Using Nutrition to Boost Your Immunity

Last year around this time I touched on nutrition and our immune system. I just wrote an updated article for a Team Red White and Blue on the is subject, and I wanted to share it with you guys too. Here you go…let’s not get sick this winter!

As athletes, we put so much time and effort into training, that staying healthy is a big deal. Our immune systems must work harder than the average person as we are constantly bombarding it with stress hormones and pro-inflammatory proteins. While there is a fine balance between needing to have a stress response to create the desired adaptations from exercise, we can help to minimize the additional damage with healthy nutrition.

We’re moving into cold and flu season, so here are some nutrition tips to help maintain a healthy immune system. Remember, always consult with your physician before taking or adding in a supplement. Always try to consume your nutrients first with whole foods before supplementing.

  1. Consume enough carbohydrates and fats for your training: nothing depresses the immune system more than a diet too low in carbohydrates, or too low in fat. If you find yourself getting sick, look at your overall carbohydrate levels and make sure yours are adequate. Most endurance athletes require around 3-5g/kg of carbohydrate per day (during periods of moderate training). During long workouts, take in 30-60g of carb per day. Shoot to have daily fat intake levels around 20-35% of daily calories.
  2. Low levels of Vitamin D: athletes low in Vit. D have an increased incidence of illness. Vitamin D increases anti-microbial peptides and lymphocyte activation. Best sources: the sun (especially true for winter when we get less sun), oily fish, mushrooms, fortified foods. Aim for at least 600IU/day.
  3. Low levels of Vitamin C: Vit. C is an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory and anti-pathogenic properties. While some antioxidants have been shown to impede exercise induced adaptations, Vit. C has not. Runners that supplemented with Vit. C for 3 weeks prior to an ultra-marathon were less likely to develop a upper respiratory infection post run (33% vs 68%) than those runners that did not. Best sources: peppers, dark green leafy veggies, broccoli and citrus fruit. Aim for at least 75-90mg/day.
  4. Prebiotics/Beta-Glucan: Many athletes have heard of probiotics, but not prebiotics. Prebiotics are quickly becoming just as important though. These are specialized plant fibers that are non-digestible (soluble fiber) and feed probiotics. Beta-glucan is a prebiotic found in oats and barley that has been linked to a healthier GI tract and boosted immune system. Other sources include: beans, legumes and vegetables like asparagus and onions.
  5. Probiotics: While prebiotics feed probiotics, probiotics feed our GI tract’s healthy bacteria. There is a lot of great research coming out on the numerous benefits of a healthy gut. For athletes, one benefit is an increased immune system. Probiotics can be found in supplement and food form. Food sources: fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir. Supplements can be in powder form or tablet. If taking a supplement, look for CFU (colony forming units) in the billions. If you see a supplement that touts CFUs is in the millions, keep looking.
  6. Zinc:  Evidence shows that zinc can increase the response rate of immune cells, so if taken at the onset of a cold, can reduce duration and severity of the cold. Unfortunately, there has been no clear data on how much zinc one needs to take to achieve this benefit. One study showed taking a zinc lozenge every few hours was enough to shorten a cold. Too much zinc taken for too long can lead to a toxicity. Best sources: beef, beans, seeds, dark leafy greens.
  7. Green Tea-EGCG: Epigallocatechin-3-gallage (EGCG) is a compound found in green tea. It’s been shown to fight inflammation and boost anti-viral activity against viruses like retrovirus, the flu and even hepatitis. Matcha green tea powder can be added to smoothies or yogurt, however the taste is acquired. Instead, drink green tea daily (5 cups have been shown to be the most beneficial, however give it a go by just adding in 1 cup).
  8. Quercetin: A flavonoid, which is a plant pigment found in many fruits and vegetables has been shown to be effective in reducing the inflammatory response from an upper respiratory infection, in addition to blocking the virus’s replication. Sources include: onions, capers, citrus fruits, apples, berries, and black and green tea.

More Controversial but with some good research:

  1. Bovine Colostrum: Yes, this one sounds a bit controversial. I’m including it here as there is some good research on it and the immune system. This isn’t as practical as the others due to no fresh food sources, however I wanted to include it. Colostrum is the pre-milk fluid produced in the mammary glands during the first 2-4 days after giving birth and contains numerous antibodies and immune factors. Bovine colostrum increases salivary IgA, which in turn helps prevent upper respiratory tract infections. Usually found in powder or capsule form from cows.
  2. Astragalus Root: This root has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for the past thousands of years. It is called an adaptogen, which means it helps protect the body from stress (physical, emotional, etc). Research has shown both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties with benefits to those with weakened immune systems. There is some evidence that shows if you have an auto-immune disorder, it will interfere with your medicine. Please consult your physician before taking this as there are no food sources that I can recommend.

Good nutrition is key to a healthy body, training and performance. Shoot for a balanced nutrition plan that includes proper calories and macronutrients, fruits, vegetables, whole grains with soluble fiber, fermented foods, lean protein and green tea. With just those suggestions, you’re on your way to a healthy and cold/flu free winter. Remember that sleep is also a key. Happy Training!

Performance Benefits of Beetroot (Updated)

There are few legal ergogenic aids for athletes. Beets, or more appropriately foods high in nitrates can give a big boost for athletes. There is an extensive list of research touting the benefits of nitric oxide for athletes and I just finished reading a few of some of the newer studies. So I wanted to update my info on beetroots/performance just to make sure I’m staying up on the latest info for my athletes. I’m not going to state my research sources in this article, but if you need them, I can give you them.

What is Nitric Oxide?

When we consume foods that are naturally high in nitrates, our body does a good job at converting nitrates to nitrite and eventually nitric oxide. This process begins in our mouth and we have nitrate reducing bacteria  on our tongue. This is important to note as if you’re an athlete that wants to gain benefits from nitric oxide, you have to be careful not to use mouthwash. While I’m not advocating for bad breath, when you use mouth wash it kills the nitrate converting bacteria.

Benefits of Nitric Oxide for Athletes:

I should start with: nitric oxide actually has some awesome benefits for all people, not just athletes. Nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which means it opens up our arterioles and makes them wider. This makes blood flow easier and reduces our blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, consuming one serving of beets (or similar foods) can reduce your resting blood pressure by 7-8mmHg. Pretty cool right. Other benefits include:

  1. Vasodilation/Increased blood flow to the vasculature (more blood flow to working muscles)
  2. Increased mitochondrial respiration
  3. Increased glucose and calcium homeostasis
  4. Improved muscle efficiency due to a lower ATP cost (exercise will feel easier at harder intensities)
  5. Performance enhancing-proven with endurance exercise and more recently seen in high intensity exercise/team sports and power sports

Where to find Nitrates?

  • Spinach
  • Argula
  • Bok Choy
  • Rhubarb
  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • And others-the ones listed contain high levels of nitrates

Looking at this list, if everyone just consumed more dark leafy greens/veggies, we’d all be on our way to having naturally high levels of nitric oxide in our body.

How Much Should you Take?

Most research has been done using beetroot shots (liquid beetroot). This is because it is easily blended/juiced and the blending does not diminish the levels of nitrates. Unfortunately many methods of cooking beets and other foods high in nitrates will reduce the efficacy of the nitrates (boiling especially).

Research shows: 5-6mmol of nitrate given for several days pre-competition is the best amount. Well, how much is that? If you’re not into juicing and you’d rather buy a beet drink, this equates to 2 shots of beetroot juice. One popular company is called BeetIt. So you’d take 2 shots of BeetIt.

If you want to juice your own beets, you’d want to start with 1/4-1/2 of a whole beet mixed with other ingredients (water, coconut water, some spinach?) A few thins to note about beets-they can turn your urine red (normal and fine) and they can even cause a scratchy or sore throat. So start with a smaller amount to test it.

Just consuming this amount of beetroot juice can show a 15% increase in time to failure. You want to take the shot of beetroot juice at least 1 hour pre-competition, however it takes generally 2 hours to see the benefits. Your nitric oxide levels will return to baseline around 12 hours later.

Does this Benefit Everyone?

Yes and no. Consuming fresh veggies is always a plus for everyone. Unfortunately there are athletes who are non-responders. This means they can consume the beetroot juice and not see a benefit. Often times, research has shown that elite athletes do not show as much improvement as less well trained athletes. This could be:

  • Elite athletes already have higher baseline plasma nitrates (healthy diet?)
  • They have better oxygenation (more capillaries)
  • Have higher nitric oxide synthase activity (already better at converting nitrates)
  • Have a higher proportion of type 1 (slow twitch) fibers-these are less amenable to changes in nitrate
  • They might not be responders

All this means is that I’d recommend all who were interested in trying a nitric oxide supplement to try it. See what happens and then decide what you think.

