Get “It” Together (Your Marathon Nutrition Plan, That is) – iRunnerBlog Post

Fall marathon season is right around the corner, and I for one could not be more excited. On October 13th I will be running my 1st 26.2 in Baltimore. (Make me a sign if you will be there!). The biggest problem right now? Finalizing my nutrition “game plan”. If you are training for a fall race, read on for my top four tips to get a plan in place you can feel confident with when you toe the starting line.

So…head on over to the iRunnerBlog and check out my monthly “Nutrition Nerd” column to find out more.

Have a great weekend. Any big plans?… I will be working, cleaning, and hopefully catching up on some sleep!


ZICO Coconut Water: Review and Giveaway

Prior to receiving samples of ZICO Coconut Water a few weeks ago I only had one experience with this beverage. Long story short: I was in Houston in the summer. My car broke down. I was walking home, carrying bags. I was hot, sweaty, and thirsty. There was a sketchy looking roadside stand where I man was chopping the tops off of coconuts with a machete. He gave me one. I eagerly drank it, not even aware of what it tasted like. I don’t know if the experience itself of hoofing it that far in the TX summer heat after my car unexpectantly going out of commission was so traumatic that I subconsciously chose to not buy or drink coconut water, but until recently that was the only interaction between myself and coconut water.

Cut to a few weeks ago when the wonderful folks from ZICO sent me some samples of their beverage to try out. I first tried the original ZICO Natural Coconut Water straight out of the box it was shipped in, without refrigerating it, as is suggested. Warm coconut water is not that appealing, FYI. I quickly put the rest in the fridge to come back to after they were chilled. Second attempt at the Natural? Better, but still not something I would want to drink all that often. I found it to have sort of a “thick”, but not “creamy” texture, which was a bit odd. The taste was not what I expected. I thought it would be more “coconuty”, like an Almond Joy or Mounds bar, but since it is the water of the coconut, not the “meat” it is much more subtle. I have a huge sweet tooth so perhaps I was expecting it to be a bit sweeter too? It is a much more mild sweetness than juice or sports drinks, so those of you who are turned off by overly sweet things would probably really like this.

Next, I tried the ZICO Chocolate Coconut Water. I was extremely hesitant to try this one because does drinking cold, chocolate-flavored water sound good to anyone out there? Probably not. I was SERIOUSLY surprised by how GOOD this was! It didn’t taste like hot chocolate powder that had been mixed with too much water and not heated at all (which is what I was thinking it would); but rather rich, indulgent, and not “watery”. It was more like chocolate milk in taste, but less “heavy”. LOVE ZICO Chocolate Coconut Water. I kept the Liter bottle in my fridge and would take some swigs whenever I passed through the kitchen or after coming back inside hot and thirsty from running around with the Oakley dog. Putting on my RD hat here for a second, ZICO Chocolate Coconut Water is a solid choice nutritionally speaking for those who want a chocolate fix without the high caloric content. ZICO Chocolate contains only 110 calories per 14 oz serving, which is MUCH less than a typical chocolate bar. Some of my favorite specialty chocolates actually come in at 250 kcals for just half of a bar! ZICO Chocolate also contains 30% less sugar than most flavored coconut waters and 60% less sugar and calories than leading chocolate milks. Plus, it’s gluten-free and dairy-free so it can be enjoyed by all!

So what do I think about all of the hype and press about coconut water being a better choice than a traditional sports drink? I addressed this issue in a blog post about a year ago. You can find it over on the iRunnerBlog. Essentially coconut waters generally fall short of the American College of Sports Medicine’s recommendations in terms of sodium content for athletes in endurance events and intensive workouts lasting greater than 2 hours (abstract). However, very few people exercise at an intensity or for a duration requiring them to adhere to ACSM’s sports nutrition/fluid replacement guidelines, and so coconut water is therefore going to be an appropriate choice (and probably a better choice) than a traditional sports drink for those folks who are not “athletes”, but rather “active”.

