Thursday, January 26, 2012

How about dinner and a 150 foot jump?

Welcome to part 2 of my amazing adventures in New Zealand! Last week, I introduced breakfast and lunch. Lets move on to dinner and then more exciting activities!

As a general rule, Kiwis do not eat dinner until late - typically around 7:30pm. Similar to Europe, dinner is a very relaxed meal that can last a good amount of time in good company. At restaurants, the waitstaff is not pushy and will never make you feel as if you need to "hurry up and leave".
Given that New Zealand is two islands, it won't surprise you that the seafood was delicious. Though prepared quite similar to the States, one could tell it was fresh (see picture of my partially-eaten seafood dinner). I regret to say that I probably could have eaten a bit more seafood during my time in NZ. And what better to go with seafood than wine? I was shocked to discover that there are vineyards in NZ and wine is quite a popular commodity - who knew?! After visiting a couple of wineries, I will say that I was quite impressed with the flavor and quality. For the most part, I observed more wine being drunk with dinner than beer, but breweries are quite plentiful as well, so we never seemed to be lacking multiple micro-brew options.

One more surprising dinner option - Indian food. I could not believe the number of Indian restaurants in every part of NZ we visited. There are likely many reasons for this, but we simply had to give in one night, even though we of course can get this in the states. One order of butter chicken, potato curry and garlic nann later....we were not disappointed.

Calling all adventure-seekers!
If there is one thing NZ will never be called, it's "boring". We could have done one crazy adventure after another and never run out of new things to try. Instead, we chose jet boating, kayaking, hiking, hang gliding, and bungy jumping

Jet Boating
This is very popular all over NZ, but we chose to experience this at the Huka Falls. The idea is you sit in a boat with about 12 people and go flying down a narrow river canyon at unreasonable speeds, while the driver performs 360's and other daring maneuvers. Think of it as being on a group jet ski. While I thought it was a bit over-hyped, they still did a nice job with this. 

We chose to kayak in the beautiful Milford Sound. Located in Fiordland, it is rich with phenomenal views that literally took my breath away. While the trip should have been fairly relaxing, an odd weather pattern creating a change in wind direction. Instead of few minutes of head wind with mainly tail wind otherwise, we had the opposite. Twenty-five minutes into the wind - lets just say it was epic!

Tangariro Alpine Crossing
This 19.4K hike is considered one of the most beautiful one-day hikes in the world. After completing this hike, I wouldn't doubt that! Temperatures ranged from 45 to 70 degrees and at the highest point, we were at 1900 meters! Absolutely amazing and I would recommend it to anyone. Read more about the crossing here. And yes - that IS Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings.

Hang Gliding
This has got to be the closest to flying anyone will experience. I was fortunate enough to fly with the World Champion of Hang Gliding. Therefore, he felt comfortable enough to actually stop the kite a few times during our flight so you were literally hanging in mid-air...crazy! The best parts were taking off (i.e. running off a cliff) and landing (flying at incredibly high speeds toward the ground and rolling along the grass - quite like an airplane!).

Bungy Jumping
While I always said I would NEVER do this, who could go to New Zealand - the birthplace of bungy jumping - and not try it? Not only did we jump in NZ, we jumped at the location of the very first commercial bungy jump. It was a 150 foot jump, and easily the most terrifying moment of my life was standing at the top and looking down. However, contrary to my own beliefs, once I took the leap, it was not painful and in fact my stomach did not even drop - impressive! While I'm not sure I'll ever do it again, I would definitely recommend everyone try this at least once.

Visiting New Zealand left my husband and I wondering - why don't more Americans come here?! I would love to go back, and I hope each of you get the chance to experience this amazing countryside one day too.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Eating in the Land of the Kiwis - NZ!

During my 14-day visit to New Zealand, I was able to try some phenomenal food. However, more than just trying food, my favorite part about traveling is being a food observer - noting the types of foods served at which meals and how that differs from back home.

Breakfast food options were quite similar to the U.S.A., with the exception of a few things. First, muesli was extremely popular and a must at breakfast. Many of you I'm sure have tried this delightful cereal, which is often a mixture of oats, dried fruit, and nuts. Think of it as a dressed-up oatmeal served cold with milk instead of warm. (This was a common attendant at breakfast during my travels through Europe as well.) I really wish we had good, affordable muesli available to us in the states because it is high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein - a phenomenal choice for breakfast! The other entertaining difference was the labels for milk. Instead of skim, 1%, 2%, or whole milk, the milks were labeled trim and standard (with variations of extra trim and such). Finally, the coffee in New Zealand left much to be desired. Coffee must be somewhat of a delicacy there, as one small cup cost 2-3x what we pay here. Also, Kiwis don't drink our drip coffee, but prefer European-style espresso and other strong coffee variations. Instead of having a coffee maker in the hotel rooms, every room provided instant (yes, you read correctly) - instant coffee granules. I love me a good instant cup for camping and such, but 14 days of instant coffee would make any American caffeine-addict zany. I rejoiced when I finally found American-style coffee (i.e. an Americano) in Queenstown at Joe's Garage. Delicious!

