A Daily Dose Immune Boost

This is about the time of year when many of my athletes start getting sick. They assume it’s just par for the course and that several seasonal colds or flus are normal. I disagree and want to reinforce that there is so much we can do to protect and prevent ourselves from getting sick. My number #1 tip is to take a daily probiotic - in fact it’s one of the few mandatory supplements I tell my athletes to pick up. I’ll briefly explain below- it gets a bit ‘sciencey’ but important to understand. 

Our immunity is often a forgotten part of our nutrition plan for optimal recovery. Intense exercise weakens our immunity because of the impact on our gut – an organ that is 70% of our immune system. A weakened gut leads to an open window for opportunistic, bad bacteria to invade and cause infection. This susceptibility can disrupt training – which can decrease sport performance – or require withdrawal from a competition. 

Fortunately, good gut microbiota can help make sure your hours of investment in training are worthwhile. Some gut microbes work with our gut and immune cells to take care of disturbances to immunity that result from high levels of physical and environmental stress. A healthy immune system is maintained by the extensive, friendly interaction between gut microbiota and our mucosal immune system. When there’s an unhealthy gut environment, the mucin barrier weakens. This allows microbes to invade the epithelium and – ultimately – cause inflammation.  Essentially, our immune system needs to have an appropriate balance between tolerating good gut microbiota and defending against bad bacteria.

Here’s how good gut bacteria strengthen our immunity:

  1. Enhance the gut barrier. This is one of most important benefits. Probiotics can regulate the number of tight junction proteins between cells and can prevent or reverse the consequences of the bad bacteria.
  2. Increase mucin production. Probiotics can strengthen the first line of defense – the mucosal layer. Probiotics, such as Lactobacillus, have been shown to influence mucin production.
  3. Probiotics engage with immune cells. Immune cells are constantly communicating with gut bacteria.

How does this link back to exercise and immunity… I’m glad you asked!

High-intensity exercise is immunosuppressive. Immune changes at the cellular level include a reduction in white blood cell function, which creates a window of opportunity for bad bacteria. 

The primary impact that weakens our intestinal wall barrier is the change in blood flow from the gut to skeletal muscle and the heart. This effect of changed blood flow is greater with higher intensity and prolonged exercise. Subsequently, the gut receives less: Blood, Oxygen, Nutrients and Removal of metabolites.

To sum it all up… 

Endurance exercise hurts gut cells. In fact, GI complications are the consequence of blood moving away from the gut, which leads to abdominal cramps and diarrhea – major complaints experienced in endurance sports.  

Athletes undergoing endurance training balance a fine line between enhancing health through exercise and hurting it. Exercise places physical stress on the gut, which lowers immunity. This is inevitable, but probiotics may be a simple nutritional intervention to fight the stress. Studies show that athletes who take a daily probiotic are 46% less likely to get sick. They also sleep better, have better absorption of nutrients and a heightened digestive system. 

An easy formula to remember that really brings the point home (courtesy of my friends at Sound Probiotics) … 


Fall Superfoods

8 Fall Superfoods To Add To Your Grocery Cart
Summer’s not the only season with a bounty of vitamin-rich fruits and veggies. Along with the changing colors of the leaves comes delicious produce packed with nutrients. Choosing a colorful assortment of fruits and vegetables is best, as different nutrients exist along the different colors of the spectrum. As busy endurance athletes our weekend mornings are often filled with longer training sessions but I encourage you to make time for the farmers market and bringing home a basket full of local seasonal produce. 
Apples- This simple diet staple is at its best in the Fall. They provide Vitamin C, folate and calcium. Research has also found a compound in the apple’s skin called quercetin that acts a powerful antioxidant; just be sure to buy organic apples so you aren’t getting dangerous pesticide residue. The phytonutrients in apples can help regulate your blood sugar, something super helpful when athletes are regularly consuming sugary gels and chews on long runs or rides. 
Brussels Sprouts- While I steered clear of these as a kid for the past few years I just can’t get enough. Loaded with more Vitamin C than an orange, plus Vitamin K and folate, Brussels Sprouts are little nutrient powerhouses. You'll find nearly 100 studies in PubMed (the health research database at the National Library of Medicine in Washington, D.C.) that are focused on Brussels sprouts, and over half of those studies involve the health benefits of this cruciferous vegetable in relationship to cancer. Added bonus for athletes- their anti-inflammatory properties. 
Chestnuts- A snack you can feel good about… yes please. These nuts provide 50% of your daily recommended B6 which plays a role in boosting your immune system. They are also full of fiber which helps reduce cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. Chestnuts have a high content of the trace mineral manganese -- an antioxidant, which soaks up free radicals in the system and reduces the risk for cancer and heart disease.
Cranberries- While familiar nutrients like vitamin C and fiber play a very important role in cranberry's health benefits, it's the amazing array of phytonutrients they contain that really boost their superpowers. For the cardiovascular system and for many parts of the digestive tract (including the mouth and gums, stomach, and colon) cranberry has been shown to provide important anti-inflammatory benefits. For lowering our risk of unwanted inflammation, it's the phytonutrients in cranberry that are especially effective. 
Figs- Like most other foods on this list figs are rich in fiber, vitamin B6 and potassium, giving cyclists everywhere a smaller food to carry in their back jersey pocket. Since you can’t get fresh figs al year round I recommend enjoying them while in season and even freezing some for winter smoothies and compotes. 
Pomegranates- These beautiful seeds are full of antioxidants and compounds called tannins that help keep your heart healthy and lower bad cholesterol. An added bonus is the 5g of fiber per half cup. While its not yet confirmed with a vast amount of research, several studies have found that pomegranate supplementation reduced soreness and strength-loss in muscles. 
Pumpkins- Not only is fall’s signature squash a perfect decorative piece, it also packs some powerful healthy perks — like keeping heart health, vision and waistlines in check, as long as you take it easy on the pumpkin pie, that is. Plant based Vitamin A (we still need animal based as well), carotenoids, fiber and beta-carotene are all found in great supply in pumpkins. They can and should be a big part of your post workout meal with 1 cup boasting 564mg of potassium. 
Turnips and their Green Tops- Turnips contain a category of phytonutrients called indoles. Indoles in turnips may reduce your risk for lung and colorectal cancers. A 1-cup serving of boiled, mashed turnips contains 51 calories and provides 76mg of calcium, 21mg of magnesium and 407 mg of potassium. The same serving size also provides 26mg of vitamin C. A 1-cup serving of raw turnip greens provides 104mg of calcium, or 13 percent of your daily requirement, and 163mg of potassium and 33mg of vitamin C. Instead of working out the math on these little gems just focus on adding them to your weekly shopping list. 

