How to make the perfect meal

A lot of the athlete’s I’ve worked with tell me they know what’s healthy, they just aren’t sure how to put foods together into a meal. So I thought I’d use a meal I made today, to show how I suggest to create a meal. The meal I made was from me looking in the fridge, and in the cupboards and putting things together. Most weeks I plan out my meals for the week, but since I’ve been on crutches, my meals of late have been a bit more casual. Today’s meal-Kale, BrownRice and Avocado Salad.


The best way to approach a meal, and a snack is to make sure you’ve chosen something from every macronutrient category. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, fats and protein. An example would be whole grain bread, with almond butter. The whole grain bread is a carb, the almond butter is a fat and protein. If you just have one macronutrient on its own, you won’t feel as satisfied (the satiety factor), it could cause your blood sugar to rise (a carb without the protein/fat to slow it down) and you could be hungry again in just an hour or two. An example of this would be whole grain toast with honey. That’s 2 carbs, and even though there’s fiber in whole grain bread, adding in a fat and protein will assist in helping to keep you full, in addition to slowing down the speed of the blood sugar entering the blood stream.

Let’s look at what I had made for dinner. It’s a vegetarian meal, but can easily be made with grilled chicken, fish or steak, especially if you need more protein in your diet. I also could have added beans-garbanzo, kidney, navy, etc. Here are the ingredients I chose (I made 1 serving) and the corresponding macronutrient:

  • 1 cup Kale-carb
  • 1 cup Spinach-carb
  • 1/2 c cooked Whole grain-I used a blend of brown rice, barley and spelt-quinoa is a good choice too-carb/protein
  • 1/4 Avocado-fat
  • 1/4 Apple-carb
  • 1/8cup Walnuts-fat/bit of protein
  • Handful Dried Cranberries-carb
  • Handful Low fat feta cheese-fat
  • 1 tbsp Low fat balsamic dressing-fat

For this recipe, I didn’t really cook anything. I just chopped and plated, really easy, healthy and delicious. And in addition to having each of the macronutrients, this salad fulfilled numerous micronutrients.

Think of each meal as a plate. Divide the plate into sections. Half of the plate should be chock full of veggies, a quarter should be a lean protein, and a quarter should be a whole grain/healthy carb. Then, heart healthy fats should also be included, but don’t need a portion of the plate. Depending on your training period, you might need more healthy carbs and you can use a larger portion of the plate for it.

Looking at snacks, here are some examples:

  • Pretzels-carb
  • An Apple-carb
  • Carrots-carb

Here are some better choices:

  • Pretzels with peanut butter
  • An Apple with a slice of low-fat cheese
  • Carrots and hummus

The first choices are fine choices, each having their own merits. The second choices however all have added protein and fat, making them better choices. So every time you sit down to a meal, or reach for a snack, make sure you are having a choice from each of the macronutrients.



Antioxidants and Athletes

Antioxidants, what are they, do we need to take them and how much? A few years ago, I would have said antioxidants were a new “buzz word.” People weren’t sure exactly what they were, but they knew they must be important to take. I could be wrong, but I think some of the buzz has died down around them in the general public. They know they need to take them, but it isn’t a headline article every day. That’s been replaced with gluten free. Athletes on the other hand, speak often about them. And for good reason as exercise produces free radicals, which can cause harm to the body. For endurance athletes who train often, this can lead to them thinking they need to supplement for protection.

In fact, I won’t mention the name of the company, but I have had two athletes approach me about a new antioxidant supplement they were taking. It is also a multi-level marketing company where you need to “buy in,” and then you get others to buy from you. I am not a fan of multi-level marketing companies, but I was interested in the product, so I looked at it. It is a mega dose of antioxidants with little research behind it. Just what I call “smoke and mirrors” marketing. Knowing that athletes are buying these supplements, made me look further into them. Is there truth behind their claims?

Antioxidants– man-made, or natural substances that prevent or delay oxidative stress. When the body under goes stress (like exercise and other daily functions), free radicals are produced which creates cell damage or death. In order to combat the free radicals, antioxidants are used to bind to the free radicals, stopping their reaction. In addition to cell damage from exercise, oxidative stress has been linked with cancer, so they are something that researchers are looking into further. Antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables as well as dietary supplements. Some examples include-Vit. C, Vit. E, Beta-carotene, and Lycopene.

Since I’m not a cancer researcher I’ll leave the cancer studies to the real experts. I will speak more to athletes, and if we have seen a positive or negative link to athletes consuming mega doses.

Reasons to Supplement with Antioxidants:

  1. Exercise increases  oxidative damage to skeletal muscles. The higher the intensity of the exercise, the more oxidative stress.
  2. Athletes may consume less than the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of antioxidants.
  3. Some athletes believe that antioxidant supplementation improves performance.

The first two points I do not dispute. The research is clear that exercise does increase oxidative stress, and cellular damage. And it also true that a lot of athletes do not each the recommended foods in their diet. That being said, is there evidence for improved performance? Maybe….

MB Reid, in the Handbook of Oxidants and Antioxidants, Elsevier, 2000 showed that very few studies actually showed an increase in performance. The studies that did show an increase in performance were likely due to athletes that were deficient in antioxidants prior, taking a supplement and bringing them up to the levels of RDA. That being said, there are 2 antioxidants that have shown some potential for improved performance.

