Friday, November 7, 2014

Why you need a Sports Dietitian

It’s not hard to find lots of athletes out there who fall apart during a race because their nutrition plan didn’t work…or they didn’t have a nutrition plan to begin with or they trusted their coach who advised 350 calories per hour.  Thanks to social media and the bazillion websites that offer free nutrition advice, athletes can spend gobs of time soliciting their friends for advice, reading what the elites do, and trusting the mainstream magazines to get their nutrition guidance.  Unfortunately, it is not very common that the advice given is appropriate for YOU.  While it’s true that the authors of some ‘expert’ sports nutrition advice can include sports medicine doctors, university professors, and well-respected coaches, there is plenty of nutrition advice given by so-called “nutritionists”, coaches, and other health professionals who really have no credentials, formal nutrition education, or know the unique needs of athletes.  So, where are you getting your sports nutrition information?  Is it safe and supportive of your health and performance goals?  Is it current and does it apply to you? Is it working? Is someone just trying to sell you a product?

If you’re not 100% certain you are getting trustworthy information, here is a tip to help you.  Seek out a board certified specialist in sports nutrition (the official acronym for the credential is “CSSD”) or find a Registered Dietitian who also has an exercise science degree and one who focuses on sports nutrition.  How can one of these experts help you?  Here are just a few ways:  

  • provide education and guidance on daily nutrition patterns to support your health and sport performance goals
  • periodize (or “adjust”) daily and training nutrition to support the body’s needs during different training cycles
  • develop and refine hydration and electrolyte strategies
  • evaluate dietary supplements, sports nutrition products and ergogenic aids; make recommendations appropriate for your health status and your performance goals
  • utilize appropriate behavior change strategies so that the changes you make are sustained
  • create race day nutrition, hydration, and recovery plans
  • provide education and tips on how to grocery shop, plan and prepare meals and snacks
  • individualize nutrition patterns for those who have medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease
  • interpret the latest sports nutrition research… from the source, not from magazine articles
  • and some sports dietitians are athletes, so they practice what they preach!
What are the benefits you receive from a sports dietitian?  Here are a few:

  • optimized nutrition to support improved health and sport performance, a healthy body weight and improved body composition
  • nutrition models (or meal plans) to follow throughout the training cycles to support your energy needs
  • no over- or under- hydrating during training and racing
  • if you have a sports dietitian fluent in “metabolic efficiency training”, you will see an improvement in your body’s ability to utilize fatty acids for fuel and a decreased risk of gastrointestinal distress (vomiting, bloating, cramping, diarrhea) during training and racing
  • trusted, expert advice on healthful and safe ways to enhance your training, performance, recovery...especially from sports dietitians who are also athletes!
  • long-term success
  • you spend less time trying to decipher all of the sports nutrition philosophies in the media
  • new personal bests at your races
Hopefully this helps you see more of what sports dietitians do and their value.  Think about the potential benefits as you think of next year’s goals. You just might realize a sports dietitian is what you need to get to the next level in your health and performance goals.

-Dina
dina@fuel4mance.com

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Contest to Win the November Fuel4mance Metabolic Efficiency Assessment

Say what... win free stuff? Read on...  

Here are details on the Metabolic Efficiency Assessment:


  • The testing will take place on Sunday, November 9, 2014, at KompetitiveEdge in Denver, Colorado. You must arrive by 7:45a and plan to spend about one hour with us.
  • You can choose to do this submaximal exercise test on either the treadmill or bring your road/triathlon bike which we will setup on our Computrainer.
  • To prepare for the test, you will need to fast for 12 hours prior. This means no food, beverages (aside from water), or stimulants after 8pm the night before. We recommend resting the day before the test. Once the test begins, you will have approximately a 10-minute warmup period, followed by 4-5 minute gradual increases in intensity.  Primarily, we are looking to see how much carbohydrate and fat your body burns at the varying levels of exercise intensity. The test duration will be in the range of 30-45 minutes.
  • A small group of health and fitness professionals will be observing the testing for their own learning purposes.

