December 2007 Nutrition Chat with Coach Marni Rakes

author : mrakes1
comments : 0

Discussions on portable foods, mixing your own cereal, sugar in yogart, diet soda, benefits to caffeine and nutrition on the run and bike.

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[sue7013] I need an answer for portable food that can been eaten on the fly and preferably doesn't need a refrigerator. I'm a surgeon and eating during the day is VERY hard.  I get time for lunch once a week. I'm sick of being hungry all the time and it sabotages me in the evening.  I'm SICK of bars.


[mrakes1] If you have hot water I always suggest oatmeal. Easy to eat and easy to prep. Even hot water from a coffee maker works.

[sue7013] I have oatmeal at the hospital but no hot water. Not even a microwave.

[mrakes1] Yes-I'd stay away from bars as much as possible. Or stick with low carbohydrate Marathon bars or Luna bars. Best nutritional value. Hammer nutrition bar would be the best.  You can always pack a cooler (ice packs) and fill with yogurt, string cheese, veggies and fruit-lean meat/veggie meat also. Sandwiches are easy and cut into 4ths so they are easy to eat.  Try to get away from bars with a sugary coating (or icy coating). Added sugars and preservatives may leave you bloated.

[mrakes1] PB and J does work well too. Just portion control the PB and use low sugar jelly.

[Lucy] I had some cereal the other day- Smart Start. I read the bowl (single serving thing) and it said 250! Then the milk was 120... that's a big breakfast plus my 60 yogurt... yikes...


[mrakes1] Yes-cereal will add up. I would stick with oatmeal if possible but for cereal, choose 2-3 different cereals. One brand may be high in calories (like a granola or Kashi brand) and use the other 2 cereals as low calorie. Stick with cheerios or a "puff" type cereal and then choose a bran cereal. Mix them all together and then you won't have as many calories in a 3/4-1 cup bowl of cereal.

[sue7013] Yeah, I picked up some yogurt at the hospital and it had 40grams of sugar!!! How is that healthy?


[mrakes1] Check yogurt for sugar. Stick with less than 60 calories to be sure you don't overdo it with sugar. Yogurts are so healthy but there are so many that aren't healthy!

[sue7013] What is your feeling about Cheerios?

[mrakes1]  I think Cheerios are good. Low in calories per serving size. Even the frosted kind is healthy per serving size and a good treat. The best bet with cereals is to make your own. There are a lot of extra sugars in cereal and when you look at the serving size you don't get a lot of food for your bowl. I would add your own things in a basic cereal like special K or bran flakes.

[sue7013] I like shredded wheat. I put a protein drink on it instead of milk.  It's REALLY good with low calorie CHOCOLATE EAS protein drink.

[mrakes1]  Protein powder is fine in milk and oatmeal. Best if you add the powder after the oatmeal has been cooked.

[sue7013] What is your stand on diet soda?

[mrakes1]  Avoid diet soda unless it is a start to getting away from regular soda. For caffeine choose coffee or tea (without lots of creams).

[sue7013]  I'm totally addicted to diet coke.  It's a stress thing for me.  Right now I'm too stressed to give it up.

[mrakes1] You want to avoid products which offer no nutritional value and diet soda has none. Even the studies show that people who drink diet drinks are more likely to overeat food when they are trying to watch calories.  Diet drinks are filled with phosphorus and lots of additives and dyes. Just look at the label. As an athlete provide your body with water which you need.

[sue7013] I don't think that's the case with me. I feel like it suppresses my appetite actually....and I recently lost 25# and that was with drinking copious DC.

[mrakes1]  Yes, diet drinks take calcium away from bones.

[sue7013] I know it's bad for me but there are worse things I could be addicted to.

[mrakes1] You are better drinking coffee than diet soda for your fix since coffee has many health benefits. Try to get away from diet soda but have 1 a day to keep you happy.


[Lucy] Celery has no nutritional value, or so I'm told.

[mrakes1] Celery actually helps with cancer and blood pressure and provides vitamin C, potassium and calcium. It is helps with cravings since it has a crunch to it.

[Lucy] So you're endorsing Starbucks? Yeahhh!!!


[mrakes1]  Yep-all about Starbucks. Just stick with the low calorie drinks and your best bet is black coffee (or flavored beans).


[Tri Swim Coach]  How about caffeine on race day?

[mrakes1]  Yes.  And caffeine everyday is fine. You only need the equivalent to a cup of coffee to get you going, about 30-45 min. prior to the race.

[ADollar79]  How about caffeine during HIM or IM distance races?


[mrakes1]  Caffeine during longer races is perfect. It not only helps metabolize fat but it gives you a boost. Some gels have caffeine in them which is great.

[sue7013]  Ok is there any particular site you think is more or less accurate in terms of estimating what your daily caloric intake should be and what your burn is for each activity you do?

