Plant-Based Protein Powders and How to Choose One

Plant based protein powders IG post*Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am studying nutrition and on the path to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Please, contact a practing RDN or other healthcare professional with any questions or concerns before adapting a new way of eating.

Good afternoon friends! 🙂 Every week I receive multiple questions in my Instagram inbox about eating plant-based or being a plant-based athlete, so I figured it was time to start addressing those questions here on the good ‘ol blog!  As a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and an aspiring sub-elite runner, I am drawing on both research AND my personal experiences to share this information with you, so as usual, contact a licensed healthcare professional with any questions or concerns! Once I am a licensed and practicing RDN I will be more than happy to help you, though! 🙂

So without further ado, let’s get to it! Today’s topic is plant-based protein powders.🌱 I want to start off by saying a protein powder should never be a replacement for a food in your diet, rather it should be an ENHANCEMENT or a SUPPLEMENT to your current diet. It is always best to get most of your daily calories and protein from whole, real foods (1). A protein shake is not meant to replace dinner or breakfast. Although, no judgment if you’ve done that before, as we have all been there 😛 But generally protein powder does not make a very complete or balanced meal unless it is added to a smoothie with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, etc. Of course there are certain times when a protein powder may be appropriate: during a major illness where you need extra protein to help you heal, during a heavy training phase as an athlete, or when you are struggling to meet your daily calorie and protein needs with food alone (2). Always talk to your healthcare provider before beginning a supplement, because yes, protein powder is considered a supplement!

 

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There are a variety of reasons why an athlete might chose a plant-based protein powder: dairy allergy, vegan diet, or taste preferences. I personally am vegan and whey never sat well with me even when I ate dairy, so that is why I chose to consume a plant-based protein powder. I did not start consuming protein powder until 2019 because I used to be against it to be honest. But after running my highest weekly volume ever this summer to train for my second ever marathon (the Chicago Marathon this October), I can attest to the recovery benefits of consuming a high-protein shake or smoothie after a long run or tough training session when my stomach is otherwise not ready to eat a full meal rich in carbohydrates and protein. All I have to do is dump some water or almond milk and protein powder into my Blender Bottle, shake well, and sip as I stretch and foam roll.

So what are some key differences between whey based and plant-based protein powders? Well for starters, whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it has all 9 of the essential amino acids that your body cannot produce on it’s own (3). All animal based proteins are complete, but only quinoa and soy products are complete plant-based proteins (3,4). So before you panic, remember that you do not need to eat complete proteins at every single meal and snack, but rather throughout the day. Or you could do some good ol’ fashioned food pairing, i.e. the classic combination of rice and beans together contain all 9 of the essential amino acids in the proper amounts! So how does this relate to plant-based protein powders? Well, unless you are consuming a soy protein powder, which is already complete,  most plant-based protein powders will achieve a complete amino acid profile through the pairing of multiple plant protein sources, i.e. pea protein, chia seeds, cranberry protein, pumpkin seeds (4). The use of multiple protein sources just adds to the nutritional benefits of the protein powder! Whey protein powder is relatively low in nutrients besides protein, but a plant-based protein powder will often have some iron and other minerals, such as phosphorous or zinc (4). Pea protein powder is among the most common plant-based protein powders, but I’ve seen many types over the years, from hemp seed to combination plant protein powders.

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As an athlete there are two additional considerations I use when choosing a protein powder. I check the ingredients to see if the plant-based protein powder contains sugar alcohols and if it is NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice (6,7). I check for sugar alcohols because for me and many others, they cause GI distress (5). I cannot even chew gum because of the sugar alcohols! I am fine with stevia though, but I honestly wish more protein powders just used a bit of regular sugar…but that’s a topic for another day 😛

I then check if the protein powder is NSF Certified for Sport or Informed Choice because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so how do we know that our supplements actually contain what they say they contain (6,7)? The NSF International’s Certified for Sport program was created to test supplements and make sure they do not contain any banned or illegal substances, contaminants, and that they actually contain what they say they contain (6).  To receive the NSF mark the supplement has to be tested twice in a calendar year (6). I  also love that NSF has an app with a barcode scanner, so I check check supplements easily when I am on the go or at a store.

