Pre-workout supplements seem to be all the rage. I’ve heard about them on dates, from friends, and of course, seen the brightly colored liquids at the gym.  Last week, on the radio a guy even used a pre-work supplement before his “date.” But nevermind that, I want to examine what pre-workout supplements are and potential issues.

Definition: Pre-workout supplements (aka “preworkout”) are typically powered drink mixes with (supposedly) performance enhancing ingredients. Some common ingredients are caffeine and amino acids such as arginine and citrulline. In general, there does not seem to be clear definition of what a preworkout is. But all preworkouts are some ridiculously bright color that reminds me of Koolaid!

Potential Issues: 

  • Unregulated: The supplement industry is mostly unregulated; supplements are not regulated like drugs or food. Defined by the FDA, supplements are these are edible things “not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent, or cure diseases.” Supplements often go to market with no testing. The FDA can remove or restrict the sale of a supplement, but only after it has been on the market and been shown to be unsafe or mislabeled. (This typically means after a class action lawsuit and severe injuries or death). Feel free to Google Herbalife and liver injury . Or Google Heavy metals and protein supplements. In short, you have been warned, you don’t know what you’re actually getting in a supplement when you take it! The need for more supplement regulation and labeling is seemingly obvious to me, but it will take time for legislature to get there.
  • Unproven- Is there even research behind the suggested ingredients? Primarily, in my opinion and looking at unbiased evidence-based research, few ingredients can be considered proven to enhance performance. My favorite ingredient (and the most common) proven to enhance performance is caffeine. Some companies tout there is research behind their products, but if you look closely the company performed the research. This can be a major issue leading to bias as it’s in the company’s best interest to have good outcomes in the research.
  • What’s Missing?! Sadly missing from most Preworkout is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are the primary fuel for our bodies and help fuel our muscles during workouts. Ideally, a snack should be consumed <2 hours before a workout or a meal around 4 hours prior to a workout.
  • Need- Let’s reverse this process. Why do you feel like you need a preworkout? My guess is that most of you will answer one of 2 reasons- either to enhance performance or you’re tired. If you’re tired, try to look reason why you’re tired i.e. did you get enough sleep, have you eaten today, etc. For enhancing performance, a few ingredients have been proven e.g. caffeine, beet root juice, and amino acids (look at this review article for more info).


Suggested Alternatives/Considerations: 

  1. Cold brew coffee and snack bar (caffeine and carbs)
  2. Coffee and PB toast (This old standby, still holds value!)
  3. Beet Smoothie (with beet root juice supplement, greens, oatmeal) This one is y’all dying to try beet supplements, but can’t do it alone!
  4. Matcha tea* (or latte for extra carbs) and tea cookies *Quick note on matcha. Matcha is powdered green tea, therefore it has about the same amount of caffeine as coffee.

Snacks with a carbohydrates and some protein and or fat can help provide a necessary “energy boost” when consumed around 30 minutes before a workout. You do not have to overthink your “preworkout.”

Side note/Poop warning: If you do choose, caffeine as part of your preworkout regiment, don’t forget caffeine is also proven to move the bowels. So allow time for your poop process.

Insistent that you still need a specific preworkout, here’s what to look for:

  • A brand you trust. This one is tricky, but read about the company, look at their research, etc.
  • Third-party testing- NSF and some organizations test supplements. Look for a seal or certificate.
  • Look at the ingredients. While not all the ingredients may not be listed, still look at them and if you don’t know what they are, look them up.

Try to be smart about your preworkout, whether you are choosing a labeled preworkout or consuming a snack before your workout, make smart decisions to enhance your workout and your health.


Diets and New Years Resolutions

So first let’s back up…What is a diet?

The original definition of diet was the food and drink usually taken by a person or group. according to the Cambridge English dictionary.

The word “diet” meant just the foods and drinks one consumed (with no negative or positive connotation). Unfortunately, the word “diet” has come to been restricted eating usually associated with a weight loss goal. Well, I’m over it! Sure, at times in my life I have cycled through “weight loss diets” from previous periods of overeating. However, my college weight gain and restricted eating were symptoms of being unhappy.  Personally, I think it’s important to have goals in mind, but not focus on the weight.

Cycling through diets does NOT work. How many people have you known to do a diet (e.g. Akins, Whole 30, Cleanses, etc.) and they have successfully kept the weight off, stuck to the diet, and been happy?

I believe that when we stop focusing on weight and instead focus on positive goals, we can ditch weight loss diets and live our best lives. So, I challenge you to live your best life and focus positive goals to increase your overall health.