Fall food offerings
Fall is the perfect time to break out the Crock-Pot (or buy one) and eat warm, hearty stews, soups, grains, and roasted nuts. The lazy days of summer are soon to be long gone and our busy schedule requires convenience, simplicity and soul filling dishes. A Crock-Pot slow cooks your ingredients at a low temperature. The low temperature ensures the nutrients are not destroyed and the slow cooking unlocks those nutrients, making them easy to digest and absorb. The best part is, you can set your recipe to cook and come back when it is time to eat. Here are two tasty Fall Crock-Pot recipes that will leave you feeling satisfied and nourished. 

Pumpkin & Turnip Chili (Serves 4-6)
28 ounce (1) can diced tomatoes
23 ounce (about 1) can tomato sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups raw pumpkin peeled and chopped into 1” pieces
1 cup raw parsnips cleaned and chopped into 1” pieces
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 15 oz cans kidney beans, drained
1 cup corn, frozen and thawed
1 lb ground beef sirloin (optional but I recommend if you eat meat, to make vegan simply sub lentils or black beans) 
1 cup LOW sodium chicken broth
Roast the corn until most pieces have a dark/charred corner, either in your slow cooker, if it has that function, or on the stove top. A dry pan or pot works best. Set aside corn and brown the meat (in slow cooker or on stove stop).
Combine all ingredients in the base of your slow cooker and stir to mix well. Cook on low for 8 hours.
Serve with sliced avocado on top. 

Curried Vegetable And Chickpea Stew (Serves 4)
This is a delicious vegan recipe, perfect to warm up even the coldest afternoon.  
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
1 c red or purple potatoes, diced
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 tablespoon)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups brussels sprouts, halved
1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 medium head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 (10-ounce) bag baby spinach
1 cup canned coconut milk

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion with one teaspoon of salt until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, and sauté until just translucent around the edges.
Stir in the curry, brown sugar, ginger, garlic, and cayenne and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in 1/4 cup of broth and scrape up any toasty bits from the bottom of the pan. Transfer this onion-potato mixture into the bowl of a slow cooker. You may need additional liquid, add up to an extra cup vegetable broth after stirring everything together. 
To the slow cooker, add the rest of the broth, chickpeas, bell pepper, cauliflower, tomatoes with their juices, pepper, and final teaspoon of salt. Stir to combine. The liquid should come about halfway up the sides of the bowl; add more broth as necessary. Cover and cook for 4 hours on HIGH.
Stir in the spinach and coconut milk. Cover with lid for a few more minutes to allow the spinach to wilt. Taste and correct the salt and other seasonings as needed.
Serve on its own or over a big bowl of kale. The steamy soup will wilt the kale perfectly. 

Tommy Barlow-2016 Grand Slam of ultra running finisher

“I learned to never count myself out no matter how bad I was feeling, and that there was always a second wind just around the corner as long as I maintained belief.” ~ Tommy B

Thanks so much for making the time to chat. Let's start at the beginning. How did you get into running? 

