Fuel Up, Me Hearties! Pre-Workout Eats

**In honor of August 16th being National Rum Day…
a pirate-y styled introduction fer ye!**


Ye lace up yer boots – er, sneakers – don yer effects, and rush out th’ door to get to yer workout. Ye start exuberantly, motivated, and energetic… but halfway through, ye start to slow like a laggard, and feel there just be no wind in yer sails.

Did ye skip a pre-exercise meal or snack, ye land-lubber?

Miss Elizabeth Swann, wide-eyed, shouts out. “According to the Code set down by the Pirate FNCE of 2015, you must give me 6 to 10 grams of protein with carbs before I work out; and Pirate ASCM says 200 to 300 grams of carbs in a meal; Pirate ISSN says 1-2 grams per kilogram…”

The pirates look at her with disgusted confusion. “We know the Code,” growls one particularly grubby pirate.

The Captain rolls his eyes at her, and says, “the code is more what you’d call ‘guidelines’ than actual rules… Welcome aboard the Black Pearl of Nutrition, Miss Turner!”

Confused yet?

The topic of what to eat before exercise can be confusing. A multitude of different organizations, from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to the American College of Sports Medicine; the Olympic committees, to The International Society of Sports Nutrition, all have their own recommendations for what you should consume before you go workout.

Thankfully, they all agree on one important point: do what feels best and works best for you!  They’re just “guidelines” from there.

(Note: if you are doing light exercise, or anything less than 30 minutes,
this may not apply to you quite as much)

pirates“Training Low,” or intentionally training in a carb-depleted state, is starting to be recognized and studied more. But currently, it is not a typical recommendation. (Speak to your coach or dietitian to see if this is an individualized approach that can safely be done for you, if you are interested) Normally depleted glycogen (carb) stores are associated with fatigue, reduced work rates, impaired skill and concentration, and increased perception of effort (it just feels so darn hard to do things you normally could do.) So generally it is recommended that you consume some proper foods before physical activity to help fuel you towards your goals of weight loss and/or muscle gain.

Having something to eat before going to exercise can greatly enhance your efforts. Eating some carbohydrate foods will give you fuel in your body to help push harder in your workout. A little bit of protein will help with muscle feeding and repair. Hydration is also key, as even mild dehydration can cause drops in your performance, which usually means fewer calories burned or less weights moved. Why not get the most gusto for your gold?

It is the amounts, timing, and form of food that are highly dependent upon your own preferences and tolerances. The goal is to provide enough food and fuel before your workout that you can achieve a top-notch effort without feeling hungry, but not too much nor too close to the workout time as to cause cramping, nausea, or other stomach distress.

If you eat 3-4 hours before you exercise, you may do better with a more meal-sized intake. If you eat only 1-2 hours before, a snack will usually do. If you don’t have time to eat that far in advance, a small snack or liquid form may sit best without causing cramping or nausea. Just make sure you’re not undoing your weight goals by consuming excess calories! Plan ahead to spread your food out around your workout time, rather than adding extra food, and find that opportune moment.

Pre-workout Meal Ideas:

  • Bowl of oatmeal with fruit or honey
  • Brown Rice and Veggie Stir Fry
  • Whole grain bagel with chicken and avocado
  • Salad topped with beans and corn or quinoa

Pre-workout Snack Ideas:

  • Handful of almonds and a cheese stick
  • Fruit and a ½ cup of yogurt
  • Slice or two of wheat toast with nut butter
  • Wheat pita and hummus

Pre-workout Drink Ideas:

  • Low fat milk or chocolate milk
  • Fruit and Protein Smoothie
  • Meal-replacement drink that includes 15-30g Carbohydrate

Bonus Boost: having coffee about an hour before a workout has been shown to boost results! Caffeine is a common aid to help increase time to exhaustion in an aerobic endurance exercise session, decrease ratings of perceived exertion, and improve physical performance even during periods of sleep deprivation.

And, to paraphrase Jack Sparrow:
I think we’ve all arrived at a very special place. Spiritually, ecumenically, grammatically, and nutritionally. Eat up me hearties, yo ho!


Dunford, Marie; Macedonio, Michele. “A Step-by-step Process for Helping Athletes Achieve Optimal Performance Weight and Body Composition.” Food and Nutrition Conference & Expo. Nashville, TN. 4 Oct 2015. Conference Presentation.

