5 Whole Food Alternatives to Sports Products!

Part 2 of 2

The use of sports nutrition products runs rampant among endurance athletes.  These manufactured foods are quick to digest, compact, and boast improved performance and refueling capabilities during training and racing.  The question is: Are there natural, whole foods that also accomplish this same task as efficiently? 

A plethora of ergogenic aids (substances used for the purpose of enhancing performance) are available to endurance athletes including sports drinks, chews, beans, bars, powders, tablets and waffles.  These items contain specialized sugar composition (quickly digestible for immediate use), electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, and antioxidants.  Sport products have one mission: to refuel and rehydrate athletes, and in turn lead to improved endurance and performance.

Whole foods are those that have naturally occurring sugar sources, minimal ingredients, and often electrolytes.  Here are 5 excellent whole food/beverage alternatives to traditionally used sport products:

  1. Coconut Water has exploded onto the marketplace recently as a natural way to rehydrate and replace lost electrolytes.  This drink is equipped with potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, as well as B vitamins, minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and antioxidants. It provides energy in the form of carbohydrates.  What it doesn’t have – artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors.  Most importantly, it is comprised of exactly one ingredient – coconut water!  The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012 found coconut water to be as effective as a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink in promoting rehydration and supporting subsequent exercise.
  2. Dried Fruit provides a chewy snack complete with a natural sugar source and the added benefit of vitamins and minerals. The Journal of International Society of Sports Nutrition, 2012 found that both raisins and sports chews demonstrated improved running performance, with no significant differences in gastrointestinal distress reported among subjects.  In a raisin versus gel showdown, The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2007 discovered no metabolic or performance differences between the tested food items.
  1. Baby Food Puree offers carbs, vitamins, and minerals in a convenient twist-top pouch (Earth’s Best brand) similar to a gel.  The ingredient list is short and there are no added sugars.  Flavor options include sweet potato apple and orange banana.  Electrolytes should be supplemented with this item when necessary.
  2. Bananas are a miracle food for athletes!  Calorie-dense, packed with potassium, and loaded with easily digestible sugars, this old favorite stands up to its reputation.  PLOS ONE Journal (2012) recently found cyclists to have comparable performance when fueling with bananas or sports drinks.  They are also easy to carry!
  3. Homemade Bars & Snacks are a great way to control the ingredients going into your training fuel!  Check out sport-specific cookbooks such as The Feed Zone Portables by Biju Thomas & Allen Lima, which offers plenty of compact, whole food recipes complete with all of the energy perks of packaged sports products.  Get creative with post-workout shakes – blend your own concoction by using nutrient-dense ingredients such as fruit, greens, coconut oil, almond milk, flaxseed and spice extracts.  Keep the flavor and recovery benefits… ditch the preservatives!

Remember, you call the shots when it comes to your nutrition.  Trial and error is ultra important in determining what types of fuel work best for you. Keep in mind that while the sports product market is abundant, there are lots of natural options to keep you well fueled on the racecourse and performing at your highest level!

Fueling for Endurance Sport: Whole Foods or Sports Products?

Part 1 of 2

Sports products comprise a multi-billion dollar market. These foods are quick to digest, compact, and claim a beneficial impact on performance during endurance sport training and racing.

The question is: Are these products truly superior to whole foods in their effects, or is it just the marketing dollars that are doing the talking?

According to one of the industry giants, GU Energy Labs, their gels are “simple to take, simple to digest, provide just what you need for premium exercise fuel and none of the extras that slow you down.” Besides gels, other ergogenic aids available to athletes include sports drinks, chews, beans, bars, powders, tablets and waffles. Companies like Gatorade, PowerAde, Power Bar, Hammer, Clif and GU have become household names.

Why have these products taken off? They are designed to provide athletes with quick, convenient, easily absorbed carbs, electrolytes, and vitamins; a refueling system that ideally translates to improved performance. Well, this sounds promising, but let’s look at the flipside of the coin. These products can also be pricey, processed, unnatural, and cause gastrointestinal (GI) distress due to the sugars they contain. For example, the average gel will set you back $1.50 to $3.00, and contains ~15 ingredients including preservatives and the engineered sugar, maltodextrin.