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Informed Choice is similar in that third party tests supplements for banned substances, but it is not the gold standard or recognized by major athletics teams, such as the MLB, like NSF certified for Sport (7). NSF Certified for Sport is especially important for elite athletes who are subject to random testings before/during/after competitions, because how would it feel to get disqualified because of your protein powder? I may be exaggerating here, but it’s still good to know exactly what is in our supplements, so even as an aspiring sub-elite athlete, I will only consume supplements from brands I trust and ones that are preferably NSF Certified, but at least Informed Choice so I know that they have been tested by a third party.

All 3 of my recommended protein powders below are NSF Certified or Informed Choice!

My top 3 favorite protein powders (in order) are linked below with pros and cons. 

 

1. Garden of Life Sport Organic Plant-Based Protein Powder: Chocolate or Vanilla

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  • Pros:
    • NSF Certified for Sport
    • Informed Choice
    • The chocolate is tasty in milk or water
    • Contains all the essential amino acids (complete protein)
    • 30 g protein per serving

 

  • Cons:
    • Expensive, but at least it lasts a while
    • Vanilla only tastes good in smoothies in my opinion
    • Contains stevia, which I am not sensitive to, but some of you might be or you may not like the taste of
    • Can be hard to mix unless you use a shaker bottle or a blender

2. Tailwind Rebuild Recovery Chocolate or Vanilla

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  • Pros:
    • Informed Choice
    • Tastes good even in just water (I prefer chocolate over vanilla in plain water)
    • Easy to transport if you get the single serving packs
    • Mixes very easily just by shaking
    • Contains electrolytes in addition to carbohydrates and protein, perfect for immediately after a run or athletic event
    • No artificial sweeteners

 

  • Cons:
    • Not NSF Certified
    • Most expensive option
    • Vanilla is not very tasty in my opinion but some may like it
    • Not as high in protein as other options (only 10 g)
    • High in sugar compared to other protein powders (39 g)

 

3. Vega Sport Premium Protein in Chocolate, Vanilla, Berry, or Mocha

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  • Pros:
    • Informed Choice
    • Can buy as a tub or individual serving packets
    • Tastes decent even mixed with just water, but is best in smoothies
    • 30% DV of iron
    • 30 g of protein

 

  • Cons:
    • Not NSF Certified
    • Vanilla only tastes good in smoothies in my opinion
    • Contains stevia, which I am not sensitive to, but some of you might be or you may not like the taste of
    • Can be hard to mix unless you use a shaker bottle or a blender.

 

Do you use plant-based protein powder? If so, which brand and why? Do you have a question you want to see on here next? Do next hesitate to comment below, contact me on Instagram, or e-mail me at blackbeanqueen@gmail.com ! 🙂

 References

  1. Plant-Based Sports Nutrition by D.Enette Larson-Meyer, PhD, RDN & Matt Ruscigno, MPH, RDN
  2. Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook by Nancy Clark, MS, RD
  3. What is a complete amino acid profile? by Kelli Shallal, MPH, RD
  4. Whey Vs. Plant Protein by Abbey Howarth
  5. Artificial Sweeteners and Other Sugar Substitutes by Mayo Clinic 
  6. NSF International Certified for Sport 
  7. Informed Choice
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Strava: the social media for endurance athletes

Disclaimer: I will receive an annual Strava Summit subscription and Strava merchandise to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

What is Strava?

Strava is a free platform where you can track or add your runs, bikes, and swims. In short is is a social media platform for endurance athletes. You can also join virtual clubs and challenges if you are the type of person that finds extra motivation that way- I know I do! You can like each other’s activities (it’s called giving kudos) and write comments on them, similar to Facebook and Instagram.

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You can also add photos of your runs (I’m known to share  photos of my beautiful Lake Michigan lakefront runs :P) You can also find new routes, which is especially useful when traveling/running in a new location.

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How Can I get Started on Strava?

All you need to do is create a free account with a valid e-mail address or your Facebook account-it’s that easy. You do not even need a smart watch to use Strava. Something I did not know until this summer. But a lot of people connect their activity trackers to Strava anyway, especially in the running community (So many of us are rarely seen without our Garmins, even on dates. haha). I’d also recommend downloading the free iPhone or Android Strava App, so you can upload or track activities, and give kudos on the go.

