Essential Sports Nutrition


Building your team of experts

When browsing a popular forum page not too long ago, I came across a thread of an athlete looking for nutrition assistance. One of the comments had me thinking about the overwhelming number of experts that an athlete can choose from when it comes to assistance with health, body composition, mental skills, fitness and performance. This certainly extends to doctors, physical therapists, massage therapists, strength coaches, etc.

I believe that there's someone out there for everyone BUT you do have to do your due diligence. What is it that you need from your professional and does she/he have a similar belief structure as your own? 

Today, it's easy to turn to the internet and social media for health advice but the WWW isn't the best place to get information as it relates to your personal situation.

As it relates to finding the best "expert" to assist in your health, performance and/or body composition goals, here are a few of my tips:

  1. Credentials - Today, anyone can claim to be an expert. Use your basic knowledge to determine if your expert has credibility to call him/herself an expert. Does this person have the appropriate education/schooling to diagnose and treat you? You can also look for advanced credentialing such as CSSD (Board Certified Specialist in Sport Dietetics) to demonstrate specialized experience, knowledge, skill and expertise in a certain area.
  2. Experience - It goes without saying that you should be searching for an expert who has expert experience in the area that you need help with. In some fields, lots of experience may be more beneficial than having lots of credentials. If you are an athlete, your expert should be experienced in your sport. Just because someone has formal education to call him/herself an expert, this doesn't mean that he/she should professionally counsel you. While she/he may have textbook, laboratory or internet knowledge, it's also good to have real life experience.

  3. Avoid black or white thinking - When you reach out to an expert, you should be able to ask questions without judgement or fear.  An expert should have time for you - treating you like an individual, listening to your background and always considering options and different problem-solving strategies. Rigid thinking and not listening means an inability to change the mind. But with humans, we are all different. Flexible thinking and personalized advice is important in the counseling process as it relates to long-term success.
  4. Philosophy - I feel a business or personal philosophy is extremely beneficial when it comes to finding our expert. Instead of reaching out to someone who is popular, you should understand and align with his/her methods and philosophy. Ask around for recommendations and referrals from athletes who have worked with your potential expert to ensure that you find the right person for your needs. Pay attention to contradictions in advice, extreme methods or affiliations to "sell" you a product. Take some time to understand the set of beliefs and principles from your future expert to ensure that he/she practices what he/she preaches. Above all, a philosophy outlines the values that are important to that person/business. If you don't connect with his/her philosophy, there's a good chance that your expert is not the right fit for you (even if he/she worked fabulously well for your friend/teammate and has a large social media following).
  5. Don't look for a quick fix - As with any professional, it's important to find someone who is properly trained and offers sensible, realistic, sound advice. Don't choose your  expert from his/her social media following/presence or a promise that he/she can quickly cure/fix your issues. Ask questions before you commit. With so many self-made experts, it's difficult to recognize who is trustworthy or not. Be mindful that a change in behavior/health is never a quick fix. Don't expect immediate, rapid or dramatic changes when starting on a new journey. If your expert promises that you will be an overnight success or there's a quick fix for your problem, be warned that something is too good to be true.
  6. Take your time - Just like with any field, finding the right professional for your needs may take time. Instead of googling for free advice, start the process of finding the expert who can help you answer your questions and give you appropriate advice that will help you reach your goals/needs. And it's ok to have multiple experts in the same field! 
A big thank you to the experts that are part of my team!
  • Erin Carson - Strength Coach
  • Gloria Petruzelli - Sport Psychology
  • Chris Johnson - PT
  • Scott Kaylor - PT
  • Dr. Casses - Doctor
  • Kelly Vanleeuwen - Massage Therapist 
  • Kristen Johnston - My swimming partner 
  • Campy Sumbal - Recovery coach ;) 
  • Karel Sumbal - Life-long teammate 
  • Our new coaches!! (More on this soon)


Sport Nutrition Myth or Fact??

You can get dehydrated in the cold or when swimming. FACT
When exercising in cold environments, respiratory water loss increases because of the low humidity and increased ventilation rate. Additionally, under all your clothing keeping you warm, it’s possible for sweat rates to exceed 33 ounces per hour. When swimming, if internal body temperature exceeds the sweat threshold, you will sweat (even if you don’t feel it because you are already wet). You may also find yourself needing to urinate more often when swimming due to the increase in plasma volume that occurs during immersion from high pressure baroreceptors. This may increase risk for dehydration. Make sure to stay up with your hydration intake in cold weather and while swimming by bringing a water bottle with you (or a sport drink when appropriate). 

