Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Different Kind of New Year's Resolution

Every year I get asked the same thing by family, clients, and friends: what is your New Year's Resolution? The truth is - I never make least not a traditional one. And it's not because I don't think I can keep one or I am not devoted enough to anything to put the effort forth. It's because I know that New Year's Resolutions - as most people think of them - do not work.

Why not? Well, the majority of resolutions I hear are quite vague. Common ones are: I want to lose weight. I want to be more active. I want to do something new. Vague or nonspecific goals are difficult to achieve because it's hard to create steps toward a nonspecific goal. Better resolutions might be: I want to lose weight, so I will start by drinking 1 can of soda instead of 3 each day. I want to be more active, so I will join a local running group. I want to do something new, so I will visit the local indoor rock climbing gym one time per week.

Another reason resolutions don't work: one year is an incredibly long time. Why not make monthly resolutions toward a one-year goal? Then with each month's resolution that you achieve, reward yourself- how about a new outfit or tickets to see your favorite team? That will keep you motivated to keep working toward your ultimate goal.

So now that you're educated to create better resolutions, it's your turn. You've still got a few days to think this through. Tell me: What is YOUR "New Year's Resolution"?

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Give Some Love to Your Lunch

I'm always writing about the importance of eating regularly throughout the day to prepare your muscles for exercise. And how many times have I said "breakfast is the most important meal of the day"? While this is true, sometimes it's more difficult for athletes to get in a great lunch. Whether the reason is lack of time, being surrounded by tempting but unintelligent cafeteria options, or lack of planning, lunchtime can be a struggle. Here are some great nutrient-rich lunches that will assure your muscles are ready to go for that after-school practice or post-work workout.

Meal #1
1.5 cups baby spinach
1/2 cup hard-cooked egg
1/2 cup strawberries
1Tbsp almonds
1 ounce crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp oil-based dressing

Mix ingredients above and add a whole-wheat roll topping with an olive- or canola-oil based butter and low-fat milk as a beverage.

Meal #2
3 slices ham or turkey
2 slices lowfat Swiss cheese
2 slices whole-wheat bread OR whole-wheat tortilla OR whole-wheat bun
2 Tbsp stone-ground mustard
Lettuce or Kale

Create sandwich. Add 8 oz. low-fat (not sugar-free) yogurt and a piece of fresh fruit.

Meal #3
3 ounces water-packed tuna
1.5 Tbsp olive-oil based mayo

Mix above and spread on two slices toasted whole wheat bread. Top with lettuce and tomato. Add a piece of fresh fruit and a couple of handfuls of baby carrots.

Many of us turn to soup and sandwich as our default. Here are some tips to nutrient-ize your soup and sandwiches!
  • Prepare condensed tomato soup with fat-free milk instead of water.
  • Stir chopped fresh spinach or frozen veggies into condensed soups.
  • Make sandwiches on whole-wheat breads and top with romaine lettuce, tomato slices, cucumbers, onions, and avacodo (my personal favorite topping).
Be Extraordinary,


Thursday, December 15, 2011

For Your Health: Shopping Over The Holidays

This week I decided to showcase the holiday articles of some of my fellow dietitians. All of these relate to what you do for your health when you go holiday shopping. Now, I am not a huge fan of calorie counting or worrying about weight, but I do believe in being realistic, and understanding what it is about your energy intake that might be causing undesirable body composition changes.

Stay Full While Shopping - Sheah Rarback, RD
Get some ideas for great snacks you can take along with you the next time you go shopping to help you resist the temptation of that mall Chinese food (they get you with those free smells!).

Drop that Drink - Carol Lapin, RD
Check out this article to educate yourself about where excess energy can sneak in when you start sipping on your walk through the mall. I know I love my latte when I go shopping, but I'm careful to go with a small (enough to satisfy my craving), non-fat with light or no whip and 1 less pump of flavor shots than normal.

Healthy Holiday Gifts - Laura Armstrong, RD
Of course we all go to the mall for one reason: to find that perfect gift. How about trying a healthy gift this year? This article has some great ideas for gifts I think people would actually enjoy (think "Awesome - thanks so much!" instead of, "Ohh....great...").

Happy Shoppping and Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Keep Performance Goals in Mind at Your Next Holiday Party!

Well, it's the holiday season again...a time for family, friends, and...FOOD! Unfortunately the holiday season falls - for many athletes - in the midst of the off-season and impressively cold outdoor temperatures. So what's an athlete to do during the holidays to emerge still on track for his/her next race when January 2nd rolls around? Here are my performance-protecting holiday tips. Note: these are in order of importance!

1. Re-assess your goals.
While I understand you may have a March or April competition planned, the holidays may not be the best time to "kick your butt into gear" or "take your training to the next level". December can be a very stressful month - and remember that stress can wreak havoc on your metabolism, digestion and sleeping patterns. If trying to continue a hard-core training plan in the midst of everything is only adding undue stress, perhaps cut back a bit, take a deep breath, and try to enjoy time spent with family and friends.

2. Re-assess your thinking.
I have never attended a holiday party that didn't include food. Any gathering - holiday-themed or not - is typically filled with plenty of time spent eating. Instead of parking yourself by the food table, try re-locating to the family room and plant yourself next to that brother-in-law, cousin, or grandparent with whom you haven't yet had a conversation. Remember that while I love me a good Christmas cookie, holidays should really be more about quality time spent with family and friends. If appreciate the ones you love is your focus, I guarantee stress surrounding what you should or should not eat or will be much lower.

