Monday, December 29, 2014

Fad Diets: What you should know before you proceed

Today's blog article is a guest blog written by Eve Pearson MBS, RDN, CSSD, LDN. She is a sports dietitian in Texas who serves the Dallas, Fort Worth, Keller and Austin areas. Learn more about her and her services at What a great article to read this week when so many of you are creating your New Year's Resolutions - thanks Eve!

Be Extraordinary,



 “I have to have cheese, I don’t care what the diet says!”
This is what I heard someone say at the Whole Foods salad bar the other day.  I think it’s unfortunate #1 – that people feel like they have to cut things out completely and be on a diet period and #2 – this is the mentality that most people have when entering a diet.  Most of the time, I find many people are not 100% committed going into a diet, which is why they aren’t very successful.  If they did happen to lose weight on the diet, it’s likely to come back. Not surprising since most diets don’t include enough calories to withstand over longer periods of time.

Fad diets are easy.  There are rules, dos and don’ts, what you can’t eat and drink.  They tell us to count points, we count points.  They send us food, we eat it.  They allow you to be on autopilot after you learn the basic ins and outs of the diet.

I’m not saying I’m a proponent of many diets out there but next time you pick up a diet book, read online or hear from your best friend the latest fad, go into it with this mentality:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Holiday sweets that work to your nutrition and athletic advantage

Who says that desserts can’t be good for you? The trick is to  make desserts that actually provide some nutritional benefit other than being low in calories, fat or sugar. Here are some sweet ideas that can be brought to any holiday gathering while also providing some performance-enhancing benefits!

*Disclaimer: While healthy, these treats should still be consumed in moderation

With the only ingredients being tofu, peanut butter, and confectioners sugar it doesn’t seem like there’s much too it. However, it provides 10g of protein from the tofu and peanut butter, only 17g of carbohydrate, and 13g of the healthy fat.

This recipe combines several ingredients that athletes commonly turn to for proper fueling. It gets its creaminess from avocados, which contain omega 3 fatty acids, shown to have antioxidant properties and decrease inflammation. The cinnamon and the dark cocoa are not only the flavor enhancers, but are sources of antioxidants that can be beneficial for recovery. Bananas are another main ingredient and also an athlete staple when it comes to getting a good source carbs and fiber.

The rest of the ingredients provide great protein: egg white, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and whey protein powder. The dessert alone provides 24g of protein and 8g of fat, only 1g being saturated.

*Leave out the protein powder unless this is your main/only source of protein for the meal or snack. Remember, 25-30g of protein is the max you want at one sitting.

Crunchiness is not the only thing that sets this recipe apart from the others. While it contains the typical “healthy dessert ingredients” (peanut butter, rolled oats, whole wheat flour, dark chocolate, cinnamon, etc.) offering the usual benefits of antioxidants, fiber, and protein, this recipe also has wheat germ and chia seeds. Wheat germ contains many B vitamins, necessary for metabolism, and vitamin E another essential nutrient with many uses in the body. Chia seeds are another nutrient dense food, known namely for it’s omega 3 fatty acids. These more unique ingredients make this dessert a great treat option!

This recipe is fast, easy and doesn’t require many ingredients. The gist of it is a piece of fruit covered with granola, cinnamon, and dried cranberries all with their own positive qualities including 4g of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Not to mention that pears are in season and can make a beautiful holiday dessert.

*Try baking them in the oven 

Dark Chocolate Covered Berries
Melt dark chocolate and then dip, coat, or cover berries with it. I recommend berries such as blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and even pomegranate seeds. These berries are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory power...not to mention the extra antioxidants from the dark chocolate.

 .....Not a bad way to indulge in holiday treats while also providing beneficial nutrients to the body and promoting your physical activity!
Be Extraordinary,

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Start your winter fueling with performance-enhancing soups!

Now that you know all the nutritional benefits of soup for athletes (see last week's blog if you missed it), here are some recipes to try for winter fueling!

Vegetarian Chili

2 Tbsp olive oil
½ onion diced
½ green pepper diced
4 cloves
5 Tbsp Chili powder
3 Tbsp cumin
Diced tomatoes (24 oz can) not drained
3 cans of various beans drained (black, Kidney, garbanzo, etc)
2 cups of broth (any kind) *may add more or less depending on thickness preference
2 small zucchini or ½ medium butternut squash diced

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Why you should eat soup as a post-workout snack or meal

As the temperature outside continues to drop, our typical post exercise snacks and meals of smoothies, cold shakes, and salads tend to become less appetizing. Soups can be a great way for athletes of all types to meet many of their nutritional needs while also satisfying the craving for warmer foods. 