What you get for participating:

  • One free tub of Generation UCAN Vanilla Cream protein-enhanced drink mix
  • A free Fuel4mance BlenderBottle
  • An autographed copy of "Metabolic Efficiency Training: Teaching the Body to Burn More Fat" book by Bob Seebohar
  • An interpretation report of your Metabolic Efficiency Assessment including customized nutrition and exercise recommendations
  • A unique opportunity to get an "inside look" at your own level of metabolic efficiency, which can have profound implications for health and athletic performance.
How to enter the Fuel4mance contest:

  • "Like" the Fuel4mance Facebook page and then post why you feel the Metabolic Efficiency testing would be beneficial to you.
  • If you are not on Facebook, please e-mail Dina with your contact information and why you feel you should be selected to win.
  • We are looking for a motivated fitness enthusiast or athlete (of any level) who is interested in making nutrition changes to support improved health.
  • The testing is for adults only - you will be asked to sign a medical release form and waiver.

    One winner will be chosen by 12pm Mountain time on Friday, October 31, 2014. The winner will be notified either by Facebook message or by e-mail with next steps to prepare for the test. You must respond with your acceptance within 24 hours or your entry will be discarded and we will move on to the next runner-up winner on the list.

    Want to learn more about Metabolic Efficiency and what it can do for you before entering the contest?
    Check out Bob Seebohar's blog post:  http://bobseebohar.blogspot.com/2013/10/metabolic-efficiency-faqs.html.


    Want to learn more about who we are and what we do?  Check out the Fuel4mance website.

    Good luck to you!

    -Dina

    Saturday, October 4, 2014

    Afterthoughts & Lessons Learned at Leadville 100 Run

    I’ve had a lot of time to think about my first 100-mile foot race. In fact, there hasn’t been a day pass when I haven’t thought about this event.  Despite the amount of time since the 2014 Leadville 100 Trail Run, I wanted to share a few thoughts and lessons I learned.

    1.  Planning, learning, planning.
    It’s not just about the time on feet leading up to race day. There are countless items to plan for in order to make for a less stressful race. However, if you are new to this distance, it is a huge learning process.  It can be overwhelming so you must decide what your threshold is that will help you feel mostly prepared. Then accept that you will learn far more when you toe the start line no matter how much you’ve read or heard from others.  Anyway, it is never too soon to start planning. List-making is essential and double- and triple-checking your lists days in advance of the race is painful, but must be done.

    2. Having an experienced coach is invaluable.
    I realize there are many ultra runners who go it alone and have great success.  For me, I know I do better with a coach who is my my guide and guru. My current coach has different philosophies and approaches to training than I have experienced. One of the most important things he has taught me is that training should be “fluid”. There can be no set,  pre-determined schedule (aha! not unlike nutrition, by the way!).  The body will dictate what needs to happen next, but you need to have a coach (or the ability yourself) to monitor and decipher the process. Learning to listen to the body is still an ongoing challenge for me as my brain gets in the way too often. There are numerous other morsels of knowledge I have gleaned from my coach. I am eternally grateful for his guidance.

    3. Be appreciative of your support system and realize ultra running can be self-centered and addictive.
    It can be easy to lose sight of other priorities and important people in your life. There were many times when I would forego a social opportunity or time with friends or family because of an “important” run the next day.  Despite what I think I must do to stay on track with training and get in my run therapy time, there are indeed other priorities!

    4. The 100-mile distance IS more mental than physical.
    I had heard this from my coach and others, but was on the fence until I went through this whole thing. I fully believe now that your mental strength contributes immensely to whether you will succeed. There are decisions you have to make along the way as you have unforeseen curveballs thrown at you. Can you handle it? How do you deal with it?  Fortitude is unquestionably necessary.

    5. Have a theme song (or two).  If you’re into music, then you know it can be extremely motivating and powerful.  I actually listened to music during my training only a handful of times and during the race itself for less than 2 hours. Although I traditionally like grunge type music to get me going, my two theme songs for this year leading up to Leadville were: “Am I Wrong” by Nico & Vinz and “Ocean” by one of my all-time favorite groups, the John Butler Trio.  If you read the lyrics for the Nico & Vinz song, it could be considered a love song. But for me, the “we” in the song is about me and my Leadville 100 journey in terms of getting there and making it real. The instrumental “Ocean” reminds me of the ebb and flow of mental and physical energy and how sometimes you just have to dig deep to come back up.  