3. Focus on the little changes.
I would be re-miss to think that I could just "pep talk" you through the holidays. While #1 and #2 are the most important, I'm guessing you would also appreciate some realistic ideas for the holidays. So, here you go:
- Cut back, don't cut OUT your training during the holidays. Commit to being active as part of your holiday regimen.
- If you know you have a holiday party that night, be smart with your food choices during the rest of the day. Stick to the fruits, veggies, whole grains, and lean proteins. Skip that morning grande caramel macchiato and go for a black coffee instead - save the sugar and fat for grandma's homemade strudel that night.
- Stay hydrated. This is important every day, but especially when you're prepping your body for a large amount of energy intake. A properly hydrated body more efficiently and effectively metabolizes food, which could mean better a body composition for you.
- Don't arrive to the party starving. Just like I mentioned in my Thanksgiving blog, fasting all day before your holiday hoe-down is a bad idea. Eat normally - ideally at least every 3-4 hours prior to the party.
- Practice mindful eating. How hungry are you really? Could you stop after 3 shortbread cookies instead of 6? Are chocolate chip cookies necessary since you can have those any day? Are you hungry or just thirsty? What foods are you REALLY excited about eating or drinking? Ask questions like these to keep close attention to your appetite and feelings about what you're eating. This will keep you from wondering how you ate an entire bag of green and white M&Ms before moving on to chocolate creme pie.
- Watch what you drink. Calories from alcohol add up fast. Try to alternate between alcoholic drinks and water to keep those calories down a bit.

If you haven't yet, write down your performance goals for 2012. Keep those goals with you at all times during the holiday season. 99% of the time, YOU are your best health coach.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Nothin' but Net with Good Nutrition

As the weather turns colder and the snow starts to fall, you can smell it in the air: basketball season.

Basketball is a unique sport in that most of a player's success depends on his/her skill set instead of cardiovascular endurance. While being in shape is of course a must, no matter how many gut busters a player can do, not being able to sink a shot is the real game-changer. But lest you think nutrition has no affect on skill, think again...

It's about focus
Any of you who play basketball know that without 150% focus, accuracy drops quickly. The ability of the brain to focus depends on whether it has energy. The brain can only - and I repeat, only - run on carbohydrate energy sources. Without adequate carbohydrate intake throughout the day, focus and decision-making is negatively affected - and rather quickly. To make sure your head is in the game, grab a pre-workout snack 45-60 minutes before practice. Try a bagel and peanut butter, a banana with one small handful of nuts, or a PBJ (half if you can't stomach a whole). This snack should be heavy on the carb with no more than 10 gm of protein. You don't want your snack coming back to visit in the middle of your 15th lay-up. If your stomach is super sensitive, sports drink is better than nothing. Don't skip the pre-workout snack.

It's about repeat accuracy
Basketball games are not short events, and the environment is often less than ideal - hot, humid, and stuffy. I'm not sure I've ever set foot on a "well-ventilated" basketball court. Accuracy and intensity needs to last the entire game - not just the first half. But extended playing time combined with hot and humid conditions is a set-up for another nutritional foe: dehydration. Dehydration as little as 2% has a profound effect on your performance. Thirsty? You're already 1% dehydrated. You should be sipping throughout the day. Check your hydration status by monitoring pee color (for real) - it should be straw-colored - and staying ahead of your sensations of thirst. Basketball players can sweat an impressive amount (think liters), so it's also important to drink during practice. Gulp (no sipping this time) at every water break you get. If practice is intense or will last more than an hour, switch to a sports drink instead for additional energy and electrolyte replacement. Aim to drink at least one regular sized sports drink bottle (about 20 oz.) per hour - at LEAST. Are you a heavy sweater? Basketball players are especially prone to electrolyte imbalances and muscle cramping. If you find that you are having muscle cramping during or hours after practice, switch to a higher electrolyte sports drink (such as Gatorade Endurance) or add one serving (normally half of a tab) of an electrolyte supplement to a regular sports drink. The third way to monitor hydration status is to use body weight to your advantage. Weigh yourself before and after practice - preferably in as few articles of clothing as possible. Drink 24 oz. (3 cups) of fluid for every pound lost during practice...which hopefully isn't many.

It's about every day, not just today.
Have a great day at practice or phenomenal game? Awesome! But make sure you can bring the heat next time by focusing on post-workout/game nutrition. You need to eat both carb and protein for proper refueling and recovery of muscles. You should eat a snack within the first 30 minutes after ending. Try to make it a fluid, such as low-fat chocolate milk or sports drink that has added protein. If that's not feasible - that's okay - use real food instead - PBJ (make it a whole one this time), yogurt with fruit or fruit & nut trail mix (heavy on the fruit) all work great. Stay away from "protein shakes" as they usually have far too much protein and not enough carb. Remember: your muscles can't use the protein if the carbohydrate isn't there to open the door.

Have a great season!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Friday Deals & Thanksgiving Tips

Hopefully by now most of you have checked out of school or work and are on your way to spend a great weekend with family and friends. As you celebrate Thanksgiving, here are three tips to help you stay focused on your goals while still enjoying the holiday.

1. Start the morning with a solid workout.
I'm not talking about an epic 15-mile run, 60-mile bike, or 2-hour lift (unless you're actually trying to get AWAY from visiting family). How about 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity to get your heart rate up? Or perhaps sign up for a Turkey Day 5K or 10K race. Think of it as prepping your body for the "race of Thanksgiving dinner"....though hopefully it's not actually a race at your house.

2. Eat a normal breakfast and lunch.
That's right - eat normally throughout the day in preparation for the "big meal". Fasting all day so you can "eat extra turkey and stuffing" will do the opposite of what you hope. Fasting confuses your body, slowing down your metabolism and chewing up muscle. You'll arrive to the meal famished and end up overeating even more than you plan to. And don't worry about not being "hungry enough" because you ate during the day. Once you smell the turkey, I'm sure you will have no problem having an appetite for dinner.

3. Practice mindful eating during the main event.
What is mindful eating? It means being completely cognicant of everything you are seeing, tasting, and smelling at the table. It means enjoying the time spent with family as much as the food you are eating. It means being aware of your appetite - realizing when you're full enough to stop. But most of all, it means allowing yourself to enjoy the meal because this is a once a year treat. Choose foods that you don't get every day. Growing up, I used to never eat white mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving because I ate them all the time. I would instead only eat yams. Now the complete opposite is true. Sure, yams pack a more powerful nutritional punch, but big deal! I never get white potatoes! It's Thanksgiving!