And if anyone that wants to share with me, their New Years Weight loss resolutions, please don’t! Choose another resolution or goal to share with me.

Instead of weight loss goals, here are some suggestions:

  • focus on eating more fruits and veggies
  • more movement and mobility (increase daily steps, stretch, do yoga, etc.)

Or if you’d like to focus on a performance goals, here a few ideas:

  • increase lean body mass
  • run a faster race
  • lift or squat more weights

Happy New Year! and P.s. Let’s all skip this diet culture. You do you and live your best life. Your weight or a number on the scale does not define you. YOU ARE SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT!!

What I Ate Wednesday

Well, I mean since all the cool kids on Instagram are doing it. I’ll share What I ate today, too; I’ll also share my inner thoughts and hunger cues.

Morning: Picky bar. I was really hungry and thirsty when I woke up, making me wonder if I underfueled yesterday (yikes!) In any case, I made sure to eat and drink lots of water.

Mid-morning: Scrambled egg w/ spinach, mushrooms, and cheese, pomegranate seeds, toast w/ nutella, and COFFEE. I was definitely still hungry for a “real” breakfast, so I made a warm breakfast. It’s cold out, so I like to eat warm food. Of course, the dietitian add veggies to breakfast, but I was mainly trying to prevent food waste. The mushrooms were looking a little peaked.

Lunch: Pesto pasta w/ tofu and roasted brussels. I considered eating salad, but again I wanted warm food and realized I wouldn’t have much time this evening to make dinner due to my work schedule. Whole grain pasta because fiber will keep me full…

Snack (while typing this): popcorn and caffeinated NUUN. Nope, I need a snack, plus I love salty crunchy foods.

Dinner: Beer at Craft Beer Run and Salad. Beer & salad, haha. I like to eat bigger meals for breakfast and lunch. I have always preferred this and while not always possible, if I’m able to I like to eat lighter dinners (but not light beer). Dark beers are definitely my preference. 🙂

Also, I’m making my 2018 schedule, so if you have any suggestions let me know!

Tempo Thursday- Lolla & Rubber Ducks

Hmmm, my first real attempt at tempo run in awhile. Why did I chose to run the middle of the day in hot & muggy weather?

Classic route: The Chicago Riverwalk to the Lakefront Path.

The warm-up: As I ran down the riverwalk, I wondered why there were so many people, but also how it could be so cloudy and so muggy? I continued to dodge people during my long warm-up and try to relax into the run. I was anxious about “having” to push the pace for 3 miles. Ugh, why is the warm-up 1.5 miles long? From the office to the lakefront is exactly 1 mile, however will I get in the extra .5? I got in my starting my watch slightly early than normal and continuing to dodge people on the Lakefront heading to Lolla. It actually worked out well. Around 3/4 of a mile, I hit the water misted near the architectural tour. I definitely ran through the mister, because again it was hot and muggy. I made to the Lakefront and ran into a fellow Volee member and just wanted to turn around and run with her. I didn’t really have to do these tempo miles, did I? But, I just said hi and finished my  warm-up.

The tempo miles (Lolla playing in the background): Okay, time to drop the pace but to what….I tried to go on feel and what I thought could be sustainable for 3 miles, but the air was thick and my legs were like jelly from the previous day’s massage. The first mile was over and I thought I could drop the pace some more, so I did. After 1.5 miles, I stopped to stretch my shoulder and drink some water, but also rest because the thick air was too much. I approached the Museum and was glad to see it. Hey, when was the last time that I had enough mileage in me that I could run to the museum?! I was thankful for this moment of clarity and remembering that pace shouldn’t matter as much. My mind began to wonder to recent social situations (i.e. why do people lie and cheat? and why didn’t I trust my gut instinct to just run away?). I became refocused on the turnaround and decided to pick the sidewalk closer to lake. Th waves were crashing into the sidewalk and I just wanted to join them- taking a nice jump into the lake sounded great. Instead, I paused at mile 2.5 and watched the waves. I decided to finish the last .5 and as I ran by the bathrooms- I remembered the time that I hid them from a certain jerk (and how I wouldn’t be doing that again!).

The Waves
The Waves

Cooldown: I made it onto the riverwalk and it was more crowded than I’ve ever seen. I looked over into the river and saw all the Rubber Ducks! It was the Rubber Duck Derby 2017 supporting the special Olympics! I was slightly less frustrated by all the people and I paused to watch the Rubber ducks float down the river. I finished my cooldown, knowing that a cool smoothie was in my future.

