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Key lime energy balls

I get hungry everyday at 3:00 and if I could I would eat a snickers. I began to bring clif bars everyday to silence my stomach until my evening work out but that began to be a bit expensive. I scoured Pinterest and found this great recipe for Lemon Coconut energy balls. Even better, I had just received a ninja chopper as a wedding gift. After I conquered the lemon version and tested them for those 3:00 hunger pains, I decided to change up the recipe a bit. I adore key lime anything and  replacing lemon with lime juice seemed to be the place to start. I also decided to use many items I already had in my pantry.  I’m going to warn you I’m no food blogger.

Key lime Energy BallsWP_20150201_12_31_17_Pro

Ingredients
-1 cup of pitted dates
– 1/2 cup of lime juice
– 1/4 cup of Sunflower seeds (no shell)
-1/3 cup of pecans
-1 cup of shredded coconut
– 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs
-A dash of cinnamon
-Mini cupcake liners

Instructions
1. In a food processor or chopper, chop the pecans and sunflower seeds. Place these aside in a bowl.
2. In the food processor or chopper, chop the half the dates with 1/4 cup of lime juice and then repeat with the remainder.
3. Add 1/2 cup of the coconut, the cinnamon and the pecan/sunflower mix back into the chopper with the prunes and lime juice and pulse to mix together.
4. Take the mixture and roll into 1 inch balls (or if you are like me use your 1 inch baller) then roll in the remaining 1/2 cup of coconut and 1/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs.Place in the mini cupcake liners and store in Tupperware in the fridge. These should last about a week if you don’t eat them all first.

WP_20150201_12_51_22_ProThe next time I write, I’ll have a new last name (eek!)

As always, comment and share your recipes. You can always reach me on twitter as @carabyrd

Cara

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You Are What You Eat

By all means, I am no expert when it comes to food and diet, but I do love to eat. My friends are constantly making fun of me because I am always hungry. Whenever we go somewhere I have to make sure we plan when, where, and what we are eating next. Sometimes I even get ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) and then they know they need to feed me soon.

Diet plays a huge factor in how you perform as an athlete. It’s what fuels you and gives your body the energy to work as hard as you are pushing it. Lately I have been really focused on how food makes my body feel. Just recently I came to the conclusion that I was eating too much yogurt, or good bacteria. At night I just didn’t feel good, so I researched it, and it looks like the symptoms I had pointed to just that. Having too much bacteria in my system didn’t allow my body to absorb the nutrients it needed. After just two days of not eating yogurt I felt so much better. From now on I will be eating it in moderation. I have always been one to eat healthy. I stopped eating fast food and drinking pop years ago. I knew that there was very little nutritional value in those things that came fast and cheap. I’ve worked hard to eat right and train my body. Now it’s just more of a habit or routine then a chore. There are times where I feel like I need to treat myself though. My biggest weakness is the sweets. If there is a cookie, you can bet I will eat it.

When you read articles about your diet ‘they’ (the actual experts) always say things like:

1. Eat 3 meals a day and 2 snacks.

2. Eat a big breakfast and then your meals get smaller throughout the day.

3. Eat protein after a workout.

4. Don’t eat before bed.

5. Etc, etc.

These guidelines or tips can seem overwhelming and sometimes hard to follow. At the end of the day, I know I just need to listen to what my body wants and how I feel. My performance will always reflect the hard work I’ve put into training but also the fuel I give my body.

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Baby, its cold outside

Happy 2015! If you are like me, you are likely still asleep (you have to love a good scheduling tool). Typically, blog posts around this time do one of two things; talk about goals or reflect about the previous year but I’m not going to either of those. I have already written a blog about goals and this past year was a bit of a mix bagged.
Instead, let us talk a little bit of subject that has been hitting me hard this week that is running in the cold. By hitting hard, I mean the high was 14 degrees yesterday. I know many of you would scoff and consider this warm but I was born and raised below the Mason Dixon line. Let me put it this way, I own only four pairs of tights. I had no idea fleece lined tights existed until this year.

ColdoutsideWith that being said, cold weather has a negative effect on my running. Mainly, I don’t hydrate enough and I don’t want to run in the cold. I’ve been able to tackle the hydration issue pretty easily but drinking lots of tea. There is nothing quite like a warm cup of tea after a cold run or even during the day. I have also discovered the NUUN makes a pretty warm drink. I stick to the caffeine free teas. I have found that I drink more tea than I did water.

The issue of going out to run in the cold hasn’t exactly been resolved. For Christmas, I asked for lots of layers and warm athletic gear which helps. I also purchased a cheap (like $3.00) drawstring toboggan that allows me to wear it around my nose (see pic). I also received a white reflective vest and a head lamp that helps me navigate night run (will also make Beer Chasers Wednesday night group run heck of a lot nicer). If I’m really not motivated, I stick a few dollars in my pocket to purchase a hot drink on the way home. I will admit I do wimp out sometimes and use the indoor track at the gym. Miles are miles.

What do you do to help your running in the cold months?
I hope everyone is having a great new year! I’m looking forward to getting married and running my first half with a new last name in May.
Cara

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Build Better Bones By Tiffany

As athletes, most of us know that calcium is important for bones but for many of us, that’s about where our bone mineral savvy ends. What you may not realize is blood calcium is very tightly regulated at 1% which means when dietary calcium is inadequate your body starts breaking down bone, the storage sight of calcium, to compensate. After adolescence, 1000mg/day is usually enough to maintain healthy bones, teeth, nerve function and muscle contraction but when it comes to absorption, there are a few other factors to consider for maximum efficiency.

