Fuel Your Ride Right! Nutrition recommendations for Cheaha Challenge

The Cheaha Challehge is May 18-19, 2019! Register  HERE  and use code 19KAT at checkout to get $10 off your entry fee!

The Cheaha Challehge is May 18-19, 2019! Register HERE and use code 19KAT at checkout to get $10 off your entry fee!

Cheaha Challengers! Nutrition can make or break your day on the bike. Whatever distance you have chosen, you need to fuel properly. This article will help you dial in pre-, during-, and post-Cheaha Challenge nutrition so you have a successful ride, avoid bonking, upset stomach, or overloading on tasty snack at the rest stops.

More than a Ferrari

Maybe you’ve heard the analogy that your body is Ferrari and your Ferrari runs best on Premium fuel. While there is some truth to this, you are much more than a fancy, fast, expensive machine and food is much more than fuel for your body.

Food does provide energy or calories. More specifically, food contains chemical bonds that, when broken, are used to produce ATP (energy). Food also supplies your body with essential nutrients that are necessary for muscle contraction, grown and repair, regulating blood pressure, bone integrity, and other cellular processed necessary for health and sustaining life. Quality matters because, as an endurance athlete, you need food with nutrients for performance and recovery along with your other daily activities.

There are 2 sources of fuel in your body for exercise:

  1. Carbohydrates. We will refer to carbs as glycogen, the storage form of carbs in the body. There is approximately 500 grams (or 2000 Calories) of glycogen in the body located in located in blood, liver, and muscle.

  2. Fat Fat, located in muscle cells and fat tissue, is virtually an unlimited source of energy with even lean individuals having 9,000+ grams (or 80,000+ calories).


You have LIMITED energy from glycogen but UNLIMITED energy from fat.

Energy Systems

Now that you know you are more than a Ferrari and food is more than fuel, let’s talk about how your body uses food to make energy. This is crucial info for designing your Cheaha Nutrition Plan.

Your body runs on a molecule called Adenosine Triphosphate, or ATP for short. ATP is the currency of energy in the body is. Every movement, from the long stretch when you wake up to climbing Cheaha Mountain, requires ATP. There are 3 systems by which the body make ATP, or energy for movement listed in the table below. All 3 systems are in play at any given time, however the primary system used depends on the intensity and duration of movement.

The table below lists the energy systems. The immediate energy system provides a short burst of explosive energy. The Short-Term Energy System, also known as Glycolysis, is your 1-3 minutes all-out effort. Glycogen is the only fuel source for this system and ATP is produced in the absence of oxygen. Lastly, there is Long-Term Energy System, or aerobic oxidation, which supplies long-term energy using both glycogen and fat. ATP is made in the presence of oxygen.


The primary energy system at play during your Cheaha Challenge ride with be the Long-Term Energy System and you will use a mix of fat and glycogen. You will tap into Glycolysis at times (powering over Oh Shift! or the top of Cheaha Mountain) but your legs will start to burn, heart rate increase, and you might start really gasping for air and must slow down.


Tips for Creating Your Cheaha Challenge Nutrition Plan

Race-day nutrition is personal and something you must figure out based on your likes, digestion, and needs. Below are some recommendations. Most importantly, keep it simple and have a plan before May 19th so you can test and tweak if needed.

Here are the facts to consider: you will be on the bike for 2-8 or more hours and will burn a mix of fat and carbs. You have a limited amount of carbs in your body so you must eat carbs during your ride to prevent bonking. There will be plenty of rest stops along the way stocked with great snacks, but consider bringing a few things you know work for you. Here are a few tips to help you fuel for your Cheaha Challenge!

1. Nothing new on race day

No new foods or eating routines on the day of the event. You don’t want to risk indigestion or eating too much or too little. Dial it in before the big day. If you don’t have a plan yet, come up with a plan for your rides this weekend and try it out. Check out the recommendations below if you need help on where to start.

2. Crafty Carbo-Loading

Carbo-loading is a bit of a myth. There is no need to stuff down pasta, bread, and chocolate cake the night before. The truth is, your body can only store about 500 grams of glycogen (remember the estimated energy stores above).

A quick strategy for topping off your glycogen stores is to do a short “openers” workout on Saturday May 18 then eat a serving of carbs after. This is a 1-1.5 hour workout on the bike where you do a few hard 2-5 minute efforts. This primes the muscle to replenish what you have just depleted. Within an hour of completing the ride, consume a recovery drink or meal with a serving of carbs. This tops off your muscle glycogen as well as opens the legs so you can crush the Cheaha Challenge on Sunday.

Openers might look something like this: 1-1 ½ hour ride (threshold is the maximum intensity you can hold for about 20 minutes)

  • 20 minute easy riding warm up

  • 5 minute tempo – 70-80% threshold

  • 5 minutes easy riding

  • 5 minutes sub threshold – 80-90% threshold

  • 5 minutes easy

  • 2 minutes threshold - 100% threshold

  • 2 minutes easy

  • 2 minutes threshold – 100% threshold

  • 20-30 minutes easy. Do a few all out 20-30 second sprints or spin ups.

3. Pre-Cheaha Dinner

Nothing special or out of ordinary the night before the big day. Have a balanced, healthy meal with high quality protein, fat, vegetables, and starch. For example, 6-8oz salmon, steak, or chicken, 1-2 cups of roasted vegetables, and a side of rice or sweet potato. Women have portions on the lower end and men, have portions on the higher end.

  • Pay particular attention to hydration, especially on hot and humid days.

  • Avoid eating too late. Eating late might reduce sleep quality.

  • No need to “carb load.” Have one serving of carbohydrates, such as pasta, rice, fruit, or potatoes.

  • Avoid heavy and hard to digest red meat. Choose lighter proteins such as chicken or fish. A quality steak even.

  • Avoid highly spiced food.

  • A glass of wine or a pint of beer won’t be detrimental to your performance and, if you are nervous, it can help you to relax, but just stick to the one.

4. Breakfast

Breakfast option: 2 boiled eggs, 1/2 an avocado, 1 tomato, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Breakfast option: 2 boiled eggs, 1/2 an avocado, 1 tomato, with a drizzle of olive oil and salt and pepper.

Breakfast comes down to personal preference. A meal 2-3 hours before the start of the ride might be ideal for you. If you are planning on a slow pace from the start, you might try eating 1 hour before start. Limit fiber and fat intake for breakfast. Oats, eggs, fruit, and/or rice are great, all-natural options that most people find to be easy on the stomach. Here are a few suggestions:

  • 2 eggs with a slice of avocado and 1 cup fruit

  • 2 eggs with 1 cup of oatmeal and fruit

  • Avocado toast with a cup of fruit or an egg

  • Small turkey patty with rice

5. During-Ride Nutrition

For rides longer than 2 hours, you need to eat and drink. Researchers recommend 30-60 grams of carbs each hour. Your body will struggle to process more than 60g per hour because the average person can process only about one gram of carbohydrate per minute, no matter how much is consumed. The limiting factor isn’t your muscles, though, it’s your intestines. Carbs from food can only be transported into your bloodstream from your intestines so fast. Dumping more carbohydrate into your gut will increase the absorption rate, but it can increase your chances of an upset stomach.

Eat real food earlier on in a ride and then switch to gels the last 1-2 hours, when you might not be able to stomach real food and need quick energy (Cheaha 100 and Ultra riders!). Drink water along with any foods you consume which will help with digestion and absorption while preventing bloating or indigestion.

Below are options to consume each hour.

First 1-5+ hours:

FastKat Bars are real food to fuel your ride! Just 5 ingredients, tasty, and easy to eat on the bike. Get you some  HERE!

FastKat Bars are real food to fuel your ride! Just 5 ingredients, tasty, and easy to eat on the bike. Get you some HERE!

  • 1 FastKat Bar = 25g of carbs

  • 2-5 fig bars (12 g of carbs each) = 24-60 g

  • ½ -1 Cliff Bar (40g of carbs) = 20-40g

  • Nut butter packet

  • Banana = 25g carbs

  • Waffle or rice cake = 20g carbs

Last 1-2 hours:

  • 1-2 gels (22 g of carbohydrates each) = 22-44 g – Last 1-2 hours

  • Maple syrup

  • Blocks (or other gummies)

  • Dried fruit

6. Navigating Rest Stops

There is a rest stop about every 10 miles during the Cheaha Challenge. Though tempting, you don’t need to stop and eat at every one. The volunteer won’t be upset, I promise! Too many cookies or other yummy snacks will overload your system causing stomach issues, fatigue, and an overall bad experience. Be smart, keep it simple, and don’t try anything new.

7. Hydration

When thinking nutrition on the bike, separate solid food and fluids. This keeps it simple.

Hydration is another individual aspect of performance to dial in. A sweat test may be helpful in determining how much water and sport drink to have each hour. In general, start with water the first hour then add in sport drink as the ride progresses to replenish electrolytes and add simple sugar. Drinking 500 ml of typical sport drink will give you around 36 g of carbohydrate, as well as essential electrolytes.


A general guideline is to consume 500ml of fluid per hour. Some find it helpful to set a timer as a reminder to drink every 15 minutes or so. On hot and humid days, this might be a great plan. If you are running low, no worries. There are plenty of rest stations with water and sport drink along the way.

Another thing to consider is terrain. Sipping on your water bottle while climbing or descending Cheaha Mountain is tough. Breathing rate is high and you need your hands on the handle bars. Remember to take a few sips before you start ascending or descending.

8. Post-Cheaha Nutrition

After completing your 40, 60, 80, 100, or 124 mi ride, make sure to eat! A recovery shake, for example, is specifically designed to replenish glycogen and provide protein to start the recovery and rebuilding process. A much cheaper and arguably equally effective option is chocolate milk. These options are great for enhancing recovery if you plan to ride Monday or Tuesday after the Cheaha Challenge.

Otherwise, forget about nutrition and CELEBRATE! Have a beer, hang out, and enjoy the food! Your body will absorb what it needs and replenish what you have depleted over the next 24-48 hours.

5 Training Tips to Riding Your Best Gran Fondo Yet  

Cheah Challenge 2019 is May 19th! Register  HERE  and use cade 19Kat for $10 off your entry free.

Cheah Challenge 2019 is May 19th! Register HERE and use cade 19Kat for $10 off your entry free.

Gran fondo is an Italian term loosely translating to “big ride.” That is exactly what a Gran Fondo is, a group ride on steroids with hundreds or thousands of riders of all abilities. The ride usually features a scenic, sometimes mountainous course with various distances to choose, aid stations with cheering volunteers stocked with snacks to fuel your ride (bacon tomato sandwiches down south in Alabama), SAG support in case you have a flat tire or mechanical issue, and most importantly an exciting atmosphere and post ride beer and live music.

