Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year of Nothing… and Everything (part 3)


I’ve been lucky to work with athletes nationwide and internationally for over 6 years now.  Unlike having to go to a physical therapist’s office or a massage center to get body work, you can easily receive nutrition consulting via telephone, video chats, and e-mail. There’s no need for face time to work on nutrition-related issues with me.  

But happily, about one year ago, I was able to acquire work space in one of the heartlands of endurance sports: Boulder, Colorado (which is near where I live). Thanks to eNRG Performance for enabling me to ‘expand’ from my virtual office (i.e., home) and our headquarters for testing services in the Denver/Littleton area and thanks to Flatirons Running for offering me space for my consulting and testing services in south Boulder.  Although it has been wonderful to work with athletes remotely via technology and telephone, I have to admit that it’s been incredible to meet more of my fellow athletes locally.

When I am asked what I do for work (—> sports nutrition focus in addition to assisting individuals who have medical/health issues), most people assume it must be an easy-peasey field by the fact there are tons of athletes in the Boulder area.  However, the fields of nutrition and sport nutrition are interesting ones in which to build a career. Colorado is one of the states where literally anyone can practice nutrition counseling, so we are inundated with all sorts of individuals giving nutrition guidance. The majority of these folks have no formal education or credentials.  Additionally, thanks to Dr. Google and social media, there is no shortage of nutrition guidance that permeates the interwebs. Many don’t know Board Certified Sport Dietitians/Registered Dietitians exist, don’t realize the value of working with one, or simply prefer to do trial and error until they just can’t any longer.  As somewhat of a shy gal, this has given me some fun challenges as I work to educate more local coaches, athletes and others as to the value of li’l ol’ me and what I love doing as a career.    

As the new year is hours away from where I stand, I want to take a moment to recognize some local businesses, coaches, and other amazing folks who have supported and helped me in numerous ways:

Tricia and R.L. at Flatirons Running
Terry Chiplin / Active at Altitude
Henry (and Suzanne) Guzman at Flatirons Running
Kelly and Morgan Newlon at RAD, Real Athlete Diets
Todd Straka
Lee Troop at FleetFeet
Kate Ripley at Boulder Bodyworker
Michael and Ryan at Colorado Multisport
Ewen and Heather North at Revolution Running
Dr. Rock at Athlete Blood Test / Phuel
Neeraj Engineer
Coaches: Marco Hintz, Chad Weller, Adam St. Pierre, Julie Lyons, Nicole Odell, Brad Hudson, Travis Macy, Sarah Rebick, Greg Weich, Bob Seebohar, King Lucho
Last but not least:  All of my local athletes who have stepped up and spread the word. 

Thank you.  I’m excited for 2017, ya’ll. 

Dina Griffin, MS, RDN, CSSD, CISSN, METS II
credentialed, registered, and current





Friday, December 30, 2016

The Year of Nothing… and Everything (part 2)

You know when you randomly meet someone and feel like you connect with them instantly?  Maybe it isn’t so random, eh? 

I met M* a few years ago at a neighborhood shindig. I learned she was an avid outdoorsy type who had summited some of the highest peaks, mountain biked gnarly trails, competed in tough cycling races, and had developed herself into a competitive athlete all past the age of 40.  Groovy. Then I learned of her volunteer work, her career history, and current line of work… and she was even more groovy.

I didn’t see her much after our first meeting. We both have schedules that are not ordinary.  And because I have spent more time with running in the past 2-3 years than cycling, workout schedules and details didn’t align.

This summer, M moved from the other side of the neighborhood to “our side”.  I live in a mountain community, which is not huge, but the houses are spread out nicely (thank you to trees… and the natural filter of not-everyone-can handle-living-in-the-mountains-as-glorious-as-it-sounds). One day in August as I was doing an outdoor run, M stopped to chat for a few minutes as she was driving by. I learned she was racing the Leadville MTB 100 in less than two weeks.  I naturally asked if she had a good crew lined up. [If you aren’t familiar with 100 mile mountain bike or trail running races, know that having a crew typically makes for a better race. They carry your supplies for you, meet you at aid stations, check on your well-being, provide encouragement or butt kicking, and can be really magical.] M had a couple crew people lined up but hadn’t heard a confirmation yet.  I quickly volunteered to help, if needed. M appreciated my offer and said she’d let me know soon.