Patgieter, S. “Sports Nutrition: A review of the latest guidelines for exercise and sport nutrition from the American College of Sport and Nutrition, the International Olympic Committee and the International Society for Sports Science” S Afr Journal of Clinical Nutrition 26.1 (2013). 6-16. Print.

“Position of the Amercian Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance” Journal of the American Dietetic Association. March. 109.3 (2009): 509-527. Print.

Campbell, Bill I., Spano, Marie A. NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition. 2011. Book.

American College of Sports Medicine, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, a Joint Position Statement. “Nutrition and Athletic Performance.” Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. (2016) 543-568. Print.

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Recipe: Better Than Gruel – Overnight Oatmeal Meals

The hunched innkeeper lazily glances at you out of his one good eye as you take your seat.  It’s a hard seat in a dingy inn.  But you guess you got what you paid for.
“I should like the breakfast that comes free for the room I paid for,” you say brightly.
His head bobbles as he barks a quick, bitter laugh.  With a greasy ladle, he slops a thin porridge into a bowl, and slides it to you, liquid spilling over the edges.
Sighing, you grab your spoon and inspect the meager meal.  Gruel again.

No more of this!  You, my Warrior friend, deserve a better breakfast!  Something hearty, something tasty, and better gruel to fuel you for your adventures!

cake batter oats


Overnight Oatmeal rumors have spread far and wide, little messenger pigeons carrying the secret recipes too and fro (and it’s been all the rage on Pinterest.)  There’s good reason for it.  It’s quick, filling, tasty, and has seemingly limitless variations to please any palette.

I love this as a quick breakfast after my workouts – sometimes I add protein powder to give it that extra amino boost for helping with muscle recovery.

My base is always 1/2 cup steel-cut oats and 1 Tbs chia seeds.  But you can skip the chia, and still have a fantastic meal.  Beyond the base, it can be any flavor combination you think of!  Then pour in enough liquid (milk, soy milk, almond milk, whatever you prefer – dare you try your favorite juice?) to allow for doubling of the oat size.  I used vanilla soymilk, so it was sweetened already.  If you use plain flavors, you may want to add some sweetener to it (honey, agave, xylitol, date puree, etc.  White processed sugar is my last resort, but a good transitional step.)

Pictured above is my “cake batter” version

Overnight Oatmeal: Cake Batter

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 min to prep; overnight soak
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print


  • DSCN18661/2 cup oats
  • 1 Tbs chia seeds (optional)
  • 1 Tbs ground flax (optional)
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1 tsp butter flavoring
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Place everything in glass jar, adding more milk if needed, to ensure enough space for oats to at least double.  Seal on the lid.
  2. Shake it all together (or stir)
  3. Let it soak over night in the refrigerator.
  4. The next morning, stir it up, and top it off with sprinkles for fun!


  • A glass jar that you can cover is best.  Plastic can leech into your food, leaving chemicals and a bad taste.  Uncovered, and your food may absorb flavors or odors from other foods or the refrigerator itself.

find more gamer foods, fit for warriors, at QuestingKate.com

And so many other fun options!  I hope you’ll play with variety.

Overnight Oatmeal: Kiwi-Strawberry

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 min to prep; overnight soak
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 cup oatsKiwi Strawberry, Chocolate Chocolate Chip
  • 1 Tbs chia (optional)
  • 1 -2 Tbs hemp seeds (optional)
  • 1 diced kiwi
  • 3-4 sliced frozen strawberries
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk


  1. Place everything in glass jar, adding more milk if needed, to ensure enough space for oats to at least double.  Seal on the lid.
  2. Shake it all together (or stir)
  3. Let it soak over night in the refrigerator.
  4. The next morning, stir it up, and enjoy!


  • A glass jar that you can cover is best.  Plastic can leech into your food, leaving chemicals and a bad taste.  Uncovered, and your food may absorb flavors or odors from other foods or the refrigerator itself.

find more gamer foods, fit for warriors, at QuestingKate.com

Or my current favorite:

Overnight Oatmeal: Cocoa Chip

  • Servings: 1
  • Time: 5 min to prep; overnight soak
  • Difficulty: super easy
  • Print


  • 1/2 cup oatsKiwi Strawberry, Chocolate Chocolate Chip
  • 1 Tbs chia (optional)
  • 1 Tbs flax (optional)
  • 1 Tbs dark cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs carob chips (you can use chocolate chips, but they’re usually less healthy)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup vanilla soy milk


  1. Place everything in glass jar, adding more milk if needed, to ensure enough space for oats to at least double.  Seal on the lid.
  2. Shake it all together (or stir)
  3. Let it soak over night in the refrigerator.
  4. The next morning, stir it up, and enjoy!


