Thursday, December 26, 2013

The rules for making nutrition New Year's Resolutions

As we near the ball drop and the welcoming of 2014, you can smell it in the air...people making New Year's Resolutions. So many ideas and hopes wrapped into one little statement that will magically last an entire year.

To be successful, these statements need to be chosen carefully. So here are few rules when making your New Year's Resolutions.

1. Don't make a New Year's Resolution
Wait - what? Yeah...really. Since when did one statement made on one night motivate anyone do anything for an entire year? Instead of making a one-year resolution, start with one month. How about something like "Since I want to lose weight, I am going to start drinking pop only 3 times per day." Once February rolls around, try, "I am going to drink only one pop per day". Continue this pattern with each month. Lets all resolve to think monthly...not yearly.

2. Think of a resolution as a goal...not a dream.
Sometimes the resolutions I hear are ridiculous. "My resolution is to go vegan. By the way I eat meat at every meal." "My resolution is to cut out all carb foods for good." Okay, as great as those may sound, lets be realistic. Instead of going complete vegan, try having a goal of eating vegetarian three days a week and continue from there. Instead of cutting out all carbohydrate foods, focus on cutting those that have little nutritional value and then talk with a dietitian who can assess whether cutting all carbs is a good idea.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Performance-Enhancing Christmas Delicacies

Christmas food that is both tasty and performance-enhancing?! Shut the front door!

...It's true. Christmas is one week from today. Cozy up next to these delicious holiday foods to enjoy some performance-enhancing benefits. The trick, of course, it to watch the portion size. Did I just rain on your parade? Don't leave just yet. Read on for Christmas happiness....

1. Dark-chocolate covered Berries
Why did I start with chocolate? Because I'm normal. Who wouldn't start with chocolate? Berries - strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and cherries - are chock full of antioxidants, which are shown to decrease inflammation in the body when incorporated via food. Covered in dark chocolate you get the extra anti-inflammatory benefit of the cocoa. So enjoy these, but stick to a handful at most.

2. Cinnamon Sweet potatoes
Okay, back to dinner food. One sweet potato boasts 3 grams of fiber, 283% of your daily need for Vitamin A and just 85 Calories. Topped with cinnamon you get added - yup - anti-inflammatory benefits. That should make your muscles feel better already.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Recipes! Warm soups and chowders for the cold weather

There is nothing like a warm bowl of soup on a cold winter day. Because many of us across the United States are experiencing record low temperatures, I though the perfect article this week should bring some your belly. Here are a collection of recipes from across the World Wide Web. Soups and chowders that are not only delicious but performance-enhancing too.

What makes a good soup? A source of protein, complex carbohydrate and a bit of healthy fat too - plus don't forget lots of veggies! Note any modifications to the recipes listed below each recipe link. Stay warm!

White Bean Chicken & Chili - Giada De Laurentiis

This soup is loaded with inflammation-fighting fat, lean protein and antioxidants. Love! Yes I know it has a lot of ingredients, but that is where you get the flavor. I recommend you cut out the added salt (you'll get enough in the broth). If you are a spicy wimp like me, cut out the red pepper flakes as well. Pair with a salad and a piece of fruit and you have a yummy meal.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Post-Thanksgiving Nutrition: Recovering after the pie is gone

There comes that moment around 9pm on Thanksgiving Day when many of us think, "Wow! I ate a lot of food." So how do you recover from your day of eating without feeling like you have to turn to dieting extremes for the next week? Here are a few tips:

1. Start Thanksgiving Day with a workout
Hopefully most of you will read this today...before Thanksgiving. Start your day with a workout to kick up the calorie burn. After dinner, why not Incorporate a family walk or touch football game? Start a new tradition! Anything you can do to increase your metabolism on Thanksgiving day is a plus.

2. Wake up the next day with a fresh start
Okay so lets say you know you didn't make the best choices on Thanksgiving and you just need to start fresh on Friday. The worst thing you can do the day after Thanksgiving is skip breakfast. Perhaps you overate late into the night on Thanksgiving so you don't feel hungry at all for breakfast. Focus on high-protein options: Greek yogurt, eggs, protein shake. Stick with protein to provide yourself with slow-burning calories.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thanksgiving Swaps for less saturated fat and calories

It's that time of year again: Thanksgiving. A time for family, friends and food...lots of it. While the day is traditionally filled with way too many calories, help yourself or the athlete in your life by making these easy swaps. Little changes cut down on added sugar, saturated fat, sodium and calories...but won't sacrifice flavor. And yes - I get that this is only one day so you think you should be able to eat whatever you want. But if you can make these changes without even tasting the difference, why wouldn't you?

