Essential Sports Nutrition


Choose Anti-Diet in 2018

You've probably noticed the sudden increase of ads and commercials promoting certain diet products and plans to help you lose weight and get healthy in 2018. As a dietitian who specializes in endurance sports, I carefully equip and brace myself for the bombardment of diet/nutrition/wellness information as the diet industry does an exceptional job to guilt you into a style of eating that claims to change your life and help you finally reach your weight loss goals or improve your health. But let's get about 18-30 days, most people have wasted a few weeks of life, all to eventually return back to old lifestlye habits.

I'm always amazed with the attention that people place on "healthy eating," making it so complicated and extreme. If you are confused as to the "best" way to eat
, there's a good chance that you are searching for the best way to get back on track with healthy eating after all of the holiday indulging.

There's absolutely nothing wrong with healthy eating and I 100% encourage and support nourishing your body with a wide range of vitamins and minerals in an effort to reduce risk for disease, optimize health and to keep the body at a healthy body composition. 

But as it relates to the methods for healthy eating, there's no one "best" approach. Sure, there's a lot of comfort and security in joining a dietary movement (ex. Paleo, whole-30, detox, vegan) especially if you find it terrifying to make nutrition decisions on your own. And with so much food freedom and uncertainty, there's great safety when you have to conform to rules and have an army of other like-minded dietary members to support and to encourage you when you feel weak and vulnerable. 

Sure, you want to get rid of your sugar cravings and eat more real food and perhaps lose some weight and improve your fitness but for many people (especially those who naturally live with an obsessive and additive personality), you may find it easy to overdo things when it comes to changing your diet, wanting to be perfect with your diet and trying to control everything in your environment in an effort to eat healthy and to lose weight.

Healthy eating does not and should not be all or nothing. It should not be extreme. Your diet should never bring you anxiety, fear or guilt. And certainly, healthy eating should not destroy your health and quality of life.

It's easy to get sucked into the beauty of food pictures on the internet alongside perfectly sculpted bodies, posing half naked after a sweaty workout, all in an effort to make you believe that the person behind those pictures (or blog post) is healthy and you should eat like so-and-so.

We must remember that every person is on his/her own individual quest to become healthier and the chapters of your life book do not have to look like the perfectly edited chapters of the book of someone else. Although similar methods and ideologies may work for the masses, like eat more real food and cook more at home, ultimately, you are on your own nutrition journey and you don't need a rule book or off limit food list in an effort to succeed. 

Consider this...

To one person, healthy eating may include making homemade almond milk, purchasing eggs and meat from a local farmer and picking produce from the at-home garden.

To another person, healthy eating may include not skipping breakfast, eating a serving or two of vegetables each day and learning how to cook a whole grain, like quinoa or barley....for the very first time.

And then there are individuals who are seeking a healthier diet by learning how to not stress/emotional eat, trying to reduce binge eating and working through strong and destructive thoughts about food and the body. 

Perhaps healthy eating means making changes in your diet so that cancer doesn't return for a second time. Or, maybe healthy eating means finally admitting that you have been struggling with disordered eating or an eating disorder and after so many years trying to control your weight, health or performance, you want to get help so you can start living your life by not feeling controlled by food.

Healthy eating is different for everyone. Living a healthy life should not require you to do anything extreme. If you are considering taking an extreme dietary approach to kick start the New Year, I strongly encourage you to not waste your time, money and energy following an eating plan that is targeted to the masses.

In 2018, I encourage you to pledge NO DIETING.

It's important to eat healthy but not at the cost of your health and quality of life. Yes, you will need to make changes in your lifestyle and you may feel overwhelmed. But change doesn't have to be extreme. I strongly advise to skip the diet plan or 30-day challenge and start focusing on creating new habits in your life, one small change at a time.
If you choose anti-diet in 2018, here are some tips to help you kick-start your new healthy eating strategies in the New Year: 
  1. Create a realistic plan for the day, before it happens. What will you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner and for snacks? Don't get too ambitious as small changes make for long lasting results. When you have a plan for yourself, you will find it easier follow through and reflect on what went well and what didn't go as planned (and why).
  2. Don't bring a diet mentality (or off limit food list) to your New Year eating strategies. Allow for flexibility and avoid making food choices with an all-or-nothing approach. Use your best knowledge to make educated food choices as to the most practical food swaps to help you move toward a more real food, balanced diet.
  3. Make the time, don't hope for the time. Reorganize your life and dedicate 30 minutes a day to food prep/cooking. The more food that you have prepped, cooked and readily available, the easier it is to follow through with your healthy eating plan.
  4. Take a social media break. If you follow a lot of health-related blogs/twitter/instagram/facebook accounts, you may need a social media detox from the people/sites that are making you feel depressed or not good enough. Remember, people selectively post what they want others to see so as you begin your new journey, it may work against you to click on a site for inspiration, only to feel like you can't keep up with the successes of others. Plus, social media take time out of your day when you could be spending that time on yourself.
  5. Don't make eating complicated, time consuming or difficult.  Sure, at the beginning of any journey, change is tough and you will have questions but eventually, you should find that your diet easily fits into your life because it supports your life and doesn't control your life. A sustainable healthy diet shouldn't require an excessive amount of energy, thought and meticulous planning.
  6. People thrive off rules because with rules, you eliminate options and choices. A healthy diet should not require iron-willpower or an off-limit food list.
  7. Be kind to your body. If body composition modification is a desired goal to enhance performance or to improve health, the methods should not be strict or extreme. You should allow for gradual weight loss (not a quick fix), without extreme food restrictions, excessive exercising, unsafe behaviors (starving, purging, laxatives) or use of weight loss or performance-enhancing supplements. A health-conscious person cares about his/her body. Your diet shouldn't give you anxiety and your body image shouldn't make you feel frustrated or upset.

