Essential Sports Nutrition


Happy 40th Birthday Karel!

It was an interesting summer in 2006 as I was very much into my routine of working and training and I didn't want anything to get into my way of training for my first Ironman. I was living with my parents but I was only there to sleep as my life revolved around training, working and training.
I resisted the invitation to meet a "talented cyclist, from Europe with a sexy accent" as a training partner of mine described, as she wanted to set me up with a nice single guy. A few weeks went by and I finally accepted the opportunity to meet him. 

It was 10.5 years ago when Karel and I were set-up on a blind date on a group ride.
We met on my birthday, May 31st, 2006.

The next few months were rocky because as I mentioned, all of my energy went into training. The thought of balancing a boyfriend while training for a 140.6 mile event was overwhelming so I entertained the idea of getting to know Karel as a training partner and possibly we would become good friends.

At the age of 24, it was very hard for me to see my relationship "future" as my life revolved around triathlon. I was afraid to let Karel get to know the real me and more than anything, I didn't want to change how I was living my life.

I continued to get to know Karel throughout the summer, through email, AOL messenger, the occasional date (when I choose to make the time) and by training together.
I would go to his cycling races but only if I could train before hand and he came to my triathlon races, when he didn't have a cycling race.
We were two young athletes who were sport focused but I knew I wasn't giving as much to Karel in our "relationship" as he was giving to me.

Over the next few months, I found myself slowly falling for Karel but a relationship still scared me. In all honesty, I could feel that Karel was the right one for me to spend my life with as he had every quality I wanted in a husband (despite never getting that far in a relationship before to even think about those deep questions) but I didn't want to give up my routine just to be with him.

I was only a matter of time when I came to terms with my silly thoughts and that a relationship doesn't have to change you for the worst but it can actually make you a better person.

Here we are, 10 years later and I'm a better person because of Karel. I've changed a lot in 10 years, not because Karel told me to, but every relationship has give and take.

Our situation is unique because we now (as of 2014) live together, train together, work together, travel together and well, spend about every hour of every day together, almost 365 days per year.

You'd think that I would save this post for our anniversary as it is more about our relationship together, than his birthday, but I'm extremely lucky that Karel was brought into this world and I imagine that anyone who knows Karel, feels the same way.
He is an incredible human being.

Just a few months after meeting, I wanted to do something special for Karel's birthday. His 30th birthday was approaching on September 22nd and I came up with the idea to give him a surprise birthday party with his close cycling friends (of which, a few were our match makers).

I coordinated the meal (pasta party - I think the State Championships were that weekend), the guest list and the secret plan to surprise him.

All went as planned and after the SURPRISE, Karel was shocked.
He had never been to or had a surprise birthday before and he was speechless.

It was a special way to celebrate his 30th birthday so I figured, why not repeat that surprise again, 10 years later.

A lot has changed with us in 10 years but all for the better.
I'm glad I gave up my stubborn mindset of how I wanted to live my life to make sure my life included Karel.
Although we are both competitive athletes, much of our life happiness s made from experiences. Although sports (triathlon) make for great memories, it's more about doing things we both love, together, as our life is triathlon....and so much more.

Lucky for us, we live in a place that has a great triathlon community and we feel connected to so many kind, funny, nice and giving athletes. Although we don't have a designated triathlon racing or club team here in Greenville, I'd say that every Greenville triathlete feels welcomed, accepted and supported.
Well that is until a thread on the Greenville Area Triathlon Training Facebook page gets hijacked by....well, I won't name names :)

We have formed close friendships with several triathletes and I knew Karel's birthday celebration wouldn't be complete without these important people in our lives. 
(Including my mom, grandpa - who is in town and Karel's very close long-time friend from Jacksonville, James Sweeney). 

It's hard to believe at one time in my life, I was worried about letting Karel into my life.
Now, I couldn't imagine my life without him.

Happy Birthday Karel!

Cheers to getting one year older, moving into a new triathlon age group, getting faster and being fitter than ever before.
And continue your healthy diet of IPA beer, croissants, frozen recovery bars, coffee and chocolate.
It's working for you! 


Making peace with your body

Today is International Day of Peace, which is "devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples."

The theme for this year is “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace."

In honor of making peace, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about making peace with your body. Ultimately, when you are at peace with your body, you are a better human.
When you hate your body, you may find that you also hate life.
This is not the way that you should be living.