N-accetyl-cysteine (NAC)-Until 1994, NAC was a prescription drug regulated by the FDA. It is now an over the counter drug used to treat acetominophen poisoning. NAC is a thiol compound and serves as a cysteine donor for the synthesis of glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant. Two studies, have shown a small but significant improvement in performance when taken prior to exercise. Data showed the biggest benefit with submax exercise as well. Reid, et al. J Clin Invest 94:2468-2474, 1994. There was an additional study done in the 2006 in the Journal of Physiology.

Quercetin- A flavonoid or plant pigment found in fruits, veggies, leaves and grains. There have been non exercise studies done showing benefits with asthma, cancer, inflammation and autoimmune diseases. On the exercise side of things, a meta analysis by Millard-Stafford at el. 2010 showed improved performance in humans. Nieman et al. 2010 also showed a small but significant improvement of 2.9% in humans.

There are no known values for taking either of these compounds, so I won’t list any. This is more for your benefit of knowing that these two are showing promise.

Reasons to Not Supplement with Antioxidants:

  1. Exercise increases skeletal muscle antioxidant capacity and protects itself from contraction induced oxidative injury.
  2. High levels of antioxidants can promote muscle contractile dysfunction
  3. Antioxidant supplementation could blunt the exercise induced training effect.

Both rodent and human studies have shown that endurance exercise rapidly increases the antioxidant capacity of muscle cells. After 5 consecutive bouts of exercise, that is enough to see an improvement in antioxidant enzyme capacity and protect the muscle. Powers and Jackson, Physiological Reviews, 2008. Coombes et al. 2001, showed that supplementation with Vit. E, impaired the muscle force production, meaning it produced a weaker contraction. Not a good thing for athletes.

Finally, multiple studies have shown that supplementing with antioxidants is counter productive to looking for the exercise induced adaptations from exercise. When we exercise, we create muscle inflammation and damage. As we recover we make ourselves stronger, faster, etc. If you were to blunt this effect, you would not see training adaptations. Gomez-Cabera Am J Clin Nutri. 2008.

You can see that there are reasons to supplement, and reasons not to supplement. The takeaway for you, is:

If you are eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and bright in color (berries, red peppers, tomatoes, etc), you are getting a healthy dose of antioxidants. If you are not, you should change how you are eating to incorporate these, and not take a supplement. As more and more research is done, we can watch and see what might be a good supplement to try in the future. But for now, just eat a healthy dose of fruits and veggies and save your money.

I thought I would include a recipe for a delicious fruit smoothie, rich in antioxidants. I love smoothies and routinely have them for breakfast. In honor of IM Lake Placid yesterday, I chose my LP finisher glass. Congrats to all the finishers, the weather was less than desirable, at least in the morning.

Berry Smoothie

Berry Smoothie

Berry Smoothie, for 1

  • 1 cup of fluid-I use water while I’m not exercising, but milk-soy, almond, skim is fine
  • 1 cup of plain non fat greek yogurt
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup of frozen berries
  • 1/2-1  tbsp ground chia seeds ( I just spoon some in)
  • 1/2 tbsp almond/peanut butter
  • extra ice if needed
  1. Place ingredients in the blender and blend for :30-60 depending on the power of your blender. Add extra ice if needed.

As an Athlete, Should You Take A Multi-Vitamin?

Today I’m posting my 50th blog post!!! I feel like I should be writing about something a bit more exciting than vitamins, but unfortunately, my life just isn’t that exciting right now. Get up, eat, shower, lay on the couch, do sports nutrition homework, crutch around the house…you get it. Not too exciting.

We’re working on a vitamin and mineral section and I thought today I would speak about vitamins and minerals. I recently spoke about iron, and today I want to touch on the B-vitamins, magnesium and zinc. As an endurance athlete, we use many things to help us achieve our goals. Whether that be, hiring a coach, eating better, using better equipment (a better more aero bike, an aero helmet) or taking a supplement. Vitamins and minerals can indeed be classified as supplements, however in a later post I’ll speak specifically about ergogenic aid supplements, which are a bit different.

Vitamins and minerals are classified as micronutrients, and must be ingested daily. Our body’s cannot produce them and they do not provide a direct source of energy like macronutrients do. Remember, macronutrients are carbohydrates, fats and protein. So the next time you hear someone say, take this vitamin supplement (usually a B vitamin), it will give you energy, it actually will not, as vitamins are not a source of energy.

Vitamins-organic substances made by plants and animals. There are fat-soluble vitamins (A,D,E and K) and there are water-soluble vitamins (C and the B vitamins). Vitamins are co-factors and are called helper molecules. They regulate metabolic reactions that release energy from food and enable all biological processes. An example of a helper molecule is Vit. D. It helps the body absorb the mineral calcium. This is why you often see milk fortified with Vit. D.

Minerals-inorganic elements that come from the soil and water and are eaten or absorbed by the plants and animals you eat. Some minerals include, iron, calcium, chromium, copper, selenium and zinc.  Minerals bind to proteins, and give it biological activity.

We need micronutrients in very small quantities. And what we don’t use, we excrete through our feces, urine, sweat, skin cell sloughing, menses and GI bleeding (lets hope not this one). One of my nutrition professors in undergraduate would always say multi-vitamins led to expense urine. And that for the most part holds true, even for athletes.

