Talking About Sports Nutrition

Hi Steph-
I would be surprised if you remember me, but we met at CSU last spring for your book signing and slide show. A refresher, my name is Cara Marrs, I live in Steamboat springs and I was getting ready to go to the Mayo Clinic for my residency (I am a registered dietician/nutritionist- just opened a private practice in Steamboat- very exciting). Anyway, I hope you are well, I have passed around your book and everyone has loved it, as well as the person I sent the extra copy to. As an athlete and professional very interested in sports nutrition, I was curious about your switch to veganism. I would be curious as to what you eat when your training, protein sources, performance changes, etc.

I know you are very busy and I understand if you have no extra time for this, but I thought I would ask. I also had another question, there is a great locally owned independent (hard to find those anymore in the ski towns) bookstore in Steamboat, Epilogue book co. They have an outdoor writers series and have featured some skiing, climbing…writers who have writen books recently at the Steamboat Mountain Theatre. Proceeds go towards a great charity to help local kids get into the outdoors. Any chance you will be driving by this area anytime this spring or summer? The community would love to have someone like you present at this. Your slide show was so great. i hope you are well and enjoying a beautiful spring day out on a rock somewhere in Moab, sounds great right now!
Take care,Cara

Dear Cara,
It’s so nice to hear from you again. I really enjoyed meeting you that time in Fort Collins, and congratulations on completing your residency and opening your practice! That’s great, and a real inspiration! Way to go! Also, thanks so much for the nice invitation, which sounds wonderful.

You will remember, that I am endlessly interested in nutrition and performance effects. It has been six years now since I turned vegan. Interestingly, I always qualified that to people by telling them “but I still use organic half-and-half in my coffee! So not fully vegan!” However, when I started to eat (mostly) vegan to begin with, it was very random and happened literally by accident. Just as randomly, about six weeks ago, I suddenly started using powdered soymilk in my coffee at home, which previously I had only done in the backcountry or on trips. Suddenly, I didn’t want the half and half anymore, and now I am completely vegan. Strange. I also just did my hardest climbing project, a couple of days ago, and am feeling stronger and healthier than ever before. I have been lifting weights for the last two months, and staying disciplined with fingerboard workouts, as well as training on the project. I’ve also been running and hiking a lot, for base jumping, and am overall feeling more fit than ever. Also, Dean has been eating almost purely vegan in the last few months, and he is also climbing and slacklining better than ever before.

I don’t eat any refined sweeteners or grains (no white flour, pasta or rice), and eat only whole foods and vegetables.

I put little to no concern into getting “enough protein.” Honestly, I think most people eat a lot more protein than they need.

A typical day for me starts with an americano (stovetop organic espresso mixed with water, with frothed powdered soymilk) and Ginger Aid tea. If I woke up hungry, I eat some Ezekiel toast with almond butter, or all-fruit (no added sugar) jam. Sometimes I eat muesli with rice milk, or fruit. Sometimes I’m not hungry, and I don’t eat anything til later, in a couple of hours. Throughout the day, I just munch on bars (Mojo bars usually) or some Clif blox, or fruit. Sometimes I eat rice crackers with almond cheese, or nuts. My biggest struggle is with dinner, because I’ve found that if I eat too much, or if I eat wheat products, in the evening, I have an upset stomach, can’t sleep, and wake up feeling bad. So I have to make an effort to be restrained at dinner–it’s better for me to eat mostly throughout the day, but sometimes the day goes by fast, and then it’s night, and it’s social….it can be difficult for me not to overeat and then have to pay for it with a bad night’s sleep. Usually for dinner, when I’m doing things right, I eat sauteed kale, chard and spinach with garlic and sliced almonds. Maybe a little tofu or a little quinoa. This is often hard for me, but it definitely works the best.

A strange phenomenon I’ve noticed, as has Dean and some other friends, is an occasional low phase, where I feel out of whack, worn down and bad. We have all experienced it, despite different eating styles. I’m pretty sure that it has to do with overtaxing the adrenal system. I notice that after extreme stress on my body (whether from hard training, a taxing alpine trip or big wall project, scary experiences, or injuries–and usually a combination of all of those things), it tends to happen. A lot of my BASE jumping friends have mentioned this as well. I went through a phase like that two months ago. I tried to do the normal things (B vitamins, iron supplements, DHEA), and take it a little more easy, and soon felt good again.