There is limited research validating the claims of sports product manufacturers. The BMJ Open Journal, 2012 conducted an exploration of 104 sports products with 431 claims, and found the vast majority of these claims to be unsubstantiated. Is it time to begin questioning this norm of sport product consumption?

Many whole food and beverage choices offer comparable refueling benefits in a natural, GI-friendly way. What are some of these alternatives? Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog!

Calories vs. Ingredients: The Debate

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

Burger King Triple Whopper – 1,020 calories
Taco Bell Crunchy Beef Taco – 170 calories

Which of the above fast food menu options looks like the healthier choice to you? Well, the taco of course! It’s much lower in calories. So, does lower caloric content automatically translate to healthy? This is the million-dollar question.

Fast food giants such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and Taco Bell have added “healthier” options to their menus in recent years in an attempt to draw in the growing health-conscious demographic of Americans. You’ve seen examples of this with McDonald’s breakfast oatmeal, Burger King’s expanded salad section, and Taco Bell’s lower calorie “fresco-style” additions.

An article that perfectly fits into this discussion is one that a client recently forwarded me entitled “What’s Really Inside That Taco Bell Crunchy Beef Taco?” by Cristina Goyanes.

Here are the expanded nutrition facts on this particular menu choice at Taco Bell:

NUTRITION LABEL: 170 calories, 10 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, 1 gram of sugar, 290 milligrams of sodium, 3 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein.

LISTED INGREDIENTS: Taco shell, seasoned beef, shredded lettuce, and real cheddar cheese.

On paper, this taco appears to be a solid choice – minimal ingredients, acceptable fat content, lower calorie, and even a little fiber! After digging deeper; however, it was quickly determined by the authors that the ingredient list was not simply taco shell, seasoned beef, shredded lettuce, and real cheddar cheese as stated. Those 4 food items give way to 30-40 different ingredients.

Need proof? Check out the contents of the beef seasoning:

“Oat product isolated, salt, pepper, chili, onion powder, tomato powder, oats, soy lecithin, sugar, spices, maltodextrin, soybean oil, garlic powder, yeast extract autolyzed, citric acid, caramel color, cocoa powder processed with alkali, silicon dioxide, natural flavors, yeast, corn starch modified, and natural smoke flavor.”

Wait – so 20 items make up the beef seasoning? Caramel color is the most disturbing item in my opinion – what color is the beef WITHOUT the coloring then? The cheese is heavily processed and includes various enzymes and anti-caking additives. The taco shells are deep-fried. Sodium runs wild throughout the taco shell, seasoned meat, and the cheese. Luckily… the lettuce is salt free!

On the surface, this taco seems pretty darn good. But upon closer investigation, all of the ingredients are heavily processed and full of additives – a far cry from the fresh, healthy image being portrayed. Food manufacturers and restaurants are tricky. Their processing techniques improve taste and shelf life but strip nutritional value simultaneously.

Demand more from the restaurants in which you choose to eat. Don’t let inexpensive meals with low calorie totals fool you. Be selective, and check ingredients lists in addition to labels. Understand what ALL of the ingredients on the label are – if you have to hit Wikipedia for answers, it’s not natural! Avoiding processed foods, and preparing meals at home are two sure-fire ways to add nutritional value back into your diet.

Interested in a FREE 30-minute nutrition consultation through Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching? Contact Brooke at brooke@dktristore.com to reserve your appointment today.


When Training & Racing Conditions Don’t Match Up!

by Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

I recently raced the inaugural Ironman Los Cabos in San José del Cabo, Mexico. Ahh- warm weather, humidity, the ocean, margaritas. Sounds great right?  Well it was! However, the climate did pose some interesting challenges from a race perspective, including a few ultra-important fueling considerations.  Our winter training temps here in Arizona ranged from the 40’s to the 60’s with non-existent humidity.  Conversely, Los Cabos (on race day) exceeded 90 degrees, with humidity levels in the 50-60% range.  Athletes traveling from colder climates than Arizona (most of the country) were in for even more of a temperature shock.  How does your body respond to major swings in environmental conditions?  Even more importantly – how does it impact your nutrition plan come race day?

