My First Time

First time: Right hamstring. Seconds after crossing the finish line at the Coeur d’Alene Marathon 2011. Literally froze in my tracks, unable to take another step.

Second time: Right foot. About 45 minutes after finishing the Eugene Marathon 2012. Took my shoe off in the car and my foot was literally stuck in a flexed, crocked position. Kind of freaked me out.

Third time: Right calf. Middle of cycling class two weeks ago. Had to stop for a few seconds then take the rest of the class easy. Sore for the rest of the night.

If you ask a seasoned runner if they’ve ever cramped, I mean rolling-on-the-ground-someone-put-me-out-of-my-misery cramp, I guarentee he or she will remember the place, location and almost the exact time. That’s how much pain and dissapointment a cramp can cause. It can ruin a race within seconds, rendering the runner helpless and defeated.

There are three different “classifications” of cramping that typically occur during running:

1. Side cramp = a pain in your side or lower abdominal area. Typically a result of shallow breathing

2. Stomach cramp = pain in your middle core area, a.k.a your stomach. Again, typically a result of shallow breathing but also can occur from too much fluid or food before the run

3. Muscle cramp = physical pain and/or tightening of a centralized muscle, typically occuring in the leg

How can an athlete avoid cramping while running?

1. Practice deep breathing = Place your hands on your stomach and breath deep. Also, try breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth…slowly.

2. Slow down = Side cramps typically occur with new runners who start their run too quickly. Slow your roll at the beginning of a run and pick it up after the first mile. If the cramp still persists, walk it out for a few minutes. Seasoned runners naturally shift to deep breathing, so give yourself time to naturally make the transition.

3. Relax = Nervousness can lead to shallow breathing. Take a few deep breaths before the race and try to put your mind at ease.

4. Eat Earlier = A general rule of thumb is to eat 2 hours before a run. However, if you’re still experiencing stomach cramps, try eating 3-4 hours before a run. Also, try to avoid drinking copious amounts of fluid right before the start of a run. This can cause cramping and also just be plain uncomfortable.

5. Eat What Works = If you find you always eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich prior to a run but always get stomach cramps, perhaps you should try eating something different? Each runner is different and will be affected differently by different food. Find what works for you by experimenting…but I’d recommend experimenting before race day!

6. Hydrate = Make sure you drink enough water. General rule of thumb suggests 15-20 ounces 45 minutes before a run and 2-4 ounces every 15 minutes. But again, don’t overdue it or you’ll suffer the consequences of stomach cramping.

7. Balanced Diet = Make sure to eat your fruits and veggies to ensure you are taking in adequate amounts of sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium, which can help prevent muscle cramping.

Fact or Fiction: If I eat a banana before my race, I won’t cramp?

Fiction. There is a common misconception associated with the magical power of bananas to ward off any sign of unwanted cramping. Does the potassium in bananas help prevent cramping? Yes. What about sodium, does loading my pre-race stir fry with salt help prevent cramping? Yes. And even drinking a class of milk packed with calcium will help prevent muscle cramping. However, most often than not, cramping occurs from a lack of improper hydration. It is true that an inbalance or deficiency in one of these elctrolytes can lead to a muscle cramp; however, most of us are not running ultra marathons (in which case you need to supplement with salt blocks due to loss of sodium) and are eating a balance of fruits and veggies through which our bodies receive adequate amounts of these electrolytes.

So the moral of this story, make sure you drink plenty of water throughout the day and be sure to eat a healthy and balanced diet!


Going Ape for the Paleo Diet?

Another recent buzzword in the diet/nutrition/health world is the Paleo Diet. In a nutshell, the Paleo diet suggests eating foods which would have been found during the time of our ancestors. This means a diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish and seeds/nuts. Which also means no dairy, no grains, no legumes, no sugar, no salt.

In order to better address the topic (and questions), I did recently read, “The Paleo Diet for Athletes,” which was written by Dr. Loren Cordain and Joe Friel, founders of the Paleo Diet. The book is interesting and worth a read as it provides scientific support for why the Paleo Diet can be successful. It also addressed questions and concerns which have been raised about the diet. I’d highly recommend it.

Additionally, I stumbled upon a great article today, addressing the pros and cons of the Paleo Diet. Whether you are “for” or “against” the diet, this article presents both sides and leaves you, the consumer, to make your own decision.

As a dietitian and an average-Jane human being, my best advice is to always remember the mantra, “Everything in moderation!” No matter your dietary choices, make sure to keep it balanced and healthy, while also remembering that food and eating is meant to be enjoyed and give pleasure to the consumer!!


Gluten Free Bandwagon

I went to the naturopath last week and learned a few things. 1.) I have a hypothyroid. Awesome. More to come on this later. 2.) I should avoid eating potatoes. That’s easy since my husband is allergic to potatoes and they hardly ever find their way in our house. 3.) I should avoid gluten. My biggest fear is now confirmed!!

Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a pasta-lover, I thoroughly enjoy a slice (or loaf) or french bread or homemade banana muffins or a few (or box) of tomato basil Wheat Thins. And any sense of self control is paralyzed at the smell of a hearty, fresh-baked loaf of bread. Maybe it’s the wheat farmer background in me screaming out for the delicious taste of gluten…But despite this magnetic love of all-things-baked, I am now faced with the challenge to, “Just Say No!”

