Essential Sports Nutrition


3 effective off-season nutrition strategies

The off-season is not the time to be focused on your race weight nor is it the time to look for a diet plan as a restrictive and controlling eating method to assist in weight loss.

The off-season provides the best opportunity for you to learn how to create a foundation diet.
And for many athletes, a prime opportunity to learn how to plan a healthy diet.

By adopting a healthier method of eating in the off-season, you will likely find yourself in better health throughout your more specific phases of training.

Ultimately, be creating a style of eating that helps you maintain a healthy weight (every athlete is different), while staying in great health in the off-season, you will be more inclined to maintain your realistic and balanced eating strategies when your training volume and intensity increase.
Which, as you know, when training volume and intensity increase, healthy eating habits often get thrown out the window because of lack of energy and time.
Yep, every athlete has been there!
Cereal is a meal, right?

Even during the holiday season, you can still eat well and move closer to your health goals.

Spend the next few weeks working on my three sensible off-season nutrition strategies to help you create a style of eating that is sustainable and realistic.

To start off, it's time to develop a healthy relationship with food.

 I hope you find these off-season nutrition tips valuable, as they create the foundation of healthy eating which every athlete needs before advancing with training volume and intensity.

1) Develop a healthy relationship with food

This goes without saying but a great relationship with food paves the way to great eating habits.
With a healthy relationship with food, you can create a style of eating that works for you. There are no bad foods or off limit food lists, no obsession with calories, gluten or carbs or any other food that has been previously labeled "unhealthy."
Instead, you appreciate the nutritional value found in food.
Diet plans are effective because they tell you what not to eat.
But, they are not sustainable and that is why they are not long-lasting after the initial weight goal is reached.
Because there is a clear difference between feeling passionate about what you put into your body and dangerously obsessing over every calorie you eat, it’s important that you see the off-season as the perfect time to get a handle on your definition of “healthy eating” when you are not expending a ridiculous amount of energy.
For those who fall into the later category of being hyper-obsessed with food, healthy eating should include indulgences and there's no better time to practice responsible, feel-good indulging than around the holiday season.

Plus, eating healthy is much easier to accomplish when you have extra time in your day to spend in the kitchen, when you are not swimming, biking or running.

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your relationship with food.

1) Learn to eat mindfully. Pay attention to your hunger and satisfaction cues. Honor you biological hunger and recognize when you eat out of boredom, emotions or stress. Work on your eating-related decisions, specifically at meal time, snack time and in the evening.

2) Improve your eating experiences. No food should be forbidden or scary unless it is for a medical reason. You should always feel better after you eat than before. Learn to become a better planner and eat with the purpose of nourishment. Indulge responsibly and on occasion (seriously, it's healthy to indulge!).

3) Eat at the right times. When your workout volume is low, you don’t have to worry about eating a lot before workouts or reloading yourself post workout. But at the same time, if you find yourself in a cycle of under eating around workouts, and then overeating (or rewarding yourself with food), something is not right with your meal/snack timing and macro nutrient distribution.  To start, try to eat at similar meal compositions at similar times each day and plan snacks before and after all of your workouts. As you listen to your body, you can make small tweaks, as needed, based on your hunger/satisfaction/energy cues.

4) Remove trigger foods from your house. In the early stages of improving your relationship with food, it’s important to remove temping foods from your house or work environment. When you really need that special food, plan a special occasion around eating it and be sure to yum! The ultimate goal of improving your relationship with food is to learn how to eat mindfully. There will be a time in your life when you can have/be around previous tempting foods and not feel the urge to eat those foods. This will be life changing but first, you must create a healthy relationship with food.

5) Give yourself permission to eat. Stop your day and slowly enjoy a meal. Smell, taste and enjoy your food. Every meal should be worth stopping for. Proper meal eating habits are critical for athletes. If you don't learn how to plan and eat your meals, you may be sabotaging your workouts due to lack of energy/nutrients or feeling too full/hungry around workouts.

6) Don’t work out to eat or to indulge. Restriction may lead to overeating/binge eating. Don't reward yourself with food. If you want to eat a cookie, eat a cookie. You don't have to workout for 5 hours to deserve to eat something.

7) Don’t let food control your life. Avoid being too rigid, restrictive or strict about “healthy” eating. Nothing bad will happen if you eat the occasional sweet treat or eat an extra portion of a dish that makes your tummy feel great inside.