Give this question some consideration before your next race and help prepare with these tips:

1) Hydration is vitally important year round; however, heat and humidity require greater fluid intake than cooler climates as your sweat rate increases. Research the location of your race- and prepare properly by increasing fluids if you are racing in heat/humidity.  An excellent indicator of hydration status is urine color.  If your urine is lemonade colored… you’re good.  It it’s apple-juice colored… DRINK UP!  A general rule of thumb is 16-24 ounces of fluid per hour- this number could go up or down depending on climate.

2) Electrolytes go hand-in-hand with fluid. If you’re increasing fluids consumed- electrolytes must be reciprocated. In heat- sweat rate is up, you are losing precious sodium via sweat faster than you can snap your fingers. Electrolytes must be replaced quickly to keep the body in check and muscles functioning efficiently.  Be careful though – increasing salt intake drastically from one climate to the next can create GI distress and other unpleasant effects. Gradually increase electrolyte intake during training to match what you will require on race day.  Electrolyte supplementation can be achieved in a variety of ways – through “real” food sources like bananas and pretzels, with sports drinks/powders, through Salt Stick or Hammer Endurolyte capsules, and via sports products like gels, chews, and bars. 

3) Racing Fuel Type- the foods you train with in 45-degree January weather may or may not cut it in 90-degree March weather.  The solution?  Have alternatives.  Try out lots of fuel types during training – sports drinks, powders, sports gels/chews, bars, and real food items of course.  Don’t try new things on race day; reserve the experimentation for training.

Much of the fun AND frustration of race day is the unknown.  Lets be honest- it’s what makes crossing that finish line so darn impressive.  Many things are out of your control. What you can manage is your fueling preparation/experimentation during training.  Research your upcoming race – the average temperatures, the humidity, the types of fuel available on the course – and use that information as a starting point.  This preparation points you toward a successful race day, regardless of conditions!

Interested in a FREE 30-minute nutrition consultation through Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching?  Contact Brooke at brooke@dktristore.com to reserve your appointment today. 

DK/ONE Run for Angels Results

1 Matt Russell -
2 Matthew Paul 29:43
3 Paul Beckert 10K -35:26
4 Beth Kozura 10K – 1:04:04
5 Tom Ross 10K – 1:04:04
6 Russ Funk 10K – 40:02
7 Robert Donnell 24:00
8 Luke Pederson 39:20
9 Scott Peterson 39:20
10 Alethia Karkanis 33:36
11 Brittany Grasberger 29:49
12 Steve Pilon 57:09
13 Jack Pilon 57:09
14 Heather Pilon 57:09
15 Meagan Pilon 57:09
16 Gretchen Pilon 57:09
17 Richard York 10K – 37:22
18 Grey Kato 10K – 49:28
19 Ron Feigen 10K – 54:27
20 Katie Daugherty 29:54
21 Drew Schohl -
22 Maggie Daugherty 29:54
23 Deb Bond 40:02
24 Diane Padilla 10K – 44:40
25 Kirk Howell 26:30
26 Sally Aston 20:30
27 JT Aston 38:24
28 Cameron Aston 21:55
29 Sean Aston 38:12
30 Dao Duc 10K – 43:48
31 Stu Gibson 10K – 49:16
32 Dan Cadriel 10K – 37:02
33 Nick Wirski 10K – 36:44
34 Jen Huston 10K – 49:16
35 Scott Zeadow 10K – 49:16
36 Peter Dewey 10K – 52:43
37 Carmel Dewey 28:58
38 Laura Dewey 10K – 49:42
39 Chad Anderson 10K – 39:31
40 Heather Anderson 10K – 49:28
41 Max Schohl -
42 Brad Rininger 17:53
43 Paul Keller 57:33
44 Kiel 57:33
45 Jodi Seitz 27:51
46 Melissa Garner 29:54

Take Out The Trash!

By Brooke Schohl, MS, RD

Food choices used to be much simpler. Food was obtained through local farms, dairies, and small markets. There were fewer options, but everything was fresh, with very little treatment or alteration to the original food source. Today we have a plethora of choices, but are they quality ones? Processed foods rein the marketplace – take a look at your regular grocery store. Aisle after aisle of packaged foods comprise the majority of the store. Truly unprocessed, whole food choices are limited to a few areas.

