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Surviving July: Tips to ensure you stay hydrated

July 20th, 2015

I’m a weather person.  I have multiple weather apps on my iPhone and find myself checking the weekly and hourly forecasts in addition to the Doppler radar at regular intervals throughout the day.  Being July, most days tend to look something like this.

IMG_0023

There’s no denying it, we are in the beef of summer and here in the Florida Panhandle it is hot.  Not only is it hot, the humidity on most days resembles that of a steam room.  Even at the earliest hour you’ll rarely find temperatures that dip as low as the mid 70s and a walk down the driveway leaves you dripping and contemplating whether the smell of your shirt is still acceptable.

On top of this, the heat makes getting out for your daily run a little harder.  Heat like this can be quite daunting and discouraging as you find your normal easy run pace seems to be a lot harder than it was two months ago.  It’s not only harder mentally to get through a run in this weather but it’s also harder on your body. At this time of year, we not only have to think ahead about wearing extra deodorant but also staying on top of hydration.

When we start exercising, our core body temperature begins to increase.  In order for the body to maintain a stable core temperature and prevent the body from overheating, this heat must be released.  By shunting blood flow to the skin, heat can be released through movement of fluid from the bloodstream to the surface of the skin in the form of sweat.  When this fluid evaporates, it has a cooling effect on the body.  Overtime, the loss of fluid from the bloodstream causes the blood to lose volume and become more viscous.  This means that the heart has to work harder to ensure blood is being pumped adequately to the working muscles to deliver oxygen.  In order to prevent overworking of the heart, consumption of fluid is necessary to prevent the volume of blood from declining significantly.

Hence why hydration is important, especially in the level of heat and humidity (which makes evaporation of liquids that much more difficult) we experience here in the Panhandle.  All this being said, here’s the catch with hydration, it’s very much differentiated by the individual.  Different people have different fluid absorption rates and there are multiple factors that can affect this even within one individual.  So moral of the story is, know your body and make a plan to stay on top of your fluid consumption.  Here are a few guidelines to help you in determining your hydration plan.

1.  Use you body’s communication system

Check the toilet.  The color of your urine is a good indication of what’s going on inside.  If your urine is pale-yellow or straw colored, that’s a good indication that your body is hydrated.

2.  Weigh In and Weigh Out

Knowing how much weight you lose during a workout can be very helpful in determining your hydration plan.  Use a sweat loss rate calculator to determine how much fluid you lose during an hour of activity.  Fluid loss beyond 2-3% of one’s body weight can translate into performance decline and negative health effects. Plan accordingly to attenuate excessive loss through consumption of fluids at regular intervals during your workout.  Granted, this amount will vary in different environments, so it’s useful to know your sweat rates in several conditions.  If you’re training for a race or other event, determine your sweat rate in conditions similar to those on race day.  For after your workout, use the rule of thumb  for every 1 lb weight lost during exercise, drink 20-24 oz of fluids to replenish that loss  and encourage rehydration.

3.  Add a dash of salt

Consumption of fluids containing sodium during longer-duration exercise can help to improve water retention and encourage thirst.  Classic sports drinks or hydration powders available are great options (My personal favorite is the delicious, fruit-based hydration powder by Skratch Labs).   If you find that after a workout, you have white residue on darker clothing you probably fall into the classification of salty sweater.  Especially during hot times of the year like now, you may need to up your sodium intake slightly during your workout and potentially throughout the day during meals to encourage sodium and fluid balance*.

4.  Start in fueled up

I would hope this is common sense, but don’t head out into the heat if you haven’t been drinking enough fluids.  Starting your workout dehydrated is just a bad idea.  Especially if you are exercising later in the day, make sure that you have been consuming enough fluids.  Consume fluids regularly throughout the day and try to consume 1-2 cups of fluids 4 hours before and again 2 hours before your workout.  If you run first thing in the morning, top yourself off with 1-2 cups of water before you head out.

*If you have been told that you have high blood pressure or heart disease, consult with your doctor and dietitian about what your daily sodium intake should be.

