Essential Sports Nutrition


Recipe: Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls

While it's extremely important to think about what you eat before, during and after exercise, as well as on rest days, most athletes fail to plan ahead or question what and how much to eat. When you fall short on your meal planning and nutrient timing, you also fail to ensure that you are delivering the nutrients that your body needs to help you perform (and recover) at your best. When writing my book Essential Sports Nutrition, it was important to me that all recipes were nutritionally balanced and delicious. As an athlete myself, I want my recipes to come together quickly and to include easy-to-find ingredients.

To help you out, here are a few recipe ideas from my book to help with your meal planning:
Breakfast - Blueberry Stuffed French Toast

Lunch - Southwestern Salad

Afternoon snack - Carrot Cake Muffins

Dinner - Maple-Dijon-Glazed Salmon 

                                           Dinner - Sesame-Honey Tempeh with Wild Rice

Peanut Butter Pretzel Balls
Pg. 146 in 
Essential Sports Nutrition

Yield: 24 balls
Prep: 15 minutes

2 cups bite-size pretzels
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 1/2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Put the pretzels in a resealable plastic bag. Crush with a rolling pin until finely crushed but not too powdery. 
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, honey, and cinnamon. Stir in the crushed pretzels until well combined. 
  3. Use a tablespoon to scoop the mixture and roll into 24 balls. Transfer to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. 
  4. Freeze on the baking sheet for 10 minutes to set. 
Nutrition facts 
Per serving (1 ball):
Calories: 67
Saturated fat: 1g
Total fat: 4g
Protein: 2g
Total Carbs: 6g
Fiber: 1g
Sodium: 63g


Are your healthy food swaps unhealthy?

The other day I received an email from a former Trimarni athlete who asked my thoughts about a product called Tofu Shirataki Spaghetti. This athlete has been working on losing weight and regaining a healthy lifestyle and is looking for a gluten-free pasta alternative.

At first glance, this looks like a delicious protein-rich noodle option. But when reviewing the ingredients, you'll quickly realize that there's not much to this product. 

Water, soybeans, yam flour, calcium hydroxide, glucono delta lactone, calcium sulfate.  

While the intention was good, with only 10 calories per serving (and less than 1g protein), I told the athlete that I don't feel this is the best "pasta" alternative. First of all, I can't see how this product would be satisfying. Secondly, I don't see much nutritional value in this factory-made concoction. 

The athlete then mentioned if spiralized noodles would be a good option in place of pasta. While offering a good dose of vitamins and minerals, there's not much to spiralized noodles.....just like with cauliflower rice. While these options are fabulous ways to decrease calories, it's important that your meal is still providing your body with the macronutrients (carbs/protein/fat) it deserves. For example, swapping out bread for a rice cake, spray butter for regular butter, a protein bar instead of eggs, sugar free jello instead of yogurt, or cauliflower mashed potatoes instead of regular potatoes may look like you are saving a bunch of calories (which you are) but you are also forgoing a bunch of nutritional content. For athletes, it's very important that your meals don't fall short in any one macronutrient (ex. carbs, protein or fat), for that's how sickness, injury and fatigue risk increase.

Instead, my option for this athlete was a plant-based pasta (ex. Explore Cuisine) and to add in crumbled tofu and marinara sauce for a hearty, satisfying and nutritious meal.

Although many "healthy" food swaps are no more healthy than the real-food option (ex. organic cookies, gluten-free bread, coconut yogurt, dairy-free ice cream), unless you have a medical/health or ethical reason to rid a certain food from your diet, make sure your recent "healthy" food swap is serving you well. Certainly, no food swap should leave you you exhausted, unsatisfied, hungry, constipated and moody.

It's time to take stock to any recent dietary changes that you've made. Take a deep look into your recent diet and ask yourself "have I made an healthy food swap that could potentially sabotage my health???"


The power of a present mind

The other day on Facebook and Instagram, I shared videos of me and Karel on our trainer bikes. The piece of information that I failed to include was that we were both performing a bike test to establish training zones. The test was the 4DP Full Frontal Fitness Test. We each performed the test on different days - thus the opportunity to secretly film one another during the test. My video was during my 20 minute section of the test and Karel's video was during his last one-minute effort of test. There was a lot of suffering between us both!