How long should you take it?

There is no definitive answer, however Dr. Andrew Jones out of the University of Exeter (the leading researcher in nitric oxide) believes that while there is no evidence that consuming nitrates over a long period is detrimental, there is no need for constant supplementation.

Instead he recommends taking the supplement 4-7 days before your competition or intensive training periods. He also states up to 4 weeks of supplementation appears to be beneficial, but then to cycle off them after that. Plus, no mega doses as they will not help.

In what form should you take foods containing nitrates?

As mentioned earlier, the way you process the food does alter the nitrate content. Juicing the beets is the preferred method. At this point, beet root powder do not seem to contain the same levels of beneficial nitrates because in order to get the powder form, the beets must be boiled and ground.

If you don’t want to juice and want to try powder, go for it. Or if you want to roast beets, go for it. There is no harm in trying different methods of cooking, you might not achieve the full benefits.

Quick Take Aways:

  1. Beets and other foods containing nitrates are beneficial for both athletes and those looking to be healthy
  2. Consume dark leafy greens as part of your diet
  3. For performance benefit, consume 2 shots of beetroot juice 1-2 hours before competition
  4. Consume beetroot juice or an equivalent food for 4-7 days pre-competition, but cycle off after 4 weeks
  5. Beets are beneficial for endurance athletes, but new research shows team/intermittent sports as well as high intensity and power sports
  6. Consume beets in the form of juice vs powder


Life: Ups, Downs, Challenges and Rebuilding

Over the past 5 months I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times, but couldn’t ever seen to bring myself to do it. I can’t qualify what it was, whether being pregnant (pregnancy fatigue, depression, hormones), short of time, short of energy, feeling deflated or what. I just knew it wasn’t in my heart to write, so I allowed myself the chance to not do something just because I thought I should. That’s hard because I generally do what I think I should do and I’m a type A person. You might be thinking, why do you need to write a blog? In reality you’re right, I don’t. And my opinion matters just about as much as the next persons, which isn’t a lot in the grand scheme of things. Since I’m trying to be a sound voice of science based nutrition/endurance reason, I feel compelled to keep pushing the fear mongering out. So that’s where the need to bring reason vs fear makes me feel compelled to write.

Pregnancy: Oh Boy…literally. I have a lot to tell other women who are athletes who want to become or will become pregnant, though this post won’t be about that. Pregnancy has been such a journey and I never could have imagined the ups and downs. And baby Caldwell isn’t even here yet. I know things will change again when that day comes soon. I will say it hasn’t been easy, but that doesn’t take away from the experience. Stay tuned to those blog posts in the future.

Today though, I wanted to get some things off my chest that have been here for a while. This is of course my opinions, feelings, frustrations and mine only. You might not be interested since there won’t be anything sports nutrition or training related in this post, but for me I feel like I just need to get this out. Soon enough I’ll be back to what I love to do and hopefully what you like to learn about/read.

How many of you feel like you’ve ever gone through a period in your life where things move so fast or out of your control that you don’t really stop to see what’s happening for months later? This is kind of what the past year has been like. Looking back, so much has happened, good and bad. Most of the time I just keep pushing forward not stopping to think about what’s happening, just pushing forward. There is always a task at hand and something to be done. No need to stop and think too much. But sometimes when feeling a bit out of it I do… so I did.


  1. Moved from the East Coast and away from friends and family to Texas (Good and bad)
  2. Taken new jobs (Brett from school to a corporation/geology firm) and me from a corporation (PowerBar) to school and being an entrepreneur (Good and bad)
  3. Bought our first house (Good mostly)
  4. Recovered from hamstring surgery and began to train as an athlete again (Good)
  5. Developed Rhabdomyolysis and had to be in the hospital for several days (Bad)
  6. Got pregnant (Good mostly)
  7. Had to stop training as an athlete (Not great, but not too bad considering being the trade off of being pregnant)
  8. Started school full time while pregnant (Good and challenging)
  9. Lost one of our dogs (Bad)
  10. Fostered another dog and are in the process of adopting him (Good)

And this last one hasn’t happened to us as a couple, but for me personally. I was very affected by the election cycle. I’ll speak more to this later, but I guess I’m pretty sensitive to some things and the daily barrage of insults directed at supporters of both sides was a lot to bear.

So looking back, it has been a bit of change to process. For a good  bit of it I’ve felt in control. Some of it though, not so much.

Starting with….Losing Colt


I’ve been staying off of social media more and more because of the amount of stress that it has been bringing me and I just wasn’t ready to tell anyone that we lost Colt. Colt is the darker dog on right. He came to us from a Ridgeback rescue and was such a sweet dog. He was a very fearful dog having come from an abusive situation, however he learned that he was loved and he loved us and Rogue. It was the hardest decision to make, but he had a tumor and once his quality of life went down, we knew it was time. It was the hardest decision we’ve had to make and one that I still cry about (I’m crying as I write this). What I do know is that he is running free in heaven and not scared or in pain anymore. I vowed no one would ever hurt him again, I was able to keep that promise and I know he had a happy life with us.

Somethings are super personal, and while I’m pretty open with many parts of my life, I just couldn’t bring myself to share this. I felt like I needed to grieve before saying it on social media. But I’m putting it out there now. Which leads me to… Lepp, our foster dog.


We wanted to give back to Ridgeback Rescue in honor of Colt. So about 5-6 weeks ago, Brett and I brought up bags of dog food. There is an awesome Ridgeback Rescue called Texas Independent Ridgeback Rescue (TIRR) about 45min away. We met Lepp, who is a 5 year old Ridgeback. He has skin allergies, but other than that, an awesome dog. We couldn’t figure out why someone would abandon him (just part of his story). I wasn’t ready to bring another dog home, but Brett and I grieve differently. The house was too quiet and Rogue was depressed. So after a few weeks of talking about it, we brought him home for a foster time period. He’s doing really well at our house and we’re going to move forward with adoption. My heart doesn’t ache any less for Colt, but there are so many dogs who need love. So I’m happy to be able to give a piece of my heart to Lepp.

The election:

Boy oh boy…There is so much to say, and I’m going to try not to really say a lot. Part of the problem is there has been too much being said. Everyone has an opinion and being computer warriors (being able to hide behind the computer) means that they feel they have the freedom to say whatever they want, be rude, vicious, repeat untruths, etc. Seriously stop everyone!

I’ve had to really step away from social media for the past 6 months or so because of the vicious comments from both sides of the aisle. I have good friends and family who are supporters of both sides and the constant daily posts demeaning each other (even if not directed at one person) was a lot to handle. Every day checking Facebook was a reminder of how much hate, discord, disrespect and untruths are out there.

Now that the election is over I had hoped that we’d be able to come together to rebuild as a country. But it doesn’t seem to be that easy. Instead now we have people protesting an election that was won fair and square. No matter what side you are on, I can’t remember there ever being protests like this against a president elect. If you were not for Bush, you dealt with it. If you were not for Obabma, you dealt with it. Life is hard, realize things won’t always go your way and be able to grow and better yourself. The president/government should not be in charge of making your life better. Go out, work hard and make your life better. We need to have a bit more autonomy in this country.

I am proud to be an American and no matter who is in charge of the country, I know we will prosper. I think there are a lot of hurt feelings and too many people not listening to each side of the debate. All I’d ask is to really try to be informed about both sides of the aisle (don’t make assumptions and if you read something you aren’t sure is true, look it up from as much as an unbiased news source as  you can), to all grow up, stop name calling and know that there are bad apples on both sides of the aisle.

School/Fueled and Focused:

I’m very passionate about helping athletes to succeed whether it’s from an endurance coaching area, sports nutrition area or a combo of both. After completing my Sports Nutrition Cert and 2 year IOC sports nutrition diploma, I knew it was time to finish my Master’s degree. Texas Women’s University has a great dual exercise physio/sports nutrition masters and I’ve been in school since Sept. It’s hard work, but great to be in school learning, to help better those around me. I won’t say it’s been easy to be in grad school full time, coach and be pregnant. It’s a challenge, but I’m the kind of person who generally thrives on a challenge. If I’m not busy enough I’m not sure what to do. Plus there are women who are in school with me who are single mothers. Wow, that’s hard work!