Baste with low-sodium/low-fat broth or olive oil. Season with herbs and spice. While the white meat is lower in fat, the dark meat is higher in vitamins and minerals. So a little of each is okay.

Mashed Potatoes
Substitute trans-fat free tub margarine for butter, sub non-fat plain Greek yogurt for sour cream and sub non-fat milk for cream/whole milk. Cut the added salt by half. Consider sweet potatoes versus white, which are lower in calories and higher in vitamins and minerals. If you go the sweet potato route, spice to your heart's delight but go easy on the brown sugar or marshmallows where calories can add up quickly. Try keeping them plain enough that you can actually taste the potato. When mashing, leave in some of the skin, which is where most of the fiber lies.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Vitamins, Protein, Water: Can too much be bad?

When it comes to "good nutrition", the attitude seems to be that if a little is good then more must be better. But of course nutrition couldn't be that black and white. Not everything is best in large quantities.

1. Vitamins and Minerals
Multivitamins as well as individual vitamin and mineral supplements are very popular among athletes. They are often used as an "insurance policy" in case needed amounts are not met with food. While this may not seem harmful, some vitamins and minerals in large quantities are in fact harmful. Two examples are Vitamins A and E. The theory was that vitamins A and E from food act as antioxidants in the body, so taking supplemental vitamin A and E should only enhance this effect and provide further protection. However, a meta-analysis showed that in high quantities, supplemental doses actually increased rather than decreased risk of death - Vitamin A by 16% and Vitamin E by 4%. One reason is that these are both fat-soluble vitamins, which means they more easily build up in the body rather than being excreted, as seen with water-soluble Vitamin C (1).

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How do I carb load?

Carbohydrate loading is a practice that has been shown in research to benefit those participating in competitive endurance events lasting >90 minutes. Since glycogen (stored carbohydrate in muscle) levels decrease quickly during moderate to intense exercise, the body must be given ample carbohydrates (carb) in the days leading up to the event to adequately stock the muscles.

The When and The How: Proper Regimen
1. Begin by increasing carb food intake to 8-12g/kg body weight for the first two of the three days prior to the event/race. [that means Thursday & Friday for a Sunday race.] For a 145lb individual, this would be 527-790gm daily.                     
2. When choosing carbs, emphasize complex carbs (fruits and vegetables in all forms) and distribute them at all meals and snacks during the day, while avoiding simple carbs (sugars such as candy and pop).
3. Resume your normal intake of carbs the day before the race or event (typically 5-8 g/kg body weight). For a 145lb individual, this would be 330-527gm daily. 

Note: The idea here is not to increase total calories, but to adjust intake to result in a greater percentage of calories from carbohydrate (vs. protein or fat ).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Racing with a stroller: A Simple How-To based on experience

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of racing a 5K while pushing my daughter, Emma, in her stroller. It was fantastic experience and one that I want to share with anyone considering doing the same one day.

Night before:
-Pack stroller, stroller toys, blankets.
-Set out Emma's coat, hat, and gloves.
-Pack Emma's snacks, prep Emma's breakfast and milk for the morning.
-Prep all clothing for myself, including race number and shoes.
-Prep breakfast, fill water bottle.

The race was at 8:05am, so we were up by 6:30am. We planned to get ourselves ready and then get Emma up around her normal wake-up time of 7am. However, she surprised us and was up by 6:15am (perhaps she was too excited to sleep). So we got ready and ate breakfast together around 6:40am. My husband, Ron, ran the race as well.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Before the marathon: Top 4 Nutrition Tips!

While many big marathons are over, a few still remain, including my city's inaugural Naperville Marathon on November 10th! For those of you with a race still in sight, here are the top 4 things you should be doing before race day...

