Monday, November 30, 2015

Being in each other’s shoes: Compassion, at a minimum.

Note:  This blog post contains no nutrition content.

Note #2: I may be slightly sappy.


Sometimes our lives become enriched by people we barely know or by people from different backgrounds than our own.  Our paths cross and if we are lucky, we are forever changed by that experience.

A weekend experience in October was one that changed me. It wasn’t one specific moment or person. It was every person I met, every story I heard, and how I reflected on my own life. 

I had been invited to give a nutrition presentation on Metabolic Efficiency at this year’s Ambassador Retreat for the non-profit organization, Runwell.  Although I was familiar with this company and have been fortunate to previously spend  time with the founder, Linda Quirk, I had no idea the impact this weekend would have upon me. If you are unfamiliar with Runwell, the vision of this company is:
To shift the worldview of addiction and the perception of those afflicted from one of disgrace to one of acceptance and hope. Through the positive effects of sport, Runwell will provide opportunities, enabling individuals to accomplish endeavors beyond their perceived limits.

Runwell’s mission is: to provide access to alcohol and drug treatment programs through financial scholarships. We also engage individuals in exercise to foster a healthy lifestyle, provide a continuum of care for those in active recovery, and to bring people together in a positive way that helps to break down the negative perceptions of those struggling with addiction.

In a quick nutshell and to be completely honest, I learned so much about a disease I did not fully respect. It is not easy to admit, but I bet many of us have misjudgments and don’t care to open their minds to any disease not present in our own lives.

Learning about the stigma of drug and alcohol addiction from the Runwell Ambassadors and a separate rally on Capitol Hill was life-changing and helped me to put my ‘problems’ at the time in perspective. Hearing first-hand the personal journeys was incredible. Seeing how a non-profit such as Runwell is helping individuals suffering with addiction get into a treatment center, and then eventually enable them to turn to walking or running as a complementary therapy and a more healthful way of living was a downright joy. Hearing passion from the Ambassadors about how good life is and their overwhelming sense of gratitude are moments sealed in my heart.

What I’m asking

It’s been a long while since I’ve done any personal fundraising.  The last time was in memory of my Dad and to support cancer research.  From this recent experience, I have decided to raise some funds for Runwell, to participate in a 50K trail run to honor those who are in addiction recovery, and to honor my new friends from Runwell. Although my personal connection may be different than my previous fundraising efforts, the feeling of compassion is similar.   So, no matter whether you have been “in the shoes” of addiction or what lies behind it, most of you can relate to the story of sharing some compassion and helping others to get to a better place.

Thank you for considering a donation: http://runwell.donorpages.com/TNFSanFrancisco50K15/DinaGriffinRD

-Dina

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Metabolic Efficiency Training: The Quick Lowdown and Dispelling Misconceptions

For over five years now, I have specialized in learning, implementing, and educating others in the concepts of Metabolic Efficiency Training and Nutrition Periodization (both concepts created by my colleague, Bob Seebohar).  As a Board Certified Sport Dietitian and Registered Dietitian, believe me when I say I’ve heard the gamut of reactions to these “alternative” approaches to nutrition and fueling athletes. There are the naysayers who are so embedded in sport nutrition guidelines from the 1990s that there is no possible way of opening their minds. The other end of the spectrum are those who have “been in the shoes” and have seen and felt the benefits, from a health and/or athletic performance perspective. For the in between folks or those who are semi-skeptical, I want to clear up some common misconceptions that have been perpetuated about the Metabolic Efficiency (M.E.) concept :

Not a Fad
M.E. is backed by scientific principles and has real life data to validate it. People who claim there is no research to support it are just plain wrong. Sure, there are not decades worth of double blind randomized controlled trials to show it is the one and only way.  However, there are quite a few studies out there if you know how to look for them. I am also confident more are sure to come in these next few years. And we must remember that just because something has not been “proven” scientifically does not mean it is invalid or not worth considering.  Many times, what athletes do in real life settings are light years ahead of the research.

Not a Diet
M.E. is not Paleo or a low carb, high fat diet.  It is not Zone, Atkins, or any other diet plan you can name. At its core, it is the manipulation of foods to stabilize blood sugar. It is sustainable. It is a lifestyle.  Some people do lose weight following this nutrition plan. Many people see improvements in health biomarkers.  However, it is not something to be followed for a few weeks to achieve a temporary result and then discarded.  M.E. can be implemented lifelong.

Not Just for Endurance Athletes
Although M.E. is well-known for its application in the endurance athlete community, there are numerous benefits for fitness enthusiasts, team sport athletes, and power athletes as well. No matter the type of athlete, part of the key to success is proper implementation and individualization.  Nutrition periodization concepts can enter the picture to ensure proper nutrient timing and carbohydrate availability specific to the athlete and their needs for performance, recovery, and health.