I love Leadville, I love crewing for athletes who work hard, I love supporting friends. And mountain bikers are pretty bad ass people (for the most part), especially those that race in Leadville.  Plus, as a crew member, I offer a special layer of support to athletes in that I can work in my nutrition skills.

With less than one week to the race, M let me know that her crew had fallen through and asked if I’d still be up for the challenge of supporting her for the 100 mile MTB race.  In less than 4 milliseconds, I responded with an excited YES.  We met a few days later to discuss logistics, which is also when I discovered M didn’t have much of a nutrition plan.  I can still tease her a bit to this day about that… of course I am biased with the type of work I do, but I will forever be perplexed by ultra athletes who don’t have a nutrition plan going into an important race.  Nonetheless, as we spent some time cramming on race logistics, I did my best to devise a nutrition plan for her.  Mountain bike racing in Leadville comes with some challenges as the race is at high elevation (over 10K feet), the start is super cold (I believe it was in the 30s at 6am), there are areas with high winds, and other parts of the course can get pretty warm.  Just like with running, you don’t want to carry a lot of weight on the bike. It’s also not always practical or easy to take in calories.  If you are competitive, you want to stop as infrequently as possible and when you do stop, you want to make these stops as short as you can.

M and I finalized race plans the night before the race.  I was super excited to be her support, even though I was slightly nervous about being her only support.  We made Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. In these short hours we had together, I realized the beauty of a solid friendship developing. We talked bike parts and endurance racing, food and sports nutrition topics, brain health and neurotransmitter function, meditation and self-growth… and on and on. You’d never know this gal was about to kick butt the next day in a challenging MTB race. She exuded pure calmness and a sense of gratefulness no matter what the day would bring.  Oh yeah, she also told me she really had only trained for 2-3 months for this 100-mile race due to an injury she had earlier in the year. Say what?

Long story short, her race went well and the solo crew member (me) had a blast navigating to our predetermined meeting points along the course for exchange of nutrition and other supplies. I always observe other athlete’s nutrition choices and it’s fairly clear when things are going awry for an athlete.  Luckily, M did pretty well with the Plan A / Plan B nutrition plans, and she showed her mental and physical toughness by finishing in the top 15% of all women (and beating over 65% of all the men’s field). At the race finish, she maintained her uber level of grooviness as she congratulated a number of other cyclists she knew, all without boasting any of her accomplishment. She was extremely grateful for the race support.

This experience may not sound like anything special or unique to you, but it was incredibly memorable for me. In a year where my personal athletic endeavors were put on hold, I reaped the benefits of supporting a friend and neighbor to her finish line… sort of like challenging my athlete self through her, although that sounds corny.  And now I am fortunate to have this friend to share in future journeys, no matter whether these are life challenges and accomplishments or our own racing finish lines.

To all of my friends, new and old.  You fill voids in my heart and you are a part of my Everything.

-Dina

 *name changed to protect privacy

Friday, December 23, 2016

I burn fat... and so what?

Through my work at eNRG Performance, I am fortunate to have access to a state of the art, reliable and valid, gold standard metabolic cart to do Metabolic Efficiency™ assessments on a wide age and ability range of athletes.  A bonus of having access to this equipment is to test the short- and long-term effects of different dietary and training interventions on myself.  It's actually been a while since I've used the cart of my own testing due to various reasons.  Most notably is the fact that my nutrition patterns have been fairly consistent and my training this year has been pretty low key (due to the bike accident and residual injuries earlier in the year).

I decided last week it was time to check out my current ‘metabolic status’ to have new baseline for the season ahead. For those who don’t know, Metabolic Efficiency™(M.E.) testing is mainly a nutrition assessment, not a performance-based assessment like VO2peak or lactate threshold/clearance testing.  In a nutshell, by doing a M.E. test, I get an accurate indication of how my daily nutrition patterns affect my body’s substrate utilization (fat vs. carbohydrate use and in this case, at different walk/run intensities).  There are training-related data points that are gleaned from the testing, but the data are generally not extremely relevant for setting performance-based training zones.  [See Bob Seebohar’s book for more background on the concept.]