I am probably the unlikeliest of runners because growing up I really did not like it at all and never ran more than a mile for the first 31 years of my life. My wife started running after having our third child and she progressed from a 5K to a marathon while I was busy playing golf. One day, jokingly I told her that she was going farther but not faster, and she quipped back that I could not make it more than 6 miles. The challenge was on and that night I ran 8 miles nonstop, and collapsed into a pile of helplessness. That run proved to deliver a new kind of stress relief and I can honestly say that I experienced an immediate runner's high. I quickly signed up for a half marathon, then a full marathon, and then I realized that I hated running. A friend recommended I do a triathlon because riding a bike might be more appealing, which turned out to be the case and I spent the next four years racing triathlons all the way up to the Ironman distance. I loved the sport of triathlon, but continued to hate running, until once again my wife led the way by entering the Wasatch 100 trail run. During my pacing of her finish I fell in love with the trails, the mountains, and the endurance test that is the 100 miler. Last fall I ran my first 100 miler at the Bear 100, which qualified me to enter and be subsequently selected to run the Western States 100, which was the gateway to running the grand slam.

Can you tell me a bit about your journey this summer- what did it entail and why did you want to take on a challenge like this? 

It's really hard to put the whole experience into words because it encompassed so much including mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual components. Entering the grand slam, I was coming off the worst injury I have ever experienced and was virtually unable to run from the time that I had finished the Bear 100 in September through the entire winter and into spring. Honestly I was in a deep funk, and maybe even a depression through that period of time, and when I learned that I was selected to run Western States it was a bittersweet moment because I wanted to take part in such a historical event, but honestly didn't know how on earth I would be healthy in time to do it.

So much of my journey included committing to something that looked truly impossible, believing that I could somehow get myself ready for it, and then putting in every piece of work that was in my control to prepare for it. I had to get very good at listening to my body and knowing when to train versus when to rest. I also had the help of many people behind the scenes including an osteopath who really helped me sort out some muscle imbalances that caused structural misalignments which were adding to my injury.

Through a long and arduous regimen, I was able to run 13 miles, which was my longest run since getting injured, during Oceanside 70.3 half Ironman in April. From that point on I went longer and felt my body getting stronger through some amazing runs in Zions National Park, the Grand Canyon rim to rim to rim, and Bryce Canyon National Park.

During the same timeframe my dad was unexpectedly forced to have his leg amputated due to a complication during a routine knee replacement surgery. For me the slam was initially a "why not" challenge but it quickly became a "why" challenge. My dad's fight to learn to stand and walk again inspired me to never complain about the pain that I was going through, and I had a goal to inspire him and show him that we can overcome something that seems impossible.

Throughout the entire summer my body responded beautifully. With each race, although there were bumps along the way, I felt myself getting stronger inside and out. I was able to run the first three races in under 24 hours and earn the designated award for such an accomplishment which fueled my confidence not only in my ability to finish these races, but to do them in time goals well beyond my wildest dreams. I learned to never count myself out no matter how bad I was feeling, and that there was always a second wind just around the corner as long as I maintained belief. It's one thing to dream and imagine yourself doing something, but when you actually start doing things it's incredible what potential you unlock as you start to believe.

Most rewarding of all was the opportunity I had to meet so many people and share mutual experiences together. Whether runners, families of runners, pacers who selflessly joined me along the journey, or friends whose homes I spent time in, getting to know and feel the support of others was worth everything it took to tackle this challenge and is the lasting reward that I'll take with me from all of this. 

What is it like running (4)100 mile races in less than 4 months? Would you ever do it again?

This may sound a little crazy, but it was a lot of fun. Maybe it is because I exceeded my goals and expectations by a long shot, but even people who really struggled to get through the slam and those who didn't make it to the end still all had smiles on their faces and seemed to truly cherish the opportunity. I do believe that doing the grand slam is different than simply racing four 100 milers, because you have a community or even a family feel with all of the others who are doing it with you. You see them at every race, sympathize with what they are going through, and become one another's biggest cheerleaders. I really felt like the cumulation of miles did add up and fatigue would set in earlier in my muscles during races three through four, but my endurance both physical and mental seemed to increase as the weeks drew on. I was certainly getting tired and battling fatigue, but at the same time I was becoming a stronger version of myself.

The time between races really went quickly giving me almost 0 time to train and just enough time to recover, so you really need to start the Slam with a super solid base. If I was ever lucky enough to be selected for Western states again, I would like to run that race as a single 100 miler in a season just to see how fast I could possibly go so I would not enter the grand slam under those circumstances. That being said, if I was lucky enough to enter Western states two more times then I would happily take on the grand slam another time.

I love the idea of ultra running but it seems overwhelming. What tips do you have for someone looking to get started?

For anyone thinking about getting into ultra I would say that you are already on your way. I believe that thoughts lead to words, words lead to actions, and actions deliver results. Now that you are thinking about it, the next step is to start talking about it. Tell other runners what you want to achieve and watch as people will surround you with support and belief. Anyone can run the ultra distance as long as they believe. I would also suggest finding out what your personal strengths and weaknesses are and embrace them. I am not the best runner on flat terrain, but I am a really good downhill technical runner. I have learned to run to my strengths and use that confidence to better my weaknesses. Everyone starts somewhere, and in ultra the great news is that there is plenty of walking, hiking, and time to kill so you really get to discover a lot about yourself, and more importantly about nature that surrounds you.