Accepting and appreciating your body will improve your quality of life as you are not spending your days trying to fix yourself, but instead, you are focusing on doing things that really matter in life - like your career, your hobbies (ex. sports), your close friendships, your family and personal life experiences (ex. traveling).  

Here are a few tips to help you make peace with your amazing body.

1. Figure out your internal dialogue - Every day, we have thoughts. Often, thoughts lead to actions. When you are feeling upset about something related to your body, verbalize it - don't just think about it and assume that immediate action will make you feel better.
Consider how many body-related thoughts you experience each day and after you say those thoughts out loud, get to the root of why you feel that way about your body. Many times, thoughts about your body have nothing to do with your body but instead, the rest of life.
You had a bad workout, you are stressed, you didn't sleep well last night, you feel overwhelmed, etc. yet you blame all of this on your body???
Don't believe everything that you think and most of all, don't act on every thought (ex. That's it - I'm starving myself tomorrow because I'm too heavy!")
When your mind tells you something negative, don't let your thoughts control your behaviors. Instead, create a better dialogue in your head that is more proactive to healthy living and eating habits and above all, lets you think more positive about your body.
2. Stop the comparison game - Just because someone else weighs less than you, this doesn't make you fat. Don't let the weight of someone else make you feel bad about your own body. It's dangerous to constantly compare yourself to other people because you will never feel good enough or happy enough. It's so easy to compare the worst about yourself to the best (assumption) of someone else. The more positives you assume are in another person, the more negatives you will make up about yourself. This includes a past version of yourself as well.
Sometimes the best strategy for stopping comparison is to change your surroundings. You should be surrounding yourself with people who make you feel great about your body and your life. Are there people who you need to remove from your social media channels or stay away from at the gym or at a race? You are unique and an important person in this world, just the way you are.
You never need to be compared to anyone else because you are YOU and just fine the way that you are.
3. Understand your feelings - When you have a negative thought about your body, ask yourself what else is bothering you. Body hatred is an easy way to dismiss other issues in life that may be bothering you. Instead of obsessing about your body and using diet and exercise to numb emotions and to gain control over a situation, explore the deeper reasons of your stress. It's important to experience happiness and joy in your life but using food and exercise to cope with deep feelings to make you feel less stressed are not healthy coping strategies.
Choose self-love not self-hatred. 
4. Positive affirmations -  Life will often give you many opportunities to either love your body (you nailed your workout) or hate your body (ex. looking in the mirror, feeling bloated). It seems appropriate to suggest that you should simply minimize the occasions when you experience the most body-hate in life but in reality, there will be times in your life when you can not escape an experience where you will immediately put blame on your body.
It is important to remain body positive as much as possible....especially if you are a parent. If you find yourself constantly talking about your body as fat, ugly, chubby, disgusting, etc., you are not describing a positive reflection of yourself.
What are you thankful for that your body allows you to do?
Constantly remind yourself that your body is more than just a number or a look.
5. Do things that make you feel great about your body - If running is hard on your body, you are not going to find joy in running when you are looking for a way to feel happy with your body.
Regardless if you are an athlete training for a sport or a fitness enthusiast, you should choose activities that make you feel connected to your body and grateful for your body.
When you feel connected to your body, you will be more likely to acknowledge your strengths as an individual but more so, you will feel happy as you use and move your body.
Don't let other people persuade you to do something that truly doesn't make you excited to workout or train.

Did you thank your body today? 


Trimarni pre-workout pancakes

Yum - Trimarni pre-workout pancakes with nut butter, cinnamon, syrup and bananas)

A common struggle among athletes is eating before a workout.

Many athletes have no idea what to eat (often due to confusion - how much, what, when, why) but a large portion of athletes struggle to properly digest food before a workout, which causes GI issues during the workout and thus, even the thought of eating before a workout is a scary thought (which is even more scary when it comes to race day and an athlete feels he/she can't eat before a race).

Here are a few of the benefits of consuming a pre-workout snack: 

-Fuel your upcoming workout
-Help with delaying fatigue during the workout
-Giving you energy for your workout
-Helping you think more clearly during your workout (focus, attention)
-Helping you stay satisfied (and not hungry) during your workout
-Reducing the  risk of dizziness, lethargy or shaky feelings, due to low blood sugar
-Prevent overeating after the workout
-Reduce sugary/sweet cravings later in the day
-Better control over portions throughout the day
-Less tendency to snack in the evening

As you can see, there are clear performance benefits of consuming a pre-workout snack but eating before a workout plays a favorable role in food choices throughout the day - which for any athlete who is looking for a safe and effective way to lose weight, this goes against the common trend that many athletes intentionally restrict calories before a workout in hopes of losing weight. Typically, this approach backfires and athletes end up sabotaging a high intensity or long volume training session (or even an EZ workout) due to fatigue and then overeat later in the day.