Not Food-Restrictive or Numbers-Driven
Unlike classic diets, there are no forbidden foods or required calorie counting.  Learning how to put together foods that stabilize blood sugar and working within an individual’s food preferences are pieces of the foundation.  Implementing behavior change techniques to assist the individual is essential for success. “Simple and sustainable” is not a life of avoiding XYZ food, living by a daily calorie count or a food points number.  It is true there may be times to give attention to specific amounts of macro- or micronutrients, but this typically falls within nutrition periodization strategies to ensure the individual is making progress towards their unique goals.

Not a One-Sized Fits All Approach
When implemented properly and guided by a professional, M.E. should be personalized to the individual and applicable to his/her unique health goals, health history, and athletic goals.  There is more than one way to implement M.E. and many ways to fine-tune it appropriately. For those who claim it doesn’t work, it is likely the implementation strategy was not well-followed, it was not supervised, or individualization was not implemented.

I hope this helps clear up some misconceptions about M.E. If you have questions about M.E., consider contacting me or my colleagues at eNRG Performance. If you have read this and are still curious about M.E., visit metabolicefficiency.org.

-Dina

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Ironman Boulder and Ironman Anywhere

Since I live near Boulder and knew several athletes racing Ironman Boulder, I spent some time on the run course this past Sunday to show support … and observe.  I am not one to “kick someone when they’re down”, so don’t get me wrong with the intent of this blog post.  But with what I saw (and have seen at several other long course triathlon races) and what I see on social media posts, nutrition and hydration continue to be a sore spot for many triathletes.

Some questions to ask yourself:
  • did you suffer energy lulls… even lightheadedness, dizziness, foggy brain?
  • did you experience gastrointestinal distress?  (cramping, bloating, gas, or worse… vomiting or diarrhea)
  • did you feel a sloshy stomach or have swollen fingers and ankles when you were running?
  • did your nutrition plan go awry?
  • did you consume too many or too little calories? (do you want to know?)
If you have just completed your first Ironman, congratulations!

But if this was your first Ironman and you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above questions, I encourage you to work with a sport dietitian the next time around to work on these issues that probably made your race not as great as it could have been. 

And if this was your first Ironman (or even your fifth Ironman race) and you DNF’d due to any nutrition-related issue as mentioned above, then I strongly encourage you to invest in nutrition guidance from a qualified sport dietitian so that you can rock your next Ironman with nutrition being the least of your worries.

I am proud to be a part of the eNRG Performance team of sport dietitians who live and breathe endurance sports. We help athletes locally and all across the world with our nutrition coaching services, metabolic efficiency, lactate threshold and sweat sodium concentration testing services that enable athletes to improve and excel in the sports they love to do. For the price of a good pair of shoes, but for guidance that will last you far longer than those shoes, check us out at www.eNRGperformance.com and put nutrition on the top of your priority list for your next Ironman adventure!


-Dina

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Comrades Reflections

Yikes, summer is zipping by!  Before I announce what sort of goodies I have lined up next in my athletic endeavors, I wanted to post a few notes about my Comrades race in South Africa on May 31. Quite simply, it is an understatement to say this race is an incredible experience. I won't go into the history of Comrades, but it’s important to know this was the 90th year of this race AND it is the oldest ultra-marathon in the world. That should be enough to warrant some respect. For anyone who wants to read more history, go here. I also did not carry a camera/phone with me during the race, so if you want to see photos, check out Scott Dunlap's blog..

With this year being the “up” year where the course starts in Durban and ends in Pietermaritzburg, the Garmin profile looked like this for a total of 55.3 miles and nearly 5,800 feet elevation gain:
Me, Henry G, Marisa: at start line
 One of my concerns going into this race was the road surface, as this was my first ultra distance on paved surfaces (I so love the dirt!). I had switched to the Brooks PureCadence shoe 2 weeks prior to the race and with plenty of Body Glide on my feet, the wear and tear on my feet was typical rather than nasty gross.  This was a big relief for me!

Another main concern I had was heat/humidity, even though May is one of the cooler months for South Africa. However, my training was done in the winter months here in Colorado with the bulk of it in sub 45 F weather, so a balmy ~75 F is toasty warm for me.  Luckily, the heat was manageable, especially with cold water sachets provided by the aid stations.