Benefits of soup for Athletes:
-Vegetables: Soups are a great way to load up on veggies and work to meet your daily recommendations. Whether you make your own soup or buy it pre-made, “beefing” it up with vegetables is always an option. Aside from the obvious benefits of vitamins and minerals necessary for great health and physical performance, most vegetables tend to be a good source of soluble and insoluble fiber, which are essential for keeping your digestive system in top shape. As many athletes know, this is of the utmost importance. 

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Surviving the Holidays When You Are an Athlete

Holidays are a wonderful opportunity to see family and friends that you might not otherwise see during the year. But what is a holiday without rich and tantalizing foods? While it is important to enjoy the holiday season and its delicacies, it is essential that you make smart food choices as an athlete. It is very easy to lose focus and suddenly find your weight up and your performance compromised. To arrive into the New Year with only positive memories of the holiday season, here are a few nutrition tips and tricks to guide you:
1.      Remember - calories in vs. calories out: Unwanted weight gain is the result of eating beyond your body’s needs.  Keep this in mind over the holidays. A great practice is to be sure to exercise on days you know will be full of eating (like Christmas). Begin the day with a great workout to kick-start your metabolism and set the pace for continued healthy choices into the evening.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Should I detox after Thanksgiving dinner?

With the constant bombardment of products and testimonials, it is easy to believe that detoxing will make up for the "mistakes" of holiday eating. But is it really a good idea to detox after a holiday feast? Will it help you shed pounds? Decrease "a toxin build-up"?

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.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Keep Performance & Body Comp Goals in Mind this Holiday Season!

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 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.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Calorie intake for athletes: How much is enough?

This week, enjoy a guest blog post from Carrie Aprik MS, RD, CSSD. Carrie practices as sports RD in Michigan. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Nutri4Motion. Thanks Carrie!

Be Extraordinary, 

Consuming adequate calories is a major challenge for collegiate athletes and one that they are often unsuccessful at. Negative energy balance, or not consuming enough calories to match total energy expenditure, is the most common problem sports dietitians encounter. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Nutrition Tips for Athletes Ending the Fall Season

With the beginning of November, we near the end of the season for high school and college fall sports. This can mean a lot of different things. For one athlete, it might mean entering a true off-season. For another athlete, he may be transitioning into a winter sport. For a third athlete, she may be entering club season. Regardless of what the next step might be, here are some things every fall athlete should think about now.

1. Assess Your Goals
What were your goals this fall season and did you achieve them? If not, what might have been the reason and what changes need to be made now? What are you goals for the winter? If you are in the off-season, will you place a special emphasis on weight loss? If you are transitioning to a winter sport, do you need to make changes to fueling before the season starts? If you are entering club season, how will your eating need to change (timing and amount)?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Happy Halloween! How to reduce added sugars in your everyday eating

Last week I discussed ways to find those sneaky added sugars that creep into your favorite foods when you least realize. So once you have identified them, what are some easy swaps and substitutes to help you cut them out and not feel deprived? Here are few ideas to reduce the added sugar in your diet!

1. Cut out regular sodas or reduce your total amount. Currently drink 16 oz daily? Try dropping to 12 oz and keep going from there. Soda is pure added sugar.

2. Choose canned fruit in it's own juice or light syrup (not heavy!). And don't drink the syrup...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Concerned about added sugars? Here's how to be an added sugar detective this Halloween!

Halloween is that time of year when kids rejoice, parents groan and dentists cringe. The holiday by tradition is filled with sugar-glazed donuts, gooey caramel apples and chewy candies of all sorts. It is a good thing Halloween comes only once a year, as regular intake of these high-sugar foods wreaks havoc on our health in more ways than one. A study assessing the U.S. NHANES 2007-2008 data reported that added sugars provided 14.6% of total energy intake in individuals' diets with the main contributors being soda and energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, fruit drinks, dairy desserts and candy. The USDA recommends no more than 32gm (or 8 tsp) of added sugars/day per 2,000 Kcal of intake; this is equivalent to 6% of calories from added sugars.

So after the costumes are put away and the candy is eaten (or thrown out), what can you do on a daily basis to make sure your intake of added sugars isn't sky-high? First, lets review the facts:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Beyond the Liver: Alcohol & Athletes

This week, enjoy a guest blog post from Carrie Aprik MS, RD, CSSD. Carrie practices as sports RD in Michigan. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @Nutri4Motion. Thanks Carrie!

Be Extraordinary, 

For many students, the college experience has become synonymous with binge drinking; an activity that may involve up to dozens of alcoholic drinks in a single weekend. Every weekend. Surprisingly, “excessive drinking” is classified as much less: 5 or more drinks in one bout for males, 4 or more for females.  According to the NCAA1, though the prevalence has decreased, 46% and 33% of male and female athletes, respectively, admit to excessive drinking. Beyond the well-known threat of liver damage to the average college student, student athletes have many more alcohol-related issues to worry about.  

