A Whole Foods Approach To Sports Nutrition: What Should I Eat Before a Workout?

Do your New Year’s Resolutions include kicking up your workout routine a notch? If they do, that is great! But equally as important as the workout is what you are eating. Proper nutrition is essential to getting the results you want in the gym or out on the playing field. With personal trainers selling supplements, CrossFitters pushing Paleo, and a new diet popping up every month, its hard to decipher what is actually healthy and what is just hype. Here are four expert tips to help you get the most out of a pre-workout meal.

  1. Don’t shun carbohydrates. I know we are constantly being told carbs make us fat. But it’s just not true. Eating more calories than we burn makes us fat. Carbs provide our body with a quick source of energy which is what we need while working out. Carbohydrates break down into glucose, which enters our muscle cells and gives us fuel to workout at maximum capacity. Good sources of carbs to eat before a workout are fruit, whole wheat bread, oatmeal, potatoes (white or sweet), and yogurt.
  2. Keep it real. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods as much as possible. For example, eat an apple rather than an apple flavored Nutri-Grain bar. Although I think bars serve their purpose, they shouldn’t be your number one go to. If you are “keeping it real” that also means tossing protein powders, “pre-workout shakes” and anything that doesn’t actually resemble food. If you can buy it at GNC, but not the farmers market, that is a good indicator that it is not a real food. Aside from shakes and powders having no nutritional advantage over eating a well balanced meal, there are risks associated with supplements such as kidney and liver failure. Although rare, it does happen and it is not worth the risk.
  3. Hydrate hydrate hydrate! It’s best to be well hydrated before beginning a workout. Try to drink 16 ounces of fluids a few hours prior to exercising and then 1 cup of water in the half hour before. If you are exercising for one hour or less plain water provides adequate hydration. If sweating heavily or exercising for prolonged periods of time a sports drink with carbohydrates and electrolytes is a better choice. Hydration needs are different for every individual and vary based on the type of workout you are doing. One of the best indicators of hydration is urine color; as my sports nutrition professor always said, your pee should be “light lemonade.” If it’s darker, you should start increasing your fluid intake before and during exercise.
  4. Timing matters. What and how much you should eat before working out varies based on how much time you have. If you are eating dinner at 5 pm and working out at 7 pm, it is likely that you don’t need any additional food. If you are working out straight after work at 5 pm and your last meal was at 12 noon, it is a good idea to have a pre-workout snack. Personally, if I’m working out after work I’m usually ravenous. So I eat an apple or granola bar on the way to the gym. I’m generally still hungry after that apple, but once I start working out I forget about my hunger and enjoy the sweat. This snack should mainly focus on carbs, but can have a bit of protein and healthy fats thrown in as well. If your workout is primarily strength based you will want to include more protein to aid with muscle recovery. If you do more cardio (like an hour long run) your snack should be mainly easy to digest carbs. Here are some good examples.

Pre-workout snack for cardio (<1 hour before workout): 1 banana or apple, 1 Tbsp nut butter, 1 cup of water

Pre-workout snack for strength training (<1 hour before workout): 1 cup Greek Yogurt, handful of berries or sliced fruit, 10 almonds

Pre-workout meal for cardio (2-3 hours before working out): 4 ounces baked chicken or fish, 1 cup brown rice, green salad with dressing, small dinner roll, 16 ounces water

Pre-workout meal for strength (2-3 hours before working out): 6 ounces baked chicken or fish, 1/2 cup brown rice, 1 cup roasted veggies in olive oil, 8 ounces water or milk

I hope this guide helps with your sports nutrition needs. Stay tuned for the next blog to learn what to eat after your workout.



Waist Trainers: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

To the girl at the gym, wearing that horribly uncomfortable neoprene band around your stomach. WHY???
Not sure if it’s just me, or the fact that I’m in Central America, but I have been noticing an abundance of women at the gym wearing a “waist trainer” while working out. If you are not familiar with a waist trainer or “trimmer,” it is a band that can be worn around your midsection which supposedly melts fat and tricks your waist into thinking you are Barbie. They are ridiculous.
First, the good. Oopsy, this part was just a joke. There is nothing good about waist trainers, they are an abomination. In my opinion they take women back to the times of foot binding and rib bruising from wearing tight corsets. If you want to wear a waist trainer just for a special day or night, kind of like spanx, that’s one thing, but to wear one 24/7 in hopes of a smaller waist, bad idea folks!
The bad. The bad part is they do not work and they are (I imagine?) uncomfortable. Personally I can not wear tight jeans without getting a stomachache. Why anyone wants to have something tight around their waist for fun is beyond me. if you are thinking, “I am not doing this for fun, I’m doing this for results” think again. A waist trainer may cause you to sweat more while working out or doing daily tasks, but in the end, excessive sweating does not result in greater weight loss. Excessive sweating results in 1) consuming more fluids or 2) dehydration (very bad).