In the past 30 years, there have been multiple studies looking at whether or not athletes need vitamins and minerals in higher doses. Some studies show indeed, athletes do need to need higher intakes of vitamins and minerals, specifically the B vitamins. In addition, physical activity does increase the loss of micronutrietnts. That being said, as long as an athlete’s diet is sufficient, no extra supplementation is needed. Let’s look further.

The B Vitamins-B vitamins have an important role in the translation of energy from food to ATP. Carbohydrates require all the B vitamins to go through glycolysis and the TCA cycle. So, knowing that when you exercise, you need more ATP, we can say that the increased demands of energy from physical activity require adequate amounts of B vitamins to produce the needed ATP.

What would be adequate? Each of the B-vitamins is different in their RDA (recommended daily allowance). I’m not going to give you numbers as I’m sure they won’t mean much to you. That being said, athletes can consume double or triple the RDA and still be within the UL (upper limit) for safety. Most athletes are already doing that today, as B vitamins are seen in:

  • Beef
  • Shellfish/Fish
  • Fortified soy milk and other soy products
  • Fortified cereals and bread
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Fruit
  • Veggies

One area to be aware of is athletes that are on fad diets, or trying to consume low calorie diets. These diets often cut large chunks out of a normal diet (no bread, no dairy, no meat) and then leave the athlete susceptible to a deficiency. Deficiencies can be observed with blood tests and sweat analysis, however both tests have their challenges.

In addition to the B Vitamins, we also looked extensively at research on magnesium and zinc. Not one research article concluded that any amount above the RDA for magnesium and zinc was warranted for athletes. Once again, the only time this wouldn’t be accurate was for athletes not getting enough minerals through their diet.

Magnesium-a mineral important in muscle and nerve function, bone growth, heart rhythm, and our immune system. Foods high in magnesium include spinach, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, dairy, avocados and bananas

Zinc-a mineral important in muscle growth and immune function. Foods high in zinc include fish, beef, wheat germ, spinach, nuts and seeds, chocolate, fortified cereals, beans and pork/chicken. Zinc is also more readily absorbed from animal products.

To sum up:

  • Athletes do need more vitamins and minerals than the average person as they are losing more in sweat/urine and needing more in the production of ATP and other physiological functions
  • As long as athletes are consuming enough variety of foods and calories, they should be getting enough vitamins and minerals from their diet, and do not need an additional supplement. There has been really no conclusive data in the last 30 years that extra supplementation is important.
  • Blood tests and sweat tests can be done to determine an athletes plasma and serum concentrations of the vitamins and minerals. Before a blood test, athletes must not have been exercising for at least 8 hours.
  • An athlete needs to speak with their physician about getting a blood test, and the results of the blood test. They are the only one’s qualified to assist an athlete in this matter.
  • If you’d rather have expensive urine and take a multivitamin just in case, that is your choice but you should still speak with your physician first as there are toxic levels of vitamins and minerals. And personally when I’m in a heavy training load (15 hours+), I will usually take a vitamin/mineral supplement and take the expensive urine.



Roasted Beets, Carrots and Potatoes

Over the weekend, I was looking for an outing to go on, which would get me out of the house, give me a little exercise, but also not be too challenging on my hamstring. We have never been to the Baltimore Farmer’s Market and Bazar, and we have been missing a lot. What a wonderful market. There was literally anything we could have wanted. Fresh fruit, veggies, flowers, produce, eggs, seafood, milk, honey, and then food trucks and other vendors.


Baltimore Farmers Market

Baltimore Farmers Market

The wonderful thing about farmer’s markets is that you know the things you are getting are fresh from the farm, the field, the ocean, etc. Most prices rival those of the grocery store, but are often cheaper. The one place where prices were higher was the meat and eggs. I like to support local, plus I prefer meat and eggs where the chickens can be pastured. This means they live in an area, or pasture, where they have the free range to roam around the pasture. So in that case, paying a bit higher price is alright, at least with me. If you’re in Baltimore you should definitely stop by, and a bonus, the Charm City Circulator can get you almost there. Just take the purple route. If you need to drive, the parking lot adjacent to the market is free.

I know you’re thinking, beets, carrots and potatoes are root vegetables and typically a winter recipe. Yes, they are, but in this case, the beets, carrots and potatoes looked fantastic at the farmers market. Being on crutches, it’s kind of hard to cook. So, just chopping and placing in the oven is pretty simple. So save this till winter if you’d like to, but it’s pretty delicious. I also skipped a step on my feet (or foot) by not peeling the veggies. This was a first, but actually worked.

roasted beets

Roasted Beets, Carrots and Potatoes: 8 side dish servings

  • 1 bunch of beets, washed and chopped
  • 1 bunch of carrots, washed and chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes washed and chopped
  • 1 red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, thyme and garlic powder
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees
  2. Wash veggies, but don’t bother peeling them (except the onion), lets save some time and energy.
  3. Chop veggies into 1-2 inch pieces
  4. Spread veggies onto a cookie pan, and sprinkle with olive oil and spices. Mix gently
  5. Cook for 30-45, stirring occasionally until veggies are tender but not mushy


  • 189kcal
  • 30g carbohydrate
  • 7g fat
  • 4g protein
  • 5g fiber


Avocado Egg Salad, and the Benefits of Eggs

Today I am three weeks post hamstring surgery. On one  hand it feels like time has flown by. On the other hand, time has really dragged. The first two weeks were almost all excruciatingly painful. Now the pain has started to subside, however I still can’t put pressure on the right glute/leg. And according to the PT/surgeon, it might be another 1-5 weeks, or 4-8 weeks total before I can drive or go back to work full time. Which one???