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Eating Tips for the Pregnant Athlete


Pregnancy no longer means stopping all exercise. Nowadays, with the okay of a doctor, women can keep exercising right up until they deliver. This is great, but also poses questions about eating. If you are pregnant and exercising, here are a few things to keep in mind.

1. Without exercise, you need to add approximately 300 Kcal per day during the second trimester and 300-500 Kcal per day during the third trimester for proper growth of the baby. So, should you choose to keep exercising, be sure to increase intake too. Pregnancy is not a time to lose weight.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

It's too early to eat - help!

Last week I  blogged about great late-night eating options for those athletes that are hungry and/or need to eat late at night, but are not sure what they should choose. The other question I am often asked is which foods are best early in the morning before athletes feel like they are really "awake" but know that they need to eat. So, once again, lets start with some ground rules:

1. If you have an early workout, it is never too early to eat something. In fact, never go to a morning workout on an empty stomach. Even athletes who have severe exercise-induced GERD can typically find something that they tolerate in small quantities. 

2. If you are chronically skipping the first meal of the day because it is "too early", it is common to no longer feel hungry in the morning. The body will adjust to what you throw at it. If you ignore early morning hunger signals, the body eventually gives up signalling. But you can bring those back by starting to eat again.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

It is late, but I'm hungry! What should I eat?

I am often asked by athletes what a good late-night snack might be. Whether it is because they are up late doing homework or finishing a late workout, there is typically confusion about what a good choice might be so close to bed. Before I answer that question, let me state a few guidelines with respect to eating late:

-Don't eat less than 1 hour before bed. If you eat closer than this, you will be trying to sleep while your body tries to digest (two entirely opposite processes).

-Don't eat a huge meal late at night. If you truly can't eat dinner earlier in the evening, then break up dinner into mini-meals or larger snacks throughout the evening. Another technique is to eat more earlier in the day in preparation for not being able to eat a true dinner.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

4 Reasons You Should Eat Squash This Fall

Butternut Squash & Spinach Risotto

The butternut squash is ready to be harvested in our garden. There is no arguing that fall is upon us. Squash is a common staple around Thanksgiving, but why should you start eating it now? Here are few reasons squash is a fantastic nutritional choice:

1. It's low calorie
This makes it a great choice because it means those with higher calorie needs can eat more volume (and who doesn't like that)? Those with lower calorie needs can trust that this is a smart option that won't tip the scales. Use it as a perfect substitute for white potatoes.

2. It's full of Vitamin A
Vitamin A is powerful anti-oxidant whose beneficial properties have only been seen when eaten (versus supplemented). In addition, Vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight - especially night vision. 

3. It's high in B-Vitamins
Essential to fueling metabolic processes, b-vitamins are plentiful in squash. Make sure you get your metabolism revving by incorporating squash.

4. It's versatile
You can find a large variety of squash, including butternut, acorn and spaghetti squash. From that, you can make dishes such as butternut squash pizza (sub squash for sauce and/or use as a topping), pasta (sub spaghetti squash for the noodles) or butternut squash lasagna (sub squash for sauce). You can even toast the seeds as a great source of fiber.

Looking for a tasty recipe for your own newly-harvested (or purchased) butternut squash? Here is one that will bring the family to the table:

Butternut Squash and Spinach Risotto
Serves: 2

10 oz butternut squash
1 large red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red bell pepper
3.5 oz fresh spinach
Handful of flat leaf parsley
1 tsp olive oil
7 oz arborio risotto rice
1 pint vegetable stock
black pepper, to taste

1. Peel the squash, scrape out seeds and cut into cubes around 1/2 inch across (note, you need 10 oz AFTER peeling)
2. Finely chop onion, garlic and red pepper.
3. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan.
4. Fry the squash, onion, garlic and red pepper together over a low/medium heat until the squash starts to soften.
5. Add the rice and stock; simmer 15-20 minutes (check instructions on your rice), stirring frequently and adding additional hot water as required to keep the rice from boiling dry.
6. Season liberally with black pepper.
7. Once rice is cooked, add spinach and fresh parsley and stir it through until the leaves wilt. Serve immediately.

Be Extraordinary,


Friday, September 12, 2014

Your favorite fall drinks HEALTHIFIED!

Fall is my favorite season of the year. Crisp, clear air, crunching leaves, football tailgating. Partaking in cooler-weather activities often includes a tasty beverage. So, here are a few of those popular fall sips with a healthy spin.