  • A glass jar that you can cover is best.  Plastic can leech into your food, leaving chemicals and a bad taste.  Uncovered, and your food may absorb flavors or odors from other foods or the refrigerator itself.

find more gamer foods, fit for warriors, at QuestingKate.com

I would love to know what other ideas you try!

Raisins and walnuts? Nutmeg and pumpkin pie puree? Raspberry and mint?  Pineapple and ginger?  Rosemary, maple, and pecans? So many options, so few breakfasts.

Nerdy Nutrition Tidbits:
Why This is A Warrior’s Weapon for Health

All of the different fruits and most add-ins have benefits, as does the milk (soy, almond, cow, or otherwise)  So to save time, let’s just look at the Geek-tails (details) of the benefits of Oatmeal!

Oats are magical little grains that help lower cholesterol and provide protection to your heart and prevent heart failure.  They may also help increase your immune system, they stabilize blood sugars, and lower your risk for Type 2 Diabetes (just don’t load your power house porridge with sugar!)  If that’s not enough, oats also protect your body against cancer.

One little quarter cup (1/4 c.) is an excellent source of Manganese and Molybdenum; a very good source of Phosphorous; and a good source of a number of different vitamins and minerals, including copper, Vit B1, biotin, fiber, chromium, protein, and more!

(How ratings work, based on whfoods.com rankings)



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Really Impressive Title +3

RD, RYT, CPT — Kate, the Slayer of Scrawniness; the Fighter of Fat and Fatigue; Destroyer of Desk-Job Dumpiness!
My title, whispered in the dark underbellies of chat rooms, and feared by fatty deposits… I will vanquish the evils of overweight!

(or so I can dream)

Really_Impressive_TitleOn my journey to uncover the secrets of back pain, I have been reading through the chapters in an old Personal Training book on the Kinetic Chain: how everything in the body is linked – muscles, nerves, bones – and when one thing is imbalanced, or misaligned, or used incorrectly, it can throw everything else out of whack.  And it has been fascinating!  Imagine that a past sprained ankle could be the cause of low back pain or maybe even shoulder problems!  That it makes a difference to your back during a lying spinal twist if you have your palms facing up or down.

The chain from muscle to joint to the next muscle runs through the entire body, and effects ripple along the waves of nervous impulses and joints placement.

I was so enthralled by what I was learning, and noticed that, in addition to the Breathing practice, I was continuing to be able to decrease back and neck pain while increasing my strength just by adjusting things in millimeter increments and a few degree rotations.  All of this has lead me to the next Challenge of my Quest: to become a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT)

I love leading mini workouts for staff at work.  It started very informally as just a small handful of the dietary kitchen staff joining me for a few minutes holding plank pose or doing wall sits.  And it has morphed to a full 10-15 minute routine with balance work, stretching, and some cardio as well. More departments have come to join us on occasion, and I figured I better get some formal training.

This girl needs a guild!

I start the 10 week online program today, offered through the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and eagerly await all the new secrets and codes I will uncover as we go.

By the end of it, maybe I’ll be officially ready to take on some clients of my own, outside of work!  Perhaps I’ll need some of these to help get people moving…


I signed up


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“Divine” Intervention for My Back?

Somehow, the serendipitous winds of fate danced their gentle dance around me, and carried me further on my quest for healing. I don’t even recall the specific chain of events nor web searches (you know how that rabbit hole can be!) that brought me to a website offering a 30 day free “Kokoro Yoga Challenge,” lead by Navy SEAL, Mark Divine.  But somehow, I found myself there, and they had this nice looking mug pictured, offered to those who completed the 30 day challenge.  What the heck, this Quester signed up.


Each day, a new video was sent to us, and early on, Divine taught us about a “Morning Routine” that he wanted us to do each day.  It involved doing “Box Breathing,” Visualization, Gratitude journaling, and then watching the daily video (which sometimes was just a short talk, sometimes a meditation, sometimes yoga.)

And so I started this – with nothing else really changing in my day.  I still did workouts that had to be modified for my pain, I still slept on the same bed, stood at the same desk at work, used my TENS unit every morning, took pain killers roughly 5 times a week… I haven’t done extra physical therapy, haven’t restarted acupuncture.  Status Quo.