And after you wake up from the "turkey coma", go to my website on Friday, November 25th for some big-time Black Friday deals. I'll be offering:

-30-50% off of one initial individual consult
-Buy one follow-up consult, get one half off
-50% off one supplement review

Have you been putting off scheduling a consult for yourself or perhaps referring an athlete who you know needs a nutritional overhaul? Here is your chance! Don't miss these deals - you won't see anything like this again soon!

May you and yours have a wonderful holiday and be thankful for the blessings of this past year.

Be Extraordinary,


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bonus: Immune-Strengthening Recipe!

Yesterday, my blog focused on nutrients that strengthen your immune system. To apply what you read, try this vegetarian-friendly, easy, quick....yet still delicious meal.

Rice and Beans a la Immune Defense 
Number of Servings: 1

¾ cup whole-wheat rice, cooked
½ cup beans (black or pinto) - rinsed if canned
2 tsp oregano (dried or fresh)
2 small or ¼ cup tomatoes, fresh
4 basil leaves, fresh
1/8 cup shredded cheese, Italian blend (optional)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (can also use canola oil)

1.    Place rice, beans, and oregano in a micro-wave safe bowl. Heat for 1 minute.
2.    Remove bowl from microwave and add tomatoes, basil leaves. Heat for another 40  seconds.
3.    Remove bowl from microwave and generously drizzle with olive oil. Pair with baby carrots and an apple for an added antioxidant punch!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

To Prevent Illness, Eat Smart During Winter Training – Plus: Black Friday Deals!

How often do you get sick? As the cold season sets in, many of us will develop that annoying cough or sore throat. Is there anything you can eat to fend off illness during the winter training season? In fact – yes! But it may not include quite what you thought...

1.       Take in plenty of carbs throughout the day.
Following a low-carbohydrate diet results in elevated levels of cortisol in an athlete’s body. Cortisol is known as the regulator of the immune system. It functions to increase protein breakdown in muscles, inhibit uptake of glucose into the body’s cells, and increase breakdown of fat. Therefore, chronically elevated levels force your body into a constant state of muscle breakdown and suppressed immune function, increasing your risk for upper respiratory tract infections (such as the common cold). High levels also negatively affect sleep, mood, bone health, ligament health, cardiovascular health, and athletic performance. Follow a moderate to high-carbohydrate daily eating program and don’t go into a workout without first taking in carbohydrate.  This is particularly important for athletes trying to improve speed or training for greater than 3-4 hours (Seebohar, 2004).

2.       Don’t underestimate the importance of protein.
Just like carbohydrate helps decrease elevated cortisol levels before and during exercise, protein (and specifically branched-chain amino acids), help decrease cortisol levels post-exercise. This is another reason why that post-workout meal or snack must include protein (Seebohar, 2004).

3.       Minerals matter too.
Three minerals play a significant role in strengthening our immune system: Zinc, Selenium, and Iron. Before you run out and buy supplements, consider the fact that zinc supplements can interfere with the absorption of iron and copper and actually suppress the immune system.  Besides, research is mixed whether supplementing with zinc actually wards off illness. Instead, turn to animal foods and whole grains for zinc. If (and only if) you have been diagnosed with low zinc, consider 15mg of supplemental zinc daily (max!). Selenium deficiency is less common, but food sources include meat, fish, poultry, whole grains, and nuts. Discussion of iron deficiency could be its own blog, but know that it is very common in endurance athletes (especially females). Food sources include animal products as well as dried beans and legumes, green leafy veggies, and iron-fortified grains (Dunford and Doyle, 2008).

4.       Vitamin C is effective…sort of.
I’m sure many of you consider vitamin C your “go to” vitamin when you are trying to fend off a cold. I have good and bad news. A meta-analysis of studies revealed that routine vitamin C supplementation did not reduce the incidence of colds (boo). However, once the cold was present, duration was reduced by 8% and severity was also reduced (yay) (Douglas et al., 2004). Look to get vitamin C from foods such as citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, peppers, and tomatoes.

5.       Re-assess your training regimen.
While moderate exercise strengthens the immune system, more rigorous or prolonged training (such as that for marathon training) greatly increases risk for upper respiratory tract infections. If you are concerned about being sick for your favorite holiday party, perhaps scale back from a hard training regimen for a time and give your body a (likely) needed break (Dunford and Doyle, 2008).
Stay tuned! In honor of Black Friday, I will be offering coupons accessible only through my website on Friday, November 25th (24 hours only). If you enjoy savings of up to 50% off, then you won’t want to miss this! Make sure you are ready for the holidays with special performance nutrition savings.
Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Managing Stress in Veteran and Civilian Athletes

This morning I attended a wonderful business meeting with my local Chamber of Commerce showcasing three of our country's Veterans – two from Vietnam and one current Vet from Iraq. In observance of Veterans Day this Friday, we were honored to learn about the challenges they faced before, during, and after serving our country. One prominent topic of discussion was the incidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in soldiers after returning home. The Department of Veteran Affairs reports PTSD occurs in 11-20% of Veterans that served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and 30% of Vietnam Veterans. While few of us will ever experience anything as crippling as PTSD, clearly we all go through times of negative stress – whether it’s as a result of school, work, family or friends. Stress can show its teeth in the form of headaches, exhaustion, or insomnia.

Believe it or not, nutrition can be an effective part of relieving stress. Stress takes a toll on your immune system, increasing your body’s need for certain nutrients. In addition, brain chemicals called neurotransmitters (such as serotonin or dopamine) play a huge role in how we experience emotions. Deficiencies of these chemicals may increase irritability, depression, and sleeplessness. Giving more attention to what you are eating may help you stay focused, alert, and energized during times of stress.

