Monday, October 5, 2015

5 Tips to Making Hydration a Habit

Have you ever heard the rule, "You should be drinking eight 8-oz glasses of water a day?" 

I certainly have...and while this is a good rule of thumb, hydration guidelines are highly individual. This makes it difficult to give people, especially people of different body sizes and activity levels, a set amount of water to drink every day. 

Probably not drinking enough water for her sweaty run in the desert!
Most people know they need to drink more water - a CDC survey discovered that many people were falling short of their hydration needs, some people not drinking ANY water at all.

 You've probably heard that your body is made mostly of water, right? Water is essential for our cells to function! It helps our body get rid of waste, regulate temperature, helps our joints move smoothly and keeps your brain working correctly. 


...most people don't FEEL THIRSTY until they are slightly dehydrated. 

...being even slightly dehydrated can have an effect on your brain, heart, muscles and mood? Some people may experience headache symptoms, feel like they're in a bad mood, or feel like they can't focus.

Athletes are especially susceptible to dehydration because they lose sweat during their workouts and often aren't drinking enough to replenish this fluid loss. When we lose sweat, our blood volume goes down, reducing the amount of blood pumped with each heart beat, which can impair performance by reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to our muscles. The bottom line is that even 2-3% decrease in body weight can impair performance. This brings us back to the question - 

How do we know if we're getting enough water?

Athletes often don't know that their performance is affected by hydration because they're always performing in a slightly dehydrated state. Because hydration is different for everyone, many health professions will refer to this "urine color chart" from the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency - if your urine is light yellow, you're probably drinking enough water. 
U.S. Anti-Doping Agency

What about coffee, tea and soda? Alcohol?

Unless you're drinking 7+ cups of coffee, caffeinated tea or caffeinated soda per day, your daily cup of caffeine isn't going to cause you to be dehydrated. Alcohol, on the other hand, has strong diuretic properties, making you urinate more often, which can lead to rapid dehydration. This can be detrimental to active people and athletes, so making sure to limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks and at least 1 to 2 cups of water between each drink can help you stay hydrated.

These 5 tips can help athletes and active people get and stay hydrated, feel better, and achieve optimal performance. 

Grab your water bottle and fill it up

The Sanford Power website has a Nutrition and Hydration for Team Sport Athletes page dedicated to this very topic! 

Remember, everybody is different and you can be over hydrated. If you're running to the bathroom frequently or your urine is clear, you are likely drinking too much water, which can be just as harmful, if not more harmful to athletes than being dehydrated. 

If you are an endurance athlete or exercising/practicing for several hours a day, you may want to consider adding an electrolyte replacement or sports drink to your routine to help you replenish the electrolytes you're losing in sweat. Some people might even try making their own sports drinks to help them stay hydrated.


What are your best tips for staying hydrated? Ask the dietitian your hydration questions!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pack a Snack

Snacking is a huge topic in the news and among clients (Is eating more snacks better? Should I eat between meals? Is 5 small meals better than 3 large meals?) I recommend that clients eat when they're hungry, which often includes eating several snacks throughout the day, especially if you're very active or you're an athlete. 

Packing snacks to bring to work or school is a great way to ensure you don't get stuck buying something over-priced from the school or work cafeteria or the vending machine (where the healthy pickings are slim). 

Knowing which foods to pack as a healthy snack can save you money, provide you with more nutrients and fuel your body throughout the day. This is especially true for active people and athletes, who need more calories than the "average" person. Our bodies utilize nutrients better when we spread them throughout the day and timing meals and snacks to fuel activities and help our bodies recover can improve performance. 

Comparing the Numbers

The USDA reports:
  • fruit roll snacks are about 82 calories and 28 cents per portion
  • bananas are about 100 calories and on average, about 18 cents per portion
Although fruit rolls/snacks and other foods of this variety can seem like a good deal because they often go on sale and may have health claims such as "100% fruit" or "An excellent source of vitamin C!", bananas and other fruits are often just as budget-friendly and contain more nutrients (that aren't necessarily advertised) to fuel your body than snack foods. 

Pre-packaged foods aren't ALWAYS a bad choice, but if you can build a more complete, nutrient-dense snack with foods from several food groups, you'll stay fuller for longer and your body will be getting more vitamins, minerals and fiber. 