The ugly. Not only are waist trainers ineffective, they can be downright harmful.If worn too tightly they can cause acid reflux, shallow breathing, and potentially cause rib damage. Also, back acne. No one wants backne.

Now that we know what doesn’t work, what does work? High intensity interval training, lifting weights, plank variations, eating healthy. All of those things actually work to make you stronger and slimmer, but none of them change your physical bone structure.

Tell me, have you ever worn a waist trainer? What was your experience? Are there any other weight loss or body shaping gadgets/supplements you would like me to blog about?

*Please note, if you were advised by your physician to wear a “waist trainer” or other device postpartum that is a different situation and may be advisable.

Y ahora, algunas fotos de NicaraguaNicaragua12039195_464374037077251_4438631148371924810_n Nicaragua

Sometimes, holding your ice coffee in your shirt is the only way you can survive the heat without air conditioning. This also allows you to type with two hands and drink at the same time.
Sometimes, holding your ice coffee in your shirt is the only way you can survive the heat without air conditioning. This also allows you to type with two hands and drink at the same time.

The Best Diet and Fitness Trends of 2014

Wow. I can’t believe we are on our last day of 2014. Both personally and professionally it has been a great year for me. I got to witness the birth of my first nephew in February, traveled the world over the summer (or at least South America), I’ve already gotten in two snowboarding trips this winter, and I won my first recipe contest for this soup! Not too shabby.

My nephew Noah who is almost one year old now!
My nephew Noah who is almost one year old now!
At the beach with my niece Avery
At the beach with my niece Avery

Twenty-fourteen was also a good year for the health industry. It’s finally known that Dr. Oz is a quack and we need to stop taking his medical advice (over 50% of his recommendations have no truth to them according to scientific studies), my wonderful blog is now floating out in cyberspace, and a few of those silly fad diets (Master Cleanse, Sensa) are finally on their way out. The following is a list of some of the best diet trends of 2014.  You should give these trends a  try in the new year if you are looking to fulfill some of those “lose weight, get healthy for real this time” resolutions.

1. Mediterranean Diet.  The Mediterranean diet is a plant-based diet centered around fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. Fish and seafood consumption are encouraged twice per week and red meat is limited.  Drinking wine in moderation is encouraged. That means one (4 ounce) glass per day for women and two glasses for men. This eating pattern has consistently been linked with lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. A new study from Harvard even suggests that a Mediterranean Diet has the power to lengthen  telomeres which is a biomarker of healthy aging. In a nutshell, following the Mediterranean diet can help you live longer and healthier. Want to learn more? Check out this book The Complete Mediterranean Diet.


2. Vegan/Vegetarian. There are a lot of reasons to go veg. You can do it for health, you can do it for the animals, for the environment, or some combination of all three. Vegan and vegetarian diets have been studied for years and are routinely linked to having a lower body weight and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. Generally vegans fare even better than vegetarians. If eschewing meat all together is not your cup of tea, try Meatless Monday or The Flexitarian Diet.  If you go vegetarian, there is one thing you are going to hear a lot. I bet my vegetarian friends know which question that is. “How do you get enough protein?” It’s simple: beans, nuts, lentils, and soy. Dairy and eggs if you’re not vegan. A poorly planned vegetarian diet may be lacking in protein, just the same as a poorly planned omnivorous diet would be lacking in protein. Green Chile Corn Casserole

3. Write it Down. Keeping a food journal is a pain in the butt. But you gotta do it for effective weight loss! Whether you go old school and keep a paper journal or use one of the many fitness apps out there that allow you to track your calories, journaling is a proven tool to help you be more mindful of your eating habits. I recommend not only tracking what you eat, but also how hungry and full you are. Use a scale from 1-10, just like the pain scale they use at the Drs. office. If you’re at a one you are ravenously hungry and could eat a cow. A ten is uncomfortably full, why did I eat so much, let me go get my stretchy pants. Ideally, you want to keep your hunger between a 4-7.

