Wednesday, August 29, 2012

5 Performance Nutrition Tips to Fuel Your Marathon

Marathon season is in full swing! Many of you have already competed, but countless more have their sights on a fall marathon. Around here, the focus tends to be on the Chicago Marathon in October. Whether the marathon you have chosen will include 500 participants or 5000, there are a few keys performance nutrition tactics you should practice to set that PR come race day...

1. Train your stomach, not just your muscles
A big mistake I see long-distance runners make is forgetting to train their stomachs. Along with putting in those miles, it is important to practice fueling for race day. Race day is not a time to introduce new products (even sports drink), as your stomach may not be used to digesting during running. As soon as your runs become longer than 60 minutes, start adding in quick sources of carbohydrate such as sports drinks, gels, chomps, beans, dried fruit, or pretzels. Experiment with different products so you know what you prefer and what you tolerate both at the beginning and toward the end of those long runs.

2. Know the course
While it is important to know the running course, you also need to educate yourself about the aid stations. Most (and by that I mean 99%) marathon races have the course map on the website. That course map will either include the aid stations or provide a different map of just aid stations. Know what will be handed out where. Most marathons offer water and sports drink every 1.5 miles or so, but may add bananas or gu's/gels in the second half. Know what is available where so you can train appropriately. Are they handing out a sports drink you have never tried before? Go out and buy some so you can train with it - you never know whether or not you will tolerate it.

3. Frontload fuel
A key to marathon fueling is starting sooner rather than later. Any of you who have run a marathon before are familiar with that "22-mile wall"'s that feeling you get somewhere between miles 19 and 23 when your body says "are you done yet?". Hitting the wall often means you have little motivation to provide fluid and fuel to your body anymore. Therefore, make sure you will be covered by starting fueling (i.e. something more than water) within the first 30 min into the race and then consistently every 30 minutes after that. This will also assure that your muscles have energy to get you through the ENTIRE race. This means better mile times and hitting that wall later rather than sooner.

4. Have a plan
Once you have checked out the aid stations and begun to train your stomach, start devising your fueling plan. This is perhaps the most important thing you will bring to race day. Decide what product(s) you will take at what mile markers. Will you use a fuel belt? If so, what will you carry? Will you take from the aid stations? If so, do you know what flavors of products they have and if you like those flavors? These are all important questions that should be answered weeks beforehand instead of as you are approaching that aid station on race day.

5. Commit daily
While it is important to plan for the race day itself, much of your success depends on your commitment to your intake on a daily basis. Poor fueling will lead to poor recovery, muscle breakdown, and ineffective training sessions. Make sure you are covering for all of those calories you are burning during training. That means eating at least every 4 hours during the day and fueling during your runs as well. Feel like you're eating all of the time? Good! That's a common feeling and often means you are doing things right. Not sure what you should be eating daily? Meet with a RD, CSSD who can help you come up with a fueling plan perfect for your needs and goals.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

School Lunches Solved: Planning, Shopping & Packing

For many athletes or parents of athletes, planning for lunch at school is a dreaded part of the back to school routine. While many complain of poor choices offered in the cafeteria, an equally common complaint is lack of time to pack a sack lunch. Yet, "brown bagging it" doesn't have to take up a huge amount of time or energy. Here are some tips, tricks, and sample lunches to fuel the athlete in you or in your family....

When planning for sack lunches, remember the key components that should be included in each lunch. Make your list before you head to the store.
-Carbohydrates: Preferably whole grain/whole wheat
-Protein: Preferably low-fat
-Fruit: Fresh is easiest, but canned is okay too
-Vegetables: Think fresh "ready-to-eat" veggies such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes

Do your shopping on the weekend, and buy for the entire week. Using the guidelines discussed, here is a list you might use:

Whole wheat bread, tortillas, or pitas
Brown rice or quinoa
Whole grain tortilla chips
Whole grain crackers such as Triscuits, Wheat Thins, or Kashi TLCs
Low sugar jelly/jam or honey
Dried fruit (no sugar added if possible)

Low sodium lunch meats
Canned/packets of tuna
Canned beans
Part-skim mozzarella cheese sticks
Low-fat regular or Greek yogurt: Single serve containers or bulk
Low-fat cottage cheese
2% milk block cheese
Peanut or other nut butter
Whole nuts

Any fresh fruit (look for sales) - fruit like peaches, bananas, oranges and apples might be easier than pineapple, mango or melon that requires cleaning and cutting
Any canned fruit in its own juice (not heavy syrup)
Any fresh veggies (look for sales) - baby carrots and cherry tomatoes come ready to eat vs. broccoli, cauliflower or cucumber, which requires cleaning and cutting

Pack/provide splurge foods only 1x/week (but not on game days). These are not effective for fueling or recovery, but certainly can be part of a reasonable intake. Such foods include items like chips, cookies/brownies, fruit roll-ups/fruit snacks, or soda.

