next long ride or run to "deserve" to eat this meal after your workout is complete.

You are allowed to eat this meal for breakfast, any day of the week.


Blueberry and Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
(2 servings)

1 egg
1/4 cup 1% milk
1/4 tsp sugar

Butter (about 1 tbsp for skillet)

4 slices bread
Blueberries (handful)
Cream cheese (to your liking)

Maple Syrup (to your liking)

 (I didn't have the ingredient list, only the steps for prep, so I reached out to Joey so that I could share this creation with you)

1. Whisk together eggs, milk and sugar. 
2. Make sandwiches - spread soft cream cheese on both sides of bread, add blueberries and press bread together (seal the sides the best you can).
3. Heat skillet to medium heat and then add butter to coat pan. 
4. Dip sandwich in egg mixture and cook on both sides until golden brown.
5. Top with warm syrup.



Grocery shopping in Czech

Nearing the last day of our European race-cation which included 1 week in Klagenfurt, Austria and over 2 weeks in Karel's home town of Znojmo, Czech Republic (with only 2 of those days as an overnight trip to sight see in Prague), I thought it would be fun to reflect on my many eating experiences that I have enjoyed, while on vacation.

It's going to take me a while to put all my food pictures into one blog (I'm thinking I'll let the food pics do the talking) so I wanted to share what it is like to grocery shop here in Znojmo, Czech Republic.

While I love eating new foods and meal creations when traveling, I find it important to understand the culture behind food. Whether it's understanding the agriculture (which is an important sector of the economy) or simply learning how to the food gets from farm to table, it's all very exciting to me.

With the "local" grocery store just a block from Karel's mom's flat (and in route to his dad's flat), we visited the store frequently. Sometimes it was just for some fresh bread and pastries whereas other times, our shop included items for Karel's mom (to make our lunch - she started cooking around 8am each morning) or some light items for dinner.
As for shopping for produce, we often stopped by a market, either in town or on the side of the road. 

And, we did a little shopping form nature (Mother Earth doesn't charge!) while riding our bikes.

The mornings are very busy at the grocery store as lunch is the biggest and most important meal of the day. The town pretty much shuts down for lunch and it's typical that most people stop their day (working and at school) for a sit-down lunch. 

To get your cart at the store, you insert 5 or 10 crowns (or 1 Euro) into the cart to unlock the cart. When you return your cart and insert the key, your coin pops out. This eliminates loose carts in the parking lot and having an employee go out to the parking lot to return the carts to the front of the store. 

If you only need a few items from the store, like meat, cheese, bread and/or pastries, you can shop at the front of the store as there are two counters with these items.

The grocery store is set up similar to what I am use to with the produce in the front but the main difference is that you (the customer) weigh your own produce when you select it, versus the check out person weighing everything for you. You put your produce on the scale, select the type of produce and then the machine prints out a bar code which you stick on your bag.
This makes it very quick and efficient at check out.

There is no shortage of fresh bread and pastries at the store. Shop late at night and there is little left.
Everything is made daily and spoils quickly so shopping on a daily basis for fresh bread is just part of this culture. Buying bread in the bag once a week is not typical, although there are a few "packaged" breads. 

While the pastries make your mouth water, they are not overly sweet. This is a nice change from the typical pastries that everyone associates with being overly sweet and packed with sugar.

You bag your own bread and can mix and match in the same bag. The check out person knows which bread is what so it's very efficient at check out .

Here's the packaged bread section. 

Oh the choices. 

I absolutely love the deli and cheese section at the grocery store, which I think is pretty typical here in Europe.
Rather than having one person behind the counter, slicing each cut of meat or block of cheese, everything is ready in the morning.
There's at least one person per section in the meat and cheese area, and they simply use their hands (with gloves) to grab how much meat and cheese you want, weigh is, wrap it and you are on your way.

(For reference for pricing, 1 US dollar = ~24 Czech Crowns. Food is very inexpensive for us here. But keep in mind that they use the metric system. Gas, on the other hand, is very expensive). 

Beer is cheaper than bottled water. 

And speaking of water, you can choose how many water bottles you want without having to buy a big packaged of water bottles. Mineral water is very popular here in all types of flavors. You don't have to worry about food dyes and artificial flavors as they are banned by the European Union. 

Of course, there is a section of candies and chips and other cereals but aside from the chocolate candy bars (which bring back found memories for Karel), we haven't bought much snacky food, if any. 

There's a huge frozen section of meats and cheeses and yogurts. 

And eggs are not refrigerated. 

At checkout, you pay if you want a bag (about 5 crowns) so it's typical that everyone brings their own bags. Also, about 80% or more of people pay for everything in cash here. Credit cards are not very popular. 

After our grocery store trip, we walk home with our bags and get to cooking and eating. 


Eating comfort zone

It's often said that traveling is one of the best ways to step outside your comfort zone. 

A new routine, a new lifestyle, new sights and perhaps even a new language that you do not understand.

Every time you travel, you welcome the opportunity to experience a new way of living.
And above all, when you travel somewhere new, there is a good chance that you will eat new foods or new meal creations that are not familiar.