The next time you or someone you care about is suffering from stress (either low-level or high-grade), consider these nutritional remedies:

1.       Don’t skip meals or over-indulge in high-calorie foods. These poor habits are often brought on by the stress we feel. High-calorie foods in moderation are fine, but constantly skipping meals (especially breakfast) and then grabbing fast food on the way home may lead to weight gain and affect long-term health.
2.       Go easy on the caffeine: The idea is to calm the central nervous system, not to further stimulate it. Stick to less than 2 cups (16 fl. oz.) per day of caffeinated beverages.
3.       Focus on complex carbohydrates: These foods contain serotonin, which helps boost mood as well as calm you and help you sleep. Food sources include whole grains such as oatmeal, quinoa, and whole wheat bread products, and whole fruits and vegetables (the fresher the better!).
4.       Protein matters: Eating protein foods with those whole grains helps to effectively slow down how quickly your blood sugar rises as a result of eating carbs. Keeping blood sugar stable means metabolism and energy levels will also be stable, preventing headaches or exhaustion that often accompanies very high or very low blood sugar levels. Protein foods include dairy, poultry, eggs, fish, meat, nuts, tofu and legumes (beans or lentils).
5.        Don’t forget your healthy fats: Studies show that low omega-3 fatty acids intake correlates with increased rates of depression and depressive symptoms. Food sources are oily fish, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), canola or flax oil, and pumpkin or flax seeds.
6.       Some research has shown a relationship between vitamin D level and incidence of depression. Have your vitamin D level checked to assess if you are deficient. Food sources of vitamin D are few, but include fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel), mushrooms, and vitamin D-fortified foods (cereals, orange juice, yogurt, milk and other foods).
7.       Never underestimate the power of staying hydrated. Drink enough fluids to create straw-colored urine.

Be Extraordinary and please remember our Veterans this Friday,


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Football: Fueling for the Playoffs

Happy November!

One of my favorite fall sports has got to be football. Whether it’s high school, college, or professional-level, I just can’t say no to the smell of burgers at the tailgate, the sounds of crunching pads, and seeing amazing plays in person like The Little Giants in 2010’s infamous MSU-Notre Dame game (sorry - had to throw in my alma mater there - click on the link to watch).

This time of year, most high school and collegiate players are looking toward regional and state or conference and bowl games. It’s not too late to use performance nutrition to play your best during these important games. Here are some tips to help you arrive at these last practices and games ready to finish the season strong:

1.       Drink up! No matter what your position, you’ll be more focused and energized if you are properly hydrated. Try carrying your own water-filled sports bottle during day, then fill with your preferred flavor of sports drink during practice so you know you will actually drink it. Take at least a couple gulps of fluid on each break or whenever it is offered by your staff. Weigh yourself before and after practice and drink 20 ounces of fluid for every pound of weight lost during practice (and with all those pads on – total weight loss through sweat can be high!). Your goal should be straw-colored urine THROUGHOUT the day.
2.       Eat at regular intervals. Many football players go to class all day and don’t practice until the afternoon or evening. Don’t arrive to practice with hungry muscles. Try to eat every 3-4 hours. Your plate should be 1/3 filled with sources of carb such as bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes; 1/3 filled with sources of carbs such as veggies and fruits; and 1/3 filled with lean proteins such as poultry, lean beef, tuna, soy, fish, eggs, nuts, and protein. Be sure to eat a snack consisting of carb and protein prior to practice (try a bagel with peanut butter, yogurt with a banana, or handful of pretzels and a cheese stick) and eat within 30 minutes of finishing practice: try an energy bar, banana, or tortilla chips with a sports drink.
3.       During games, along with following pre- and post-workout guidelines before and after games, be sure to refuel at halftime – even if it’s just a sports drink. If you can take in food, stick to foods you tolerate – good ones often include crackers, pretzels, bananas, or raisins.

Think a supplement will give you the extra edge? Think again! Most supplements have shown no performance edge in clinical studies and some may actually cause harm due to dangerous ingredients not always indicated on the label. Before you reach for a pill or a powder, make sure you are following the guidelines above.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Making Weight Without Crippling Performance

This week’s blog was inspired by an article I read in the October issue of Training and Conditioning Magazine. Written by an RD, CSSD, it was a perfect example of what great work sports dietitians do for athletes – in this case, wrestlers wanting to cut weight. For those of you who can’t access the article, here are the key points covered by Making Weight, written by Kim Tirapelle MS, RD, CSSD. Whether you’re a coach, strength coach, athletic trainer, or wrestler yourself, read on to learn how wrestlers can cut the weight they want for competition without affecting their performance or overall health. While the article discussed much more, I will just focus on beginning 72 hours prior to competition until post weight-in.

The most important thing when arriving to the practices leading up to weigh-in on match day is that wrestlers should be within 2-3% of their target weight the day before weigh-ins (though this recommendation can vary slightly). This will assure that the amount of weight lost in the 24hrs prior to weigh-in is not so much that it hinders overall performance.

To achieve the final 2-3% weight loss before weigh-ins, consider doing the following:

48-72 hrs prior to weigh-in
·         Reduce fiber and residue in your food choices. These foods remain in the intestinal tract because they are not digested. Therefore, they will add to overall body weight – sometimes as much as one to two pounds! However, only cut out these foods prior to competition, as without high-fiber foods on a regular basis, you are missing out on some good nutrition.
o   Low-fiber/low-residue foods include cooked vegetables, melons, vegetable juice, and enriched grains (think white bread, white bagels, etc.) as well as Cheerios.
·         Moderately decrease the amount of food you normally eat during the two days prior to weigh-ins…but also be sure to reduce energy expenditure so you don’t burn off all of your stored energy in the process!
·         Up to 24 hrs prior, keep fluid intake high – especially fluids that include carbohydrates and electrolytes. By taking in fluids, the body will use what it needs for competition and get rid of the rest very easily.

24 hrs prior to weigh-in
·         Restrict fluids and promote sweat loss through LOW INTENSITY exercise. This can be used to create up to a 2% dehydration (take your weight in pounds x 0.02 to figure out the max number of pounds you can lose). Try to do this exercise the night before weigh-ins so you spend less time in a dehydrated state.
o   Again, this is LOW intensity. If you have a heart rate monitor, make sure your heart rate stays at 50-60% of max heart rate. Don’t know your max heart rate? A good estimate is 220 minus your age.
·         It may be beneficial to reduce salt intake (as low as 1500 mg daily if you can pull it off) to assist with water loss - especially if you are not typically a salty sweater.