The easiest way to choose a filling nutritious snack is to follow this formula:

1. Complex carbohydrates
Complex carbs are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. 

Common examples include: apples, bananas, carrots, whole grain crackers, whole grain bread, potatoes, brown rice, raisins, granola, whole grain cold cereal or oatmeal and legumes/beans (chickpeas, black beans, peas, etc.)

2. Protein

Protein sources are dairy foods, meat and poultry, and nuts and seeds.

Common examples include: yogurt (Greek yogurt has more protein!), milk, cheese, lunch meat, chicken, hard boiled eggs, almonds or other nuts.

How much protein do you need? You're probably getting enough, but make sure you're getting some as part of your snacks!

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends making small swaps to your normal grocery cart by looking at the foods you "always" eat each week and trying to make a swap for a more nutritious option. For example, you can swap out those fruit snacks for a piece of fruit or swap that chocolate chip fiber bar for some nuts or whole grain cereal. 

Again, your snack bar (or other favorite portable snack) may be satisfying and tasty, but you should set a goal to get more variety in your diet.

Remember, eating snacks and meals with more variety, from more than one food group, is going to provide you with the most nutritional "bang for your buck" - you're going to be getting more nutrients and feel more satisfied with, for example, and apple paired with some nuts vs. if you just ate the apple by itself.

The protein and healthy fats in the nuts help hold you over for longer and the carbohydrates in the apple give your body a quick source of energy. 

10 portable snack ideas to throw in your backpack/bag/purse:

1. Almonds/mixed nuts (~1/4 cup) with an apple
2. String cheese and grapes
3. Greek yogurt with berries and 1/4 cup granola
4. Cheese and whole grain crackers
5. A cup of milk and whole grain cereal
6. Peanut butter* and celery with raisins
7. Nut butter and jelly sandwich on whole grain bread or crackers
8. 2 hard boiled eggs and an apple
9. 1/3 cup oatmeal cooked with milk and 1/2 Tbsp peanut butter
10. Beef jerky and carrots

*You can portion peanut butter into small containers if you don't want to bring the whole peanut butter jar to work/school.

Ask the Dietitian: What snacking questions do you have? What are your favorite snacks?

I love plain Greek yogurt with berries and flax seeds. If I don't want to bring a lunch bag or don't have access to a refrigerator to keep it cool, I opt for a piece of fruit and nuts or a tablespoon or 2 of peanut butter. 

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Will the Real Pumpkin Flavor Please Stand Up?

Now that the temperatures are dropping (in the Midwest, at least), and the days are getting shorter, many people are breaking out their long sleeves and hanging fall decorations as pumpkin spice everything returns to store shelves. You can find everything from pumpkin spice lip gloss and body lotions to pumpkin spice chocolate candies,yogurt, boxes of cereal, and yes, even POTATO CHIPS...and it doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon.

This blog isn't about to knock the pumpkin spice trend - this post is actually going to be an Ode to Pumpkin and Pumpkin Pie Spice. It's time to take a step back and discover the real food flavors of pumpkin (a squash) and pumpkin pie spice (a blend of cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, and nutmeg) - flavors that often get overlooked when they're doused in sugar and disguised in baked goods. We're not saying we don't enjoy a giant slab piece of pumpkin pie during the holidays, we just want you to enjoy more pumpkin without the blood sugar spike.

Enjoying a seasonal treat once in a while is fine- referring to the previous post on Enjoying More Whole Foods - you want to choose foods that are as close to their original source or minimally processed most of the time, to avoid all the preservatives and additives (sweeteners, dyes) companies add to pre-packaged products.

Remember, pumpkin is a vegetable, so to enjoy pumpkin and reap all the nutritional benefits from this dark orange squash, choose fresh pumpkin (in squash form) or add pumpkin puree to your favorite sweet OR savory recipes. Many of the "pumpkin spice" products found in the store may not actually contain any pumpkin, and are often disguised with sugar to hide the fact that pumpkin is a vegetable that doesn't actually taste like a pumpkin spice latte (sorry). 


"Pumpkin spice" or "Pumpkin Pie Spice" doesn't actually contain pumpkin - it's really just a blend of warming spices usually found in pumpkin pie recipes. You can find pumpkin pie spice in the store, or make your own mix of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, ginger, mace and nutmeg. 