For further reading, here are three of my most popular articles on the topic that I am so very passionate about as it relates to helping athletes improve their health and performance.
Having a healthy relationship with food and the body is the key that unlocks great performances!

How healthy is your relationship with food?

The off-season weight debate

If you want to take the next step to improve your relationship with food and the body or nail your off-season nutrition, let's work together so that you can have a professional nutrition guide in your individual journey. I'll help you take away the guessing so that you can feel more confident in your daily diet and food choices.
Trimarni nutrition services


Shredded Brussels sprouts wrap with cashews, edamame and onions

The start of building a great relationship with food is to eat a variety of food. The more you restrict your diet, whether intentional or unintentional, the greater chance you will lose an appetite for food and perhaps even a general dislike for eating.
Expanding your palate by introducing your taste buds to a variety of real food textures, tastes and combinations will foster a great relationship with food (not to mention a mega boost in health and energy) but to start, you must stop the rigid rules about food and to improve the way you view, speak and feel about food.

While I have not yet learned to appreciate the taste of raw Brussels Sprouts, I won myself over with my dinner creation last night as I could not stop yumming with every bite.

As I was randomly constructing this creation, I had no idea what this dish would taste like when it became a final product.
But that's what I love about cooking - new food combinations that will excite my taste buds.
That is what I also love about eating - I give myself ongoing opportunities to nourish and fuel my body but also to make my tummy happy. 

This dish would make for a perfect lunch or dinner meal.
I made sure to give you ingredient quantities that would allow for leftovers as this also makes for a tasty and healthy side dish to any meal.

This dish is vegetarian but you could easily make the following swaps.....

-Vegan - use a vegan based spread
-Gluten free - use a GF wrap/pita or use a different starch option (ex. wild rice or quinoa)
-Meat lovers - add an animal protein like shrimp, bacon or chopped steak

Shredded Brussels sprout wrap with cashews, edamame and onions

  • 1/2 bag (6 ounces) or 4 cups shredded Brussels sprouts 
  • 1 small white onion (thinly sliced - first cut in half and then slice)
  • 1 cup edamame (without the pods)
  • 1/8 cup chopped cashews 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Sour cream + a dash of Italian herbs (or your choice of creamy spread or dressing - I suggest something tangy/sour to compliment the Brussels sprouts)
  • Wrap (or pita) of your choice


1. In large non stick skillet, on low to medium heat, sauté onions and Brussels sprouts in olive oil (enough to lightly coat the mixture and prevent sticking) until golden brown (about 8-10 minutes). Lightly toss every few minutes to keep from burning.

2. Add room temperature edamame and toss for 2-3 additional minutes but on low heat (I suggest to warm frozen edamame in microwave for 45-90 seconds until soft). 

3. Turn off heat and add chopped cashews and salt/pepper to taste. Give it all a few tosses to evenly combine. 

4. Spread a layer (to your liking) of your dip/dressing/sauce on your wrap (or inside a pita).
5. Place a few spoonfuls of your veggie mixture in the middle of the wrap. 

6. Fold the outsides (right and left) of the wrap into the middle and then take the front of your wrap (closet to you) and start rolling away from you, while keeping the outside edges (right and left) tucked inside. 

7. Enjoy your delicious wrap and don't forget to yum!


Relearning how to eat normally

As an athlete, you make a lot of daily lifestyle choices which are likely not "normal" compared to your non-athlete counterparts.
Your standards for daily exercise and healthy eating are far from the norm.
For example, when was the last time you said, "I only ran 90 minutes today, but it was just an easy run" or brought a cooler of foods to a work conference because you enjoy being in control of your portions and how your food is prepared?

To reach your athletic goals, you make a lot of daily choices to maximize your performance and many times, to an outsider, your dedication to your athletic lifestyle looks absolutely crazy and unnecessary.

But when you surround yourself with your like-minded athlete buddies, you suddenly feel part of the crowd. Your decisions, actions and choices are praised, admired and sometimes needed to "fit in" among your athletic partners.
You may even go out of your way on social media to follow nutrition experts who "get you."

While it is socially accepted among your athlete friends to train and eat like you do, it is important that your food rules do not interfere with your ability to eat normally. 
Athlete or not, never should you eat with anxiety, fear, guilt or frustration.

Has your relationship with food turned obsessive and disordered?

Are food rules preventing you from having permission to eat sugar, carbs, grains, dairy or other foods or food groups?

Have you lost the ability to have an appetite to eat?