1. Pumpkin Spice Coffee
Pumpkin Spice coffee is a common favorite in the fall. Instead heading over to Dunkin for the Pumpkin coffee pumped with sugar and cream, why not make your own black coffee with pumpkin spice brewed into it? Didn't know you could do this? Here's how: Measure your favorite (unflavored) coffee into the filter per usual. Sprinkle Pumpkin Pie Spice over top of the grounds. You will want to use VERY little here. I use a light dusting (probably less than 1/8 teaspoon) per 12 ounces of coffee I brew. Set the coffee to brew and there you go! You will brew your very own pumpkin spice-flavored coffee.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Which trail mix should you buy?

Last week, I provided a list of recommended granola bars. After the overwhelming positive response and readership of that article, I decided to follow it up with the same recommendations - but this time for trail mixes. Between bulk mixes and pre-packaged, the possibilities are endless. So which should you choose? Just like the bars, it depends on what you are using the trail mix for and/or what time of the day it is being consumed. So here are a few options that are nutritionally sound, based on timing and use. Note: this list is NOT all-inclusive and represents general recommendations. Your specific needs might be different.

+Available from Trader Joe's specifically, though may be elsewhere
*Available from Whole Foods specifically, though may be elsewhere

Pre-weight lifting
Meijer Traditional Trail Mix
Trader Joe's Simply Almonds Cashew Mango Trek Mix (Gluten-Free)+
Sahale Snacks Singburi Cashews (Gluten-Free)*

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Which granola or protein bar should you buy?

Nothing is as confusing as walking into a grocery store and perusing the granola bar aisle. There are often hundreds of bars to choose from (okay, maybe a slight exaggeration, but it sure feels that way!). So which should you choose? It depends on what you are using that bar for and/or what time of the day it is being consumed. So here are a few options that are nutritionally sound, based on timing and use. Note: this list is NOT all-inclusive and are general recommendations. Your specific needs might be different.

+Available from Trader Joe's specifically, though may be elsewhere
*Available from Whole Foods specifically, though may be elsewhere

Pre-weight lifting
Larabar Peanut butter Cookie (Gluten free, dairy free, Soy free, Vegan)
Luna Lemon Zest (Organic)
Organic Food Bar Active Greens (Organic, Vegan)*

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Start the school year with good nutrition: tips, tricks and recipes!

Two weeks ago I discussed school lunches and last week was snacks. With many of you actually STARTING school this week, I thought I would end the theme of school nutrition with a round-up of my best blog articles relating to meal prep and eating during this crazy time - many focusing on dinner. Here they are:

How to Eat a Healthy, Quick Dinner Every Night
A step-by-step how-to for each day of the week to be able to have a good dinner every night with minimal prep for the week as a whole. Includes ideas such as crock pot, batch cooking and smart shopping.

Wondering What You Will Eat Tomorrow? [Recipes]
One recipe each: breakfast, lunch and dinner. All quick and SUPER tasty. The breakfast recipe is cookies, so how can you go wrong there???

Eating Fast Food: Meals that Work
Because sometimes you don't have a choice, when you HAVE to hit fast food, here are the best options. Establishments include Starbucks, Panera, McDonalds, Chipotle and more...

3 Quick and Health Recipes You Will Love [Recipes] is for French fries. Check it out!

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Make School Snacks a Cinch: Here's How!

This week, enjoy a guest post from my intern, Danielle. This is a great piggy-pack onto last week's post about school lunches. Now you have no excuse to not be ready to feed those student-athletes!

Be Extraordinary,

This school year, prioritizing the nutrition of your children could make it the best year yet for your family’s health. In light of the new “hangry” phenomenon, where hunger causes one to become angry, the inclusion of small, healthy snacks mid-morning and after school could keep “hangry” moods from occurring. If you find that you or your kids become grouchy or tired during the work or school day, it could be that hunger is the culprit. Bringing simple, healthy snacks to school or work may help to combat the side effects of being hungry. Snacking can maintain your mood, keep your energy up, and help you to stay focused. Especially when students are heading off to sports practice after school, consuming a snack during the school day as well as after school will keep their energy up so they can play their best.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How to Conquer School Lunches This Year

We are almost mid-way through August, which means school is right around the corner. 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 (gluten-free whole grains vs. processed if this is applicable)
-Protein: Preferably low-fat (this includes dairy or soy)
-Fat: A little bit of fat keeps young bellies full and helps with muscle recovery
-Fruit: Fresh is easiest, but canned is okay too
-Vegetables: Think fresh "ready-to-munch" veggies such as baby carrots or cherry tomatoes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

What every running, pregnant momma should own (from my experience)

As a sports dietitian at 28 weeks pregnant with her second child, I have had plenty of time to practice running with a baby on board. While slightly intimidating at first, I actually found it to be an easier feat than expected. While not every woman's body cooperates with continued running into pregnancy, there are a few key items that make the process SIGNIFICANTLY easier. Assuming you have the okay from your doctor to run while pregnant, these must-haves are a few of my favorites:

1. A belly support band
I could not do any type of exercise in mid to late pregnancy without this miracle (running or otherwise). There are lots of brands out there to choose from. I personally chose one that had 3 separate Velcro adjustments so I can easily make it fit best as my belly grows (here it is). Toward the end of my first pregnancy, I started wearing the band all the time (not just during exercise) to decrease lower back pain; I anticipate I will do this again.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

5 Critical Nutrition Solutions for High School Athletes

High school athletes are one of my favorite type of athlete to work with. They are typically highly motivated with big dreams of college play. However, it comes with the territory that they are also busy and often stressed. When working with high school athletes, here are some key nutrition things I emphasize to improve performance and reach future goals.

