Essential Sports Nutrition


The Ultimate Homemade Meatless Black Bean Burger

In our latest free weekly newsletter, we gave the spotlight to the underappreciated veggie burger. To read the newsletter click HERE. To subscribe, click HERE.

I have to give all credit to my assistant and friend Joey Mock RD, LD, CLT for giving so much energy to making this delicious veggie burger. It was certainly a labor of love but after one bite, it was well worth the time. If you are ready to make the most delicious homemade meatless burger you have ever tasted, here's the recipe.
The Ultimate Meatless Black Bean Burger

(a labor of love)

By Joey Mock, RD, LD, CLT
This restaurant quality meaty Meatless Black Bean Burger recipe is mouthwatering deliciousness. From the flavor to the texture, you may even find that the beef eaters in your life refrain from asking “where’s the beef?” when sinking their teeth into this burger. To give you a heads-up, this recipe is quite the labor of love to prepare however, with a little planning and batch preparation, it is well worth the effort. The recipe makes 6 meal sized burgers. To make your efforts worthwhile, I would suggest making a double (or even triple) batch and freezing the extra patties for later use. Other time saving tips: purchase pre-shredded/sliced/minced ingredients like mushrooms, cheese, and garlic (or shred, slice, chop, grate, or mince ingredients ahead of time and refrigerate until ready to use); roast your tofu, mushrooms, beans, and beets ahead of time (maybe even incorporate extras to have as a side for another meal and then use the leftovers in this recipe); and cook extra brown rice at another meal and refrigerate the leftovers to use in this recipe.


7 ounces extra-firm tofu, drained
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces fresh mushrooms (white or portobello), washed, trimmed and sliced
¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper, to taste
1 (~15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 medium to large sized beet, peeled and coarsely grated
¾ cup almonds
⅓ cup panko bread crumbs
⅓ cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 teaspoons tamari or soy sauce
2 green onions, sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾  teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
½ cup cooked brown rice

  1. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice tofu into ¼-inch thick slabs and pat dry with paper towel. Brush both sides of tofu with olive oil and arrange on one half of a rimmed baking sheet. Spread mushrooms on the other half of the baking sheet and toss with 2 teaspoons olive oil and salt and pepper.
  3. On a second rimmed baking sheet, toss beans and grated beet with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt, and pepper and spread the mixture evenly on baking sheet.
  4. Transfer both baking sheets to the oven. Roast tofu and mushrooms until golden and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 22-25 minutes. Roast bean-beet mixture, tossing occasionally, until beans begin to split and beets are tender and golden, about 15 minutes. Let everything cool.
  5. Place nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground. Add cooled tofu, mushrooms, bean-beet mixture, panko, cheese, eggs, mayonnaise, tamari or soy sauce, green onions, garlic, paprika, and salt. Pulse until ingredients are just combined. Pulse in rice to achieve a small chunky texture (do not overprocess to a smooth mixture). Scrape processed mixture into a bowl and chill for at least 30 minutes.
  6. Divide the chilled mixture into 6 equal portions and form each portion into a patty about 1 inch thick. Return to the fridge until ready to grill or freeze the burger patties for later use.
  7. Heat a grill over medium heat. Cook burgers until they are seared on both sides and firm when you press on them, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Alternatively, you can cook these in a skillet over medium heat.


How to avoid a painful side-stitch

Over the past few weeks, I've had several athletes reach out regarding painful side-stitches while running and if they are nutrition related. Well, the answer is yes and no. I thought it would be helpful to go into the details behind the dreaded side-stitch and how to minimize the chances of one occurring while you are exercising (primarily running). 

What is a side-stitch? 
Also known as ETAP (Exercise-related transient abdominal pain), a side-stitch is a localized pain, typically sharp or stabbing, that occurs in any region of the abdomen but typically on the right quadrant of the abdomen. Most athletes experience side-stitches during running and the intense pain typically resides when at rest. Athletes of all fitness levels experience side-stitches, however, fitter (more trained) athletes may experience them less frequently. 