4. Foam Rolling. I foam rolled for the first time this year. It was heaven. Foam rolling is essentially giving yourself a massage to work out the tightness and knots in your muscles. Or in personal trainer jargon self-myofascial release. Foam rolling will probably hurt a little the first time, but if it’s hurting a lot you should stop and ask a professional for help. I don’t know about you, but at my gym they tend to hide the foam rollers and covet them like they are some secret weapon, so I suggest buying your own.  This is the Foam Massage Roller that I use.

foam rolling
Photo credit: breakingmuscle.com. Rolling out your IT band feels great!

5. Weights/Strength Training. Every time I have turned on the news for the past two days there is some fitness expert talking about how strength training is better for you than cardio for weight loss. Muscle burns more than fat is the mantra that is constantly being touted. I agree, muscle is more metabolically active than fat. But a half hour of cardio is going to burn at least double the calories of a half hour of weight lifting. One problem with “muscle burns more than fat” is that it’s assumed you are actually going to gain substantial muscle from lifting weights. Yes, if you are a man, particularly a young man, you will have hypertrophy (muscle growth) from lifting weights consistently. If you are a woman over a certain age, say thirty, you’re not going to gain that much muscle (unless you have an Olympic athlete training schedule). It’s not your fault, its your lack of high levels of testosterone.

I’m not saying weight training isn’t good. Weight training is very good. It’s effective for decreasing osteoporosis and sarcopenia (muscle loss), and now its even better than cardio for losing weight.  Personally, I have been on top of it with cardio this past year (thanks Zumba) but have been a bit lacking in the strength training department. One of my resolutions this year is strength training at least twice per week. Whether its fifteen minutes of weights added to my cardio session or an hour-long Body Pump class, I’m getting it done this next year!

What are your New Years Resolutions? Fitness related or otherwise? Happy New Year to all my readers out there! I have a feeling 2015 is going to be a great year!


Diet and Fitness Trends to Ditch in 2015

With the new year just a few days away I thought I would  recap some of the most popular diet and fitness trends of 2014. Some trends are definitely here to stay; such as personal tracking devices like the Fit Bit, group exercise classes like Body Pump, and super foods like kale and quinoa. But some trends, I hope, can stay behind in 2014. If you are looking to try a new diet in 2015 I recommend that you steer clear of the following trends.

1. Paleo. Paleo or the “Caveman Diet” was pretty huge this past year. Proponents claim that if you remove all processed and modern day convenience foods you can achieve optimal health and lose weight. The idea is to eat only what a caveman would have- that means no grains or starchy vegetables, no beans, no dairy, and minimal fruit. You are essentially eating meat, eggs, and vegetables 24/7. No thank you! While caveman may not have suffered from modern day diseases such as diabetes or obesity, they also didn’t live as long as we do.  Not to mention cavemen chased after their food to kill it. I bet if we had to chase after our food we would also have much lower rates of obesity in 2015. My recommendation would be to eat minimally processed foods and leave the rest of Paleo in the past!

Photo credit: tobyamidornutrition.com

2. Alternative Sugars and Sweeteners. I’m talking about you coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, brown sugar, Sucanat, etc. etc. My biggest pet peeve is someone making a dessert with maple syrup and calling it a “no added sugar” dessert. Are you kidding me? One quarter cup of maple syrup has 200 calories and 45 grams of sugar. That is more sugar and calories than a 12 ounce can of coke. While sugar may not be in the title of maple syrup, honey, or agave, all of these sweeteners are filled with sugar and are nutritionally VERY similar to white sugar. Honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugar do contain minute amounts of micronutrients but they are really negligible unless you are consuming large amounts of these sweeteners. Alternative sweeteners are not bad, but the idea that they are better or healthier than regular sugar is incorrect.

sugar alternatives
Photo Credit: bonappetit.com

3. Gluten Free. I’ve blogged about gluten before. That’s why I’m going to keep this short n’ sweet.  If you’ve read my previous gluten post you know that I think going gluten free is nonsense unless you actually have the autoimmune disorder celiac disease.  One of the most prominent studies on non-celiac gluten sensitivity was even retracted this year by the author himself. If you are trying out gluten free just to be “healthy” don’t do it! Whole grains are good for you.


