EnlightenU Nutrition Consulting, LLC

Enlightening You about Food and Nutrition

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Bone Health for Female Athletes Across the Lifespan

Good bone health affects your ability to stay active and healthy throughout life. However, when female athletes, especially those training for recreational or elite athletic competition, knowingly or unknowingly exercise too much and eat too little, they may be at risk for low bone mass and fractures.

The incidence of low bone density and stress fractures, is increasing among competitive and recreational female athletes of all ages, and leads to pain and lost time from training and competition. Osteoporosis, a bone disease caused by weakened, porous bone, occurs silently and progressively over time, often with no symptoms until a fracture occurs. It’s currently estimated that one in three women over the age of 50 will suffer from an osteoporotic fracture www.iofbonehealth.org.

Bone is a living tissue that is constantly changing. Nutrition, physical activity, and certain hormones all play a role in the development and maintenance of healthy bones. With adequate nutrients, in particular calcium, Vitamin D, and protein, as well as weight-bearing exercise, most people achieve a peak bone mineral density by their late 20’s. During the normal aging process, both bone mass and bone strength decrease, with increased declines related to the lack of estrogen, such as with menopause or in female athletes with amenorrhea. Therefore, bone disease prevention begins during childhood and adolescence, as well as lessening the extent of bone loss that occurs during the aging process.

Photo courtesy: Shutterstock.com

To optimize bone health, female athletes need to:

  1. Consume foods that provide adequate calcium and vitamin D
  2. Eat enough calories to support their training
  3. Include high quality protein at meals and snacks
  4. Participate in strength or resistance exercises that provide an mechanical force on the bone
  5. Recognize that menstrual irregularity is a warning sign for low bone mass – and for postmenopausal women, consider having a DEXA bone density scan done to measure your bone density.

The Role of Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium is an important mineral in the body for maintaining bone strength, regulating muscle contractions, maintaining blood pressure, and transmitting nerve impulses. Most of the body’s calcium is stored in our bones (and teeth); and, without enough calcium each day from the diet, the body will use what it needs from the bone to keep blood calcium levels normal. If more calcium is removed from the bones than is consumed in the diet, the bones may become fragile or weak.

The calcium recommendation for women ages 25 to 50 is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day and 1,200 mg/day for women after age 50. Good sources of calcium include dairy products (milk, yogurt, kefir, and cheese), calcium-fortified juices or plant milks, some types of tofu, certain vegetables (collard greens, kale, broccoli, bok choy), oranges and almonds.

Vitamin D is also vital to bone health as it is needed for the absorption of calcium from the intestines and plays a key role in bone mineralization. The recommended daily allowance is 600 international units (IU) for those women under 70 years of age and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age. Vitamin D is present in only a few foods including fatty fish, egg yolks and fortified foods, like milk and cereal. It is also made in the skin when exposed to sunlight. For those unable to get sunlight or consume sufficient Vitamin D from foods, 2,000 units of Vitamin D daily may be recommended, but you should consult with your doctor before taking any supplement.

Photo courtesy: Adobestock.com

Other Key Nutrients for Bone Health

Consuming enough calories to fuel activity and other body functions is critical. Eating a variety of foods at three meals and two to three snacks throughout the day according to your hunger and fullness will generally meet the energy demands of your sport.

Including a source of protein (lean meat, fish, dairy products, soy foods, beans, legumes and nuts) at each of your meals and snacks will provide the building blocks necessary for building a strong matrix of protein fibers in bone. Achieving peak bone mass during childhood and adolescence, as well as preserving bone mass with aging, is dependent on the body having enough protein available for bone development.

Many other nutrients are needed for healthy bones. Although research is still evolving on their role and benefits, Vitamin K, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc also have a role in bone health. 