What causes a side-stitch? 
That's a good question! Research is unclear of the exact mechanism that causes a side-stitch, however, a few things may contribute to its occurrence: 
  • Diaphragm ischemia (decrease oxygen supply to diaphragm)
  • Pressure or stress on the visceral ligaments that attach abdominal organs to the diaphragm
  • Abdominal musculature cramping
  • Irritation of the parietal peritoneum (the portion that lines the abdominal and pelvic cavities)
  • Posture 
  • Jostled organs
  • Rapid or short breathing
  • Weak core
How to quickly reduce or eliminate the pain when experiencing a side-stitch? 
  • If the stitch is not severe, it's ok to keep running. Try to pair your gait with your breathing so that you exhale when your left foot hits the ground. If exhaling when the right foot strikes, the liver is dropping and the diaphragm is rising with exhalation, which may stress the ligaments, causing pain. This may prevent the stitch from getting worse. 
  • Slow down your pace, walk or stop completely. Take the time you need to massage the stitch, take deep inhales and exhales (balloon breathing) and try slightly bending over and tightening abdominal muscles.  
  • Pursed lip breathing may reduce the pain of the stitch. 
Tips to avoid or minimize a side-stitch from occurring: 

  1. Sport nutrition - Drinking large amounts of fluids (at once or per hour) or consuming high carbohydrate content (hypertonic) drinks (or food) may stress the visceral ligaments due to increased gastric mass. Drinking in small, frequent intervals (ex. 4-5 sips every 10 minutes) and using a sport drink with a lower (iso or hypotonic) carbohydrate content may increase gastric emptying, absorb faster and reduce weight in the gut.
  2. Pre-workout nutrition - Avoid eating a high fat/fiber meal in the 3 hours before exercise as it takes longer to empty from the gut. Avoid eating quickly or eating too much food too close to your workout (ex. 20 min before).
  3. Proper breathing - Respiration plays a huge role in reducing stitch pain. Instead of shallow upper chest breathing, inhale and exhale as if you are blowing up a balloon. This is very important when you start running (ex. off the bike in a triathlon or in the first few miles of a running race) as well as in the later miles of running when you try to pick up the intensity. It's also recommended to avoid straw-based hydration systems (ex. bike) which require "sucking" in fluid which can cause excessive air swallowing.
  4. Psychological factors - Stress, nerves and anxiety may increase the risk of abdominal pain and GI issues. To reduce sympathetic activity, focus on muscle relaxation and mental skill techniques.
  5. Stay well-hydrated (but not overhydrated) - During intense or long-duration activities, blood flow to the gut and diaphragm is reduced so that blood can go to the working muscles (especially in the heat). This can cause pain in the abdomen area. It's important to have a hydration protocol that's easy to apply and implement when training (ex. wearing a hydration belt/pack).Remember, staying hydrated doesn't simply mean drinking a sport drink when you feel thirsty but taking action to prevent dehydration during workouts and also doing a great job of proper hydration in the hours and days before and after your workouts.
  6. Warm-up - Take your time when you run. Get your breathing and form controlled before you try to increase the effort.
  7. Biomechanics - Running causes intestinal jarring so it would be wise to strengthen your diaphragm and abdominal muscles to help you run more efficiently and to reduce the jostling of organs. Focus on running light and fluid and when form falls apart, don't be afraid to stop, reset the body and mind (neuromuscular control) to help you keep running with good form. If you find that you experience side-stitches in the later miles of training/racing, this could be a result of fatigue and form falling apart (requiring more effort and heavier breathing to move yourself forward).
If you experience abdominal pain at rest, consult with your doctor as there may be an underlying issue going on that needs immediate attention.



Calling all beginner triathletes!

I remember my very first triathlon like it was yesterday. I saw a flyer on the Lexington, KY YMCA wall, outside of the classroom where I taught spin classes. As a life-long competitive swimmer who recently transitioned to cross-country running (to give my back a break from all the swimming), I was intrigued by this 3-sport event because it was a new challenge for me to conquer. I was more excited than intimated but I had one main concern - I didn't own a bike. Luckily, my 21st birthday was approaching so I did what any 21-year old would do...I asked for bike from my parents so I could compete in my first triathlon. With less than a week before the event, I rode my shiny new hybrid bicycle a few times in my neighborhood and somehow I convinced myself that I was ready for my first ever triathlon. My dad traveled with me to watch and I had so much fun ....even though I had no idea what I was doing. Look at me so focused and determined (and a little bit scared on a bicycle)!

