Essential Sports Nutrition


2016 Thanksgiving recap

With family, friends and food, I can't complain.

Our 2016 Thanksgiving was a great success and we hope you had a lovely holiday.

It's hard to believe that we are just days away from December which means that time is flying.
It's very common to count down days and rush the week but let's remember to always make the most out of every day. Life moves quickly!
Can you believe it's almost 2017????

We started off our Thanksgiving morning in downtown Greenville. We had a few Trimarnis racing the Trees Greenville 8K, including Karel and thousands of other runners. I just love seeing our Main street packed with active minded individuals and I just love how our community supports physical activity.
I passed on the race for no reason other than I didn't want to trash my legs with a hard, short effort as I am trying to be as consistent as possible with my running in this foundation phase. There will be plenty of hard efforts to come in the next few months.

So, I let speedy legs Karel battle it out with the young runners for 8 kilometers on a rolling hill course. 

Clearly, Karel is not slowing down with age but instead, he's getting faster! 

Great work Lukas an Thomas!

Any my hard working training partner Meredith. 

It wouldn't be like me to just sit on the sidelines and watch so I ran a few miles with Meredith and then waited for Karel to finish. With our warm-up and cool down, we ended up with around 9 miles, which was a great start to the day.

We returned home around 11am and enjoyed a late breakfast (eggs with leafy greens, cheese and tomatoes and 2 slices of fresh bread topped with butter and jam) and then got to cooking.

Karel made his Czech inspired purple cabbage dish  and I prepared a new recipe (which is very unlike me to actually follow a recipe!) which was actually very delish.
For anyone who has yet to appreciate the taste of raw Brussels Sprouts, I think you will enjoy this recipe.

After we prepared our dishes, my cousin Orin and I (and Campy) walked over to my mom's house (1 mile away) to hang out for a bit before our Thanksgiving feast was served around 4:30pm. Karel was so exhausted from his 29 minute effort that he had to rest for a little bit before joining the fam (apparently he was not feeling 20-ish years old like his competition after the race)

Our good friends/neighbors Joey and Tim joined us for dinner and it was a fantastic feast, filled with so much yummy food.
Yay for carbs (Karel and I are big fans!)

Campy was a great help in the kitchen as he kept the floor extra clean whenever anyone "accidentally" dropped something  on the floor.

Karel's plate included a little of everything (even sweet potatoes, which he usually doesn't like but Joey made an extra sweet dish with brown sugar pecan crumbles on top - what's not to love about that???).

With this being my 23rd Thanksgiving as a Vegetarian, I change up my Thanksgiving protein every now and then. I avoid the Tofurky and any factory made proteins and instead, just stick to real food options. This year, I did cottage cheese topped with cranberries - pretty good!
(I'm grateful to my family for always making stuffing out of the bird for me to enjoy, in addition to stuffing for the meat eaters).

We continued the tradition of Campy having his own Tday plate, filled with Turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes and a few pieces of bread from the stuffing.
This is a lot of food for my 12-lb furry child!

So good that Campy napped with a happy tummy all evening.

And for dessert, Pumpkin and Rhubarb pie from a local bakery in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (my aunt brought them for us to yum over).

Now that the Thanksgiving holiday is behind you, you still have the rest of the holiday season to tempt you with delicious and yummy food that is hard to resist.

A quick fix of skipping meals, avoiding carbohydrates, extreme exercise to burn calories, not eating fat, replacing meals with caffeinated energy drinks, taking weight loss pills/supplements or any other method to quickly regain control over your diet to offset overeating WILL NOT WORK!
Remember, results take time. Much more time than a few days of extreme changes.

But guess what?
You can still reach your body composition/weight goals and enjoy the holiday eats and treats! 
When your eating strategies are extreme, it will affect your overall quality of life, relationships with others, your energy/performance and/or your health. 
Stop the cycle of restricting and dieting after overeating.
Be ok with the occasional indulgences and oversized portions.