I’m often asked if there is a way to reverse bone loss or if a supplement, like collagen, will help prevent bone loss. There are medications that can help slow bone loss, however these come with side effects. Osteoporosis is not reversable. At this time, there is no evidence to support taking a collagen powder to prevent bone loss. Collagen powders only provide three amino acids that are components of collagen in the body, but there is no way to direct those amino acids to specific tissues in your body (in this case bone) to aid in collagen synthesis. A better strategy would be to consume adequate amounts of high quality protein (such as those foods highlighted above) or include a protein powder that provides the body all of the amino acids (i.e. whey or soy protein).

Bottom line: A food first approach is a superior way to ensure your body is getting all the key nutrients needed for bone metabolism. For advice on customizing a fueling plan, consult a Registered Dietitian who specializes in sports, particularly a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD).

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Nutrition and Skin Health: Can You Eat Your Way to Healthier Skin?

The effect of diet on human health has become a source of debate, and perhaps even an obsession in the US. Many beg to know “what foods or diet is best” … to improve overall health, prevent disease, achieve a certain aesthetic look, or optimize athletic performance? But, how does your diet affect the body’s largest organ – your skin?

Numerous factors affect skin health, including genetics, hormones, aging, stress, sleep, and exposure to alcohol, smoking or the sun. Some of these you cannot influence, however, what you eat (or don’t eat) may be one of the most important factors you can influence in modulating the health of your skin.

Most well-known is the impact of malnutrition and nutrient deficiencies on disorders of the skin. For example, malnutrition due to an eating disorder, such as anorexia nervosa, is often observed by significant changes to the skin, i.e. dry, red, itchy and/or inflamed skin, lanugo-like body hair, acne, petechiae (tiny purple, red, or brown spots on the skin), and in some cases, a yellowish discoloration of palms and soles of feet referred to as carotenoderma. It’s well documented that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, due to under-eating or malabsorption, are also associated with various dermatological changes, such as the clinical manifestation of pellagra with niacin deficiency, or hyperpigmentation of the skin due to vitamin B12 deficiency.

A more frequent, and perhaps controversial, question is whether there is a relationship between diet and relatively common skin conditions, such as acne. The link between frequent dairy or milk consumption and acne is often referenced, but to date there is insufficient evidence with no high-quality randomized controlled studies to recommend milk restriction as a treatment for patients with acne (Burris, et al. 2013). The evidence seems to be more convincing for a possible connection between the quality and quantity of carbohydrate consumption and acne. Still, by today’s standards, nutritional studies that isolate a food-triggered influence on acne are reportedly costly and difficult to control, thus making it challenging to develop well-defined, evidence based nutritional recommendations (Fiedler et al, 2017). 

Best Foods for Healthy Skin

Foods rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are chemicals found in foods that fight unstable molecules, called free radicals, that can cause damage to cells in the body. A diet rich in antioxidants is important for the whole body, but antioxidants have an important role in skin health by protecting cells against UV-induced damage which may prevent or reduce dry, wrinkled skin. Beta-carotene, lycopene and vitamins A, C and E are specific nutrients that have antioxidant properties, while vitamin C also helps to make a protein, called collagen that keeps skin strong.

Good food sources include: A variety of colorful fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants. Specific foods sources of beta-carotene and vitamin A include carrots, sweet potatoes, red and yellow bell peppers. Foods rich in vitamin C include bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, and tomatoes (also a good source of lycopene); and, foods providing vitamin E include avocados, nuts, seeds, and spinach.

Foods high in Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3’s provide important building blocks for each cell membrane in the body. Our body is not able to make these essential fatty acids, so they need to be supplied to the body from the foods we eat. Flexible, healthy cells rich in omega-3 fatty acids enable nutrients to move easily into, and waste easily out of cells while helping to reduce inflammation in the body, reducing redness, maintaining skin moisture, and may also help improve the clinical symptoms of psoriasis.

Good food sources include: Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines; nuts and seeds, such as flaxseed, chia seeds and walnuts; and, plant oils, such as flaxseed oil, soybean oil and canola oil.

Fluids and Hydration. Staying well-hydrated by drinking plenty of unsweetened beverages throughout the day is good for the entire body. So, will excessive water intake have an even better effect on hydration and skin health? The “more is better” philosophy, as it relates to skin and hydration, was explored by Wolf, at al. who concluded that in otherwise healthy individuals, there doesn’t appear to be an improved benefit. However, as often recommended, further research is needed to provide definitive evidence (Wolf et al, 2010).  