Here’s a snapshot of my results from the treadmill test:

Note the red line that represents a percentage of calories my body oxidizes (burns) from fat vs. the blue line representing carbohydrate oxidation. If you’re familiar with or immersed in the fat burning rage that is sweeping social media (among other niches) these days, you should immediately be impressed.  However, I want to address two questions/concerns:

Question #1:  How am I achieving this high rate of fat oxidation?
I must be following a ketogenic diet, right? Nope.
I must be using one or more of those ketone supplements?  Nope again.
I must be a gifted athlete, eh?  Ha ha - not even close as you can see looking at my paces.
Well, then I must have a very strict, disciplined “diet”.  Nah to that too.
I must be doing high volume aerobic work to yield this level of fat oxidation.  I wish, but no.

Here’s the thing:  I eat to support stable blood sugar levels. I don’t have to count calories or the levels of macronutrients. [Note: I do hold a master of science degree in human nutrition so my knowledge is more than the average Jane.] I don’t spend money on any supplements to get me “in fat burning mode”.  I use real food... and I love to eat. Yes, my daily nutrition plan is higher in fat, I control my carbohydrate intake, and protein consumption is not excessive.  But, I am not doing an uber LCHF (low carb, high fat) diet nor am I in nutritional ketosis at the current time.  I’ve been doing trainer rides and short aerobic-focused runs for the past 3-4 months with some strength work (to rebuild), but no high volume anything.

Here’s the burning question that many individuals have (which I also asked myself): “Do I need to follow a LCHF diet or take ketone supplements to achieve high rates of fat oxidation?"  Absolutely not. Do YOU need to do this?  Maybe, maybe not. I’m not saying ketosis is wrong or unhealthy or ridiculous, by any means.  There is a growing body of research to show its efficacy.  What I am saying though is that if you are lured into the fat burning craze, think for a moment about how you want to do it and whether you want it to be sustainable. Food will always be your most powerful tool to create a positive metabolic environment within your body.

Question #2: Is what you see on the image relevant and useful? Like the be-all-end-all?
For health purposes, more data are emerging to suggest being a better fat burner is more along the lines of our evolutionary origin as humans. Of course, there are studies suggesting the beneficial effects of nutritional ketosis for certain disease states, so one can certainly argue that angle (although this post is not intended to spin arguments).

From other health perspectives, I can tell you I am at a healthy body weight, my blood biomarkers are either in the normal or ideal range, and I have great daily energy and focus. I do it with real food, daily exercise/movement, sleep and good/improving stress management techniques.

Now, from an athletic performance perspective, here’s where I look at the data and I offer you the “So What?”.  The paces you see are slow for my abilities and for where I’ve been in the past number of years in my running journey.  So what does it matter if I’m a good fat burner if I can’t run fast, hard, or sustain high intensity efforts?  See what I’m saying?  This is where my Coach gets to shine and do his job to get my speed and anaerobic side further developed.  I get to keep periodizing my nutrition to support my health and performance, monitor and assess, and go from there…all without dropping lots of cash into supplements or doing anything extreme. 

I like the sustainable.

Stay tuned for future testing trials and nutrition updates. By the way, this test was done in the follicular phase of my menstrual cycle for any of you who might be curious.

-Dina

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Year of Nothing… and Everything (part 1)

Before 2017 is here, I wanted to post a few blogs about my 2016.  When I think of this year, my first thoughts hover around a bit of self-pity.  My plans for participating in a few cycling and running events were sidelined due to an early season bike accident that left me with a severely fractured elbow and injured shoulder.  With that, came a “disrupted” mental state for some time. It was a long recovery process and one I am actually still contending with, physically and mentally.  But so what that there was no finish line for me to cross in 2016?  Sometimes we athletes need to view these “life events” as a journey similar to training for a competition. There's a different sense of a finish line (i.e. accomplishment), and perhaps you appreciate all other things you DO have even more.

Like the Badwater 135 foot race.  It was my second time to crew at this extremely challenging ultra race that takes place mostly in Death Valley (in mid-July, mind you) and ends en route to Mount Whitney. If you aren’t familiar with the race, you can read the course summary here.  I was grateful to serve as 1 of 4 crew members for the lovely Aussie, Sandy Suckling.  She’s an amazing masters ultra runner athlete and one of the most light-hearted, upbeat, joyful women I’ve known. The Badwater 135 race is no joke. It chews people up with its harsh conditions (think extreme heat, wind, desert vast nothingness, desert night cold, altitude thrown into the mix) and is not for the weak-minded. You have to prove you are a badass just to be considered for this race, by the way.  Once you get accepted to participate, you better make sure you have a trustworthy crew and they have their stuff together. It is said that crewing for a Badwater athlete can be just as challenging as doing the race itself.  Okay, I made that part up.