Gran Fondos have taken the cycling scene by storm. Complete your longest or fastest ride, PR a timed segment, win the race, or just enjoy a ride with friends for fun or for a cause. The Gran Fondo is for anyone and everyone. This article covers training secrets you need to know to ride your best Fondo yet.

1.    Create a training schedule that works for you

Let’s face it, most of us are not getting paid to ride our bike. You don’t have 5-6 hours every day to train, so you must make the most out of the time you do have in the saddle.

First, sit down and consider a training schedule that works for you. For example, maybe you have 1.5 hours Tuesdays and Thursdays after work to ride, 3 hours Saturday morning, and 2 hours Sunday afternoon. This gives you 8 hours devoted to riding your best Gran Fondo. Let’s maximize this time.

  • Tuesday you might participate in the hard group ride, push yourself on the timed segments, really make yourself work. Feel the burn in your legs!

  • Thursdays you might do some hill repeats or 3-12 minute intervals at threshold power or heart rate. In the 1.5 hours of riding you do, make 20-50 minutes of it hard. Again, dig deep when doing these intervals. Make it hurt!

  • On the weekends, get in your long, steady riding. These are your 3+ hour fun rides with friends.

If you have the occasional Friday off, take advantage and get in an extra day of riding so you end up with a nice 4-day block of training. If you can fit this in every 5-6 weeks, go for it! This will give you a nice boost in fitness leading up to your event.  

Simple structure to your week provides a balance of hard training during the week and easy, long rides targeting the aerobic system on the weekends. If you are just starting out, progressive increase training intensity and duration over time.

2.    Train to go the distance

You must be able to go the distance, and you totally can! Don’t rely on event-day-motivation to carry you to the finish line. Training to go the distance, or aerobic endurance training, is simply time on the bike.  Do the distance in training, so you are confident on the big day.

cheaha mountain.jpg

The goal of endurance training is to improve your aerobic capacity, or VO2max. VO2max is defined as the volume of oxygen used to produce energy at maximal aerobic effort. Aerobic capacity is your ticket to the show. It is the heart of cycling success. Endurance training conditions your cardiovascular and respiratory systems to improve the ability of your body to transport oxygen to working muscles and your working muscles to improve their ability to use that oxygen to make energy. In other words, with endurance training, you will be able to produce more energy and have greater potential to go fast for a long time.

Do 1-2 long rides a week (3+ hours). For example, join the long group ride on the weekend. Make sure the pace is mostly moderate. Another options, ride to a group ride, do the group ride, and ride home.  

Occasional moderate-hard efforts are great to incorporate. Say, take some long pulls on the front then recover at tempo (conversational) pace in the pack. If riding solo, ratchet up your effort a little for 10-20 minutes each hour, then reduce to a steady, enjoyable pace.

If you’re a number’s person and use a power, determine your FTP (Functional Threshold Power), then  go out on your long endurance rides at 55-75% of FTP. If you use heart rate, ride at 65-75% of your threshold heart rate if you use a heart rate monitor. Increase your effort to 90% of FTP or heart rate threshold for 10-20 minutes each hour to get that added boost.

3.    High intensity training


Intervals! But why though?

These short, misery-inducing efforts offer a HUGE fitness return for comparatively little time investment. Seriously, get fast in just 75-minute interval workouts!

Intervals are simply going hard for a period of time followed by going easy and repeating as the workout designates. Research has shown that just 2 weeks of interval training increases VO2max, enhances fat burn, and improve performance. Make sure to get in a good warm up, then fully commit to each interval. Stay focused on the goal and make it hurt! Be careful not to over-do it. You only need 2-3 interval workouts a week.

One way to incorporate intervals is to join and hard group ride during the week. Try to ride with the fast group, dig deep during the attack zones, and crush it up the hills. Then recover in the pack. Or, mix it up and do one of the following workouts:

  • Threshold intervals – threshold is the intensity you can sustain for 1 hour. These are hard and take focus, but are not all-out efforts. Start with 4X6 minute intervals, adding 2 minutes each week until 12 minutes.

  • Tabata intervals – for 8 minutes ride as hard as you can for 20 seconds, recover for 10 seconds, then repeat until 8 minutes is over. Rest 6-10 minutes, then repeat.

  • Hill repeats – find a 2-3 minutes hill and ride as hard as you can to the top. Coast down and repeat 5-8 times.

  • 1 x 1 intervals – 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy. Do this 3 times then recover for 5 minutes. Do this 3-5 times.

4.    Master group riding


 A gran fondo is basically a large group ride. It is much more fun and energy saving to ride a gran fondo with a group than solo. Riding in a group give you an opportunity to draft off the rider in front of you. In the draft, the rider in the front is taking the brunt of the wind, so you are not having to exert as much effort to move at the same pace. You get to recover, save energy, and complete the ride faster than if you were riding in the wind by yourself. When it is your turn to take a pull on the front of the group, keep the pace steady. Ride on front for a few minutes or rotate through without staying on the front if you are struggling.

Get comfortable riding in a group. Learn how to draft, learn the lingo, hand signals, the paceline, and etiquette. Join 1-2 groups rides a week. Ask others at the group rides for tips on group riding. You will not only gain fitness and group ride skills but also meet great people.

5.    Nutrition

SNACKS! How much and what to eat during your Gran Fondo? Nutrition is a whole topic in itself, however, you want to train with the nutrition you will use on event day. Never try something new the day of an event.

There are 3 types of event-day nutrition to dial in for your big day: pre-, during-, and post-ride nutrition. Most Gran Fondos are 3+ hours, they are on the weekend, and start in the morning. Plan your dinner the night before, breakfast day of, during-event fueling, and post-event refueling. Use your long weekend rides to train nutrition for your event. As always, natural and non-processed foods are best.

Pre-ride: The night before your event, have a nice meal of protein, fat, and carbs. For example, salmon with roasted vegetables and a cup of rice. Avoid highly processed foods and foods that cause indigestion, eat at a reasonable time not too late, drink plenty of water, and limit yourself to 1 alcoholic beverage.

On the morning of your event, have a meal with carbs, protein, and minimal fat and fiber. Oatmeal and fruit with 2 eggs or a banana with nut butter and cup of rice. Find what works for you and eat that before your long ride on Saturday. Get used to it.

During-event nutrition You will need fats and sugar during your event. Eat every hour, starting with substantial fuel such as a FastKat Bar, nut butter packet, or rice cake (Skratch Labs has great recipes). As the ride progresses, you will need more simple sugars as the body will not be able to digest, absorb, and use fats and complex carbs as well. Dried fruit is a great source of natural sugar or Blocks, GU, and gels will do the job. Keep in mind, though, that your gut is not keen on gels. One or 2 gels as last resort fuel in the last hour or 2 is all you really should use. Prevent race gut!

Post-event Eat carbs and protein within the first 2 hours after your event, such as a recovery drink or chocolate milk, or grab a plate and have a post-event meal. If a beer or 2 appears in your hand, by all means CELEBRATE!

Want more? Contact us about cycling coaching. Dr. Kat Sweatt is a certified cycling coach and uses the latest science and technology to make your best even better. Coaching is for anyone and everyone. It is personalized training plans and a partnership so you achieve your goals and have fun!

Truth about human nutrition. 3 things you NEED from food

 Nutrition advice is everywhere. It is conflicting and so confusing. What should you eat?

The answer is simple. There are 3 things all humans need from food. If you structure your diet around meeting these 3 basic needs then your goals of shredding fat, gaining muscle, preventing/treating metabolic disease, and/or just being healthy are likely byproducts.

So, clean your nutrition knowledge slate and let’s start with the basic truths about human nutrition. It is simple, but it’s not always easy. This article presents the facts. Learn them, because what you know about nutrition is the foundation on which to base your nutrition choices. Arm yourself with sound nutrition knowledge.

This what you need to know:

Humans NEED 3 things from food - called Essential Nutrients. They are essential because the body does not make them. We must obtain them from food. Essential nutrients are necessary for sustaining life functions such as growth and development, cognition, and energy production.

They include:

  1. Essential vitamins and minerals

    Vitamins and minerals are involved in hundreds of functions in the body. For example, they are crucial to bone health, healing wounds, and bolster your immune system, converting food into energy, and repair cellular damage. There are 21 essential vitamins and minerals listed in the table to the right. They found in a wide variety of foods: fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy, eggs, nuts, and seeds. Vegans and vegetarians should consider a B-complex supplement as B12 and other B vitamins are found in animal products.

  2. Essential amino acids

    Amino acids are the backbone of proteins. This means that in the chemical makeup of protein, amino acids are vital. Proteins are molecules in every cell of the body and are necessary for proper cellular function, rebuilding, strengthening, and repair within the body. Since amino acids are the backbone of the protein molecules, they are crucial to the production and function of proteins in the body. There are 9 essential amino acids - histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine.

    When it comes to meeting amino acid needs, think in terms of protein. Animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs as well as quinoa and soybeans are the richest source of protein because they are complete proteins. They contain all essential amino acids. Other food sources such as vegetables, peas, beans, and grains contain at least one essential amino acid but not all, therefore are incomplete proteins. These foods must be paired with another amino acid source to produce a complete protein (red beans and rice, bread and peanut butter), aka complementary proteins.

  3. Essential fatty acids

    That’s right, fat is essential for life. No only does fat add flavor to foods, it is a necessity for survival. There are different types of fat – saturated fat, unsaturated fat, trans fat to name a few. There are only two essential fatty acids: omega-3 (linoleic acid) and omega-6 (alpha-lenolenic acid). These are unsaturated fats.

    Sources of omega-3 fatty acids include seeds (e.g. flax, chia and hemp), walnuts, and oily fishes such as herring, salmon, mackerel and trout. Sources of omega-6 polyunsaturated fats include most plant oils (e.g. soybean, sunflower, safflower), seeds, nuts, grains and non-hydrogenated soft margarines.

    Both omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential to numerous functions in the body, however they do not have the same effects. Omega-6s are believed to be proinflammatory while omega-3s anti-inflammatory, both crucial to the immune system. However, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids compete for metabolism in the body. Too much omega-6 negates the effects of omega-3. Most Americans consume too much omega-6, which thought to trump the effects of omega-3s leading to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and other metabolic diseases.

The bottom line for essential fatty acids:

  • Avoid vegetable oils high in omega-6 (and the processed foods that contain them).