Final Thoughts. Although nutrition may be one of the most important factors involved in promoting healthy skin, the link between diet and disease is not always as simple as a single food or nutrient triggering a particular sign that disease is present. For example, dietary restriction or the stress/anxiety induced by worrying that a certain food is “causing” a skin problem may actually be more problematic than any single food item. An individual’s overall dietary pattern (i.e. adequate calories with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats) together with lifestyle (i.e., regular physical activity, stress management, not smoking, quality sleep, and low alcohol consumption) take advantage of the additive and synergistic nature of these behaviors to promote healthy outcomes, including healthier skin.

Foods & beverages to prioritize in your meals and snacks:

Vegetables: broccoli, spinach, kale, peppers, zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, beets, etc.

Fruit: berries, grapefruit, oranges, apples, cherries, bananas, pears, grapes, peaches, etc.

Whole grains and starchy vegetables: Sweet potato, quinoa, butternut squash, brown rice, oats, buckwheat, etc.

Healthy fats: whole eggs, olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, nut butters, coconut oil, etc.

Plant-based dairy alternatives: cashew milk, almond milk, coconut milk, coconut yogurt, etc.

High-quality protein: salmon, tofu, chicken, turkey, eggs, shellfish, etc.

Legumes: chickpeas, black beans, lentils, kidney beans, etc.

Anti-inflammatory herbs and spices: turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, parsley, garlic, ginger, cayenne, etc.

Unsweetened beverages: water, sparkling water, green tea, hibiscus tea, lemon water, etc.

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Easy-Peasy Rhubarb & Strawberry Crunch


A little piece of trivia – rhubarb is actually a vegetable. However, in the kitchen it is usually prepared as a fruit, and because of it’s tart flavor, rhubarb is often cooked with sugar and used in pies or other desserts.

Growing up in the Midwest, rhubarb (being a perennial), seemed to grow everywhere. We’d snap off a piece and enjoy the raw, tart, crisp stalks alone or dipped in a little sugar! Of course, there’s countless versions of recipes for rhubarb crisp, rhubarb and apple crumble, and my mom’s absolutely delicious recipe for rhubarb crunch (pictured below) that we enjoyed during those summer months!

rhubarb crunch

I just love these handwritten recipes – especially the ones from my mom!!

Recently, I was trying to find a “lower sugar” version of a rhubarb recipe, and everything I found just seemed a bit disappointing (in my opinion) – not something I’d feel proud serving for company, which is kind of a litmus test for me.

So I decided to do a little experimenting and came up with the following recipe. Since I typically don’t enjoy food substitutions or versions of dessert recipes that are tweaked to be “healthy” (they leave me a bit dissatisfied which is not the point of dessert), I was pleasantly surprised with how this turned out.

In some recipes, ingredients like sugar (or even salt) actually overpower the flavor of the food it’s added to. In fact, we’ve become a bit “used to” this level of sweetness or seasoning – and have come to expect it. As I’ve said before, we don’t need to “cut sugar out” of the diet, but we do need to recognize when we are missing out on the natural flavor of food because it’s masked or covered up by these highly palatable ingredients.

Therefore, preparing this recipe with less sugar seemingly highlights the deliciousness of the unique, tart flavor of the rhubarb and it doesn’t seem like a compromise on flavor. And…the crunch and light sweetness of the topping was accented with the addition of the walnuts. Absolutely delicious!

So, it passed my litmus test and I would definitely serve this for my guests!

Rhubarb & Strawberry Crunch

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Rhubarb is a nutritious addition to many recipes. Typically baked with a lot of sugar to balance its tartness, this rhubarb recipe has just the right amount of sweetness from the strawberries and honey, so it’s a delicious treat, but not too much so you can still enjoy the tang of the rhubarb!