1. Change the when before you change the what
Instead of starting right away with eat this-not that, I start with timing of intake. Timing of intake makes a huge difference with respect to any performance goal. Plus, it is easier for a high school student to focus on eating a few more times during the day before worrying about what that food consists of.

2. Lets discuss your schedule
Knowing the athlete's school, practice, and competition schedule is critical to developing an eating plan that works. Every athlete's schedule is slightly different, so my understanding of their time restrictions makes a huge difference to their level of success with my eating program.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The #1 Myth of a Dancer's Diet

This week, enjoy a guest post from my intern, Danielle. She comes from an extensive background and dance, so was the perfect fit to provide an article about a dancer's diet.

Be Extraordinary,


Along with gymnasts and figure skaters, dancers tend to be body conscious athletes because they are often assessed by if their body is aesthetically pleasing verses solely how well they perform. Although not always treated as an athlete, dancers must put their bodies through great stress during conditioning, rehearsals, and dance classes. It is important that dancers fuel the body with an ample amount of energy just as any other athlete. This sometimes does not occur due to the lack of knowledge of fueling requirements. Instead of consuming the sufficient amount of calories each day to support the high level of performance and refuel the tank for the next rehearsal, some dancers restrict because they believe this to be a good way to protect their figure. In doing so, they do not eat enough food to support the amount of energy they are utilizing, which starves the muscles of the nutrients needed to give a standing ovation performance...and leaves the dancer drained.

The Myth: Eating one, low calorie meal per day is a good way to maintain my body size.

The Truth: Skipping meals will likely force the body to use muscle mass for energy. This prevents the body from burning off any excess body fat that might be present. It also can make the dancer tired, emotionally unstable and unable to focus, which all affect performance. In addition, under-eating deprives the body of many key nutrients, which may cause deficiencies and a lowered immune function, making the dancer more susceptible to injury and illness.

The Solution: Dancers should attempt to eat several small meals (or “mini” meals) throughout the day full of nutrient dense items such as whole wheat grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins (i.e. nuts, yogurts and chicken). This pattern of eating will keep energy on-board so dancers can continue working hard. Consuming healthy foods throughout the day will also better support a lean figure.

When dancers eat better, they feel better physically and emotionally. That is sure to bring the crowd to its feet.


Picture source:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Choosing the right "sports drink"

With the warm temperatures and humidity ready to peak, athletes are often left wondering which sports drink is the best fit for their sport type, time and intensity. 

First, let me clear up a few things about sports drinks:
1. Parents often are weary of sports drinks because of the sugar content. Keep in mind that sports drink provide 3 things to an athlete's working body: fluid, electrolytes and sugar. The sugar content is relatively low compared to other sweet drinks such as juice and soda. In fact, 1 cup of regular sports drink is an amount of sugar equivalent to 1 piece of fruit or 1 slice of bread. The sweetness of the sports drinks also encourages more fluid intake than plain water.

2. Dentists often speak poorly of sports drinks, citing research showing that sugary drinks increase cavities. Note that studies involved teeth that were continuously exposed/submersed in sports drink, which of course is not applicable to real life. The closest comparison would be the athlete who continuously sips sports drink throughout the course of the day. This is unnecessary. Sports drinks were are called such because they are meant to be drunk during sports...and that's it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sports RD Race Report: 23 Weeks Pregnant and Racing a Hilly 5 Miles

This past weekend I was fortunate to be able to run the Downers Grove 5-Miler at 23 weeks pregnant. What made this race more special is that this was actually my second time running the race while pregnant. My first time was in 2012 when I was 25 weeks pregnant with my first child. This time - at 23 weeks pregnant and exercising much less frequently than with the first pregnancy - I was excited and curious to see how I would do. So here it race report.

Night before: Saturday
This will not be the epic example of a night before race meal for two reasons:
1. A 5-mile race does not require epic eating the night before - though should still be well-rounded.
2. I was at a wedding.