  • Eat plenty of omega-3 rich animals, including something from the sea at least once or twice a week.

  • If needed, supplement with an omega-3 source like fish oil.

What to do with this information?

Structure your diet around meeting these 3 basic needs.

meal formula.jpg

Think in terms of macronutrients – protein, fat, and carbohydrates (actually vegetables and starch).

Protein: Consume 20-25% of your daily calorie intake from protein. This is approximately 90-120g for women and 110-175 for men per day (higher end if you are highly active, lower end if you are sedentary and wanting to lose weight). This 4-8oz (weighted raw) meat per meal if you eat 3 meals a day. Get as  much of your protein from pure sources such as grass-fed meats, fish, eggs, and quinoa.

 Fats: have 1-2 servings per meal. The best way to get healthy fats is to cook vegetables in butter, olive oil, or coconut oil, eat fatty fish a few times a week, and snack on nuts and seeds. Focus on getting most of your fats from sources high in omega-3 fatty acids such listed in the previous sentence. Take a fish oil supplement if you are concerned about your omega-3 consumption.

Vegetables. Have vegetables at every meal. Cook them, eat them raw, however you like them. Vegetables are packed with essential nutrients, fiber, and add volume (not calories) to your meal.

Starch. This includes foods higher in carbohydrates: fruits, starchy vegetables such as potatoes and butternut squash, grains such rice, pasta, bread, and processed foods such as pop tarts, cereal, cake, and cookies. Eat starches before/during/after exercise and choose real food sources of starch such as fruits and vegetable sources.

One meal at a time

Design your plate like the pie chart below. Choose from the foods listed or branch out and find other non-processed sources of protein, fat, vegetables, and starch. Bottom line, find healthy meals you love, are easy make or access and go by the formula below. This will allow you to develop consistent healthy habits.


Simple Cooking Formula

Check out the simple cooking formula for quick and easy meals!



Keep it simple and results will come! Send us a message to dial in a meal plan or forget cooking and let us do it for you! Click the link below to send your comments, questions, or get on the FastKat Meal list.

Recipe of the Week: Sweet Potato Banana Waffles

This week’s recipe of the week is Sweet Potato Banana Waffles. Just 6 ingredients. No grains. No gluten. No processed foods or preservatives. Great for breakfast, snack, or fuel for your endurance adventure.


I used to really struggle with what to eat on a long bike ride. Foods high in sugar, preservatives, and/or highly processed ingredients kill my stomach. So, I began experimenting with real-food snacks I could carry with me. The waffles are a tasty snack and excellent fuel! If you are looking for an all-natural, whole-foods snack or endurance sport fuel, this recipe is for you.

Waffles are easy to carry with you and easy to eat on a bike ride. They will not melt or get mushy. They go down easy and without needing to drink a bottle of water. They are tasty but do not leave a bad taste in your mouth.

When fueling for an endurance event lasting more than 1.5 hours, have 1-2 waffles per hour. Before incorporating waffles, or any new foods into race day, try during training. Note how you feel, digestive issues, energy or lack there of. The more information you have, the better you can design fueling for your main event!

Sweet Potato Banana Waffles


Makes 3 large waffles


  • 1 cup sweet potato, cut into large pieces (27g carb)

  • 1 medium ripe banana (27g carb)

  • 2 eggs

  • 1 tbsp butter (coconut oil or

  • 1 tsp cinnamon

  • Dash of salt


  1. Cook the sweet potato until soft (boil or microwave)

  2. Place all ingredients in a boil and blend.

  3. Pour ½ cup on waffle maker and cook to your liking.

  4. Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts:

Serving size 1 waffle

140 kcals / 4.7g protein / 17g carbs / 6g fat


Bacteria and your gut: Do probiotics and prebiotics help?

What about probiotics and prebiotics? These are HOT in health and wellness at the moment. They come in the form of expensive powders, pills, and beverages as well as vegetables, yogurt, and tasty kimchi among others. However, like most health products, there is more to the story, especially when it comes to probiotics and prebiotics.

This article provides evidence-based information about pre- and probiotics so you can make informed decisions.

Before we dive into what pre-and probiotics are, here is a little background information. Did you know that your body is home to trillions of bugs? Thousands of species of bugs, or microorganisms, live on your skin, in your gut, and just about all parts of your body. The bugs include bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses. Collectively, these bugs are called the microbiome, and you would not exist without it.

The cool thing is that, like DNA, no 2 people have the same microbiome. The composition of the bugs that live on your body is unique to you. Bugs started living on you the second you entered this world through the birth canal and by drinking breast milk or formula. ALthough initially, your microbiome comes from your mother, your environment and diet affect the composition of your microbiome later on.

gut microbiome.jpg

The gut inhabits its own microbiome called the gut microbiome. Humans have over 1000 different species of bacteria in the gut, mostly belonging to one of 2 bacteria families, the Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes families. There are tens of billions of bacteria living in the human colon alone. That is 10 times the number of cells that make up the human body. Even in seemingly healthy people, researchers have found that the gut microbiome is quite diverse.

Simply put, we are a sack of cells and bacteria that eat, poop, and have sex.  

So how do the bugs in your gut affect you? They are crucial to digestion and acquiring nutrients from foods you eat. For example, you cannot digest some of the food you eat, however the bugs can, like components of vegetables such as lettuce and onion. Fiber is a critical component in the human diet, but some of the fiber eaten is only digested by the gut bugs. In fact, they thrive on it and in turn, release compounds called short chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA are a great energy source for the cells of your intestines, improve gut health, and may even prevent tumor growth.

Whether you know it or not, you have a very intimate relationship with the bugs that live on and in you. You must be a good host. Like leaving a mint on their pillow, you must feed them high quality, nutritious food and, in turn, you will attract only the best kind of bugs that will provide you with all the nutrients you need for a healthy gut, heart, liver, brain and immune system. In other words, what you eat matters!

Prebiotics and Probiotics

That’s right…what you eat matters, especially when it comes to the bugs that live in your gut. These bugs have the power to greatly affect your health and wellbeing. Prebiotics and probiotics are two components that promote healthy gut bugs and their functions.

probiotic cartoon.jpeg

Probiotics are bacteria in foods and supplements that are alive. These bacteria are naturally created by the process of fermentation in foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, miso soup, and kimchi. While you already have live bacteria in your gut, consuming a probiotic may improve the gut bacteria composition by increasing the amount of the good bacteria. Research has shown that probiotics may help repopulate the colon with healthy gut bugs after antibiotic (which wipe out the gut microbiome), improve symptoms of Irrital Bowel Syndrome and other gastrointestinal disorders, and may even be beneficial to treatment of obesity, type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

However, there are a few things to know about probiotics before you buy the expensive supplements or stock up on yogurt. Probiotics are only effective if they are alive. In fact, probiotics are fragile and can be killed by heat, stomach acid, and sitting too long on the shelf at the grocery store. Additionally, there are hundreds of probiotic species, however the best species for the average person is still unknown. Once ingested, probiotics must compete with hundreds of thousands of other bacteria in the gut to survive and flourish.


Prebiotics are food for the bacteria in the gut. They are non-digestible fibers in food that you eat that pass through the stomach and small intestine undigested. The bacteria in the colon ferment these fibers and use them for energy. These fibers area found in food like bananas, onions, skin of apples, beans, and many others. *Notice these are non-processed foods 😉. Prebiotics are FIBERS* that provide food for the good kind of gut bugs causing them grow in number, improve your health, and reduce risk of disease.

*Fiber is a crucial part of the human diet and most Americans do not consume enough. The recommended daily intake of fiber is 25g/say from food. However, this number is extremely low. Increase your fiber intake through having a serving of vegetables at every meal. This is ideal food for the good bacteria that inhabits your gut!

You can think of probiotics as the seeds of a garden and the prebiotics as the fertilizer that help the seeds grow and flourish.Unlike probitioics, prebiotics are not affected by heat, stomach acid, or time and studies have shown that prebiotics may help improve immunity, digestive health, bone density, weight management, and brain health

While there are many prebiotic pills and supplements, there is one simple thing to know about prebiotics; they are easily acquired. Just eat your fruits and veggies!

Should you consume probiotics?

While probiotics may exist in many tasty foods, the true effect on health (if any) is not fully understood. Buying expensive supplements may not be worth it. Spend your money on food sources of probiotics such as kimchi and sauerkraut. If you love yogurt, stick with plain Greek yogurt. Many other yogurts are loaded with added sugar and artificial flavors. However, if you have undergone a round of antibiotics, a probiotic may help repopulate your gut with goods bugs. As always, consult a gastroenterologist before trying something too crazy.

Should you consume prebiotics?

Simple. YES! Prebiotics are easily acquired through eating a healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits. Increase your daily fiber intake by incorporating a serving of vegetables in every meal.

Move more, gym less?

As you know, proper nutrition and exercise are important to health and wellbeing. It is important to nourish your body and exercise daily. The two truly go hand in hand – from losing fat and building muscle, to the complex cellular level where your body uses food to make energy for movement.

If it sounds like a tall order to increase exercise and improve nutrition, you can stop stressing. There are several ways to increase your daily activity and incorporate nourishing foods into your daily life.

In the motivating article below titled, Humans, Made to Move, Dr. David Katz discusses how “sitting is the new smoking” and how more daily movements, not necessarily exercise, can improve your health. 

Humans, Made to Move It

You might be wondering where nutrition comes in to play in this discussion. First, the more you move, the more energy you expend, thus, you increase your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). Expending more energy than you consume can help with weight loss.

Second, and more complex, moving more improves your metabolism (or, what your body does with what you eat). This occurs at the cellular level. Increasing movement, also referred to as physical activity, increases the demand for energy in muscle tissue and other tissues and organs throughout the body. Your cells must provide that energy; therefore, they adjust and adapt to meet the increased energy demand.

Adaptations to physical activity include:

  • Increased mitochondria in the cells to provide energy from fat stores

  • Increased glucose receptors on cell membrane to facilitate glucose uptake

  • Increased capillary density to supply blood and oxygen to muscles

  • Increased activation of neuromuscular units that result in increased muscle strength and power

  • Decreased resting heart rate and blood pressure

From a nutritional standpoint, your body becomes better at using the food you eat and have stored to make energy. This is referred to as metabolic flexibility. For example, someone who uses a stand-up desk most of the day, takes the stairs, and walks around the office a few times in the morning and afternoon is more metabolically flexible than someone who sits at their desk for 8 hours a day. The active person expends more energy and makes energy from the food they eat and have stored better than the sedentary person because they have trained their body to do so. This is likely reflected in their health markers such as blood pressure and lipid profile.