If you want to lose weight or change your body composition, you need to allow for weeks, if not months, to allow for slow, steady and sustainable change so that health is not compromised and so that you can be consistent with your training.
A few days of "off" eating won't affect your long term goals.
Consider what you do between those occasional days, as that is what helps you move closer to your health and performance goals. 

Need help to keep a healthy relationship with food and the body over the holiday season?
Let's work together.
Trimarni nutrition services


Surviving Thanksgiving as an athlete

For an athlete-in-training, there are many challenges around the holidays, especially when it comes to staying consistent with training and healthy eating. Your frustration is not well-understood by your non-athlete family members but your training buddies understand that a routine disruption disrupts your goals and makes it difficult to get back on track. 

So what's an athlete to do? 

Do you put your training on hold and say "oh well" to healthy eating, every time there is a disruption to your routine? 

Do you become stubborn with your ways and begin to remove the distractions from your life, even if it means pushing away your family and close friends....maybe even quitting your job, because it takes up a lot of your time and energy?

What's an athlete to do.

While it's not necessary to put your training on hold for an extended period of time or avoid your family in order to get in every minute of your prescribed workout, it's important that you see any disruption, like a holiday, as a great opportunity to enjoy a little downtown and change up your normal routine. 

Here are a few tips to make the most out of your Thanksgiving break. 


1. Create a better internal dialogue in your head when you are eating, especially as it relates to your body and food. 
2. Trust your body. Tune into your true signals of hunger and satisfaction as a way to guide you through your holiday feast. 
3. Treat yourself to family, don't make the holidays just about food. Enjoy your time around your loved ones or if you are alone, call up an old friend or volunteer and help out those in need. 
4. Slow down and taste your food. Appreciate the aroma, presentation, flavor and texture of your food - real food and store bought. Share a story if a dish reminds you of something happy. 
5. Love what you eat. The first few bites of anything should always taste amazing. If you don't love it, don't eat it. 


1. Get it done early, but not too early. Enjoy waking up without an alarm but if you can squeeze in a workout before your day gets busy, you'll find yourself energized and you won't have to deal with the guilt that comes with removing yourself from family time, just to train. 

2. Loosen up. It's ok if you have to modify a set or reduce the volume. Heck, skip a workout if you want to! Prioritize the workouts that give you the most payback for your investment at this phase of training. A few modified workouts over the holidays will not affect your race performance in September. 
3. Keep training fun. Participate in a Turkey Trot, exercise with your kids, go for a hike or set up a local group workout. Do something each day that is good for your mind and body. 
4. Be efficient with your time. Indoor workouts provide a great bang for your buck as you can get in a quality workout, with minimal distractions. 
5. Communicate. Now more than ever is the time to communicate with your family. You may be surprised that if you tell your family/kids on Wednesday, that on Friday you will be gone from 8:30-10:30 for a workout, they won't care about your absence. But if you tell them last minute, they may be upset that you are suddenly leaving them, which then leaves you with guilt, if you get in your workout. 


1. Don't skip meals throughout the day. Excessively restricting calories or an entire food group (ex. carbohydrates) will likely lead to overeating at your upcoming feast. Instead, focus on small meals throughout the day, eating every few hours. Prioritize higher fiber, natural food options like fruits and veggies at your meals. Don't forget to stay hydrated - with water, of course. 
2. Do not go into your big meal with a starving belly. Plan a healthy snack around 45-60 minutes before your meal. Options like apple slices and pistachios, deli meat and lettuce wraps, celery sticks with cheese or a few almonds with figs should take the edge off so you don't eat with your eyes when serving yourself. 
3. Fuel your workout. Seeing that there is a good chance that you will workout in the morning, restricting calories around/during your workout is not a permissible strategy to indulge (or to eat more calories) at your upcoming feast. It can actually backfire on you as you will likely be so famished by meal time, that you may eat beyond a feeling of fullness - stuffed and very uncomfortable. Treat your workout like any other day. Fuel smart and hydrate well. And be sure to eat a healthy breakfast after your workout (or Turkey Trot). 
4. Choose wisely. Create a healthy plate of a little of everything. 
5. Indulge wisely. You are not forced to eat everything at your feast but you are allowed to indulge. Choose your favorites and say "no thank you" to the unappealing or familiar options. Share, split and limit yourself to just one. 