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Features of Using Strava

  • Ability to transfer activities from other devices onto Strava (i.e. run with a Garmin or Suunto watch and  then upload your run to Strava)
  • Track your activity without a smart watch (I did not know Strava could do this until my Garmin died mid-run a month ago and I was able to track the reminder of my run on my smart phone via the Strava App. You can track your entire run (bike or swim) via Strava if that is your jam
  • Get awesome metrics from your workouts that you didn’t know you needed, but you’ll soon wonder what you did without them (and use them to inform training decisions):
    • Distance
    • Pace
    • Time
    • Elevation
    • Calories Burned
    • Heart Rate
    • Cadence

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  • Track your activities to see how many miles you are covering or minutes working out each day, each week, each month, and even each year. This can help you see how far you’ve come or how you’ve trained for previous races as compared to the current race you are training for
  • Track the mileage on your shoes, so you know when you need to retire your current pair and get a new one

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  • Add friends that you worked out with when they forget their watch or phone. This only works if the friend is a current Strava member. My husband did this on an easy run while ago when my Garmin watch refused to connect one run and it saved me because as many of you know, I have to keep track of my running  #typeA
  • Create groups based on running clubs, cycling clubs, swimming clubs, traithalon groups, or other common interests and run challenges within the group (i.e. highest weekly mileage or longest time spent working out). I created a group for people who have the goal of running 2019 kilometers in the year 2019 and it’s been a nice little group. Feel free to join if aren’t already in it. 🙂
  • Join challenges to keep you motivated. Each month I join the monthly 5k and 10k challenge at least, but then they have many other ones from climbing to cycling to virtual races. Earn trophies when you complete the challenges!

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  • No matter where you live, there are sections of road or trail where people run frequently and there is a leaderboard showing how fast people have run those segments. So if you are competitive (like me 🤣) you can try to be the leader of the segment! Strava will automatically rank you anytime you run a segment. Even if you are not the leader, it is interesting to compare what time you’ve run on that segment at different points of the year or during previous years. Segments are all in good fun!
  • Privacy filters, so people cannot see where you live if you frequently run from your home
  • Advanced Strava features for a good price through Strava Summit. Some of the features of Summit include: weekly goal setting, training plans, workout analysis, just to name a few.

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So what are you waiting for? Join Strava today! Or if you are currently on Strava share your profile below if you want me to follow you! 

What is the difference between vegetarian, vegan, and plant-based?!

*Note: I am not a doctor or medical professional. I am studying nutrition and on the path to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN). Please, contact a healthcare professional with any questions or concerns before adapting a new way of eating.

It is 2019 and I would be shocked if you told me that you do not know at least one person in your life that is vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based. Same with gluten-free. Or soy-free. Or oil-free. But, I digress. The focus today will be on plant-based eating. You probably hear about this way of eating all the time or may even eat plant-based yourself on the daily or by participating in #meatlessmonday. But, do you truly know the difference?! It’s okay if you do not! I’m here to save the day 😉

As a future Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), food is my favorite topic! I love researching about food, talking about food, cooking food, and obviously eating food 😛 But as your favorite future RDN, runner, and black bean lover (I’m making a lot of assumptions here, okay? :P) I am here to set the record straight about the differences between the types of plant-based eating patterns, and to provide you a few resources along the way. So, let’s get to it! I promise it’s not that long, but full of helpful information and a link to some resources! 😉

Me eating a vegan cookie dough bite and living my best life 😛

The key difference between vegetarian, vegan, and plant based

First of all, let’s be clear. Vegetarianism, veganism, and plant-based diets have a lot of similarities, but they are not the same. Two of them are diets and one of them is a lifestyle. More on this later.