I’ve kept a stable number of athletes for 1:1 coaching and nutrition (thank you!), but the project I’ve spent the past few years on (Fueled and Focused) has lately been on the back seat. I’m a risk taker and I have always believed that I can achieve what I set my mind to. So after having numerous athletes tell me they need help with recipes/meal plans, I created the idea for F&F. Hundred of hours and thousands of dollars later, it was nearly complete. Complete enough to launch it. After spending years and a lot of effort and money on something, it’s really disheartening for something you love so much to not be as successful as you’d hoped. I had hoped that I had created something that many endurance athletes could use and love and that I could help to create a more stable financial environment for our family.

At this point, it’s not where I want it to be. Over the past year I scoured over business blogs, read books, joined women entrepreneur groups all to figure out how to really be a good business women. I have to say, I just ended up sad, deflated, frustrated and mad. Here’s why:

Do you know there are (probably) thousands of people who call themselves life coaches, health coaches and nutritionists who have literally zero education (other than life skills and maybe a weekend certificate) who charge $500-$1000/month (you read that right!)? I had know idea this segment of the working population existed until I joined the business groups. It’s not an anomaly, there are many of these “coaches.” Over the past year I’ve tried to figure out how they can do it. How can they charge such large sums of money and be OK with it? How can people trust them and listen to them when they don’t understand what they are teaching? How can I, as someone who is educated and has spent years in school, not charge 1/4 of that? I had other “health coaches” say I should be charging those fees. I can’t imagine what my athletes would think or how I would feel if I charged prices like that. I do know some tri coaches and nutritionists charge that much and it has made me re-evaluate some of my prices, but I can’t even fathom the thought of it. I have to be comfortable at the end of the day and those numbers are not it.

Again to social media: In addition to the past year with politics, I just feel that social media has become way too much about me me me. Truly there are not enough pictures of dogs, kids, travel and heart warming stories. Instead it’s “look at me, listen to my opinion, read this thing I’m sharing that isn’t true (but you don’t know it), etc.” There are things I’ve heard people say about (really about everything) nutrition on social media that are so false it’s crazy. Every day I’d see these false statements made, the fear mongering perpetuated and people really eating up the falsehoods. Every day I’d want to counteract what is being said with the truth, but after a while I realized it’s not popular to bring science to the table. It’s more popular to fear monger and claim things are true when there really isn’t proof. I have a hard time not correcting something that is false and making a counter point. After so many times of trying to help though, I realized that most didn’t want to hear what I was saying.  Side note: It’s like the day in Oregon where I was the pool and this man was trying to swim butterfly. He was really struggling in the water and his timing was really off.  I thought I could help to tell him that if he did this one drill it could help his timing. I said it very politely, but he was really offended and just swam off. Oops. Last time I’ve given swimming advice when not asked. So that’s part of what’s made me take a step back and re-evaluate my goals, passions, hopes, business practices, etc. After months of watching this and realizing that I do not want to be the kind of person or business who is like them, I know I need to change and re-adjust. Fueled and Focused doesn’t fear monger now, but I’m trying to make things better and more user friendly. And at least figure out how those of us that are science based can coexist with those who believe having “life experience” is the same as having studied a subject for years. Some days I’d feel like I should change career paths, just so I didn’t have to compete with these types of “coaches.” I realize that’s not the answer though. I love what I do and want to continue to do it.

I’m not sure how to exactly change Fueled and Focused to make it more user friendly, to help others in the best way possible, so I’m going to take a step back. I’ve already gone from taking a step back on social media, newsletter, etc. But I’ll be re-evaluating what I offer athletes, pricing, etc. I want to help others and I just have to determine what the best way to do that is. Maybe a paid meal plan membership isn’t the answer. Maybe it is. Either way, I’m not going to sink to fear mongering, nutrition fads, pushing products on people (sorry all you MLMers, but I am tired of seeing your Rodan and Fields, Beachbody, Advocare, etc.) or charging crazy prices. I’m a big believer of women going for their dreams, working hard and making money for their families. But I’m sorry, multi level marketing companies are extremely frustrating to those of us that are inundated with their daily ads. Clearly that type of marketing must work or they wouldn’t be on FB every day pushing it. But as a nutrition and exercise professional, when you hear the things some of these MLMers are pushing that are not science based, it makes you cringe. When you see others jumping on the products or companies and repeating the nutrition nonsense, it makes you (or at least me) frustrated.

I’m going to go back to square one and look at what athlete needs are. My goal is to help athletes. Of course I want to succeed in helping both athletes to train and race better, but also be a provider for my family. I’d love it if you wanted to share ideas that you might have or what you want to see.

In the meantime, I’m opening up F&F to everyone for free. I have over 500 recipes on the site and I do think they are pretty tasty if I do say so myself. For everyone on a paid membership, I’ll just cancel it and you if you’re interested, use the code to “rejoin” for free. I want to feel like my product is representative of me, and it doesn’t currently. I’m in the process of finding someone to help me with the site to make it really feel like me. So until then (maybe Jan1) I’ll keep the code active.

The free code is: Fueled

It will give you access to the whole site. At this point, I don’t feel 100% about charging for something that I’m not super comfortable with. So I hope you’ll take advantage if you’d like to. By doing this it will help me feel like I’m still being authentic and this will help to relieve some general stress. I’m grateful for everyone who has helped me, believed in me and encouraged me. Thank you! You all mean so much to me and I wish there was a better way to expressive it then just thank you. Then, in the meantime I’ll continue to work hard to make the site better and come back revamped better than ever.

To gain access to the Fueled and Focused site with recipes and nutrition info, click here:

then, go to buy “bronze” and use the code: Fueled

That should allow you to have access. I will note, you’ll need to put you height in using inches. If you put feet in, it will mess up and you’ll have to re-enter/try again as the info will not be correct.




If you’ve wondered where I’ve been…

Yikes, has it really been 4 months since I posted a blog? I’m afraid to say it, but yes, it’s true. I’ve had to take a bit of a personal hiatus from most things social-social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, blogging), being social outside of the house, in addition to a break in my sports nutrition business. It’s not because I got tired of it or needed a break. The opposite is true. I’ve missed being me and providing helpful sports nutrition tips and recipes.

I’ve always prided myself on being a type A person, a go getter, a “nothings going to stop me” kind of person. But I’ve found the one thing that stopped me. It wasn’t that I was too busy, it wasn’t that I was recovering from another hamstring surgery, it was…I’m pregnant! And boy, do I have a whole new respect for mothers and pregnancy. This has been a rough ride. I am now 17.5 weeks pregnant (due the week of Christmas), so almost half way.  I thought I was going to be one of the lucky 25% who didn’t get morning sickness since I thought it started before 8 weeks. The joke was on me though. Mine started at 8 weeks and lasted through 16 weeks. Longer than some, but shorter than others. And don’t get me started on the word “morning” sickness. Mornings only would have been a blessing.

I detest complaining and boy do I feel like I have been complaining a lot lately. Waaa, I don’t feel well, I’m nauseous, I’m going to vomit. And so on. Since I work from home, it’s mostly my dogs who hear it. Brett’s been traveling a lot for work, so in a way, he got to miss out on a lot of my bad days. Lucky guy!

But this past week I have seemed to turn a page with nausea and fatigue, so I’m looking forward to feeling a bit more normal again, in addition to eating more than just watermelon, cheese and crackers. Seriously. I have been eating a whole watermelon every few days (just myself). It’s one of the only foods that tasted good and didn’t upset my stomach. I’m also looking forward to making new and delicious recipes. Another benefit for Brett is that he was gone so much that he didn’t have to suffer with making his own dinner of plain pasta or frozen pizza. Though writing that, he enjoys those. For someone who truly loves making new recipes and cooking, It has been strange to not even be able to handle the thought of food.

Thankfully, as I mentioned, the nausea has seemed to pass. I’m getting back to normal and while the fatigue is still there, it’s not too bad. So I’m planning on getting back to regular blogging  and I’m looking forward to sharing an athlete’s perspective on being pregnant. For men, women who have kids, women who never want to have kids or anyone not interested, I apologize now. I will still be doing general sports nutrition as well, however my main reason for starting this blog was to help others suffering with challenging athletic injuries and to outline my journey back to help others. Along those same lines, if I can help a pregnant athlete to feel more comfortable with being pregnant, I’m excited about that. I had so many questions that I wish I had answers too. Mostly on what I was feeling, what I could really do athletically, how to not hurt myself or the baby, etc. Thankfully I have a wonderful OBGYN who was a former Div1 runner. I chose her partly for that reason.