One of my main roles as a crew member was to keep an eye on Sandy’s hydration and food intake.  She’s no stranger to competing in ultra running events (or little things like running across the 4 Deserts or Mont Blanc!), but she had suffered some nausea and issues surrounding food intake in previous ultras that she hoped she could avoid this time.  With some Metabolic Efficiency™ training under her belt leading into the race and some careful planning on our part, we had a Nutrition Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C.  It is well-known that nutrition and hydration are key elements to a successful race at Badwater.  There aren’t many ultra runners who get to train in 115-125 degree heat, in the desert, and then do several climbs to altitude, all for 135 miles on road. The carnage from inadequate or improper nutrition/hydration becomes apparent relatively soon into the race. I’ll leave those details out here.
Nutrition/Hydration Prep
Dina taking notes during the race
The race started here late in the night

To keep from writing a zillion word blog, I’ll summarize Sandy’s race by saying that she endured one of the hardest races she’s had to date. It wasn’t nutrition that got in her “way”, but severe blisters she incurred after mile 45.  A lengthy stop for medical treatment at Panamint Springs (mile 72-ish) got her fixed up enough to give the remainder of the race a go.  And she did it. Her ultra mindset kicked in and persevered.
From the sand storm we climbed
From way back there to way up here, via mind & body
For me, this was yet another amazing crewing experience.  One where I get to use my skills as a Sport Dietitian to aid the athlete to reach the coveted finish line without the typical “nutrition-induced carnage” others experience at Badwater and for Sandy, a good nutrition outcome compared to some of her previous race experiences (Note: We did use Plans A through C).  As a fellow ultra runner, I also was thrilled to be out there on the road with her to do whatever it took to keep moving forward.
Thank gosh for ice
Thank gosh for salty mashed avocado to help fuel our Sandy
An unforgettable piece of this adventure was the incredible friendships I further developed with Linda Quirk, and Sandy’s husband and daughter (Colin and Louise), who were also vital crew members. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better to be with in tight quarters, in the middle of a beautiful nowhere, all to get this one lovely and awesome woman to her Badwater finish.  Together, we: strategized, giggled, worried, navigated, star-gazed, paced, cheered, and plugged away with Sandy every mile of those tough 135.
From desert to mountain to finish
A Badwater journey with people I adore and who will always be close to my heart. 
And for this, I am eternally grateful and fulfilled.
Crew with our Star Sandy
-Dina

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Gfits

As I get older and hopefully a bit wiser, my perspective on gift giving (and receiving) has changed from when I was a young thang. I’m personally not one to have a lengthy wish list anyway, but the list is much different in content these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love me a new pair of running shoes or a cool kitchen gadget to make my food preparation experience even more fun.  But when it comes down to it, I’d much rather be given things that help me grow as an athlete, a Sport Dietitian, and a better human being. Alternatively, just spending time with loved ones is a gift to be better appreciated by us all.

Having said that, I would like to propose a couple gifts to consider giving yourself and/or someone near and dear to you.  I consider these “learning” gifts rather than material gifts. Pardon the semi-shameless plug here, but these learning gifts are services I offer as a  Sport Dietitian:  nutrition coaching and physiological testing. 

You may ask, “why these gifts?” or “what benefits are there?”  These are gifts that provide an individual to learn more about their health and physiology. Nutrition coaching enables me to assess you personally, to understand your health and/or athletic performance goals, and provide customized nutrition guidance all while addressing your concerns and questions. Kind of like your personal trainer or massage expert, but in the nutrition realm… as your nutrition trainer of sorts.  The physiology testing I offer uses gold standard equipment and protocols to better understand the factors that affect health and athletic performance such as the metabolic efficiency of the body (in terms of carbohydrate vs. fat utilization and implications upon health/performance short-term and long-term), calorie expenditure, fueling needs for training and competition, and your sweat sodium concentration.  These are some of the things you “get”, although my professional style and nutrition coaching support provide an extra layer of value that my clients greatly appreciate.  I take pride in giving my all to my people.  When I’ve been on the other side of that table, I think it speaks volumes to have a healthcare professional who actually gives a darn - it shows in their work ethic and relationships, and the outcomes of the clientele.

So, if you’re like me these days and want to give (or receive) a gift that may have a more meaningful impact than typical material gifts, consider an educational health gift that can benefit most any individual.