According to the Harris Poll conducted by Vegetarian Nutrition resource group in 2016, 37% percent of the population always or sometimes eats vegetarian meals when eating out (1). Note that approximately 3% percent of the population is vegetarian (including vegans) all the time, regardless of whether they dine at home or out (1). A slightly higher proportion of people (5%) always eat vegetarian or vegan meals when eating out (1). Three years later, in 2019, I imagine the numbers of vegetarians are even higher, and we see this reflected in huge increased in plant-based options at restaurants. There has also been an increase in exclusively plant-based restaurants. This makes sense because nearly 25% of millennials (yes, I am one :P) consume a vegetarian or vegan diet (2). With the increasing popularity of plant-based, especially with my generation, you may find yourself wondering about the differences between the 3 eating patterns.

Whether it is something you are interested in yourself, you are about to host a dinner party with a vegan guest, or you are unsure how to explain yourself to your family, this is the post for you!

So, grab a bite to eat and let’s discuss the key differences! 🙂

Vegetarian

A vegetarian diet refers to an eating pattern that forgoes all forms of flesh foods (3). This includes seafood, shellfish, poultry, beef, etc. A vegetarian consumes a diet containing fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and soy products, but no flesh foods (3). Depending on the type of vegetarian, they may consume dairy or eggs, though (3). A vegetarian who still consumes honey, dairy products, and eggs, but no flesh foods is called a lacto-ovo vegetarian (3). A vegetarian that consumes dairy, but not eggs is referred to as a lacto-vegetarian and a vegetarian that consumes eggs, but not dairy is called an ovo-vegetarian (3). There are a multitude of reasons someone might adapt a vegetarian diet, but the most common reasons include: health, environmental concerns, ethical concerns, and enjoyment of vegetarian foods (3,4). Some other less common, but still fun reasons to go vegetarian: you’ll be more regular (runners love talking about poop 💩), your dinners will be pretty and colorful 🌈 (millennials love putting food pictures on Instagram :P), and you may live longer 👵🏻 (4).

Veganism

Veganism, is not a diet at all, but rather a lifestyle. What does this mean? Someone who practices veganism will not consume any flesh foods, honey, eggs, or dairy. Vegans have been dubbed “strict vegetarians” by some groups. Yet, veganism extends beyond diets. True veganism is an ethical practice that seeks to reduce harm and suffering of animals in the world. A vegan likely will not wear clothes with any animals products (i.e. wool or leather), will not go to zoos, use products tested on animals, and any other activities or practices that might bring harm or suffering to animals.

Please, respectfully discuss with me in the comments or via e-mail if you agree/disagree with the following… but some people may identify as vegan, but occasionally wear animal based products because they already owned them before going vegan (but then will not buy any more animal based products moving forward), use make-up that was tested on animals, or they might allow their child to go to a zoo for a school field trip. The end goal of the vegan lifestyle is to reduce animal harm and suffering, but to also make this lifestyle accessible to as many people as possible! A 95% vegan lifestyle is better than a 0% one! Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Taylor Wolfram of Whole Green Wellness describes this beautifully and in more detail in her post entitled: Veganism is not a diet. I highly recommend checking it out!

Plant-based

Finally, plant-based is a more general term that refers to a few different eating patterns. The most common type of person who calls themselves plant-based is someone who eats a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet, but occasionally has meat or dairy products. A pescatarian falls under this category because they consume a vegetarian diet, but they also eat fish, dairy, honey, and eggs, but no other flesh foods. A second category might be a person who is a true vegetarian or vegan, but they call themselves “plant-based” because it is a more general term and they like the flexibility of this classification.

As of today, I personally call myself plant-based, because I am 98% vegan, but I very occasionally consume food that contains honey (but otherwise no animal products) and some of my clothes and cosmetics are made from animal by-products or tested on animals. I am slowly working to live a more cruelty-free lifestyle, but with my current budget as a student, I’m not about to throw away clothes or shoes I already own, but I try to only buy vegan products when I’m on the search for something new. *If you have any thoughts about this please comment or e-mail me, but be respectful.

A third category of plant-based are people that eat a whole foods, plant-based diet (WFPB). This diet is technically a vegan diet in the sense that it avoids all flesh-foods and animal by-products, but they may not have the ethical ties that a true vegan has (5). Furthermore, a person adhering to a WFPB typically avoids processed foods and choses minimally prepared foods, as close to the Earth as possible, such as i.e. salads (5). This diet was made popular from the documentary Forks over Knives and the book The China Study.