It's very easy for athletes to remain rigid around the holidays for a change in the normal routine (training or eating) can bring anxiety or a feeling of loss of control. 

In the big picture, a few days away from your normal routine may be a good thing. Don't stress and enjoy yourself. The holidays are a wonderful time to give thanks to your body, to your friends and to your family.
Be sure to tell those around you how much you appreciate them for putting up with you.....I mean, supporting you, throughout the year.

Happy Thanksgiving!
Don't forget to yum!


Off-season athletic self-identity

As a person, you have many roles in life and with each role comes an identity.
A mother, a father, a sibling, a teacher, a student, an engineer, a nurse, a doggy parent.......

In the off-season, you lose a very important identity of yourself and that is one of being an athlete.

You feel a great purpose in life when you are an athlete, even as a mom, dad, employee, etc.

When you were training for your key races in 2016, you didn't tell people that you enjoy running, you enjoy biking or enjoy triathlons but instead, you called yourself a runner or a triathlete. You owned it with confidence (and maybe even a secret fist pump too). 

I AM an athlete.

This is the title you have carried with you for the past 10+ months, alongside being a mom, dad, employee, volunteer, caretaker, etc.

Having a strong athletic identity is what makes athletes great. 

With great athletic self-identity often comes high self-esteem, commitment, discipline and motivation. 
Athletic self identity can also be silent, as it's not a requirement to have a strong athletic identity and be expressive on social media. Many athletes are very confident in their athletic abilities but are not vocally expressive about their athletic journey to others.

But now, all of a sudden, your title feels removed because you are no longer training for an event and you are forced to take time away from your sport in the off-season. 

And suddenly, you don't know yourself.
Who am I?

No alarm clock to set, no incentive for healthy eating, no workouts to crush, no reward food, no sweaty pictures to share on social media, no 3+ hour workout to relieve it even possible to function in life? 

For so long, all of your routines, actions, beliefs, feelings and emotions were so heavily tied to your journey as an athlete and now you struggle with how you see yourself. Even worse, you may not be comfortable with yourself when you are seen by others. 

Even though you know you need an off-season and you recognize that you (and your family/friends) have made many sacrifices and you have some serious supportive debt to pay to your loved ones, it can be extremely challenging to feel stripped of your previous athletic identity, specifically as it relates to your body image.

As an athlete, the more time you commit to your sport, the more it becomes an extension of who you are. But more so, it becomes an outlet (or coping method) for negative feelings or emotions, as well as a strategy to help manage your weight or to give you flexibility (and maybe some freedom) with your food choices.

As an athlete, you spend many months working on yourself to improve your performance but you may also spend a considerable amount of time working on changing your body. While it's an assumption that every athlete is 100% focused only on performance, it can't be overlooked that many athletes spend a considerable amount of physical and psychological resources, fixating on body composition or athletic appearance.

The off-season presents itself as a vulnerable time for athletes because it removes the outlet of exercise and burning calories and athletes may begin to over-evaluate appearance.

This may result in body shame, unhealthy body comparisons, body image concerns and body dissatisfaction.

Whereas once your exercise and nutrition actions and behaviors were protected by your "athlete in training" status, no longer do you feel safe with this uncomfortable non-athlete routine.

Consequently, you may find yourself searching for or partaking in unhealthy behaviors, such as dieting, to control weight. 

Seeing that your sport can be a method of control, it's no surprise that so many athletes struggle mentally (more than physically) in the off-season as it relates to body composition.

Perhaps this is why so many athletes admittedly don't even take an off-season. 