1. Train your stomach, not just your muscles
A big mistake distance runners often 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 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 which product 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 so you can train appropriately. Are they handing out a sports drink or product you have never tried before? Buy some of that product and train with it before race day to be sure you tolerate it.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

How to adjust your food intake when you taper

Whether it is to prepare for an upcoming competition or re-adjusting intake after the season is over, tapering intake goes hand-in-hand with tapering training. So, here are a few tips to make the process slightly less confusing:

1. Calculate carbohydrate needs
Because carbohydrate needs increase as training increases, needs also decrease when training decreases. Therefore, it helps to calculate where your intake should actually be when tapering.  To do this, first calculate your weight in kilograms by dividing your weight (in pounds) by 2.2. So, for example, 130lb/2.2 = 59.1kg. Next, multiply by the correct factor based on how training hours you are currently doing:

>4-5hrs/day = 8-12
1-3hrs/day = 6-10
~1hr/day = 5-7
Low intensity or skill-based activities = 3-5

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to train your body for fueling during a run

This week, enjoy a guest post from my intern, Ashley, who is training for her first full marathon. She offers some excellent thoughts about the difficulty but necessity of training your stomach like you train your muscles.

Be Extraordinary,

I have run multiple races in my lifetime 5, 10, 15k’s, half-marathons. Now I am tackling training for my first full marathon. Previously my training regimen included hydrating pre- and post-run, but I never fueled during a run. I couldn’t tolerate eating/drinking anything other than water while I was exercising or even within an hour of exercising. After the Rock n’ Roll Chicago half-marathon didn’t go as well as planned; I knew that something needed to change in my training. Even though I did stomach Gatorade with water at a few of the aid stations during the race, but it was not enough fuel and I felt exhausted the last 3 miles. I needed to train my stomach to handle Gatorade and gels to fuel my body for my marathon.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top 4 ways to use nutrition to prevent stress fractures in athletes

As athletes progress in their sport, both intensity and time spent in training increase. This can leave the body short on nutrients that provide protection against illness or injury. It is not uncommon for athletes to suddenly become sick or suffer from an injury after a change in their workout schedule or when transitioning from high school to collegiate athletics. Stress fractures are especially common in athletes who participate in cross country, track and field, basketball, gymnastics and tennis as a result of repeatedly striking the foot on the ground. To prevent occurrence or re-occurrence of stress fractures, athletes should allow enough time for rest between workouts and practice these four eating habits:

1. Eat to accommodate increased energy expenditure.

As exercise intensity and amount increase, so do energy needs. Increase overall caloric intake, but especially carbohydrate foods, to assure working muscles have enough fuel to recover. Some examples are: whole-wheat bread/ pasta/rice/tortillas/bagels, Triscuits, quinoa, and fruit. Also, eat the most in the beginning of the day (breakfast!) and less as the day progresses to assure muscles have sufficient energy on board heading into practice. Adequate caloric intake also means adequate vitamins and minerals to protect bones (see more in number four). 

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Is my sport supplement safe and effective?

With the fall season in full swing, this is about the time I start getting questions from coaches and trainers. Should my athletes take this? What do you think about that? I thought now would be a great time to re-post a previous article I wrote about evaluating supplements. This will help anyone who may be looking to take a supplement, but want to make it is safe, effective and legal. Any time I use the word "supplement" in this post, I'll be referring to ergogenic aids in the form of powders, pills, capsules, or tablets (also known as dietary supplements).

The Nutrition Business Journal estimated that sales of all nutritional supplements (including vitamins and minerals) in the United States in 2010 was somewhere around $28.7 billion. Supplements sales have steadily increased 6-7% per year since 2009, which is higher than the 5% growth the industry saw yearly from 2000-2009. Sales were highly driven by dietary supplements such as vitamin D, probiotics, fish oil, and CoQ10.

With the multitude of products on the market today, how do you know if what you're taking is safe (won't affect your short- and long-term health), effective (actual does what it claims to do), and legal (doesn't contain banned substances for your sport)? Before I go any further, let me be clear on one point: If you are under the age of 18, you should not be taking ANY ergogenic aidsThe long-term effects of most supplements on growing athletes has either not been studied or is unfavorable. So, until you are 18, don't even think about it.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

3 Foods you should avoid before a workout

While what can and cannot be tolerated before a workout varies among athletes, there are some foods that should be avoided in the 30 minutes before a workout. This is because these foods in general will not provide enough of the appropriate energy needed by working muscles in a short enough time frame.

1. Nuts
A great source of protein and fat, nuts provide zero carbohydrate. Since carbohydrate is the muscle's preferred source of energy during a workout, this is a problem. Plus the protein, fat and fiber found in nuts will slow down digestion, which means it will take much longer for this less-than-ideal energy source to get to your working muscles. To fix this, pair nuts with dried fruit (carbohydrate source) and eat at least 60 minutes before a workout to allow time for the energy to get to your muscles.