Do you eat plant-based, vegetarian, or vegan? I’d love to know if you do and why you do! Drop me a comment below. Be on the lookout for more information about plant-based, vegetarian, and vegan resources for endurance athletes, specifically, later this summer!

Additionally, comment below or e-mail me if there’s a topic you’d love for me to cover here. My goal is to help and inspire all of you! 🙂

BONUS! Check out the new blog tab, entitled RESOURCES for some of my favorite resources for plant-based recipes, books, cookbooks, and documentaries! 🙂

References

  1. How Many Adults in the U.S. are Vegetarian and Vegan?
  2. Everything Is Ready To Make 2019 The “Year Of The Vegan”. Are You?
  3. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Vegetarian Diets.
  4. Why Go Veg?
  5. Plant-Based Primer: The Beginner’s Guide to a Plant-Based Diet

2018 in review

Hello friends! Long time, no post and Happy New Year’s Eve! How is it only one day away from 2019?! 😱

Life got a little crazy since my last post in October: I ran my 1st marathon in a BQ, got injured during said marathon, finished my 1st semester of nutrition classes, and focused on injury recovery! All those recent events reminded me that it’s been a crazy fun, tear-inducing, challenging, awesome, amazing, and unpredictable year. 😜

So why not recap/reflect on the highlights from each month of 2018, so I can start 2019 on a high-note? Without further ado, here are my top moments for each month of 2018, running and otherwise:

January:  The top moment of January was running the F^3 Lake 5k and meeting a few of my new BibRave teammates. It was my favorite moment because I spent a lot of the fall injured, so it was exciting to be able to lace up and race a 5k, even though I only had a few weeks of training under my belt and no workouts. I treated the race as a tempo, somehow won, and had an overall great time. My husband ran the half marathon and earned a personal best time of 1:15! We were fortunate to have weather in the high 30s and the post race party was fun. If you want to read more about this race check out my recap 🙂 I am recovering from injury (again) now, so I likely won’t run the race in 2019, but I highly recommend the 5k or half marathon on 1/26/19!IMG_5111

February: The top moment of February was a tie between the unexpected snow day (and day off work) on Friday February 9, 2018 and being chosen by BibRave to test out the Aftershokz wireless headphones. And yes, I’m sure you’re wondering how one single day could be my top moment of 2018…but if you are a regular follower/reader here you may remember that I used to be a high school chemistry teacher. In January- March 2018 I was working as a temporary chemistry teacher for a teacher on maternity leave. The teacher had been on leave since September, and the school had trouble finding a teacher to take the maternity leave, so the students had been without a permanent teacher until I took the position in January. Without divulging every detail, it was tough situation that really tested me, especially when I was already fairly certain (not yet publicly at this point) that I did not want to teach, but rather go back to school to become a Registered Dietitian, but more on that later 😉

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Anyway, after a particularly tough Thursday with some unruly students and a mountain of grading, we got an unexpected snow day on Friday, February 9th. For those of you who aren’t in Chicago, it is incredibly rare for the Chicago Public Schools to declare a snow day. It happens maybe once every 5 years. 😛 It was much needed! I was able to fit in a snowy run with my new trail shoes, my new Aftershokz, and in the daylight hours on a week day. Friday, Feb. 9th was AWESOME! It’s still funny to me in December 2018 that a simple snow day was my top moment of February 2018.

March:  Hands down the best moment of March 2018 was winning an Instagram contest for of three months of coaching with Heather McKirdy of McKirdy Trained. She had been a runner and coach I looked up too since I made an instagram page for this blog. 🙂 She’s positive, hard-working, a dreamer, speedy, and extremely knowledgable about running. In my short three months with her as my coach, I grew so much as a runner! I set a half PR, integrated more workouts and recovery, and took my running more seriously for the first time since running for my college in 2010-2013. I also watched many of my other Instagram friends become her athletes around when I did and make awesome running gains (I’m especially looking at you Teagan, Meghan, Laura, and Nicole :P). I was very sad after my three months ended because I decided to exit the work world and go back to school to study nutrition, so unfortunately I could not and still cannot afford a coach and I loved working with Heather 😦 It would have definitely been helpful to have one when I trained for the Chicago Marathon because my training was kind of a mess 😂 ANYWAY, if you are looking for a coach and it’s in your budget I HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend Heather or any of the other McKirdy Trained coaches. 🙂 A majority of their athletes BQed or set PRs at their races this year and those are results you cannot ignore! 😱