Pumpkins are actually a type of winter squash (vegetable), and they come in many varieties. All winter squash (including pumpkins, acorn squash, butternut squash, etc.) are great sources of fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, beta-carotene (turns to Vitamin A in our bodies) and carotenoids (may help reduce inflammation).

We don't have to wait until Thanksgiving to eat pumpkins - a can of pumpkin puree is the easiest way to incorporate pumpkin into your diet. Pumpkin puree (not "canned pumpkin pie", which has added sugar!) can be added to oatmeal, chili, baked goods, meatloaf, lasagna, pancakes, Greek name it.

A quarter (1/4) cup canned pumpkin puree is nutrient rich: at only ~20 calories, a serving contains over half your recommended intake of Vitamin A, loads of carotenoids, and is a great way to include extra vegetables and fiber into some of your favorite recipes. 

Pumpkin seeds, in particular, are an excellent plant-based source of zinc, which helps with wound healing and immune system function. 

A small handful (~1/4 cup = 170 calories, 40% Magnesium DV, 35% Phosphorous DV, 15% Zinc DV) of pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a healthy snacking choice - you can add them to your morning oatmeal, smoothies, toss them on your salad or add them to trail mix. These little seeds are colorful, crunchy, and full of healthy fats that may help reduce inflammation. 

Here's a great idea for Pumpkin Spiced Energy Bites - These bites are a great snack for before a workout!

Recipe from Food and Nutrition Magazine, by LAUREN O'CONNOR, MS, RDN
Makes about 20 bite-sized energy balls/bites
  • 1 cup organic oats
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2-3 Tbsp pumpkin puree
  • 3 large dates, pitted
  • 1 Tbsp raisins
  • 1 Tbsp flaxseed meal (ground flaxseed)
  • 1 Tbsp cinnamon (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • optional: 1/4 cup of mini chocolate chips
1) Process oats, 1/4 cup of unsweetened coconut, pumpkin puree, dates, raisins, flaxseed meal, cinnamon, cloves and vanilla in food processor until well-blended and firm
2) Scoop into bite-sized pieces and dust with coconut flakes and cinnamon
3)  Place in container and refrigerate

Quick tip: Energy bites freeze great - make a large batch, place them in a ziploc bag in the freezer and grab them at your convenience before a workout. 

What are your favorite seasonal recipes?

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Choosing More Whole Foods

It's no surprise that athletes, especially professional athletes, expend a great deal of energy during their days, often practicing every day, more than once per day. To fuel this high level of activity, athletes have much higher caloric needs, which equates to a proportional increase in the amount of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats athletes need to consume at each meal, usually meaning portions at meals and more snacks throughout the day. Bigger athletes, such as football players, need even more calories - with reports of NFL lineman eating up to 10,000 calories a day.

Eating a balanced diet year-round,  containing a mix of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats is what keeps the best athletes healthy, continuing to train hard and perform to the best of their abilities.

In fact, by emphasizing a balanced plate containing plenty of antioxidant and phytochemical-rich vegetables and fruits, an athlete can help fight off inflammation, promote recovery and enhance performance, plus whole grains and starches to fuel our muscles and protein to encourage muscle repair and growth. Real food diets are embraced by the best athletes, who often find that better nutrition through choosing whole foods and balanced meals, leads to better performance over time.

One example of an athlete who has taken a 100% plant-based whole foods stance to his diet is Chicago Bears defensive lineman David Carter. A recent article written for USA Today reports on how he eats ~10,000 calories on a 100% plant-based (vegan) diet, meeting his high energy needs through 5 meals and several snacks throughout the day, heavily relying on whole grains, vegetables, legumes (beans) and fruit to be able to meet his nutrition goals and compete at the NFL level.

While adopting a plant-based diet may work for some athletes, others may not want to or see the benefits in giving up animal products. Every athlete is different and working with a registered dietitian can help you meet your needs based on your own goals, but for most people, adding more whole foods versus relying on processed or pre-packaged foods will have performance and health benefits.

There are many benefits to adopting a more whole foods, plant-based diet, but you don't need to go full-on vegan or vegetarian to reap the benefits of eating more vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Adding in lean meats, poultry, low-fat dairy and fish to a diet high in plant-foods is a great option for most people, especially athletes. Even Houstan Texans defensive end JJ Watt has reported eating more "whole foods" to properly fuel his body, claiming he's "not a supplement guy". If athletes start to fuel their body with more real foods, they'll soon realize they don't need extra supplements to optimize their performance. 