My last piece of advice is to try to find a group of trail runners and join up with them. You can learn so much from others and your commitment to show up on a regular basis will prepare you in almost every way to complete your first ultra. There is no way I could've done what I did without my tight-knit trail running community. 

The highs and lows are to be expected, can you recall your favorite moment from the races? How about your lowest point during the races? What did you learn from both?

I took away so many special moments from the races themselves. I'll never forget running the track in Auburn in disbelief that I had come back from the dead to run a sub 24 at the most iconic 100 mile race in the country. Summiting Hope Pass both times and feeling stronger than I ever imagined en route to a sub 24 hour finish at Leadville was literally something I thought would be impossible for me, but it happened. Yet the most memorable moment of all was running to my dad at the finish of Wasatch 100 and seeing him standing with his prosthetic leg waiting for me and cheering me on. The entire race was extremely difficult, but because I knew who was waiting at the end of that race, I knew I would never give up and I learned the power my will and determination as I moved forward all day regardless of how bad my body was feeling. 

Physically I had my lowest points at Wasatch because I started puking at mile 40 and didn't stop until I was done. Emotionally, however I had one of the lowest moments at mile 74 of the Vermont 100 when I thought my bid at the grand slam was over due to discovering blood in my urine. I was panicked and feared the worst that my body was suffering from rhabdomyolysis and had to do everything I could to not freak out, give up, and let my dream die. It was a short moment but was also the only time that I thought I would have to quit, and it was difficult because it wasn't my legs stopping me, but rather something inside my body over which I had zero control. Fortunately this came on the fastest course of the grand slam and I was well ahed of my goal time so I switched to an ultraconservative mode, listened carefully to my body, and managed to hike out the final 26 miles. I learned from this experience that sometimes a twist of fate or bad luck can easily and a runner's dreams in something like a 100 miler where so many things can go wrong.

We’ve gotta talk nutrition - what did you use to race and recover? Were there any changes from the first to the last race? I know people will want to know… how did you eat while running 100 miles? 

For nutrition I thought that I had things dialed in by my last race at Wasatch but learned the hard lesson that fueling is a puzzle many of us still battle with during race conditions. Overall I learned that my body typically does well starting with slower burning fuels, then switching to faster burning fuels during the warmer hours. Once the sun goes down and temperatures start dropping again I tend to move back to real food like chicken broth, sandwiches, and quesadillas. Caffeine also definitely has a place in running 100 milers because unless you are an absolute freak of nature you will be moving for over 20 hours. I typically add Coke and Redbull throughout the last half of a 100 miler. Some of my favorite running fuels include Justin's nut butter, bacon, raw honey, Gu Stroop waffles, and if I can stomach a gel here and there I will. I am also a big fan of licking salt from time to time as your body tells you it needs it, but don't typically take salt capsules which dissolve in your stomach.

The part of my nutrition that I felt much better about was what I put in my body between races. After the first race and really up to that point I did not follow any strict nutritional guidelines. I almost justified eating anything I wanted because I was an endurance athlete that burned a lot of calories. After the first race it quickly became apparent that I could not neglect a strict plan and re-fortification of depleted nutrients in my body. That's when you and I had a chat and I was given a shopping list and instructions on what to eat, when to eat it, and how to supplement.

I believe that one of the biggest contributors to my success in the grand slam was taking in a lot of the supplements in the form of a daily shake. Adding things like macca, flax seed, hemp seed, super greens, collagen, and mushroom matrix seemed to help my body rapidly rebuild the damaged muscle tissue. During the slam I also found myself struggling to get into normal sleeping patterns and the improved nutrition seemed to help me get better rest as well, which is absolutely vital when taking on something this taxing.

Had I not made this shift mid slam, I may not have been able to drag my body through Wasatch because the cumulative fatigue could have been simply too much without a more specific nutritional plan as opposed to my "winging it like always". 

What are some of your favorite sports nutrition products? 

My favorite sports nutrition product still remains as raw honey. I think the closer we get to natural foods and ingredients the better our bodies will respond. One cannot discount the benefit of taking in concentrated calories and honey seems to fit the bill very well giving me about 120 calories per ounce. The shake I mentioned before with all of the supplements is my second favorite. For my hydration during the race I was a big fan of taking Gnarly nutrition electrolyte and their BCAA supplement drink. 

What is your favorite running thing - tool/accessory/shoe/clothing… something you couldn’t live without?

When it comes to gear, nothing matters more than taking care of your feet and knees in my opinion. I have struggled through knee injuries due to improper tracking of my patella, and simply cannot run pain free without using Rock Tape (or any brand of kinesiology tape)....like not even 3 miles without pain. When I tape my knees and provide extra stability I can run 100 miles with zero knee pain whatsoever. For my feet, I like Hokas. No other shoe keeps my feet happy over 50 miles. 

What's next, Mr. Grand Slam?