20-Minute Meal: Shrimp and Zucchini Stir-Fry

July 20th, 2015

Last week was one of those weeks where time seems to melt away like an ice cube in a parking lot midday during the Florida summer.  For many of us in this situation, complete meals are out of the question much less an organized trip to the grocery store.  Well, I feel ya.  Having been out of town all last week for a conference then heading straight back to work as soon as I returned, the grocery store just didn’t happen. Hence my reasoning for this quick, easy and delicious shrimp and zucchini stir fry.  Believe or not, you can make a complete, nutritious meal when you’re short on time using simple ingredients that you have on hand.

Even though a trip to the supermarket did not happen, I had some shrimp in my freezer for this recipe.  I like to keep a few protein options on hand that I can turn to for times like this.  I’ll usually stock a meal’s worth of frozen shrimp, chicken breast and/or some sort of fish that I can easily transfer to the fridge morning-of to ensure I have a good protein source at dinner that night. Side note: One trick to quickly thaw meat (especially for chicken breasts) is to put the meat in a freezer bag, place in a bowl and cover with water. Put this in your fridge while you’re at work for the day.  By the time you get home your meat should be thawed.

However, this time around, I didn’t even think ahead enough to put my shrimp in the fridge. I ended up just popping them in the skillet frozen, cooked them until pink, drained the water and set them aside until they ready to be incorporated into the recipe.  Feel free to do the same.

The remaining ingredients were items I usually keep in my pantry or fridge.  If you find that there are things on the list you do not have, there are creative ways to make it work for you.  My mom had picked up the zucchini I used from a friend who home-grows a selection of summer vegetables.  Selecting fresh, in-season vegetables ensures that you the most bang for your buck nutrient-wise from your produce.  Because they grow in their preferred environment and can ripen as needed, the nutrient profile of produce in season far out weighs that of out-of-season.  This being said frozen vegetables are a great substitute, because they are often harvested when ripe before frozen and therefore retain their nutrient profile very well.  So no worries if you don’t have fresh, in-season zucchini, try substituting a vegetable of your choice; thawing frozen broccoli or stir fry blend vegetables are easy options that would taste great in this recipe.

Shrimp and Zucchini Stir-FryIMG_2767

  • 1-8 oz package noodles (I used brown rice Pad Thai noodles, you can find these in the international section)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 medium zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into half-moon shape
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Sriracha sauce
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro or ~ 2 tsp cilantro paste
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions. Rinse under cold water and set aside.
  2. While waiting on water for noodles to boil, make the stir-fry sauce. Stir together soy sauce, brown sugar, Sriracha sauce, ginger and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. In a large skillet or wok, heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium-low heat. Add red pepper flakes and toast for one minute. Than add eggs. Stirring gently, cook for about 3 minutes or until done. Set eggs aside on a small plate.
  4. Increase heat to medium-high and add a dash more olive oil to the skillet or wok. Toss in shrimp and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until shrimp are pink. Once done, set shrimp aside on a separate plate.
  5.  Increase heat to high, add more olive oil if needed and char sliced zucchini for about 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. IMG_2772
  6. Turn heat down to medium-low and add noodles, shrimp, eggs, and stir-fry sauce to skillet. Stir until all ingredients are coated in sauce. Top with green onions and cilantro just before serving. Enjoy!

Honey Mustard Quail with Roasted Brussels and Potatoes

May 12th, 2015

There is not a condiment on this earth that I love as much as I love mustard. Whether it’s on a sandwich, salad, fresh veggies or sweet potato fries (my personal favorite), I absolutely love it. Aside from being delicious, mustard is such a versatile ingredient and adds such a wonderful flavor in many dishes. I enjoy exploring new ways to incorporate it into new recipes. I happened to have some quail in my freezer given to me by a family member and thought that a honey mustard sauce would complement the dark, sweet flavor of quail. That being said, this recipe also works really well with chicken thighs so I highly encourage you to try it, even if you’re not into wild bird or do not have access to so.

With the extra sunshiny weather and longer days over the past few weeks, I’ve found myself out and moving a lot more than I have been over the previous months. My body has definitely recognized this and a nutrient-dense meal was much needed to keep me going. After an morning swim and run after work, this meal not only hit the spot but left me feeling wonderfully replenished and ready to take on the next day. Providing wholesome carbohydrates, vitamin A and fiber in the sweet potatoes, vitamin C, vitamin K and cruciferous quality fiber in the brussel sprouts and some lean protein, iron, copper, selenium, zinc and B vitamins in the quail, this combination is a perfect example of a complete, wholesome, nutritious meal.