What makes these processed foods so attractive? They are fast, cheap, and easy. They are especially flavorful. This doesn’t sound so bad – what’s the big issue? Unnatural preservatives and binders, added sugar, sweeteners, and a host of other mystery ingredients, to name a few! As processed food selection grows leaps and bounds, so do our waistlines. Coincidental? I don’t think so.

Once you start flipping packages over and studying ingredients, it is amazing what garbage goes into these commonly consumed foods. Take Pop Tarts for example – how many ingredients would you guess that this popular kid’s food contains? 5? 10? 20? OVER 40! Some of the least appetizing include corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, soybean oil, palm oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and food coloring. Yes, you counted right – there are 4 different types of sugar in a Pop Tart. Is this high-quality, nutrient-dense sustenance for your children?

Another great example is Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts. The unsalted variety contains exactly one ingredient – peanuts. The salted version contains…12 ingredients. Should just be peanuts and salt, right? WRONG. I could go on and on with examples. These foods might taste good initially, but will they hold that same appeal once you are let in on their dirty little (ingredient) secret?

We need to get back to basics. Choose foods that are as close to natural as possible. Minimize treatment in the way of preservatives and processing. Minimize ingredients. Consume recognizable ingredients only. Less is ALWAYS better. Take pride in your body – fill it with quality foods that will benefit your performance as an athlete, and more importantly, boost your health and increase your longevity!

Interested in a FREE 30-minute nutrition consultation through Fuel to the Finish Endurance Nutrition Coaching? Contact Brooke at brooke@dktristore.com to reserve your appointment today.

Get in the Spirit with Tri Apparel

While it is true that you can participate in a multi-sport event with the gear you have at home, you are likely to enjoy the experience more if you get some actual tri apparel.  Not only will the right clothes make the event more comfortable, they can give you a real mental boost as well.

Wetsuit or Not?

Since the first thing you do in a triathlon is swim, you may as well get this question out of the way.  Triathlon wetsuits are ideal for cold water, or longer races.  They may not be necessary in warm water or in very short races.  It takes quite a bit of time to get in and out of a suit, which is a factor to remember in the decision to don one.

Tri Tops and Shorts for the Bike

One thing is certain; you can’t bike in a wetsuit.  Underneath your wetsuit, you will want to have on a pair of tri shorts and a singlet, or a tri-suit.  Triathlon shorts offer helpful padding in important areas, and the tops have great ventilation and pouches to hold snacks and other essential items.

Tri tops and jerseys are really fun.  You can support any cause, support your local tri group and even tout your favorite drink.

Running Right

For your run you will want a race belt and quality running shoes.  While comfort is the primary concern, nothing is worse than running on blisters.  Today’s shoes are colorful and fun as well as lightweight and well designed. As long as your gear fits well, you can go with whatever makes you happy.

Investing in a new piece of gear/apparel can help provide a mid-season training spark and improve mood.  Whether it is a new pair of tri shorts in a crazy color, an aero helmet in hot pink, there is something special about tri apparel.

You can find all the tri apparel you want at Destination Kona. Come and see us today.

Gear Up Affordably for Your Next Tri!

Having all the latest triathlon gear and apparel can be pricey.  You have not one, or two, but three sports to prepare for.  If buying brand new, full price items is not in the cards for you, you’re not alone.  Here are some tips for spending more economically.

Last Year’s Gear

Just like in other sports, what’s hot today in the triathlon world is old tomorrow.  That means that there is a regular pattern of items coming on the market and moving out at the end of a season.  Bicycle manufacturers are always shaving a few more ounces from their frames, newer materials are brought to the wetsuit market, and small changes in shape and design can improve aerodynamics of items such as cycling shoes, helmets, and saddles.

The kicker is, that unless you are in the top ranks, the few seconds you might gain, here and there, are really too expensive to be worth your hard earned cash.  Instead, go for last year’s models and you can save a small fortune.

Bundle It Up

Many suppliers offer full packages of gear.  You might find a wetsuit, a race belt, bike shoes, a singlet and a helmet all sold together.  Other common items such as goggles, bike shorts and more may be included as well.  Furthermore, bundles are often sold based upon your level of proficiency.  Your average beginner can get everything they need in one purchase, and be just about ready to race.