This race was massive in terms of participation with 16,993 starters. I felt like I finally had some room to move around after mile 25 - it was crowded with where I had started in the corrals. True to its name though, I felt my comrades all around me from start to finish. There was so many friendly runners from all over the world, as each runner’s country was listed on race bibs worn on both the front and back side of the upper body. I’m not a big talker during races, but I admit to starting up a few chats to kill some time and have extra reasons to smile on this special day.

I didn’t get to run with my friend, Marisa, as we got separated in the starting corrals. We met up briefly somewhere around mile 17, but then we did not reunite until we found each other in the International tent at the finish line. I was so happy to see her! An extra bonus was having my running friends from Boulder, Suzanne (wife of Henry G) and Cheryl, there who assumed the duties of awesome support & cheering crew!
Me & Marisa with our Bronze Medals
It was also great to see Henry Guzman from Boulder, CO, finish his 9th Comrades race. He wasn’t kidding when he had warned me this would be one of the toughest runs I would ever do. I’m still not sure what made it so challenging - if it was the road surface, the hills, the weather, or a combination of all. I recognize I didn’t put in much training time to prepare for this race, so of course, physical fitness limitations can be a contributor as well.  Luckily, I did not have any nutrition or hydration issues. I did observe many runners suffering with vomiting, which saddened me (shameless plug: working with a sport dietitian like myself could help avoid these incidents!).  Anyway, if you are curious about what nutrition and supplements I consumed:
  • 2.5 packets plain GenUCAN + 1 orange GenUCAN
  • 3 Chia bars from HealthWarrior
  • 4 banana bites (from aid stations)
  • 6 sport beans
  • 4 shots Coke (from aid stations)
and strategic use of:
  • SaltStick + Base Performance Salt
  • FirstEndurance PreRace
  • NOW Sports BCAAs
If you follow me or my work with eNRG Performance, you may wonder why I took simple sugars from jelly beans and Coke.  To be completely honest, they sounded good to me (the endurance athletes out there know what I mean about the Coke in particular). I don’t know that I really needed them but I also know these calories made up ~10% of my total calories consumed and I had tried these calories during previous competitions with no issue. For total calories, the math works out to ~80-85 calories per hour for this race, which is interesting when you consider there are still a lot of mainstream nutritionists and coaches who push 200-350 calories per hour even for ultra runners.  There’s no way I could end my race with a smile on my face having to consume that much!  On another note, I am thrilled to have been able to test my own sweat sodium concentration at eNRG Performance and do some sweat rate tests prior to Comrades.  This enabled me to fine-tune my electrolyte strategy for a day I knew I would be sweating fairly heavily.

My Finish Info for those who care:
10:33:52 (bronze medal)
299th in age group (out of 1002)
736th female (out of 2497)
5456 overall (out of 16,993)

I’m forever grateful for the Comrades experience and strongly recommend this “bucket list” race to anyone who is able to get to South Africa. Next year is the “down” year… hmmm...

Thanks for reading,
Dina

Monday, May 18, 2015

Up Next

In less than 2 weeks, there is this:
Back in January, one of my athletes from California e-mailed me to see what I thought about supporting her for the legendary Comrades race in South Africa. I love crewing and supporting my athletes onsite for their races, yet I couldn’t imagine missing the opportunity to participate in this bucket list race.  It wasn’t but a few weeks later we were both registered and in cram training mode for this 90km road ultra. 

This is one of my favorite things in life and one of the the many things I love about my job. There is crossover between my own passions for experiencing different physical challenges, seeing my athletes try new and different athletic feats, and getting a kick out of all aspects of the journey along the way.

Although I haven’t been too vocal about my training for this race, I am extremely excited for a different kind of ultra.  Recognizing this will be far different from the Leadville 100 trail run which is pretty much all above 10,000 feet with less than 1,000 runners, I am just as excited for the Comrades' 54 miles on paved roads, starting at sea level (and going up... and up some more), with over 22,000 runners. Worlds apart, on many levels. 

My goals?  With any ultra run, my goals are to finish and to see what I learn about myself in the process. Of course, I am always in the “nutrition experimentation" mode. This also helps me help my athletes better. It may sound cheesy, but it’s the real deal for me.

My concerns?  Heat and feet.

You see, I live at 8,600 feet elevation and have lived at this elevation for over 15 years. A warm day of running for me is anything over 55 degrees. Humidity is low here, as may be obvious to those familiar with the Front Range foothills of Colorado. Given that my training has almost exclusively taken place here (except for 4 days in California), I will face some interesting challenges with the heat and humidity from Durban to Pietermaritzburg. Sodium supplementation will be key for me as I have learned in hot and humid race conditions. Luckily, I was able to have my sweat sodium tested at eNRG Performance so I have a specific race day plan with my recent sweat rate test data.