Prep as much as possible on the weekend to save time during the week. Make sandwiches (minus sauces/dressings which can make them soggy), cut up vegetables or fruit and put in sandwich bags, make individual salads in tupperware containers, create your own single serve yogurt or cottage cheese by placing 3/4 cup into a small tupperware container from the bulk container. Hard boil eggs and make rice/quinoa.

Lunch #1
Lunch meat or tuna sandwich with cheese, tomato, romaine lettuce, & mustard if desired
Baby carrots
Low-fat yogurt

Lunch #2
PBJ or PB & Honey on whole wheat bread
Cherry tomatoes
String cheese

Lunch #3
Low-fat cottage cheese with canned fruit, walnuts, & cinnamon
Crackers & cheese
Fresh broccoli & cauliflower

Lunch #4
Brown rice/quinoa with beans, salsa, and cheese (rolled into a tortilla with lettuce and tomato if desired)
Tortilla chips
Orange or clementine

Lunch #5
Spinach salad with hard-boiled eggs, carrots, celery, tomatoes, oil-based dressing
Place salad in a pita to enjoy
Fresh apricot
Milk (cow's or soy)

Lunch #6
Tortilla with hummus, lots of veggies and feta cheese
Fresh berries
Quinoa with dried fruit and nuts

Remember that lunch doesn't have to be only lunch foods. Both breakfast and dinner foods can be enjoyed at lunch...just follow the guidelines above. Leftovers from dinner often make a great and quick lunch the next day!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Why Detox & Cleansing Hurts

Search for "detox products" online and you'll get over 35,000 hits. Detox diet books number in the hundreds. Surprising? Unfortunately, no. Ridiculous? Absolutely. It's continually shocking to me the amount that some people will pay for products that have absolutely no scientific evidence that they do...anything. The theory behind detoxing is that our body becomes overloaded with "toxins" from the food we eat, mainly coming from additives, caffeine, preservatives, and alcohol. Supposedly these toxins stay in the body, wreaking all kinds of havoc, from weight gain to belly bloat to fatigue. The truth is that this entire premise is faulty.

Talk to any GI specialist and he/she will tell you the same thing: our bodies don't get "backed up with toxins" that come from the foods we eat. The body is perfectly capable of cleansing itself using its own special device: your liver. Ever heard the phrase, "You live-r you die"? You need your liver - can't live without it! It is your body's natural way of filtering out the "bad stuff" and keeping the good.

So why do people keep buying detox and cleansing products, claiming to see results? Many of these products are filled with intestinal irritants, designed to upset the lining of your gastro-intestinal (GI) system so that you go to the bathroom (and therefore think the products is effective). The products claim that this is your body ridding itself of "toxins and years of build-up", when all you have done is irritate your intestines.
Unfortunately, the consequences can go beyond mere irritation of your GI system. Many detox products or detox diets are downright dangerous. Some products require extreme fasting for days or weeks at a time, in which participants only drink liquids or eat only one or two foods. Taking in so few calories leads to severe muscle wasting (not fat loss). Still other detox products contain laxatives or colonics; these can be dangerously dehydrating and cause electrolyte imbalances in the body. Use the products enough and you will start decreasing how effectively your intestines absorb the vitamins and minerals in the food you eat. Some people become dependent on these "colon cleanses" to go to the bathroom because they have overused them and upset the natural regularity of their bodies.

Looking for a healthy way to "cleanse" your body? Try this:
1. Drink plenty of water
2. Eat whole foods rich in fiber, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grain.
3. Fuel your muscles with low-fat dairy products and other lean sources of protein.
4. Eat consistently throughout the day: every 3-4 hours is ideal.
5. With the okay from your doctor, be physically active every day.
6. Avoid laxatives and detox supplements.
So whether it's a pill, liquid, diet, or foot pad (yes, those are out there too), stay far away.
Be Extraordinary,

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Olympic Dreams Help Cycler Conquer Eating Disorder

Please enjoy my intern Maggie's last blog - inspired by the Olympics!

Be Extraordinary,


In this second week of competition, the 30th Olympiad has not lacked in exciting match-ups and captivating competitions.  The fiercest competitors have battled to the finish line to make their country proud, and unlikely hopefuls have earned gold metals. These athletes have undoubtedly touched our hearts with their tireless effort and amazing spirit, making that extra mile on the treadmill a little more bearable.  We know these athletes have endured hours of training to become both physically and mentally prepared. What we many not know about are the obstacles that some athletes have had to overcome in order to make it to London. Many athletes knew they were meant to compete when they played a sport for the first time as a young child or when they watched past Olympians on TV. However, not every competitor’s Olympic aspirations has been a journey from childhood, for some it has been the destination.

