Nutrition Tips

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.

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.

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!

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!