Feet are another matter. If money were no object, I may have been able to find the perfect ultra road shoe but not so lucky in this department. Let’s just say that a paved road for 50+ miles is a bit frightening to my already gnarly feet. I’m sure this a concern for most ultra road runners but it is a new concern for me having spent my recent years mostly on trails. Thank gosh for body glide and duct tape… or just toughing it out.

Notice I didn’t say race day nutrition is a concern.  I’m not being cocky, but if you’ve followed me for a while, then you know this is something I pay attention to from the get go. My race day nutrition involves GenerationUCAN (which I have been using for 5 years), chia bars, and caffeine capsules (with the allowance of Coke as I see fit and maybe a few potatoes they serve on the course).

A quick and special advance thank you to a few of my peeps:
- the 3 coach-dudes I have sought guidance and advice from:  my Coach “Frank C.L.”, Coach Bob who has helped me with strength work, and Henry Guzman (who will also be doing his 9th Comrades this year. Yes, I said 9.)
- my running friend, Amanda, who has shared with me some long runs, even at 5am
- my Mom who is always supportive in her own Nervous Nelly kind of way
- my Husband to whom I forever grateful
- Marisa, you crazy gal, who planted the Comrades seed. We get to come back different people.

So, I am jazzed for this next adventure.
As my friend, Diane, said to me today, “May I always want to do this.  Whatever this adventure is.”  Totally agree.

-Dina

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Part 2: Metabolic Efficiency: Friend and Certainly Not Foe

This is a follow-on post to my colleague’s post from last week. If you haven’t read it, please check it out here.

Having worked with Bob and metabolic efficiency training principles for the past ~5 years, I encounter many of the same misconceptions about the concept that he expressed in his blog.  Granted, swimming against the current is often part of any paradigm shift and it takes time for new and different approaches to take hold. Additionally, nutrition is a very touchy and emotional subject for many people, particularly athletes. Yet, I often see individuals who are new to this concept become quickly confused because they either are given incorrect information by other health professionals, coaches, etc. OR there is an inadequate understanding of the potential application of metabolic efficiency in the context of that specific individual. 

My inclination to expand on Bob's blog stemmed from a recent nutrition symposium I attended that was targeted to sport dietitians and registered dietitians. To be honest, one of the presentations given at the symposium perpetuated a lot of the ongoing misconceptions (or lack of understanding) about ‘low carb’ and metabolic efficiency.  So, here are my additions to Bob’s post:

Statement #1: The crossover point (where the body switches from burning predominantly fat to burning more carbohydrate) happens at about 65% of VO2max. Competitive endurance athletes compete at an intensity higher than this, hence they rely on carbohydrate stores almost exclusively.

  • Comments:  This statement is based on physiological data and while still valid in the context of training manipulations (i.e., “building the aerobic base”), it does not consider the influence of nutrition training. We, at eNRG Performance (formerly Fuel4mance), have shown through dietary manipulation of athletes’ diets and metabolic efficiency assessments (using a state of the art metabolic cart) that the crossover point can actually be moved far above 65% VO2max. This means athletes can burn more fat below and beyond the 65% VO2max level. Fat can easily become a more usable energy source, even at high intensities, while glycogen stores are preserved for the highest intensity bouts.
Statement #2: Low carb diets do not support high intensity exercise or team sports with intermittent hard efforts because the working muscle must use glycogen.
  • Comments:  After you remember there is no standard for what a low carb diet is (other than in the context of nutritional ketosis), refer to the first point to where we can still make the body more efficient at preserving its glycogen stores so that this fuel source IS available for high intensity exercise.  Secondly, we are not advocating for zero carbohydrate consumption during high intensity training and team sports. The fact is that this type of athlete just needs less of this supplement carbohydrate during these activities.

Statement #3: Fat only burns in a carbohydrate flame and the metabolism of fat is slow compared to carbohydrate.