Ways to increase movement or physical activity throughout the day include:

  • Take the stairs

  • Using a standing desk

  • Sit on a stability ball instead of an office chair

  • Take a walk after lunch

  • Walk while you meet with a co-worker

  • Stretch for 5 minutes a few times throughout the day

  • Get creative! Even fidgeting expends energy!

Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods enhances these adaptations in addition to other physiological benefits. Whole, non-processed foods are the best sources of nutrients and your body and metabolism thrive on.

If you are struggling with your eating habits, set a goal for the rest of the week to have protein, fat, and vegetables for each meal. Here is a quick guide:

  • A serving of protein is 4oz of uncooked meat or palm of your hand.

  • A serving of fat is 1-2 tablespoons.

  • A serving of vegetables is approximately 1 cup or handful.

Men: 6-8oz of protein, 1-2 servings of fat, 1-2+ servings of vegetables

Women: 4-6oz protein, 1 servings of fat, 1-2 servings of vegetables

To summarize, simply moving more throughout the day can improve the way your body makes and uses energy from the food you eat. You also get better at using the fat and carbohydrates you have stored. Second, when it comes to nutrition. Think simple. Stick with non-processed foods and have protein, fat, and vegetables at every meal.

Take Charge of your Nutrition: Tips for the Holidays

It’s that time of year! Holiday parties, presents, yummy beverages and delicious food, as well as cold weather, less daylight, busy days, and the perfect recipe for excuses to ignore your health and fitness.

Are you wanting to stay on track with (or even improve) your eating habits this Holiday Season? Do you want to eat your favorite seasonal food too? You CAN do both without releasing a dessert-eating, eggnog-drinking beast.

Here are some guidelines to help you stay on track this month, while still getting to enjoy the tastes of the season.

1.       Eat your veggies.

You’ve heard it your whole life, and for good reason. Most Americans do not consume enough vegetables to begin with. This time of year is no different as foods tend to be heavy on the starches, desserts, and adult beverages. Have a serving of vegetables at every meal. In fact, make vegetables the majority of your plate.

Studies have shown that just eating more veggies without other major changes to diet, can improve health in many ways, such as lower cholesterol, improve digestion and gut health, and reduce risk of diseases like cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. When you boil it down to necessities, there are 3 things humans must obtain from food. These are called essential nutrients and include: 1. vitamins and minerals; 2. fatty acids; and 3. amino acids. Vegetables provide many of these essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

Vegetables are also packed with antioxidants and FIBER. Fiber comes from plants; therefore, vegetables and fruits are the richest sources of fiber. Fiber promotes a healthy gut microbiome – or the bacteria that inhabit your colon and affect many aspects of health. High fiber intake (for example, eating vegetables at every meal) has been associated with lower cholesterol, reduced blood pressure, enhanced weight control, better glycemic control, reduced risk of certain forms of cancer, diverticular disease, heart disease, and metabolic syndrome, and improved gastrointestinal function. Remove all causes of death not associated with diet (accident, smoking-related) then all causes of death remaining can be improved by consuming more fiber.

In short, eat more veggies, even if you indulge in “unhealthy” foods too. Have a serving of the dish you love most, but eat at least 1 serving of vegetables (1 cup) at every meal. What a better time to start than now?

2.       What the heck do I eat?

This is THE question everyone wants to know. Don’t overthink what you should eat. Trendy diets might work in the short term and might work for some people, but most are not sustainable. These crash diets, cleanses, detoxes, low-calories fads, etc., can result in weight loss but almost always lead to weight regain. In fact, most diets fail. Studies have shown that upwards of 95% of people who “go on a diet” regain as much and more weight than before the diet.

meal formula pic.jpg

The solution? Find a sustainable way of eating that works for you. The Meal Formula to the right is your starting point. The Meal Formula is your guide for every meal. It is always there for you. For example, if you get off track at your Holiday party, no worries. Seriously. Own it and get back on track at your next meal. You got this!

3.       How much do I eat?

portion guide hands.jpg

A quick and easy trick to learning your portion sizes is to use your hand. A serving of protein is the palm of your hand. A serving of fat is the size of your thumb and a serving of vegetables a cupped handful.

As a rough estimate, men have 2 servings of protein, fat, and vegetables and women have 1 serving of protein, fat, and vegetables per meal.

The Meal Formula and hand model combine for a great starting point. Evaluate your energy level, hunger/satiety, and digestion and adjust as needed. For example, if you feel hungry after meals, add more fat or vegetables. Fat brings out flavor in foods but is also is satiating. Vegetables are lower in calorie than fat, protein, and highly processed foods. Increasing vegetables is a great way to add volume (and nutrients!) to your meal without the calorie load. If you exercise regularly and want to add muscle mass, add 1-2 servings of protein per day

Lastly, bigger is not always better. Studies have shown that the larger the plate, the more we tend to eat. If you are at a party with  Stick with the meal formula, portion guide, and a medium size plate if your goal is portion control this Holiday Season.

4.       What about carbs?

Did you notice that the meal formula did not include starchy carbs such as rice, bread, pasta, or desserts? These foods are not “bad,” particularly if you are active throughout the day. However, remember the 3 essential nutrients all humans need (vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids)? There is no essential carbohydrate.

When you eat carb-containing food - anything from a cookie to a piece of bread, to an apple -it is broken down into glucose, or sugar, in the body. When glucose enters the blood stream (aka, blood sugar) after eating carb-containing food, insulin is secreted from the pancreas then, in a lock-and-key mechanism, the insulin unlocks muscle cells to let the glucose into the cell where it is used to make energy. At the same time, insulin stimulates fat to be stored and prevents fat in your cells from being used to make energy.

Imagine this, John S sits at his desk all morning. He has a burger, fries, and soda for lunch then sits at his desk the rest of the afternoon. This is a double-edged sword for John S. First, he ate a meal loaded in fat and carbs. Second, he sits at his desk all day long. John is sedentary. His body reacts to the meal he just ate. There is an increase in blood sugar, so the pancreas secretes insulin, triggering the muscle cells to store the sugar. The insulin also triggers fat cells to store the fat he ate too. This is a recipe for weight gain.

This may be an extreme example, however day after day of eating carb-heavy meals and sitting at a desk may be sabotaging your weight loss efforts.

5.       When should I eat carbs?

Your body is more sensitive to the effects of insulin earlier in the day (between 8am-4pm, basically daylight hours). That is, your body is better at using carbs to supply energy to your daily activities. This makes sense as most of us are active during the daylight hours and resting at night.

Think of your day in terms of energy needs. The more you move the more energy (calories) your body burns. There are 2 sources of energy in the body – carbs and fat. Both carbs and fat are used during movement, but the proportion depends on the intensity of the movement. For example, sitting at a desk requires more energy than lying down, standing requires more energy than sitting, and walking and running require more energy than standing. As the intensity of the movement increases, the body relies more on carbs for energy. Eating your carbs before a workout or early in your active day will supply your muscles with energy to get through the workout or daily activities, and even push a little harder.

Later in the day, you become less active, your body is winding down, preparing for sleep, rebuild, and recover from the day and becomes less sensitive to insulin. Fat is the main fuel source at rest. That late-night dessert day after day may be the culprit to weight gain during the Holidays. So, caution when deciding to indulge in that late-night sweet treat because excess sugar and fat in the body may be stored as unwanted fat. If you do, go for a 30-minute walk after dinner.

Consider timing your intake of carbs around your workout. This way, your body will use those carbs to fuel your workout and replenish glycogen stores that were depleted during your workout. Maybe the best time to indulge in one of that tasty seasonal desserts is before or after a workout. Not working out? Dodge the carbs.

6.       Treats: Don’t forget to live a little

Life is made up of days, and multiple times each day you face the choice of what to put in your body. Consistent, healthy eating habits are made one meal at a time. The all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to diet may set the stage for failure. If you get off track, it is not the end of the world. Have your veggies, protein, and fat for your meal. If there is a dessert you absolutely must have, have it. Own it! At your next meal, get back to your Meal Formula and portion guide. You got this!

Fall Endurance Training: Improve Your Anaerobic Threshold

Fall is one of the best times of year. Cooler temps, leaves changing colors, holidays and events, good food, and football. However, the days get shorter, weather can be great, but also unpredictable, maybe kids and sports take over your weekends, and if you had a training plan, raced, or just rode your bike a lot over the summer, maybe you are experiencing a little burnout or lack of motivation. If this is you, no worries. You can still make gains, maintain (even improve) fitness, and, most importantly, still enjoy riding your bike this Fall without those 2-3+ hour rides.

How? One way is to focus on increasing your anaerobic threshold (AT).

What is AT?

AT is one of the most important benchmarks in endurance sports. It is king when it comes to endurance performance.

AT refers to the intensity (speed or power) at which the production rate of lactate in the muscle equals the clearance rate of lactate. The by-product of burning glycogen is lactate. As you increase intensity, you rely more on glycogen to produce ATP, therefore you are producing more lactate. Lactate is cleared from the bloodstream but as intensity (power/speed) increases, lactate production exceeds clearance and begins to accumulate in the blood stream. The power/speed at which lactate begins to accumulate is your AT.

AT figure.jpg

AT marks the highest possible intensity, which can be sustained without accumulating lactate. In the graph to the right, you can see the lactate production (red line) and lactate concentration (yellow line) increases gradually as intensity increases, then a sudden spike at 278 watts (red arrow and circle). At intensities above 278 watts, this athlete will produce more lactate than can be cleared. This is the athlete’s AT (maximum intensity at which lactate production equals lactate clearance). Once crossing the AT, you rely more heavily on your glycolytic system for energy, and you are exercising on borrowed time. The accumulation of blood lactate will hinder your muscles’ ability to contract, and you will be forced to slow down or stop.  

In other words, when you raise the intensity of an exercise and all a sudden your legs start burning, breathing becomes labored so you can’t say more than a word or 2 between breaths, heart rate ratchets up 5-10 bpm, and everything in you is saying slow down, you have just crossed your AT.


AT and your functional threshold power (FTP), which is commonly defined as the highest sustainable intensity (power or heart rate) you can do for 40-60 minutes. This is a metric you can use if you do not have access to a lab for AT testing, or see below to estimate your AT with power or heart rate.

Why Increase Your AT

Increasing your AT means you will be able to ride with greater power output or speed without accumulating lactate. The more work you can do before reaching lactate threshold, the better. If the pace you can hold at your lactate threshold is higher than the pace your competitor can hold at his or her lactate threshold, you go faster, reach the finish first, and win. If racing isn’t your thing and you simply want to hang with your friends without getting dropped, whether it be the beginner ride or weekly throw down, increasing your AT get you there.

