Eat Right Around Chicago

Fitness Archives

11 Healthy Lessons from my Dog

I think that my dog has it all figured out.  She's chronically happy, runs effortlessly, is always affectionate, maintains her body weight, sleeps easily and rarely complains.  She's content and healthy.  There are simple lessons from Mokey, the Giant Shnoodle, that we could learn from.  After an in-depth study of the life of Mokey, here are a few pages from her healthy and happy lifestyle book.   

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10 Reasons to Go OM

I have sporadically done Baptiste Vinyasa or Ashtanga yoga over the years.  Both of these types of yoga (sometimes called Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga) are considered a type of "flow" yoga.  They are physically demanding, push strength and balance, and make you sweat like cold glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.  Although I struggle through each class, I need it and I keep going back.  There were many reasons why I started back to yoga at Om on the Range in Chicago.  If you're like me (rather clean out your closet than leave the house on a cold day to exercise) my 10 reasons for yoga may help you see the need to go OM.   

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Eating During Ironman: 14 Hours of PowerBars, Cookies and Chicken Broth

You can't imagine how good it feels to be re-entering the world post-Ironman.  I am going to resume my life of eating for pleasure (not just fuel), exercising for fun (without worry and obligation) and living as an easy going Chicagoan who loves to eat right around this grand city.  If you have been following my sporadic posts between swim, bike, run, eat, sleep, repeat, then you know that I have spent my summer training for Ironman Wisconsin 2010.  I exhale with relief every time I say that now.  My summer was hijacked by tireless hours swimming, biking and running.  Although Ironman is a gift, it's also an obligation that, for about 4 months, removes you from normal activities of daily living.  Alas, it is done...and I am a (two-time) Ironman finisher.

When you make the ambitious and loony decision to register for this 140.6 mile race, you may not realize that you are also committing to denying yourself commonplace activities like brunch on the weekends (you will be biking or running), late night of cocktails (bed by 9 PM), shopping for something other than gear, wearing your hair down (I can't believe how long my hair is now) or even keeping up with stuff that "make you look good".  I put makeup on for the first time in months this past weekend and even had my brows threaded (like plucking or waxing).  Although I have ridiculous tan lines on my arms and legs and my face looks like a handbag, my blisters and chafe marks have healed and I'm officially starting to look like a girl again.   

Before I close the chapter completely, I thought I'd share with you what I ate during Ironman (mostly because that seems to be the most commonly asked question).  So, check out my photo gallery of the event and here is a laundry list of what I ate for my 14+ hour day (water, ad libitum, all day).

Overall times: 
14:56:08 overall
1:25 Swim (2.4 miles)
7:18 Bike (112 miles)
5:45 Run (26.2 miles) - also known as "walk/jog"

- 4AM Breakfast:  Whole grain bagel with walnut cream cheese, banana and coffee
- 1 Hour Prior to Swim Start:  PowerBar gel
- Swim to Bike Transition:  PB&J on wheat
- Bike:  2 bags PowerBar Gel Blasts, 1 PowerBar, 1 oz. Fritos, 1/2 PB&J, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 1 PowerBar Gel
- Bike to Run Transition:  1/2 PB&J, 1 oz. Fritos
- Run:  (this is where it gets weird because my stomach is starting to reject everything) 1 PowerBar Gel (with caffeine), ~8 oz. flat Cola, ~8 oz. chicken broth, 1 package Ritz Cheese & Crackers, 8-9 sugar cookies (yes, for about 8-9 miles, I had a cookie at every station), 2 orange slices

Immediately after the race:  2 slices of pizza

1- hour after race:  a few bites of French Onion Soup and a beer

Enjoy my pics!

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Eat Carbs, Last Longer: Carb Loading

Ugh, I am less than 5 days from Ironman Wisconsin.  I've tapered (decreased my exercise) and now I'm battling mental anguish and nervousness.  I am packing my tri bag, checking my list of nutritional needs and stressing about forgetting something crucial.  I call this the worrying week:  have I trained enough?  What if it's windy and I'm blown to a halt on the bike?  Oh, God, I have to swim 2.4 miles with 2000 flailing arms.  What if my neck aches?  Will I get a blister?  What if my belly rejects food?  Aaaaah!  What have I done???