I am by no means an expert in pregnancy. This is baby #1 and I’ve only been at this for 17.5 weeks. One thing I’ve learned is that everyone is different and not one pregnancy seems to be the same. That’s ok. My hope is to share my experiences (good or bad), my learning as I go and maybe some funny stories too.  I’ll never claim to have all the answers, but it’s bound to be a fun and wild ride. I’m still training, though that will be several other blog articles. Here’s my first public pregnancy pic: (We haven’t shared on other social media we’re pregnant yet)


(This pic was a few days ago after I had to buy a new swim suit-I sized up one size).

Unfortunately I don’t have a before swim suit pic, though I can tell you I’m bigger. Brett’s fascinated with my new stomach and likes to poke it and laugh as I walk by. Kind of like the dough boy poking his stomach and giggling. Though Brett’s giggling 🙂

Similar to sports nutrition, there are many different views on pregnancy and athletics or pregnancy and weight. Having had an eating disorder part of my goal as a sports nutritionist has always been to help prevent eating disorders and to teach healthy views around food and exercise. I have to admit that the thought of gaining weight and not being able to lose it was kind of scary. That’s one thing I’ll cover. Another big issue that bothers me is so called fitness experts and bloggers who seem more concerned with not gaining any baby weight or as soon as they have their baby their proudly exclaim 1 week later that they are back to normal weight. Of course that’s great, but remember, we’re/you’re growing a human life. This isn’t all about us now. It’s about them too.

I’m excited to share my experiences (hear some of yours), some current research, some nutrition and of course to keep sharing some sports nutrition research as well. It’s already been quite a journey and I’m looking forward to what’s coming next.




Rhabdo Update and Return to Exercise

Today marks 4 weeks from developing Rhabo, so I thought I’d do an update. There is virtually no “return to exercise” rules online or from a doctor.So I thought I’d share what I’m doing to see if that could help you. But remember, everyone is different. Some people will have more mild cases while others more serious. This is just a quick guide.

To catch you up if you’re not aware, feel free to read my other blog, about 2-3 blogs ago on developing Rhabdo. If you believe you have it, please read it. The short story is, I developed Rhabdo from doing eccentric pull ups. I had to go to the hospital and my CK levels rose to 56,000, a very unhealthy level. The only treatment is IV fluid and rest, so I had to sit in the hospital getting IV fluids, some pain meds and electrolytes. Here’s my outline for post Rhabdo treatment:

Week 1: My Rhabdo was severe and I couldn’t move both my arm for about 3 days, and then just my left arm for about 7 days. I spent this time in the hospital and at home, barely moving.

Week 2: I was released from the hospital after my levels went below 12,000. The next week I was extremely fatigued and could barely walk the dogs for 10-15 minutes. It felt like I had mono (which sucks). Absolutely no exercise except walking, which wasn’t fast or far.

Week 3: I tried to go to the pool 2x this week. I did go, but the first swim was at 25% power and the second about 50% power. Meaning I could hardly move my arms in the water. It felt like I was swimming through molasses and just very weak. I also lengthened my walks with the dogs to 30-40min. I re-started my hip PT exercises and added in some core.

Weed 4: This week: I have swam 2x this week. The first was at 80%, the second maybe 85-90%. I am still not back to full strength or power, but almost. On a side note, all the pain in my arm is now gone, and both arms are the same size. I started to run again this week, and I’ve run 2x. Both times I did a 4/1 run walk and for only 20min running (45min total with walking). I only felt slightly fatigued, but my endurance just isn’t there. I did go back to the gym 2x as well so far and both times I have done light lifting. I’ve focused on my core and legs. For example I did back squat, dead lifts, single leg dead lifts, box step ups, sit ups, planks, etc. All just using lighter dumbbells or the 35lb bar.

So we’ll take the rest of this week the same, then hopefully next week (the 5th week) I can be back to 100%. Fingers crossed. Moving forward, I could only find 1 return to exercise suggestion. This suggestion was to do your strength workouts at 40%. But what they failed to say was, do you do your strength workouts at 40% of the reps that are prescribed, or 40% of the weight, or both?

For example, today at the gym another girl was doing 25 reps of cleans at 55lbs. If I did 40%, that would be 10 cleans at 22lbs. Well, the lighter bar is 35lbs, so I used that one. And I did 12 reps. At first you’re just not going to have the strength or endurance to do what others are doing. But as your strength comes back, it will be important to not try to push yourself to match anyone else. Even if you feel dumb only doing 40%, use your best judgement. I know I could have lifted more, but I didn’t. This was very scary and it’s quite possible to develop it again.

To anyone that develops it: take your time in returning, listen to your body, don’t push it and compare yourself others and know that you might not be able to do 100 pull-ups as prescribed. I’d love to hear others “return to exercise post Rhabdo” stories.

Kay Wilson’s Story and the Gratitude Jar

Gratitude Jar

Have you ever heard a story and stopped what you were doing because you were so enthralled by what the person was saying on TV, the radio or a podcast? This happened to me two days ago, and it has been a great reminder to be thankful for everything that I have. I’d like to share a bit of the story with you as it’s been on my mind since I heard it. This story is about the murder and attempted murder of English born Israeli citizen Kay Wilson and American Christian Kristine Luken by Palestinian terrorists.

In December of 2010, the two women (who had been friends for years) went for a hike outside of Jerusalem. They were approached by two Palestinian men asking for water. Sensing something wasn’t right, they started walking back towards their car. Kay walked in front of Kristine so she could take her pocket knife out of her coat. As she did this, the two men grabbed both women. They struggled and Kay managed to stab her attacker with her knife, but to no avail. The women were tied up with their shoe laces, gagged and made to walk into the woods, the men now brandishing machetes. The attackers separated the women and forced them to kneel with their heads down.

The radio host spoke to to Kay about this, about the moment she knew that they might be killed. What was going through her mind. This is what she said (not verbatim): “It was in that moment that I knew I was going to be murdered. My life did not flash before my eyes. But what did go through my mind was I can’t believe my life will end today. I’ll never get to taste good wine again, I’ll never get to hear the sound of the desert as the wind whips through it. And most of all I prayed to God that the attacker would not botch up the murder and he would quickly chop off my head so he didn’t have to sit there and saw on my neck.” Kay then also spoke about hearing Kristine screaming and screaming over and over again as she was stabbed. Kay herself was stabbed 13 times and passed out. She woke up and the attackers had left, but were coming back. She played dead and just to be sure, they stabbed her again in the sternum. They left and she fought consciousness and staggered back to her car for help. She was found, and thanks to her knife, they had the attacker’s DNA and the attackers were caught and sent to prison. Kristine did not survive the attack.

As I sat there listening to her speak waves of nausea and grief passed over me. She and Kristine were targeted to be killed just because the attackers believed them to be Jewish. That was their crime. Now I am not writing this as a political statement, although I could. I’m writing this to highlight her beliefs and outlook on life after the attack, and to highlight our own need to have gratitude. So what are her beliefs? Again, not verbatim: “I don’t believe I was saved by God to do some purpose on this life, but I am not angry at God and I thank God every day that I was saved. I laid in a hospital for 2 years after the attacks and I am in constant pain. But that doesn’t stop me from living my life and being grateful to be alive.” Wow. I want to add that I do believe God had a purpose for saving her and she is showing us all what strength and courage really is. So even though she is in constant pain, she is thankful for being alive and speaking her story. Wow again. There is so much evil in this world and every day reading or watching the news we see it.

About 10 years ago I decided to go to South Africa. It’s another story unto itself, but there was the first time I saw what true poverty was. Houses made of cardboard and tin. Entire towns where there was no solid structure. Dirt floors, no running water, etc. It was a truly eye opening experience and one that in many ways I am eternally grateful. It was after that trip that I realized how most Americans have no idea what other countries are going through. This is also not a post to cast Americans in a negative light and say how lucky we all are. We are, but again that’s another post. What I wanted to get across in this post is:

We all have bad, even terrible and unthinkable things happen to us. Hopefully none as awful as Kay or Kristine’s experience, but this is not a competition or who has had it the worst. No one is immune to tragedy, no one is immune to hardship. And we all at one time or another have to wonder “Why me.” I don’t know the answer because I am not God. But I choose to live my live believing that we all have a God given purpose in our life and we have to do our best to follow our call. Also, when something happens that shatters our life, it is ok to be sad, angry, depressed, etc. This is normal and healthy. But in order to help pull us up, we have to start to see the bigger picture around us. What can we do to make the world a better place. What can we do to stop looking inward and focus our thoughts outward.