Many athletes avoid training to increase AT. It requires a focus, attention to intensity, and a little suffering. The great thing is that you can do a threshold workout fairly quick, where you get the suffering done in short intervals, adequate rest in between, and before you know it, the session is over. You can even incorporate AT work into a group ride by pushing the pace at the front or charging up a long climb. The key is steady-pacing keeping the intensity just below your AT (or right at your FTP).

Workouts geared at increasing your AT are great for Fall when time for cycling might be less and motivation wanes. Workouts can be done in just 75 minutes on a trainer, spin bike, or outdoors. Importantly, the “life balance” that cycling frequently threatens remains stable (increase cycling, gain fitness but maybe other parts of life suffer - upset significant other, less time with friends, productivity wanes, etc.).

Estimating Your AT

Don’t know your AT? No problem. Remember AT is the maximum intensity at which lactate production equals lactate clearance. It is a measurable physiological number, however it requires a testing lab, lactate reader, test protocol, and someone to administer the test.

You can estimate your AT by the following steps:

  1. Find a mostly flat stretch of road 1.5-3 miles long (5-10k) and perform 2 maximal efforts.

  2. Record your average power and/or heart rate.

  3. Take your average power and/or heart rate and multiply by 0.9. Most of us average about 10% above threshold for 1.5-3mi efforts. This is your estimated AT power or heart rate.

How to Increase Your AT

For 10 weeks, incorporate a few of the following workouts to get in at least 60-100 minutes of AT work per week.

Here are some workouts that target your AT:

AT workout.jpg

1. AT Intervals Just below AT, 5-20 minute intervals. The workout is less than 2 hours and would look something like the figure to the right: 20 minute warm up followed by 5X8 minute threshold intervals (for the athlete above, 8 minutes @270-290 watts) with 4 minutes rest between intervals and a 10-20 minute cool down. This is a total of 40 minutes of AT work.

If your estimated AT heart rate is 182bpm, then your target interval heart rate is 170-180 bpm, just under your estimated AT heart rate.


  • If you are new to this training, start with 5x5 minute intervals then increase time each week. Increase interval time and reduce interval number over the 10 week block (for example, 5x5min, 5x8min, 4x10min, 4x12min, 3x15min, 2x20min, 3x20min).

  • Incorporate a 20 second spike every 2-3 minutes during intervals. Vary the cadence of the spike, in the saddle and out of the saddle to help you create range at your AT.

2. Hard group rides: Attend a weekly group ride? Take part in the efforts at the front of the rotation. Instead of sitting in and drafting, push yourself, get in the rotation for as long as you can then go back and rest in the pack until you are ready to go again.

You can also train AT in a group by steady pacing up the climbs right below AT. This is great if there are a three to five 5-20 minute climbs.

3. Cyclocross race: Possibly the most entertaining way to increase your AT. Cyclocross is performed full gas at an intensity you can hold for 30 minutes to 1 hour with spikes of power to get over obstacles, slight rest periods (if you corner well), then more full gas. You train multiple energy systems during a cyclocross race and spend a good deal of time pushing your limits at AT. Plus you get the opportunity to support local racing and heckle your friends!

Want to achieve more on the bike? Find out about cycling coaching? Interested in testing your AT in a lab? Need nutrition help? Click the button below to contact us and learn more about how we can help you.

It's HOT! Tricks to staying hydrated for optimal performance and recovery

Feeling the heat this summer?! It’s hot AND humid in the South. If you are out in the heat, whether it’s 1-3+ hour bike rides or runs, walking the dog, or gardening, it is important to stay hydrated to make sure you are equipped to deal with the heat and humidity.

Your everyday beverage consumption sets the tone.

First, drink water. There are several guidelines and opinions about how much water you should drink per day. When in doubt, drink when thirsty. Thirst is the body’s way of letting you know it needs water (duh).

Second, also, drink water. Water is the best form of hydration throughout the day. If you have coffee, soda, and energy drink or other caffeinated beverage, be aware that caffeine is a diuretic and might contribute to dehydration. Alcohol is also a diuretic, so be aware if you have a few drinks at night or after a run or bike ride, remember to also drink water. A friend once told me a trick, if you are going out with friends and will indulge in a couple adult beverages, have 1 glass of water between alcoholic beverages. This will help with hydration and slow down your alcohol consumption (they are just empty calories anyways!). As far as beverage consumption throughout the day, water is best. If that is a challenge for you, try naturally flavored or sparkling water.

Staying hydrated before, during, and after exercise

Hydration is a key factor in performance and recovery. Improper hydration can lead to cramping during a workout, fluid imbalances, and have lasting effects after a workout. Intensity, duration, and location can help you determine what to drink during and after a workout for optimal performance and recovery.

Water consumption may suffice short workouts lasting less than an hour. If the workout is outdoors and you are a heavy sweater, consider a sports drink during and/or after to replenish electrolyte (sodium and potassium) loss. During prolonged, intense exercise, it becomes more important to replace the fluid and minerals lost in sweat. The appropriate amount for rehydration will depend on factors such as the level and duration of exertion.

Before Exercise:


Here are the guidelines: In the 2-3 hours before your workout or event, drink 16 oz of water, that is just 2 cups. 1 hour prior to exercise, drink 8 oz, or 1 cup of water. Consider these guidelines a starting point for your pre-workout hydration. There are several opinions about sports nutrition, but you have to find what works best for you. Keep that in mind as you continue reading.

During exercise:

Why does hydration matter? Water and fluid plays a role in plasma volume. Plasma is a component of blood and actually makes up about 55% of our blood volume. When water is lost during exercise (sweating), plasma volume is also reduced. A reduction in plasma volume is related to decreased performance. For instance, reduced plasma volume compromises the body’s maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), or the ability of oxygen to be taken from lungs and transported to muscles to produce energy. Reduced plasma volume also contributes to body temperature as well as cardiac drift, or the increase in HR during prolonged exercise without an increase in intensity. Just a liter of water loss contributes to decreases in performance. Therefore, hydration can make or break a workout or event, particularly in high heat and humidity.

The following are guidelines to experiment with. Let these serve as a starting point as everyone is different. Your habitual diet, hydration status, fitness level, previous week of workouts, sweat rate, water and sport nutrition likes/dislikes, and digestion, among others are factors that contribute to nutrition intake during a workout.

  • Drink a few big gulps (or approx. 200ml) every 10-15 min which is about 1-16 oz bottle, or 1/2 L/hr

  • Start drinking early in the activity

  • Avoid drinking large doses of caffeine

  • Practice drinking during training

  • Spread fluid and carbohydrate intake during ride

Post exercise fluid intake:

Dehydration is much more than being thirsty or needing water. It happens at the cellular level. In fact, a dehydrated cell is catabolic – favors breakdown of glycogen and protein. A hydrated cell is anabolic and well suited for glycogen restoration and protein synthesis and repair. (Glycogen is the storage form of energy. It is important to replenish after a tough and/or long workout). Therefore, a hydrated cell promotes recovery while a dehydrated cell will prolong recovery and may hinder your next workout.  Begin rehydrating immediately and spread fluid intake over time. Add sodium to increase fluid retention by kidneys. For example, consume electrolyte drink. If you don’t want the added sugar after a workout, try Power Aid Zero or a low sugar drink.

To avoid lasting dehydration, here are guidelines to experiment with. Tweak to see what works for you:

  • Consume 1.5L for every kg body weight lost

  • Fluid should contain 400-1000 mg sodium and 120-225 mg potassium per Liter lost

  • Drinking water with a meal will replenish lost fluid and electrolytes

  • Replace carbohydrate 1g/kg body weight – a recovery drink or bar with 6-7% (14-15g CHO/8oz) is ideal for replacing carbohydrate during exercise. Higher carbohydrate concentration can be used after.

  • Electrolytes: sodium and potassium are the main 2

What about sports drinks?

Sports drinks such as Gatorade, Powerade, Heed, and Skratch to name a few are specifically engineered for pre-, during-, and post-exercise consumption. They are designed to rehydrate, provide energy and replenish the body’s electrolytes, especially sodium, which is lost through sweating. Sports drinks will reduce the risk of fluid-electrolyte imbalances that can occur after a long workout or race with a high level of sweating. If you are exercising for 1 hour or longer, particularly at moderate- to high intensities, you will benefit from a sports drink. Many sports drinks also contain carbohydrates – the body’s main source of energy for higher-intensity activities.

If exercising less than 1 hour, especially indoors with air conditioning, water will likely suffice. If your workout is longer than 1 hour, consuming a few gulps of a sports drink every 15-20 minutes can help maintain energy and electrolyte levels, and sustain performance. This translates to approximately 1 bottle per hour. Again, think of this information as a starting point or guide. If that does not work for you (for example, the sugar content causes GI distress), try diluting or dialing up the concentration of your drink.

I don't sweat, I glisten. Like a pig!

Are you a heavy or salty sweater? If you struggle with cramping during exercise, consider determining your water loss during exercise. Simply weigh yourself before and after your workout (in the nude if possible) and subtract your post-ride weight from your pre-ride weight. If you lose more than 2 pounds, try a post-ride recovery drink with electrolytes along with water every hour to replenish what you have lost. Get in the habit of “weighing in” and “weighing out” before and after a workout to keep an eye on your fluid loss.

You can take it a step further and calculate your sweat rate. To do this, weight before and after your workout and keep track of how many bottles you drink during your workout. Then follow these simple steps. You might need a calculator.

  1. Convert your pre- and post-workout weight to kilograms: ___ lbs X 0.454 = ____ kg

    • For example: Pre-ride weight = 120lbs X 0.454=­54.48kg Post ride weight= 117lbs X 0.454= 53.12kg

  2. Subtract the post-ride weight (in kg) from the pre-ride weight in (kg)

    • Pre-ride weight (kg) – post-rid weight (kg) = weight lost during ride

    • For example: 54.48-53.12 = 1.36kg

  3. Add the amount of water (in liters).

    • Weight lost during ride + fluid intake (L) = gross water loss

    • For example: 2 Liters of water were consumed. 1.36kg+2L = 3.26L

  4. Determine your Sweat Rate: Divide the gross water loss by time.

    • For example: duration of activity was 3 hours. 3.26L/3 hours = 1.12L/hour

In Short:

        Pre-race weight (kg) = 54.48

        Post-race weight (kg) = 53.12

        Fluid intake (L) = 2

        Time (hours) = 3

        Sweat rate (L/hr) = [(54.48-53.12)+2]/3=~1.12 L/hr

If you track sweat rate with the weather conditions, you can estimate how much fluid you need to consume based on conditions such as temperature, duration, and intensity.