    6. Respect the importance of nutrition/hydration practice and planning.
    Just like the mental training, nutrition can make or break your race. Even though my nutrition "plan A" didn’t come completely to fruition, I was able to switch gears without suffering negative consequences. I was sad to see and talk with runners where nutrition became their performance limiter. 

    7. Learn to Be in the Moment.
    I must be showing my age here with this statement, eh?  Taking the time to feel the nature around you, share in the beauty of these gifts, and appreciate the Now. It can be incredibly freeing to just be where you are and feel what you are feeling.

    8. A good support crew is essential. Mine was absolutely phenomenal. I had 4 people in my support crew, each purposefully chosen and each with specific duties (and roles they willingly assumed without my direction). Having trust and confidence in your crew and pacers makes a world of difference. To Pat, Phil, Sharyn, Dave: I wouldn’t have made it without you and I owe eternal thanks for everything you gave.  And special thanks to my friends from Massachusetts, Bryan and Nicole, who made it to mile 99 to walk me in.
    Phil, Me (hurting), Bryan, Nicole at mile 99
    Pat, Phil, Me, Dave almost to the finish
    My sister, Sharyn, who was Queen of the Crew

    9. Cherish your friends, even your temporary trail friends. Along my way, I drew inspiration from my ultra friends knowing what they had physically and mentally endured during their previous races. They were in my heart, as were all my other friends who had sent their best wishes prior to the start. What a motivator!  And on the trail, you have the opportunity to befriend so many fellow runners and enjoy those passing moments together. I got to meet David Murphy (founder of the Idiots Running Club, http://runlikeamug.blogspot.com), I was cheered on by Neeraj Engineer several times as he waited to pace his runner (http://new.neerajengineer.com), got an infectious smile and big hug from friend Sonja Wieck (http://gosonja.com) as she began pacing her runner up Hope Pass, and shared laughs with Mike from Louisville, CO, Kyle from Denver, and Ed from Chicago as we plodded along our journeys. Towards the finish line, one of my own athletes surprised me with huge cheers that I will never forget.  I love ultra running for many reasons, but the people you meet make it so much more memorable.  

    10. The 3 C’s:  Composure, Confidence, Compete.  I learned this from ultra runner Joe Uhan, although I had to squash the 3rd one early on.  Joe advises his runners to split their races into one-thirds and think about each of these respectively. It’s a great mantra and one I look forward to repeating in the future, hopefully with more success in the third C. 

    and lastly…  my coach was completely right when he said “your first 100 will be life-changing”. For those of you who have done it, you know what I mean. For those of you contemplating it, I can say that it could be the hardest thing you ever tackle, but it will also be a most rewarding and wondrous thing you will never regret.
    Mile 48ish
    Can Feel the Finish
    Pat, my Number One Fan
    Thanks for reading,
    Dina

    Friday, August 29, 2014

    Leadville 100 trail run report

    Part 1: Nutrition

    The Leadville 100 trail race was incredible in countless ways.  I admit that I’ve had a difficult time wanting to sit down and write some thoughts about it.  That’s mostly because I feel I’m putting finality on what was one of the most special events I have ever experienced.  As Bob had told me prior to the race, Leadville holds a special place in his heart and it would soon be the case for me.  I know now exactly what he meant. Yet, it is something I have had troubles verbalizing or putting into written words. 

    But before I get too emotional about what this event taught me and how lucky I was to even be there, I wanted to report on how my nutrition played out for the race.  Many people have asked me “did you end up using lots of sugar to get by?” and “did you have stomach issues like so many other ultra runners do?”  

    My Nutrition Plan A was divided by sections of the Leadville course and my estimated durations for each leg. I packed a "feed bag” and a labeled UCAN flask for each point where I would meet my crew so that they could simply hand me my goodies as I was reporting my food intake from the previous leg. As mentioned in my earlier blog, the bulk of my calories were to come from UCAN, homemade balls/bars, other packaged bars, and possibly some nut butter. By the way, my sister, Sharyn, was part of my crew and kept all sorts of notes throughout the race. She did a great job for me so that I wouldn’t have to trust my memory for all of the details.