At PT today we started passive range of motion exercises, meaning my PT can move my leg for me, in addition to isometric quad, adductor and abductor exercises. I just finished icing with my trusty ice machine. That thing is wonderful and I’m glad we opted to purchase it instead of renting it. I’m a bit concerned as I want to get back to work, however I’m not entirely sure when I can drive again. My hope was in another week or two. I don’t want to push things and cause  further injury, but I’ve never had to take time off from work either. I feel like I’m letting my stores and athletes down because I haven’t seen them. I’m sure they are just fine, but maybe missing their PowerBar goodies. I feel a bit guilty because I just have to sit during the day (well, really perch to the side) while my co-workers are hard at work. That being said, I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. I would gladly be working and running if I could.

Since I’m not able to do very much, preparing food is a bit difficult. When I got back from NY, Brett helped me clean out the fridge. Yes, he had left some things in there for the 2 weeks that I was gone, and they were pretty gross. Looking through it, I realized I had a dozen eggs that needed to be eaten. While I was in NY, my mom made me egg salad and it was delicious. So, I decided to make egg salad with avocado. It’s always good to sneak more healthy fat into your diet.

Before you say “wait, eggs have too much cholesterol,” yes, they do have cholesterol, but no they aren’t bad for you. Years ago it was believed that eggs cause high cholesterol because they contain cholesterol. It was proven that this isn’t the case after all, and in fact, they are quite good for you. Well, the caveat to that is, if you already have high cholesterol, or have diabetes, having more than a few eggs each week can be harmful, so talk to your doctor first. For those not in those categories, here are some good qualities about the “incredible, edible egg.”


  1. A great source of protein and can be called the perfect food/protein due to their amino acid profile-6g of protein per egg
  2. Contain numerous vitamins and minerals including Vit. A, Vit B(‘s), Phosphorus, Choline, Biotin Potassium and many others
  3. Only 70 kcal and 5g of fat per egg
  4. In 70% of people, eggs don’t raise cholesterol-talk to your doctor to see if you’re in the other 30%
  5. Eating eggs can increase your HDL, or good cholesterol
  6. Eggs contain lutein, which is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect your eyes
  7. Contain Omega-3 fatty acids-you can also buy the eggs that were raised on or fed additional omega-3 fatty acids-this reduces your risk for heart disease
  8. They are yummy and inexpensive

When looking at the egg aisle of the grocery store, there are a lot to choose from. White, brown, cage free, organic, Omega-3 fortified, free-range, pastured, conventional etc. The best eggs are the ones from your local farmer or your own backyard. But, if you aren’t in the position to have chickens or live near a farm, chosing the Omega-3 fortified is a good choice. I have heard some people say that even chickens that are cage free and free-range are kept inside away from the outside. I don’t have the evidence of this, but since we can’t buy our eggs from a farmer, I’ll choose the Omega-3 fortified.

With my 8 Omega-3 fortified eggs in my fridge, I made Avocado Egg Salad. The avocado makes the egg salad extra creamy. Still, I used just a bit of greek yogurt and mayo. My hunch is you could omit the mayo or even the yogurt all together. I wanted to keep it a bit truer to the real deal as I was too tired to have to make something else 🙂

Yes, this doesn't look that appealing, I know.

Yes, this doesn’t look that appealing, I know.

 Avocado Egg Salad: (Serves 4)

  • 8 eggs
  • 1 small, or 1/2 a large avocado mashed
  • 1/8 c of plain greek yogurt
  • 1/8 c of light mayo
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • spices to taste-I used salt, pepper and onion powder-just a few sprinkles of each
  1. Place the eggs in a saucepan and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to a boil and immediately remove from the heat.
  3. Cover and let the eggs stand in hot water for 10-12 minutes.
  4. Remove, peel and chop into a bowl
  5. Add the mashed avocado, yogurt, mayo, mustard and spices. Stir and serve on a bed of greens, a whole wheat wrap, whole grain bread or crackers.


  • 232kcal
  • 6g carbohydrate
  • 17g fat
  • 14g protein
  • 2g fiber

Nutrition with Whole Wheat Bread:

  • 385kcal
  • 31g carb
  • 19g fat
  • 23g protein

Iron and the Endurance Athlete…How Important?

I might be dating myself, but when I was growing up we heard about Popeye the Sailor Man cartoon. He loved spinach and after eating spinach his bicep (actually they might have been forearm) muscles would flex and bulge. People equated eating spinach, with getting stronger due to the high iron content. This is partially true. As a non-heme source of iron, spinach is a pretty good source. I’ll explain what a non-heme source is, but first is iron really that vital to endurance athletes?

