Finding the Balance

Finding the Balance

Yearly Archives: 2015

Finding the Balance

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

As the holidays approach, daylight hours get shorter and our daily to-do list gets longer.  Balancing family, friends, and work throughout this time get stressful and it becomes easy to push aside our other tasks, like getting in a workout or doing some meal prep for the week.  If you are like me, you have a to-list that varies day to day, prioritized by level of urgency.  Those that must be completed right away go to the top (A list), while those that are not necessary “right now” get moved down (B list).  More often than not, your B list continues to grow as the A’s continue to present themselves.  Unfortunately, this can often result in preparing a side dish to share at a potluck or holiday party instead of a healthy meal.  We make ourselves feel by better by saying “I’ll eat better after the holidays,” and resolving that come January 1, big changes in our nutrition and exercise habits are going to happen.  Sound familiar?  If so, then I have a challenge for you.  Don’t put your health on the B list!

I know, it’s easier said than done, but it truly can be accomplished if you modify your priorities and goals and set out to invest in the most important thing you can, your health!  While now may not be the time to set out for more lofty ambitions like getting faster in your 10k time, PRing in a marathon, or losing that stubborn 10 pounds, you can most certainly MAINTAIN your current speed, strength, and weight.  Yes, you may be partaking in an extra party here and there, and everything else that comes with it, but that doesn’t mean that the rest of the week can’t be about taking better care of yourself.  The key to your success is going to be how you plan and strategize for this busy time of year.  Below are a few tips that will keep you organized, less stressed, and in a better position to take charge of your health!

  • Put all of your known parties, events, and travel on a master calendar that includes family members.
    • Plan what you would like to make for each of these events.  Add ingredients and necessary items to weekly shopping lists to cut down on extra trips to the grocery store.
    • Make a holiday shopping list and start tackling it now.  Sales are already starting; there is no need to wait until after Thanksgiving!
    • Follow the 80/20 rule, meaning that 80% of the time you will maintain your usual (or even better!) eating and exercise habits.  This suggests that for the 21 meals a week, you have about 4 “flex” meals each week to indulge a little bit more.  Or, if you normally workout six times per week, try to maintain getting in at least four solid workouts in on a regular basis.
    • Stop with an “all-or-nothing” defeatist approach.  For example, if on Friday night you have too much to eat and drink, this does not mean you should let the rest of the weekend continue to the same way.  Get back on the track as soon as you can, the faster the better to prevent a continuous spiral to accepting that this is just how it is going to be until the holidays are over.
    • If you are visiting family or friends, offer to chip in with cooking and grocery shopping, this will give you more control over the situation.

Bottom line, you are in control this season.  Yes, it may be difficult to maintain your usual routine, but the less you deviate the better, and the easier that first Gut Check workout of 2016 will be!  Happy holidays all!

Rabbit Peak Trail Run Nutrition Tips

Rabbit Peak Nutrition

By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

Less than 1 week remains to prepare for the Rabbit Peak Trail run so it’s time to start planning for your nutrition needs to fuel for the long haul.  While the days leading up to the race are crucial (see previous blog post for more information:, what you fuel and hydrate your body with during the long race could be a make or break for success.

With the altitude, elevation gains, technicality, and distance, you are definitely going to be expending more energy from carbohydrate than your body can store (typically about 1,000-2,000 Calories worth) so consuming some form of carbohydrate during the race is necessary.  While your body can also utilize fat as a fuel source (of which we have an abundance of stored Calories), it is converted a usable form of energy by the body much more slowly than carbohydrate, so fat alone cannot sustain higher intensity activities.

Another extremely important focus for a race like this one is hydration.  Water alone during this distance will not be sufficient to keep up with the electrolytes you will be losing through sweat.  Solid foods and carbohydrate containing beverages can be great sources of additional electrolytes during the race.  It is important that you have an idea of your individual hydration needs prior to the race to be sure you bring enough fluid and electrolytes to keep you well hydrated.  Read on for specific fueling and hydration strategies.

Fueling Strategies

  • Begin fueling your body early on in the race and continue to do so at regular intervals.
  • Focus primarily on consuming carb-rich foods and beverages, but incorporate some protein and a small amount of well-tolerated fats (some carb-based supplements contain some protein and fat like Perpetuem by Hammer Nutrition).
  • Practice with different foods that you will use prior to race day. 
    • Identify what form of food will work for you.  There are multiple sports bars, drinks, gels, and chews out there so don’t try anything unfamiliar on race day.
    • Liquids: sports drinks, electrolyte mixes to add to water, carbohydrate supplement like Perpetuem
    • Solids: Clif, Pro, or Power bars, Honey Stingers, dried fruits/trail mix, banana, PB & banana wrap (if tolerated), peanut butter pretzels/crackers, “no bake energy bites” (see recipe), or fig bars
    • Aim to consume between 30-60 g of carbohydrate per hour.  Your specific amount will be based on the intensity level you will be competing (higher intensity = higher carbohydrate usage) and how much you are able to tolerate (GI discomfort is common in endurance races).