    Throughout the race, I had planned an average hourly calorie intake based on a Metabolic Efficiency assessment I had done about 1.5 weeks prior to the race. As an aside, this is an invaluable test to do one (or multiple times) for anyone who wants to see how their body uses its internal energy sources at different exercise intensities, which is particularly useful for planning nutrition for an endurance event.  Anyway, in my feed bag, I also packed some extra foods as a “just in case” (i.e., Nutrition Plan B). These foods included some rice crackers, fruit sticks, and caffeinated jelly beans. The other parts of Plan B (or Plan C) would be to take from the aid stations as needed (fruit, soda, sandwich bites).

    My Plan A worked decently until the Hope Pass areas (between miles 40 through 60).  It had become fairly warm in the afternoon hours (which was most welcome compared to what it could’ve been at over 12,000 feet elevation!). I had planned to use mostly UCAN for this stretch, but I lost my appetite about halfway up the first summit of Hope Pass.  I wasn’t nauseated nor did I have any other stomach issues. I just felt like not eating.  I knew this could happen, as it had happened to me before and is common when exposed to significant elevation changes within a relatively short amount of time.  I didn’t let this bother me, mentally, and just kept plugging away at this beautiful mountain, enjoying the nearby huffs and puffs of my fellow ultra peeps. Once I got to Winfield (mile 50, the turnaround), I picked up my first pacer, who happened to be my husband (Number One Fan). He was familiar with my previous experience of not eating much in the higher mountain areas, so he didn’t pressure me “much” to eat/drink, but I did catch him trying to reason with me during several sections of the second summit of Hope Pass: “You still have a long day ahead of you.” “You need to take in a few calories along the way.”  “Trust your UCAN.” Yep, all noted.  So, I worked on a few mouse-sized nibbles of crackers, a couple pieces of fruit, three jelly beans, and nursed my UCAN flask throughout these long 8.5 hours (over and back from Hope Pass). 

    Leadville 100 Run elevation profile

    After I made it back to Twin Lakes (mile 60), I felt better at tackling some solid food. I chose peanut butter and jelly sandwich bites as I had practiced this during some long training runs.  These bites ended up working well for me in the next number of hours, alongside UCAN and fruit. The cold mountain air crept up fast as it got dark, so I knew I needed to bundle up with extra layers especially since I wasn’t moving all that fast. As I had learned from those more experienced at Leadville, hypothermia is another way to quickly shut yourself down with no going back. No thanks - I think I ended up with 5 layers to keep my core warm.  And I kept moving forward!

    Interestingly, there are research studies reporting upwards of 60% of ultra runners experience gastrointestinal distress during 100-mile events. Believe me, I saw a number of people vomiting early on…and late into the night. So, I am quite pleased I did not experience any serious GI or nutrition issues during my first 100. 

    The biggest physical challenge throughout the race (aside from the cold temperatures at night and starting to get sleepyhead around 3am) was a calf cramp that started at about mile 23. I had just descended the respectable Powerline stretch and popped out onto the paved road towards the Outward Bound aid station. I managed to massage my leg enough for the cramp to subside for several hours, however, I could tell it was still lingering.  Unfortunately, this cramp reared its ugly head in all its nastiness at about mile 93. I suddenly could not even try to run on that leg as it had turned to brick. As I started to fret about making the final cut-off time of 30 hours, there was no chance my stubbornness was going to let me stop and massage or stretch my leg. The calf pain took away any slight appetite I had for those final few hours.  All that I could focus on was the “Left foot, right foot” mantra and “I WILL make it to the finish line”.  Well, that, and why the heck did my calf cramp like this? I think I might have asked Phil (my 3rd pacer) this question about 27 times in the span of 2 hours. Now, you might be immediately thinking, “She got dehydrated!” or “Low electrolytes are to blame!”. However, it could have been related to muscular fatigue… or perhaps I had just stepped on a rock sideways. It could be a combination of all these things. Or as Dr. Tim Noakes might suggest, perhaps this was a protective mechanism by my Central Governor to get me to slow down (even more!) to prevent more trauma to the muscle tissue.  Who knows exactly… we still have much to discover about muscle cramping.   