Yes, iron is actually quite vital to us as athletes, especially those of us in the endurance world. 70% of our body’s iron stores are found in hemoglobin, which moves oxygen from the blood to our cells. 10% of our iron stores are found in myoglobin (in muscles), which moves oxygen into the mitochondria in cells. Iron is also responsible for erythropoiesis (the making of red blood cells), thyroid function, neural function and immune function. So, looking at those key words, oxygen, muscles, red blood cells and proper physiological function, I would say yes, as athletes, we need iron.

Unfortunately there haven’t really been any studies done specifically with athletes and iron deficiency, only the general population put on basic exercise protocols (5x week for 30min). That being said, the general population has about a 3% rate of iron deficiency while some studies would put adolescent females at 10% and males at 1%. Let’s look further:

Who Is Most Susceptible?:

  1. Endurance athletes
  2. Females
  3. Adolescents
  4. Vegetarians or Vegans, even greater if you add in endurance and female
  5. Blood donors
  6. Pregnant women
  7. People with GI disorders (parasites, ulcers), cancer, heart failure
  8. Not in our country (I hope), but developing countries with malnutrition

As a sports nutritionist, I mainly deal with only numbers 1-4, possibly 5 and 6. There are 3 stages of iron depletion and they are categorized by biochemical markers.

Stages of Iron Depletion:

  1. Mild deficiency/depleted iron stores
  2. Marginal deficiency/early functional iron deficiency
  3. Iron deficiency anemia

As you can guess, as you go from 1 to 3, things get worse. Iron depletion is a continual process going from stage 1, to 2 to finally full-blown anemia if measures aren’t taken to correct it. The most reliable marker for iron status is called serum ferritin. It is however susceptible to false positives. So, if you are going to get a blood test, or your child is going to get a blood test, make sure you aren’t sick, you are hydrated, you have not come from exercising and you haven’t had any alcohol before (especially for the children i hope). All of these can elevate your serum ferritin.

How does Iron Deficiency Affect Performance ?:

  • Impaired erythropoiesis (creation of red blood cells) and a drop in hemoglobin
  • Decreased aerobic and endurance capacity (Haas and Brownlie, 2001)
  • Disturbances in brain metabolism, muscle metabolism, immunity and temperature control (Reddy and Clarke, 2004)

One thing that Haas and Brownlie found was that the greater the degree of iron depletion, the greater the improvement in aerobic capacity when supplementing with iron.

Symptoms of Iron Deficiency:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Weakness
  3. Pale Skin
  4. Shortness of breath
  5. Itchiness or Tingling of the Skin
  6. Frequent Infections
  7. Unusual cravings for non food items


Is There a Sports Anemia?

No, there isn’t actually a sports anemia. Scientifically it’s called Dilutional Pseudoanaemia (DP). DP is caused by an increase in your blood volume after exercise, diluting the biomarkers of anemia. With DP, you have low iron status, but your body does not respond to iron supplements. This is vs normal anemia where you have low iron status, but your body does respond to supplements. In this case, doctors need to look at further factors than just bio markers in blood. Is the athlete pale, lethargic, have a compromised immune system, etc.

Causes of Anemia in Athletes?

  • Athletic training, iron loss and iron turnover
  • Diet-inadequate intake and absorbtion-espcially athletes on natural diets who are not eating foods fortified with iron (cereals or breads), vegetarians/vegans and those on fad diets
  • Chronic use of antacids or nsaids
  • Pregnancy
  • Medications
  • Parasites or infections-often seen international athletes

Iron comes in two forms, heme iron and on heme iron. Heme iron comes from animal meat/muscle and is readily absorbed by the body. Non-heme iron comes from plant sources and is not readily absorbed by the body. This is one of the reasons vegetarians/vegans are more susceptible to anemia. But there are ways to increase absorption of iron, and ways we actually inhibit absorption.

How to Increase absorption of Iron, specifically from Non-Heme sources:

  1. Eat a food rich in Vitamin C at the same time-this increases absorption 25%
  2. Eating fermented foods and some organic acids at the same time
  3. There has been a weaker, but still an association with eating foods rich in Vit. A and beta-carotene
  4. Combine a non-heme source with a heme source-this actually increases both absorption rates

What Inhibits Iron absorption:

  1. Phytate or phytic acid-this is found in grains, fruits and vegetables
  2. Tannic acids or flavonoids-tea, coffee, cocoa and red wine
  3. Calcium
  4. Antacids

So now you’re probably confused. If we don’t want to inhibit iron absorption, this would say to not eat healthy things like grains, fruit and veggies. Or drink tea, coffee, red wine or cocoa. That is definitely not the case. If you are in an iron deficient state, or worried about your iron status, eat something rich in vitamin c at the same time. So, for breakfast if you have some bran flakes with fruit, just have an orange or some OJ.

Recommended Amounts of Iron:

RDA for women: 18mg/day, vegetarian women: 33mg/day

RDA for men: 8mg/day, vegetarian men : 14mg/day- men have a higher toxicity rate


Some Good Sources of Iron:


  1. Organ meats-7.5mg
  2. Beef-4mg
  3. Oysters, clams- 4mg
  4. Dark meat turkey- 2.3
  5. Pork-1.5mg
  6. Chicken- 1.2


  1. Fortified oatmeal- 10mg
  2. Lentils- 6.6mg
  3. Kidney beans- 5.2mg
  4. Black beans- 3.6mg
  5. Spinach- 3.2mg
  6. Whole wheat bread- 2mg

So looking at this, it would seem non-heme would be the better choice as they are higher. But remember, non-heme aren’t as easily absorbed.