Lastly, my hope was to help other athletes who have gone through life altering injuries, accidents or illnesses to look outside themselves and ask, “why did this happen, what is the bigger picture.” If you’re been reading this blog,  you know that I have gone through several medical challenges over the past few years. 1 year of the doctors not being able to diagnose me, 1 year of recovery post surgery, then developing Rhabdomyolysis while returning to exercise. The past 2 years have been such a struggle for me. I felt like I lost my identity, was in constant pain and no one could tell me why. It was a never ending cycle of pain, doctors appointments, potential treatments, those treatments not working, and on and on. I felt so low and really looking back I felt so sorry for myself.

So here is my advice for athletes who goes through accidents, injury and illness:

Go through the 5 stages of grief

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

Honor each one of those. Don’t feel bad about any of them. Truly allow yourself to grieve. Don’t belittle these feelings by saying things like “I’m not really bad off, I don’t have a deadly illness,” or “I’m still able to do my job, I have a loving family, I shouldn’t feel like this.” Don’t say those. Instead say “wow this really sucks. My life has turned upside down. I really wish this didn’t happen.” Allow yourself the time to grieve because no matter how big or small, if it was an important part of your life, to you it is very important. Don’t let anyone tell you that you shouldn’t feel a certain way. But then STOP. Look around at the world. You may get your identity from being an athlete, but this is a sign that you’ve been given a chance to look at what your greater purpose is around you. With God’s help I was finally able to see that my purpose is helping other athletes achieve performance and life goals through proper nutrition. And because of the down time from training, I had the ability to put things in action to create a new website and nutrition software. Now I’d really like to be back to being an athlete, but I am not angry that this happened. It has allowed me to be so much more. So I challenge you, when you’re ready to move on from the grief, self pity, anger, depression, look around and see what your purpose is. It doesn’t mean you can’t be the athlete you once were, it doesn’t mean  you can’t do what your heart is set on. I just know if I hadn’t stopped myself from the self pity, sadness, anger, etc. I would not be the person I am. Not everyone who reads this is a Christian, and I’m not telling you that have to be. For me, it is apart of who I am and has helped guide me. If that’s not you, still look outside of yourself at what you really feel like your purpose might be. And embrace it.

So where does the jar come in. On march 1st I decided to create a gratitude jar. Every night I will write down one thing that happened that day that I am grateful for. And anytime I start to feel down or depressed, I’ll look at that jar. I will again be an athlete, but I won’t again get my self worth from being an athlete. It took me several years to get here, but I know who I am. I am a heart centered, purpose driven, Christian, wife, daughter, sister, who is passionate about helping others achieve their dreams through endurance coaching and sports nutrition. I am an athlete, but that is not how I describe myself first. I have so much to be thankful for and I am blessed beyond measure. I have a family and husband who loves and supports me, I am a mom to 2 fur-babies, I have a job doing what I love and I have good food and safe shelter. I encourage everyone to do this. Create a jar, or create a journal to write in. Something that you can look at when you are down. Because if  you think about it, there is so much to be grateful for. And if you focus on those things instead of what you don’t have or what was taken away, I think you’ll start to heal. And I encourage you to think outside of yourself. What does this accident, injury or illness mean? What can you do now that you are in this spot? Instead of feeling down, anxious, stressed, etc. Think, how can I do something to better myself and others. And when you feel down, think about or look at your gratitude jar. Think about people like Kay Wilson, who had to watch her friend be murdered, who was nearly murdered herself and every day she still thanks God that she is here. She was targeted just for being a Jewish women. So take the tragedies that happen in your life, and decide in the end to not let them define you. It may take you weeks, months or years to get to the place where you can look around and say “I’m ok.” If you are in that place, as hard as it is, look around at what you have. Be grateful for the blessings in your life. You might not be exactly where you want to be, but don’t let that dictate how you will feel. Never stop believing that things will get better and the more gratitude you have for what you already have, the easier it will be.