Hydration Strategies

  • Understand your individual hydration needs by assessing your sweat rate during training.
    • Weigh yourself before and after training (no shoes, minimal clothing)
    • Convert pounds of fluid lost to ounces (1 lb = 16 oz fluid; 3 lb = 48 oz)
    • Account for fluid consumed during exercise
      • 48 fl oz + 16 fl oz consumed during 1 hour (60 min) training = 64 fl oz
  • Calculate fluid loss per minute
    • Example: 64 fl oz/60 min training time = ~1.0 fl oz per minute
  • Calculate fluid needs every 15 minutes
    • 1.0 fl oz x 15 min = 15 fl oz every 15 minutes
  • Aim to get as close to this fluid amount as possible during the race by drinking every 10-20 minutes.
  • Additional electrolytes are necessary for a race this length, do not hydrate with water alone!  Sports drinks (Gatorade Endurance, Powderade, Live Fluid) provide both carbohydrate and electrolytes.  Electrolyte mixes (Nuun, Skratch Labs) can be added to water as well (highly recommended for a race of this difficulty level).
  • Choose carbohydrate sources that also contain electrolytes (salted trail mix, dried bananas and other fruits, pretzels, goldfish)

Make sure to use the above tips to be well prepared with a fueling and hydration strategy that will work best for you.  This is crucial to finish the race successfully and safely!  Best of luck to all of you go-getters participating in this challenging race!

No Bake Energy Bites

  • 1 cup old fashioned oats (dry)
  • 2/3 cup toasted coconut flakes
  • ½ cup peanut butter or almond butter
  • ½ cup ground flaxseed
  • ½ cup chocolate or carob chips (optional)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in medium bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Let chill in the refrigerator half and hour.  Once chilled, roll into ball of whatever size you would like.  Store in airtight container for up to 1 week.

Makes about 20-25 bites (depending on size)

Goal Setting


By Whitney Sweat, MS, RD, CSSD

The New Year is once again upon us, and for many, that means setting New Year’s Resolutions.  Too often, however, these resolutions that we start off with so strongly quickly become a thing of past.  What starts off as the best of intentions in January often leads to feelings of disappointment and failure come February.  Why is it that so many people fail to keep these resolutions?  Common mistakes in maintaining resolutions include failing to define goals in more specific terms, setting broad, large scale goals instead of smaller, more obtainable ones, and neglecting to break down goals into measurable actions that yield results.

Well, this year, I have a different challenge for you Gut Checkers!  Instead of thinking in terms of New Year’s Resolutions, focus on making “New You” resolutions.  Rather than setting broad, large-scalegoals create smaller, more realistic onesalong with planned strategies to help you achieve them.  For example, instead of saying, “This year I will exercise more and eat better,” be more specific by saying “The month of January I will start by going to Gut Check 2 times per week and I will eat 1 cup of vegetables at lunch and dinner.”  In the second set of goals you can easily identify if you are reaching them or not.  If you are not meeting them, you can try to identify what the barrier(s) to success may be.

So how do we create these more obtainable goals? Read-on and follow the simple steps below to create personalized goals and strategies to meet your needs!

Download this: Goal Setting Worksheet

Step 1:

Identify what you want to accomplish.  For some this may be weight loss, others may have a performance or health related goal.  You may also have more than one.

  • Examples: I will eat better.  I will exercise more.  I will run a marathon.

Step 2:

  Prioritize your goals.  If you have more than one goal, tackling everything at one time can be overwhelming and make it difficult to maintain changes.  Identify which are most important to you and/or your overall health and start there.  Chances are addressing those issues will set you up for greater success in your other goals.

Step 3:

  Re-define your goals using SMART principles.  This step identifies how to turn broad, vague goals into more specific “mini-goals.”

Specific: Be specific in what is you want to accomplish.  Instead of “I will eat better,” define exactly how you will do this or what you need to address.  For example, “I will eat 1 piece of fruit and 1 cup of vegetables every day.”“I will substitute soda with water or unsweetened tea.”

Measurable: Set goals that you can answer “yes” or “no” to.  You can easily check yourself at the end of the day on whether or not you ate your servings of fruits and vegetables.  Putting a more objective measurement on your goals will be necessary for tracking progress and/or impediments to change.