During the off-season, I want to remind you that your self-identity is not taken away from you and never is your athletic worthiness defined by a number on a scale or your appearance.

Whether you have a planned off-season, you are injured, you are growing your family, you had a dramatic life change (work/move) or you are putting your sport on hold for an extended period of time, you are still an athlete. Your body is still amazing.

Your athlete status has taught you a lot, like great time management skills, good coping skills for stressful and anxious experiences, camaraderie and compassion. You don't become a better human being based on the body composition you achieved as an athlete.

As you temporarily remove yourself from your athletic self-identity for a planned or indefinite amount of time, you are provided with a valuable opportunity to get to know yourself, without judgement. 

Not feeling or being an athlete can be a good thing, if you let it be. 

The off-season is necessary and vital to your next season success as it's not only a time to let your mind and body relax and rejuvenate but it helps you get to the root of many underlying body, nutrition and exercise related thoughts and issues that may have been overlooked due to your "athlete in training status".

An off-season becomes meaningful when you can reflect on previous actions and behaviors that maybe, were not so performance or health enhancing but you saw them as a necessity due to your athletic self identity. 

Instead of just taking a break from training, work on yourself by breaking some old habits that were masked by your "dedication" to training and learn new strategies for healthy eating and exercising, which are not so extreme.
The off-season is a great time to explore other interests that are completely separate from your athletic lifestyle. Search for other things in your life that give you pleasure, a feeling of accomplishment and value.
It can be a struggle to commit to not training for a few weeks but your sport didn't go away. It's still there and it will always be there for you to return back to.

By successfully navigate your thoughts, actions and emotions throughout your off-season, you may identify that you have many more qualities than you were giving yourself credit for and you can improve your self-awareness as it relates to performance and health enhancing behaviors.

Oddly enough, the off-season (or a break in training) may be the only time when you actually give yourself permission to work on yourself. Don't miss this prime opportunity to start paving the path to athletic success in 2017.

If you feel your self-identity or self-awareness is a constant limiter for you as an athlete, reach out to a clinical sport psychologist for help. A trained professional can help you get to the root of your thoughts, behaviors and actions, hold you accountable to working on yourself and can guide you to make better decisions which can improve your health, fitness and mental well-being as an athlete.


To fuel or not to fuel?


The off-season/foundation phase presents itself with a unique opportunity in your season where training volume and intensity is relatively low and thus, you don't expend a great amount of calories. This is a perfect time to break away from relying on engineered sport nutrition products to get you through your workouts and to see your daily diet as the fuel for your workouts.
In other words, sport nutrition will play a very small role in your training routine. 

However, I feel this is where many athletes eat and train with confusion.

I'm sure you have been told that you don't need to eat before a workout in the off-season/foundation phase or you should avoid all sport nutrition during workouts, to burn more fat, in the off-season/foundation phase.

While there's scientific research to support that working out fasted has an extra metabolic response where you metabolize more fat, improve insulin sensitivity and increase lean muscle mass, it's important to remember that scientific research is great for providing results but not every research study may apply to you.

As an athlete, your best performance enhancement is having consistently great workouts where the body is not limited in energy but also being able to maintain a healthy diet, all day, every day.

There are several types of athletes who I feel will receive no benefit from fasted workouts as they can actually cause a cascade of negative health and performance issues.

Do you/Are you....
-Experience hypoglycemia during a workout
-Overcoming an eating disorder
-Struggling with disordered eating
-Struggling with body image issues
-Overeat later in the day

-Experience great carb cravings later in the day
-Fast for reward food/overindulging after a workout
-Have never trained the gut to tolerate food before the workout
-A new athlete who is trying to develop consistent training and healthy eating patterns
-Struggle to get through workout without feeling lightheaded/dizzy/moody/low energy
-Experience a blackout/foggy sensation during workouts
-Get sick easily (weak immune system) or get injured easily (fragile body)
-Experience great hunger during a workout
-Diabetic athlete
-Health issues (organs, bones, heart, brain, etc.)
-You've tried it before and you feel you perform better and make better food choices when you aren't fasted

Sadly, many athletes in the above category are brainwashed to believe that they must perform fasted workouts to become more fat adapted and thus all symptoms will improve, paces will drop, heart rate will be more controlled and fat will melt off the body. And, if athletes are still feeling issues by performing a workout fasted, they aren't doing it right, they need to give it more time or it's proof that they are a horrible fat burner.