To answer your question more specifically, some favorite food items for me are “Better Than Milk” powdered soy milk, muesli, rice milk, Ezekiel bread (sesame), dark green vegetables (kale, spinach, chard, collards), tofu, quinoa, brown rice, soybean pasta, walnuts, almonds, olive oil, grapeseed oil (for sauteeing), almond butter, kiwis, bananas, Mixed Nuts Mojo bars, Margarita flavor Clif Blox, dried apples, corn thins (like rice cakes, but corn), hummus, miso soup, lentil soup, and of course, coffee and Ginger Aid tea.

Dean commented today how strange it is that when he eats much less than he wants to, he has more energy, feels stronger and stays healthier. I’ve noticed that too. Sometimes this is really hard, but when I reach the right balance of activity and eating, things seem to work perfectly.

I hope that answers your question! Thanks for writing, and hope you’re enjoying beautiful spring weather there!
xx Steph

  • Jay J

    Steph – what does the DHEA do for you or what is it suppose to do for anyone?

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  • steph

    Hi Jay J,
    This is a link you could check out to answer your question really well:
    It’s written “for women”, but it’s information that applies to any athlete, about the use of DHEA for adrenal exhaustion. Basically, DHEA is naturally produced in the body by the adrenal glands. As we age and/or overtax our adrenal glands, we can go into a deficiency. Like all supplements and nutritional things, you just never know what’s “right” or “wrong.” But the concepts are convincing enough that when I feel like I’m having some kind of adrenal exhaustion (which in itself, is my own assumption!), I do take DHEA for several weeks at a time. I think it helps? If you’d like to research it more, just do a google search on “adrenal exhaustion DHEA” and browse through the information.
    take care! xxSteph

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  • Daniel Maurice

    Hey Steph.  I also eat vegan and get a lot of flak for not wearing only Evolv shoes.  Do you get any of this?  It sounds like you have a similar “vegan” outlook as I do…more about healh than changing the this correct?  By the way..I LOVED your feature in Alpinist.  So great.

  • steph

    Thank you Daniel! I am lucky to have always worn Five Ten shoes. They are the only shoes I can climb hard in, and except for the Moccasym, all of the Five Ten shoes I use are made of synthetic materials. I was recently bemoaning this, as I never use leather for anything else, but can’t let go of the Moccasyms for hard cracks, and they offered to make me a special pair of Moccasyms out of synthetic material! I am so excited, and can’t wait to try them out, and am hoping this may get me out of leather completely.

    I started eating vegan purely for health/athletic reasons originally. But as the years have gone by, I care very much about trying to cause as little harm to other creatures as possible. I really love animals and respect them very much, and I don’t want to see them hurt or forced into unnatural lives. I’m not so much out to change the world, as to change myself, but I would love to see all the people taking care of all living creatures, humans included. Wouldn’t that be something? With being vegan and avoiding animal products of any kind, my policy has always been to just do the best I can. No one’s perfect, but we can’t let that stop us from trying to be better, right?

    I think it’s fantastic that you are vegan, and your friends should consider following your great example, instead of teasing you….. Maybe you wear Five Ten shoes too, in which case they don’t have a leg to stand on 😉
    Take care Daniel!
    xx Steph

  • cara marrs

    Hi Steph-
    Thank you so much for your reply, I just returned from 5 days in the beautiful Moab area and just saw your reply today, I did not know that you had replied. Great info, its always interesting to hear what works for different people, and definitely vegetarian and vegan athletes that are succeeding in their nutrition. Most of those foods are foods that I regularly eat and also recommend. You do have protein sources listed, so you are probably getting your correct protein amounts, nothing says that the protein sources have to be from animal sources. Legumes and quinoa are great protein sources. Athletes do have higher protein needs in general, but you are correct that typically in the US, the general population gets more than enough protein. Carbohydrate is typically the main focus with endurance athletes and replenishment. There are certain grams/per kg of body weight of carbohydrate that are recommended for pre, during and exercise recovery. Many times, during bouts of fatigue the body’s glycogen stores (stored carb), have not been replenished or fluid has not been replaced as much as the body needs, stress and high altitude cause a demand for higher amounts of water, and certainly efforts at higher altitudes demand more caloric intake. The bars, Mojo is definitely great tasting, are a great use during exercise, as are gels if an individual likes them. For a more natural gel pick, there is a company in Steamboat, Honey Stinger, that sells honey based products that are great to use alone or add to tea and cereal. Luna has a new product, the Luna moons that are great as well and organic. Omega 3’s are a help for some people for fatigue, inflammatory conditions and many other things. These can certainly be obtained from plant sources, Omega-3’s do not have to come from fish oil if an individual would prefer not to eat fish products, other forms are flaxseed (ground) and flaxseed oil to name a few.
    Keep in touch,
    I hope you are enjoying your spring!

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