Because we have never done this test before, we had nothing to compare to. There were unknowns and no way to predict the future. We were both truly in the moment in order to bring forth the best effort possible throughout the test.

For athletes, there's great power of a present mind. While it sounds simple, many athletes struggle to stay in the moment before and during training and on race day. Especially in a sport like triathlon which has so many uncontrollable factors and unknowns, it can be extremely difficult to have complete focus and concentration to the present moment.

As an example, how many times have you contemplated skipping a workout because you feel completely exhausted. You somehow muster the strength to get yourself started and surprisingly, you feel amazing and have an awesome training session. Another example is the jumping ahead in thoughts during a workout or race - wondering what's going to happen in the next 10 minutes, 5 miles or several hours. Lastly, there's the example of going to into a workout (such as a bike test) with expectations of your past effort or a feeling of what you think you are capable of doing, which brings disappointment if you don't meet your expectations.

When you are in the present moment, there's no worry, overthinking, pressure or doubt. There's no thinking about past events or future outcomes. There are no distractions keeping you from being 100% attentive to the task at hand. There's nothing to chase or to make you feel defeated.

The future is unpredictable. Despite trying really, really hard to control everything, you can never predict what's going to happen. Nothing is more powerful than a present state of mind.

As an athlete, there is so much room for improvement and growth. Never stop dreaming big and working hard. Just don't be the athlete who is constantly sabotaging a training and race day performance because youconstantly feel tremendous pressure and self-doubt about future outcomes or because you can't seem to let go of the "better" past version of yourself.


Becoming more body image positive in 2019

The New Year is flooded with ways to improve your health - specifically through diet and exercise.While there is nothing wrong with embarking on a new journey, the first step to improve your health is to learn to be kind to your body.

To start the New Year, I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on the topics that I feel athletes become vulnerable to as it relates to diet and exercise. Athletes are very disciplined, dedicated and hard working individuals but tend to function on the side of extreme. Many athletes are so focused on an outcome that they forget to be kind to the body. Most diets and exercise plans require a lot of willpower and discipline. People fall in and out of programs because they are exhausting - mentally and physically. In turn becomes body shaming, critical judgement, self-hate and unrealistic body ideals. In other words, in a quest to become healthier, you lose sight on the first step of improving your health - being kind to your body.

I hope you find these videos helpful as you explore a new journey of good health, happiness and body kindness.

New Year.....New You?
As you count down the hours until the New Year, are you once again resolving that this will finally be the year where you will take better care of your body?

Despite the many ways that you can practice self-improvement, January 1st is strongly associated with making changes to your body size, weight and looks through extreme exercise and rigid dieting.

Sadly, social media has a lot to do with your body image and relationship with food.

Here are my thoughts on how you can start the year off right, without falling victim to the New Year, New You campaign.

Quick Fixes and Trendy Diets

We are a weight obsessed, social-media influenced, quick-fix seeking culture.

While there are many reasons why people diet, those with low self-esteem, poor body image, individuals with an addictive personality, anxiety, depression and feel pressure from society to look differently are susceptible to follow a style of eating that includes rules, good vs bad foods, strict eating regimes and social motivation.

Therefore, it's no surprise why so many people are tempted to follow a trendy diet that claims to improve mental and physical health, boost self-esteem, improve body image, eliminate cravings, boost energy levels, heal your gut, reprogram your body and achieve incredible results.

Don't be fooled! There are many physical and mental dangers of extreme dieting.

Race Weight
Let's talk race weight.

We live in a society that focuses on competitive leanness. Most athletes train, eat and live with the mindset that the leaner or more defined you are, the better you'll perform in sport.

Often this mindset gets messy. Whereas the initial focus for weight loss is to perform better, athletes can easily get obsessed with the idea of achieving the perfect athletic body image but sadly, sickness, injury, a performance decline and burnout occurs.

Do you nourish and fuel your body because it's an incredible vehicle that allows you to do incredible things in your sport or are you chasing a weight/image through rigid eating, calorie restriction and over exercising?


Gadgets and Trackers

Fitness tracking, calorie counting, body composition measuring and body weighing may not be inherently bad, unless you have an obsession with data.

An obsessive focus on numbers may encourage unhealthy attitudes, behaviors and thoughts related to your self-worth, body image, eating choices, exercise regime, athletic worthiness and self-esteem.

Are your gadgets and tracking devices doing more harm than good?