    Nonethless, I made my march to the finish. With a blend of the Nutrition Plans A + B + C. My calculations show an average of 92 calories per hour over the 29 hours and 34 minutes. Here’s the breakdown if you really want to know the true nitty gritty:
    Calorie distribution

    From my experience doing nutrition coaching and crewing for ultra endurance athletes, I know a nutrition plan is critical.  But, I also know (and REALLY know now) it is nearly impossible to predict everything that will happen in an event that can quickly alter the nutrition plan.  What this means is that it’s great to have a nutrition plan, but you better have backup plans. And then you have to be able to figure out how to deal with what is thrown at you throughout these long hours, particularly if things don’t align with your Plan A or Plan B.  I think this is part of the beauty of ultra endurance events.  No matter how Type A your personality is, your Nutrition Plan A may not work but you’ve got to keep your stuff together to persevere.  Additionally, I continue to strongly believe that having solid daily nutrition patterns that support metabolic efficiency helps to make all of the unpredictables much more easy to tolerate for the long haul.  

    And there you have it.  

    Next up, my lessons learned at the LT100 Run.
    LT100 Finish




    Wednesday, August 13, 2014

    LT100 Fueling: UCAN, Balls, Bars, Butters and Shots


    A big day is coming up for me.  A day I’ve been thinking about for a very long time: my first try at a 100-mile foot race.  I chose the Leadville 100 for many reasons, but the main reasons were that it is relatively close to where I live (~2.5 hours away) and I love being “up high” in the mountains. If you search the Internet blogs about this race, it is hard not to find the words “sufferfest” and “grueling” when reading runner accounts of their experience at this race. Slightly intimidating for a first timer.

    I think the most common two questions I’ve been asked during my training are: how long do you expect this race to take you?  and what are you going to eat?

    My answer to the first question remains “I just want to finish the race”. 

    To the second question, I have a variety of goodies planned.  Here is the majority of my ‘Plan A’ items.

    While I am not showing or describing all of the details of my nutrition and hydration strategy here, I wanted to show that the main source of my planned calories will come from the Generation UCAN superstarch, a few homemade items (with a powerhouse of ingredients!), nibbles from a few packaged protein bars I like, a couple homemade ‘gels’, nut butter, and the ThorneFX Elevate energy shots which contain adaptogens and green tea extract. Notice there is not a mound of simple sugar products in the Plan A. 

    I do have a nutrition Plan B, which all ultra runners should have (although, it’s surprising that so many don’t even have a Plan A!).  Simply put, the Plan B involves flexibility. Just like with a pacing plan, at some point you may have to adjust based on The Unknown. In my blog searches to learn more about how other runners have done at the LT100, I have read countless reports of stomachs gone bad… leading to nausea, vomiting, and the ultimate DNF. It is very possible this will happen to me, but I am prepared to not throw in the towel right away if and when this should happen. 

    My Metabolic Efficiency Training has served me well to this point.  I have not been on the ‘low carb, high fat’ plan this time around, but I have been on the ‘controlled carbohydrate’ plan. A recent Metabolic Efficiency Assessment showed that at my anticipated paces at Leadville, I will be burning anywhere from 64 to ~85% fat.  The more I can preserve my carbohydrate stores, the better. The more I can rely on my fat stores as a fuel source, the better. Of course, hydration status greatly influences how we feel, so this is an essential component to being able to finish without a major breakdown.  However, compared to ultra runners who are not as metabolically efficient
    (and believe me, there are many) and who require 200-450 calories per hour, perhaps my nutrition plan will delay or prevent the ‘stomach gone bad’ incidents.

    To be determined.

    Tuesday, July 15, 2014

    Nutrition Trials for Leadville 100 Run: The Balls

    I'm less than 5 weeks out from the Leadville 100, which will be my first attempt at a 100 mile event... on foot. Since it's getting close to crunch time, I thought I should write a bit more about some experiences.  I'm a bit shy to share these things publicly, but I realize that as a newbie to the 100-mile distance, there may be other newbies like me who are curious what I've been trying. Or perhaps there are more experienced ultra runners who are interested.

    First, it is important for me to mention that I have followed a "Metabolically Efficient" daily nutrition pattern since January (when I started training), yet I have employed nutrition periodization principles throughout my training cycles to align my macro- and micronutrients with my body's energy needs.  I am not following a "low carb high fat" nutrition plan (which has no real standard definition), yet I do make efforts to put together foods to control my blood sugar.  My carbohydrate intake varies between 80-140 grams per day, but will depend on what training I have as to whether I go on the lower or higher end of that range.