Honey Mustard Quail with Bacon-Drizzled Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Brussel Sprouts Recipe makes 4 servings. For Vegetables:

  • 3/4 lb fresh Brussel sprouts, cut in half length-wise
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  • 1/2 lb blue potatoes or red potatoes

    IMG_2702

  • ~2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 3 slices bacon
  • Salt and Pepper

For Quail (or chicken) and sauce:

  • 3 Tbsp dijon mustard
  • 3 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 2 Tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 3 sprigs rosemary

For mustard rub:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp whole grain mustard
  • Coarse ground salt and Cracked Pepper, to taste
  • 4 quail breasts w/ legs (or 4-6 chicken thighs)
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a roasting pan or large baking pan.
  2. Make mustard rub by combining olive oil with whole grain mustard as well as salt and pepper in a small bowl. Rub mixture over surface of quail breasts or chicken thighs.
  3. Whisk together dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, honey and chicken stock in a separate bowl. To reach desired consistency, add more chicken stock (I ended up adding closer to 1/4 cup total).
  4. To prepare vegetables, combine sweet potatoes and Brussel sprouts in a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar (I usually just douse it a good bit). Sprinkle mixture with thyme, a dash of salt and several grinds of pepper.
  5. Transfer vegetables to baking pan and disperse evenly. Drizzle with a tad more olive oil.IMG_2696 2
  1. Heat an oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat. Once heated sear quail in skillet until lightly browned on all sides (flip after about 2-3 minutes). Pour mustard mixture into skillet and sprinkle with rosemary sprigs.IMG_2692
  2. Transfer vegetables and quail skillet to oven. Cook vegetables for about 25-35 minutes or until potatoes are tender and quail for about 20 minutes (chicken may take closer to 25-30 minutes). Stir veggies about halfway through cooking time.
  3. In the meantime, cook bacon either in a frying pan or by baking in the oven while vegetables are cooking. Once done, transfer to plate covered in paper towels to absorb the grease and cool. After the bacon has cooled, break into crumbles.
  4. Once vegetables are done, sprinkle bacon over the top. I also drizzled a bit of balsamic reduction over the vegetables for visual appeal and a little extra tang. Plate it up with the quail and enjoy!

IMG_2705

 

Nutrition Info per serving for Vegetables: 221 calories, 33g carbs, 5g sugar, 10g fat, 7g protein

Nutrition Info per serving for Quail: 216 calories, 12g carbs, 12g sugar, 7g fat, 13g protein

Quail Recipe adapted from Damn Delicious.

Vegetable recipe adapted from Cinnamon-Spice & Everything Nice.

Yay for Bacteria!

April 30th, 2015

When the word bacteria is mentioned, I would imagine that for many of us, things like Clorox wipes, Soft Soap and trash bags come to mind. Although the word may have a generally negative connotation, bacteria can go both ways, just like people. Meet your intestinal microbiota. This term microbiota refers to the good bacteria or probiotics that live inside the body and help to keep you healthy. When we eat foods that contain these probiotics, they inhabit our digestive tract and perform many functions to help with digestion, processing of nutrients and the body’s immune defense against pathogens.

What exactly do these ‘good’ bacteria do?

Our bodies are exposed to pathogens countless times throughout the day; one major source for these potentially harmful microorganisms is in the substances that we ingest. Sometimes the food we eat contains potentially harmful bacteria, fungus or other pathogenic substances. As a part of the mucosal barrier in the intestines, the microbiota functions in the first level of immune defense against these substances. They recognize and signal the immune system to initiate an inflammatory response in order to defend and rid the body of the pathogenic cell. In turn the microbiota also initiates an anti-inflammatory response once the pathogenic material has been rid of in order to restore the gut environment back to normal. Failure of this anti-inflammatory action to occur could play a role in development of certain conditions like IBD or IBS.