Here are some of the reasons why athletes struggle to accept food before a workout: 
-Thoughts that eating before a workout is bad (ex. you can't lose weight, calories in/calories out, you want to be "metabolically efficient")
-Your digestive system needs healing (ex. gut flora, bacteria)
-Inappropriate food choices before a workout (too high fiber, too heavy, too gassy)
-Poor timing of food choices relative to the start of the workout
-You want to save your calories for post workout
-Starting the workout too soon after sitting all day or waking up (you only give yourself 20 minutes or less from being sedentary or waking up before you start working out)
-Unhealthy daily nutrition choices
-Eating too much in the evening (large portions)
-Eating too close to bed
-You don't like the feeling of food in your gut
-You have to constantly use the restroom (loose stools, gas, diarrhea)
-You haven't trained your gut to accept food
-You think you don't need it

In my experience in working with athletes who struggle to consume food before a workout, there are many reasons as to why athletes choose to not eat before a workout.
But we need to fix this as there is a big problem with not eating before a workout.

At some point in your training and on race day, you WILL need to eat before you exercise.
Convincing yourself that you don't need to eat or that you can never eat before a workout (for whatever reason) is not only performance limiting but it can also affect your health.

My hope is that with my Trimarni pre-workout pancake recipe, you will find joy and energy by eating before a workout. I mean, who doesn't love pancakes?
I will not be attaching any rules as to when you need to eat the pancakes (ex. what workout distance/intensity) or how much but instead, I encourage you to try them out, in a portion that you feel comfortable with (1/3, 1/2 or the entire batter).
You should find these pancakes very light and easy to digest (thus the ingredients that I used in making this creation) so that you can eat a portion of your liking and feel clean in your gut, within 20-30 minutes.

If you feel that your training partner or friend would benefit from this blog post, I encourage you to share. I have worked with far too many athletes who have struggled with eating before workouts and races and I know how much of a performance limiter it can be to feel that you can't eat before a workout/race OR that you have no idea what to eat.

Let's start with pancakes.

Trimarni pre-workout pancakes

Makes 3 medium sized pancakes


1/2 cup gluten free flour (or your choice low fiber flour)
1/4 cup lactose free 1% milk (or your choice milk)
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp baking powder

1. Mix together ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
2. Pre-heat small skillet to low/medium heat.
3. Lightly coat skillet with butter (I prefer salted butter over olive oil when making pancakes)
4. Pour 1/3 batter into small skillet to make a "thin" pancake.
5. Cook for ~90 seconds or until bottom of pancake is firm and golden brown. Flip. 
6. Cook other side for 30-60 seconds (sides may flip up a little).
7. You can serve your pancake in the traditional style (in a circle) or roll it up like a crepe or fold like a pita. 
(And if you were wondering - these can be anytime pancakes - for a snack, breakfast or even brinner).

Total calories (this is for the entire batter, portion as you wish depending on your workout. You can always save a pancake or two for after your workout): 
360 calories
8.5 g fat
450 mg sodium
57g carbohydrates
6g fiber
18g sugar (natural)
14g protein

Topping suggestions for additional flavor/calories:
Maple Syrup
Nut butter

For vegan and dairy-free diets:
1/2 cup gluten free flour 
1/4 cup lactose free 2% milk (or your choice milk)
1/8 tsp salt
1 egg (or 8-10g protein powder, but pancake consistency may change)

If your Trimarni pre-workout pancakes work for you and you love them, consider making a large batch and freezing for future workouts AND for race day. 


IM KONA training - 3 weeks out

After Ironman Austria, Karel wasn't sure if he would ever be able to go that hard in a race again.

With only 8 weeks between IM Austria and IMMT, Karel was able to fully recover from IM Austria (thanks to his mom's cooking and lots of IPA and pastries) and return home with excitement to train again to achieve his season goal of Kona qualifying.

At IMMT, Karel went "there" again for 140.6 miles.

After Kona qualifying at IMMT, Karel was extremely sore and once again, he questioned if he had anything left for a third Ironman, within 15 weeks.

But after quickly physically recovering from IMMT, his body was in a good place to train again.
And most importantly, his mind was in a really good place.