U.S. cyclist, Dotsie Bausch’s road to London has been just that. For her cycling is more than just a sport - it was been an outlet of hope that saved her from a life-threatening battle with an eating disorder.  During her senior year of college, Dotsie began modeling in New York City. She found herself turning to anorexia and bulimia to cope with the pressure to be thin. Her 5-foot 9 frame shrunk from 139 pounds to a mere 90, and after a failed suicide attempt, Dostie hit rock bottom. It wasn’t until her therapist suggested she try cycling as a different way to channel her energy that she began to break the cycle that nearly took her life.  After her first ride she found not only a new form of recovery but that she had an uncommon talent and an insatiable desire to compete.

Four years later and with her health and weight back on track, Dotsie was recruited by the U.S. national team and went on to become a two-time Pam Am Championship gold medal winner. And now, in her 12th year as a bike racer she can add silver medalist to her list of achievements.  Along with her team of Sarah Hammer and Lauren Tammyo, the cyclists competed in the 3-kilometer race, which lead to an amazing finish for team USA.

Achieving what most of us can only dream of, Dotsie’s medal will undoubtedly serve as a symbol of strength and personal healing for her and an inspiration to many others who have battled eating disorders. Through her journey, Dotsie has visited Canada and Ecuador to help develop centers that assist people with eating disorders. One of her personal passions is to extend emotional support through motivational speaking to men and women who struggle with anorexia and bulimia.  For Dotsie and many other athletes, the sport in which they compete is not just a competition to achieve international greatness, but a celebration of their personal journey to the finish line. It is truly amazing to witness Olympians’ unrelenting bravery and an inspiration to many.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Nutrition for Gold-Winning Gymnastics!

What an exciting day yesterday at the Olympics: A great performance by the swimmers capped with a gold medal win for the women's gymnastics team - the first since 1996! For a gymnast to progress to this level, it requires extensive training of up to 30 hrs per week, often consisting of two training sessions of 2-3 hrs per day. So how do these elite gymnasts keep their body's going day after day? A huge component is proper fueling and recovery with well-planned sports nutrition. Here are some tips for aspiring female gymnasts (and their parents)....

1. Eat regularly to get adequate energy and nutrients.
As female gymnasts progress in the sport, weight and body fat is often measured in order to make sure they are growing lean and strong. Unfortunately this practice often results in gymnasts consistently consuming diets low in energy, placing them at risk for inadequate intake of nutrients such as carbohydrate, calcium, and iron. Gymnasts should eat nutrient-rich meals and snacks at least every 2-3 hrs to meet their needs. High-saturated fat and high-sugar options should be considered occasional foods, as they lack essential vitamins and minerals needed for recovery.

2. Make snacks count.
With up to 6 hours of training daily, there isn't much time for snacking. That means snacks must be quick, easy, and travel well. In addition, choosing snacks rich in both carbohydrate and protein will assure proper recovery between training sessions, as well help meet the body's daily needs. A few great options include trail mix (dried fruit & nuts), fresh fruit, low-fat yogurt, low-fat Greek yogurt, Kashi bars, Nature Valley bars, lean deli meat sandwiches, and string cheese with pretzels.

3. Mind your calcium.
Weight-bearing activity, daily calcium intake, menstrual status, and overall caloric intake all play a role in determining bone mineral development in female athletes. Dietary calcium intake plays a crucial role in the promotion of optimal bone mineral development. Female gymnasts should include calcium-rich foods at both meals and snacks. This includes all dairy-food sources as well as chickpeas, salmon, almonds, tofu, hummus, green leafy veggies, and fortified soy milk - to name a few.

4. Fluid matters.
While gymnasts typically do not have large fluid losses through sweat, fluid intake throughout training is still important. Even slight dehydration can affect focus, concentration, and technique. Sip consistently throughout the day and during practice to achieve lemonade-colored or lighter urine.

5. The pressures of appearance.
Due to the pressure to remain lean and the nature of the aesthetic judging of the sport, female gymnasts are one of the top groups of athletes considered at risk for developing an eating disorder. As gymnasts grow, it is important to have a multi-discplinary team committed to assuring gymnasts mature normally through adolescence. This should include a doctor and sports dietitian, as well as a therapist if needed - plus the gymnast's coach.  All individuals need to be on the same page with respect to comments made or not made about gymnasts' appearance, weight, and eating habits.

Be Extraordinary!