OK, enough of my pre-race pity party, I will give you some information that you can use...worrying week is also for catching up on sleep, resting and topping off fuel stores.  Although I don't count carbs (or anything really), I recognize that it's important to mind my nutrition this week.  For me, it means eating every 3-4 hours, avoiding fatty foods, sticking to easy-to-digest items and emphasizing carbs, e.g., fruits, vegetables, grains and pastas.  (I also try to avoid hitting the bottle...but that's Sports Nutrition 101, so probably something you already figured out.)

Why Carbs?

Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for most types of exercise - even the long endurance events.  Don't kid yourself - if you are doing an Ironman or exercising over 2 hours - you will use fat as fuel, but no one bonks because they ran out of fat.  Buuutttt, you will hit the wall if your carbs are depleted.  And it won't be pretty.  Even 60-90 minutes of endurance training or a few hours in the weight room can seriously deplete carbohydrate muscle fuel stores.

Bottom line:  if your diet is too low in carbs, your performance will suffer and so will you.

Still not convinced?  Consider this:  you're sitting at your desk all day and you skip lunch.  Find yourself getting cranky?  Have you snapped at a co-worker?  Feeling tired?  Maybe a little blurry?  Well, your blood glucose is declining and your body is not OK with this...neither is your brain.  So you start to decline in function.  Now imagine if you're on a bicycle or running.  Yup, you may fall off your bike or crumble during a run.  Friends don't let friends run out of carbs - so make sure you start your race fully fueled.

I think of "carb-loading" as carb-emphasis.  And, it isn't something that you wait until the last minute to do.  It starts days out from the big day, not the night before.  The point of carb-loading?  Well, research shows that if you maximize your stored glycogen (carbs in your body), you will help to ward off fatigue and optimize performance.  It's like starting a road trip with a full tank of gas (which you may not do if you live in Chicago because gas prices decline as you leave the city...but that's a different issue).

No need to empty to fill.
  The concept of carb-loading has come a long way.  One old-school view was that you needed to empty your tank, so to speak, and spend a few days focusing on high fat and protein foods with little to no carbs.  It's now known that you don't have to do this.  No need to starve and replenish.  This "super-compensation" exercise was deemed unnecessary, difficult and likely to contribute to stomach upset.

If you're exercising at a steady pace and intensity, carb-loading can increase your endurance by about 20%.  I'll take that. 

Your Carb-Loading Plan (if you like numbers)

3-4 Days Before the Race:  3.6 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

1-2 Days Before the Race:  4.5 - 5.5 grams of carbohydrates per lb of body weight

So, wish me luck.  That's all I have at this point.  I have to trust my training, hope that I can stay strong enough to keep my posture, persevere when it hurts like a mo-fo and avoid signing up for Ironman again. 

If you're bored on Sunday and want to see if I am able to finish my 2nd Ironman race in under 17 hours (my first IM was completed in 14:27, but I'm not feeling as fit and agile as I was in 2007), you can track athletes online (last name Bell, first Jenna).  Click here:  Athlete Tracker.  You just won't be able to find out if I'm crying or swearing or dragging myself across the finish line.  I'll blog about that after the race if my ego isn't too bruised.

Oh and if you're attending or doing the race, I'll be doing a book signing at the PowerBar booth at 10:30am on Friday at the expo.  See you there!!! 

And hope for a windless day of pain-free fun!  
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Longaberger Bike, Credit Fraud, Hollywood Run and the Best Pizza in Chicago

To continue to answer the question, where have I been?  I thought I'd compile the rest of the details into one blog post.  It's been an exciting couple of weeks!  And I use the word exciting to mean new, unexpected, not boring...but not necessarily good.  Other than training for Ironman (one month left), this should get us up to speed. 