2. Cow's/Soy Milk
While milk contains carbohydrate and protein, the ratio is not what you need before a workout (i.e. not enough carbohydrate). To fix this, choose low-fat chocolate cow's or soy milk. The added chocolate will provide carbohydrate as well as anti-inflammatory properties (from the cocoa). Assuming you can tolerate milk products, this is a great option before a workout. But make sure the chocolate milk is low-fat. Fat slows down how quickly your muscles receive the nutrients. Drink this about 45 minutes before your workout.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Top 10 tailgate food swaps

This week, enjoy a guest post from my intern, Ashley!

Be Extraordinary,

It’s that time of year again; football is back in full swing! Everyone enjoys the cooler weather and cheering on our favorite teams with our friends and family. Tailgating goes along with football season, which usually means a variety of tempting foods within an arm’s reach. If you are training for a race you might think that you need to avoid these parties so you don’t ruin all the hard work you have put into your training. The good news is you don’t have to! You can enjoy tailgating with your friends and family while sticking to your training plan.

Here are 10 typical tailgate foods with perfect healthy swaps perfect for a person in training:


1. Wings are a delicious and messy appetizer that everyone loves, but are typically fried and high in fat. This baked chicken wing recipe is lower in fat, but still provides full flavor that you love.

·         Using Greek yogurt in the blue cheese dip lowers total fat and provides protein and calcium.

·         Make it your own: substitute hot sauce for a sweeter BBQ sauce if you don’t like spice.

2. Nachos usually contain excessive calories and fat, but if done right can be healthy. This recipe of chicken and bean nachos are an appetizer everyone will enjoy.

·         Chicken: great source of lean protein, which can help protect against muscle damage during a workout

·         Beans: good source of protein and fiber that will keep you feel full longer

·         Shredded cheese: provides calcium and is lower in fat and sodium content than processed nacho cheese

·         Swap Greek yogurt for sour cream again!

·         Offer fresh pico de gallo, salsa or guacamole on the side and serve over corn chips. 


3. Fresh salsa or pico de gallo are great choices.  Both are a good source of vegetables, which contain vitamins essential for athlete’s immune systems and helpful to reduce muscle soreness post workout.

4. Swap Greek yogurt for sour cream in dips like spinach artichoke dip, buffalo chicken dip or French onion dip. This spinach artichoke dip recipe is full of flavor and sure to be a hit!

·         Artichokes and spinach are high in iron, which is essential for providing oxygen for your muscles during a workout.

·         Serve fresh cut veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers, or snap peas with your dip instead of chips.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Shopping Online for Performance-Enhancing Snacks

Recent articles in Eat to Compete have focused on snack ideas for athletes on-the-go. Busy athletes often have little time to shop. Did you know that many food items are available online? Through Amazon Prime (~$80 per year membership), users can get free 2-day shipping as well as additional "Subscribe and Save" discounts by setting up automatic delivery of items (not available for all items). While I admit I only use this for diapers and wipes currently (yes - I'm a mom), what a GREAT idea for busy families with hungry athlete mouths to feed! Check out this short list of recommended food items with links to purchase on Amazon.
*Indicates Subscribe & Save Available
+Indicates Free Shipping available for Prime Members

Plum Organics Mish Mash *+ [for toddlers, I know - but you can eat them too!]
Clif Mojo Bars *+ [there are many bar options; I just picked one]
Planters Trail Mix - Fruit & Nut Packets *+
Bear Naked Granola *+
Kashi Go-Lean Cereal Cups *+
Justin's Natural Peanut Butter Packets (case of 10) [almond butter packets and jars of either nut butter also available]
StarKist Tuna Packets *
Fig Newtons Individual Packages *+ [48-packs also available]
Microwave Popcorn Snack Bags *
Pretzel Bags +
Kashi Whole Grain Crackers *+
Bare Naked Baked/Dried Fruit Packets *+
Single Serving Hummus Dip Packets
GoPicnic Ready-to-Eat Meals: Sunbutter & Crackers *+ 
Go-Go Squeeze Applesauce Pouches *+
100% Juice Boxes +
8-oz chocolate milk cartons +
8-oz soy chocolate milk cartons *+
8-oz almond chocolate milk cartons *+

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

I have low iron - now what?