Caffeine causes dehydration. MYTH
Athletes have been cautioned to avoid caffeine (ex. coffee) before and after exercise due to association with dehydration or electrolyte balance. There’s no strong, consistent evidence that caffeine is a diuretic and should be avoided before/after exercise. However, caffeine does come with adverse effects, such as an increase in blood pressure at rest and during exercise, an increase in heart rate, GI issue and insomnia. Caffeine may enhance performance due to its role in stimulating the central nervous system to reduce mental and physical fatigue in some individuals. Caffeine is considered safe at recommended doses (2-6mg/kg/bw). 

To prevent a cramp, consume lots of salt. MYTH
Cramps are a common phenomenon affecting athletes and non-athletes (ex. night cramps). Normally, muscles voluntarily contract and relax to encourage purposeful movement, physical activity and posture. When a muscle or group of fibers contracts involuntarily, it goes into a spasm. A forceful and sustained spasm causes a muscle to cramp. A muscle cramp can be painful and may last from a few seconds to fifteen or more minutes. Eventually, the muscle will relax and resume its normal state of functioning. Although cramps can occur anywhere, they typically occur in the lower extremities, such as the feet, calves and quads.
Although the primary cause of a muscle cramp is unsolved, overuse, fatigue and dehydration are frequent culprits. However, recent research is demonstrating that hyperexcitability of the nerves that stimulate a muscle may contribute to exercise-induced cramping. Anti-cramp products, such as HotShot, claim to reduce the longevity or incidence of cramping by stimulating sensory neurons in the mouth and esophagus to send impulses to the spinal cord, which then overpower and inhibit repetitive signals coming in and out of the cramped muscle. Before you begin to add more salt to your diet (or to your sport drinks), make sure you are warming up properly, building into stronger/intense efforts and pacing yourself to help delay fatigue. For triathletes, there's greater risk for cramping in the feet/calves when you swim after a run due to exhausted lower leg muscles. 

Coconut water is a healthy sport drink-alternative. MYTH
Coconut water is derived from the fluid inside a coconut. An 8-ounce portion of unsweetened coconut water contains about 50 calories, 55mg of sodium, 11g of carbs, 9g of sugars and 460mg of potassium. Although coconut water contains calcium, phosphorus and magnesium (electrolytes found in sweat), sodium and chloride are the major electrolytes because they reside in the extracellular fluid. Compared to a sugar-rich hydration beverage, coconut water is a safe and natural alternative to help meet hydration needs during low intensity, short-duration exercise. However, to sustain moderate to high-intensity exercise for longer than 90-minutes, the body depends on ingested carbohydrates and sodium – both of which lack in appropriate amounts in coconut water.  Additionally, if you are paying extra for coconut water to increase your daily potassium intake, look no further than the produce aisle – a large potato contains 1553 mg of potassium! If you enjoy the taste of coconut water over plain water, choose it for light activity. But to prevent dehydration, replace lost electrolytes and provide the muscles with carbohydrates, a well-formulated sport drink is encouraged. In all other situations, plain water should be your go-to hydration beverage. 


Triathlon Night Event

Calling all new, future and current triathletes in and around the Greenville area!!!

To kick-off 2019, we invite you to show support for our amazing Greenville triathlon community by attending "Triathlon Night" at Carolina Triathlon.

When: January 27th, 2018
Time: 5:30-7:30pm
Where: 123 Welborn Street Suite 102
Greenville, SC 29601

We look forward to the opportunity to connect you with other triathletes in and around the Greenville area who also love the swimbikerun lifestyle.

If you are new to the area or new to triathlon or you just love triathlon, come meet several of the local "experts" who work with triathletes (Coaches, PTs, Massage Therapists, Strength Coaches, Race Directors, Store owners, etc.).

After a meet and greet, we will have a Q&A with the local triathlon coaches and professionals for you to ask questions. Every coach/professional is welcomed to provide information about his/her services and sell gear/services.

Light snacks and drinks will be provided. We will conclude the evening with raffle prizes!
A big thank you to the following companies/people who are donating raffle prizes for the event:
Run In - $50 gift card
Sam Smith - Strength Class gift certificate
Katie Malone - Underwater video swim analysis
ROKA - 5 x $50 gift cards
Set Up Events - 2 free race entries 
zealios - Skin and body care package
CLIF Bar - Assortment of Clif energy granola
TeamKattouf Coaching - supplement package
Veronica's Health Crunch - 4 bags of crunch
Mg12 - The Power of Magnesium - Basket of Mg12 sport products
Ironman - Time to Tri bag of must-have triathlon goodies

Any questions, contact Marni via (contact page).