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Where I've Been: RAGBRAI 2010

After brief hiatus from my blog, I'm back.  I feel like I need to get you all up to speed on where I've been before I resume my nutrition tips, quips, restaurant comments and fitness talk.  I was going to pile it all into one photo gallery, but reconsidered since there are too many pics to share.  To start, here's RAGBRAI 2010 and some words on nutrition from my bike across (half) of Iowa.  

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Busy Life? Fuel Properly!

CeCe's Kitchen invited me to chat about fueling well for a busy lifestyle and answer questions that her listeners and family have.  Such fun!  CeCe is super duper, so check it out!

Click HERE:  CeCe's Kitchen

We talked about protein, meal planning, belly fat, nutrition for women, sports nutrition, organic foods and more! 

The Real Benefits of Exercise

Yesterday I was thinking about my blog, and all of you, while lathering a menthol muscle rub - wistfully missing my frequent dining out, tired of referring to food as "fuel".  I'm 7 weeks from Ironman Wisconsin and training has hijacked my life.  I could nap at the drop of a swim cap, eat my body weight in carbs and I feel like a crackhead getting a fix when the physical therapist pokes around my muscles.  I think my hair has gotten a few inches longer, but it's hard to tell since it's always wet and tied back.  Despite the clear zinc I bathe in, I have a freckle line across my jaw, permanent tan lines at the point of my bike/run shorts, a raspberry where my wetsuit zips up and the tips of my piggies are mad at me for letting my sneaks get wet during last week's Half Ironman. 

Despite these inconveniences, I know that my training has benefits.  For one, I go to the physical therapist because I have epicondylitis (tennis elbow) from typing on my computer and it seems that it only feels good when I'm exercising.  And, there's all that research.  Long term and clinical studies confirm that chronic exercise improves our blood pressure, reduces the risk for diabetes, heart disease and cancer, promotes weight loss, increases strength and endurance, improves mood, blah, blah, I could go on and on.  Yet, our country is in crisis - obesity rates are through the roof and heart disease is squelching lives - and physical fitness remains desperately low.  Everyone is talking about the health benefits of exercise, but it doesn't seem to move the needle.  So, I'd like to take a crack at it.  From an exerciser's perspective, here is a smattering of what I see as the real benefits of exercise.  Maybe one will speak to you and help you find your inner athlete!

Here are the real benefits of exercise:  

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14 Easy Ways to Get Out There and Enjoy Summer!

Summer is great.  I have been riding my bike like it's my part-time job, running along the lakefront and swimming in the glorious waters of Lake Michigan.  Even if you're not training for an Ironman, summer offers an array of activities that are easy, enjoyable and sometimes cheap or healthy.  Here are 14 simple summer activities: 

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Get a Clue About Calories

USA Today reported that Americans do not know how many calories they need per day in an article titled, Many Americans Clueless of How Many Calories They Do or Should Eat.  While I find the findings of the study interesting, I thought that if I didn't know how many calories I needed, I'd want to know now!  And not just the average range based on my age and gender.  So, yay!  I have a blog and I can answer this question for you and provide you some options. 

Note:  I'm not saying that you should count calories, but when faced with a food label, it is nice to have a point of reference.    
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Dietitian Brain Dump: This Week's Nutrition Notes

With all this work and training, I'm feeling a bit flustered, disorganized, sall we shay - random - in my nutrition thoughts.  Rather than trying to force one specific topic, I think it's better that I just provide you with a brain dump - a dietitian brain dump - to end the week.  Like throwing spaghetti at the wall, maybe something will stick.  

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Ladies, Exercise Making You Eat More?