Another method (albeit not as scientific) to assess if you are consuming enough fluid is the color and frequency of urination.  If your urine is clear and you are urinating frequently, you should be close to maintaining adequate hydration levels.  However, be aware that although you are drinking a lot of water and your urine is clear or light in color, water retention may not be adequate. 

Need more help with hydration or nutrition?

If you struggle with cramping or just want to really dial in your pre-, during-, and post-workout hydration, I suggest you try a sweat test (Fagan Sports Medicine is great if you are in the Birmingham, AL area). A sweat test will inform you of electrolyte and water loss in units per hour to know what and how much to take in per hour.

If you have a performance or weight loss goal, want to really dial in your pre-, during-, and post-workout nutrition, or become more healthy and consistent with your eating habits, schedule a consult! With a nutrition consult, we will break down your day-to-day diet, your pre-, during-, and post-workout nutrition, set goals, and make a plan to meet your goals.


Diabetes: Let’s not sugar-coat the pill

When talking with a friend recently who was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes (T2D) about a year ago, I was appalled to find out he had no idea what T2D was. His doctor never explained it to him, rather just said his blood sugar was high and wrote him a prescription for metformin.

T2D, and pre-diabetes, are serious conditions with growing prevalence. Do you have a relative or friend with diabetes? It is a complex condition with multiple risk factors The good news is that T2D can be prevented and even reversed with lifestyle modifications.

Here are the facts and what you can do to manage and prevent the disease.

The stats

According to surveys by the Center of Disease Control, the prevalence and cost of diabetes are astonishing.

CDC US diabetes prevalence.jpg
  • There are 29.1 million people in the United States that have diabetes. That is 1 out of every 11 people.

  • 1 out of 4 people don’t know they have diabetes.

  • 86 million people (that’s 1 out of 3 adults) have prediabetes.

  • However, 9 out of 10 people do not know they have prediabetes.

  • 15-30% of people with prediabetes will develop prediabetes within 5 years.

  • The total medical costs and lost work and wages for people with diagnosed diabetes is estimated to be $245 billion.

  • The risk of death for adults with diabetes is 50% higher than those without.

  • Medical costs of people with diabetes are twice as high as for those without diabetes.

  • People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing serious health complications such as blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, stroke, and loss of toes, feet, or legs.

What is Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 Diabetes is a condition that causes blood glucose (sugar) to rise higher than normal. High blood glucose is the result of improper use of insulin, called insulin resistance.

What is insulin resistance?

The progression to type 2 diabetes begins long before the actual onset of the disease. It begins with insulin resistance.

To understand insulin resistance, it is important to review the normal physiological process that occurs in response to eating.

insulin resistance.jpg

When we eat foods that contain carbohydrates (anything from pasta, bread, crackers, and cake to fruit, fruit juice, soda, and oatmeal), it is broken down in the stomach into glucose. Glucose is absorbed through the small intestine into the blood stream causing an increase in blood glucose. When glucose enters the blood stream, it triggers the pancreas to secrete the hormone insulin. Insulin is secreted from the beta cells of the pancreas. In a lock and key manor, insulin stimulates (unlocks) muscle cells to allow glucose to enter and be stored within the cell and used for energy and the concentration of glucose in the blood decreases. Glucose is also produced by the liver and released into the blood stream when blood glucose gets low. Thus, blood glucose levels are kept in a tightly regulated range.

When there’s too much sugar floating in the blood after a meal, (for example, you ate that hi-carb meal, washed it down with a soda and went back to your chair in front of the computer) the cells refuse to let insulin bring the extra sugar in. The result? Insulin production shoots up as the body tries to “muscle” the sugar into the cells. When the muscle cells don’t budge, excess sugar goes away into the fat cells, where it begins to accumulate.

In other words, over time, a sedentary lifestyle, poor eating habits, genetic predisposition, and other factors can result in insulin resistance. This occurs when the muscle cells become desensitized or resistant to the effects of insulin. The beta cells of the pancreas must then secrete more insulin to dispose of the same amount of glucose.  This is the first step in the progression of Type 2 Diabetes.

The development of Type 2 Diabetes

development of diabets.jpg

1.        Insulin resistance.

At first, the pancreas compensates for insulin resistance by increasing insulin secretion, resulting in elevated levels of insulin in the blood (hyperinsulinemia). Glucose tolerance, or glucose levels in the blood, remains in the normal range because higher insulin secretion does the trick.

2.       Impaired glucose tolerance and beta-cell dysfunction.

The next progressing towards type 2 diabetes is an increase in blood glucose levels (hyperglycemia). Insulin secretion is reduced and this is reflected in blood glucose levels as insulin is no longer sufficient to dispose of glucose into the cells. The beta cells of the pancreas also begin to fatigue and stop working properly as less insulin is secreted.

3.       Type-2 diabetes

Lastly, the progression to full blown type-2 diabetes where the pancreatic beta cells fail. They secrete little to no insulin in response to blood glucose. Medications such as metformin and insulin injections are then prescribed. Symptoms include feeling tired because your cells have little glucose for energy, excess thirst. Diabetes is complex and affects multiple organ systems. It can lead to other conditions such as eye problems (retina damage), heart disease, and neuropathy or tingling/burning sensations in arms and feet.

How do you test for T2D or pre-diabetes?  There are a few ways to determine whether you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.  · Impaired glucose tolerance – This is step 2 in the development of T2D. Have you ever had a glucose tolerance test where you drink a very sugary drink then have your blood drawn before and after? This measures the glucose response to the sugar drink. If your glucose is elevated after 2 hours, depending on how high it is, you may be pre-diabetes or have T2D.  · Elevated fasting glucose – Also step 2 in the development of T2D. When you go to the doctor and they draw your blood in the morning before you have eaten anything (you are fasted). If your glucose is high, then this means you have impaired fasting glucose. Remember there are 2 sources of glucose, what you eat and your liver can make it. When you are fasted, your liver makes glucose. Insulin is secreted to keep this glucose level in a tight range. When fasting glucose is high, this means insulin is not doing its job and you are insulin resistant.  What about step one? Notice that these tests do not measure insulin levels. In these 2 cases, we miss step one. The only way to determine if you are insulin resistant but still glucose tolerant (meaning your pancreas has to secrete more insulin to get the cells to take to glucose out of the blood stream and store it) is to measure your insulin response to a glucose tolerance test. If your insulin is elevated, then you are hyperinsulinemic and insulin resistant. If you think you might be insulin resistant and on your way to prediabetes or T2D, ask you doctor about testing both your insulin and glucose response to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

How do you test for T2D or pre-diabetes?

There are a few ways to determine whether you have diabetes or pre-diabetes.

· Impaired glucose tolerance – This is step 2 in the development of T2D. Have you ever had a glucose tolerance test where you drink a very sugary drink then have your blood drawn before and after? This measures the glucose response to the sugar drink. If your glucose is elevated after 2 hours, depending on how high it is, you may be pre-diabetes or have T2D.

· Elevated fasting glucose – Also step 2 in the development of T2D. When you go to the doctor and they draw your blood in the morning before you have eaten anything (you are fasted). If your glucose is high, then this means you have impaired fasting glucose. Remember there are 2 sources of glucose, what you eat and your liver can make it. When you are fasted, your liver makes glucose. Insulin is secreted to keep this glucose level in a tight range. When fasting glucose is high, this means insulin is not doing its job and you are insulin resistant.

What about step one? Notice that these tests do not measure insulin levels. In these 2 cases, we miss step one. The only way to determine if you are insulin resistant but still glucose tolerant (meaning your pancreas has to secrete more insulin to get the cells to take to glucose out of the blood stream and store it) is to measure your insulin response to a glucose tolerance test. If your insulin is elevated, then you are hyperinsulinemic and insulin resistant. If you think you might be insulin resistant and on your way to prediabetes or T2D, ask you doctor about testing both your insulin and glucose response to an oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT).

What are the risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes?

There are both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes.

Non-modifiable risk factors are those that we have no control over:

  • Family history of diabetes

  • Age over 45 years

  • Race/ethnicity

  • History of gestational diabetes.

Risk factors we can change include:

  • Physical inactivity

  • Poor diet

  • Overweight and obesity

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol


risk factors for t2d.jpg

Lifestyle treatments for Type-2 Diabetes

1.       First and foremost, the diagnosis must be treated with urgency.

Think back to the progression of diabetes. By the time high blood glucose (impaired glucose tolerance, high fasting glucose) occurs, you are already insulin resistant and on your way to full on diabetes. Now that you know there are factors you can modify, ask your doctor what factors (weight loss, diet, exercise) you need to focus on.

2.       Exercise

Exercise has many benefits. Exercise has numerous benefits. When it comes to diabetes, exercise works at the molecular level of our cells to increase glucose uptake and sensitivity to insulin. It also reduced harmful fats inside the cell that can promote insulin resistance and increase good fats that promote insulin resistance.

3.       Diet

Specific dietary changes should be adopted immediately when diagnosed with pre-diabetes or full on Type 2 Diabetes. The consumption of carbohydrates requires insulin. (Remember all carbohydrates are broken down to their basic molecules – glucose.) When the pancreas no longer produces or produces too little in response to glucose then insulin must be administered. This is essentially a band aid to the larger issue. Treatment with insulin as a medication (exogenous insulin) is not a cure. Reducing carbohydrate consumption, however, reduces the need for insulin. A lower carbohydrate diet is essential for reversing diabetes.

Numerous research studies have shown that even modest lower carbohydrate diets improve pancreatic beta-cell function and increase insulin sensitivity.

The take-away:

  • Diabetes and pre-diabetes are urgent diagnoses!

  • You CAN prevent and even reverse diabetes through lifestyle modifications – diet and exercise.

Lastly, consult your doctor before taking on any drastic lifestyle changes. Increases in insulin sensitivity through diet or exercise will likely change the need for medications such as insulin and metformin and should be medically supervised.

Have you been diagnosed with T2D or pre-diabetes? Do you have family history of diabetes? Want to know more about what you can do for T2D and how to prevent it? Contact SPINLab!

How history shaped the American diet Part 2: Big change backed by little science

Part 1 reviewed the swift progress and major events in history that influenced the American diet. Part 2 exposes a big, fat, juicy story that will make you question what you believe about what you eat.


Once upon a time...