And then one day, about 2 weeks in, I was walking my dog Koda, and just had this itch. I just… had to move faster!  So I kicked in to a slow, gentle jog, and before I knew it, I was running along the dry dirt road, the sun shining down, the wind brushing back my hair, and I lifted my arms and shouted out a gleeful whoop!  It nearly brought tears to my eyes to feel that freedom again without the staggering sharp pain like a dagger in my spine.  I had to force myself to stop, just to be safe.

I got home, bubbling with joy, and hubby immediately started the concerned questioning, “you did WHAT?!  Why?  You know that’s bad!  Girl, you need to be careful, I know you’re excited…”  And, to be cautious, I did throw an ice back on my back, took another dose of pain meds, and ran the TENS unit.  The next morning – all was normal.  Not pain-free, but not extra painful.

I took it easy, didn’t jog any more that week… and on week 3, I woke up one morning and realized, “I don’t hurt… at all.”  Sure, a bit of stiffness like most people probably feel in the morning. But not that deep core of pain. It wasn’t till I was at work that I realized I hadn’t used my TENS unit nor taken my pain meds. I figured this was a fluke – a lucky day.  The next morning, the same thing.  This went on for the rest of the week!

Week 4, I got a little busier, so I dropped the Box Breathing and jumped right into the visualization, the video, and my workout.  And by Thursday, I had some pain coming back.

*blink blink*

Box Breathing? I was still doing deep abdominal breathing with the visualization practice, but that is slightly different than Box Breathing. Was it just the shorter time of deep breathing? Or was it the specific style of breathing?

Box Breathing includes not just the slow, deep inhalation and exhalation, but also a few counts where you hold your breath in, and hold it out.  Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 4, breathe out for 4, hold out for 4 with abdominal muscles lightly engaged.

Was Divine’s breathing technique making all the difference?? (Note: I know he did not create this pattern of breathing, it was taught to us in yoga school as well, but he is the one who reintroduced it to me, so I give him credit for the accountability to practice it – all because I’m ridiculous and really wanted yet another mug for my crowded cabinets!)

Serendipity graced my path again.  It was 5 weeks in to this new routine with Box Breathing, and I was starting to feel befuddled by the minimal back pain (it just seemed too good to be true!), and I was studying the Cardio-respiratory system of my NASM Personal Training Book.  In it was a section on Dysfunctional Breathing Patterns.

I was already aware that breathing in to the chest is considered Stress Breathing – it’s what we do when we are stressed, and it perpetuates stressful feelings by keeping our Oxygen-to-Carbon Dioxide ratios out of whack.  Breathing into the belly can relax us, and calm us down.


Diagram from backpain88.com

But there were some other interesting points I was NOT aware of:

The bones and joints that move, and the muscles you use are different.  When you breathe into you chest, you are moving the bones of your sternum and clavicles, and using mostly muscles up around your chest, shoulders, and neck. (Which can lead to tension which leads to headaches and other issues)  But when you breathe more deeply, you are moving more of your vertebrae as well as ribs, using more of your abdominal muscles and muscles along your ribs.  Suddenly, you are using new muscles, thus lightly strengthening those core muscles, while also expanding and opening up your spine.  Chest breathing means a lack of movement in your lower back, and lack of joint motion over time tends to lead to stiffness, pain, and fatigue.

So a deep breath in while holding meant an extended amount of time “stretching” my lower vertebrae, and moving those muscles!

The NASM book went on to also state that lack of oxygen (from shallow breathing all day every day – most of us are chronically under-oxygenated) can cause an increase in the activity of our pain receptors. It didn’t go into detail on how that worked, but it makes sense – whenever you have to get a shot, they tell you to relax and breathe deeply.  I figured it was to calm me, but perhaps it also helps with the pain!

(If only Obi-wan’s Ewan McGregor knew that before getting crazy big shots prior to his round-the-world trip!) WARNING: needles and blood in this clip.  Don’t watch if you get queasy from that ;-)  “Think manly thoughts!”

To sum that all up… Box Breathing Saved My Back!  (Or so I theorize)
Deep belly breathing with a hold provides my body with much needed oxygen to help calm pain receptors, creates movement and space in the spine and ribs, and gently uses core muscles to strengthen them a little bit more every day. I’m not 100% sure about why it’s working or why in 4 weeks it made such a big difference – I just know:


I started with just those small 5 minutes, but I’ve gradually increased in the last week or two.  Once I was able to hit 2 miles in 20 minutes, I realized I had something good going on, and I’m crossing my fingers that it’s permanent.  The pain isn’t 100% gone, but I’ve gone from my “normal” morning pain of a 7-8 out of 10, down to maybe a 2-3.