4. Crossfit. Dun dun dun. I said it. Crossfit is one of the worst fitness trends of 2014. I’m all about women lifting heavy weights and being strong, but I’m not about maxing out your weight with bad form and getting injured. Plus, in the words of my sister “Crossfit turns you into a douche.”  Her words, not mine. Crossfitters are also devout followers of one of my least favorite diet trends (see number one above).

photo credit: paceperformance.net

5. Fitspo. Fitspo stands for fitspiration. If you’ve never heard of it a quick google search should help you get the picture. I’m sorry, but looking at fitness models with thigh gaps and chiseled abs is not inspiring, that’s demoralizing. The mantra of fitspo is to inspire people to be fit instead of “skinny,” which is great. However, the images which appear on fitspo are generally very thin women with some toned muscles here and there. You will never find fit women who are 200 pound weight lifters or rugby players. I hope fitspo dies hard in the new year.

Photo credit: Creatina10.com I’m not feeling particularly inspired to workout by this skinny girl in a pink sports bra.

Those are my top five. What diet or fitness trends do you think we need to ditch in the new year? Stay tuned for a post of the best trends tomorrow!

Workout Wednesday: Exercise with Your Baby Part 2

Hi All,

Due to the smashing success of workout with your baby part 1, we decided to do a part 2. Enjoy!

Featured Exercises

Plie squats (3 sets of 15, use a 10-20 lb dumbbell if you don’t have a baby) Muscles worked: quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Modified dead lift (3 sets of 10, use a heavy barbell if you don’t have a baby) Muscles worked: glutes, abdominals, lower back

Military press (3 sets of 10, use 7-15 lb dumbbells if you don’t have a baby) Muscles worked: deltoids, triceps, core muscles

Try them out with or without a baby!

Workout Wednesday: How Many Calories Do I Burn?

Sorry folks, no video today! Stayed tuned next week for part two of Workout with Your Baby! Today I’m talking about calorie burn. Not always everyone’s favorite subject, but it is important none-the-less. Recently, I have read several studies demonstrating that exercise alone is not effective for weight loss. Interesting. Why is that? Several reasons, one being that people tend to overestimate the amount of calories they burn during exercise and underestimate the amount of calories in their food. That is why I have created this handy dandy little chart for you.  The calorie burn is estimated for a 150 pound female who is doing the activity for 1 hour.  If you are male or weigh more, the calorie burn will likely be greater for you, if you are smaller, it will be less.

As an added bonus I have compared the calories burned to a few foods we might eat around the holiday times.

Oatmeal Pecan Pie

1 slice pie = 300 calories (apple or pumpkin pie) This healthier pecan pie in the photo also has 300 calories for 1/8th of a pie. Regular pecan pie has roughly 500 calories for 1 slice.


1 medium apple = 80 calories. Try making applesauce if you’d like to mix it up.

1 hour of Activity and Calories Burned

Walking (3 MPH) = 300 calories, 1.0 slices pie, 3.5 apples

Hiking = 385 calories, 1.2 slices pie, 5.0 apples

Running (6 MPH) = 600 calories, 2.0 slices pie, 7.5 apples

Leisure Bike Ride = 200 calories, .66 slices pie, 2.5 apples

Spin Class/Fast Bike Ride = 700 calories, 2.3 slices pie, 8.7 apples

Zumba Class (personal fave) = 450 calories, 1.5 slices pie, 5.6 apples

Yoga Class (not Bikram) = 200 calories, .66 slices pie, 2.5 apples

Weight lifting = 200 calories, .66 slices pie, 2.5 apples

Keep in mind, activities with greater calorie burn are not necessarily better. They simply burn more calories. One hour of weight lifting is not going to give you a high calorie burn but it will help you build more muscle mass if you do it consistently. Higher muscle mass equates to a higher calorie burn while sleeping, eating, walking, etc. That is why it is recommended to do both cardio and strength training when your goal is to lose weight or maintain your loss. That is the personal trainer answer. My answer is do the activity that you enjoy and that makes you feel your best!

What is your favorite form of exercise? Were you shocked by how much or how little any of the activities burn?

Workout Wednesday: Exercise with Your Baby!

You don’t have to be a Mom to do this workout! That is just an added bonus.

When is it safe to start working out after having a baby? Typically 6 weeks after a normal delivery. But always check with your physician first! You want to start slow, no marathon running right away! You should be able to do walking and low-impact exercise whenever you feel ready.

Here are some simple moves to help get you going! Please try the push-ups first, without your baby on the floor, to be sure that you have enough strength to control the downward movement and push up successfully without slamming on the floor and crushing your baby!