And folks, if this idea isn’t up your alley, but you’re still reading this, how about making a donation to a charitable organization instead or someone in need?

-Dina

Monday, October 31, 2016

Pumpkin UCAN 'Fudge Bar'

Anyone who knows me well knows I love pumpkin.  I also love baking, yet my goal with this concoction was to make a raw (non-bake) bar and of course, incorporate some pumpkin!  I’ve also been experimenting lately with using chickpeas, chickpea flour, or aquafaba in a variety of recipes such as pancakes, smoothies, and breads.  So, why not try a raw bar with pumpkin and chickpeas together and add in UCAN superstarch to provide another trustworthy source of slow-releasing, energy-stabilizing carbohydrate?  I’m game.


Ingredients:
  • 1/2 c pitted deglet noor dates (about 9)
  • 1/2 c raw almonds
  • 1/2 c chickpeas, from can (drained)
  • 1/2 c natural cashew butter
  • 2.5 scoops plain UCAN Superstarch (~62 grams)
  • 3/4 c pumpkin puree
  • 3 Tbsp raw cacao powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 Tbsp coconut nectar
Yield: 12 servings (~155 calories each)

Add all ingredients to a food processor (using S-blade) and blend well. Stir a few times to be sure all ingredients are mixed well.  The “dough” will be thick and a bit sticky.  Evenly spread the mixture into a 8” x 8” pan (lined with parchment paper) and freeze for 1 hour.  You can then cut and keep frozen until you are ready to nibble, or put a few pieces in the refrigerator for consumption later.
Pumpkin UCAN Fudge Bar
Since I wasn’t following a recipe and don’t have extensive experience with raw bars (especially using these type of ingredients) , I wasn’t sure how the bar would come together.  I actually really like the creamy texture with a subtle pumpkin flavor all in a fudge-like consistency that is not overwhelmingly sweet. Additionally, if you like frozen bars (and pumpkin!), you can certainly eat this partially frozen to get your fix!

By the way, you'd never know this bar contains chickpeas! (Shhh...) 

Happy Halloween!

-Dina

Monday, October 10, 2016

What's the price tag of your health?

“I can’t afford it.”

Perhaps you are an athlete or fitness enthusiast who has had this thought when contemplating whether to pursue one-on-one nutrition coaching in pursuit of improved health or athletic performance.  (fyi - if you are a new reader here, then you should know I work in the sports nutrition coaching realm)

And so, a short babble related to money, spending, cost, value, investment :

On the surface, the cost of nutrition coaching appears to be a barrier.  But how do you really weigh the cost versus the investment?  And short-term versus long-term benefits? 

It is estimated that triathletes can easily spend over $10,000 per year to support their training and racing goals.  Even if you’re not a triathlete, think about areas where you spend your money:  coaching-related services (training coach, swim coach, personal training, private lessons), gear (shoes, bike, apparel, swimwear/wetsuits, heart rate monitors, power meters, and other accessories), memberships, books/magazines, body work services (massage, physical therapy, acupuncture, yoga), travel (to races, workshops, camps), sports nutrition products, and the list goes on.  It adds up fast.

How do you prioritize this spending and how do your investments support your training and competition goals?

Many will respond with something like “I spend money on the things that make me faster, stronger, and get me towards new PBs or enjoying the sport more.”  That’s all groovy, but not when the importance of health is overlooked.  You know health is the foundation for athletic performance, right?  (unless you are a pro athlete and wanting to burn yourself out fast for the gains of your short-lived athletic career… and worry about health later)

Unfortunately, the majority of us don’t fully realize the benefits of investing in nutritional health until the onset of illness or disease, DNFs or racing hardships, or some other “surprise” that makes us think twice.  Then, there’s also the cost of time.  I know individuals who will spend hours every week reading through social media posts, blogs, magazines, etc in pursuit of the answers to their health-related goals or problems only to find themselves in a world of confusion and controversy.  It's difficult to put a price tag on this time, but I'm guessing most would rather use it doing something else.

Perhaps it’s a matter of how we perceive a cost and an investment?
Cost =  an amount that has to be paid or spent to buy or obtain something
vs.
Investment = a thing that is worth buying because it may be profitable or useful in the future

I encourage you to consider that "thing worth buying" an investment in you and your health.  Believe you are worth it. And find a legitimate support team that also values you and your goals.

“… cuz, your health, man, is your wealth. And you’re a long time dead”
-John Butler Trio