Officially I'm only committed to Ironman 70.3 California in Oceanside this upcoming Spring. If the lottery Gods continue to smile upon me, you may see me racing the biggest trail race in the world at UTMB in the Alps...but I had better win two lotteries so I can afford that one after all I spent this year ; )  Otherwise I plan to race the Discrete Peak series next summer and some more local trail races as my family schedule permits.

Summer time and the living's easy...

Summer time and the living’s easy…
Loads of fresh fruit and vegetables show up at the farmers market and grocery store shelves this time of year. If you’re like me you just want to buy everything in sight and often end up with too much. Below are some tips for making your summer produce retain their nutrients, last longer and taste better.
A Few General Guidelines
Do Not Store Fruits and Vegetables Together. Fruits that give off high levels of ethylene (the ripening agent) can prematurely ripen and spoil surrounding vegetables. (Think of the "one bad apple" adage.)

For Vegetables: Before storing, remove ties and rubber bands and trim any leafy ends. Leave an inch to keep the vegetable from drying out. Make sure the bag you store the veggies in has some holes punctured to allow for good air flow. Pack vegetables loosely in the refrigerator. The closer they are, the quicker they will rot. Leafy greens can be washed before storing by soaking them in a sink full of water, while soft herbs and mushrooms should not be washed until right before they are used.
For Fruits: Non-cherry stone fruits, avocados, tomatoes, mangoes, melons, apples, and pears will continue to ripen if left sitting out on a countertop, while items like grapes, all citrus, and berries will only deteriorate and should be refrigerated. Bananas in particular ripen very quickly, and will also speed the ripening of any nearby fruits.

Cleaning: Leave refrigerated produce unwashed in its original packaging or wrapped loosely in a plastic bag. (Exceptions are mushrooms and herbs). If your greens seem sandy or dirty—think lettuce from the farmers’ market—rinse and dry them well, then wrap them in a paper towel before placing in a plastic bag. Fruits and vegetables stored at room temperature should be removed from any packaging and left loose. 
Special Tricks:
Greens - use a bath towel. I prepare my greens by cutting them into bite-sized pieces, washing them en masse, and shaking off the excess water in a salad spinner. Then I spread the greens out on clean bath towels to air dry for a few hours.  When it’s time to store the greens (or I need my counter back), I simply roll the towels up with the greens inside. The rolls are secured with rubber bands and stored in the bottom shelf of the fridge. Each night, I unroll just enough greens for my salads and then bundle them up again. The absorbent towels do a great job of keeping the greens moist but not damp so they stay fresh and crispy all week long. This also saves time during the week when you’re rushed and tired - the greens are already ready to go.

Bananas - wrap the stem end. If you’re like you me, bananas are always in the house but keeping them from turning brown requires some serious magic. I can go to bed at night with green bananas and somehow the next morning they’re brown. The trick to keeping them at just the right freshness is to use plastic wrap around the stem end, where they are all stuck together (the crown as its called in the farming world). This method prevents ethylene gas, produced naturally in the ripening process, from reaching other parts of the fruit and prematurely ripening it. The key is to wrap it TIGHTLY!
Berries - Wash the berries in a diluted vinegar bath (1 cup vinegar plus 3 cups water) and spin them dry in a salad spinner lined with paper towels until they are completely dry (dry by hand for the more delicate berries like raspberries). Store the cleaned berries in a glass sealable container lined with paper towels.The vinegar destroys bacteria and mold spores on the berries, helping them stay fresh longer. 

Spicy Cucumber & Cantaloupe Salad
August is a great month to enjoy fresh fruits and veggies and the perfect side dish to any meal, I like to serve this with white fish or use as a salsa over blackened cod tacos.
2 tbsp. tamari or low sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tsp. minced peeled fresh ginger
1 small red or green jalapeno, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
1/4 c. torn fresh mint leaves
1 English cucumber, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cantaloupe, peeled, seeded, flesh thinly sliced & cubed
Whisk together tamari, lime juice, and ginger in a small bowl.
In a large bowl, combine jalapeno, mint leaves, cucumber, and cantaloupe. Add dressing and stir to coat.

Phyto what?

Q: I've been reading about phytonutrients- what are they and why do I need them?

A: Simply put, phytonutrients are chemical compounds in plants that protect it from germs, pests, and environmental toxins. They have discovered up to 40,000 different ones and are still finding more.

When you eat food, it is disassembled and the nutrients are utilized to perform different jobs within the body. I'm often asked why I place such a huge importance on plants (vegetables, fruits, greens, herbs and spices) in my meal plans over something like meat and carbohydrates. The one sentence answer is, because plants are the lifeblood that keeps athletes going and the magic potion for
longevity. The macronutrients are important but there's an obsession with fats, carbs and proteins which leads people to miss the bigger picture.

Phytochemicals give fruits and vegetables their beautiful array of colors and some of their taste qualities. Examples of phytochemicals include lycopene in tomatoes, beta-carotene in carrots, ellagic acid in raspberries.

So why are these phytochemicals important to you? They perform a variety of functions in your body when consumed. Studies indicate that they may prevent or delay the onset of chronic disease such as cancer and heart disease. Some decrease inflammation, others act as antioxidants to protect DNA and cell membranes from damage. While some phytochemicals in blueberries and cherries may aid in recovery from workouts.