Clean Eating is a Dirty Word


Clean Eating is a Dirty Word
I detest the word “clean eating.” It’s hard to put into words my dislike for something that is just a word. It’s not racist, it’s not mean spirited but to me it isn’t just a word. It’s a word that implies or infers an air of negative emotion or elitism around food.
When someone says to you “I eat clean or I have a clean diet” what do you imagine? Do you imagine they are eating food that is literally clean, scrubbed to remove the dirt or do you imagine food that is not processed and “has fallen from the tree.” A few years ago I would have said the first one, someone makes sure to scrub their produce after bringing it home from the farmers market or grocery. Now, it’s someone declaring that they are following a form of eating where they only eat specific foods that are deemed healthy.
Clean Eating:
What is my problem with this? I mean it’s only a word and people that are “clean eating” are eating how I as a sports nutritionist would on a whole recommend. Yes, my problem with it is multi-faceted but comes down to this. Someone who tries to follow a “clean diet” or “only eats clean” they start to create unrealistic expectations about themselves and the food they eat. They might believe that they are somehow better than others for eating this way, they might believe they are more virtuous than others that eat processed food, they start to believe there are good and bad foods and others that look to “clean eaters” may start to believe that they are not as good a person because they do not “eat clean.”
Clean eaters may only eat specific types of foods and if they do, they feel validated and may feel that they have taken the moral high ground. My goal is to teach others that they are not better or worse than someone else because the foods that they ate are better for them. If someone eats a raw kale salad and you have some crackers and cheese are you are looked down upon? Is there something inherently bad about cheese and crackers? No. Depending on the type of cracker and the type of cheese, you could be getting in some good whole grains, lean protein, calcium, etc. Is the person that eats the cheese and crackers a bad person? No. Is the person that eats the raw kale salad “good?” Not necessarily? Kale is a good choice, and one that people should try. But someone shouldn’t be judged by what they eat. Your worth is not determined by what you eat.
As this is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I want to highlight and bring awareness to this, and share how my past eating disorder impacted my life. Plus, ultimately work to prevent new disordered eating athletes. Growing up, I looked at food as a way to better my performance. Not in the correct way though. I looked at food as whether or not I thought it was a “bad” food or a “good” food. Would the food make me gain weight, would it help me to lose weight? Would I feel shame after eating it, would I feel elated when I was able to abstain from not eating it? Would I think and obsess over eating it but deny myself it because it wasn’t a “good” food. Would I feel the need to over exercise after eating it, did I feel that after I ate the food my body got fatter? The answer is yes. I was obsessed with food and the thought that I was too fat and if I got fat I wouldn’t be able to swim as fast and wouldn’t be as loved. Someone looking from the outside at my food choices might have said “wow she only eats healthy foods, what a good diet.” But in reality my obsession over food led to body dysmorphia, anorexia and ultimately bulimia. I battled bulimia for about 8 years of my life. It was an incredible struggle to go through, but ultimately it allowed me to use my experience to help others. And I now know my “WHY.” The “Why” is used in business, life and athletics to determine why we do something. What is our reason and passion behind it? Not knowing our why makes it harder to know why you want to achieve a goal. For example, why are you trying to qualify for Boston, why are you working overtime and 70 hours/week at your job? What is your WHY? I thought my why used to be that I was a sports nutritionist because I wanted to help athletes to succeed using proper nutrition. But it’s so much more than that.
My why is: I am a sports nutritionist because I am passionate about helping athletes to learn to make the best choices for their body, to educate them on foods that will help them succeed, to make them confident in how they look and the foods they choose, to help them realize that food does not equal who they are as a person/athlete and to ultimately help them break the destructive bond that they have with food. Or that food has over them. It’s liberating to know what one of my main purposes in life is and it’s exciting to be able to do it. So let’s dive into this subject just a bit more and touch on a few other topics.
Who has seen the ads for the latest detox, juice cleanse, fast or that chemicals in our food are killing us? I hope everyone raised their hands. They are everywhere and the media, celebrities and even celebrity doctors and “gurus” tout their latest products. And in 99% of the cases, it’s to make money first and foremost. I detest (again with detest) fear mongering and people that use fear mongering as a marketing tactic.
Chemophobia- Definition: “irrational fear of chemicals. Grounded in the simplistic unscientific belief that chemicals are potentially dangerous simply because they are synthetic, while all things natural are chemical free and therefore safe.” So, when something sounds like a chemical, it can induce a widespread panic about the product or food. The fact is, everything is composed of chemicals, including all foods. Yes, even blueberries. Our body is made up of chemicals. As a nutritionist, I often abbreviate the term carbohydrate with CHO. It’s not because carbohydrate has those letters, it’s because CHO stands for carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. These are considered chemicals. Let’s look at the chemical dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO). It is a colorless, odorless compound that can cause death. It sounds terrifying. But it’s actually water or H20. The old adage “the dose makes the poison” applies to every situation. Too much water can kill you, it’s called drowning if swallowed or hyponatremia (if you drink too much water and dilute your electrolytes).
When certain health gurus/doctors tie chemicals to toxins they are scaring you. Of course there are some truly bad chemicals and toxins. All chemicals have the ability to be a toxin in the right amount. Just because a food is natural does not make it safe, and just because a food is created in a laboratory doesn’t make it unsafe.
What about body detoxes?  Shouldn’t you use those every few months to make your body clean again? Don’t you need to do one to rid your body of the chemicals in your body, or to accelerate weight loss? NO!!! Our body detoxes itself every day. It’s what the liver and kidneys do for us every minute, hour and day. You don’t need a diet to detox your body. If you’d like to stop eating food that doesn’t make you feel the best, go for it. But you’re not detoxing your body. You’re giving it food that makes it feel good. Don’t believe a fad diet or detox system (even from an RD or MD) who says their foods or diet detox plan will detox your body and you’ll lose weight, have more energy, feel awesome, etc. You can do all of those 3 things and more by just choosing foods that your body wants you to eat. And if you want to give it something that isn’t necessarily going to make it perform to 110% is it going to hurt you? Of course not. As long as you’re eating good choices 80-90% of the time, you’re fine. Of course I’m not advocating for a dietary free for all where you eat everything in sight. And if you’d like to see exactly what I recommend, click here.
I’m so fed up with hearing from so called experts what foods should and shouldn’t be put in our body. What foods are in, which are out. Which will kill us, which won’t. Is sugar bad, is it good. Is fat bad, is it good. The frustrating thing is, some of these experts even have an MD behind their name. But most often I find that those that are perpetuating these myths do not have the education to back up their claims. Instead they re-circulate what they hear online, through groups/forums, social media or they attended a certification program that isn’t backed with real science based evidence. It’s the cool thing to do, and they repeat without understanding they are perpetuating unsubstantiated nutrition myths. For months, in fact years I’ve tried to do my part by publishing a blog that gives science based evidence for fitness and nutrition. I’ve taught the clients and athletes whom I’ve worked the proper way to create healthy meal plans, what foods are best of every day nutrition, training and racing nutrition, recovery nutrition, etc. I don’t use buzz words and because of this, I don’t have the cool factor that many nutritionists speak of. And really, I’ve been ok with it. It can be frustrating at times to see people with little education have followers in the thousands. But I’ll keep plugging away, doing my part to spread the word on science based nutrition and to be the anti-fear monger. Because I want to help athletes to be the best they can, have healthy relationships with food and their body and to perform at their best. I won’t sink the level of using fear mongering, using pictures of unrealistic bodies or pushing athletes to eat in any sort of fad diet structured plan. Because I already help athletes achieve a healthy body, mind and performance all while teaching them through proper guidance and education. My goal is also to prevent more eating disorders. Which brings me to this point:
Orthorexia: it the development of a fear of food. Certain foods become off limits. They are deemed “bad” or “dangerous.” This has been on the rise in the past few years and the psychological journals now are recognizing it as a serious medical disorder. I believe I had this years ago, and I can see it in many others today. And the scary statistic is: about 30% of patients with anorexia or bulimia showed symptoms of orthorexia before developing full blown anorexia or bulimia. So really, this is the last step before potentially developing a full blown eating disorder.
How does someone start on a path to orthorexia? Have you ever done an elimination diet? Doing an elimination diet is one way that a person can develop orthorexia. They hear that foods that contain grains, dairy, sugar, GMOs, etc. are bad and they must be eliminated. The person might be vulnerable to believing that the things on the elimination diet are really “bad” and sets them out on a path of towards “don’t eat these foods, they are bad for you.”
Social media sites like Facebook and Instagram show pictures of athletes or just average people/fitness models eating meals that they are proud to show. They are proud their meal didn’t contain sugar, proud their meal didn’t contain gluten. When someone says they are gluten free. It’s like they are wearing it as a badge of honor. And if you ate gluten you are somehow in the wrong, making you less of a person. Who else has heard someone say “this food is gluten free and proud that they are eating it because they think it’s healthier?” Again, hands should be raised. Let me add, I work with athletes who truly do need to eat gluten free due to Celiac disease or an intolerance. And for this reason I do say when my recipes don’t have gluten. However I have many recipes that do contain gluten, because for the majority of people, it is 100% ok. When you start to take being proud of eating a healthy balanced diet too far, and you become proud of eating only certain foods, or only foods that contain this, then you’re going down the wrong path. I have been guilty of saying “no added sugar.” But I also try to balance that with showing foods that others deem unhealthy-foods like dairy, pasta, the occasional treat. Sure I do advocate for a less added sugar diet. I want my athletes to know how to make smart food choices not relying on added sugar (unless they are training/racing). But having things with added sugar is fine in moderation. Truly, unless you have a food allergy or a metabolic disease, everything should be ok in moderation.
Dictating your Worth:
When foods starts to dictate how you feel about yourself, you have a problem. The foods you eat do not make your worth. When you are inundated with images and words saying don’t eat this, or only eat this. Or you see very thin (even possibly muscular) people saying to only eat these types of foods, this is not what you want to believe. It’s so hard, but when someone judges you, or you feel like you are being judged for the foods you are eating, you must put up a barrier around you and say to yourself or out loud “food does not dictate my self-worth.”
I’m not saying to not eat healthy. But there is a difference. It’s ok to look at the ingredients, it’s ok to pick the healthier choice, and it’s ok to not have dessert. It’s ok to avoid most unhealthy foods, it’s ok to feel a little guilty about having too much ice-cream. But it’s not ok to obsess over the foods you’re eating, to avoid foods that contain a “bad” food, to have so much guilt around eating a food that you become anxious or depressed.
So What Do You Do?
How are you thinking about food? How are you reacting to food? Are you judgmental around others and what they eat? Really look into your psyche and think about how you are around food. How do you feel about yourself? It starts with love and self-acceptance. No matter where you are right now, you are good enough. Say it out loud with me. YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH! You don’t need to be anyone you’re not. That’s not to say we all can’t make our awesome self’s even better by working on smaller goals. But if you don’t love yourself right now, for who you are today, you won’t be able to find peace with yourself, your food choices or your body. Stop looking at fitness models, or those that strive for unhealthy levels of body fat. Strive to be healthy and to be the best you that you can be. Not everyone is supposed to have a 6 pack. And not everyone is supposed to have huge muscles. We were given our bodies from genetics and while we can work on making ourselves healthier, trying to achieve someone else’s idea of the perfect body or of the ideal body is rubbish. You aren’t designed to look like anyone but yourself. Strive to make yourself better by doing things that nourish you. Eat healthy foods that you love, exercise because you love it and you want to live a long and healthy life, make choices because they feel good and occasionally enjoy the foods that don’t provide the nourishing nutrients your body needs. That’s totally fine.
Where am I now?
I won’t lie and say that every day is super easy to make the best choices 100% of the time and every day I love my body completely. Of course I can’t say that and that’s perfectly fine. I make the healthy choices for my body 80-90% of the time and my body is happy with that. If you were to look at a picture of me, you’d see that I am not stick thin and quite muscular. IMG_4048

In fact at last count I was 22% body fat. And I am very happy with that. I don’t care for scales although I do allow my athletes to use them as long as they aren’t obsessive with weighing themselves. I’m much more a fan of using body fat as muscle makes it seem like we might be heavier, body fat gives a truer story. And if you might be saying 22% is great, or you might be saying “I’d rather be 18%.” That’s fine and I can get you to a healthy body fat. But for me, I am content as I am in my unperfected body. Since I know the science of exercise physiology and nutrition, I know how I can get to 20% to 18%, etc. But here’s why I’m not going to do that. Because I know that if I strive to attain a number that forces me to start to restrict too much, or deprive myself of the foods I truly enjoy, I will be starting down a path towards disordered eating. And I will not go there. Eating a chicken breast, spinach and brown rice every day does fulfill my advice on eating healthy/lean protein, healthy fat, nourishing carbs and veggies. If I were to eat that every day it would not be enough to satisfy my hunger for diverse foods or variety. I would rather allow myself to have ice-cream if I want it then deprive myself to attain a weight, a look or a % body fat just because. So here’s what I’d recommend:
Some Choices I recommend:
• I advocate for a primarily plant based diet, but if you’d like to eat meat, it is your choice (and I do too, just not every day). But try to choose a diet based in plants, beans, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds. These foods will benefit your body immensely.
• Think about having meat/fish/protein as a side dish to your meals
• Eat a wide variety of foods and as long as 80-90% of your diet contains foods that benefit your body, 10-20% of the foods you eat can be ones you chose just because you like them
• If you eat primarily foods that benefit your body, everything is ok in moderation
• Be mindful around your eating. Are you hungry, stressed, angry, bored. Learn to look at your emotions around food. Do you reach for certain foods when you have those emotions? How does food make you feel?
• Remember that you are not or do not become a good or bad person just because of what you eat
• Reduce the amount of screen time or personal time you have with people who only post pictures or talk about eating specific foods that are “good” or “bad”. Unfollow or erase them from your Instagram accounts if you need to.
• Seek help from a professional if you feel like you have a problem with body dysmorphia (perceived flaw in your body), feelings around food, orthorexia or an eating disorder. I would love to assist you on your journey to a healthy body, mind and better performance. Reach out to me today- or
• Strive to be healthy, but not to be perfect
• Decide today that you are going to be the “best you that you can be.” No one else is you and that’s great. God made us each individual and we aren’t supposed to be anyone but who he made us to be.