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is to visit American fast food joints to check out how the menu differs from back home. I may not purchase anything, but if you've never done this, it is quite interesting. McDonalds was my chain of choice this time around - mainly because they were everywhere (though we did enjoy the fact that KFC was also a HUGE hit). Because Kiwis (like Italians, French, and British) enjoy their afternoon coffee and biscuit, every McDonalds had a "McCafe Bistro" that served not only specialty coffee (many more selections than here), but also desserts similar to what you would see at a Starbucks (which was also a common site). The food menu was otherwise quite similar, though more limited than in the states. One additional category of items we tried were wraps. They had a tandoori chicken and a sweet chili chicken wrap (which were 'seared' instead of 'grilled'). While I had great expectations for these wraps, they fell short. The chicken itself was much more authentic than the chicken served in the states (yum), but the wrap itself was falling apart and covered with too much dressing, making it incredibly difficult to eat.

Come back next week when I discuss dinner (wine, seafood, and curry - oh my!) as well as show you why New Zealand is the perfect place for adventure-seekers. Cheers!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

I Want Your Feedback!

Happy New Year!

I'm back from my fabulous trip to New Zealand. I'm so excited to share with you the adventures and - more importantly - the food I saw and tried! While I'm prepping those blog posts, I wanted to take this week to get your input and feedback. I appreciate your support as a reader and want to make sure I am writing about topics that really matter to you and benefit you as an athlete.

Please either comment below or email me at to let me know what you love about this blog, what you would like to see change, or what topics I haven't addressed that you would like to see covered. Remember: my expertise is with any and every sport, including medical nutrition therapy issues prevalent in athletes, such as diabetes, eating disorders, and heart disease. Have a question you want answered? Just ask! Wondering about a current hot topic in nutrition? Just ask!

Looking forward to your thoughts and questions and stayed tuned over the next two weeks for great stories and pictures from my trip to Kiwi-land! 

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Truth About Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat

The internet is full of interesting tips, theories and diets for helping athletes and non-athletes alike decrease fat and/or increase muscle. When it comes to sport performance, a desirable body composition for the sport can be the difference between a great athlete and an amazing one. Remember though, that what is considered "desirable" varies based on sport, position, competition level, and gender. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to an ideal body shape. Here is the truth about what it takes to change body composition.

1. Don't cut out sources of carbohydrate.
Many athletes see huge weight decreases when they cut out carbs...and rejoice, believing that they have successfully made themselves a lean machine overnight. Not so fast. Carbs are stored in muscle along with water. If you cut out carbs, you lose the water too. So, while you will lose weight, it is all water weight and you only really succeed is dehydrating your muscles (not good for sport performance). Plus, keep in mind that carb is the body's main source of energy during exercise. If you don't eat adequate carb, your body burns muscle. Dehydration and breakdown of muscle - that sounds like a losing game plan to me. Incorporate good sources of carb - such as whole grain breads, rice and pasta and fruits and vegetables - at all meals and snacks (yes - all!) to make sure you are fueling your body for desirable body composition changes. And we love those whole grains: in one study, people who ate whole grains, such as whole wheat bread, lost more belly fat than those who ate only refined grains, such as white bread and white rice.

2. Don't go overboard on protein.
Most Americans eat 2-3x more protein than they actually need, so increasing protein just because you are trying to build muscle is often unnecessary. In order to build and recover muscles, make sure you are eating lean sources of protein along with twice as much carbohydrate at meals and snacks. While protein may build muscle, carbohydrate opens the door to the muscles to make that possible. If you're an endurance athlete, aim for 1.2-1.5 gm protein/kg body weight per day. So, for someone my size (~60kg), that is 70-90gm protein daily. If you are not an endurance athlete, you'll need closer to 1.7-1.9 gm protein/kg body weight per day. However, this is not really that much when you consider that a typical serving of meat provides 25-35 gm protein (and that is just one meal).

3. Learn to love fat.
That's right - LOVE it. In fact, the more hours you exercise, the more fat your body needs. Fat helps decrease inflammation in the body as well as provides the energy your body needs, while helping you feel more satisfied after meals. Afraid eating fat will make you gain weight? In a 28-month study with nearly 9,000 participants, those who ate nuts at least twice weekly (a source of healthy fat) were 31% less likely to gain weight over the course of the study when compared to those who rarely or never ate nuts. In addition to nuts, choose other heart healthy sources of fats such olive oil, canola oil, nut butters, olives, flax seed, and fatty fish such as salmon and tuna.

4. Sleep is good.
If you take away nothing from this blog, remember this: sleep is the most important thing you will do all day. No matter what type of body composition changes you are making, the majority of those changes happen overnight when you are sleeping. Aim to get 7-9 hours of deep sleep per night. How do you make sure you are sleeping deeply? Here are a few tips: no caffeine after 5pm, no more than 1 alcoholic drink in the evening, eat every 3-4 hours and hydrate properly throughout the day. Not following these steps will affect your body's ability to achieve deep body composition changing sleep.

Be Extraordinary,