Attainable: Set goals that you can obtain.  It’s great if you want to run a marathon, but if you have not been actively running regularly, perhaps starting with a 10K or half-marathon is more achievable for you at this point.  Eating better will often include cooking more homemade food, but if your cooking skills are limited a more attainable goal than “cooking all meals from scratch” might be “incorporate one new recipe a week.”

Realistic: Think realistically about your work and life demands.  Is training for a marathon realistic given what you have going on?  If you are traveling a lot or have a big project coming up at work that may take away from your training, modify your goals to fit better.  A 10 k might be more realistic for now, but keep the marathon as an option in the future when time permits.

Time-oriented: Set a realistic time frame for each mini-goal.  This allows for you to break your goals into smaller, more obtainable pieces and progress in your goals.  Added bonus, it can also help keep you from procrastinating!  For example, “Sunday I will prepare enough food to eat lunch Monday-Thursday,” or “This week I will run 3 miles 3 times.”

Step 4:

Break down each goal into specific actions and strategies.  Mini-goals are great for monitoring your progress, but if you are going to eat 2 servings of fruits and vegetables each day you will need to make sure you put enough on your grocery list and that you get to the store.  Perhaps you even need to start with taking an inventory of what you are currently eating.  What can you eliminate and replace with a healthier option?  What state are your running shoes in?  Do you need to invest in a new pair to support your training?  Do you need to arrange childcare or support from a spouse in order to achieve your exercise goals?  Think of this as the “logistics” as to how you will make these goals happen.

Step 5:

Commitment.  Behavior change is difficult; it takes time to break old habits and form new ones.  Give yourself enough time to get through this initial discomfort, soon enough these new strategies will become habit and ultimately, preference!  Commit to each mini-goal and strategy that you set for 3 weeks to make a new habit.  Make sure you set yourself up for success during this time.  Use a weekly planner or calendar to schedule time for exercise, meal planning, grocery shopping, and meal preparation.  Put reminders into your phone, elicit support from friends, and include your family into your new lifestyle changes. Ultimately, finding what will work best for you to stay motivated, focused, and on track will help you make changes for the long-term!

Step 6:

Monitor progress and barriers.  As time goes forward, you will face some ups and downs with your overall progress.  Remember this is completely normal!  Keep a detailed food and exercise journal to help you track progress.  Instead of just writing down what you eat and when also write why you ate what you ate.  Were you hungry or were you using food for a different reason?  Same with exercise, track why you missed a work out.  If a goal is not achieved or a strategy is not working, use this journal to reflect on some possible barriers to your success that you can focus on addressing.  Perhaps a goal needs to be revised or you need to look again at the strategies you laid out.  On the other hand, as you move forward you will need to continue to modify your goals to make sure they are challenging enough for you.  Doing too little can be just as detrimental as doing too much, so make sure you continue to assess your progress and continue to take yourself outside of your comfort zone, whether it is putting in that extra mile each week, attending one more Gut Check class, or trying a new food you are unfamiliar with.

Step 7:

Create contingency plans.  Inevitably, life is going to happen.  You will miss a workout, you won’t have time for meal preparation, etc.  Whatever it is, have a backup plan to either minimize the impact or to help you get back on track immediately.  Make sure to have easy, ready-to-eat options for quick meals like frozen vegetables, instant brown rice, and frozen turkey burger or salmon fillets for a last minute meal.  Or “overschedule” yourself for workouts.  If your goal is 4 workouts a week, find 5 different times to fit it in.  That way if you miss one, you are still on track, and if you make all 5, bonus!

Step 8:

Maintenance.  Sometimes this can be the most difficult step.  You did it.  You lost that extra 15 pounds, you ran a marathon, and you cleaned up your diet.  Now how do you continue to stay on track?  Incorporating a lot of the same steps listed above can help you with this.  Consider other mini-milestones you can accomplish like improving your marathon time, increasing strength and muscle mass, trying a new sport or workout regimen, or incorporating more variety into your usual foods; anything that will keep you focused on maintaining healthy habits for the long term!

Now for the “New You” challenge!  Use the steps above to guide you in the goal setting process.  These will be modified every three weeks.  It is up to you to self-monitor and track your progress towards these goals.  Remember, there is no “one-size-fits-all approach” to creating these goals, so pick what is going to work best for and benefit you the most!  Fill out the form below to set your goals.  These will be assessed and evaluated every 3 weeks.  Your goals may stay the same, but the strategies and tasks may change, and/or you may revise your goals.

Download this: Goal Setting Worksheet