“Actually, I’m a dietitian” and Avocado Toast

Mondaysss…Am I right? Happy National Avocado Day!

I wanted to verbal to NP_ Chi this morning, but I just couldn’t. One of my Instagram friends and a friend currently staying in Oak Park were going (and trying to get me to verbal). I wanted to go.  I even  packed my clothes and food. When my alarm went off, I just didn’t get out of bed. I didn’t feel like getting sandy this morning and I feared too much shoulder calisthenics (due to current injury). I opted to hit snooze…..ZZZZZZ

I could beat myself up for missing a workout and probably a really fun one at that. Sure, I missed my friends and a great workout, but I had to do what was right for me. Instead, I stayed home, stretched, enjoyed a cup of coffee, and went to work. (Side note, I did find out that there was a lot of shoulder exercises, so I think I made the right choice. hehe).

In the parking garage, I met a man in the elevator that was carrying a blender. Before, I even got to ask me about the blender. He started telling me about his morning. He had accidentally left his keys on the roof of his car, last night. I asked if he was tired.  Hey- isn’t that us all sometimes- we all get tired, rundown, and leave things  on the roof of our car (or some other absent-minded thing)?  It’s important to take note when you’re tired and hopefully make changes. Sleep is important, y’all. It’s important, you know you know it. You don’t need me to explain it to you.

So what about that blender? I asked about the blender- apparently his workplace is having healthy challenge. I said, “Actually, I’m a dietitian.” Excitingly, he knew what an RD was and asked if I worked at the hospital nearby. We briefly changed business cards before parting ways to head off to work. (Hi, Chris! and nice to meet you).

I’m inspired that the nutrition field is changing and glad to know that people are taking charge of their health. So all in all, it was an inspiring Monday Morning!

Bonus- our office was having an avocado toast bar in celebration of National Avocado Day. I thoroughly enjoyed 2 pieces of avocado toast (as pictured).

Anyway,  I think my point was that it’s important to be mindful. Be mindful, take mindful movements for you. (I often need the reminder).

P.s. My run will happen later as well as book club on an excellent book called Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg.

P.s.s. This is also for you people that thought I didn’t like avocado toast. I don’t not like, I’m just tired of seeing it all the time on IG and eating it myself a lot. (I need more variety in my diet). I love avocados! They contain healthy fats, fibers, potassium and other vitamins & minerals, but I probably won’t be eating any more avocado toast for a couple days. 🙂 #keepingitreal

Coffee Overdose

So about my birthday weekend 2017…..I may have overdosed on the coffee. I try to keep track of coffee/ caffeine intake, since I’m sensitive to it; but it’s tricky sometimes.

It was the perfect storm, lack of sleep, wanting caffeine for performance, and trying to stay awake. It started Friday morning. After November Project, I got some coffee at Panera Bread, then at the gym I got some coffee, coffee at work, and a frozen coffee bar at Trader Joe’s. I made it through Friday unscathed, but you can see that was a lot of coffee; upwards of 7 cups. Saturday- coffee before the 8k race, free dunkin coffee shots, 20oz large cold-brew on an empty stomach….and down for the count. My symptoms- elevated heart rate, dizziness, headache, and the caffeine shakes. My only option was to wait it out. Hydrating and eating well can help deal with the symptoms of too much caffeine, but only time will flush the caffeine from your body. Caffeine is metabolized by the liver, so you just have to give your liver time to work. I rested for the rest of Saturday and survived.

Don’t worry, I’m still drinking coffee. I just had to get back to my regular intake (2-3 cups a day). 1 cup in the mid-morning, 1 cup mid- afternoon, and another cups and/or caffeinated gels on the weekend.

Coffee has lots of health benefits. In normal amounts, its hydrating, can boost performance, and extend your lifespan. Coffee can boost performance, but be sure to try it out. Caffeine can cause nervousness and the jitters, especially if you aren’t use to it or sensitive.  Usually 1-2 cups of coffee is sufficient to keep you alert and boost performance.

Tips to keep track of coffee/ caffeinated drinks:
  • Stick to schedule! Drink coffee at regular times i.e. 10am, before a workout, etc.
  • Sneakier foods- chocolate, tea, frozen coffee bars, etc. all have caffeine and need to included
  • COLD BREW- aka devil iced coffee. It’s great. My favorite, actually; however due to processing it does have more caffeine per cup than regular coffee. This varies per brand, so just be careful.

Here’s some information.