Honorable mention/a close second was finishing off that maternity leave teaching position and figuring out my now public next steps. More on that below 😉

April: Okay, okay! I can’t pick just one moment because this month was freakin’ awesome. Hands down the BEST moment was deciding to change my path and go back to school to study to become a Registered Dietitian. I also ran a personal best in my second ever half marathon (1:34), while sick, under the guidance of my new coach Heather. My husband ran the full marathon that same day in a stunning 2:42, cutting 26 minutes off his previous best time and securing a ticket to Boston 2019. You can read much more about my experience at the Illinois Half Marathon here.

Last, but not least I was able to meet and become real-life friends with two of my Instagram friends: Katie of 2fabfitchicks and Danielle of Feed Me Happy. Danielle and I are also now real-life classmates and future RDs, so that’s pretty awesome. 🙂

Meeting and running with Scott Jurek during his North book release tour also deserves an honorable mention! April was truly an amazing month!

May: May’s top moments are a tie between being interviewed for my first ever magazine article in Voyage Chicago and my birthday BibRave run meet-up at Millennium Park. It was nearly 95 degrees, but I still had a blast running with Steph, Ben, and Frank on my 26th birthday! 🙂 Joining such an awesome team of supportive and fun runners/ambassadors may have been my greatest decision all year, besides deciding to go back to school 😛

June: It was a hot day and not my best race time, but I still pick my first ever 10k at the Run for the Zoo as my top moment of June 2018. I even managed third female overall somehow 😛 It was a fun race to rep BibRave and somewhat kick off my Chicago Marathon training!

July: My husband got a new teaching job and we moved to a new apartment. I absolustely love my new loft apartment and it’s proximity to awesome places to run along the Chicago LakeShore path.  I  was honestly hoping that the Rock ‘N Roll Chicago half marathon would be my top July moment,  but I just did not have a good race and you can read more about it on my Instagram 😦 I’m still glad I ran it even if my time of 1:36 was very far off of the 1:30 I was hoping for at that point. 

August: A hot month full of marathon training and long run PRs (mileage wise) every single week. I even made it through my through my longest run ever (20 miles) and nailed my fueling strategy with Spring Energy (ElectroRide in my hand held and Canaberry gels ).

Running the Nike unsanctioned 6k race deserves an honorable mention, as well. It was a fun race and a great way to fit in a mid-week workout.

September: Oh man September was a tough month! I was struggling to balance my classes, work, my extremely long commute to/from school, and training for the marathon. I had a few 0-10 mile weeks and I even contemplated not running the Chicago Marathon. Thankfully, after turning around my training a bit, some reflection on how far I had come (despite a less than ideal training situation). and the kind words of so many of you I decided to still run. That is definitely my top moment of September 2018. It was not an easy decision!

October: Completing my first marathon in a BQ, enough said! 😛  Although, having to stop multiple times to stretch due to hip and IT band pain and then becoming so injured I just started running again a little over a week ago also serves as a bit of a low point. :/ You can read more about my race on Instagram.

I am extremely grateful that Dale of Marathoner Dale ran part of the marathon with me. She had a fantastic race (earning a 3:22 PR) and helped me at my lowest, most painful points. I am also grateful that Jess (the cofounder of BibRave) and I were able to run together for some of the race! 🙂 I am positive with better training (and honestly a coach ), I would have a had a much better and injury free race, but hey- a 3:28:01 is not bad for my first one!