When you buy on sale, you know you will be getting better prices for the big ticket items.  This gives you a chance to try several different brands and see which fits your unique form and style.  Triathlon sale apparel is very affordable and at Destination Kona, easily accessible.  Just stop by and try on some clearance and reduced items today.

All About Triathlon Wetsuits

Triathlon wetsuits may be optional for short or warm water races, but once you move into longer distances races in cooler water temperatures…. they become a necessity.  Not only do they provide warmth, they also provide buoyancy in the water. If the only wetsuit you have ever worn was meant for surfing or SCUBA diving, you are in for a completely different experience.

What’s the purpose of a triathlon wetsuit?

The primary goal of your wetsuit is to provide buoyancy.  By lifting your body out of the water, you use less energy during your swim.  For an inexperienced swimmer a wetsuit can also help maintain better form and technique.  Wetsuits reduce drag, making you more hydrodynamic.  They also provide warmth in cold waters, as noted above.

The Right Fit

Nothing is more important than the right fit.  The most important measurement is the one from the shoulder to the crotch.  If your suit is too short, flexibility will be severely compromised; too long and the suit will bag, increasing drag rather than decreasing it.  Gaps and loose areas may chafe, so try on several suits and move about in them.  A snug fit, without excessive pull is the goal.

Unless you are planning on a long, cold race, sleeve style is mostly a matter of personal preference.  Sleeveless wetsuits don’t restrict shoulder movement as much as sleeved models, but sleeved models can be used in all circumstances.  While you can’t try a wetsuit out in the pool or lake, make sure to spend some time with it on.  Move your arms through the motions of swimming to make sure there is no restriction in your stroke.


You can get a good entry-level wetsuit for about $250.  Such a suit may not have as many bells and whistles as the high-end versions, but is a good place to start without breaking the bank.  Mid-level wetsuits will set you back $300-$400. High end suits can cost upwards of $500.  Better construction, excellent materials, improved flexibility, and exceptional buoyancy will be found in suits at this end of the price range.  More expensive suits may also be easier to don and remove and resist tears more effectively.

Because a wetsuit is such a personal purchase, it is really best to be directly involved in the process.  You will find the best selection of triathlon wetsuits at a store that specializes in triathlon equipment.  Destination Kona has a great selection of wetsuits, and so much more!  No matter what level of triathlete you are, come in and get fitted in the right wetsuit today.

Looking for a manageable triathlon race distance? Try a sprint!

A sprint distance triathlon is a great way to dip a toe into the waters of multisport.  The training is manageable, and required gear is less extensive than that of longer distance racing.  However, training for a sprint race still requires a solid plan of action.

Assess Your Skills

Are you confident in all three sports?  Are you proficient in all three?  It’s important to your areas of strength as well as those of weakness.  Your first sprint triathlon should be a fun experience, so set reasonable goals based upon your current level of skill.

Set Your Skills Goals

If you run a mile in 10 minutes, then shooting for a 9.5-minute mile during the race is reasonable.  If you can’t swim with your head in the water, learning a proper freestyle stroke may be your goal.  Know how to ride, but don’t know how to manage clip-less pedals? That could be the new skill you strive towards.

For your first triathlon, staying close to home offers many advantages.  It can be difficult to get your bike, gear and body to a race that is hundreds of miles away.  Take a look at local race schedules and pick a race that appeals to you.

Count Back from the Event

The amount of time it will take to train for your race will depend in part on current fitness level, and whether or not new skills must be learned.  If, for example, you don’t know how to swim, you may need several months to get comfortable enough in the water to participate in an open swim.  On the other hand, if you familiar with swimming, biking, and running, you may need only minor adjustments and a few lessons in transitions.

It is best to consult with a triathlon coach when setting up your training regimen.  He/she will help you determine workout duration and type throughout your entire training schedule. Several bricks need to be scheduled, so you can practice your transitions and learn how each event feeds into the next.  Expect to spend 2-5 hours training per week. Tapering is probably not necessary for such a short race.

Let us help you with your sprint triathlon training!  At Destination Kona we have in-house nutrition coaching, the best gear/apparel in town, as well as referrals to exceptional coaches.