So what is the best plan for optimal health for endurance athletes? Use what nature provided to heal your body quickly and effectively. Eat nutrient dense, minimally processed plant foods and lots of them! Phytochemicals work in a synergistic manner, meaning their combined effects are greater than their individual effects. This means you need to eat a variety of whole, nutrient rich plant foods daily.
And for my meat loving peeps... I do believe in the power of meat, fish and plant based sources of protein but that's coming in next months newsletter so stay tuned. One bite of the "apple" at a time.

Person to follow:
Tina is a friend, running inspiration, and someone I think deserves a cheer (she's doing almost back to back races- Half Marathon World Championships and the London Marathon). She is a Saucony sponsored elite runner and the host of the Runners Connect podcast.

Tina recently achieved her lifetime goal of representing Great Britain at the World Championship. You can read her race recap on her blog HERE.

I admire her courage to chase a dream in such a competitive field. Her mantra is Be Brave, Be Strong, Be You - something I think we can all get behind!

You can find her at the links above, or at:
Instagram @tinamuir88

Squash, pomegranate and kale salad:

Serves 2

1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp poppy seeds
1/4 c pumpkin seeds
2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1c pomegranate seeds
1 head of kale, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
½ red onion, sliced
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of one orange
½ cup coconut oil (or other cold pressed oil)


Preheat oven to 375 °F.
Coat sliced squash with olive oil and poppy seeds, bake for 30 minutes
or until soft. Allow to cool to room temperature.
Combine kale, cooled squash, pomegranate seeds,
and red onion in a
large salad bowl.
Whisk together maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, orange juice, and coconut oil.
Dress salad immediately before serving.

I love the HEART!


Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and athletes aren't immune.  Many runners, gym junkies and triathletes think pushing themselves to the limits all-day every-day will result in a 'get out of jail free' card. 

Overtraining:  A very common problem I see in my practice is many athletes compromising their health at the expense of getting fit-typically by overtraining, which can include too much volume and not enough rest. This regime can produce a deadly combination of inflammation, stress and free-radical oxidation. Sleep, rest days, an easy training day and stress management must be priority #1. 

Dietary choices and nutritional deficiency:  The truth is many athletes are unhealthy because of poor dietary choices and nutritional deficiencies. The sugar laden sports drinks and bars, the post long-run trip through In-N-Out every Sunday and the milkshake-like coffee drink consumed every morning on the way into work all sabotage your longevity. Athletes also get stuck on the latest performance enhancing supplement or cure-all smoothie powder instead of eating real, unprocessed whole foods.

Community:  The last big component of heart health is community. Studies have shown that spiritual practices and being a part of active social networks promote healthy behavior, foster feelings of optimism and hope, reduce feelings of depression and anxiety and encourage a sense of relaxation. Having a higher purpose, being emotionally connected to the world around you and participating in group activities promotes healing, boosts immune function and positively influences the cardiovascular, hormonal and nervous systems. Point being – get out there and worship, join a club, volunteer, find a way to have a meaningful impact on the lives of others and your heart will thank you for it. 

The whirlwind of life and newsworthy headlines on everything except heart disease often overshadow the importance of cardiovascular health. When you're trying to load up on protein, rehydrate properly and balance carbohydrate intake to build muscle and recover after a workout, it's easy to forget that you need to take care of your heart, too.

That fist-sized muscle beats over 100,000 times a day and pumps blood through the entire body. The best way to thank your heart for the work it's doing... eat whole foods, get enough sleep, find your spiritual and social center and reduce stress.

Person to Follow...
Nate Helming-The Run Experience

Nate is a very good friend of mine, a running mentor and an all-around cool dude!  His passion for running and the outdoors was evident from the first time we met. Since then he's shared more knowledge on mobility, strength and running form than my brain can handle- to call him a guru is an understatement.

He has created an online community called The Run Experience that teaches athletes how to run better and feel great while doing it. He is based in San Francisco and in addition to coaching runners and triathletes of all levels, he trains Olympic level cyclists, professional triathletes, elite mountain bikers, and national-level ultra runners on strength and mobility. Nate has traveled around the world to speak about better strength training for endurance athletes, and regularly publishes videos and articles on how runners can do it better! 


Given this month's focus on taking care of the heart, these are some common heart-healthy foods that should be making a daily appearance in your diet:

  • Nuts & seeds contain phytosterols that help lower cholesterol.
  • Beans are rich in B-vitamins which fight blood clots and the hardening of the arteries.
  • Salmon is loaded with Omega-3 unsaturated fats which reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Oats contain fiber and chemicals called lingans that protect against heart disease and cancer.
  • Berries are rich in antioxidants which help reverse oxidative damage.

Here are a few more equally great foods to begin adding in to the mix:

  • Sardines
  • Cooked tomatoes
  • Hemp seeds
  • Cold pressed oils
  • Beets
  • Coffee & green tea
  • Veggies-brussels sprouts, cauliflower & onions
  • Spices & herbs-cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and cilantro

Cooking fish can be an intimidating process - this recipe combines a few of the suggested heart healthy ingredients and is super simple, quick and guaranteed to please. Serve over a big plate of greens, spinach or arugula work well. 