    Feel free to share and pass along in an effort to encourage others to not diet in 2018. 


Homemade waffles

I love waffles.....And pancakes.....And french toast.

I love breakfast foods.

As a lifelong swimmer, my morning would typically start very very early. I can remember many alarms being set for around 4:15-4:30am as I would need to make my way to the swimming pool for 5:00 or 5:30 am swim practice. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year....for about ten years in a row, I spent many of mornings in a dark, cold pool, following the black line for an hour or two in the morning, only to do it again in the afternoon.

You'd think that I'd be burnt out from swimming but I still love to swim. Although now I prefer a slightly later start for my swim workouts, shorter workouts (3000-4000 yards versus 7000+ yards) and water temperature around 80-82 degrees versus 78-80 degrees.

One of my favorite parts about my morning swim practice was the meal that came after the workout. With my appetite building as the yards went by, I couldn't wait to devour food (and lots of it) as soon as I returned home from the workout. Although back in my younger days I didn't care about ingredients and the nutritional value of what I was putting into my body as long as it was filled with carbs, I understand the importance of feeding my body with real food ingredients, with the right composition of macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates) as much as possible. I'm not strict or obsessive with my diet but I do try to make the effort to eat real food as much as possible without being extreme or restrictive. And I despise food rules!

I was so excited to receive a waffle maker for the holiday as I love my daily morning waffle as my typical pre-workout snack. I spend a few dollars every week on waffles and I always tell Karel that it would be so much better if I could make my own waffles (like I do with my homemade pancakes). The only thing that was missing was a waffle maker but now that issue is solved thanks to Karel and I can make homemade waffles anytime I want!
I quickly went right to work with my first batch of waffles and they came out great. Cost effective, natural, wholesome and delicious. Stay tuned because I am so excited to try out more recipes and share them all with you.


Holiday traditions - Czech style

The holidays are a special time of the year because every family has its own special traditional celebration. And when you only celebrate a tradition once a year, you look forward to it year after year. Because traditions are important, there's a good chance that you spend the necessary time and effort on the traditions that make the holiday extra special for you and your family/friends. 

Consider your favorite movie, song, meal, dessert or game that you always look forward to on your favorite holiday. When something occurs only once a year, on a very special occasion, it's much more enjoyed compared to taking part in that tradition week after week, month after month. Let's not forget about the meaning behind the rituals, traditions and celebrations that have been in your family for longer than you can remember. 

If you are someone who gets overwhelmed and annoyed with a holiday that is heavily commercialized, consider exploring (or better yet, celebrating), a holiday with someone who is from another culture or nation. While you don't need to stop your own traditions, embracing a new culture can be an educational, enriching and inspiring part of life. 

As you may know, Karel is from Czech Republic and all of his family lives in Czech Republic. It's been 17 years since Karel has celebrated Christmas with his family. For the past eleven years, Karel has shared his holiday traditions with me - which is very important to me as I love learning about the rich customs, traditions and celebrations that take place in other cultures.

Here are a few of the Czech Christmas traditions (from this link):

During the evening of the 5th December (St. Nicholas Eve), children are very excited and watch for St. Nicholas (Svatý Mikuláš) to arrive. He normally is accompanied by one or more angels and one or more devils. He asks the children if they've been good all year and also asks them to sing a song or recite a poem, and gives them a basket of presents, often containing chocolate and fruit. If you've been naughty, the devil might give you a lump of coal. St Nicholas' Day is a very separate holiday than Christmas.

In the Czech language Happy/Merry Christmas is 'Veselé Vánoce'

The main Christmas celebrations are on Christmas Eve. Some people fast during Christmas Eve in the hope that they will see a vision of 'the golden pig' appear on the wall before dinner! This is meant to be a sign of good luck! (Karel's family didn't do this).

The Czech traditional Christmas dinner is eaten during the evening of Christmas Eve. The meal often consists of fish soup (made of carp), and fried carp with potato salad. (We modify this meal with tempeh for me and trout for Karel. Karel always makes his famous potato salad, where the only cooked vegetable is the potatoes. Everything else is raw. It tastes incredibly good!). 

Ježíšek 'Little Jesus' (the Czech version of Christkindl) brings presents during the Christmas Eve dinner and leaves them under the Christmas Tree. Czech children have their dinner in a different from where the tree is located. When they hear the bell ring (usually after the children have finished eating their main meal but when they are still at the table), that means that Ježíšek had been and has left their presents under the tree. The presents are normally opened right after dinner. (The Christmas tree was never purchased or decorated until Christmas eve and he never saw the tree until the bell rang, which told Karel that "Little Jesus" came. The tree stayed up until the New Year.).

During the holiday season apples are used a lot by Czech people to predict the future. After Christmas dinner, every person is given a apple which they cut in half from the stem down and they study the shape that the seeds inside show. If the seeds appear in a star shape, it means that health, happiness and unity is predicted for the new year. But if it’s shaped like a four-pointed cross that means bad luck will be brought to someone at the table and someone will get sick or even die. (We have never done this but Karel told me about this tradition).

We hope you enjoyed your holiday traditions!