The gluten-free diet has attracted major attention within the last few years. The primary reason folks traditionally avoided gluten was out of necessity, due to an autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease. Folks with this disease are unable to digest a protein in the gluten called gliadin. In fact, this protein can cause major damage to the intestines and disrupt proper absorption. Additionally, it can cause major pain in the form of headaches, diarrhea, cramping, bloating and stomach aches for the undeserving victim. Put simply, folks with Celiac Disease should avoid gluten at all costs!

There are also folks who are have a wheat allergy or are gluten sensitive. This is less severe than Celiac and involves an allergic reaction which can manifest itself in the form of headaches, bloating, stomach aches, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, hives, itchy throat and/or skin, and diarrhea. And the last group of folks who avoid gluten simply do so for weight loss purposes (aka a low carbohydrate diet – my thoughts on this topic will be made in the near future).

So, if you find yourself falling into one of these categories, or simply just want to be more educated on this buzz-word topic of “gluten-free,” here is a list of do and don’t grains/starches to eat for the gluten-free groupie.

Eat  Teff, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, corn, rice, wild rice, flax, arrowroot, millet, hominy, soy flour, tapioca, and sorghum

Avoid – Wheat and wheat products including bulgur, durum flour, spelt, farina, graham flour, kamut, semolina; rye, barley, oats*

* What’s up with oats? Naturally, oats do not contain gluten. However, they are typically grown, harvested and processed near and/or around wheat products so it is a good rule of thumb to avoid eating oats.

The tricky thing about gluten is that it is included in many other products besides baked goods. The following list shows food products to avoid as they typically contain gluten.

Foods products to avoid – Beer, breads, cakes and pies, candies, cereals, cookies and crackers, croutons, french fries, gravies, imitation meat or seafood, matzo, pastas, processed luncheon meats, salad dressings, sauces, including soy sauce, seasoned rice mixes, seasoned snack foods, such as potato and tortilla chips, self-basting poultry, soups and soup bases, vegetables in sauce

If you are avoiding gluten, the good news is there are many gluten-free food options and they are typically well labeled. The other great news is that this diet forces you to consume more fruits, veggies and protein sources – all great choices for your diet!

So now consider yourself educated on the gluten-free diet. If you think you may be gluten intolerant or sensitive, try eliminating gluten products for a week or so and determine how you feel. You can join me this week as I venture down the road of GLUTEN FREE! I’d also highly recommend visiting your doctor and getting a second option, as many folks are self-diagnosed as gluten intolerant.

Lastly, if you are looking for more information and/or recipes, visit these sites:

– “Gluten Free Goodness” by Cheryl Harris, RD –

– “Kumquat” by Gretchen, RD

– “Nourishing Results” by Hana, RD and Celiac Disease

– “The Gluten Free RD” by Rachel, RD


Shocking Discovery…Real Food!

Golden Raspberries. Ground Tomatoes. Yak Jerky. Oh my!!

This past weekend my husband (bless his soul) joined me for an adventure at the Portland Farmers Market. Since we moved down to Portland, I’ve been hearing about the expansive and beautiful Market; however, being gone almost every weekend during the summer has pretty much voided any opportunity of visiting  this Saturday extravaganza. However, this past Saturday we seized the day!

I was slightly overwhelmed. One, with all the beautiful fruits and vegetables. Two, with the abundance of LOCAL food. And three, with the array of never-before-seen or slightly odd food items. I will admit, I was also impressed by the number of people flocking to downtown Portland to spend their hard-earned cash on food grown within the state. For those of you living in a dark hole, this is the seemingly contagious trend around the entire country, let alone Portland, Oregon. Grow your own and/or buy local.

Ok, truth moment: I eat non-organic, hormone-filled, raised in another country food. Oh the horror! Yes, it’s true. But, do I eat healthy? Yes. Do I try to buy foods locally and as natural as possible? Yes. Do I consume fruits and veggies and lean meats whenever possible? Yes. Do I have a $600 dollar food budget per week? No. Hence the Foster Farms chicken and the Mexican avocados. Sorry. I’m realistic, not perfect. I do my best with the resources I have.

HOWEVER…having experienced the abundance of fresh and natural food at the market and stumbling upon Lisa Leake’s, “100 Days of Real Food,” I’ve recently embarked on a new challenge, which I’d like you to consider. But first, what is 100 Days of Real Food? It’s a movement, an idea, a challenge to buy and eat only natural, real food. This includes: fruits and veggies,whole grain products, whole foods, natural sweetners such as honey and maple syrup and 100% juice concentrates, dairy products, seafood, locally grown meat, tea, coffee, and 100% fruit juice. Everything else is out, including: fast food, artificial sweetners, anything with refined sugar or grain, or fried foods.

So with that, your challenge, should you chose to accept it, Is to take either take the 10-day, 100-day or just simply focus on removing the processed foods from your diet. Focus on the whole! (You can sign up for the challenge at

Should you chose to venture down this path, I must first-hand warn you of some side affects:

– Increased energy, decreased bloating, decreased digestive issues, clearer skin, decreased headaches, decreased stomach aches, increased longevity, disease prevention, silkier hair, and an overall attitude of, “I can conquer the world!”

So…what’s stopping you from cleaning out your cupboards and refrigerator and stocking up good old fashioned real  food??