In fact, the lower sodium and high potassium content of coconut water may be a good choice to help Americans meet the current Dietary Guidelines. It was recently reported that a very small percentage of the population meets BOTH sodium intake recommendations of <2300 mg/day and potassium intake recommendations of 4700 mg/day (paper). Decreasing the sodium:potassium ratio is now identified as key dietary behavior change needed in this country.

There is another reason why coconut water may be a good choice for those of us exercising. A few studies have documented that consuming coconut water after exercise-induced dehydration, actually resulted in less nausea, less fullness, and less stomach upset, and was rated “easier to consume” by subjects than either plain water or a standard carbohydrate and electrolyte containing sports drink  (here and here). One of these studies also tested a sodium-enriched coconut water in addition to plain water, regular coconut water, and standard sports drinks. Their results indicate that the sodium-enriched coconut water was as effective as the standard sports drink for full body rehydration following exercise-induced dehydration and yet was still tolerated just as well as regular coconut water.

So in conclusion, if you enjoy the taste of coconut water and will be more apt to consume it than water or a sports drink in order to replace fluid losses, I say go for….just make sure you snack on something salty as well in order to replace sodium losses. Also, if you are performing lighter intensity physical activity and want to drink something besides water, than coconut water may work for you as well.

Why ZICO Coconut Water? Before ZICO sent me the samples I did some digging. What I found is that in an investigation performed by Consumer Labs of the top coconut water brands, ZICO was the only one whose product actually matched their Nutrition Facts Label. The sodium and magnesium levels of other top coconut waters was signficantly different from what was stated on the label (as much as 82% and 35% lower, respectively). Since the electrolyte content of these drinks is one of the most highly touted aspects, I think it is best to go with a company that has been shown to be most in line with their label!

So, now on to the FUN part where one lucky reader gets some ZICO Coconut Water samples! Winner announced NEXT Friday morning (Eastern Time) (August 31st), so get entered before then!

To Enter:

1. (required) Tell me below in the comments, what tips/tricks do you use to stay hydrated during different seasons?

2. (optional) Follow Zico on Twitter, @ZICO and/or Like them on Facebook

3. (optional) Follow Me on Twitter, @NutritionNerd and/or Like Dine, Dash & Deadlift on Facebook.

Each of the optional ones you do will get you an additional entry. Just leave a separate comment por favor!


Disclaimer: ZICO provided me with samples to review and are sponsoring the giveaway. I receive no monetary or other compensation for blogging about this product. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

GSSI Lab Visit & New Product Alert

Last month I was invited to attend the Gatorade Sports Science Institute (GSSI)’s Sports Fuel Expert Summit at their laboratory on the IMG Academy campus in Bradenton, FL. It was a great chance to reconnect with colleagues I had met at conferences and through volunteer work for professional organizations, to meet other RDs and PhDs who work in the sports/wellness/fitness nutrition field for the first time, as well as to learn about new and exciting happenings at Gatorade/GSSI!

The GSSI lab, located right off of the weight room at IMG Academy

You may still think of Gatorade as a US-based sports drink company focused on hydration. This is no longer an accurate description of the company, which has made moves to transform itself in to a world-wide sports nutrition brand. Research, through GSSI and the GSSI Expert Panel (if you missed my recap of the GSSI Sports Fuel Pre-Symposium at the ACSM Annual Meeting, be sure to check that out) is now one of the number one priorities of the company, along with education and outreach to athletes. Gatorade has also shifted its marketing/advertising from being broad to now having a narrow focus on advertising specifically to athletes.

GSSI Sports Scientist and Registered Dietitian, Lisa Heaton, walked us through the new Gatorade product portfolio, informing us of the science behind each item along the way. In addition to the well-known Gatorade sports drink, the company now offers a variety of products for preparing for training/competition (01 – Prime), for during athletic activities (02 – Perform), and following completion of workouts/events (03 – Recover). Now there are different “Series” of “G” offered as well. The original “G Series“, unveiled in 2010, contains products grounded in the latest sports fueling science and was developed in collaboration with top athletes to make sure they were convenient to use and palatable. This line contains, the 01- Prime liquid pouches and Energy Chews, the traditional 02 – Perform Gatorade drink, as well as the lower calorie G2 option, and two 03 – Recovery options, one is a light, fruity tasting recovery beverage, and the other is a more typical recovery shake, available in chocolate and vanilla flavors. I personally, LOVE the G Series Prime 01 Energy Chews. The narrow pouch is convenient to transport and the chews are a manageable size. I have always been very fond of the Cliff Shot Blocks for use during long training sessions or games, but they are quite large and can be hard to chew and swallow while on the run. Sometimes I was worried I would choke! The new G Energy Chews are much easier to get down!