I am here to help you in any way that I can. Whether you feel like you’re in an endless cycle of doing diets (low carb, no sugar), food elimination diets (paleo, whole30), you feel like you might be obsessed with food or your weight, please reach out for help. As stated above, I am at I have several nutrition plans where I will work with you 1:1 to start to reverse an unhealthy mindset, you’ll learn to love food and your body again plus learn how to achieve athletic success with a healthy nutrition plan.
If you feel like you have moved past body dysmorphia and disordered eating thoughts and patterns and you have a full blown eating disorder, please seek treatment. Please call your general care practitioner, seek treatment from a counselor (social worker, family counselor, psychologist or psychiatrist) or reach out to the National Eating Disorder Hotline: toll free, confidential Helpline at 1-800-931-2237 or call the Anorexia and other disorders helpline at 630-577-1330, open Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Central Time.

Rhabdomyolysis, Too Much of a Good Thing


As I sit here typing this I’m listening to the pumping of my compression boots. Unfortunately it’s not the type of compression boots I’d like to be wearing (those after a hard endurance workout). I’m unfortunately in the hospital and because of my lack of movement, I’m wearing them. I was hesitant to write this, but as so much of what I’ve tried to write here is to help others, I knew I must. It is yet another “you’ve got to be kidding me, not something else” in addition to the potential for feeling slight shame that your body couldn’t handle what you were having it do. On a side note, this is eating disorders awareness week and I was working on a separate blog about that. But we’ll throw this one in for good measure.

My journey starts here: after my hamstring surgery I had a long long road back to full hamstring health. And along the way I had some awesome physical therapists help me. I’d like to write another post on those two specialties (women’s specific/pelvic floor and PRI-postural restorative institute) because I believe they can be of help to others as well. But coming back to my hospital visit, here goes.

For the past 5 weeks I’ve worked with a great strength coach  (Bobby Allison at Hustle Fitness) to rebuild my hamstring strength. Along the way we’ve been working on Olympic lifting and more basic lifting like bench press, some kettle bells, body weight exercises, etc. I had made great progress and I had been feeling really strong, like I was becoming an athlete again. And I thought my body was ready to graduate to a traditional strength class vs the 1:1 that we had been doing. But because of my recent strength improvements I believe I was susceptible to a condition called Rhabdomyolysis.

Rhabdomyolysis (From Google Doctor Web MD): is a serious syndrome due to a direct or indirect muscle injury. It results from the death of muscle fibers and release of their contents into the bloodstream. This can lead to complications such as renal (kidney) failure. This occurs when the kidneys cannot remove waste and concentrated urine. In rare cases, rhabdomyolysis can even cause death. However, prompt treatment often brings a good outcome.


  1. Using illegal drugs- nope
  2. High doses of antipsychotics/statins- nope
  3. A crash/fall- nope
  4. Extreme muscle strain- Yep!

Symptoms: (exercise ones)

  1. Extreme muscle pain-like 9-10/10 pain, much worse than DOMS
  2. Swelling-your muscles will swell up like balloons
  3. Stiffness-you won’t be able to move the body part-I couldn’t lift my arm…at all
  4. Joint pain- I didn’t have this
  5. Coke colored urine-I didn’t have this although after drinking copious amounts of fluid my urine is still apple juice colored. But just because you don’t have very dark urine, don’t think you don’t have Rhabdo
  6. Vomiting- I didn’t have this either.

Exercise that can cause it: (any)

  1. Eccentric exercises mainly
  2. Specifically I’ve seen the most reports on pull-ups/negatives, abs-specifically a hamstring/back machine that you can do abs off of and leg exercises.
  3. Body weight exercises: those that mean you can do a lot of them before getting fatigued. It’s actually better to do heavier lifting because the heavy weights will not allow you to do so much that this happens.

Psychological Mindsets that Play into It:

  1. Those that have been athletes in the past, but have taken say the past 6 months off.
  2. Those that have the mindset to push through pain.
  3. An athlete who may have a bigger aerobic engine then strength-so they can go for much longer than someone who was more out of shape
  4. Women-no seriously the ER doc told me this. We’re just stronger mentally 🙂


This isn’t a one size fits all kind of thing. Some people take a week, others take several months. For me I think this was a more mild form and I expect to be out of the hospital in a day, and hopefully back exercising (lightly) in a week. This can be deadly, require dialysis or a transplant. So just don’t mess around. Listen to your body and seek help.

So in my first full strength class we were doing pull ups. But because I can’t do full pull ups, I did negatives, which are really just the eccentric part of the pull up. Imagine you are at chin level to the bar, then you lower yourself down. As stated above, eccentric exercises are one of the main reasons you can get Rhabdo.

I’m not sure if it’s still thought to be cool, but those doing Cross Fit used to joke about “Uncle Rhabdo” and even had tee-shirts made of a cartoon character of someone hooked up to dialysis. Let me tell you anyone that jokes about Uncle Rhabdo is not cool and neither is it a badge of honor. It is something that is very scary and requires immediate attention. Let me say this again, if you think you might have Rhabdo, go to the ER. Do not go to urgent care and do not go to your general doctors. Go to the ER. There is a specific type of blood test they run (CMP-complete metabolic panel) that they need to run to check you CK-creatine kinase levels. In addition to checking a kidney panel- BUN, potassium, sodium, myoglobin, etc. I thought that urgent care’s ran those tests, and I went to one on Sunday. After waiting two hours, they got some blood and urine, they came back and said, well your red and white blood cell count came back normal. No kidding, I didn’t think I was sick, I thought my kidneys might be failing. Turns out the urine did have blood and protein in it, but they said it would take 2 days to have the blood work done. So I went home.

After 1 full day of stressing thinking “am I sitting at home damaging my kidneys just to wait on a test.” Brett was away in Houston, so I took myself to the ER. As when I went to urgent care, when I told the nurse/assistant I thought I had Rhabdo, they looked at me blankly. For as serious as it is, it appears not that many people know about it. I told them I just needed a CK blood test and to test my kidneys. They took me back, took blood, a urine sample and the doctor came in amused (in a good way) that I had self diagnosed myself. The nurses and doctors have been great by the way (Alliance Medical Center-Fort Worth) and I am so thankful!

The CK tests take 90min to run, and if you get a high reading, they run again, and then again. And they ran mine 3x.

A normal CK (I believe) is around 100. My CK today was 56,000. Yes, that’s thousand. And kind of humorously, the urgent care people called today to tell me that my CK was 45,000 on Sunday. I told them I was already in the hospital but I’m glad they called. Unfortunately it’s not good that my numbers have been going up since Sunday. I’m not 5 days out from injury and my numbers should be going down. All we can do is give fluid and take blood. Last check my myoglobin (what leaks from the muscles and can’t pass through the kidneys) is high and they are re-running my CK. Tomorrow they will run the same tests again. The nephrologist said that with a level of 15,000 I can go home.

Let me be blunt. Do not push your body more than you should when you are coming back from injury or just being a bit out of shape. Don’t try to keep up with others when they can do 50 pull ups. Work at your own pace and don’t feel competitive to match them. If you do think you have Rhabdo, go to the ER right away. Even if you have DOMS, it’s better to be safe than sorry. And you may not have all the symptoms, so don’t think just because you don’t have coke colored urine you are ok. Go, don’t be ashamed.