So what do you do if you are one of the above types of athletes I listed and you need to eat before a workout and maybe even take in a little extra energy during your workout?

Will it ruin all of your hopes and dreams for your 2017 season if you chew on a few energy chews during a run or sip on a 100 calorie sport drink during a 90 minute bike ride?

Believe it or not but Karel and I eat before all of our workouts, 365 days a year.
We also continue to use engineered sport nutrition products for our longer (60+ min) workouts (or intense short workouts), throughout our entire season. 

Does this make us unhealthy?
Are we inefficient at burning fat?
Are we overlooking the best way to take our performance to that next level?

Ironically, we don't bonk in workouts or in races, we don't experience GI issues in training or on race day, we never get sick, we don't overeat, we have great consistency in our diet, we have never had a stress fracture and we have great consistency in our training.
I'd say we are doing something right and that's because we have figured out what works best for us. We are one of those athletes in my above list, in that we have better workouts when we eat before our workouts.

I'm not anti-fasted workouts but I believe that it's not for every athlete and certainly, it's most appropriate to apply in the off-season/foundation phase for only the easy workouts.

NEVER take in calories before or during a workout less than 90 minutes!!!!
I often shake my head when I read statements like this, from coaches and nutrition experts to never ever take in calories before or during workouts less than 90 minutes - "you simply don't need them", says the expert. 

You certainly do not need the same calorie intake before and during your workouts in the foundation phase/off-season as you would peak season (as that is the basis of periodizing your sport nutrition) but statements like this confuse athletes because there could be times during your off-season when it would be of value to take in calories during the workout AND you could be an athlete where fasted workouts will be of no benefit to your body right now in your development.

I understand that the topic is confusing, especially if you are looking to the off-season to change your body composition or to break yourself from a long season of sugary sweet sport nutrition concoctions and there's so much talk on metabolic efficiency.

But you are in control of your body. I say this with sincerity because whatever fuel strategy you choose in the foundation phase, it should help you move closer to your performance goals. And that means training consistently and eating well, on a daily basis.
Never should you "not fuel" for the sake of losing weight or because someone told you not to fuel. If you are an athlete and you want to get the most out of your body, even in the early phase of training, consider using food to help you have great workouts and to encourage healthy eating throughout the day.

Although this blog post started as an off-season topic, I find this "fuel smart" topic more relevant for the Foundation phase or your "post season/first phase" of training as this is often the time of training when you are easing back into structured training, your workouts are specific, you can start training your gut to tolerate food before and during workouts, you need to stay healthy to stay consistent and your focus is on getting stronger and fine-tuning the basics before you next more intense phase of training. 


picture source
The big takeaway from this blog is to not let scientific research, a nutrition expert or an article tell you what you should or shouldn't do as it relates to nourishing or fueling your body.
While there are many sport nutrition recommendations available, it is important that you listen to your body and understand your own body signals, to figure out what works best for you.
Also, be mindful that a past version of you may be different than a new version of you. So if you are hanging on to old nutrition strategies, you may need a nutrition professional to help you figure out your new/different metabolic needs.

Even if someone tells you that you don't need to fuel before and during a workout, it's OK if you decide to go against the crowd and do what works best for you.
As an athlete, you need to make choices that keep you healthy and you move you closer to your health and performance goals.
If you are still confused on fueling in the foundation phase/off-season, let's work together.
By reviewing your current training and eating strategies, we can quickly figure out which workouts require fuel during and how much to eat before and after workouts.

Trimarni Nutrition Consult