It is common for athletes - especially runners - to be diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia. But why does that matter and what do you do now?

What Is It?
Iron is a trace mineral that the body needs to obtain from food for proper function of key biological processes. Iron carries oxygen in the blood and delivers it to the lungs and muscles. It is also important for the proper function of the immune system. Each red blood cell that you have in your body contains a protein called hemoglobin (what gives red blood cells their color) that iron is attached to. 

Why Do I Need It?
Getting the right amount of iron is important because it determines how much oxygen gets to the rest of the body. If iron is low, the body starts making fewer red blood cells—leading to fatigue, feelings of coldness, decreased physical performance and anemia. Both vegetarian and female athletes are at an increased risk of developing iron deficiency anemia.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Great pre-workout snacks before that afternoon practice

School is in full swing. That means no longer is there the luxury of TIME before after-school or afternoon practices. Snacking between lunch and your workout is one of the most important fueling times of the day. Here are some performance-enhancing options:

If you have 45-60 minutes to spare:

In the car - try one...
1 Clif, Luna or Larabar
Trail Mix- Try Planters Nutrition Sustaining Energy Mix (pre-packaged in single servings)
1 Jiff to-go container of PB or Justin's to-go container of almond butter with graham crackers

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Snacks for the student-athlete: for the home, car, dorm or workout bag

It's that time of year - back to school time! That means many student athletes are back in full swing with training as well. Crucial to success in workouts is timing of intake before and after practice. Eating only three meals per day is not enough. Snacks are a must to ensure muscles are fueled pre-workout and recovering post-workout. Whether at home, in the car, in the dorm or heading to practice, here are is a list of great performance-enhancing snack components to have on hand (both perishable and non-perishable).

Cheese sticks
Babybel cheese
Individual yogurt containers (non-fat...Greek or regular)
Fresh fruit - especially packable fruit such as apples, peaches, pears, oranges and nectarines
Baby carrots
Better yet just buy a pre-cut veggie tray and put at eye level in the fridge
Individual containers of hummus & pretzels (available at most grocery stores)
100% fruit juice boxes
Low-fat chocolate: both large container and individual sized to take out the door

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nutrition Race Report: Trail Half Marathon August 3rd, 2013

This race report will be called, "How to try to save a good race gone badly".  If you are only interested in the race nutrition, scroll down to "Race". on....

Friday: Day Before
6:30pm: Dinner at a family restaurant. Unfortunately they were out of pasta (it was the night's special). So I opted instead for turkey breast, mashed potatoes (no gravy), corn and a roll. Water to drink = ~90gm carbohydrate, 25gm protein

9pm: Snacktime! Cheerios in skim milk with peanuts on top, 2 cups water = ~35gm carbohydrate, 16gm protein

10:15pm: In bed, but had a hard time falling asleep. Was overly warm and found it hard to hear Emma in the room across the hallway so I attribute it to being distracted. Finally fell asleep I'm guessing around midnight??

Saturday: Race Day
Woke up on time around 5:50am. While driving in on Friday, I realized the house was actually about 25minutes from the race site, which bumped up my schedule for the morning a bit.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

A nursing dietitian's half marathon nutrition plan

This weekend I will be competing in The Legends Half Marathon in Michigan. It will be my longest race since before I had my daughter. I had a great 5K this past St. Patrick's Day race in Naperville and prior to that did a 5-miler somewhere around 20 weeks pregnant. Since I am still nursing my 10-month old daughter, that adds a flair of complication to the day. So, this is a nursing sports dietitian's nutrition plan for her half marathon.........

Date of race: Saturday, August 3rd at 8:30am
Projected weather: 77 and sunny is the high for the day - guessing ~70 at the start. Should be shady as it is a trail run in a state park.
Expected course: Since rain is predicted Friday, I expect mud and standing water in some low-lying areas (bring it - just like H.S. XC!). Per website, mainly flat with a few short hills.

Traveling Friday in the afternoon to arrive by dinner time. Staying with family ~15 min from race location.
Dinner: Plans are to go out to eat. Have been to the restaurant before - huge menu, so shouldn't have a hard time finding something to eat. Generally my night before meal is pasta with grilled chicken along water and cooked veggies if I can get them. Water to drink.