It came to light in the 1940s that the leading cause of death was coronary heart disease. Scientists, thus, sought to identify the cause and ways of prevention. Numerous research studies taking place over decades, and some still on-going, began collecting data. Among those was Ancel Key’s seven country study. This was an epidemiological study comparing how many people were dying of heart disease with how much fat they were eating. At the time, 22 countries had this data available and were included in the study.

Keys found that the countries with higher fat consumption had more deaths from heart disease (Fig.1). Japan, for instance, consumed less that 10% of total calories from fat and had a much lower death rate from heart disease than the US who consumed 40% of calories from fat. The conclusion drawn from this study was that the more fat in the diet, the more likely to die of heart disease.

Taking a deeper look, there were a number of things wrong with this study. First and foremost, the methods of data collection lacked rigor and would never fly in research today. There were two major issues with data collection. One, percent fat from total calories was determined by food availability per capita in each country. Basically, the amount of food available was divided by total number of people in each country. This is a poor estimate of what people were truly eating. Two, death by heart disease was determined by death certificate, however autopsies were not performed at this time and cause of death is many times confounded by multiple comorbidities. In the 1940s, cause of death was many times a guess. With so many flaws, this study design would not have a leg to stand on in research today. In fact, the original data has been destroyed, so forget reanalysis.

The second major error in this study has to do with interpretation of the findings. In statistics, there is a little saying, “correlation does not equal causation.” Correlation analysis is simply a mathematical way to describe the relationship between two things. For example, height is correlated to weight because as we grow taller, we also weigh more. Another example is that there is a strong correlation between homicide rates and ice cream sales.  Does this mean that buying ice cream causes violent crime? No, that sounds foolish. However, there is plenty of evidence showing that warm temperatures cause an increase in crime, maybe because we are more likely to lose our temper in hot weather. In addition, ice cream is more appealing in warm weather, therefore, sales are higher in the summer vs winter months. This means that temperature and temper confound, or that there is merely more to the story in the relationship between homicide and ice cream sales.

Back to Key’s conclusions. Yes, the data says that people in the US ate more fat than people in Japan and more people in the US were dying of heart disease. However, is fat the cause of heart disease or just a confounder? Was there more to the story?

Nevertheless, in the 1950s, Ancel Keys went to the World Health Organization and American Health Association (AHA) promoting a low-fat diet claiming that a “fatty diet raised serum cholesterol, atherosclerosis, and myocardial infarction.” In 1961, Keys was featured on the cover of Time Magazine making the recommendation that the American diet should consist of 70% of calories from carbohydrates and 15% from fat – a drastic change from the 40% fat calories Americans were consuming. The AHA got on board and released a report that “the best scientific evidence of the time” suggests that Americans would reduce their risk of heart disease by reducing the fat in their diets.

True, though flawed, the best evidence at the time suggested that dietary fat consumption is related to heart disease. In the least, this observation called for further research.

When the fat hit the fire

Big money was put into more research on how and why fat consumption appeared to be linked to heart disease. One, the Western Electric Study by Paul Oglesby, was published in 1963. This study was conducted to identify factors associated with the risk of heart disease. Over 4,000 men age 40-55 years were selected to be in the study. Over a 4.5-year period, mortality rate was compared between those consuming the fattiest and those consuming the leanest diets. The findings were clear, 14 deaths due to heart disease in the high fat group and 16 in the low-fat group. No significant difference. These findings were not only ignored but later blatantly misreported. The AHA and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) published “The Cholesterol Facts” which included the Western Electric Study as one of seven studies showing a correlation between saturated fat and heart disease. Exactly what it did not do.

What could have put an end to the low-fat ideology came in 1973 with The Minnesota Coronary Study. This was a highly controlled diet intervention study conducted on 9000 men and women in 6 mental institutions across Minnesota. While unethical to study this vulnerable population today, investigators were able to control what the participants ate – something that had not been done before on such a large scale. The researchers investigated the effect of saturated fat (thought to be “bad” fat) on heart disease over 4.5 years. The participants in the study were randomized to either a 9% saturated fat diet or control diet (18% saturated fat) for 4.5 years. Total fat was the same for both groups.

Contradicting Ancel Key’s findings, the investigators found no difference in heart disease or overall mortality between groups. In fact, there were 269 deaths due to heart disease in the treatment group while there were 206 deaths in the control group.

Why did this study not put an end to the low-fat diet? The lead investigator was not pleased with the results and the study sat unpublished until 1989!

Fat Chance

Evidence piled up that the amount of fat has no relationship to heart disease. However, the type of fat was found to be important.

There are different types of fat depending on chemical structure. These include saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. There is some evidence, though controversial, that saturated fats (found in beef, pork, skin on poultry, whole-milk, cheese, butter, eggs, and palm and coconut oil) are related to heart disease. A number of studies have shown that consumption of omega-3 fatty acids actually reduces the risk of heart disease. Today, the AHA recommends no more than 5-6% of fat from saturated fat while unsaturated fats are healthy. The message that was heard, though, is that fat is bad, which was not just misleading but dangerous.

What about cholesterol? Cholesterol is essential for life and present in all tissues of the body. Eating cholesterol (such as egg yolks and shellfish) does not actually contribute much to blood cholesterol levels. In other words, you cannot get high cholesterol from eating foods high in cholesterol. Only about 25% of the cholesterol comes from diet because cholesterol in foods can’t be absorbed by our bodies. The other 75% is produced in the body by the liver. Cholesterol levels are tightly regulated in the body so that when cholesterol level in the diet goes up, the body makes less. It is wrong to say that high cholesterol causes heart disease.

In the 1970s, the NIH funded studies to investigate which specific fractions of cholesterol contributed to heart disease. It was found that total cholesterol does not predict heart disease. However, it was also found that different proteins carry cholesterol throughout the body dropping it off where it is used for cell metabolism. The amounts of these proteins does matter, though. These proteins include high density (HDL), low density (LDL), and very low density (VLDL). Cholesterol carried by LDL that is not used, is left to circulate in the bloodstream where it can then accumulate in the walls of the arteries, leading to plaque formations and atherosclerosis. LDL is therefore thought to be “bad” cholesterol. HDL acts more as a scavenger, collecting cholesterol and taking it back to the liver for reprocessing or excretion. HDL is the “good” cholesterol.

When it comes to heart disease, high LDL is only a “marginal risk factor,” however, low HDL was found to be a 4-fold better predictor of heart disease compared to LDL, and it was the only predictor of heart disease in men and women over age 50. Therefore, pay attention to your HDL and things that raise HDL may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Unfortunately, the findings for these NIH studies too were ignored for 20 years. Another tragedy in the bigger story.  

The Tipping Point

The tipping point came in 1977, though, when the government took hold of the low-fat hypothesis. That year, the US Senate’s Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (aka the McGovern Report) published the “Dietary Goals in the United States.” For the first time in history, a branch of the government urged Americans to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, and fish and to eat fewer high-fat foods, substitute nonfat for whole milk. In other words, eat more fruits and vegetables instead of fat.

low fat foods.jpg

Tell people not to eat fat and you think they are going to eat more fruits and vegetables? What happened was the invention of a whole new food culture. The “Snackwells phenomenon.” ‘Low-fat,’ ‘fat-free,’ and ‘low-calorie’ foods which largely replaced fat with sugar were mass produced. However, many of these foods still have the same number of total calories as their full-fat counterparts.

Further fueling the low-fat movement, in the 1980s an article based on the Framingham Heart Study was published highlighting obesity as an independent risk factor of heart disease. Consequentially, it was believed that a low-fat diet might reduce the risk of heart disease and promote weight loss by reducing caloric intake (because of all macronutrients, fat has the most calories per gram). In other words, if it wasn’t fat, it wouldn’t make you fat and you won’t die of heart disease.


Then, as if proven, the federal government incorporated the low-fat ideology into federal policy. In 1984, the National Institute of Health consensus stated “there is no doubt that a low-fat diet will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease to every American over the age of 2.” In 1988, the Surgeon General’s report emphasized the dangers of dietary fat. In 2000, the federal “Report on Nutrition and Health” labeled fat as the unhealthiest part of the American diet – not saturated or trans-fat, just fat. Shockingly, in 1992, the American Heart Association (AHA) began labeling low-fat products with their seal of approval, such as Kellog’s Frosted Flakes, Fruity Rice Krispies, and Low-Fat Pop-Tarts.

With this kind of support of course consumers (you and me) believed, and still believe, that a low-fat diet is healthy. Thanks to my mother trying to stay trim and raise healthy kids, I grew up a low-fat kid sustained on cereal, low-fat Wheat Thins, fat-free yogurt, and Reduced Fat JIF Peanut Butter!

The advice being fed to Americans was not only false, but actually dangerous as people were eliminating healthy fats that are important in reducing risk of heart disease. While fat consumption was reduced, carbohydrate consumption increased and so did the prevalence of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic diseases.

More on the consequences of the low-fat dogma in Part 3. Stay tuned!


How History Shaped the American Diet Part 1: From Scratch to TV Dinners


Factor or fiction?

Foods with cholesterol causes heart disease. Full fat foods cause weight gain. Low-fat, sugar-free, diet foods are the way to lose weight. What you eat doesn’t matter, it’s all about reducing calories. Fad diets, juice cleanses, and detoxes work. Eating small meals throughout the day is better. Healthy foods are expensive…

These and many other myths have influenced the American diet for much longer than you might think. But what are the foundations of these beliefs?

Looking back through history, there is a compelling story underlying what we believe about nutrition and how that shaped the American diet as we know it today.

Decades of change

Rapid change influencing daily life began over 100 years ago. The turn of the 20th century marked an era of great growth and optimism in the United States. Typical American families lived off the land and prepared meals from scratch. For some, vegetables were picked from the garden and meat was a mainstay. Others relied on rice or cornmeal. Thousands of Americans died of scurvy (vitamin C deficiency) and pellagra (vitamin B deficiency). Thus, the emphasis on eating your veggies!

America became a ‘melting pot’ in the 1910s as immigration was at an all-time high, bringing new flavors to the kitchen. How else can lasagna with American cheese and chop suey with American hamburger be explained?

Progress was rapid in the following decades. This set the stage for industrialization which was mirrored in the cuisine at the time. Processed foods such as mayonnaise, Oreo cookies, Crisco, puffed wheat and puffed rice, and hot dogs became increasingly available. Night life escalated as speakeasy dining and cocktail parties lead to the concoction of many of today’s popular mixed drinks. However, Prohibition crippled the night life and put many restaurants and hotels out of business in the 1920s. Not only did it put a stop to alcohol sales, but production of soft drinks, candy, and fruit cocktail increased and tea rooms and cafeterias took the place of restaurants and hotels.