I can tell you it’s so strange sitting here in my bed hooked up to an IV, my compression boots pumping along, IV humming, hospital noises all about, and I’m working on my computer. I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel bad. I’m probably the most positive hospital patient. I don’t have a fever, not vomiting, not cranky, etc. I’m in pain and scared, but I know that I’ll be ok. I listened to my body and I came and sought help. It’s a waiting game, but I’m confident my next numbers run will be slower. I’m several liters of fluid in and I’m drinking as well.

So get out there and train, but be careful. Listen to my advice from above. Push yourself, but there is no need to push yourself until you reach this point. Supposedly this is rare, but I’ve known others who have had this, and my nurse today has seen 3 people in the past year-all 30ish or under, athletes who love exercise. Time for another blood draw.


Recipes to Help you Not Over Indulge on Super Bowl Sunday


As you gear up for super bowl parties this Sunday, you might be thinking “Yes, party time, lots of great albeit not as nutritious foods” or “I’m really trying hard to eat right, this party might kill my nutrition plan.” So, instead of it being an either or, how about both. Good food can taste awesome and be nutritious as well. I set out to make a few things that you could make if you’re staying home, going to a party or hosting a party.

Chips and dip are party mainstays and twice baked potatoes/potato skins are as well. So you can whip up an easy guacamole with healthier baked chips and instead of a saturated fat laden/fried potato, make this awesome chicken and bean stuffed potatoes. Only healthy ingredients allowed. Both of these can be made under 30 minutes, so it will make your party (or just dinner) prep easy.

Enjoy some good party food!

Guacamole and Chips: (serves 6)

Ingredients List

  • .5 cup tomato minced
  • .3 cup red onion minced
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 2 tbsp cilantro minced
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice -about 1/2 of a lime
  • .25 tsp cumin
  • Dash salt
  • 3 small avocados
  • 6 servings baked tortilla chips


  • *You can either mince the first 4 ingredients or use a food processor/blender to mince them. I used a blender.
  • 1. Blend the first 4 ingredients. I did not mince them since the blender did it for me. Use the pulse button so that it doesn’t turn into a liquid.
  • 2. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.
  • 3. Add the avocado and mash with a fork.
  • 4. Season the mixture with lime, cumin and a dash of salt.
  • 5. Each serving of guacamole is 3 tbsp. Serve with 1 serving of chips per person. Since chip portions vary, choose a portion that will give you 140kcal.

Nutritional Data

246 Calories (kcals)
28 Carbohydrate (g)
4 Protein (g)
14 Fat (g)
6 Fiber (g)
193 Sodium (mg)
 Mexican Pulled Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes: Serves 4

Ingredients List

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes scrubbed and washed
  • 1 lb chicken breast tenders
  • 1 cup lower sodium chicken broth
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • .25 cup red onion chopped
  • 1 tbsp lime juice -1/2 lime
  • 1.5 cups black beans rinsed and drained -15oz can
  • Dash cumin
  • .75 cup salsa divided
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped
  • .5 avocado chopped
*Wash and scrub sweet potatoes.
  • 1. Poke each sweet potato several times with a fork.
  • 2. Dampen a paper towel and wrap around potatoes.
  • 3. Microwave for 3 minutes. Flip potatoes and microwave another 2-3 minutes until desired softness.
  • 4. Remove from microwave, cool and slice in half.
  • 5. You will have 4 halves.
  • Chicken and Beans: Start while the sweet potatoes are cooking
  • 1. Pour chicken broth and 1/2 cup of salsa into a medium large sauce pan.
  • 2. Add chicken, bring to a boil and boil 10-15 minutes until chicken is cooked through.
  • 3. Remove the chicken and let cool slightly. While the chicken is cooking boil the broth mixture down until it is about 1/2 it’s original amount.
  • 4. Add the garlic, red onion, lime and black beans.
  • 5. While the beans are cooking, shred the chicken back into the pot.
  • 6. Stir the mixture and remove from the heat.
  • Serve:
  • 1. Scoop out 1/3 of the sweet potato flesh. Reserve the extra for later use (sweet potato biscuits on the site).
  • 2. Spoon 1/4 of the chicken and bean mixture into each half.
  • 3. Top with remaining salsa and avocado.
  • 4. Serve and enjoy. Each serving is one sweet potato half.

Nutritional Data

379 Calories (kcals)
42 Carbohydrate (g)
35 Protein (g)
8 Fat (g)
13 Fiber (g)
438 Sodium (mg)

Breaking News: There is no perfect diet!

I’m being a little dramatic with the breaking news, but I feel like it needs to be shouted. THERE IS NO PERFECT DIET! I must have been living in a box, or maybe just working really hard and haven’t watched the TV in a while. It’s possible it’s both, but I’m leaning towards working really hard and don’t have too much spare time. But…who has heard or seen the show “My Diet is Better than Your Diet?” I believe that is the name of the show.

Yesterday was a pretty busy day-worked (created my first landing page), did a strength workout, ran the dogs, cooked, etc. Generally my go to shows are anything on the Food Network or HGTV. And that’s usually just when I’m cooking. Yesterday was a pretty complete day. One of those days where you really feel like you accomplished a lot. I decided to just spend an hour sitting on the coach and relaxing. Cue flipping channels and I come upon this show. It appears to be like the Biggest Loser: you have contestants, trainers, exercise sessions, nutrition sessions, etc. The difference comes in where the contestants are each following a different diet.

These include names like:

  • The strong and sexy diet
  • The hunter diet
  • The superfood diet

I might have gotten those a bit off, but in reality, they look like they match a paleo diet/high protein, or lower carb but more veggies and protein diet. I’m sure I am being too simplistic. But you get what I mean.

So imagine you have each of the contestants, each on a different diet, each working with a trainer, each has a life story worthy of sharing on national TV, each vying to lose weight and win the show. And I don’t know this, but my guess is the person who loses the largest amount of weight or greatest percentage is the winner. Possibly winning a large sum of money?

Whats the problem with this program you say?

There are several things.  I heard several trainers saying or implying incorrect information on nutrition. For example:

  1. Pasteurized food isn’t great for you. Really? I pretty sure the pasteurization process has saved countless lives and illnesses. Today people argue for raw milk and raw cheese. I’m sticking with the safer and healthier option.
  2. Sweating releases toxins. Not exactly. Sweating releases minerals like sodium (and water), which most be replenished with water/fluid and the food you eat. If you’re too dehydrated the kidneys may not work properly. So in a round about way you could argue that since the kidneys (and liver) are what detoxes our body, if the kidneys aren’t functioning, then yes, it can’t remove toxins.

But it’s less about the trainers spouting fad-laden things, and more about, each person is very different and different diet plans will effect people different. In order for a program like this to really work, you’d have to have the same person go on each diet for a few months, then gain the weight back, and go with the next diet. Or, they’d have to clone the person so that same person is doing each diet. That would be the only true way to say “which diet is the best.” Besides the fact that I don’t like the word diet, nutrition is an individual process. Not everything will work for everyone, or not everyone will feel great with a certain diet. On the other, I just read a study that said, just about anyone will lose weight on any diet (low carb, Paleo, vegan, etc) because they are all about restricting calories or a negative caloric intake. I can’t remember the study name now though. But true, anyone on a “diet” implies cutting calories. So whether it’s from Paleo or vegan, if you’re cutting calories, you will lose weight.

So if any diet can work for anyone, what’s the best nutrition plan to have? One that’s fit to your specific needs, based on your own body and how much you’re exercising. That’s why I created the Fueled and Focused software. Since diets aren’t sustainable, why not adopt an all around nutritious meal plan where you feel satisfied, eat delicious food, have no restrictions or deprivations and still achieve your weight and performance goals. It’s all about making easy choices that also happen to be delicious. It’s really that easy. It’s all about developing a new relationship with food and yourself. Learning portion control, learning what foods fit around exercise, learning the most nutritious foods for your body. And never cutting out entire food groups just because a fad diet tells you to.

I love helping athletes achieve more through training and nutrition. I’d love for all people athletes and non-athletes to adopt a more balanced and well rounded way of eating. Personally my passion is athletes, so I’ll continue to focus in that area. I’m pretty sure I won’t be watching more of the TV show, but it would be interesting to see which diet they claim is the best diet. I believe they had a “no diet” option. I am guessing that person didn’t change their diet and just exercised. It would be interesting to see where they fall in the order of weight loss at the end. But again, its very different for each person, so they might lose more or less than someone else on the same plan.

If like me you’d like to stop the headaches and frustrations around fad diets/restrictive diets, check out my Fueled and Focused meal plan software. Just go to and check it out. Let me know if you have any questions. I’m really excited to help people break free of the word diet and the negative implications around it-mainly restriction or deprivation.