  • 4 cups chopped fresh or frozen rhubarb**
  • 1-pint strawberries hulled and sliced
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup flour (can substitute with whole wheat or almond flour)
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • ¾ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • 1/3 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped (optional)
  • ¼ cup butter, softened


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the rhubarb, strawberries and honey. Transfer to a shallow baking dish, i.e. 8 x 8
  3. In another bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Mix in butter with fork until crumbly and spread over top of the fruit.
  4. Bake for 40 minutes, until rhubarb is tender and the topping is toasted.

 Note: if using frozen rhubarb, thaw according to package directions. Consider adding about 1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch to the rhubarb, honey and strawberry mixture.

shutterstock_rhubarb and strawberry crisp

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The Science of Nutrition

Nutrition ScienceMany of my clients ask a variety of questions about nutrition hoping to find out what is the “right” thing to eat.  Bombarded by so much conflicting information from various sources, it seems increasingly confusing for people to figure out what or whom to believe about nutrition.  So, how do you know what the “truth” is about the latest trends with gluten, sugar, carbs, dairy, fat, supplements, etc.?

Something I learned early on in my nutrition studies was that nutrition is a science.  You may be thinking, “duh, I knew that!”  But, what’s important here is accepting what that really means.  Science is a body of knowledge based on systematic study that is continually evolving.  Believing that science is “the truth” can be misleading because the progress of science is marked by the development of a continuously changing picture of reality.  Many folks struggle with that concept because it demands that you are able to adjust constantly to integrate new information.

A great example of this fact was when I learned that the structure of ribosomal subunits of tRNA (important in protein synthesis) changed from  the 1988 biochemistry textbook I first learned this information to  when I was learning about this again in 2005 – and my old textbook was out dated!  Who would ever think scientists didn’t have this completely figured out?  That was crazy to me – something that I took for granted for “truth” actually was still unfolding –and probably still is.

I see this happen over and over again in the field of nutrition.  For example, once we thought that people who wanted to avoid heart disease should reduce their saturated fat intake and increase their polyunsaturated fat intake to reduce blood cholesterol levels.  Many dietary guidelines and sound nutrition advice was based on this “fact”. Then, it was to decrease total fat intake to reduce blood cholesterol (finding polyunsaturated fats were not “good” for you); and, then again today we have new information challenging what we believe about the relationship between fat and heart disease. These treasured “facts” about fat continue to change – and I see many people feeling uncomfortable and even resent trying to figure out what is “right”?

I have always loved learning about science, and especially nutrition.  It is what I love about my job as a dietitian which continues to be about helping individuals navigate this evolving science of nutrition information.   My training and experience has taught me that remaining open-minded toward other points of view is critical when discerning the recommendations scientists make about what we “should” and “shouldn’t” eat.  In fact, I’ve discovered that it is quite common for scientists to have different ideas of reality even when interpreting the same findings.

So, how do you decide what recommendations are appropriate for you?  That depends on you – your needs and your history with food, weight, and activity.  Being curious and open about new ideas is always important, while remaining cautious when someone declares “absolutes” regarding science may also be helpful.  Remember, YOU know yourself better than any scientist or proclaimed nutrition “expert” and finding someone who can help you explore what is ideal for YOU will likely be your best formula for success.

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Dietitian at the Fair #MNFairFood

MN fair food ed and val

So, I happen be a dietitian who loves food and I love Minnesota State Fair FOOD! Yup, I really do! In fact, my hubby and I love it so much, we are aiming to go all 12 days this year!

I know, to some this may seem unusual. But, I truly have come to look forward to exploring many aspects of “The Great Minnesota Get Together” – but especially have fun discovering the best new foods while savoring some of the old favorites.

Remember “It’s an event, not a lifestyle!”

The truth is that since my hubby happens to be very involved in an aspect of the fair, we have the opportunity to spend the majority of days and/or evenings at the largest state fair in the country with a record attendance of over 1.8 million in just 12 days last year! We enjoy concerts, visit the animals, check out new exhibits, hang out at the pubs, and savor some of the craziest concoctions of food you can find on the planet.