-Salad with dried cranberries, walnuts, shaved Parmesan and a light cream-based dressing.
-3 ounces chicken, 1/3 cup mashed potatoes, roll and some type dough with mushrooms stuffed inside. Asparagus was also served, but that is the one vegetable I cannot make myself enjoy.
-To drink was water and a small amount of diet coke. No alcohol for obvious reasons, though I wouldn't have anyway.
-Dessert was (yup) cake with a few fresh berries along with decaf coffee.

Sadly bedtime was midnight (boo), but that's the cost of going to a great wedding!

Morning of: Sunday
Up at 5:50am
Breakfast at 5:55am: Two pieces of whole wheat toast with 2 Tbsp peanut butter and 1.5 Tbsp honey; 8 ounces skim milk; 3 cups water before I left the house

6:10am: Left the house and drank 2 cups water on the way

6:35am: Arrived on-site. Picked up packet. Back to the car for a final 3 ounces of water.

6:45-7:15am: Warm-ups, stretching, strapped on my belly support band, multiple bathroom breaks

7:20am: 2 ounces water from a cooler for participants

7:30am Race Start
My goal for this race was 45 minutes flat. I had previously run a 42:59 in 2012. At that time, I was exercising 5 days per week, including lifting 2x/week. Unfortunately I was also suffering from shin splits from that belly hanging out in front of me and extra weight overall. Fast-forward to this pregnancy where I have been exercising maybe 3x/week but running exclusively/only while pushing my 20-month old and controlling my dog who trots along beside me. No shin splints this time, but some extreme calf pain. So, weighing all that, I determined that beating the 2012 time was not likely.

As I started the race, I had to hold myself back from my usual sprint start. I knew if I started TOO fast, I would run out of steam too quickly. My first mile was 7:45....faster than what I meant to do, but definitely not close to my non-pregnant 6:30 typical first mile. So I intentionally allowed myself to slow down and just run my race. Those who know me will realize how difficult it is for me to allow others to pass me and pull my pace back. But, I can honestly say I could not have run any faster than I was, even at the pace I held. With each mile, the pace got slightly slower, but stayed close to the 8:15/8:30 mark. My severe calf pain disappeared around mile 2.5 just as the hilly course turned flat until mile 4.25. Right around mile 4.25, my body decided it was time for the race to be done - likely because the rolling hills returned. Luckily right at that moment, a chiropractor I know who had just finished the race appeared and began cheering me on. That encouragement got me through that last 0.75 mile as I approached the finish.

Seeing the finish line was phenomenal. I somehow picked up the pace slightly (it's all relative, right?) and ran it in down the homestretch. Being able to see the time clock for the last 300m or so was actually helpful motivation to get me there faster. I crossed the finish line at 41:47...significantly improved from my 45 min goal time (which - lets be honest - was probably being a bit conservative for my competitive spirit). Mile pace was 8:22 vs. my typical 7:30ish non-pregnant mile pace.

Post-race fueling included 1 bottle of water, 3/4 bagel with part cream cheese and part peanut butter, 1/3 banana and 2 slices of orange.
Closing Thoughts
Overall, it was a painfully great pregnant 5-miler. I thought it would be my last race this pregnancy, but who knows. A 5K in July sounds kind of nice...

Be Extraordinary,


Friday, June 20, 2014

4 World Cup Nutrition Tips for Soccer Players

With the World Cup in full swing, everyone has soccer on the mind. For the aspiring players out there, here are 4 nutrition tactics you can use to improve your game immediately.

1. Start with hydration
Soccer is a fast-moving game, often played in the heat of the summer or on humid indoor fields. To maintain hydration levels during the game, drink 2 cups water 2 hours before, 1 cup water 1 hour before and 3 cups of water per hour of play. Heavy sweaters should consider sports drink in place of water. If play continues longer than one hour, sports drink is a must. Remember that even a 2% loss in body weight affects performance on the field.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

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.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

5 Nutrition Tasks Before Traveling By Air to Races

Traveling across the country for that big race is exciting. However, traveling by air can wreak havoc on athletes' performance when not done right. To be ready to race when you arrive at your destination, here are 4 things you should do BEFORE you travel this summer.

1. Research food vendors at your destination
Nothing is worse than arriving at your destination and realizing there are no good food options in sight. Do a little research in advance. Know where you will eat the night before your race. Locate the closest grocery store to do some shopping for essentials when you arrive. Make a list of what you need to buy, and go shopping first before you do anything else.