Can You Take In Too Much Iron?:

Yes, you can take in too much iron. It is rare, from food, but it can occur. It is also more likely in:

  • Using cast iron cookware
  • If you are an alcoholic- not conducive to good athletic performance
  • If you are blood doping- it might be conducive to good athletic performance, but highly illegal
  • A genetic disorder called haemochromatosis
  • Getting iron injections when they aren’t warranted


  1. Eat iron rich foods from both heme and non heme sources every day
  2. Eat foods high in phytic acid (grains, fruits and veggies) with sources of vitamin C
  3. Avoid tea, coffee, cocoa or wine when consuming non-heme foods
  4. If you are on a plant based diet, consuming legumes and foods with vitamin C and vitamin A can help
  5. If you are at risk for iron depletion, ask your doctor for a blood test
  6. Mild depletion of iron stores can reduce your aerobic capacity and endurance
  7. Recovery from iron deficient anemia takes several months-red blood cells turnover every 120 days.







Today I’m almost 2.5 weeks post surgery and well on my way to recovery. I’ve just made it home to Baltimore from staying with my parents in NY for the past 2 weeks. I’m very lucky to have a great family who drive down from NY to take me back up to NY to recover. I’ve been a challenge as I’ve needed help with everything. Showering, changing, putting my brace on, going up and down stairs, etc. Rogue really enjoyed her time in NY as well.  She loved the big grassy yard and chasing the bunnies in the yard.

Getting some sunshine with Rogue for the first time in 10 days post surgery

Getting some sunshine with Rogue for the first time in 10 days post surgery

And even though the weather was atrocious, I’m glad I got to see my dad and other VTP athletes race at Musselman. What a great race. There were torrential downpours, strong winds and we even heard of a tornado warning. Thankfully, I was under a shelter and could cheer and stay (mostly) dry.

Running on to get second in his AG with a 5:43 on a very tough day.

My dad at 13 miles running in to second in his AG with a 5:43 on a very tough day at Musselman 70.3.


Recovery has been very tough, and I’ve never relied on other people more. Well, yes, when I was a baby, but that was different. I’m independent and pride myself on my self-reliance and strength. It turns out asking for help requires strength too.

Today I went to my PT, Josh Billings at NRH rehab to check in. He’s a fantastic PT, patient, kind and knowledgable. He’s stuck with me for the last year and puts up with me, so he’s a good guy. He took off my bandage for the first time (I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to or not), and said everything looks good. Yes I have swelling and pain still, but the surgical area looks healthy. He also measured my quads to see if I’ve had any atrophy. Turns out, I don’t right now. My SI joint/hip girdle is very much out of alignment, but this is to be expected. I’ve only been using my left leg, been laying on my left side and not used my ride side in weeks.  6 weeks on crutches is what I’ve been told, and tomorrow I’ll find out the next step. Today was checking in with the PT, tomorrow is checking in with the surgeon.

If things hold their course, I’ll be able to do strength exercises in another 3-4 weeks. Yes, it seems like a long time, but patience is going to be key. Initially when the surgeon thought he could go in endoscopically, the recovery was 2-4 months. I couldn’t believe it, I could be running just a few months after surgery and after spending the past 2 years in my athletic purgatory. Since he opened me up, he says the recovery can be 4-6 months. I’m not in any hurry to get back to training, as I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure this out. Now that we know what was wrong, and we have fixed it, I’m not jeopardizing my body just to get back exercising. Yes, I certainly want to get back to training, and even just doing things again (it’s hard to ask for people to carry your food to you when you can’t) on my own. But, I’ll listen to my body, take one day at a time, and do everything I am supposed to. That might be wearing my brace and on crutches for the next month, or I might only have to go for the next two weeks, tomorrow I’ll know.

My best advice for you guys if you are considering surgery, think long-term about your recovery. Don’t just jump the gun and try to get back to things right away. Be conservative and listen to you body and your doctors. Just because you want to get back in the ring, think long-term. What’s going to be the best thing for your body. And when people give you a their sad face and exclaim they are so sad your season’s over, smile and say that’s alright, next year is going to be your year.

How to Keep Cool and Perform Well in the Summer Heat

Being laid up certainly has many disadvantages. One advantage that sticks out is that I’ll get to work a lot on my sports nutrition classes and keep up with my blog. With the recent heat and humidity increases all over the East Coast, athletes are begging for a break. In my athlete’s diaries I’ll read how a run pace has increased :30/mile or someone had to bag a bike as they couldn’t breathe the humidity was so great. These are all very typical of the summertime or of all the time if you live in the tropics.

Take a warm temp, but certainly not scorching temp of 75 degrees. At 20% humidity, it isn’t bad at all, at 70% humidity, it can feel like 90 degrees. So when going out for a workout, look at both the temperature and the humidity.

There are many different fields of study just in heat and body temperature regulation. I’m going to focus on 4 areas. Cooling before, cooling during, cooling after and fluid temperature/composition and how that relates to your performance and core body temp.