What does eating more "whole foods" mean?

Eating more whole foods means including more foods found in their natural state in your diet, instead of eating pre-made or pre-packaged foods, fast food, boxed foods with confusing ingredient labels, etc.

Some good examples of real food snacks are: 

peanut butter + whole grain bread
string cheese (look for part-skim mozzarella)
chocolate milk
peanut/almond butter on a banana or crackers
Greek yogurt with granola
hummus and pretzels
hard boiled eggs
trail mix (buy some or make your own  - see below "recipe!")

Formula for trail mix:

3 cups nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, cashews, pistachios)
1 cup seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, dried soy nuts)
1 cup cereal or granola (Kashi, Total or honey granola)
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, dried cranberries/craisins)
Optional mix-ins: mini chocolate chips, coconut flakes, banana chips, oyster or Goldfish crackers, M&M's, popcorn
Quick tip: Portion the trail mix into snack-size bags to prevent over indulging. All those nuts are full of healthy fats and nutrients, but these snack mixes can also pack a calorie punch.

Source: Greatist
Check out their site for more awesome snack mix ideas! 

Choosing more whole foods doesn't have to be overwhelming. Here are some tips for eating more whole foods:
  • Think about adding more foods instead of eliminating food groups entirely. For example, think about ways to add a vegetable or fruit to every meal instead of thinking about eliminating "junk food" from your diet. If you make a conscious effort to "eat a handful of nuts as a snack" to get those healthy fats in your diet, your daily vending machine snack will naturally be eliminated. 
  • Cook more of your own food and bring your lunch. If you're eating out a lot, you're most likely not getting the most nutritious food OR the most bang for your buck. You'll realize how much food you get for your money when you start to pack your lunch or make  dinner at home most days instead of going out for fast food. Invest in a quality, insulated lunch box to bring lunch and snacks to work or school. Making extra dinner the night before is a great way to have a healthy meal to bring for lunch the next day.
  • ...speaking of leftovers...Do a little "food prep" on Sunday. If you wash, peel and cut up vegetables and fruit before the work or school week starts, you're more likely to pack a healthy snack. If you cook chicken breasts, assemble some salads, cook grains, and make extra of a new recipe, you'll have healthy options to choose from throughout the week. 
  • Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This motto doesn't always apply, as there are plenty of healthy, whole-food choices in the center aisles (whole grains such as oatmeal, rice, dried and canned beans, etc.) BUT, this is a great idea in terms of choosing the fresher, whole foods such as vegetables and fruit, meat and dairy and frozen fruits and vegetables, which are usually found on the perimeter of the store. 
  • Have a plan when you shop! Think of all the foods you'll eat over the next week and make a list. When you go shopping without a list, sometimes those boxes Mac and Cheese makes it's way into your cart simply because it was 10-for-$10. Making a list might require you to think about what meals you want to make for the week ahead. If you notice a lot of the foods you're eating throughout the week are coming from packages (snack bars, microwave meals), think of a substitution for some of those items. 
  • Reduce your consumption of sweetened beverages. I know, I know, you hear this ALL the time, but it's true! If you're spending money on soda, sports drinks, etc., that's a lot of money you could be spending on produce and other whole foods, where you'll be getting more nutrients for the same calories (or less!)
  • Choose 100% whole grains - look at the nutrition facts label of your bread. The first ingredient shouldn't be enriched bread flour. 100% whole grain bread will usually label itself as such on the front of the bread, and the first ingredient on the ingredients list should be wheat flour or whole wheat flour. Other whole grains include: brown rice (vs. white rice), oatmeal, whole grain cereal and granola, etc. 
Oatmeal with berries or granola with yogurt are great breakfast options.

A big thing to remember is: Don't stress about eating 100% whole foods or healthy food, all the time. The point of choosing healthy foods is to fuel your body to feel better, work harder and be healthier. If you're always worried about choosing the right foods, you're giving yourself a lot of unnecessary stress, which can be just as hard on your body as unhealthy food options. Make an effort to choose healthy options most of the time, and make those packaged favorites or less healthy foods "sometimes" foods. Contact a Registered Dietitian near you to talk more about how to choose healthy foods to meet your own goals, fuel your activities and to enhance sports performance.