9 PM  EST snack: Will pack cheerios and milk with peanut butter (my go-to final snack)

Stretch, foam roll. Bed by 10PM

Saturday - Race Day

6:30 AM EST Wake up and pump while eating breakfast: White bagel with 2 Tbsp peanut butter and 1 Tbsp jelly, 2 cups Gatorade, 2 cups water (will have to bring all of this from home)

7:  Emma up; hubby feed bottle. Will use a previously frozen bottle for this feeding in case she is up earlier than projected.

7:15/7:30: Leave for race; drink 1-2 cups water and eat 1 whole banana on way while mentally prepare for race
7:40/7:50: Pick up packet at race site; bathroom break
8: Warm-up, stretch
8:10/8:15: 1/2 cup water

8:30 AM race start - goal 8:15/8:25 mile pace - only water avail. at Aid stations from what can tell on website
3.2-mile: 1 cup water from Aid station
5.5-mile/~44 min in: 1 gu packet (will be carrying)
6.2-mile/~50 min in: 1 cup water from Aid station
7.5-mile: 1 cup water from Aid station
9-mile/~76 min in: 1 gu packet (will be carrying)
9.5-mile: 1 cup water from Aid station (last station before finish)
~10:20am: Finish!

Post-race: Grab water, banana & bagel from post-race food; peanuts will bring on own & immediately head to car to pump

Potential edits:
-I may pump additional 10 min after I pick up my race packet depending on how I feel.
-I may move up the first gu to mile 3 depending on how I feel race day. Unfortunately the aid station locations don't work perfectly with my typical fueling schedule.

As a whole, I'm feeling pretty confident and excited for this race. My training hasn't been 100% what I would have liked but I always got in the long runs and at least 1-2 shorter runs mid-week or substituted trainer workouts.

Come back next week to see my race report!

Be Extraordinary,


Picture source:

Monday, July 22, 2013

5 Performance Nutrition Tips for Exercise in the Heat & Humidity

What a crazy week it has been across the country - high temperatures combined with high humidity has lead to heat-related incidences being reported all over the news. This weather does not help athletes in peak training and competition time. Help yourself maintain your training intensity with the following 5 tips.

1. Hydrate
Hydration doesn't start one hour before your starts as soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning. Drink 2 cups of water as soon as you get out of bed - even before breakfast. This will help kick-start the rehydration process. During your workout, take on a bit more fluid than normal; drink cold beverages to help keep your core temperature controlled.

2. Mind your electrolytes
One of the reasons sports drinks are better than plain water for training athletes is because your body loses more than water when you also lose electrolytes (mainly sodium). Also, electrolytes are imperative for muscle contraction during exercise. Taking in electrolytes with fluid helps your body hold on to more of that fluid. This means you hydrate your body better and visit the bathroom less frequently. During your workout, consider drinking a sports drink to help your body hydrate better. One possible cause of muscle cramping during or after exercise is an imbalance of electrolytes; this is prevented by appropriate hydration with sports drinks. If you are not a fan of added sugars, try a no-calorie electrolyte supplement such as Nuun tabs or a no-calorie drink such as Powerade Zero.

3. Wear breathable clothing
When the air is already saturated with water (i.e. in high humidity), sweat does not easily evaporate from your skin. Breathable fabrics wick moisture away from your skin, which helps your body be more efficient at cooling itself.  Since there is an indirect relationship between body temperature and performance, staying cool is key. Note there is both warm weather and cold weather breathable clothing, so pay attention to what you are buying. Shell out the extra bucks - these clothes are worth it! And whenever possible, use a towel to wipe off excess sweat on your arms, face, legs, etc. It is not the sweating that cools your body, but the evaporation of that sweat.

4. Look for fluid on your plate
In addition to hydrating with fluids, choose foods with a high-water content, such as WATERmelon, tomatoes, lettuce, and melons. This will add to your daily fluid intake while also providing vitamins and minerals that athletes need for proper recovery.

5. Take it easy
No athlete responds well to those words. However, decreasing intensity for a day or two is better than recovering for several days from heat illness. If you find that your heart rate is skyrocketing, you are dizzy, or that you are experiencing chills or nausea, you need to find some shade, take a break, and hydrate. Force yourself to drink, even if you are feeling nauseous. Assess your hydration tactics and increase your efforts before you continue exercise in the heat. (Note: if you feel faint, find help immediately or call 9-1-1.)