I am so hungry all of the time.  I believe it's my training, but it could be my genes.  My Dad once said that he thinks about food all day.  He added that he goes to work and exercises just to fill the time between meals.  I'm sitting here contemplating a blog, taking care of business and I have Regina's Pizza on my mind.  Yup, Regina' Boston...I live in Chicago.  I was going to write a simple blog, tell you about Regina's and make you suffer with me at the site of the brickoven love, but then the dorky dietitian in me took over.  I started to contemplate how my hormones may be affected by my increase in physical activity.  Then I thought, wouldn't it be interesting to chat a bit about how exercise affects energy balance? And is there a difference between men and women?  Is there a scientific explanation for my incessant starvation?  If you are wondering the same, read on.  If you're not, then just drool over the pictures of pizza.  

Eating Because of Exercise

I found this really great scientific review about physical activity, hormones and energy balance on Medscape that addresses this frustrating issue.  It's a long-winded read, but here is what I took away from it: 

- There are male-female differences in the response to exercise.

- Men say they want to eat less in response to exercise, women don't say this.  I find this is true in my practice with athletes.  One professional triathlete said, "I'm always hungry when training...even if I'm gaining weight."

- Women may eat more to compensate for increases in activity.

- Women actually experience changes in their hormonal regulation of energy balance when they exercise.  Their hormones may drive them to eat more.  It's likely to protect reproduction. (Blah, blah, I'm too hungry to feel pleased about that.)   

- Men don't experience the same dramatic changes in the hormonal regulation of energy balance when they exercise. 

- Women regulate their energy balance better so that they eat more when they exercise and subsequently, do not lose weight or body fat.  (Unless they don't eat to compensate for the increase in exercise.  Basically, if they ignore their drive to eat more.)  

- Men do not compensate for the increase in activity, so they lose weight and body fat from exercise. 

- Men are jerks. 

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Swim, Bike, Run, Eat...Take 1

June 12th marked the first race of the year for me - Elkhart Lake Olympic Distance Triathlon.  I'm only doing three triathlons this season, but I will be progressing from a manageable Olympic distance to a not-so-bad Ironman 70.3 in Racine to the "why am I doing this again?" Ironman Wisconsin on Sept 12th.  To share my nutrition tips and race testimonials, please enjoy my photo gallery!

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Eat Right During a Workout

Madison ride.jpg

Dave from VQ tells us the plan

I spent my Wednesday bathed in sunblock, pockets full of fuel and with bottles of warm water riding 80 miles of the Ironman Wisconsin race course with a group from Vision Quest in Chicago.  It was a beautiful day, especially if you were having a picnic or taking a midday walk.  But if you were on a bicycle, it was gusty and relentless (for the 2nd 40 mile loop).  Like your annual pap (sorry, guys), it was humiliating and even a little small talk couldn't make it more pleasant. While I can't control the weather on a long ride, I can control my nutrition.  I'll stop griping about a day of biking and use this as a clumsy segue into eating during exercise - did I mention that my bike shorts ripped and I'm pretty sure that I have a diaper rash? 
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Staying Hydrated During Exercise

It's getting hot.  If you're like me, that means you're getting thirstier when you exercise.  And if you're just like me, you find it difficult to maintain proper hydration and balance your fuel and sodium needs during long workouts.  We're not's a frequently asked question among athletes of all levels that I train or work with at Swim, Bike, Run, Eat!  When asked about staying hydrated during exercise, this is where we start...

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Why Tri? Top Reasons to do Triathlon

I've been wrestling with how to start a series of blogs about my training and eating for triathlon.  I'm registered for the Olympic distance Elkhart Lake Triathlon on June 12th, Ironman 70.3 Racine on July 18th and Ironman Wisconsin to end my season on September 12th.  As I typed and deleted, typed and deleted, I realized that for my first triathlon-related post, I'd like to encourage you all to take the leap and sign up for a triathlon this summer. 

I talk to athletes frequently in my nutrition practice with Swim, Bike, Run, Eat! and find that the reasons they do triathlons vary, but the results are almost always the same - being a triathlete makes them feel strong, accomplished, proud and regardless of their age, the fittest they have ever been.  So instead of jumping into what to eat for triathlon or training anecdotes, I figured I'd start with reasons why you should do triathlon from triathletes themselves!  None of these athletes are professional...they are all age-groupers and hard working professionals by day!  

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