Any tips for adopting a whole foods diet?
Any favorite websites or cookbooks for whole food recipes?

Feel free to comment with any "ASK THE DIETITIAN" questions!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Potluck and Tailgate Tips from the Dietitian

For many, the end of summer signifies the start of Football season. This means getting together with friends for potlucks or tailgating before the game to eat delicious food and cheer for The Green Bay Packers  your favorite sports team.

We don't usually think of "healthy" when we think of our favorite potluck or tailgating foods (burgers, brats, creamy or cheesy dip and chips), but that doesn't mean you can't lighten up some of your game day favorites to bring a healthier twist to those traditional favorites. 

This definitely doesn't mean pack a salad and miss out all the good food. We've gathered a few tips on enjoying a healthier gameday potluck or tailgate:

Check out the entire selection of foods before you load up your plate.

Often times, we jump in the food line with the "little bit of everything" approach, which leaves our plate overflowing with delicious food, maybe even going back later to grab second helpings of the foods we really liked. Instead, walk through the line and scope out which foods are available and choose a couple favorites.

A potluck is a great time to enjoy those "sometimes" foods, and you should always allow yourself to enjoy those foods once in a while. Choose mostly healthy sides (fresh fruit, vegetable tray, baked chips, salsa), and choose small portions of those "sometimes" foods you don't eat very often. 

Bring your own healthy recipe/side and swap out ingredients in your favorite recipes. 

Simple Swaps: 

Use your favorite sauces on chicken drumsticks instead of wings. You'll get a more satisfying meal with less fat. 

Chicken brats instead of traditional brats for less calories and fat.

Substitute some or all of the mayo in potato salad with Greek yogurt for less fat and more protein.

Use ground chicken breast in sloppy Joe's instead of beef. 

Salsa or guacamole have less fat and pack a big nutrient punch along with flavor over a queso chip dip

Use whole wheat noodles in your pasta salads and add extra vegetables for added nutrients and fiber.

This recipe for North Caroline Barbeque is traditionally made with pork, but can be lightened up using this easy recipe for pulled chicken breast, which is great on sandwiches (with a whole wheat bun, side of baked beans, coleslaw, and roasted corn). 

Easy Crock Pot North Carolina Chicken Barbecue Recipe

For the Crock Pot Pulled Chicken:
Adapted from TheKitchn's recipe for BBQ Shredded Chicken


  • 4-5 large  boneless, skinless chicken breasts (~2 lbs.)
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth 
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt 
  • 1 tsp pepper


Place chicken breasts in crock pot, add spices and cover with chicken broth. Set crock pot on low for 5-6 hours or cook on high for 3-4 hours, until chicken pulls apart and comes to internal temperature of at least 165. 

When chicken is cooked, let cool and shred with 2 forks OR beat whole chicken breasts using kitchen stand mixer with paddle attachment. 

Now that you have shredded chicken, you can add a vinegar-based barbecue sauce, like this one from


  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper


Combine the white vinegar, cider vinegar, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper in a jar or bottle with a tight-fitting lid. The recipe recommends mixing ingredients ahead of time to allow the flavors to blend. 

This recipe makes more than enough to cover the chicken, so make sure to store the extra sauce in a covered container in your refrigerator. 


What are your favorite game day eats?
Any traditional recipes you have transformed over the years to be a little healthier?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Marathon Week Nutrition

We're gearing up for the Sioux Falls Marathon next weekend, which means most athletes registered for the races are going to be reducing their mileage (tapering) and eating more carbohydrates (carbohydrate-loading). You've made it!

This is a great time to look back at all those summer training runs and feel confident that you put in all those sweaty miles in the heat to be able to cross that finish line on race day. In honor of the race being ONE WEEK away (no pressure), we're going to be  talking a little bit about race week nutrition for marathon runners.

Most of the information applies to runners for all distances, and the Sioux Falls Marathon website has some great videos on Steps to running your first 5K, which have great tips for runners of all abilities, but especially for those who want to start running, or have signed up for their first race. 

Source: Sioux Falls Marathon

Hitting the Wall

In the world of athletics, we hear a lot of information about protein, but runners need to be making carbohydrates a priority, especially in the days leading up to a big race. 