Next came the G Series Pro (which will actually soon be called the Endurance line, I believe) which is specifically formulated for the needs of elite endurance athletes. You probably haven’t seen these products on the shelves of your supermarket since they are only sold in sports specialty stores. This line also contains 01 – Prime pouches and Energy Chews, which contain more calories (carbohydrates) and electrolytes, 02 – Endurance Formula drink and powder as well as the Gatorade Electrolyte Mix (I remember our athletic trainers handing these out during pre-season training in college. We would usually mix them with about 1 oz of water or Gatorade and put it back like a shot since we didn’t like the taste, rather than mixing it in the 20 oz as suggested), and 03 – Recover Beverages.

The final G Series is “G Series Fit“. Not everyone is an elite or invested-recreational athlete and therefore, not everyone needs the previous two G Series. G Series Fit is designed for fitness-minded individuals who want to get the most out of their training. The product line does include 01 – Prime Energy Bites, 02 – Perform, lightly flavored electrolyte drink (only 10 calories per serving), and 03 – Recover fruit-flavored smoothies. I had tried out the G Series Fit 01 Prime Energy Bites about 18 months ago at a conference and remember thinking they were kind of odd. They are small, individually packaged, wafery-type things, containing 50 calories each. I tried them again while in FL and decided I like the taste and the packaging innovation as well. They are small, prepackaged bites so that individuals can customize how much they want/need. Most folks don’t need to eat entire bars containing upwards of 200 calories prior to workouts, but with other companies products that ends up happening because the product is already opened. And who stops 1/4 way through a bar. Not me! The wafer-type coating is also a genius design feature. No sticky, melty, goey bar mess on your hands. Admit it – you have made a mess before trying to eat other bars which have sat in your bag/car!

After being brought up to speed on these products it was time to check out the GSSI satellite lab! It contains your typical nutrition/exercise science lab equipment: scale, DXA, bod pod, bike/treadmill, and metabolic cart. Then there are two “new” and interesting pieces of equipment used. One is the D2 Sports Vision Trainer.  I got to try out my hand at this test. I had to call out numbers that flash up in the center, while using my peripheral vision to hit lights that went off on other areas of the board. I did, AWESOME. “Best performance to date”  is what the lab staff said, I think. Kidding. I did awful!

The other new (to me) piece of equipment is called the iSPAN trainer. It is essentially a series of lights on 3 poles (2 vertical, 1 horizontal) which can be adjusted to various sizes from a standard distance based off on height and arm span, to the exact measurements of a soccer net, etc. There is a main starting point and as the lights go off, athletes need to move quickly and use their hands to jump up/ reach down and turn it off, return to the start, and go after the next light as fast as possible. In this video, Robert Griffin III goes through this test as well as others at the GSSI lab.

We had various other meetings/discussions throughout the short time we were there on different sports/exercise nutrition topics and an educational session on social media utilization!

Fear not, it wasn’t all jam-packed with meetings and tours. There was time for a run after arriving on Monday night,

Watching the sunset over the water from my (AWESOME) hotel room,

Relaxing by the pool on Tuesday morning,

And a workout with the Head of Strength and Conditioning at IMG Academy on Wednesday.

All in all,  great trip. I was glad to learn more about Gatorade/GSSI and the future of this great company! (P.S. – If anyone from GSSI reads this, please hire me when I graduate. Thanks!)

Do you use Gatorade products as part of your training regimen? Ever tried out any of these newer ones? What do you think?

Disclaimer: I was invited on this trip by Gatorade/GSSI and their PR Firm, Fleishman-Hillard. I was not asked to post about it. Views/opinions are my own.