Pre-Exercise Cooling:

Pre-exercise cooling is the area that seems to have the most room to help us as athletes.

How: If you can pre-cool your body prior to exercise in a hot/humid environment, you’ll give yourself a larger window before you reach your critical limiting temperature (when you have to stop). So it’s a larger margin. They will also increase your stroke volume and decrease your heart rate.

Pre-exercise cooling modalities

  1. Cold air exposure- you’ll need to spend a minimum of 2 hours in a cold environment (think winter)
  2. Cold water exposure- you’ll need to spend a minimum of 1 hour in a cold water environment
  3. Cooling vest-you’ll need to wear a cooling vest (cold enough to be uncomfortable) prior to exercise

So, looking at those three choices, you’re probably like me and no thank you. All three of these modalities work, however they are impractical.

Drinking fluid prior:

This is a much more practical way of cooling your body prior to exercise. While drink temperature has no effect on skin temperature, drinking a cool (40 degree F) fluid will decrease your heart rate, and reduce other physiological strains that heat and humidity bring. A study done by Lee et al in 2008 actually showed that drinking cold fluids prior to exercise both reduced a person’s core body temperature and increased their endurance capacity once the exercise began. The increase was 23% improvement over a warm fluid.

During Exercise Cooling:

As it turns out, this was an interesting find. You know when you come upon an aid station and they hand you a cup of warm sports drink, you needn’t worry about anything other than the taste. The temperature of the fluid you ingest, doesn’t significantly effect your core body temp. One study showed a small increase in performance from drinking the cool fluid, however this could also be because it is more palatable, and they increased their performance by getting the needed calories, carbs and electrolytes.

Post Exercise Cooling:

If you drink a cold fluid vs a warm fluid post exercise, you’ll actually see a greater reduction in body temperature. There seems to be by a peripheral vascular constriction by drinking the cold fluid. So this is a good thing, and important. Especially if you are playing a sport like soccer where you come on and off the field getting short amounts of rest, swimmers between events and track athletes between events. The reason that drinking a cold fluid after reduces your body temp, while drinking it during exercise does not, is because at rest, you have a lower cardiac output and this reduces the time to equilibrium of body temperature.

Type of Fluid/Composition:

So now we know that drinking cold fluids before and after exercise will reduce your core body temperature. Also, they might potentially give a slight benefit during exercise. If we look at a fluid vs an ice slushy we see an even greater reduction in core body temperature.

  • Drinking an ice slushy will reduce your body temperature .7 degrees C vs fluid alone
  • Studies showed drinking an ice slushy before or during exercise will also increase your endurance capacity by 7-19%
  • An interesting fact found in one of the studies was that drinking a slushy will also help to keep your brain temperature down, or reduce your brain’s temperature.
  • Drinking an ice slushy 30min before exercise will reduce your core temperature, skin temperature, heart rate and will help to attenuate hyperthermia.
  • It may also be beneficial to drink an ice slushy post exercise to reduce your body temperature post exercise and decrease your recovery time
  • The only negative side effect of a slushy would be a brain freeze


In summary, it isn’t necessary to drink a cold fluid during exercise. It might be more palatable, but there is no need to worry if handed a warm drink. Here are some tips for better performance in the heat

1. Drink either a cold fluid or ice slushy 30 min prior to exercising in the heat. This will pre-cool your body and increase your endurance

2. Drink a slushy during exercise to try to reduce your core body temp. The studies didn’t specifically look at this, but when you’re in a IM or marathon, taking in ice chips or adding ice to your sports drink can help.

3. Post exercise, drink either a cold drink, or an ice slushy to reduce your core body temperature and increase recovery.

Stay cool out there!


It’s Recovery Time, Post Hamstring Surgery

Post surgery with my Rogue taking good care of me.

Post surgery with my Rhodesian Ridgeback Rogue taking good care of me.

Well, here I am 5 days post hamstring surgery. A surgery I wasn’t sure I would have, but I am so thankful for having it now. Even though I’m still in quite a bit of pain, I know the surgeon removed the scar tissue tethering the sciatic nerve to my hamstring and other additional  inflamed tissues (ischial tuberosity bursa). And that means that when I’m not in pain from the surgery, I’ll not be in pain from the damaged hamstring/nerve.

Surgery is often used as a last resort or used to remedy acute injuries. I belong in the first column, with injuries that won’t heal. Literally won’t heal, for months and years. My life has always been as an athlete, so for the past two years I’ve searched for the answer to my glute and hamstring pain, desperately trying to find relief, so I could once again be the athlete that I once was. If you had told me two years ago it would take 2 years to figure things out, I would have told you no way….praying that you were wrong. Only with a lot of prayers, doctors, patience from my husband and family, and money did we find the answers.