After weigh-in
·         Begin refueling immediately!!!
·         Drink 16-24 fluid ounces for every pound lost. A good rule of thumb to avoid over-hydrating is to drink 6-12 ounces every 15 minutes. Stick to fluids that provide carbohydrate and electrolytes (sports drinks are great) as well as cool beverages to help cool the body.
·         Stick to easy-to-digest carbs and fluids and try to eat small, frequent snacks to avoid GI discomfort prior to competition (big meals are a big no-no).
o   Examples include low-fat salty crackers, sports drinks, pretzels, bagels, bananas, PBJs, low-fat chocolate milk, low-fat pudding, and low-fat granola.
·         Avoid high-fiber and high-fat foods, which not only might not be tolerated, but also are digested so slowly that they prevent energy from getting to working muscles as quickly as you'll need it.
·         Use cold towels on the head, neck, and/or wrists to also help cool the body’s core temperature.

Like you’ve heard me say in the past – these are just guidelines. So, everything above needs to be tested out prior to competition day/week to establish what works best for each individual wrestler in terms of performance as well as tolerance.

And remember – it’s not just about what you eat in the days prior to competition – stick to a healthy diet every day to continue to have energy to train, compete, and recover. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fluid are your friends!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Detroit Marathon Race Report

Well it was an interesting first marathon this past Sunday. Many of you visited my blog last week to read my nutrition plan. Today I will report on how well the plan worked and how I fared in general.

The Summary (the short version)
Event: Detroit Marathon - Sun, Oct 16th
Actual Weather: Cloudy, spitting rain, 50-55 degrees
Actual Start Time: 7:10am
Actual Pace: 8:58/mi
Actual Finish Time: 3:54:32

The Story (the long version)
It was quite the crazy weekend for me. My fiance and I drove from Chicago on Friday afternoon to go to his little brother's football game on Friday evening. After 3 hours of sitting in cold, pouring rain (but watching some good football I should I add), we then went back to his parent's house where we were staying that night. Since it was two nights before the race, I knew it was my important sleeping night. I went to bed early after some good stretching and rolling with "The Stick".

Unfortunately it was not a good night of sleep for me - likely some race nerves combined with a few other factors resulted in only short episodes of deep sleep. I was up by 6:30am and we were on our way to East Lansing by 7:15am. We arrived on campus around 8:30am - in time to do some tailgating before the big Michigan State University vs. University of Michigan football game. While the weather again threatened rain, it was actually quite sunny and VERY windy the entire game. All day I felt good - was being very careful to drink my water and enjoyed some nice apple cider at the tailgate as well (non-alcoholic of course). I was leery of eating anything with mayonnaise or anything for which I wasn't sure how long it had been sitting out for fear of food poisoning. We stopped by the tailgate after the game (an MSU win!) and I actually caught myself eating a crock-pot creation of which I suddenly realized might have been sitting unrefrigerated all day. Luckily I quickly got rid of that!

My food on Saturday was very carefully selected - nothing high fiber but a good variety of carb and protein. I wanted to make sure everything could be quickly and easily digested. Saturday night we stayed at my uncle's house in St. Clair Shores and had a delicious pasta dinner (my favorite pre-competition meal). I again stretched very well, used The Stick, took a shower, and relaxed. Sleep that night was slightly better than Friday, but not by much.

Sunday- Race Day!
Race morning came quickly - everyone was up by 5am with an anticipated departure time of 5:30am. Of course with 5 people, that was not achieved; we were on our way by 5:50am. As soon as my feet hit the floor at 5am, I began my pre-race fueling: 2 cups water, 2 entire white bagel thins with 1.5 Tbsp on each, and 2 bananas. You'll notice this was a slight change from my plan as there was no jelly to be found at my uncle's house. I had brought all of my breakfast food to assure I had what I needed. Pre-race nerves delayed my ability to eat the food as quickly as I would have hoped. But I was able to finish everything by around 6am. I also drank another cup of water in the car.

We arrived at the course finally around 6:15am. Slightly too close for comfort for me, but there was nothing we could do about it. I started last-minute race preparations (put on my fuel belt, final stretches, last bathroom stop, etc.), and to my horror realized that my IPod was dead. I still have no idea how that happened but using it during the race was no longer an option. At the time I was worried about how this would affect my mental game, but as it turns out I think not having the music actually helped me keep my pace a bit better.

After finally finding gear check (located very inconveniently far away from the start), my brother (also doing the race) and I found our way to our corral (Corral E). Unfortunately we were so late that we had to be creative actually getting into the corral. But, alas we made it. I took a few final gulps of water (remember I was wearing my fuel belt - holding four 6-oz bottles of water, 5 gels, a headband and knee brace just in case) and our wave went through the start I'd say around 7:10am.

I had been warned by multiple people not to start out too fast. I'm glad they scared this advice into me. I planted myself firmly between the 3:40 and 3:50 pacers. Unfortunately they didn't pace too well. I realized quick I would have to figure out my pace on my own. Mile 2.75 or so started us over the Ambassador Bridge which meant a very long slow incline and then a decline down the other side. I felt really good the entire first half of the race. I found I didn't need the water at mile 2.5. I took the gels at miles 3.5 and 6 but used my own water to supplement. At that point we were in Canada, which was fun.

I took water at mile 8.5 (about 4 oz.). My gel at mile 10.5 was delayed as we were in the tunnel somewhere around then. The tunnel (between Canada and the U.S.) was surprisingly uncomfortable for me - it was 15-20 degrees warmer than the outside air, humid, and crowded. I had to keep myself calm as I ran the I'm guessing mile or so through the tunnel. After a blast of cold air coming out of the tunnel back on U.S. ground, I calmed down and felt better. I took my gel then. At the halfway point I was still feeling really good. I realized early on that an 8:40 pace was probably too aggressive and had decided to back off and listen to my body in order to pace myself. Therefore, my pace in the early miles was around 9min, then dropped to 8:30, then leveled off around 8:45. Again - that was purely based on how I felt my body was dealing with whatever pace I was running at.