So, here’s the reason for my upcoming blog series. 

A few years ago, after “investing” in one of the featured new foods, we were hugely disappointed. It was expensive, looked nothing like the picture, and tasted horrible. On the flip side, I also discovered a flavorful and delicious food (while actually a healthy option as well) that was my daughter’s favorite. That’s when I decided the fair should hire me to help promote food in a different light. I know, it does sound a little crazy now. But, they denied my suggestion for some consulting assuming my nutrition “credentials” meant I would be providing something similar to a “weight watchers guidebook” which is not what they want. Clearly, I didn’t explain my objective very well because with a background working in eating disorders, that would be very unlikely to come from me.

Since then, every year I have more and more people asking me “What have you tried at the fair?” “What do you recommend?” “What’s a good deal?” “What’s something that’s not on a stick?” “Is there anything even somewhat healthy to eat at the fair?” or my favorite, “What’s better, a pronto pup or corn dog, and what’s the difference anyway?” Since most folks are likely to visit the fair only one or two times (or not going at all because it seems there’s only fried food on a stick), some direction with navigating 42 new foods; and, over 500 foods at 300 stands might be helpful! Right??

So, coming up this month on August 27 is day one! Myself, aMN fair food girlslong with a group of friends – many of whom are also dietitians (prerequisite: need to love food and aren’t afraid to eat) will be traveling around the fair aiming to test out as many of the new foods as we can. Then, I will joyfully pass along our thoughts and recommendations to any of my followers. Days 2 through 12 will continue with updates including answers to all those questions on fair-goers minds.

I would love to hear your comments about your experience at the MN State Fair (or your favorite fair). What would you like to ask a dietitian about fair food and eating? Now’s your chance!!

Cheers! ~ Val

MN fair food corn

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Do Fear-Based Nutrition Messages Really Work?

shutterstock_wellness illnessAn old Chinese proverb suggests “It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. The meaning behind this proverb is that in bad times or hopelessness, it’s better to do something – no matter how small – than to curse your plight or misery. Lately, I’m wondering if we need to do both.

I don’t know about you, but although fear-based messages about food and nutrition in media and advertising may be “something” aimed at improving health and wellness, they drive me nuts because of the negative effect these messages have on a significant number of people.

Consider the following statements I’ve read recently: “cow’s milk is toxic”; “sugar and carbohydrate-based foods are the underlying cause of all disease”; “GMO’s cause cancer”; “animal products cause heart disease and death.” Really? We know that for sure?  Of course each of these proclamations is from “an expert” that has something to sell – a book, a diet program, supplements, a blog, endorsements, an industry. So perhaps I feel the need to “curse the darkness.”

Recently, I listened to a highly credentialed food and nutrition expert discuss an important topic related to food, mood and the brain. Initially, I was captivated by the research and science related to what we are learning in the field of neuroscience.

And then it started…the preaching or “nutrition evangelism” (as I like to call it). That idea that it is her “duty” to question and convince everyone – at parties, in the grocery store, wherever – that what they are eating is making them sick; will cause a horrible disease; and will likely result in a pain-filled and shortened life. This is where the “expert” lost me.

Look, I get it. We live in a sedentary and toxic food environment with a lot of choices that aren’t so helpful for achieving optimal wellness – and other choices that are.  And, the reality is that many individuals are truly struggling to navigate this “toxic” environment. But, for the “experts” out there – describe a time you sat with an individual, or group of people, struggling with binge eating, disordered eating, or just their relationship with food, eating and weight?  Have you heard about the pain and trauma people experience when you follow through on your “duty” to proclaim what they have in their grocery cart is “bad”; “will make them fat” and “cause horrible disease?”

Or, how about the latest viral video (interestingly sponsored by Chipotle) that so dramatically describes how horrible the food industry is? So, it’s okay to eat the Chipotle burrito that has the nutritional equivalent of more than 2 meals because their food is from some non-GMO, organic farm? Sadly, this was distributed through a news feed to folks who already struggle with disordered eating.