I won’t know for sure, but what I believe happened was this. I tore my hamstring while in a big cycling block, back in Oregon. Thinking it was a strain, I did the usual RICE and gradually returned to exercise. Moving across country, I had to wait 3 months for the insurance to kick in. So, months later, I was doing PT for the hamstring,  believing it was a  hamstring strain or high hamstring tendonopathy, they weren’t sure. After months of no answer, the sciatic nerve started to bother me while still dealing with the hamstring. I finally found the best physiatrist in the world, Dr. Victor Ibrahim in DC. He saw the tear, and we promptly did 4 PRP injections to heal the tear. This worked, however the scar tissue from the hamstring had tethered the nerve to the hamstring.  After several saline injections to release the hamstring from the nerve it seemed like we were back at square one. In all, before I met my surgeon, this is what we tried:

  • massage
  • foam rolling
  • acupuncture
  • physical therapy
  • cortisone injections
  • dry needling
  • ART
  • chiropractic care
  • ultrasound
  • Raiki
  • PRP injections
  • PRP with lysate
  • saline injections into the nerve


Then, I somehow stumbled across an article about a rare occurence in athletes called Proximal Hamstring Syndrome. Proximal hamstring syndrome is (I’m quoting from the British Journal of Sports Medicine) a gluteal sciatic pain in which posttraumatic or congenital hard fibrotic bands irritate sciatic nerve compressing it at the insertion site of hamstring muscles to ishcial tuberosity. That’s it exactly! So once I found that, Dr. Ibrahim agreed, a year and a half was long enough without an answer. He referred me to Dr. Andrew Wolff, a fantastic hip surgeon in DC. Dr. Wolff’s plan was to make the incision right under the glute cheek, remove the hamstring, release any damaged hamstring, release the sciatic nerve from the hamstring, remove the ischial tuberostiy bursa, then reattached the hamstring.

I’ve never had surgery before, and I was admittedly a little scared. Scared of the anesthesia, not waking up, something going wrong, specifically something like the sciatic nerve getting damaged or cut. And then the recovery. Since I’ve never had surgery and really couldn’t find a lot on hamstring surgery, I thought I would share my experiences in case others have to go down this same route. It might not be exactly the same, but it will give you an idea.

  • You’ll set the surgery date and get fitted for a leg brace (it looks like a knee brace)
  • The week of surgery you’ll speak with the hospital or surgery center, going over allergies, specifics for surgery and more. You won’t be allowed to take any anti-inflammatories this week, but nothing else too different
  • The morning of surgery, you’ll arrive 2 hours prior to surgery, You can not eat or drink anything for 12 hours before. Not even water, that was hard.
  • The nurse will come in, ask you your name and birthday. They will have you mark the leg you’re having surgery on, just to make sure they work on the correct leg. That’s happened too many times before I guess.
  • You’ll go to the bathroom and give a urine sample (if female/pregnancy), change into a gown, put a hair net on, have your blood pressure taken, EKG electrodes attached and an IV started.
  • The anesthesiologist and the nurse anesthetist will come in, go over your medical history, and tell you their game plan. I didn’t know until that morning that I would be intubated. That was a scary thought, but luckily I was out before they did that.
  • Then, your surgeon will come in, go over what will happen, ask you if you have any more questions and you’ll give your loved one a kiss and hug goodbye.
  • They’ll wheel you off and the next thing you’ll know is the surgery is over and you’re in the recovery room. You’ll be bandaged, have your leg brace on and have your portable ice machine on. For my surgery we could either rent one, or buy one for the same price. The one you buy is of lesser quality, but still good. The rental is called Game Day or something like that. It’s used by professionals and runs in the thousands. We purchased a Breg Kodiak ice machine for less than $200. It was the best money spent so far.
Recovering in the hospital, I don't know if I'd actually woken up yet.

Recovering in the hospital, I don’t know if I’d actually woken up yet.

  • After recovering for a bit, they’ll help you change and you’ll be wheeled to your car. At this point you’ll still be so high from anaesthesia that you won’t feel any pain. You’ll feel like you’ve been knocked out but most likely fall asleep for a good chunk of the day.
  • When the anaesthesia wears off, you’ll be in pain and for the next 6 weeks have to adjust to a life of sitting about, laying about, not putting weight on your leg, using crutches, etc. Hopefully it’s less than 6 weeks, although I know I’ll be using crutches and the brace that long.

Some things I didn’t know would happen:

  • You won’t want to eat for a few days. You could feel nauseous, you might vomit and you won’t be very thirsty.
  • You won’t be able to do things for yourself. You will have to rely on others for help for almost everything. At least for the first week or so. And for an independent person, this could be hard.
  • Even though you know your having surgery on your hamstring, and you know your hamstring attaches at your glute, you won’t think that you’ll have to be sitting on the same place that you had surgery. And it will hurt!
  • You won’t be able to sit on the toilet. I’m on day 5 and I still can’t. I can sit on the edge so my bad leg isn’t touching it at all, but no direct pressure, it’s too painful.
  • You’ll get frustrated when you can’t do simple things like reach for something, put shorts on, get into the shower, etc.
  • It will take you an hour to walk across your house, when you only go 30 ft.
  • You’ll get mad at your significant other or they will get mad at you when you’re in pain and they have to help you with something you think you can do, or they are trying to help you and get frustrated. Be patient with each other and thank them.

That’s all I can really think of now, maybe by week 2 things will be different. Hopefully only in positive ways. I spoke with my surgeon earlier, who if you need hamstring or hip surgery in the DC area, you should see him. He called me the same day as surgery, the day after surgery, I saw him 3 days after surgery and spoke again 5 days post surgery. And I am not a famous athlete or superstar in any way. He is awesome! I’m in quite a bit of pain, but it’s all normal, so let the healing begin.