Carbohydrates are our muscles' preferred fuel source. When you eat carbohydrates, your body stores it as energy in the form of glycogen. When you're a distance runner, your muscles use up this energy. 

Have you ever hear of a marathon runner hitting the wall? "Hitting the wall" is a term to describe the sudden feeling of fatigue, lack of energy and feeling that you can't even take one more step when a runner has used up all of their stored carbohydrates, often around mile 20 of the marathon. This is why you often hear people say, "The race is half over at mile 20" because those last 6 miles can often feel like an eternity if you haven't taken the proper steps to ensure your glycogen/energy stores are filled and ready to push you to mile 26.2. 

Source: Buzzfeed

I'm sure the new runners are panicking at the thought of hitting that 20 mile mark now. Don't worry! There are a couple steps during this week to make sure you're getting in some good nutrition to fuel your muscles on race day. 

Carbs are King

Most runners think of carbohydrate loading as eating a huge bowl of pasta in the days leading up  to a race. We're not here to tell you that that's not a good strategy - if you've been eating pasta for every meal leading up to all your long runs, you probably don't want to change a good thing. 

A good rule to follow is: "Don't try anything new in the days leading up to a race!" For many runners, a big pasta meal, especially the night before the race (the traditional "carb loading meal"), is probably not going to digest fully before you start the race, so you may feel bloated and heavy while you're running. Instead, start thinking about your nutrition plan after your last long run, the week before the race. After you've finished this run, you're in the taper phase, so your runs over the next couple days should be easy - you've already put in the work, so pushing yourself too hard isn't going to help you gain any extra fitness. During the week leading up to your race, many runners feel like they can't back off the running - they may feel bloated or gain a couple pounds during the week, but just know that tapering is helping your body store the energy it is going to need to fuel your muscles during your big race. The extra weight is from your body storing glycogen (energy) and water, so sit back and try to relax. 
  • 3 days before your race (mid-week) is a great time to ramp up your carbohydrate intake to about 3-4 grams of carbohydrate per pound of body weight. 
For a better visual, let's think about what our plate might look like on a "normal" day, with 45-65% of our calories coming from carbohydrates: 

United States Olympic Committee Sport Dietitians and the University of Colorado (UCCS) Sport Nutrition Graduate Program.

The normal plate is great for every day and easy training days. Our carbohydrates come from vegetables and fruits, which should fill up half of our plate, and the rest from whole grains and quality starches, such as brown rice, whole grain pasta, potatoes and sweet potatoes, etc. 

In the 3-4 days leading up to a marathon, we're going to want to make carbohydrates the majority of our plate, which we can do by increasing the amount of carbohydrates we are eating at each meal and snack. This doesn't necessarily mean increasing our portions at each meal to add in an extra piece of bread, but making an effort to cut down on the protein and fats and aim to have carbohydrates make up ~70% of our daily intake

Compared to the above plate, this is a better visual of what your plate might look like in the several days leading up to race day: 

United States Olympic Committee Sport Dietitians and the University of Colorado (UCCS) Sport Nutrition Graduate Program.

As you can see, we've really increased the amount of grains and starches, so maybe instead of your daily salad for lunch, you choose a sandwich instead, or instead of an egg for breakfast, you have a peanut butter and banana sandwich so you're just making sure to make the majority of your plate carbohydrate-rich.

Keep in mind that this week is not an excuse to eat whatever you want. Carbohydrate loading is the combination of reducing your activity level and increasing your carbohydrate intake - not eating a full pasta or pizza dinner each night. We also can't push protein and healthy fats to the side. Your plate should be balanced with quality carbohydrates, vegetables and fruits and healthy fats, which is what we should be aiming to include in most of our meals every day.

Don't Try Anything New

You want to remember the above rule - to "not try anything new" in the week before the race. If you've eaten the same meal the day before every long run during your training, you probably want to stick with eating that same meal the day before your race. If you haven't really kept track of what you eat, stick with eating foods that you're familiar with or bland foods you know won't upset your stomach the day before the race. 

In contrast to the common carb-loading strategy of eating a huge pasta dinner the night before your race, we recommend eating your last larger meal for lunch the day before your race, and keeping dinner on the light side. Keep carbohydrate intake high on the day before the race, but if you're going to have your pasta dinner, try having it for lunch instead to ensure you have time to digest and feel good on race morning. 