For example, alcohol reduces calcium absorbition and inhibits the activation of vitamin D. Carbonated beverages have also been associated with reduced bones mass because of their high phosphorous content. In addition, excess sodium cause increased excretion of calcium in the urine. Some natural occurring plant toxins, like oxalic and phytic acids found in spinach, collard greens, sweet potatoes and beans, can also bind to calcium so it is best not to take supplements with these foods.

You typically absorb 30% of calcium found in food. Good sources include dairy products, greens, almonds, tofu and molasses with smaller amounts occurring in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans and grains. However, for athletes, especially female athletes or those unable to digest dairy, a supplement is a good idea. Nonetheless, the array of supplements is overwhelming. So what should you be looking for?

First of all, there are two major forms of calcium: carbonate and citrate. Citrate absorbs better (you can take it without food) and does not cause GI discomfort. However, the percentage is smaller so you’ll be popping about five pills a day and it’s generally more expensive. Pills should be taken with low iron meals in doses less than 500mg.

Next on the list is vitamin D which is essential for absorption. You want vitamin D3 and the RDA is 600mg. Very few foods (cod liver oil, eggs, fish) contain vitamin D so this is especially important during the winter months when the sun is too far to stimulate your skin to produce adequate levels of this vitamin.

Magnesium is also paramount for calcium storage. Apricots, bananas, avocados, whole grains, nuts and green leafy vegetables are all good sources of magnesium so if you’re eating whole foods, you should be set. However, if you find yourself relying on supplements to fill in your nutritional gaps, you should add this mineral to your list of things to look for in a calcium pill. Research has shown that magnesium citrate is superior to magnesium oxide and the RDA is 400mg.

Other cofactors for strong bones include boron and vitamin K but these are often found in adequate levels in the diet. In summary, while exercise is good for building up bone strength, intense training can cause increased risk of fracture and hormonal changes that decrease bone density. Since peak bone density is achieved in your early 20s, calcium is vital to maintaining optimal performance.

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The Whole Grind on Whole Grains

Everyone’s been there, standing under the halogen lights in the grocery store confronted by an overwhelming selection of breads. All you wanted was a substrate for your daily sandwich but instead, you’re bombarded by a slew of bright packages each vying for your attention. Whole grain, multigrain, rye, pumpernickel, low fat, reduced calorie, no high fructose corn syrup, no trans-fat: what does any of this means for your potential pb and J?
The key to picking out a healthy loaf of bread is to decode the label. In a perfect world, you would probably just mix up a batch of whole grain flour and pop it into your bread maker and problem solved; you know exactly what you’re eating. However, the benefits of baking your own bread will be blogged about later. Today, we’re going to focus on your plan of attack in the bread isle.

First of all, a whole grain is made up of all three parts of the grain: the endosperm, bran, and germ, contrary to refined grains which have the bran and germ stripped off during processing. Nutritionally, whole grains trump refined grains for three main reasons: fiber, vitamins and minerals. The intact germ and bran of the wheat kernel are rich in fiber, iron, magnesium, vitamin E, zinc, copper, B vitamins, lignans, phenolic acids, phytochemicals, and protein. On the other hand, refined flours consist of the starchy endosperm and are only fortified with B1,2 and 3, iron, and folate. The take away message: you miss out on the nutritional benefits of whole grains when you choose processed grains.
Essentially, refined flour interacts with your body similar to straight table sugar. Without the fiber to slow its process through the digestive tract, refined grains are easily converted to glucose in the body and transported through the blood stream. Due to this fast-acting insulin boost, processed grains are considered to have a higher glycemic index (GI) than whole grains. For this reason, diets containing whole grains are associated with a decreased risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, studies have correlated whole grain consumption to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and weight gain in adults. Fiber plays a role in keeping the digestive tract healthy by preventing diverticular disease, constipation, and carcinogen formation. In addition, fiber binds to cholesterol in food and in bile which is then excreted instead of recirculating in the body. This can actually decrease your total blood cholesterol by about 5%. Fiber is also key for signaling satiety to the brain. Thus people consuming high fiber diets from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are less likely to overeat.
Hopefully by now it is evident that whole grains are a good idea, now here’s the hard part: sifting through the label. By definition, manufacturers must list 100 percent whole wheat flour as the first ingredient in order for a product to qualify as being a good source of whole grain. Also, don’t forget to check the salt and sugar content of the bread. Many brands have added various forms of sugar, preservatives, and high amounts of sodium to their breads, even the healthier whole grain versions.

Currently, dietary guidelines recommend that Americans consume at least 3 servings of whole grain per day but only about 11% of grains in America are whole grains. Add whole grains like oats, rye, barley, brown rice, corn, buckwheat and quinoa to your shopping cart. They provide the complex carbohydrates you need for performance along with vitamins, minerals, and protein you need for recovery and metabolism. So next time you’re in the bread isle, go for the grain!

Slavin, JL, Jacobs D, Marquart L, et al. The role of whole grains in disease prevention. Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2001;101(7):780-785.