  • Comments:  While true the body oxidizes carbohydrate faster than fat, we have also learned that fat can be converted into energy much faster than what was believed just a few years ago.  Additionally, we are not advocating for zero carbohydrate consumption during training and racing. Did I say that already?  There is still a need to provide calories to the endurance athlete and yes, this often includes carbohydrate sources! They just may not need as many carbohydrates as the carb-dependent athlete, nor will they necessarily need to feed as frequently.
Statement #4: The low carb methods of “Train Low, Race High” popularized by Louise Burke and nutritional ketosis from the study done by Phinney et al. in 1983 did not show a performance benefit in athletes.
  • Comments: As Bob mentioned, there are several research papers that have been published since 1983 to show that performance is not negatively affected by low carb diets. But you must really understand that this notion of ‘low carb' is not universally the same throughout research studies.  I also want to mention that there are actually more than just these two methods of making an athlete metabolically efficient, which you can read about in the Metabolic Efficiency Training book. And although many of you want science to "prove it works”, even the renowned Dr. John Hawley recognized that the tools used in the laboratory setting may not be sensitive enough to detect performance improvements such as what athletes are seeing in real life.
Lastly, what is almost always missing in the naysayers’ anti-metabolic-efficiency talk is the importance and role of nutrition periodization.  This is another area where every single athlete may have a unique nutrition plan based on what their individual needs are in the context of health and athletic performance. This cannot be neglected, but sadly, those who are not knowledgeable of the concept are doing a disservice to their athletes by only focusing on the subject of "To Low Carb or Not".

Want to learn more?  Check us out at www.eNRGperformance.com.

-Dina

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The 4 Arms of eNRG

As some of you have followed my posts or articles from my sports nutrition work at Fuel4mance, you know that Fuel4mance has now rolled into a new company called eNRG Performance, spearheaded by my colleague, Bob Seebohar.  As the staff has been getting settled in, I wanted to take this opportunity to explain my take on what the vision for this new company is and how it might affect you as an athlete. 


Each of the arms, as portrayed in the company logo, signifies an important aspect of being the “complete” athlete. No matter if you are a recreational athlete (or “fitness enthusiast”), a strength/power athlete, or an endurance athlete, your health and performance depend on these 4 arms.

The 4 Arms...

Nutrition:  I rank this the highest in priority because how you nourish your body will greatly affect your short- and long-term health and athletic performance; and in essence, nutrition impacts the other “arms” of eNRG.  This isn’t just about what you eat for your 3 square meals a day. This area also involves nutrient timing and nutrition periodization to support your needs as an athlete while also examining your risk factors for medical conditions and disease states to choose which nutrition plan is best for you.  We do not have one set formula we apply to all individuals.  In fact, you should be cautious of any nutritional professional who prescribes the same meal plans or nutrition advice for the masses without consideration of you, the individual.

Not only does our nutrition approach include the education component as described above, but our nutrition services are designed to support behavior changes to make you more likely to be successful.  Can you achieve your nutrition goals by a single visit with a nutritionist?  It’s possible, but rare for the majority who have goals such as weight loss or body composition improvements, figuring out a nutrition plan for an endurance race, improving daily nutrition patterns to avoid medications, or preventing the onset of disease. Investing in your health and performance through nutrition is not a “one and done” type of service, no matter what you may see in mass media advertisements.

Testing:  These are the “pop the hood” assessments that tell us more definitively what is going on with you. Data that come from these assessments is empowering!  We offer:


  • Metabolic Efficiency testing, which is an indicator of how well your daily nutrition plan is working to support your health and athletic performance goals. This test is for anyone, not just an endurance athlete.
  • Lactate Threshold testing, more often used by endurance athletes, to take the guessing game out of how your training zones should be set for heart rate and intensity for the bike or the run.
  • Sweat rate testing to learn how your body loses its important electrolytes and to more accurately develop hydration and supplementation plans for training and competition.
  • Skinfold assessments to gauge your progress towards improved body composition.
  • Other general health testing such as blood pressure, blood glucose, and oxygen saturation which are important to capture, especially if you are wanting to take control of your health.
Coaching:  No, we aren't trying to steal you from your current coach or training club. What we are trying to do is offer you a performance center where you can get supplemental skills training (specific to your goals) in a semi-private or private setting.  And if you don’t have a coach or you prefer to coach yourself, you can always consider a consultation with one of our staff who have varying backgrounds and will work with you to take your training to the next level. 

Training and Recovery: The 4th piece of the pie is one often neglected, particularly by recreational athletes and endurance athletes.  Do you have a strength or functional movement program designed to improve your physical weaknesses? How do you know it’s best for you and to support your athletic goals?  What about your recovery from training?  Aha! Despite the popular notion that chocolate milk and an ice bath might be all you need, our recovery center will open your eyes to a more complete picture of what the body needs to fully adapt to the stresses imposed by the training we do. We are also featuring our cycling studio where you can use the state of the art Wahoo Kickr trainers either on your own or in a group setting to get in a quality workout.

As for me personally, I will be still offering nutrition services nationwide to athletes of all levels by phone or Skype. But now I also have a dedicated performance center where I can meet with athletes to conduct private nutrition sessions and physical assessments and provide group education sessions.  I am beyond excited to be a part of the new venture.  Check us out and stop by when you are in the area: www.eNRGperformance.com.  Look for our official grand opening soon!

-Dina