While my skills, fitness and knowledge of the sport has grown tremendously over the past 15 years, one thing has continued to remain the same...... I do this sport because I love it. No one is making me be a triathlete and I don't feel pressure from society to keep my triathlete-title. If I didn't truly love the sport, I'd find another mode of activity to keep me healthy and fit. Triathlon has become part of my lifestyle and it's a big part of who I am and I don't feel guilty or bad about saying that. Although a somewhat time-consuming and expensive hobby, triathlon has become an important component of my life - mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. I don't consider it an obsession but a passion of mine. When I met Karel in 2006, he was not a triathlete. I never asked him to give up his love for road cycling in order to swimbikerun but it was a choice that he made in 2012 to give triathlon a go. You can read his first triathlon race report here. While swimming was an immediate challenge for him, he also enjoyed having a new challenge as something to motivate him on a daily basis. Today, he says he enjoys racing triathlon more than bike racing because he enjoys the 3-sport lifestyle and even as he gets older, he can still feel/see himself getting better (which keeps him motivated to keep "tri"ing).

Karel after his first triathlon. 

Inevitably, we will all have to do things that we don't want to do in life or that we aren't good at. Embracing a challenge is a skill that every human being needs to survive. Triathlon serves as an excellent platform to build confidence and self-esteem, to learn the art of good time-management, patience and discipline and to step outside of your comfort zone. I can't imagine my life without triathlon for it has taught me so much about myself, has allowed me to travel to beautiful places, I've met so many inspiring and motivating people through the sport and it's been an enriching way to improve my quality of life. It's been an exciting journey over the past 12+ years. Until my joy for training and racing goes away, I plan to continue to pursue this hobby because it's a lifestyle that brings me great value in many different areas of my life. Realizing that I could spend my money, time and energy on many other things/hobby's, I enjoy investing into triathlon for it gives me so much in return. For me personally, I never felt that I had to "buy" myself into the sport. I have always spent my money on what I felt was most practical and reasonable for me in each stage of my development.

To help the triathlon industry grow the sport of triathlon, Time to Tri is a new initiative to help and support athletes as they train for and compete in their first race. The initiative is a joint effort between USA Triathlon and Ironman with the goal to  increase triathlon participation by 100,000 nationwide by the end of 2020.

I was selected by Ironman to help kick-off this effort and pilot the program and I couldn't be more excited to help grow the sport. Although I specialize in coaching endurance triathletes, I want to help others get more involved in the sport and that means encouraging beginner triathletes to train for a sprint distance triathlon. Knowing there are lots of questions and concerns when training for a triathlon, don't hesitate to reach out to me via email. For prospective triathletes, you can visit to fill out the form to receive a free 8-week sprint triathlon plan. You can also use this website to access great tips and information to help you feel less overwhelmed about your upcoming triathlon journey.

Here are my top ten tips for getting involved in the sport of triathlon:
  1. Get involved with a triathlon club or your local triathlon community for support, education, developing friendships and accountability
  2. Don't rush your journey. Give yourself at least 12-16 weeks to consistently train for your first triathlon and don't feel you need to step up to a longer distance until you feel you have the skills, time and strength to add more volume and intensity into your training.
  3. Invest money into the areas that will help you stay healthy as a triathlete. Examples include a professional bike fit, a consult with a sport dietitian, a strength coach/PT and an appropriate training plan (or coach). Avoid spending money on supplements, gear/equipment or pricey items that are marketed to help you get fit or fast.
  4. Expand your racing resume by participating in different events, such as running races (ex. 5K-10K), cycling events, open water swims, aquabike, duathlon, trail running, etc. Not only will you gain new skills but you'll learn more about yourself in a racing environment. No training session compares to the nerves and excitement that you will experience on race day.
  5. Don't be a cardio junkie. Incorporate strength training into your triathlon training plan to help you build a strong and resilient body to help reduce the risk for injury. Also make sure to include mobility work and focus on proper recovery between training sessions.
  6. Create good lifestyle habits to support your triathlon lifestyle. If you begin to sacrifice sleep or proper nutrition/fueling in an effort to train more or squeeze in workouts into your busy life, you are no longer making smart choices to help you make positive training adaptations.
  7. Master your skills and build resilience before trying to get faster. This will help reduce your risk for injury, sickness and burnout. For example, learn how to ride your bike, change your gears, manage the terrain and feel comfortable on two wheels for if you lack the skills and confidence to ride your bike well, no amount of indoor training will help you ride faster, stronger or better on race day.
  8. Incorporate open water swimming (in a group environment with a trained coach who specializes in open water swimming) to help you minimize the anxiety and fears of swimming in open water. I suggest to listen to the Tower26 podcast to help with your swim skill development.
  9. Focus on quality not quantity training. There is no magic number of hours you need to train per week (or day) to prepare for a triathlon. Make the most of the time that you can give to training so that you can minimize the times you need to make sacrifices in order to train more/harder.
  10. Involve your family in your workouts, plan races that are spectator friendly and always communicate with your family so they understand your new triathlon lifestyle demands/requirements. This positive support from others is imperative to keep you encouraged and motivated in this exciting new lifestyle.