After the halfway point, I was nauseous. I realized I just could not do any more gels and would have to switch to Gatorade.  I did not drop my fuel belt as I felt comfortable with it on and wanted to keep it just in case I needed anything I was carrying. Since I had been training with it for months, I didn't feel it was holding me back at all. Starting around mile 15 or so, I completely switched to Gatorade and from that point on took 3-4 ounces of Gatorade at every aid station. Keep in mind it was cold and slightly rainy. I am a light sweater to begin with, so I wasn't too worried about hydration - I was more worried about keeping my energy levels up. Keeping my energy up kept my mind positive and focused to keep on running.

At mile 18.5 I took Gatorade and was still feeling okay (that's me in the blue top). Mile 19 took us out onto an island for the next 3.5 or so miles. This was when things started to go south. I had been feeling really great and quite positive the entire race up to this point. By the time I got to mile 19 (a bit over 3 hours in or so), it was like all of the muscles in my legs started to turn against me. I can definitely say at that point I had a slight anxiety attack and wasn't sure I'd make it. This was where the sheer mental fight started. I began thinking to myself, "I just need to get off this island. Get off the island. Get off the island."

Mile 20. Mile 21. Mile 22. Exit from the island up ahead. Mile 22.5 - this is where my fiance had said he would be waiting to see if I needed support from him. He ran the Chicago marathon last week and knew how much it helped to have someone run miles 23-25 with him. As I approached him, he said "Do you want me to run with you?". All I could manage was to nod. He ran with me from mile 22.5 until just before mile 26. I admit I had to walk for about 45 seconds in mile 24 and about 30 seconds in mile 25 (during an uphill). For me I needed to mentally refocus and the walking helped me do that. Believe me when I say that walking did not help with the pain and in fact made it worse (I wouldn't recommend it). But it did help me re-group and keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Mile 26. The finish I knew was just around the corner. I looked up and realized I'd have to do yet one more hill. The course was advertised as flat and fast but I would beg to differ on that. I used everything I had left to power up the hill, turn the corner and run to the finish line - about 300m ahead. At that point it was all sheer willpower. Physically I had nothing left.

I crossed the finish line in 3:54:32. Slightly higher than my original goal but still under four. I'm happy with that because I know I couldn't have gone any faster on that day. Looking back on the race and preparation, my nutrition was solid. I felt hydrated and energized before and during the race and had no cramping or GI issues (I attribute the nausea to anxiety). If I ever did another marathon the only thing I would change is implementing more cross training- specifically swimming - and being religious about lifting 2x/wk. I think doing those two things would have better prepared and protected my muscles for that 26.2 mile run.

After the race, I felt like I was in a daze. I slowly made my way to the food. I immediately drank an entire cup of Gatorade but could not fathom eating anything solid. I grabbed a bag full of food anyhow - knowing I would eat it eventually. I was so cold after I finished that I was shivering uncontrollably. My fiance got me a coffee and a hot chocolate (showcased in the picture below - that's my brother, James, on the right). I drank the hot chocolate and then was able to stomach chocolate milk and half of a muffin. After that, I slowly nibbled at more food until my appetite came back.

My favorite part of the day - the ice bath Sunday night. It took willpower to get in that ice bath, but that was easy after running 26.2 miles. Believe it or not, as I write this on Tuesday I remain only slightly sore and I know the ice bath, The Stick, my foam roller, and lots of stretching is the reason for that.  I am grateful for the opportunity to run this marathon, as I know I now better understand the physical and nutritional demands of all you marathoners out there!

Be Extraordinary,


Thursday, October 13, 2011

My Marathon Nutrition Plan

Ever wonder how a sports RD fuels for a marathon? Are we all talk and no action? Well, here is my proof that I, too, create a nutrition plan for every race in which I compete. This week I'll tell you my plan; next week come back to hear how it follow along the course as you read my plan, click here.

Event: Detroit Marathon - Sun, Oct 16th
Anticipated Weather: Sunny, 65 degrees
Start Time: 7am (wave start)
Approximate pace: 8:40/mi for first 13 miles; re-evaluate at the half
Goal Time: 3:45-3:50

4:45/5am - Wake up. Immediately drink 2 cups water followed by breakfast of 1 large bagel with peanut butter on half and jelly on the other half + 1 banana + 1 cup Gatorade at end. Eat all by 5:30am.

6am - Drink 1 c water + a couple of sips Gatorade (I tend to start getting nervous at this point, so too much Gatorade doesn't settle well)

6:15am- Drink 1/2 c water

6:30/6:40am - Be in start corral. If feel hungry at this point, will take a gel with water (will be wearing fuel belt to supplement water/gel intake throughout as needed - I trained with it so am used to it).

(Approximate start time 7:10/7:15am)

Mile maker 2.5 - 1 c water at aid station (I'm guessing will take in ~6 oz per cup)
Mile marker 3.5 - Start taking 1 gel after cross bridge (takes me a while to finish each gel pack)
Mile marker 4.25 - 1 c water at aid station to help digest gel
Mile marker 6 - Take gel
Mile marker 6.5 - 1 c water at aid station to help digest gel
Mile marker 8.5 - 1 c water at aid station
Mile marker 10.5 [~90 min in] - Take gel
Mile marker 11.2 - 1 c water at aid station to help digest gel
Halfway point - Reassess body's hydration/energy levels - mentally adjust nutrition plan as needed
Mile marker 13.7 - 1 c Gatorade at aid station + 1 c water if needed
[Mile marker 14 - Possibly drop fuel belt here to family member]
Mile marker 16 - Take Gu from aid station [if I don't get a berry flavor, will not take as I only like berry flavors - I will be carrying enough on me still so can just take one of mine]
Mile marker 16.2 - 1 c water at aid station to help digest gel
Mile marker 18.5 - 1 c Gatorade at aid station
Mile marker 20 - Take gel [~3.25 hrs in]
Mile marker 20.7 - 1 c water at aid station to help digest gel
Mile marker 22.5 - 1 c water at aid station
   Will likely take in little else at this point depending on how I feel as I will have taken in quite a bit throughout, though will reassess as pass two remaining aid stations.