Do you feel no pleasure when you eat?

Is it difficult for you to eat in social settings without feeling judged?

Do you feel uncomfortable when someone else prepares your food?

What was once a desire to lose a few lbs or to eat cleaner, do you find yourself living an overwhelming lifestyle of feeling controlled by food?

Are your current food choices keeping you from staying in good health or performing well as an athlete?

With so many athletes being more and more misinformed about sport nutrition and healthy eating (and it is about to get much worse come the New Year, as usual), to the point of being afraid of eating the wrong foods, it's very sad to see so many athletes suffering from bone-related injuries, blood sugar swings, fatigue, low energy, unhealthy weight loss/gain, cardiovascular issues, hormonal, metabolic, endocrine and other health issues related to "food rules."

In my practice, I am not a specialist in eating disorders. However, I do work with many athletes who struggle with their relationship with food and the body. My focus is on helping athletes break down food barriers to eat normally - in life AND as an athlete - in order to reach athletic goals.

While this type of nutrition consultation journey is much more complicated and in-depth than helping athletes fine-tune sport nutrition (fueling/hydration) for an upcoming event, the end goal is for an athlete to successfully eat and fuel without food rules or negative thoughts about the body.

If you are an athlete who has been living a life controlled by food rules, often feeling a strong need to control your food intake to avoid the guilt and uncomfortable feeling that comes from eating "bad" foods, it's time to relearn how to eat.

Imagine the possibilities when you let food enhance your life, instead of controlling your life.
Life is not about calories, grams, diets, food rules and an off-limit food list.

Consider the opportunities in life when you can eat normally - anywhere, anytime.
If this blog post resonates with you, this doesn't mean that you are a bad person.
There is absolutely no shame or self-guilt to be felt if you struggle with your relationship with food and the body.

If you are ready to relearn how to eat, consult with a professional who specializes in disordered eating/eating disorders for help. 


Big results or marginal gains?

Picture Source

Not every athlete trains to win a race but most athletes train to maximize the potential of performing well on race day.

While your definition of race day success may be to simply complete the race distance and have fun along the way, there are a great number of athletes who pursue the many possible methods of getting the most out of the body through training, in order to meet performance standards on race day.

One of those popular methods is metabolically efficiency, which in simple terms, means burning fat in order to preserve carbohydrate stores.

As desirable as it sounds to an athlete to become more metabolically efficient, manipulating your diet and fueling strategies in an effort to become a better fat burner is not a requirement to be a better athlete. 

The idea of marginal gains lies in the strategy (or method) of trying to gain the 1% competitive advantage. In other words, big successes from a small change. 

With lots of confusion on how to properly become "metabolically efficient" or what it means to be metabolically efficient, it's important to stress that metabolically efficiency is much more than one tiny change in your training.

At Trimarni, we don't believe that fasted workouts are the best way to burn fat or to assist in weight loss. Seeing that many athletes have an extremely unhealthy relationship with food and the body as it is, asking/telling an athlete to voluntarily restrict food before and during workouts feeds the desire to be great at food restriction throughout the day. Many athletes are uneducated on the proper training and diet methods of how to be metabolically efficient, simply because there are too many nutrition experts offering their unique strategy, often while pushing supplements/products.

While this concept of metabolic efficiency is not new and there are many scientific truths and notable results in becoming great at burning fat as an endurance athlete, as a Board Certified Sport Dietitian, I don't view this dietary and training strategy as a necessity for all endurance athletes, as it can actually delay athletic development and heighten an already unhealthy relationship with food and the body.

Without proper guidance on how to become "metabolically efficient", it's very easy to assume that not eating before a workout or fueling during a long workout is good so not eating after a workout and restricting food later in the day, is even better.
Metabolic efficiency is not a diet plan - it's a sport nutrition strategy that may take your performance to the next level, but it is not a requirement. And due to athlete non-compliance, results are often positive and extreme in the beginning but do not last long term.  

I my opinion, for the majority of athletes, I see "metabolic efficiency" as a method that provides marginal gains and has more cons than pros.

Whether you want to become more efficient at conserving glycogen or you look to burning fat as a way to remove unwanted body fat and lean up, it's important to remind you that your success as an athlete starts with nailing the fundamentals.

This post is not to disagree with the concept of metabolic efficiency but instead, to encourage you to nail the basics before following a more extreme dietary and training methodology.