    Secondly, my goals with the Leadville 100 are twofold:
     #1:  be able to complete the race within the time limit of 30 hours
     #2:  through this experience leading up to the race, and during the race, be able to better understand what my ultra athletes deal with

    As a sport dietitian and a gal proud to be affiliated with the well-respected Fuel4mance sports nutrition consulting company, it's important to me to be in my athletes' shoes. Knowledge and education are great, but having the experience enables me to help athletes at a different level.

    So now let me get into a bit about my nutrition trials for what I've been consuming during long runs. By a long run, I mean a run that is over 2.5 hours in duration. Anything under 2.5 hours requires no calories.  Up until 2 weeks ago, I was consuming GenerationUCAN superstarch during my training runs with the exception of 2 races I did in May (more on that in a separate post). I have used this product since 2010 and know it works well for me.  I've been doing fine averaging between 35-50 calories per hour.  (Note: my paces typically vary between ~10:30-15:00 min/mi on the terrain, vertical gain, and the elevation at which I run/hike). As I thought more about the duration of time it may take me to complete the Leadville 100, I accepted the fact that I likely will not want to consume GenUCAN for upwards of 30 hours.  It is rare for the "average" ultra runner to consume a single calorie source throughout an entire event. 

    Alright, so this meant I needed to start experimenting with either what the race aid stations will supply or get my own goodies lined up.  I'm not a fan of gels or some of the other typical fare served at the ultra runner buffet (however, that does not mean I won't consume some of these items as part of a nutrition "backup plan").  I have always enjoyed trying different homemade "energy bar" recipes, so the night before my most recent long run, I raided the cabinets to see what I could put together.  I did look at a handful of recipes on the interwebs for some ideas.

    I ended up with balls. Or bites. Or nibbles.  I'm not sure what name I want to give them, but here they are:


    Here's what's in 'em:
    • 1/2 cup raw nuts (I used almonds and pecans)
    • 1/4 cup natural nut butter (I used a mix of almond and peanut)
    • 1/3 cup chocolate whey protein isolate (ThorneFX)
    • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
    • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
    • 6 deglet noor dates
    • 1 tablespoon local honey
    • 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup
    • 1 tablespoon sea salt
    • 1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut flakes
    The food processor did all the work.

    I made 12 out of the batch. My nutrition analysis shows these each to be about:
    • 125 calories
    • 8.5 grams fat
    • 9 grams carbohydrate
    • 5 grams protein
    A well-rounded (pun intended!), dense energy source with a 2:1 ratio of carbohydrate to protein. A good trial for my metabolically efficient status. 

    This is the run I did the next day:
    About 25.5 miles with 5500 feet elevation gain.  I consumed 160 calories from GenUCAN + 2 of these nibbles during the run. [Note: I did freeze these balls overnight and kept them in a cooler in my car.] This works out to ~75 calories per hour for the duration I was out there. The great news is that these were delicious and did not cause me any stomach upset.  I think I will tinker with the recipe (and yes, I have used GenUCAN in a recipe similar to this, however right now I want to save my GenUCAN), but I will add it to my list of things to continue to incorporate in my fueling plan.

    More nutrition trials to come!

    -Dina

    Tuesday, May 27, 2014

    Amy’s story: from Weight Watchers to Metabolic Efficiency Training

    Before I roll into this post, you noticed I mentioned Weight Watchers (WW) in the title.  This is not a post to dismiss the potential benefits of the WW program.  I realize there have been plenty of success stories, yet over the years, I have encountered many men and women who had either no success or very short-lived success with the program. This post is about Amy, who tried Weight Watchers for several months to lose weight but achieved little progress with the program approach.

    A bit more info about Amy from when we first started working together in October 2013:

    • age: 48 years
    • height: 5’10”, weight: ~200 pounds. She had weighed near 270 pounds about 7 years prior when her doctor diagnosed her with prediabetes.
    • also diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome since young adulthood
    • mostly exercised for fitness (walking, elliptical, biking) but had taken up running in 2012 and participated in some 5 Km and 10 Km running events, in addition to a half marathon. She was also swimming and doing some strength training a few times per week

    Amy’s primary goal was to reduce her body weight and to improve her running. She also wanted to prevent progression of prediabetes to Type 2 diabetes.