[mrakes1]  I don't know of a particular site but when estimating calories just stick with a basic number. Find a site and fill in your age, activity level, weight etc. and try to be within 200-300 calories of that per day. However, it is more important that you break down your calories into 3 meals and 2 snacks so that you aren't eating too much at one time. I like 3 meals at 300-400 calories, 3 snacks at 100-150 calories and then you have room for extras.

[mrakes1] For every hour you exercise (beyond an hour) include 100 calories for a post training snack and then 100 or so for pre training snacks as well.

[sue7013] So if you train 2 hours you only eat 100 extra calories? And eat nothing extra for training under 2 hours?

[mrakes1] If training is less than an hour you don't need anything during the workout. Always have a snack prior to training unless it first thing in the morning (hour or less). If it is more than 2 hours, have around 200-300 calories (Depending on workout length) before the training and then a 150-200 calorie smoothie (whey protein powder) immediately after. Then have a 200-300 breakfast.

[sue7013]  I usually use electrolyte fluid alone for 60-90 minutes (no calories) then 90-120 minutes I might take in 100 or so.

[mrakes1]  It's all about breaking down the timing of your nutrition so that you don't have fuel in you that isn't being used. In my nutrition programs on BT I teach people how to time their nutrition with training and thus they use the right fuel in order to lose weight and/or improve performance.

[sue7013]  Most of what I have read suggests taking in at least 1/4 of what you burn. If I am training LONG like more than 4 hours I do better afterwards (i.e. not eat everything in site) if I am closer to 1/3-1/2 of what I burn.

[mrakes1] As far as burning calories, it all depends on how efficient you are when training and the intensity. People over estimate calories burned and then there is also the excuse "I burned it off in training so now I can eat whatever" I like that excuse...I use it! However, it's all about how much you put in you at one time.

[sue7013]  I had my RMR done a couple weeks ago. Funny thing is calorie king was about spot on about what my daily needs are with no exercise.

[mrakes1]  Yes-if you get your RMR tested professionally than that is a very close estimate.

[mrakes1] Then if you get your VO2 tested you can look at your QR and see when you are using fat and for how long and then when it switches to carbohydrates. Then you will really know how many calories you burn during exercise.  A lot of those websites are good estimates. It's better to have an estimate than nothing but always use it as an overestimate and try to take it back 100-200 calories or so-just to be sure you don't gain weight.

[sue7013] I never take in calories when swimming, practically never when running (cause I am not running long right now) and for a long-ish bike usually 100-200 an hour depending on how long I am going.

[mrakes1]  It's most important that you eat a little at one time. Even if it is after a 3,4,5 hour training session. The body can only handle so much food and first and foremost, liquid protein comes first, then carbohydrates in 200-300 calorie increments.  If the workout is less than an hour (or even 90 min. for cycling or running) you can get away with no calories before the workout. But more than 90 min. you need something prior to help prevent a breakdown in the body. This will also help with injuries and helps increase speed.

[sue7013]  What do you like for calories on the run? I do OK with fluids but not so much with solids or even gels.  I can eat anything on the bike though.

[mrakes1]  During a 90 min + run you can get away with all liquids. Unless you have a fuel belt, you aren't getting in that much nutrition from a sip of a cup so I would try a gel every 30 min. If you can't take the whole thing have 1/2 at 20 min and another half 10 min. later (per hour after 2 hours). Also experiment with other gels for running.  Avoid solids when running. Try sport beans or cliff blocks if you feel you need something other than a liquid or gel.

[mrakes1]  As for on the bike, be careful not to overdo it with solid foods. Gels and liquids come first and if the ride is more than 3 hours, choose 1/4 ths of bars at a time. If it is energy you need, the solid is too slow to digest and it is more for satisfaction rather than immediate fuel.

[sue7013]  I used Fig Newtons last year.

[mrakes1] That is fine if it works for you. Again, be careful how many you are eating. Less is more when it comes to training nutrition. Always work from the bottom up. Better to practice under fueling than to eat too much and end up with a bloated belly and weight gain.


[Lucy] I hear of folks using candy on the bike- sugar rush? Starburst, gummy bears, Skittles....

[mrakes1]  I eat Twizzlers bites for Ironmans. When I don't have an energy fuel I just get regular jelly beans. Yep-it's all sugar.


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date: February 18, 2008


Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. I am a certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition,I teach spinning and I am CPR certified. I have finished the 2006 Boston marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman world Championship and I am qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I write for Triathlete magazine and I love writing for!


Master of Science degree in Exercise Physiology. I am a certified sports nutritionist through the International Society of Sports Nutrition,I teach spinning and I am CPR certified. I have finished the 2006 Boston marathon, 2006 IMFL, 2007 Ironman world Championship and I am qualified for the 2007 Ironman 70.3 World Championship. I write for Triathlete magazine and I love writing for!

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