Some examples of this meal include: pasta with red sauce and chicken breast with a side salad, rice and stir-fried vegetables and tofu or chicken, a turkey sandwich with lettuce, tomato and onion and an apple.

Race Morning 

The morning of the race is your chance to top of your glycogen stores with a quality carbohydrate-rich meal. It is recommended to wake up several hours before the race, if possible, to eat ~150 grams of carbohydates. You want to make sure you've tried eating on some of your training runs to know how your body will react to eating before running. Some of the most common go-to breakfasts include carbohydrates and a little bit of protein and fat to hold us over until the race starts: bagel with peanut butter and a banana, granola with milk and fruit, yogurt with fruit, granola bar and an apple. Whatever you choose, make sure it's something you've tried before a long run and you know will agree with your stomach. 


This breakfast should be substantial enough to get you to the starting line without being hungry, but not so large that you feel heavy and stuffed when you start running. 

If you've followed your training plan, tapered, and loaded up your plate with plenty of healthy carbohydrates in the days leading up to the race, you should feel confident that you've done everything in your power to cross that finish line. 

Again, if you're running the half marathon, this information is going to apply to you, too, just on a smaller scale. Marathon runners are going to have a larger intake of total calories, but the percentages of carbohydrates can still apply to those running the half marathon next weekend.

Any race week tips?
Favorite carbohydrate-loading meals?
Stories of hitting the wall? 
Questions for the Registered Dietitian?
Leave your comments below!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Bite Into A Healthy Lifestyle, National Nutrition Month


National Nutrition Month is celebrated every year in March. It' s main focus is to help educate people on the importance of healthy eating habits as well as a healthy lifestyle. This years theme is "Bite into a healthy lifestyle". The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics explains: "consuming fewer calories, making informed choices and getting daily exercise are key to maintaining a healthy weight, reducing your risk of chronic disease and promoting your overall health".

As athletes, you have the exercise part down (unless you are sitting around and doing nothing during off season, which I doubt). In addition, some of you may need more calories to help with weight gain. Nonetheless, here are some tips to promote overall health:

  • Focus on more vegetables and fruits. Consume at least 5 servings a day but try to reach 7-9 servings. More produce will help fight inflammation and promote immune function. Refer to previous article on how to incorporate more vegetables in your diet.
  • Make at least 50% of your grains whole grains. Whole grains help us feel fuller for a longer period of time. It helps lower cholesterol as well as prevent certain cancers. Moreover, it helps keep us regular and contains most of the B vitamins. Good examples are: quinoa, farro, brown rice, barley, oatmeal, rye, wild rice, bulgur and more. 
  • Limit or avoid concentrated sweets such as soda, cookies, cakes, candy, etc. Concentrated sweets promote inflammation. Chronic inflammation will hurt recovery and can even cause injury. Moreover, chronic inflammation has been associated with multiple risk factors including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and more.
  • Stay hydrated. Roughly, you should consume half your weight in oz (example; 180 lbs athlete should consume at least 90 oz fluids). This does not include the losses from exercise. Weigh yourself before and after practice, for every pound lost, drink about 20-24 oz. Prefer water but based on your day and practice time/intensity, it may be necessary to consume sports drinks. Remember, everything that is liquid counts including: tea, coffee, water, juice, sports drinks, soup, milk and smoothies.
  • Snack wisely. Choose healthy snacks to help you meet your goals. It helps to plan ahead if you know you will have large gaps between meals, practice and classes. Healthy snacks can be: trail mix, cheese sticks, fruit, yogurt, jerky, etc. 
  • Don't eliminate nutrients. As an athlete, all nutrients are important. Whether its carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vegetables, fruits or dairy. They all serve an important purpose for performance, recovery and health.
  • Focus on healthy fats such as avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and tahini. 
  • Limit or avoid fried fatty foods such as: fried chicken, fries, pizza, wings, etc. Similar to concentrated sweets, they promote inflammation. 
  • Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation (=1 serving for women and 2 servings for men). There are many detrimental effects of alcohol on performance as well as health. Refer to previous article for more information. 

Whether many habits need to be changed or just a few, don't do it temporarily. Healthy habits should be for life. For assistance, refer to your local registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN). Help celebrate this month by also saying thank you to any RDN you know on March 11th, which is RDN day.

Happy & Delicious National Nutrition Month!