    Bonus tip: Have fun! Enjoy setting small progressive goals for yourself, challenge yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and get ready for the most rewarding race-day experience as you conquer a 3-sport event to earn your triathlon medal. 


Do you get gassy after swimming?

GI issues are very common among athletes - specifically endurance athletes in the sports of running, cycling and triathlon. Don't let the happy post-workout smiles on social media fool you for a good number of athletes experience unwelcomed intestinal problems during exercise.

The most common (and annoying) GI complaints include:
  • Belching
  • Nausea
  • Heartburn
  • Gas
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Loose stools
  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea 
  • Vomiting
  • Side stiches
There are several common reasons for GI issues such as dehydration (thus why athletes complain of many more GI issues in the summer months versus winter), high fiber/fat foods and using NSAIDs such as ibuprofen.  Although runners more frequently experience GI issues compared to other athletes, in my latest Triathlete magazine article (July 2018, pg. 62), I discussed some of the reasons why swimmers/triathletes may get gassy after swimming and how to minimize this unpleasant post-swim issue. 



3-week countdown - final Ironman prep

On Saturday, after my big day of Ironman-specific training, I reflected on my season journey and couldn't help but think how far I have come over the past 12 years. I never thought I'd be so fit, healthy, strong and resilient at the age of 36. It's kinda funny because at the young age of 24 (when I started endurance triathlon racing), I thought I was in such great shape. Ha! While some years have left me feeling frustrated with my body, over the past five years, I continue to feeling stronger, healthier and fitter. In 2017, I dedicated the year to half IM distance racing and never really felt "it." Something was missing and it was the focus on Ironman training and racing. While an extreme distance that requires a lot of time, energy and focus, it's a distance that suits me physically and mentally. Thankfully, I have a great support system and my friends and family "get me". Luckily (or unluckily), my fainting incident on race day morning at the Ironman 70.3 World Championship led me to register for Ironman Chattanooga two weeks later, despite not training specifically for the Ironman. But come race day, I felt like I was exactly where I needed to be - racing a 140.6 mile event, sharing the course with my athletes and Karel. And here I am, just three weeks out from the race that I registered for a year ago, counting down the days until I get to race another Ironman.

I still remember the days when I was afraid to clip in to my pedals, nervous about riding in my aerobars (and around other athletes) and unaware of how to properly change my gears. I didn't truly understand how to train for an Ironman or what it takes to "race" an Ironman but ever since my first Ironman, my joy for the sport has remained the same. Because the sport of triathlon is almost my method of staying healthy (physically and mentally), I recognize how extreme (and crazy) my lifestyle is compared to others. However, Ironman or no Ironman, I have a responsibility to my body to keep it in good health.

Around this time in each of my Ironman journey's, I find myself feeling incredibly grateful to my body for what it allows me to do. Over this past weekend, I challenged my body through fatigue and discomfort - both mentally and physically. I have trained consistently well over the past eight months and the time finally came to put myself into race-mode. I practiced my nutrition/fueling similar to race day, I wore similar clothing and every decision I made was similar to what I expect to feel/experience on race day. It was neat to finally be in that zone where all my weekend focus was on Ironman training. This is one of the reason why we limit big Ironman training weekends to just once, maybe twice, in the 6-8 weeks before an Ironman - it takes a lot of physically and mentally energy to put together quality training sessions and the more you give to training, the less energy you have to give on race day. 