Remember that it takes approximately 7-14 days on average for your body to acclimate to exercise in the heat. So be patient if you're not hitting your goal splits or heart rate ranges for a few days. Using these 5 tactics, you'll soon be back to your normal intensity.

Be Extraordinary,


Photo source:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Athlete Dads: Why you should grill this Father's Day Weekend

With the summer season here, it is prime grilling time.  And what better weekend to do this than Father's Day weekend? Whether you are the dad taking the lead or the son grilling up something special for the occasion, you are making a great choice! Grilling is a healthy way to prepare food for many reasons.

1. Grilling decreases fat
Instead of cooking in fat, the fat drips off of the food, which decreases the overall fat content of the meat.

2. Grilling retains moisture
Grilling sears the food, which helps retain moisture. This means added fats such as butter are unnecessary, which further helps to reduce total calories.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Performance-Enhancing Backyard BBQ Recipes

If there is one thing that is synonymous with the 4th of July, it is a backyard BBQ. How do you make your holiday celebration tasty, fun AND performance-enhancing? Here are few recipes that are exploding with all three.

1. Tandoori Chicken Kabobs
Who wants plain old chicken breast sandwiches when you have these? The best part is you can use the marinade on vegetables or tofu too!

2. Island Rice Pilaf
To me, this SCREAMS summer. I have made this more times than I care to is just too delicious. Plus it is vegan - added bonus.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

100th Post: The best of Eat to Compete!

Today marks my 100th post on this blog - wow! In celebration, here are 10 of my most popular posts over the last 2 years. Check them out!

1. The Truth About Gaining Muscle and Losing Fat

2. Supplement Series Part 3: 5 Common Ergogenic Aids

3. Carbohydrate Loading: Why, When and How

4. Why Detox and Cleansing Hurts

5. Added Sugars: The Scary Truth

6. My Marathon Nutrition Plan [from my October 2011 Detroit Marathon]

7. 5 Ways Alcohol Wreaks Havoc on Your Training

8. 5 Foods to Always Have on Hand

9. Gluten-Free Meals and Snacks

10. 5 Performance Tips to Fuel Your Marathon

Would you like to see me write about a topic not yet covered? Reply below and let me know!

Be Extraordinary,


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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

How to cook: The Basics

While some of you who read this blog may be seasoned chefs, my general observation throughout my time as a sports RD is that few athletes have been taught how to cook pasta, let alone fillet mignon. So for those who just want to survive in the kitchen, here are a few “How-To’s”. This would make a great read for the college student athlete or athlete-to-be who now has to fend for his/herself in the kitchen!

1.       Bring water to a boil. Use enough water to cover the pasta once pasta is in the pot. Test first if needed.
2.       Once boiling, add pasta to pot. Stir occasionally to prevent pasta from sticking together.
3.       Refer to package for approximate baking times. To test for doneness, pull out one piece of pasta using tongs of fork. Pasta is done when it is still a little chewy.
4.       Drain water using a colander or the lid to the pot. If making cold pasta salad, run pasta under cold running water. Otherwise, add sauce to pasta on a plate and enjoy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

5 ways alcohol wreaks havoc on your training

While many athletes enjoy drinking for social reasons, there are certain realities about alcohol and its effect on your body. Aside from overall health effects of alcohol ingestion, many athletes are unaware that alcohol consumption affects performance and recovery too. Here is how...

1. Alcohol dehydrates
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases fluid losses in the body by blocking the normal signaling cascade that tells your body to hold on to fluid. Instead your kidneys continue to produce urine. This puts athletes at risk for dehydration, heat illness and muscle cramping.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

15 ways to fuel well on a budget

Although the economy appears to be improving, many still follow a strict budget when it comes to food. The complaint I often hear is, "Eating healthy is expensive". While healthy food prices can't necessarily compete with the dollar menu at the local fast food place, there are plenty of ways to save money while making the right choices for your health and performance both now and long-term. Here are 15 ways (in 3 areas) to keep your stomach full and your wallet too.