Heart-felt Honey Almond Salmon with Roasted Veggies

  • 1 6oz serving Sizzlefish Salmon
  • 1tbsp local honey
  • 2 tbsp shaved almonds
  • 1c peeled beets
  • 1c brussels sprouts
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
  • Slice beets and brussels sprouts – drizzle with 2 tbsp coconut oil and spices. Spread on a baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes.
  • While that cooks-- Spread the salmon with honey and almonds, place skin side down in a baking dish and cook in the oven for 12-14 minutes until almonds are crunchy brown and fish is done.

Time to get it done

This year is all about giving back to our clients, to our readers and to our friends.  We'll be far more diligent in posting information on a more regular basis and that begins with our new newsletter format which just went out.  Lots of the information is posted below, so take a gander and get familiar with the layout.

Education:  How to be a healthy athlete in 2016:

It's that time of year again where every magazine, newspaper and TV show is highlighting diets, weight loss and paths to a 'better you.'  While I love the boost in motivation and potential that often comes with January, I also feel like it's 90% hogwash.  This year, instead of trying to lose 10lbs. or eat less Chipotle, I challenge you to focus on four (4) simple areas and make lasting lifestyle adjustments.  

If you can't see yourself doing it in 5-months or 5-years, then any new resolution isn't worth your time.  Take each of the four areas listed below and make it priority #1 for 10 days.  After that, add on to the next one for 10 days and so on.  The key here is adding in, not taking away.  

  1. More Sleep: I will scream over and over again until my athletes and clients start listening. The best recovery tool you have is sleep. While sleeping your body repairs itself, adapts to a harder training load and brings your hormones back into balance. Sleep loss on the other hand lowers glucose metabolism by 30% and time to exhaustion by 11%. It reduces sprint speed and hand-eye coordination and raises perceived exertion by 19%.  You are not the athlete you could be when you are sleep deprived. You are also putting yourself at risk of injury and infection; your immune system weakens when you're not getting 7-10 hrs per night. The good news is, naps help and count towards your daily total. Find 30 min at lunch or before your evening training session to close your eyes. #carNAP
  2. Cook at Home: Eating out is nice, a luxury in fact. The problem comes when we are eating out all the time. Even when making seemingly healthy choices, we are consuming loads of sodium, sugar and calories. Make packing a lunch a priority, bust out the crockpot so you have dinner waiting when you get home and instead of that Starbucks turkey-bacon egg white sandwich, make egg and bacon mini muffins at home so you can grab and go all week.
  3. Eat From The Ground: It's just that simple. The single most impactful thing you can do for your health is to eat a more plant-based diet. I'm not telling you to ban meat from the house but I am advising you to eat less of it and to eat more items from the produce section. Consuming fruits and vegetables lowers inflammation, boosts energy and stamina, improves sleep quality and provides you with loads of vitamins and minerals to boost muscle function and growth.
  4. Track vitamins and minerals instead of weight and calories: Our home doesn't even have a scale; in fact I haven't been on one (except at the doctors office) for over 10 years. It was one of the best and most freeing things I've ever done. Weight is a number on scale, not a measurement of your value. Sure it's a helpful tool when your weight has become a medical issue, but most athletes don't have this problem. The same goes for calorie counting. I won't go into why calorie counting is mostly useless but I will say that it grinds you down on a daily basis and often misleads you. Instead of logging every single thing you eat into MyFitnessPal, track your daily servings of fruit and veg, add up your Vitamin D or Omega 3's, record your consumption of magnesium and potassium.

By changing your focus this year, I guarantee you can change your life-small daily life habits become a lifestyle and by the end of 2016, you'll look as good as you feel.

Person To Follow:

The Triumph Project:  IG: @thetriumphproject

My good friend and adventure seeker, Jeff Fairbanks jumped into triathlon in 2013 after an extensive career in surfing, MMA and cycle cross.  He has created an exception documentary film on the world of triathlons.

Showcasing pro and amateur athletes, his storytelling is gritty, powerful and inspiring.  Whether you've been doing triathlons for years or never ridden a bike in your life, I highly recommend you check out this film.  

Click HERE to check out the trailer and I dare you not to lace up your shoes and run!


Winter Soups

A piping hot bowl of soup is the ultimate comfort food during the winter months. Soups are budget friendly, packed with vitamins and minerals and ready and waiting when you finish a long hard training session. You can pack up soup to take to work or consume immediately after a long Saturday training ride – in the winter I'll carry bone broth in a thermos to sip on as my recovery drink. Soups can be surprisingly filling and nutrient dense as well as help clean out the fridge. I'll share a recipe on our blog, but the basic ingredients are pretty easy: stock, vegetables, grain, meat or meat alternative, aromatics and toppings. 