It was an incredible experience to feel so in control over my body and how my mind was able to work with my body, despite feeling fatigued near the end of each workout. My nutrition was on point, my body was working well and I was able to work through the negative thoughts and excuses, similar to what I will experience on race day. Late last summer, I made a huge goal to break 10 hours at Ironman Austria this year and to hopefully run the run that I feel I am capable of running off the bike.  I didn't forget that goal during the many times I wanted to stop, lay down in the grass under a tree and call it a day.

I've learned a lot of lessons over the years, made a lot of mistakes and had to overcome a lot of obstacles. I started the sport as a stubborn and inexperienced athlete who was obsessed with triathlon and transformed into a wiser, smarter and more appreciative athlete who uses triathlon to help live life to the fullest. I've learned that hard work works, day in and day out and success doesn't happen overnight. I've learned to enjoy the journey and to see race day as a celebration of the work that was put forth in training. Rather than looking for quick fixes, extreme methods or wanting to rush the process, I've once again learned that every small gain eventually turns into something big. And even when I didn't feel like I was gaining anything (like two weeks ago when I found myself in a training rut), something inside was happening and because I didn't give up, I now feel incredibly prepared for race day. The training isn't over but with this final Ironman prep weekend behind us, I can't help but thank my body for letting me stay in great health (mind and body) over the past 8 months. I will continue to fuel you, nourish you, rest you and respect you for you are giving me the best gift of being able to do amazing things with you on a daily basis.

Weekend "final Ironman prep" recap:
AM Swim (4200 yards)
Main set:
1200 build by 400 w/ paddles
3 x 400's at 90%
10 x 50's strong
(Thanks to my speedy swimmer friend Kristen for doing this with me since Karel was taking it easy today)

PM Bike (1:22)
Easy solo outside spin on the road bike

AM Brick
4:20 bike (77.8 miles, 4580 feet of elevation gain)
Main set:
20 min IM effort
8 min EZ
6 x 10 min strong w/ 8 min EZ
30 min IM effort

60 min brick run (7.48 miles, 8:02 min/mile average) as:
20 min smooth (8:16 min/mile), 20 min steady/strong (7:58), 20 min strong (7:37) w/ 30 sec walk between

PM Run (45 min, 4.76 miles, 9:26 min/mile average)
EZ form focused run w/ walk breaks every mile

AM run (1:56, 13.5 miles, 8:35 min/mile average) as:
~30 min warm-up
30 min Ironman effort (8:07 min/mile average), 2 min rest
20 min half IM effort (7:36), 2 min rest
10 min Oly effort (7:15), 2 min rest
12 min EZ, 2 min rest
10 min IM effort (7:47)

PM Swim (3000 yards, 52 minutes)
WU: 800 EZ
Pre-set: 400 kick w/ fins
MS (with fins):
2 x 150's swim w/ paddles
2 x 75 kick
3 x 100's swim w/ paddles
3 x 50 kick
4 x 50's swim w/ paddles
4 x 25 kick
Post set:
12 x 25s in sets of 4 as:
-10 strokes fast, then EZ to the wall
-10 strokes EZ, then fast to the wall
Then 300 pull w/ snorkel and buoy

Karel ran a little longer than me for the Saturday PM run (7.57 miles) and of course, covered more miles than me for our 1 hour run off the bike (8.96). For Karel's build effort run off the bike on Saturday, he ran the following splits:
7:55, 7:38, 7:03, 6:48, 6:08, 6:08, 6:26 (hill), 6:39 (another hill), 6:37

For Karel's Sunday long run, his set was:
30 min very EZ (~7:57 min/mile)
MS: 3 x 25 min as 20 min IM effort, 5 min just above IM effort
30 sec rest between each interval
30 min steady (7:14 min/mile average)
Total: 2:15, 18.8 miles, 7:11 min/mile average
Round 1: 20 min at 6:58 min/mile, 5 min at 6:35 min/mile
Round 2: 20 min at 6:53 min/mile, 5 min at 6:39 min/mile
Round 3: 20 min at 6:46 min/mile, 5 min at 6:22 min/mile

Karel also swam a 3000 but made up his own set as he went along (we didn't swim together).