After finish: Lay down and contemplate why I just put my body through that. Take in Gatorade immediately; solid foods as soon as can tolerate. Stretch. Go to lunch!

So, there you go. I should mention the gels I use are Clif Shots...for no particular reason other than I like the flavor, tolerate them, and (most importantly) have trained with them. Also, Gatorade is what is being provided on the course (and yes I have trained with it).

My plan comes down to taking in something approximately every two miles. This works with my pace and the weather I anticipate. Remember, EVERTYHING is individual! Also notice I'm trying to do a lot of front-loading (taking in more at the beginning of the race) because I anticipate having little interest in anything toward the end of the race except finishing.

Wish me luck!

Be extraordinary,


Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Last Supper

The Chicago Marathon is on Sunday, which means that the pre-competition last supper is coming up soon. If you really want to carbohydrate load (i.e. take in gigantic portions of carbohydrate at dinnertime), it's best to do that two nights before (which would be Friday night in the instance). The night before a race, carbohydrates are important, but don't get too crazy - be sure to include good portions of protein and also a little healthy fat to prepare your muscles overnight and help you get a good night's sleep.
And keep in mind that a pre-competition meal is not just important for marathon runners. We are in full swing of fall sports, so all athletes from soccer and football to cycling and tennis should heed the importance of the pre-competition meal.

But what to eat? Ideally, your meal will include high carbohydrate, moderate protein, and low fat. Here are some great meal ideas - choose one that includes foods you are comfrortable with. These meals would be ideal either one or two days before - just adjust how much carbohydrate you are taking in depending on which day you choose to enjoy them!

Meal 1: Chili with beans, rice or pasta, lemonade or juice, sherbert or frozen yogurt for desert

Meal 2: Grilled chicken sandwich, baked potato, iced tea, frozen fruit bar for desert

Meal 3: Pizza with mushrooms or other veggies, salad with veggies, breadsticks, soft drink (be careful with this one unless you tolerate carbonation VERY well before a race)

Meal 4: Pasta with vegetables, italian roll, strawberries, iced tea

Meal 5: Turkey sub, low-fat chips, apple, sports drink

Meal 6: Rice with vegetables and black beans, salad with veggies, fruit cup, low-fat milk

Meal 7: Cereal with banana and granola, whole-wheat toast with jam, orange juice [who says you can't have breakfast for dinner?]
Source: Eberle, SG Endurance Sports Nutrition

Stick with one of the above, and you're well on your way to a great race, game, or match!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sink Your Next Putt with Good Nutrition

A recent trip to the golf course was the inspiration for today's blog. While I don't claim to be the best golfer, I do enjoy a good 9 holes every now and again. Many athletes (golfers or not) believe nutrition has nothing to do with performance on the green. Let me tell you why good nutrition can make the difference between making par and making a birdie...or maybe even an eagle (okay well THAT might be a stretch purely based on my own experience).

Hydration Matters
Golf is a game of skill and technique. One slight adjustment can mean the difference between a beautiful shot straight down the green and a trek through the woods. When it comes to staying focused, hydration matters! In a game of golf, you should be drinking frequently. Take at least one gulp every hole and drink 8 oz. at the turn (hole 9) if you are playing 18 holes. If you are not a fan of plain water, try G2 or Propel Zero. G2 provides a small amount of energy and both drinks provide electrolytes as well as fluid. If it is an uncharacteristic hot or humid day, be sure to increase your fluid intake and plan on taking a G2 with you. You'll need the extra energy and electrolytes as your sweat rate will be much higher than usual.

Balance Your Blood Sugar
Concentration isn't just about staying hydrated. Think of the last time you went a bit too long between meals. How did you feel? Tired? Groggy? Perhaps had a hard time focusing? That is likely because your blood sugar (or the amount of available energy in your bloodstream) was dropping, causing these common symptoms. Clearly these are not optimal on the golf course. To assure you keep your blood sugar stable without also spiking it too high, take along snacks with complex carb and protein to munch on as you golf. Some easy snacks that fit neatly in your bag: granola bars such as Kashi or Clif bars, trail mix that has both protein and carbohydrate, or fruit with a small bag of unsalted nuts (though I wouldn't recommend a banana as it may get mushy if accidentally left in your golf bag for too long...). A good rule of thumb is to take a bite or two of your snack every 2-3 holes. Be wary of snacks such as candy, energy drinks or chips. Candy and energy  drinks will often spike your blood sugar, giving you a temporary wake-up only to leave you crashing shortly after. Chips often contain a hefty amount of fat, which can sit heavy on your stomach, causing you to feel sluggish leading to a breakdown in technique and focus.

Golf is a sport of endurance (yes - it is!), so make sure you are providing your body with the fluid and energy it needs to get you through all 18 holes. Sink that putt with good nutrition!

Be extraordinary,


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

CAUTION! Important Race Ahead!

It's crazy to realize we're almost through September. You know what that means - fall road races!!! From 5Ks to Marathons, September through mid-December is a popular time to race. It's getting too cold for triathlons and bike races, but it's still too warm for cross country skiing or snowboarding. I've got some friends getting ready for the Chicago Marathon on October 9th and I myself am preparing for the Detroit Marathon on October 16th. If you are closing in on your fall competition, there may be only a few weeks left to perfect your nutrition plan. Just like you train your muscles for exercise, you've got to make sure your stomach is ready as well. Just drinking a flavor of sports drink provided on the course that you normally wouldn't could throw off your entire race. Take these steps now to make sure you are ready......

1. Check how often there are aide stations on the race course. Is it every mile? Every 1.5 miles? Generally the longer the race the more aide stations, but you want to check that. I once ran a 10K that had NO water stations (it was pretty painful)! Figure out which stations you will need to stop at based on your planned mile pace. Remember: You should be drinking at least every 20 minutes.

2. Check what will be provided at aide stations. Just water? Water and sports drink? What type of sports drink and what flavor? Gu's or gels? How about real food like pretzels? If you want to use it during the race, you need to start training with it NOW. You don't know how your stomach will react to the nutrition provided if you don't try it ahead of time.