Then, the 1930s were struck with the Great Depression. Food, however, was not sparse and hard to come by because there was an ample supply of inexpensive foods. People had the options of lesser grade meats (chuck instead of sirloin), cheaper cuts of animal (heart, brains, feet), and manufactured substitutes such as Crisco instead of butter. Despite this, protein, the most expensive part of the meal, was reduced and one-pot meals, such as mac and cheese, soups, and casseroles became popular. The Great Depression slowly waned, then the horrors of WWII hit in the 1940s. Women left the kitchen to work in factories and every family had to ration food. The government restricted each person to 28 ounces of meat per week and limited sugar, butter, milk, cheese, eggs, and coffee. Cookies were sugarless, cakes were made without eggs, and meals without meat. 

As America recovered from the war, cookbooks and magazines propagated simple, belly-filling meals made from pre-packaged foods. The Swanson TV dinner was introduced in 1953 starting an uprising of convenience items. In addition, time-saving appliances were increasingly prevalent in American households. Food science continues to evolve. In 1965, the popularity of artificial sweeteners soared. Its use increased threefold in the US, particularly in the form of soda. Also, around this time, scientists began developing an inexpensive method of extracting oils from corn, soybeans, cottonseed, and other oilseeds – called vegetable oil. Thus, the consumption of vegetable fats increased. Everything from TV dinners to fat-free, sugar-free, diet foods were mass produced. To say the least, variety of and convenience of foods grew swiftly while cost was reduced and America went from deaths due to vitamin deficiencies to food overload in only a few decades.

In short, American diet became more diverse and processed, less starchy, cheaper, and arguably more calorically dense. Based on nationally-represented surveys of food intake, the biggest difference in the American diet today versus 70 years ago is that the majority of calories come from refined high-fat foods and carbohydrates (Fig. 1). Simultaneously, physical demands at home and the workplace decreased due to labor-saving devices and industrialization, resulting in reduced physical activity. Therefore, both diet quality (and quantity) changed and daily energy expenditure decrease and then began a rise in the prevalence of obesity and chronic disease.

This is just the background to the meat of the story. Stay tuned for part 2 of How History Shaped the American Diet.

Nutrition is preventive medicine


Does your lifestyle promote health?

Too often we start taking care of our bodies when we don’t feel well, get sick or injured, or when something is wrong. Much of healthcare that we know today is actually sick-care. You go to the doctor when you’re sick. You take medication when you’re ill or hurting. You stretch when there is a tightness. Seek help when depressed. Rest when there is pain.

We take our health for granted. Then, when it fails, we rely on doctor visits, medications, the hope/belief that we will be fixed for good, and have to deal with the accompanying costs. While yes, those things make you well, especially when acute illness or injury strike, they do not fix weak immunity. These are just a band aid for a lifestyle that promotes weak immunity.

As we age, our everyday life (eating habits, drinking habits, stress, sleep, exercise, etc.) takes a toll on our bodies. The wear and tear of poor eating and drinking habits, high stress, poor sleep, lack of exercise and living nonstop busy lives influences weight gain and illness. Therefore, our everyday life either promotes health or its demise. More specifically, your lifestyle either prevents or fuels diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, inflammation, pain, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

True healthcare starts with you.

While we cannot change our genetics, we can modify our lifestyle to promote a healthy life. It is fueled by nourishing eating habits, regular exercise, positive emotions, thoughts, and relationships, and proper sleep and stress management. True healthcare is preventative and it’s never too late to choose to live a healthy lifestyle.

While there are many things you can modify to improve your health, eating habits are one of the most important. Food influences our health every time we eat. That is at least 3 times a day for most of us. When you think of it this way, everything you eat matters.

Processes that break down food and beverages we consume actually begins before we even take a bite or sip. Has your mouth ever watered thinking about the meal you are about to eat?  We have an increase in saliva and secrete hormones, such as insulin involved in digestion in anticipation. Our body must breakdown, store, and/or use all the nutrients we consume at every meal. This takes hours and how many hours depends on the quantity and content of the meal. We have a rise and fall in blood glucose, fatty acids, amino acids, and hormones such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Therefore, we are in a state of digestion, or postprandial state most of our waking hours.

Why is what we eat so important? What we eat heavily influences our metabolism, which refers to the sum of the chemical processes that sustain a living organism. These including converting food to fuel and transport of substances between cells. Our metabolism requires certain nutrients (called essential nutrients) that must be obtained through our diet because our bodies do not make them. These nutrients are vital to life and include essential vitamins and minerals (from plants and some animal fats), fatty acids (derived from fats), and amino acids (derived from protein). We get these nutrients from vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, meats, grains, etc. It should be noted that, while there are essential vitamins and minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids, there is no essential carbohydrate. Cooking, extracting, and processing foods changes and subtracts the amount of nutrients in a food. For example, a whole apple has more nutrients than apple juice (which is comparable to soda in sugar content). Highly processed foods, such as ramen noodles, breakfast cereals, granola bars, cakes, fruit snacks, sodas, processed meats and oils, etc., have been modified to an extent that they contain fat and carbohydrates, but very few nutrients.

So, what do highly processed foods contribute to the body? Many of these foods have added sugars, oils, and other substances to enhance taste and texture to make you want more. Processed foods contain both fats and carbohydrates. In general, all carbohydrates are broken down into glucose (blood sugar) and absorbed into the bloodstream. This causes a spike in the hormone insulin. When glucose is in the blood, insulin is secreted from the pancreas and signals muscle, fat, and other cells to uptake the glucose and store in the cell. Nourishing, nutrient-packed sources of carbohydrates are whole foods (non- or minimally processed) such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains.

Habitual intake of highly processed foods contributes to the progression of chronic disease in many ways. For example, they cause the cells become desensitized, or resistant to the effects of insulin. Consequently, more insulin is needed per unit of glucose. Finally, the pancreas fatigues and production of insulin is severely impaired or stops all together, resulting in diabetes. Insulin also tells fat cells to store fat, therefore your body relies on glucose for fuel while storing the fat you eat. Frequently consuming highly processed foods can thus lead to weight gain, inflammation, and development of chronic disease. 

What can do today to improve your diet? Two things. First, add a serving of vegetables to each meal and, second, remove a serving of highly processed foods from each meal.

Now is the time. Tomorrow is not promised. Don’t take anything for granted, especially not your body or your health.

Contact SPINLab to get a personalized program to improve your health and reach your goals.

Happy New Year!


It’s a new year and, for many, that means new beginnings, resolutions, and the possibility for a new you.

Polls say that most Americans make resolutions to improve health and become a better person in 2018. That’s great! From Statistic Brain, “people who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.” However, only about 8% of people achieve their resolutions each year, and just 75% of those who set goals follow through with them after the first week of the year. This might be the result of unrealistic resolutions or maybe resolutions are abandoned as we return to our previous habits. In short, meeting your goals is TOUGH.

Health is one of, if not the most important possession in life. Therefore, improving your health and fitness in 2018 should be valued. Make it a priority and know that it is a feat you are completely capable of accomplishing. It takes effort every day whether you want to it is lose fat, gain muscle, or reduce your medications, cholesterol or A1c. There is no quick-fix pill, cleanse, or detox.

One thing I have learned through years of research, helping others achieve weight loss goals, and setting my own heath and performance goals is embodied in one word:


Being intentional simply means doing something with purpose. But it is more than that. It means you have a clear understanding of your purpose and values and that you set out to live every day accordingly. It is a lifestyle.

Being intentional about your health goals means being aware of your actions, choices, time and effort, what you eat and how much, and how you feel. Take a few minutes during your busy day to slow down. Think. Write down a task you are going to do that day that will help you meet your goals, then cross it off when you do it. How satisfying would that feel?

The crucial piece to being intentional about your health goals is knowing how to do it. Where do you start? I did a little searching. Where else to start but Google? I Googled “how to lose weight” and this is what I found... First, a weight loss drug. This might work, but there are side effects and it also means spending money, and do you really want to take more medication? Second was Nutrisystem, which works if you adhere, however you must purchase bars and shakes with unknown ingredients. Like Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, you must continue or you are susceptible to weight regain. You also get articles like “8 tips to losing weight,” which is littered with misinformation and claims not backed by science. Numerous other erroneous and/or overgeneralized tips, diets, and other weight loss guides come up.

Research has proven that going on a diet fails most of the time. Numerous peer reviewed publications, meta analyses, and review articles have shown that 90% of people who lose weight on a diet will regain the weight and even more within 1-5 years of weight loss.

I have seen it first hand, even in a research setting. I was involved in a research study in overweight women who were asked to follow a reduced calorie diet. They were given instruction about foods to eat and how much. To no surprise, the women who adhered to the diet instructions lost weight and those who did not adhere did not lose weight. However, to my surprise just 2 months after the conclusion of the study, I ran into a participant at the grocery store. She had regained all the weight she lost! A whopping 30 lbs! How does this happen? What is it about dieting that goes so wrong?

After years of research, I have a few ideas as to why diets fail. First and most important, most diets are not centered around a lifestyle change. When it comes to your health, genetics and lifestyle are the 2 primary contributors. While your genetics are not easily changed, you CAN change your lifestyle to improve your health. In fact, every aspect of your lifestyle affects your health in some way. Your lifestyle is the way you live. It includes your work and home life, exercise and eating habits, environment, and social activities.

Your lifestyle specifically effects your metabolism. Metabolism refers to what your body does with what you eat and drink. Your metabolism is unique to you. It is influenced by your genetics, what you eat and drink, exercise habits, stress, sleep, hormone status, and health and illness. Your habitual diet is the biggest contributor to your metabolism, thus your health. Because your metabolism is unique, there is not one universal diet that works for everyone.

This brings us to the second reason why diet and weight loss attempts fail. They are not personalized. Again, your lifestyle, genetics, metabolism and likes and dislikes are unique. Personalized modifications to your lifestyle are crucial to your health and performance success. What works for one person might not work for you.

Lastly, is lack of education. We can follow a plan and do what we are told for a short period of time. In the long run though, it is education that drives our choices. Knowing what and why an eating or activity habit is (and isn’t) nourishing influences our choices and behaviors every day. Education allows us to be intentional about our decisions daily.

It is tough to find reliable resources that are informative and easy to read. I will help you learn what you need to know to be intentional about your choices. The point of this blog is to provide evidence-based, reliable, unbiased, and easy to read information about nutrition and exercise. Stay tuned!