2. Pack your favorite foods
If you have a favorite race morning breakfast or preferred snacks, don't take any chances - pack them! Don't forget race day fuel, as this is not something you want to be driving around looking for once you arrive. Remember that any liquid or semi-liquid foods need to go into a checked bag, so plan for this when packing. Call the hotel to see if there is a frig, microwave or even full kitchenette in the room. If not, pack a hot pot (cook pot) that you can easily use to make foods such as rice, oatmeal, pasta or quinoa right in your room. And don't forget plastic plates, bowls and utensils.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Save your summer training; Avoid these 3 common nutrition pitfalls

Ah summer - it's finally here! A time for revving up the outdoor training and really focusing on those competitive goals. But nothing ruins a great training season like stupid nutrition decisions. Here are 3 common pitfalls many athletes fall into when they get just a little too relaxed with their eating over the summer.

1. "It's so nice out, lets go eat/drink _______."
When the whether is finally warm after a brutal winter, it is easy to always want to be outside on a restaurant porch drinking a your favorite alcoholic concoction or out for ice cream with the kids. Set limits on this now so these habits do not get out of hand. Remember that one drink or small cup of ice cream can easily load on up to 400 Calories of very little useful nutrition. A good rule of thumb is that you are allowed to "treat" yourself twice a week. Just make sure to choose a treat that you truly enjoy. This will leave you feeling satisfied instead of wishing you didn't waste the calories. Instead of always meeting friends at the tiki bar, trying meeting at the park and going for a walk in the beautiful sunshine.

2. "It's really hot out - I must be dehydrated. I better grab a sports drink."
Sports drinks are only meant to be drunk during one activity...sports. Don't use sports drinks as a random hydration tool unless you have met with a sports RD or physician who has the specific knowledge to tell you to do so. Why? Because sports drinks offer little in terms of good nutrition when it comes to meals, snacks or even in between. They are purely created for rehydration during relatively intense activity, which doesn't include standing around outside. Too much sports drink when you don't need it is just as bad as too much pop, alcohol, ice cream, etc....just a lot of empty calories that are not helpful.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Decrease Inflammation with these 3 Spices

Whether hurt, recovering or just looking to stay well, many athletes want to know what they can eat to decrease levels of inflammation in the body. While the typical go-to is berries for their antioxidant capacity, spices offer an anti-inflammatory punch of their own. Here are 3 of the best. And forget supplements; simply add them to dishes when cooking to reap the benefits.

1. Tumeric
Tumeric has natural anti-inflammatory properties. Most don't recognize this spice by name because it is actually found in curry powder. Indian dishes often rely heavily on curry powder - perhaps for the anti-inflammatory effect!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Four Fantastic Apps for Nutrition-Minded Athletes

It amazes me how many apps exist now for smartphones. I love when I find a good app that makes my life easier. Here are a few of my favorite sports nutrition apps. Whether you want to count calories, shop quicker, eat out easier or check supplements, there's an app for that.

*Disclaimer: I am not being paid by any of these apps to discuss them on this blog. As you will see, I freely discuss the pros and cons of each.*

1. MyFitnessPal - Free
There are lots of apps available for calorie tracking. I like this app because the database is HUGE, which makes it easy to find uncommon or specialty foods. For clients working with me, we can also become "Friends", which allows me to see their food diary. When entering food, be sure to pay attention to how many "confirmations" a given food has received. This will give you some indication as to how accurate the entry likely is. Because this is a user-entered food database, there will be error, but potentially not much greater than any error associated with food tracking. Another note: like all calorie counters, this app notoriously under-estimates calorie needs. However, to use a way to track patterns of mindless eating or general intake across the board, it is a great tool.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

How to Hydrate When You Hate Water

It's that time of year when the weather begins to warm and ruining your workout by being dehydrated is much more likely. Despite constant encouragement by sports professionals, many athletes find it difficult to hydrate during the day prior to or after a workout. Their reason is sometimes that plain water just isn't palatable. The truth is that many other fluid options hydrate...

1. Coffee or tea
In the past, coffee and tea were characterized as fluids that should be avoided by athletes at any cost due to caffeine levels. What we know now is that it actually takes a large volume of these (or any) caffeinated beverages before there is actually a dehydrating effect. So, keep that morning cup of joe, but try to limit yourself to a total of 4 cups or less of caffeinated beverages daily. Already way over that amount? Try half caff (you may not even notice) each time you drink coffee or tea. One caveat: realize that many energy drinks are much higher in caffeine than a basic cup of coffee or tea. Your caffeine intake should be no more than 500mg per day (at the most!) but ideally closer to 300mg. So check those energy drinks and adjust accordingly. Like chocolate-covered espresso beans? That caffeine counts too! And try to limit caffeine intake after ~3pm, as it can interfere with sleep.

2. Low-fat milk
This "milk" can be soy milk, lactose-free milk, organic milk....whatever you like. Just pick a low-fat, calcium-fortified version to cut back on unnecessary saturated fat and increase the nutrients you are receiving from that milk. If you only drink rice milk or almond milk, try switching to another type of milk if you consider this your protein source. Rice milk and almond milk have close to zero protein.

