Excited to share the good news that I just passed the ISSA-certified Sports Nutrition Specialist certification. It took months of lectures, lessons, lots of studying, a 638 page textbook, a 183 page workbook, more studying, over twenty quizzes, and one big, badass final exam.
I have a deep interest in learning how to fuel athletes for top performance, including the basics, i.e., maintaining the right macronutrients mix, as well as digging into the details, like getting into the nitty gritty of micronutrients, i.e., vitamins, minerals, specific amino acids, sodium, etc.
In the past, I thought if we ate enough spinach and nuts among other things, we’d basically get enough iron, calcium, vitamin C, D, and so on from food.
It wasn’t until 2014, a few months after I ran the Chicago marathon (unknowingly and completely anemic) that I went to the doctor to try to find out why I was so tired and weak during workouts or runs.
Blood tests revealed that I was severely anemic and probably had been for the previous two years or so. My levels were alarmingly low, and yet I just thought that was how I was supposed to feel while running long distances. I figured people get tired when they’re running, so I didn’t question it until my performance was laughable.
The last straw was when my personal trainer at the time had me doing assisted pull-ups and I could only complete four or five. I would just stop mid pull-up and start laughing. I couldn’t manage to get myself up and yet by all accounts, I should have been able to knock out ten of them easily. My trainer asked me to get my iron checked.
After my diagnosis, I started taking supplements on and off while staying vegetarian, but my levels didn’t improve. Maybe because of my veggie diet or maybe because I wasn’t consistent with the supplements, or maybe because of both.
After seven years of a vegetarian diet, my doctor asked me to start eating fish and meat again. Even after that, however, my iron levels still remained low. Not as terribly low as they once were, but low enough that the doctor insisted I take an iron supplement in addition to eating meat and fish. So I did, on occasion, when I remembered. I still had it in my mind that I would and should eventually get everything I needed from food and the supplement was mumbo jumbo. I’d heard that most ingredients in any supplement or vitamin leave the system before it’s taken in, so I didn’t think it really mattered.
For a couple of years after that, my blood tests would inevitably come back low in various micronutrients like vitamin D or iron (again), or I’d have a wonky thyroid number. But each time, I’d try to fix it with food and forget all about the supplements. I’d remove sugar from my diet and add in some black beans for iron. Ironically, after eliminating all processed foods from my diet, my thyroid number went back to normal, but the micronutrients still came back deficient.
It wasn’t until I put myself on a high quality, steady (meaning I took consistently it every day without skipping) one-a-day vitamin, plus additional vitamin D, calcium, and raw iron supplements, did my blood work – and more importantly – energy levels, recover sufficiently.
I never knew how good I could feel because I thought tired and weak was how everyone felt when running, until I was on a solid vitamin and mineral regiment. Now, I run long distances and feel strong.
If this is you, there’s hope. Of course, check with your doctor on what’s right for you. But if you’re feeling tired or weak, a blood panel might give you an indication of why. You’ll probably have to ask specifically for them to test for iron deficiencies. It’s not included in a regular blood test.
All of this is why I decided to specialize in sports nutrition. It’s important and personal to me.
If there are other people out there like me, who believe they can get all the nutrients necessary to perform at peak levels without vitamins and minerals or additional supplements but still struggle to do so, I’d like to share my story and the science with you.
Not saying my story is going to be yours, but the transformation in my diet has helped me perform at a higher level, recover faster, and I get to keep running without injury.
If only I knew this back in my thirties, but those days are gone.
Right now, it’s time to celebrate. 🎉
Stay healthy, runners. 🙏🏽
I got in 6.2 miles last weekend. It’s a mile short of where I need to be on my half marathon training schedule, but given I’ve been so sick, I’ll take it. It’s my first 10k in many years.
Although neither bothered me too much on the run, I’m still suffering with a sore throat and wicked cough. The coughing attacks have been so bad, my back is sore from muscle strain.
While few people believe me, they insist it must have been something coming on before, all of this has been the direct result of a flu shot. I was perfectly healthy walking into the travel consultation and perfectly sick walking out post-flu shot.
I just didn’t expect the effects to take this long to blow over. It’s been eleven miserable days. Sick or not, I have a training schedule to stick to, so I got out there and got in a 10k.
Typically, experts recommend following “the neck rule” when determining to run while sick. The neck rule basically states that if you have pain or agitation anywhere on or below the neck, i.e., sore throat, stomach issues, fever, congested chest and lungs, etc., you should not run. Anything above the neck, i.e., stuffy nose, watering eyes, or simple cough, you’re probably okay to run.
Even with the neck rule in place, health professionals encourage runners to use common sense and check in with themselves.
For me, I had a sore throat, but was able to knock out six miles comfortably. Afterwards, I needed lots of rest. It knocked me out for the following 24 hours.
The run started off slowly. The first mile being the hardest followed by the second mile being the second hardest. After the third mile, I fell into a rhythm with my footsteps and breathing and moving forward.
I overdressed with long pants and a three-quarter zip over a performance tee. At 54 degrees, I could have run in a tee and shorts and was from start to finish.
Overall, it was a comfortable way to spend the time. No coughing, nice and warm, listening to music, getting some vitamin D. If you’re feeling a little off or down, I’d encourage you to get a run in. It doesn’t have to be six miles, but just something to warm up your body and muscles.
I also took a solid thirty minutes post-run to stretch, foam roll my legs and IT band, and ice my knees. The self-care felt wonderful.
Cold and flu season is upon us. My recommendation to anyone debating on running is if you can do it without hacking up a lung, go for it.
Skip the hard stuff (intervals, speed work, hills, etc.) and plan for a solid rest and recovery time post-run. You’re gonna need it.
Stay healthy. 🙏 💪🏼🏃♀️