We look forward to seeing you there!

For more info: Click HERE.


Recipe: Sweet Potato Protein Pancakes

Athletes love pancakes! Therefore, I knew that I needed a pancake recipe in my book Essential Sports Nutrition. However, I didn't want just a simple pancake recipe. When I make pancakes, I typically keep it super simple (basic ingredients) or I use a box of Kodiak cakes (which also works great for traveling) but I wanted something a bit more nutritionally complete to help meet the needs of an active individual.

Joey mentioned to me about her sweet potato pancake recipe that included cottage cheese. At first I was skeptical.....I love cottage cheese but in pancakes??? But these pancakes came out amazingly well! Satisfying, protein-packed and a perfect option for an on-the-go snack or for breakfast. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Protein Pancakes
Yield 10 (4 1/2 inch pancakes)
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats
  • 1 cup 2% cottage cheese (my favorite brand is Daisy Brand)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • Maple Syrup - for serving (optional)

  1. Pierce the potatoes five or six times with a form and microwave for 5-8 minutes, rotating halfway through. 
  2. Place the oats in a food processor and grind until they make a fine oat flour. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside. 
  3. Place the cottage cheese in the food processor and process until smooth. Add to the bowl with the oats and stir well. 
  4. Scoop the sweet potato flesh into the food processor and process until smooth. Add to the bowl with the oats and cottage cheese and stir well. 
  5. Add the eggs, egg whites, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg to the cottage cheese mixture and stir well. If you prefer a thinner pancake, add a little water to achieve your desired consistency. 
  6. Heat a skillet or griddle over medium heat and spray with nonstick cooking spray. 
  7. Using a 1/2 cup measuring cup, portion the batter onto the skillet or griddle. Cook the pancakes until bubbles form and begin to burst in the center, about 4 minutes. Flip with a spatula and cook until done, 3-4 minutes. 
  8. Serve with maple syrup (if desired). 
Nutrition facts
Per serving (2 pancakes)
Calories: 192
Total fat: 4g
Saturated fat: 1g
Total Carbs: 25g
Fiber: 3g
Protein: 13g
Sodium: 333mg


Don't forget the small things

It's a common occurrence. The injured athlete is dedicated to physical therapy in order to get back to training and once the athlete is "healed," daily rehab exercises are pushed aside. Little does the athlete consider that these rehab exercises are now beneficial as prehab exercises - to reduce the risk of a future injury (or re-injury).

With this being my 13th consecutive season of endurance triathlon training and racing, I won't lie - I've made my fair share of mistakes and very stubborn decisions during my early years. Triathlon has been an incredible hobby for me because it's taught me a lot about patience, hard work, time management and structure.

In today's society, epic workouts and big results are easily highlighted. We often see the highlight reel instead of the behind the scene moments. This often leaves us feeling like results are easy to achieve so long as you work hard.

As I train for my 15th (IM Canada) and 16th Ironman (Ironman World Championship) this summer, I am no longer constantly chasing longer, harder or faster. Sure, I'd love to cover the 140.6 mile distance in a faster time but the way to do is not necessarily through harder or longer training. With such a great aerobic base under my belt, I need to put my focus/energy into areas that will make a significant difference in how my body adapts to training. Therefore, what I do between training sessions matters a lot for it's the small things that continue to help me improve. The daily mobility work, strength training, good sleep, proper fueling/nutrition and mental skills are contributing to big picture goals. I'm confident that through these little things, the big things will eventually fall into place.

Here are a few small things that I'm focusing on right now to help me consistently train and better adapt to training. Although they don't take much time or energy, they are easy to dismiss if not a daily priority.
  • ~5 minutes a day of mobility work on my back/hips and neck/shoulders
  • 3-4 sessions a week of strength training (full body)
  • Daily glute/pelvis exercises to help with my running
  • ~3-5 minutes of warming up before I start a cardio session
  • Making sure I stay well-hydrated on a daily basis
  • Making sure I eat "enough" on a daily basis and support my training sessions appropriately with proper fueling/sport nutrition before/during/after workouts. 
  • Spending a few minutes to clear my mind before my workouts to help me stay present and attentive. 
  • Getting off the computer/phone at least 90 minutes before bed. 
What small things are helping you in your personal athletic journey?