You must make smart choices with your daily diet and training regime in order to stay consistent with training while keeping your body in good health.
Eating a small banana with a smear of nut butter before a 90 minute run and consuming 150 calories of a sport drink and 20 ounce water spread over a 90 minute run may not fit the metabolic efficiency fueling standards but it will help you have a great workout and will likely keep your immune system strong during a time when it's very easy to get sick (sick = no training = loss of fitness).

Not eating before a workout or not fueling during a long workout will not help you gain the competitive edge if your training methods are haphazard, you don't sleep well, you have poor coping skills when it comes to stress, your daily diet is inconsistent, unbalanced and you have an unhealthy relationship with food and the body. 

Although it sounds extremely sexy to say that you are "metabolic efficiency training", the truth is that most athletes (even the elite ones) still have a lot to gain from continuing to nail the basics and progressing on with the developmental process, than simply restricting carbohydrates around workouts or performing workouts in the fasted state (as these are the two ways that I hear of athletes performing "fat burning" workouts).

It isn't until you have maximized your fundamental athletic capabilities that you will need to search for and attempt that one ethically safe way to gain the competitive edge.

Perhaps at that time, metabolic efficiency training can be the choice method for achieving the 1% advantage over your competition.

BUT.....until then, you haven't yet reached the marginal gain status of your athletic career.

Until then, make sure your daily diet strategies do not reduce the effectiveness of your training and above all, do not sabotage your overall health.

If you do feel as if metabolic efficiency is necessary in your training, consult with a sport dietitian who is specializes in the area.

 If you consult with me on the topic, you better believe that I will dive deep into your lifestyle choices, training methods, sport nutrition practices, dietary patterns and relationship with food and the body to discuss the many ways that you are not getting the most out of your body as an athlete.

For the majority of athletes that I work with, the missing link as it relates to body composition struggles and nutrition issues in training and on race is not because athletes are not metabolically efficient but because there is a clear limiter in the daily diet or sport nutrition regime...most common reasons include; an unhealthy relationship with food and the body, not using sport nutrition products properly (timing/quantity), poor nutrient timing or consistently not planning healthy and balanced meals.

From my experience in working with athletes, I encourage you to get to the truths of your daily diet and training regime before assuming that working out in the fasted state is the missing link that when accomplished, will improve your health, improve your body composition or improve your performance.

Now is the perfect time to learn how to make great daily nutrition habits as you follow a well laid training regime to keep you consistently training throughout the holiday season. 


Nail your 2017 nutrition goals

There is a lot of information available to athletes on the topics of nutrition, specifically as it relates to how food can change your body composition, improve your health and boost your performance.

I think it is safe to assume that most athletes view food as a naturally safe way to boost athletic performance and the diet as a method of changing body composition.

But with so much information available to athletes, the topics of eating for health, eating for fuel, eating to change body composition and so forth, can make the simple topic of "diet for athlete" so confusing and overwhelming.

Due to information overload, I wouldn't be surprised if you are one of the many athletes who have explored (or tried) a dietary trend or fad at least once a year (likely around January) in an effort to get your diet under control in order to change body composition.

The interesting thing about a diet trend is the unique marketing of the dietary strategy which accurately identifies everything that you are doing wrong (insert you saying "this diet is exactly what I need!") and finds a sneaky way to convince you that this diet is the only way to fix your issues.

At Trimarni, we do not restrict food in any way.
We do not diet or jump on any hot sport nutrition trends or fads.
We apply research to real world settings but we always put our health before performance.

We eat a balanced diet every day of the year, we use sport nutrition products properly and we eat before and after our workouts.
Food has a positive role in our life and it enhances our performance and keeps us healthy.
There's no extreme method of eating (or not eating) and absolutely no food rules or off-limit food list.

Doesn't this sound peaceful and reassuring that this style of eating really does exist?

Sadly, you may still be searching for a diet plan.

If you want to create a sustainable style of eating, there's no better time than right now, when your training volume is low and you have extra time in your day to spend on your lifestyle habits, to focus on yourself and your own nutritional needs and to create a great relationship with food and the body.

As a qualified nutrition expert (Board Certified Sport Dietitian), it's important to me to remain a great nutrition role model to my coaching athletes but also to the public, as I know many athletes follow Trimarni and obtain services from Trimarni.

If you insist on changing your diet in 2017 without the help of a nutrition expert, I hope you find value in my latest Triathlete Magazine article (pg 56) as I share a few simple smart nutrition tips to kick start your nutritional success in 2017.