    Amy reported her main complaints with the WW program was that she was hungry all of the time.  She did implement the counting system as instructed by the program and used her allotted food points hoping that with her dedication to the program and to her daily exercise, she would see changes.

    As I initially assessed Amy’s daily nutrition patterns as outlined to her by WW, I found the bulk of her meals to be low-fat, low in protein, and moderate to high in carbohydrate.  Here is an example:

    • breakfast:  peanut butter and apple butter sandwich on barley bread, coffee with nonfat milk
    • lunch: beans, rice, cheese, salsa in flour tortilla
    • snack: apple and low fat cheese stick
    • dinner: meatball sub


    Now, I’m sure you readers can pick apart what was “wrong” or “right” with this snapshot of her nutrition. But, in the WW world, this wasn’t too far off from a calorie-controlled, “use your points” kind of day. Why wasn’t she losing weight if she was in a calorie deficit according to WW’s method?

    I began teaching Amy how to implement the Metabolic Efficiency nutrition training principles. First and foremost was how to put together foods to control blood sugar… at every single meal, every single snack. Blood sugar control is the at the core of Metabolic Efficiency Training, no matter who you are. We addressed behavioral modification alongside this:  why are you eating?  how do you know when you are hungry? I gave her tools to re-learn, or even discover, her relationship with food.  

    Here is a recent snapshot of her daily nutrition:

    • breakfast: Fruitless Fun smoothie (from the Fuel4mance Smoothie Recipe e-book), coffee with half and half
    • snack: cucumber and hummus
    • lunch: roasted chicken, vegetables, cheese, on bed of lettuce
    • dinner: chicken piccata, broccoli slaw, guacamole


    I convinced Amy to skip her frequent weigh-ins. Instead, we agreed to do measurements and weigh-ins no more than every two weeks.  Here is a record of her weigh-ins:


    *Note: Amy and I took a break from working together in December so that she could test the waters (so to speak) on her own. She contacted me at the start of the new year with the realization that she needed more time to work together for behavior changes to really “stick” through various life situations. Although it is said that behavior change can happen in as little as 3 weeks, it can take several months for new habits to become second nature. Part of the process of adopting a new habit and sticking to it involves a strong support system, of which I belonged. So, Amy and I resumed our check ins in late January 2014. 

    Amy has also lost nearly 16 inches from 8 body measurements she has been tracking (chest, waist, hips, thighs, calves, etc.). I am anxiously awaiting new blood work to see how her diabetes biomarkers look.

    Aside from her changes in body composition, Amy is also extremely thrilled that her meals keep her quite full (thank you blood sugar control!). She has reported steady energy levels, good sleep quality, and a sense of freedom now that she no longer has to count calories, points, or has to worry about saving her points for an occasional dessert. She feels at ease with her nutrition choices when dining out or when in social situations, which is always a concern for classic dieters and contributes to many yo-yo dieting habits.

    Amy is now working with a running coach to get her in tiptop shape for several running races this year. So far, she is right on track to be in the best shape she has seen in over 25 years. 


    A big congrats to Amy for her efforts to live a new nutrition lifestyle.  And another example of how Metabolic Efficiency Training can work for all types of individuals!

    Friday, April 4, 2014

    Listening to your body (part 2 of many)

    ... and the WHY behind your nutrition choices...


    In my last blog post, I started writing about working on the skill of “listening to your body”.  I had gotten sick, ignored my body’s needs, and had felt some suffering as a consequence.  As I train for the Leadville 100 trail run under a new coach who stresses the importance of listening to one’s body, I figured it was time to figure out what that means for me. Unfortunately after my last post, I became more sick and spent the better part of two weeks out of commission.  During this time, I was obviously out of my normal routine of working, training, doing household-related tasks, running errands, etc. I also got out of my routine of eating - not just what I would eat but how often I would eat… and why I would eat. I thought about this more in relation to “listening to the body” and many of the mainstream diet approaches which completely ignore this aspect when changing nutrition patterns.

    I estimate about 80% of my athletes have weight loss or a reduction in body fat as one of their top goals. When done correctly and carefully, weight loss can improve health and decrease risk for some disease states. It also can improve performance (e.g., faster and more efficient running, improved power to weight ratio on the bike, etc.). So, the main question athletes have is “what should I eat to lose weight?”  That’s all well and good to learn WHAT to eat to support weight loss, however, there is another aspect to achieving weight loss and being able to maintain it:  learning the WHY of your nutrition habits and choices.