Will it work for everyone? Probably not – but, from this Health Quester who hasn’t been able to run even 100 meters for the last 3 years, it was a huge find, and so I had to share!  Perhaps there are others out there who could benefit from a few minutes of Divine Breathing every morning!

To Mr Mark Divine, I say a huge, heart-felt, teared-up THANK YOU, “Cyborg”.  Hooyah.









Posted in General Wellness, My Quest | 2 Comments

Parkour Pre-101

pk star trek

My hubby claims I have no sense of safety (or not enough for his peace of mind!), citing my desire to travel to crazy places, climb into deep caves, and participate in potentially injuring activities while knowing that we have no health insurance and live where there is no great medical care.  I say that’s not true – I sense it, and then I ignore it!  That I view the risk as lower than the reward of the experience!


Yet I feel that, in the grand scheme of life and compared to many others, I am actually a cautious person.  But when it comes to these parkour workouts, I become extra hesitant.  It looks so ridiculously easy to sprain, twist, break, or damage your body in these youtube vids!  And I am older than the youth who tend to participate.

Yet I still want to try, so I launch into my nerdy method of researching.

nerd pk

Yeeeesh! Shtudying!

I must have watched a dozen videos just on proper parkour landings for a standard jump.  You know the one: you’re standing on flat ground… and you jump straight up… and you.. ya know… land right where you started…  Crazy impressive, right? Ha!  Impressive or not, I spent 3 days working on nothing BUT jumping like that, working all the way up to a whopping 2-steps height.

Seem pathetic?  Maybe so, and I’m sure if young or experienced traceurs (check it, I’m learning the lingo!) out there watched me, they’d get a good laugh – and probably do some harsh trolling, as the comments show many of them tend to do.  But, like I mentioned.. No health insurance, no good medical care: no doctor to set a cast if one is needed, and definitely no orthopedic surgeon.  Add that to “nursing a spine issue” and I am happy to take it super slowly for now.

I also went to Pubmed and did a search for parkour research.  As a new growing activity, there were only 11 studies shown – most which I could not access, and most focusing simply on risk and injuries sustained from the sport (no big surprise there!)

But there was one fun little gem!  In 2013, the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine had a study called Ground Reaction Forces and Loading Rates Associate with Parkour and Traditional drop Landing Techniques.  It’s a short study that compared three different landing styles:

  • a traditional jump landing that most people do, and which is common in sports like basketball
  • the parkour precision technique
  • the parkour roll.
Traditional Landing

Traditional Landing – notice the flat feet, angle of knees and hips

With n=10, the participants all performed the different landings from the table onto a force plate that allowed them to compare the ground reaction force (essentially the amount of impact the ground causes on YOU) and loading rates (the speed of the force) of these various landing techniques.  They found Parkour precision and Parkour roll trials resulted in significantly lower maximal vertical force during the landing, significantly slower times to maximal vertical force, AND significantly lower loading rates than traditional landings.  To sum that up… less stress on the body and joints from getting this technique down, and thus less risk of injury!

So THAT is why I spent 3 days watching videos and practicing this specific landing.

Parkour Precision Landing

Parkour Precision Landing – notice the lifted heels, lowered hips

And in my own personal study of n=1… In the p90x Plyo workout, I have not been able to do the “jump knee tuck” exercise in almost 3 years because 1-2 of those jumps would jar my low spine and start to hurt my little protruding disc, even if I was trying to “land like a cat” per Tony’s Tip Of The Day.  Same in Insanity-Asylum’s Speed and Agility workout.  But then I changed my form and worked on the parkour precision landing, I can now do over 10 5-foot long knee-tucking broad jumps in a row with no pain!  It takes the pressure out of the knees and spine, reduces the force, and uses the body movements and angles to cushion the impact.

Parkour Roll

Parkour Roll

The ability to jump is one of many things we take for granted.  And I feel excited that I may be on my way to healing, and learning how to protect my body as I go.


Puddle, Damien L.; Maulder, Peter S.  “Ground Reaction Forces and Loading Rates Associated with Parkour and Traditional Drop Landing Techniques.” Journal of Sports Science and Medicine 12 (2013): 122-129. Print.


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