Greens White Bean and Sausage Soup (serves 4 hungry athletes)

4 chicken sausage links (sub tempeh for vegans)
6 cloves garlic
1 can low sodium cannellini beans
4 c spinach
4 c kale
2 c yellow onion diced
2 c sliced mushrooms
1 c sun dried tomatoes (in olive oil for flavor)
6 c low sodium chicken or veggie broth
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp ground pepper
2 tbsp ground Italian spices
Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add sliced sausage. Brown for 2-3 min.
Add onion, garlic and olive oil and saute until brown. 4-5 min. Add in mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes- cook 2 min.
Partially mash beans with a potato masher (or fork) and add broth and beans to the pan and bring to a boil.
Stir in kale and spinach and seasonings and simmer over medium heat for 6-8 min.
Divide into 4 bowls and top with – avocado, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast, fresh herbs or pine nuts.


Saving $$$ Online

I'm usually the girl to promote shopping and eating locally, supporting local small farmers and reducing our carbon footprint. Unfortunately healthy and affordable options aren't always accessible. There are a number of excellent resources and sites online to find high quality, nutrient dense foods and supplements. This month I wanted to highlight a few that I find myself recommending to clients on an almost daily basis. You'll see a variety of vendors in this list – plant based options, meat and fish suppliers, fat/spices/seasonings markets and discounted vitamins and supplements. I have no affiliations with these companies – I just like them and the way they do business.
Thrive Market – TM is an online shopping club (similar to CostCo) on a mission to make healthy living easy and affordable to everyone. Members have access to the best selling healthy foods and wholesome products at 25-50% off of regular prices. The best part – for every paid membership, Thrive Market donates a free membership to a family in need.
SizzleFish – Developed by athletes for athletes, Sizzlefish provides customers with pure, top quality fish delivered right to your door in perfectly portioned sizes. Their mission is to help athletes perform better and supply them with clean, delicious fish. Sizzlefish offers many different buying options- a sample pack, wild-ocean pack, paleo pack etc.
5280Meat – This company provides customers with high quality, clean, local affordable meats. They raise cattle and livestock the way nature intended; roaming free, eating only wild grass and never living in feedlots. 5280 animals are never given growth hormones, antibiotics or steroids.
Fatworks – Promotes and educates customers on the benefits of using real cooking oils like tallow, lard and duck fat while crafting their products in the most natural way possible.
Flavorgod – Chris Wallace, founder and creator of these fantastic healthy spices. His mission is to provide people with unique and delicious seasonings that help them create amazing meals. All Flavorgod products are chemical and filler free, have low sodium levels and keep the distinct flavor and nutritional value of the herbs.
The Feed – Food For Athletes – Started by a group of athletes who believed there wasn't a one size fits all fueling and hydration option for athletes. Their staff collects all the big name and new to market products that are tested and proven to work by athletes from a variety of sports and offers them up at a slight discount. Monthly membership options can reduce costs even more. Each shipment comes with a personalized 'thank you' note and suggestions for others products to try.
Vitacost – Online vitamin, supplement and grocery staple shopping center. They are a certified GREEN business, deliver with super speedy shipping, have great prices and an endless product selection. The site is really well organized and makes finding new items to try a breeze. 

Let's sleep on it!

How many times have you thought 'well I can catch up on sleep later'?
I get it; family time, work, training, social obligations, that new episode of Narcos (if you're not watching it you should be) and all of a sudden, it’s midnight and your alarm is set for 4:30am. We ask so much of our bodies during the day why do we expect them to perform and carry on illness and injury free with less than five hours of sleep a night? I can preach until I'm blue in the face and many of you still won't make it a priority. I've written articles on the dangers of inadequate sleep and how it raises cortisol, facilitates weight gain, increases your likelihood of having heart disease or a stroke, kills your sex life and so on and so on. But what about sport – how does it hinder performance?
There are two big areas where a lack of sufficient sleep will hurt your ability to train and race to the best of your potential; physical fatigue and mental fatigue. 

Physical fatigue shows up in the form of tired or injured muscles, a lack of power or speed, irregular blood pressure (higher or lower heart rates), the inability to access glycogen stores in competition and a slow rate of recovery.
Mental fatigue may be an even greater performance limiter. When you are mentally exhausted studies have demonstrated that endurance performance goes down, your rate of perceived exertion goes up (the normal training load seems infinitely harder), cognitive performance goes down (poor focus, slower reflexes, less oxygen pumping to muscles, diminished capacity to “push it”) and lastly, you run a higher risk of overreaching.
What about sleep the night before your race? It happens to all of us; nerves are high, excitement and adrenaline are surging, and you're doing a mental checklist of everything you have to do in the morning before your race. Here are some strategies I use to get back to sleep: stay out of your head, make relaxation (not sleep) your goal, do a quiet non-stimulating activity (calming music, deep breathing, reading a book) and avoid bright light (TV, phone, computer).
Give your body what it needs – 7-8 hours of quality sleep every night. If you can sneak them in, take a power nap in the afternoon for 15-20 min. The week leading up to a race make sleep your #1 priority... you'll thank me later!