Some of the benefits of exercise for new Mama’s include:

  • Bonding with your baby! It’s never too soon to teach kids the joys of exercise.
  • Regaining your strength and stamina. Despite the fact that you are drained of energy 24/7, a little bit of exercise can actually give you more energy.
  • Help fight postpartum depression.
  • Feel and look your best!

No baby? Try this exercise with a small, well-trained pet or a medicine ball would work great too!

Workout Wednesday: 6 Pack Abs in Two Moves

Yesterday cake, today abs!

If you are wondering what type of blog this actually is, that is a good question. I like variety. I once had a plan that I would be a weather woman who taught a workout class and then made a meal on a cooking show. The type of meal we would make would correspond to the weather, and the type of workout we would do would depend on the meal. For example, cold weather would be soup and yoga. Hot weather would be indoor spin and pasta. Make sense? Is it just me? Well two out of three aint bad.

This blog is a hybrid, but it will pretty much all be healthy living related. Primarily nutrition and food, with some workout stuff on Wednesdays! If you are not interested in 6 pack abs, toned arms, and sexy legs, just tune me out on Wednesdays.

10 Minute Abdominal Workout

  • 30 basic crunches (keep chin off chest, don’t pull neck)
  • 1 minute Russian twist (from video)
  • rest 10- 20 seconds
  • 10 push ups (knee push ups or wall push ups)
  • 1 minute jack knives (bent or straight legs, from video)
  • rest 10- 20 seconds
  • 1 minute plank (abs strong, no mountains or valleys)

Congratulations! You made it. Repeat twice.


Low Cost Exercise for Everyone


During the summer time all I hear is, “It’s too hot! I can’t exercise outside because I will get heat stroke/sunburn/sweat to death.” Now that it is fall here in beautiful Southern California the weather is perfect for exercise outdoors. It is usually between 60-80 degrees fahrenheit. You know what my patients tell me now, it’s too cold/windy/I might get drizzled on. Boo-hoo. It rains approximately once a year in Southern California, its 70 degrees outside, It’s not too cold!! Give me a break people!!

Welp, now that I got that off my chest, let me just say there are some good, low-cost, indoor activities you can do if you can’t afford a gym!

1. Go walking at Costco! Yes, a client of mine suggested this to me today. Great idea! If you don’t have a Costco card find a friend that does OR just go to the mall! Bam, you won’t have to deal with any of our pesky temperature variations. But, if you do go walking at Costco no stopping at every sample station! Ok, maybe walk first, then have a few of the healthy samples after. Who can resist Costco samples? Not me!

2. Workout Videos/Youtube. A lot of sites offer free workouts that you can do in the comfort of your own home. Anything from weights to yoga to Zumba! Here are some of my faves:

For High Intensity try Fitness Blender

Zumba if you have the Latin Spice

For stretching and relaxing try Yoga

3. Zumba. If you live in or near Simi Valley come do Zumba with me for Free on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The class is at 6 PM at Sierra Vista Family Medical Clinic. This class is great if it’s your first time taking Zumba or exercising. There are people of all ages and abilities who participate in the class. Bonus, there are no mirrors and no judging!! If you work nights I also offer a $5 Saturday class at 9 AM at Coyote Hills Park in Simi Valley. Like me on Facebook if you would like updates about this class.

Saturday Morning Zumba in the Park
Post Zumba picture with a horse!

4. Get a Rescue Doggy.  On those days when you just don’t feel like going out for a walk, a pet can help give you that extra motivation! A short pee stop for your pet can turn into a nice brisk walk that you and your pet will both enjoy. Dog owners are less likely to be obese (than non dog owners) and they have a reduced risk of having a heart attack according to research done by the National Institute of Health.

I love hiking with my doggies!
Baby Sophie looking cute!

Bottom line, there are no excuses for not working out. Even if you are injured or have arthritis, I recommend finding an easy workout that you can do. Everybody can do something. The best medicine for arthritis is gentle exercise. Am I right doctor friends? Yes, it is easier to workout when the weather is perfect and you have the money to afford a personal trainer. BUT, those things are not necessary. Exercise is not about losing weight. It’s about getting strong, feeling good, and staying healthy. If you happen to lose weight in the process, then that is just the cherry on top!

What is your favorite physical activity or exercise to do?

My favorites are Zumba, snowboarding, and tennis!