3. 100% fruit juice
Notice the percent: 100. So I'm not talking about Tang, Hi-C, or Fruit Punch. Check right above the food label and make sure it reads, "100% juice". Many juices appear to be 100%, but are actually fruit drinks. And stay away from the "low-calorie" juices, which are either watered down or pumped with artificial sweeteners. Because of these two facts, oftentimes you'll end up drinking more than you would have of the real stuff, which means taking in the same, if not more calories than the 100% juice. Regardless, limit juice intake to no more than 6-8 ounces daily.

4. Water + fruit
Here is a great way to give water some flavor without turning to artificial sweeteners. Try adding one or a combination of the following to your water: lemon, lime, oranges, grapefruit, cucumber, strawberries, pineapple, mint leaves, or basil leaves - or whatever else sounds good to you! This can be very refreshing - particularly on a hot, sunny day. Why am I not a fan of artificial sweeteners? Sweeteners are chemically processed in a way that makes them sweeter than real sugar. That means that, over time, you may start to prefer foods sweeter and sweeter (which may be why some athletes don't like plain water in the first place). So, if you want to drink something flavored with one of these sweeteners, stick to one drink/can per day max (this includes drinks such as diet soda, Crystal Lite, etc.).

5. Sparkling water
If you're looking for a better alternative to diet soda, this is it. Sparkling water that comes in a can (such as Lacroix) is easy to take along with you, but contains more flavor than plain water. The key is to make sure no artificial sweeteners are added. Check the food label and look for simple ingredients. These often include carbonated water, sparkling water, natural flavor, mint, or even essence of cocoa. Flavors such as lime, lemon, orange, or grapefruit are typically more likely to NOT contain artificial sweeteners. But beware: you may not want to drink anything carbonated right before a workout, as it can cause GI discomfort.

So choose your fluids wisely, and you may find that hydrating is much easier than you thought.

Be Extraordinary,


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

3 Quick and Healthy Recipes You Will Love

It has been a few weeks since I sent out new recipes. Here are a few of my current favorites that I use to fuel myself on a weekly basis. Quick, easy and healthy...what more can you ask for?!

Sweet Potato Fries
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Slice 4 medium sweet potatoes in desired shape (medallions, fries, etc.)
3. Place potato slices in gallon-size bag with 2 tbsp canola oil. Shake until all slices covered.
4. Spread potato slices onto baking sheet covered in aluminum foil (for easy cleaning).
5. Season as desired with pepper, salt, paprika, chili powder, cinnamon...whatever sounds good!
6. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until soft.

Serves 4

Homemade Almond Cranberry Granola
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Mix the following in a large bowl: 4 cups old-fashioned oats, 2 cups coarsely chopped almonds (unsalted), 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1/3 cup honey and 1/2 cup canola oil.
3. Spread mixture onto baking sheet covered in aluminum foil (for easy cleaning).
4. Cook for 35-40 minutes or until golden. During cooking, stir every 10 minutes (I just set the timer for 10 minutes at a time).
5. Pull baking sheet out of oven and top with 1 1/2 cups dried cranberries and 1.5 cups shredded coconut. Allow entire mixture to cool. Stir and store in air-tight container.

***The best part about this recipe is that you can vary the nuts and dried fruit to your liking, but maintain its deliciousness! I love this granola mixed with bran flakes and non-fat milk for cereal in the morning or placed on top of non-fat, plain Greek yogurt - yum!

Spinach and Mushroom Quiche
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Saute 1 cup mushrooms, 1 cup chopped spinach and 1 medium onion (diced) in 2 tbsp canola oil until onions clear and mushrooms soft. Set aside.
3. In a large bowl, beat together: 1 cup non-fat milk, 3 eggs + 1 egg white, 1 cup low-fat shredded Swiss cheese, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon thyme.
4. Combine two mixtures and pour into a prepared pie shell (I go easy and just use a frozen pie shell, but you could get fancy and make your own shell from scratch).
5. Bake 50-60 minutes or until egg is set in the middle. Allow to cool 10 minutes before slicing.

***This is even better the next day (if you can make it last that long). I eat this for breakfast, lunch or dinner - it's so easy to make!

Be Extraordinary,


Picture source:

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

14 Tips for Athletes Who Eat Out

Every athlete knows that eating out can be challenging. How do you actually enjoy the meal, but stay within the guidelines of promoting good recovery and training preparation? Keep these tips in mind the next time you visit your favorite food establishment.

1. Check out the entire menu before choosing what you will get, including specials for the night

2. Look for healthy meal additions, like side salads or fruit cups

3. Only order protein that is broiled, grilled, baked, roasted…or special order this preparation method

4. Order half the cheese or butter

5. Ask for your hamburger or sandwich bun untoasted. This will save big on calories from butter