The microbiota also helps the body to digest the foods we eat, absorb some of the nutrients from those foods as well as promote digestive regularity.  Some gut bacteria help to produce essential B vitamins such as vitamin B12, folate, vitamin B6, biotin, niacin, and thiamin which are needed for proper carbohydrate metabolism. These bacteria also help to synthesize vitamin K which is important in proper coagulation and clotting of the blood. The fiber in certain cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, brussel sprouts, cauliflower and broccoli is digested and fermented as a fuel source for the gut bacteria. When the bacteria digest the fiber from these foods, it leads to an end product of short-chain fatty acids, which also help to regulate inflammation in the gut. These short chain fatty acids help to regulate intestinal acid-base balance, fat, carbohydrate and cholesterol metabolism . This is one of the many reasons why consuming vegetables is such a crucial component to a healthy diet and a happy digestive system.

How does this affect your health?

Probiotics are especially noted for their role in gut health, this can be especially beneficial in those experiencing consistent symptoms of constipation or digestive discomfort or those who battle certain digestive diseases and may help to reduce symptoms of gas and bloating as well. For those who participate in regular, intense and/or long-duration exercise, the gastrointestinal lining can get irritated and thus lead to non-desirable symptoms such as diarrhea, bloating, cramping and pain. Consuming probiotics can help to significantly reduce the amount of symptoms experienced, especially for those who are prone to these issues.

In addition to a happier digestive system, probiotics are a key player in a healthy immune system. A flourishing microbiota could help to reduce the duration or number of occurrences of certain illnesses. This immune-enhancing effect could be particularly useful for athletes and highly active folks under rigorous training. The effect of a high training load can damper the effectiveness of the immune system and leave one more vulnerable to upper respiratory illness. Supplementation with probiotics or regular consumption of food sources of probiotics could help to reduce the incidence and duration of upper respiratory illness symptoms, especially if you are one who has a tendency to experience illness when under training.

So where do you get them?

Two ways. Either by consuming a probiotic supplement (usually in capsule or powder form) or certain foods. Yogurt is the most recognizable source for most of us, but you can get some

Note the live and active cultures listed in the ingredients list
Note the live and active cultures listed in the ingredients list

probiotics from other dairy products as well. Another source is Kefir, or fermented milk. This is usually found in multiple flavors with the other dairy products and is a slightly more acidic, thicker substance than milk. Pickled, fermented vegetables, such as Kimchi, a Korean spicy blend of vegetables and spices, or Sauerkraut, can provide another source for gut healthy bacteria. Fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and natto are sources as well. Both tempeh and natto also offer the benefit of being good vegetarian protein sources. Double whammy with these foods. Lastly, beverages and tea blends made from kombucha mushrooms can be another good source of probiotics. I’ve grown fond of several varieties of these which are found in the refrigerated juice section of many grocery stores and health food stores.  Tangy and effervescent in taste they are quite a refreshing treat on a hot afternoon or not a bad replacement for a soda craving! You can also find some tea blends containing kombucha in the tea section of your local market.

A few natural sources of probiotics
A few natural sources of probiotics

Like all nutrients, whole foods are best when trying to increase your probiotic consumption. However, if supplementation is more sensible or is of interest to you, work with your doctor and local dietitian to determine if probiotic supplementation would be appropriate and if so what variety would work best for you.

References

Aureli, P., Capurso, L., Castekkazzi, A. M., Clerici, M., Giovannini, M., Morelli, L., et al. (2011). Probiotics and Health: an evidence-based review. Pharmacol Res , 63, 366-376.

Besten, G., Eunen, K., Groen, A. K., Venema, K., Reijngoud, D., & Bakker, B. M. (2013). The role of short-chain fetty acids in the interplay between diet, gut microbiota, and host energy metabolism. J Lipid Res , 54 (9), 2325-2340.

Getz, L. (2011, October). A Healthful Dose of Bacteria–Yogurt is the Best Probiotic Source, but Clients Do Have Other Options. Today’s Dietitian , 13 (10), p. 46.

Pyne, D. B., West, N. P., Cox, A. J., & Cripps, A. W. (2014). Probiotics supplementation for athletes-Clinical and physiological effects. Eur J Sport Sci , 15 (1), 63-72.

Vandenplas, Y., Huys, G., & Daube, G. (2014). Probiotics: an update. J Pediatr , 91 (1), 6-21.

Vitetta, L., Briskey, D., Alford, H., Hall, S., & Coulson, S. (2014). Probiotics, prebiotics and the gastrointestinal tract in health and disease. Inflammopharmacol , 22, 135-154.