The reality is that this dramatic, fear-based strategy doesn’t work, as evidenced by most victims of this experience reporting more anxiety and stress; increased cycles of restricting and overeating; more shame, guilt and clinical depression. The truth is that some people may benefit from lowering their carbohydrate intake, replacing cow’s milk, or more carefully considering their selection of foods. It’s likely we all need to move more and “eat more real food.” But, a one-size-fits-all approach is not the answer and catastrophizing the situation doesn’t help anyone and likely causes more damage.

Instead, consider asking yourself the following questions when reviewing health and nutrition information for “something” that may help YOU feel more hopeful with your health goals:

What are they trying to sell me?

Does it sound too good to be true?

Is the message informative or make me feel worried, bad, guilty?

Is the information based on un-biased scientific research?

There are a LOT of different opinions about what is “healthy” and “what is not.” What I’ve heard from my clients is that people need more positive messages based on credible evidence about food and nutrition and how to make realistic lifestyle change, i.e. when choosing fast food, consider wholesome food choices such as a burrito bowl, with tortillas on the side, and make your own reasonable-sized burrito (with leftovers to spare). Only then will people be able to experience the freedom to choose what will work for them; rather than coerced or “bullied” into something that benefits the seller – not optimal wellness.


Cycling Nutrition: Fueling a Long Ride

Cycling nutritionI love cycling! My happy place is getting out for a long ride on a nice summer day. But without proper fueling, even my recreational joyride can come to a screeching halt real fast!  Whether you are competing in an endurance race or heading out for an all day ride, proper nutrition and hydration can make the difference between fully enjoying or barely enduring a day of riding. Just as you wouldn’t take off on a road trip without enough fuel in your car, the same is true for your body’s fuel tank when you embark on a long ride. Eating the right foods before, during and after your ride will help provide for an enjoyable ride and optimal performance.

Carbohydrates: The Fuel of Choice

The body’s fuel of choice for an endurance sport like cycling is carbohydrate. Carbohydrate-containing foods, such as fruit, potatoes, rice, pasta, bread, milk, yogurt, honey, etc. are broken down in the body to glucose and stored as glycogen in the muscle. Therefore, for the recreational or competitive cyclist, eating enough carbohydrates at each meal and snack (not just the night before) is essential to ensure your “gas tank” (glycogen) is ready to go. The well-fueled cyclist should have enough energy stored as glycogen in muscles to support 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.

Fueling Before You Ride

The ideal time for a carbohydrate-rich, pre-exercise meal is three to four hours prior to your ride. The amount of carbohydrate depends on a number of factors, such as body weight. For a 150-lb cyclist, aim for 80 to 100 grams of carbohydrate (i.e. 1 cup oatmeal, 6 oz Greek yogurt, 1 cup berries and a slice of whole wheat toast). In addition, consuming 100 to 300 calories of a low-fat, carbohydrate-rich snack (fruit and crackers) an hour before your ride will also provide muscles additional glucose to be used for energy, while sparing glycogen and delaying fatigue. Fluids are as important as food in preparing for a long ride. Prepare by drinking enough water the day before the ride (evidenced by pale colored urine) and sipping on a 16-oz sports drink the hour before going out.

Foods and Fluids during Long Rides

Dehydration is the leading cause of fatigue for the endurance athlete. Staying well-hydrated during a long ride is essential for having a good ride. A general rule of thumb is 20 ounces of fluid for every hour, ideally ingested in small frequent intervals for better absorption and utilization by the body (about 5 to 8 ounces every 15 minutes). Electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, are lost in sweat and essential to maintain proper water balance in your tissues. Therefore, consider carrying two bottles, one with water and one containing an electrolyte solution. For rides longer than 4 hours or in very hot or humid weather, cyclists need to plan to include additional sodium and potassium-containing foods during the ride, such as bananas, tomato juice, pretzels, salted nuts or broth.