    In the context of “listening to your body,” this really means being able to identify true biological hunger cues versus habitual or emotional hunger cues. For example, many athletes eat because of the time of day: 7am, 10am, 12:30pm, 3pm, 6:30pm, 9pm. No matter if they are biologically hungry. Others may eat for emotional comfort - out of boredom, stress, or to fill a void. There may be associations between certain types of foods that we were given as a child to “make us feel better”. As adults, we can perpetuate that ritual and be unaware as to its negative effects. I also have worked with a number of athletes who simply are afraid to let themselves get hungry. It is a frightening state for them to be. They lack trust in themselves as to what will happen when they start to feel hungry. Consequently, they never let themselves get to that point. There are numerous other reasons that we eat that have little to do with biological hunger.

    As a sport dietitian, of course I want to educate athletes on what to eat for their unique health and performance goals. But for those athletes who do have weight loss goals, the nutrition intervention goes beyond nutrition education. After establishing the reasons why weight loss is important (which is an entirely different topic!), we must delve into that other nitty gritty aspect of “listening to the body”. The majority of us have little awareness of the reasons we eat and we don’t truly know what it feels like to be physically hungry.


    If you’ve had weight loss goals in the past and were merely given a meal plan or told to “eat this, not that” but were unable to achieve your goals or sustain them, perhaps it is because you need to get to this next level of identifying the reasons why you eat and learning how to listen to your body in a new way.  It may not be an easy process and the findings may be difficult to accept, but it’s a crucial step in the path to success.

    Sunday, March 9, 2014

    Listening to your body (part 1 of many) and how Down moves you Up and Forward.

    I’ve been slacking in posting blogs lately. I’ll skip sharing my excuses and reasons, and just say that I’m motivated to write again.  That’s it.

    Alright, so I was sidelined this week as I got hit with what I call a “respectable cold” (or flu, I don’t really know which). It is rare to come across an endurance athlete who doesn’t get the moody-cranky-antsy-restlessness bug alongside an acute illness like this. I’m no different.  Of course, I realize I could be far worse and don’t get me wrong, this is not a “woe is me” post. What I did give some thought to this week was something I’ve been hearing a lot from my coach: listen to your body. 

    A quick step back…A few months ago, I hired a new coach to help me train for the Leadville 100 trail run. I’ve been through a handful of coaches in the past 10 years and all of them had different qualities and skills from which I learned and benefitted. I was drawn to my new coach for a number of reasons. For one, he lives at an elevation close to where I live (above 8000 ft) and in Colorado, so he understands some of the challenges of training that mountain living poses. Secondly, he has proven, outstanding experience at Leadville so he knows what I am getting into first hand. The third reason for me wanting to work with this coach is his style. I’ll generalize by just saying he’s different from any coach I’ve worked with previously… and I dig it. More details to be shared later on, but one thing he teaches is to listen to the body and this shows repeatedly in his training structure.

    I have to admit at first I thought I knew how to listen to the body and what it meant. You have an ache, you watch it. You feel fatigued, you make sure to honor sleep. Etcetera and kinda cliche. It turns out it’s way more than that and way more complicated. There’s that brain doing some tricky things.. and training for a 100-mile event is different than an Ironman, a marathon, or anything else. Duh, right?  The bottom line here is..well, I’m learning I have a lot more to learn. Not only with how to listen to my body but what to do with what I am hearing from the body.  I hope that makes sense.

    So, for these past eight days of illness, I thought about this more as I had days where I pushed myself a bit much, which knocked me down further. Am I going to learn this 'listen to the body' skill? How is my body responding to my decisions? Why is my brain wanting different things than what the body is capable of right now? In the end, it has (only) been a week’s lost of training time and some productive work time. But, I can see how essential this skill is, and will continue to be throughout the next several months of training…and beyond. I know my coach is going to put me through some tough times to help me learn myself (strengths and weaknesses) better. This training isn’t just about  pacing, distance, elevation gain, heart rate, nutrition. Underlying it, I see a better mind-body connection in my future and as corny as it sounds, I’m loving the process.

    My down week, I know, has moved me up. Now, I’m ready for more forward steps.