3. Once you complete numbers one and two, create (and by that I mean write out) your race nutrition plan and use it as soon as your next run. The best time to try your plan is on your next training run that is most similar to your race. For example, a 20-mile training run would be a great time to try a marathon race nutrition plan.

4. Don't forget about race morning. What will you eat for breakfast and at what time? Again - try it ahead of time to make sure it actually works for you....meaning you tolerate and it keeps you energized until you get to the starting line.

5. If you're planning to carb load the week of the race (defined as a calculated increase in carbohoydrate intake in the 2-3 days prior to the race - accompanied by a decrease in training), then you also need to try this ahead of time. Not everyone responds favorably to carb loading - especially if not done properly. Try it during an earlier week first to make sure you're ready. And remember that this type of carb loading is really only beneficial if your race is longer than 90 minutes. Not sure how to carb load? I think it's time to see a sports dietitian!

There are of course many other things you need to do in the days prior to the race, but completing steps 1-5 now will assure you arrive at race week confident, focused, and ready to implement your plan.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Are muscle cramps cramping your performance?

It was big news last week when pro tennis player Rafeal Nadal "collapsed" during a press conference while having severe muscle cramping in his legs. During an interview afterward, he quickly laughed and brushed off the reporter saying, “[It's] nothing new – It’s nothing important...I just drink - that's all. ” While Nadal was very nonchalant, muscle cramps are no laughing matter and can severely hinder your performance.

What are muscle cramps?
The reasons behind why muscles cramp are often unclear. It’s difficult to distinguish a single culprit, but an imbalance of electrolytes in the muscle may predispose the muscle to cramping. Electrolytes are present to help muscles contract and relax appropriately during exercise. You have probably heard the term “electrolytes” in sports drink or recovery drink commercials. This is because during exercise the body can lose a substantial amount of electrolytes in sweat. If they are not replaced appropriately, it creates an imbalance within the muscle, locking the muscle in a painful spasm.

Why would someone have problems with cramping?
If due to a nutritional imbalance, a few habits can lead to muscle cramping. The most common is an infatuation with drinking only water during exercise. While this is fine during moderate or even semi-intense short-term (lasting <60 minutes) exercise, those doing prolonged vigorous exercise – such as someone like Nadal playing for multiple hours at a high competition level – need more than just water because they are losing more than just water. As I mentioned above, there can be a substantial amount of electrolytes lost with water during sweating. So, those who are particularly heavy sweaters or those exercising for long periods of time need to cognizant of this fact. Other habits that can increase the likelihood of developing muscle cramping is exercising in hot and/or humid environments when the athlete is not acclimated or simply not drinking enough of anything during exercise – water or not.

How does one prevent muscle cramping?
So the obvious way to prevent cramping? Plan ahead and don’t drink just water during or after heavy exercise. This will assure that you are replacing your body’s losses. During exercise, use a sports drink or perhaps diluted 100% fruit juice with added salt. Particularly heavy sweaters may need something with extra electrolytes such as Gatorade Endurance, or may choose to add a separate electrolyte supplement to their regular sports drink, such as Nuun tabs. Read my blog here for more information.
After exercise, you may need to continue that sports drink or instead use a recovery drink such as low-fat chocolate milk. Assure you are also getting enough potassium in your daily diet from foods such as pinto and kidney beans, tomatoes, spinach, cantaloupe, and milk. Some athletes may need to use the salt shaker liberally at meals or eat salty foods such as pretzels, pickles, or canned foods to maintain sodium levels.  But remember, these types of recommendations are very individual and don’t apply to every athlete every day of the training year.

If you are having problems with muscle cramping during or in the hours after exercise, it’s important to re-evalute your hydration plan before, during, and after exercise. What happened to Nadal may be COMMON in high-level tennis, but it is not smart and it IS preventable.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Don't let work saboutage your health goals!

For many athletes, finding time to stay on top of everything in their life is difficult. Getting in good training, good sleep, and good nutrition sometimes takes a backseat to having a good marriage, good friendships, or success at work. ABC News Health posted a great article last week about staying healthy at work. Whether your "work" is a job or going to school, here 7 ways work can actually help contribute to your health goals....

1. Take a Walk
At mid-morning, lunchtime, or mid-afternoon, get up from your desk and go for a walk either in a close-by park, along a quiet street or simply around your place of work or study. A recent study found that memory span improves by 20% after a 50-minute nature walk. Maybe we can't all afford 50 minutes outside, but certainly 10 minutes is possible...and leave your phone behind!

2. Surf the Web
Researchers discovered that surfing the web rejuvenated employees and boosted productivity. Another study showed that students who were allowed to surf the Internet during "10 minutes of leisure" were more productive and effective at tasks. It's important to relieve your mind as well as your body!

3. Make Your Desk a Mini Gym
The article gives great ideas for how to use your chair, the edge of your desk or the floor to do dips, squats, and push-ups. Or why not just bring dumbbells to work!?

4. Keep Moving
We hear it all the time - take the stairs! But this is really true! Take a break every hour or two; get up and move around. Sitting for long periods of time is often the reason for lower back pain and other issues because supporting muscles get weak. Set an alarm to remind yourself to get up and move. Read the article for more ways to keep moving, such as walking meetings.

5. Check Your Posture
It is especially important for athletes to have good posture to help avoid injury and muscle imbalances. Check the article for the steps to take to check and adjust your posture while sitting at your desk.

6. Plan Ahead
The key to good nutrition! Work places and libraries are full of vending machines, fast-food type convenience stores, and other nasty temptations. Pack and bring your snacks and meals to avoid turning to that late-afternoon vending machine candy bar. Have an office refrigerator? Use it! And don't forget to drink your water...

7. Be Aware of Good Hygiene and Food Safety
The American Dietetic Association just published results from a survey that found that 62% of Americans eat lunch at their desk, 50% snack at their desk, and 27% eat lunch at their desk. That can lead to issues with food safety, so make sure if you eat your desk that you are keeping it clean.

Be extraordinary,