If your ride will include some high intensity riding, strenuous hill climbing, or will be more than 90 minutes, then you will also need to fuel with additional glucose during the ride. When glycogen stores get low you “hit the wall” and consequently run out of energy. For this reason, it is beneficial to consume easily digestible carbohydrates from a variety of sources, such as sports drinks, bananas, energy gels, etc. and see what works best for you. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 50 grams of carbohydrate for a 150-lb cyclist each hour (again in small, frequent intervals). Unfortunately, some novice riders limit their consumption of carbohydrate calories during exercise for fear that a sports drink or carbohydrate gel “contains too much sugar” or “will cancel out the calories burned from training.” A study completed at Colorado State University demonstrated that this approach actually backfires. Researchers discovered that subjects who restricted carbohydrate intake during exercise ended up consuming more calories the rest of the day than subjects who ingested carbohydrate during activity (Melby et al., 2002).

Some basic tips for carrying and consuming fuel while riding:

  • Be sure your fuel will hold up to weather conditions, such as heat and humidity.
  • Partially open any small packages for easy access.
  • On unsupported rides, carry snacks in a jersey or jacket with multiple easy-to-reach pockets.
  • Portion your hourly food into separate baggies and consume one bag per hour.
  • Carry powdered sports drinks and reconstitute when you have access to water

Restore, Replace and Repair from Your Long Ride

The goals of recovery nutrition are to: 1) Restore fluids and electrolytes lost through sweat during a long ride, 2) Replace glycogen stores (muscle fuel) depleted during activity, and 3) Repair muscle tissue broken down from high intensity activity.

Rehydration is vital to recovery following a long ride. Ideally, you have replenished water (sweat) lost during your ride. However, when you get off your bike, continue to drink water or a sports drink to quench your thirst or until urine is pale.

Within 30 to 60 minutes, have a snack that includes carbohydrates (to replace glycogen) and protein (to repair muscle tissue). Aim for a 3 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein, i.e. 60 grams of carbohydrate along with 20 grams of protein. Examples of good recovery snacks include low-fat chocolate milk; fruit and yogurt smoothie; graham crackers with peanut butter and low-fat milk; apple or banana with nut butter and low-fat milk.  Finally, follow-up with a healthy meal that includes a balance of protein-rich meats, vegetables and whole grains that will continue to restore, replace and repair those essential nutrients lost during activity so you will be ready to ride again soon.

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You are a Gift!

shutterstock_giftAs a dietitian, I meet people everyday who feel inadequate…about the way they look; that they don’t eat right; they don’t exercise the way they “should”; and consequently, aren’t a good enough mom, wife, daughter, etc.

My job description is to provide medical nutrition therapy to individuals. With a professional background helping people who struggle with eating disorders, I’ve learned first hand there really so much more to this complicated world of nutrition than the type or amount of carbs, fat and protein a person needs. Yes, my job is to help people navigate the toxic food environment we live in to prevent disease and live happy and healthy. But, more often, some of the work I do really is about challenging a toxic culture of perfectionism and black-and-white thinking around the issues of food, eating and weight.

To the notion that there is an “ideal model” of health and nutrition, I recently came across this passage in an old college book of mine, called “Priceless People”. This anonymous writing, titled “Unwrapping Gifts” is truly priceless and reminds us that we (and those we treat) are much more than the wrapping.

Unwrapping Gifts by Anonymous

People are gifts which are sent to us…wrapped.  Some are wrapped very beautifully. They are very attractive when we first see them. Some come in ordinary wrapping paper. Others have been mishandled in the mail. Once in awhile, there is a special delivery. Some persons are gifts which come very loosely wrapped, others very tightly.

But the wrapping is not the gift. It’s so easy to make this mistake.

Sometimes the gift is very easy to open up. Sometimes we need others to help. Is it because they are afraid? Maybe they have been opened up before and thrown away.

You are a person. So you are a gift, too. A gift to yourself, first of all. You have been given to yourself. Have you ever really looked inside the wrappings? Maybe you’ve never really seen the wonderful gift that you are. Could such a gift be anything but beautiful?

And you are a gift to other people. Are you willing to give yourself to others? Do others have to be contented with the wrappings? Never permitted to enjoy – you – the gift?