Not only was Karel excited to race on the big island for the 2nd time but he was excited to train for 5-6 more weeks before dropping down the volume before IM Kona.

There are several things that Karel has done right this season which has helped him take his fitness to the next level but as his training partner for many workouts, there is one thing that I often observe in Karel - he never ever goes into workouts with exceptions and he never gets stuck in the metrics of a workout.

After Karel's 5-day trip to Colorado, where he stayed at 9,000 feet with a few friends, he returned home to Greenville very exhausted. He didn't sleep well in CO and his normal sleep cycle was a little off when he returned home. His appetite was a bit zapped after his CO trip and he all-around, felt flat.

We knew that a lot of this was due to the altitude training (which was not intentional for performance benefits but instead, it was just a guys bike trip that was planned last year, without knowing if Karel would Kona qualify) so Karel didn't obsess over any workout and just did the best that he could, while also focusing on all the little details, like diet, sleep and mobility, to help him recover from the CO trip.
Karel was in the middle of his biggest IM Kona training prep which required a lot of mental and physical strength.

I am reminded by a statement from Dr. G who once told me that many times, when athletes feel extremely flat, tired and sore, this means a breakthrough is coming. It's often hard to think that your fitness is coming around when you are feeling empty inside but sure enough, with a very smart training mindset to not have any expectations for any workout, Karel was able to successfully get through his 5-weeks out from Kona training (albeit, with a tired body) and then 4 weeks out (this past week) his fitness came around and he had some of his best workout executions, with a feeling of "I've never been able to train like this before!"
And let's remember, this comes after racing deep for 2 Ironmans since the end of June.

It's  been incredible to see Karel stay so strong this summer, despite some niggles that have required weekly care from a great local massage therapist and the occasional sessions with a hip/spine focused PT, but I believe it all comes down to his mind.

He is willing to put in the work.
He is willing to dig deep and go "there".
He keeps his easy sessions easy.
He never has expectations for workouts, thus, there are no "bad" workouts.
He doesn't obsess about metrics.
He focuses on good lifestyle habits (sleep, mobility, diet, sport nutrition) to help him recover and execute.
He never worries about his weight (ex. race weight).
He has never followed a diet plan.
He sleeps great.
He is mentally strong.
He absolutely loves training.

It's sad to hear about the athletes who just want their Ironman journey to end with still weeks to go before race day. With so much commitment, time and energy, it can't be performance enhancing to look forward to the end of every workout, with little motivation to even train.

And with the Ironman requiring so much mental strength, I believe this is what takes Karel to that next level with every workout - he does the work early season so that come peak IM training, he's not training with the intention to "build fitness/endurance" to be Ironman ready but instead, he becomes Ironman ready by executing every workout to his best ability and mentally putting himself into race day scenarios and letting his mind be his only limiter. There is no obsession with paces, watts or speeds, thus no let down or need to term a workout as "bad".

This weekend was a quality weekend of "long" training for Karel. Lucky me, I was able to join Karel for his long ride on Saturday and for his key swim on Sunday.

Here's a recap of some of his weekend IM Kona training, 3 weeks out from race day (which followed a very high volume/intense week of training).
(Matt Dixon with Purple Patch is Karel's coach)

Saturday: 4 hour ride (77 miles, 4500 feet of elevation gain):
All endurance effort with the last 70 minutes at half IM effort.

30 min run off the bike (Karel ran on our treadmill to help him execute this set):
10 min form focused
10 min at IM effort
10 min at faster than IM effort
CD as needed

AM: 90 min run (treadmill for the purpose of this set):
10 min EZ warm-up
Pre set: 2 x 3 min build effort
4 x 11 min at 4% incline at IM pace (one of the few times that Karel was instructed to go by pace, not effort)
4 min EZ jog in between
Post set:
10-15 min IM effort at 1% grade
CD as needed

PM: 4200 yard swim
10 min EZ warm-up
Pre set: 2xs
2 x 25 fast, 50 easy, 50 fast, 2 x 25 EZ
MS: 7xs
100 fast w/ 2 sec rest
Right into 75 on same send off
(ex. if you come in at 1:30 for 100, your interval for the 75 is 1:30)

400 pull

MS #2: 7xs
75 fast w/ 0-2 sec rest
right into 50 with same send off

400 pull

It's hard to believe that in 8 days, we will be flying to the big island!

From 2011...Karel's first time to Kona to watch me race in my 2nd IM World Championship....where the thought came into his head "If I ever become a triathlete, I want to race HERE!"