Perhaps you are the individual who loves putting yourself into situations where you are forced to try new foods and adapt to new cuisines and eating traditions and customs.

But for many people, traveling can be an overwhelming experience because it requires eating foods that are not so familiar and that can make you feel uncomfortable (often more mentally than physically). 

While it is good to have a style of eating that works for you on a daily basis, if your eating boundaries are very limited, you may find extreme difficult to step beyond the place where your daily eating habits make you feel safe and secure and this can bring a lot of anxiety when you travel.

While it is very easy to say "yes" to foods within your comfort zone (or diet-approved zone) when you are at home, when you travel, you may find yourself saying "no" a lot due to a very restricted and limited food comfort zone.

While you should never eat something that doesn't agree with your body (allergy, intolerance) or goes against moral, ethical or medical reasons, living a life that is controlled by food limits is no way to live.

You may even find that you dread the thought of traveling to a new place (whether for work or pleasure) for fear of having to eat foods that you normally don't eat. Whether you are a picky eater or crave simplicity or struggle to make eating choices without nutrition fact labels, measuring cups, calorie counts or a clear understanding of how a meal is prepared, I encourage you to slowly begin to step outside your eating comfort zone. 
Over the past few years, I have become more uncomfortable eating....... in America.

While I am very comfortable eating in my own environment, my eating comfort zone is not always comfortable as I am eating in a diet and body obsessed society that has a very dysfunctional relationship with food.

This doesn't mean that I don't love the USA as I am proud to be an American but I am greatly disturbed by our culture when it comes to food and how people see and talk about food.

I love bread, yet in America, bread is bad for you - we are told it makes you fat and causes diseases.
I love grains, yet in America, only a few are "good" for you, depending on the current trends and who's giving you permission to eat what.
I love milk and cheese, yet in America, those are bad for you - We are told they are bad for you and can cause inflammation.
I love all fruits and veggies, yet in America, there's a list as to which ones are healthy and which ones are filled with the most sugar - thus making some fruits and veggies "unhealthy."

You see, when I am in Europe, I can eat in peace.
I eat all my favorite foods and new ones because the foods I love, grains, bread, milk, cheese and all fruits and veggies, are all accepted in Europe.

There's not a day in America where I don't see or hear people talking about the foods that I choose to eat in my diet, discussing all the "bad" things about these foods and all the "bad" things that will happen if you eat them.

And don't get me started on how "bad" these foods are for athletes, especially if you want to perform well, improve body composition and stay healthy.
(Would now be a good time to do a throw-back to our 2016 Ironman Austria finishes where our bodies performed so well, despite being fueled by so many "bad" foods and "bad" sport nutrition products?)

So why is it that I feel more comfortable eating in Europe than in America?
First off, I don't speak the language.
Therefore, when I eat, I don't hear anything that makes me not enjoy what I am eating.
There is no talk about carbs, gluten or sugar.
 I can taste and truly yum over my food without any judgement.

For me, food isn't complicated yet in America, it's complicated. Very very complicated.

I'm bothered by how companies market and advertise food and frankly, what people call "food" in America.
I'm frustrated by magazines, social media, TV and experts constantly brainwashing children, adults, the elderly and athletes that something on the body always needs "fixing" and the best approach to change the body image is through food restriction.
I'm saddened to hear how many athletes are abusing exercising the body, and believing that starving the body from calories is the "best" way to improve performance.
I'm upset that America is so obsessed with healthy food yet we have such an unhealthy society.

While I understand that I am speaking about our country as a whole and not discussing subgroups who may have a great relationship with food and the body, I know that t
here are many individuals who understand where I am coming from and you likely sympathize with me. 

By all means, you are allowed to eat bread in America!

Let's be honest - eating is a messy topic in America and unless it changes soon, our society will become more sick and ill because of unhealthy habits that can be changed by a healthier lifestyle and eating disorders (and disordered) eating will become more and more prevalent. 

Naturally, this is a very important topic for me me as a Board Certified Sport Dietitian because I want to be the change that I want to see in America when it comes to athletes improving their relationship with food and the body. 

As I enjoy my last few days in Europe (with more pictures of my Czech meals to share on Facebook), I will continue to appreciate a style of eating that I strongly embrace here in Europe.

For the last 3 weeks, I have enjoyed eating trying new foods and meal creations and welcoming any eating opportunity to try something different. 

I am not sure when it started or how it started but my diet has certainly evolved to one that makes it so easy for me to eat in Europe. 

Whether I'm eating in the USA or Europe, I never feel confused or conflicted about my food choices but in Europe, I eat among a society that appears to have a great relationship with food and the body.
And with every bite and every yum, I am happy. 

Stepping outside of America allows me to step away from a food and body obsessed culture which is heavily focused on what foods are good or bad, depending on the season, the year and the latest diet fad, research study and the loudest nutrition expert.
Here in Europe, I am not in a culture that eats in uncertainty and fear and doesn't need approval that x-food is allowed to be eaten.

Allowed by who?

I'm still wondering that same question and who you are letting boss you around as to what foods you need or should be eating to be happy and healthy.