Sorry but yes - you really do need to do a little planning. It is likely that you plan for other things in your life - laundry, kids carpooling schedules, deadlines at work or school - and planning for meals should be one of those. Here are few ways to make meal planning easier and result in bigger cost savings:
1. Before you leave for the grocery store, check your fridge and cupboards for what you already have on hand that you can use.
2. Make a list of meals based on weekly store specials. Use online websites such as for meal ideas based on what you find is on sale.
3. When planning meals, try the "flexitarian" lifestyle: go meatless 2-3 nights per week. That can save you big dough.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

School's Out but Breakfast Should Stay

School is either almost or already out for many athletes. It can be tempting to start skipping breakfast; this often happens when athletes are out of their normal routine. Here's some advice: don't. "I'm not hungry in the morning" or "I don't have time" are not acceptable; they are excuses. Skipping breakfast often leads to overeating as the day continues (especially at night). Make a commitment to continue your performance nutrition throughout the summer, when sometimes training can be at its peak (especially for fall-sport athletes).
Skipping breakfast can lead to:
Early fatigue during workouts and throughout the day
Less effective training
Problems losing and maintaining weight
Trouble concentrating at a workout or a summer job

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why carbs are bad...and good

Low-carbohydrate diets are all the craze. On a weekly basis athletes are telling me they limit their carbohydrate intake because "carbs are bad". I should really create company shirts that say "I [heart] Carbs" (similar to those I [heart] NY shirts). It is a shame that carbohydrates get such a bad rap. However, it is an even bigger shame that often athletes don't really know what these nutrients are for, in what foods they are found or why cutting them is a good or bad idea.

What they do
Carbohydrate (or sugar) is a source of quick energy for your body. When not slowed down by fiber, fat or protein, pure carbohydrate can be absorbed into your system and utilized for energy very quickly (15-20 minutes). This is why the calories in sports drinks, gels, gu's, chews, etc. are 100% from carbohydrate. The point of these products is for them to get out of your stomach quickly and to your muscles where you can actually utilize them. The interesting thing about an exercising muscle is that the higher the intensity of the workout, the more it relies on carbohydrate for energy.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Tiny nutrition tricks for big workout gains

A few weeks back, I blogged about tiny nutrition tricks for big weight loss (check it out here). But what if you don't want to lose weight? What if you are just looking to improve your workouts to see better results overall? Here are few more "tiny tricks", but this time for big workout gains....

1. Stay hydrated
Hydration is the number one nutrition-related reason for poor performance. Being hydrated means the entire day, not just right before and during the workout. During the day, drink to stay ahead of thirst (thirst  = already a 1% dehydration; performance deficits occur at 2%). Also check your hydration status by assessing pee color (lemonade color is best). Not sure you hydrate enough during workouts? Weigh yourself before and after a workout. If your weight decreases, you didn't drink enough; an increase indicates too much fluid intake; a nearly same number means you hydrated well.

2. Eat to your workout type
Not all types of athletes are the same, so nutrition needs are also not the same.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Gluten-free meals and snacks

I work with a growing number of athletes who do not eat gluten. Many struggle with getting in enough carbohydrate for their level of training. They don't know how to be more creative than eating rice and sweet potatoes with every meal. So for all you gluten-free eaters out there, here are 2 days of gluten-free eating.

Day 1

Breakfast: Low-fat cottage cheese topped with fresh berries and almonds; drizzle with honey

Lunch: Wrap made with Rudi's brand spinach tortilla, Boar's Head brand deli turkey, pesto, mozzarella cheese, fresh mushrooms and spinach. Serve with fresh cantaloupe.

Dinner: Lean turkey burger an Udi's brand hamburger bun with slice of watermelon and steamed broccoli

Snack: Low-fat string cheese with mini box of raisins

Snack: Homemade hummus with baby carrots

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Nut nutrition a nutshell

Nuts are a great way for athletes to add energy to their training diet that's packed with fiber, protein, and healthy fat. Because these are a very energy-dense food option, it is a great way for busy athletes to meet their caloric needs quickly and nutritiously. Did you know that eating 1.5 ounces of the nuts listed below reduces your risk of heart disease? One study also found that women aged 20-45 years old who ate nuts at least 2 times per week had a lower risk of weight gain and obesity over an 8-year follow-up period than those women who ate nuts less frequently.

Are you aware of the huge variety of nuts? It's not just about peanuts, almonds and walnuts anymore. Read on to learn about the variety of nutritious nuts out there.

Note: 1 oz varies from ~160-200 Calories. A good rule of thumb is to substitute nuts for food sources of saturated fat in the diet (i.e. fried foods, full butter, commercial baked goods, etc.).

Cashews (1 oz serving = ~18)
Source of: copper and magnesium
Flavor: slightly sweet
Use: as a snack - raw or roasted - or added to Asian dishes