I am proud, but am also dreaming bigger (and training MUCH smarter) for my next marathon! 😛 I had a blast meeting a lot more of my BibRave teammates at the Chicago Marathon summit and the race and would not change the race or this weekend for anything, though. I can only hope to perform at what I am actually capable of next time I run a marathon 😉

November: No running at all for me in November, as I focused on cross training, resting, and gaining hip/glute strength. BUT the best moment was watching my husband cut two more minutes off his personal best marathon time at Indy Monumental in a blazing fast 2:40! 🔥 I am also grateful for Ashlyn, who is the kindest human and an amazing friend, who put together a strength training plan and will make a running plan once I am able to run more. I am not sure what I did to deserve her help, but I am grateful because this injury has been a struggle and an uncertain time for me. :/

December: After not being able to run post-Chicago marathon, hands down the top moment of this month was the pain-free mile (even if it was on the dreadmill) I ran three days ago! I am cautiously optimistic about my return to running as enter 2019! I am not sure anything I will do in the remaining hours of 2018 can top that, unless I am able to run 10 miles 😉 But don’t worry, I’m won’t try such a foolish thing!

Finishing my first semester nutrition school finals and earning good grades also earn an honorable mention, but clearly being able to run again is more exciting to me 😛 I also got accepted to be a BibRave Pro for another year, so I am grateful that they want to keep me! 🙂

So now, I want to hear from all of YOU! What were your top moments of 2018, running or otherwise?! 👇🏻

Illinois half marathon training week 10

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the Illinois Half Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

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Good evening friends! I can’t believe we are 11 days away from race day! 😱

I am definitely getting nervous because it’s my 1st big post-college race, but I also feel prepared. This training cycle started out rocky with my crazy schedule during my temporary teaching job, but getting a coach a month ago has been a game changer. Plus, my teaching job is over now, and although I am working two part time jobs, I have been able to train more consistently than when teaching. And I’m just generally happier and more motivated about training because now I am on a path to pursuing my passions. 😍

I sometimes have to be creative about when to fit in my runs, though, because some weeks I work mornings/days and other weeks I have to work evenings/nights. Regardless, the change in jobs has allowed me to run more often with others, go to fun events, and meet new people as you will see in this week’s training recap. I even hit my highest weekly mileage since college over the last two weeks. 30 miles per week may not seem like much, and I was running more in college, but I’m just so happy to be running injury free again! 🙂 So without further ado let’s get to the recap!

Week 10: Monday April 9th -Sunday April 15th

Monday April 9th: My friend Ben has a somewhat a flexible work schedule and I was off work, so he came to Chicago to run 5.1 miles (7:47 pace) with me. Afterwards, I took him to one of my favorite coffee shops. He’s silly and got a cold drink even though it was chilly and it had snowed earlier in the day! I got an oat milk chai and I would 10/10 recommend. It was fun to spend the afternoon running and talking to another fellow running nerd. I’m grateful for all the awesome people I have met through Bibrave!

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-Tuesday April 10th:  I ran 4.5 miles with some 6x 30 second strides at 6:16 pace mixed in. Then, I went to one of my favorite Thai places to finally meet up with Danielle in real life. We had been following each other on social media/our blogs for a while and talking nearly every day prior to dinner about all things running, health, and nutrition, so I was not scared at all to meet up! The two and half hours really flew by at dinner and I cannot wait for more adventures with another fellow future RD!

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-Wednesday April 11th: I helped lead an easy 3.1 mile evening fun run with Scott Jurek and then attended a question/answer session and book signing. It was amazing and honestly I’m still star struck that I met one of my favorite runners in real life! I cannot wait to read North, his newest book! It was worth the long line to get it signed and have him write personal note to my husband, who was coaching track and unable to attend the event.

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-Thursday April 12th: A while ago Katie messaged me saying she’d be in Chicago for a business trip and asked if I’d want to run this week. Katie is another runner that I connected with through Instagram. We decided to run together on Thursday. We ran 5 miles at an easy pace (7:53/ mile) along the Lakefront Path. The weather was amazing and actually spring-like, unlike Monday when it snowed. The miles flew by far two quickly and we bonded over being former division 1 runners and our love of training/racing even in our busy adult lives. I hope we can run again soon! I love how social media and this blog has connected me to so many amazing people.

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-Friday April 13th: REST DAY. Spent some time doing yoga and foam rolling because it was much needed.

-Saturday April 14th: 12 miles at 7:53 pace. This was supposed to be a hard workout within my long run, but the freezing, windy, rainy weather made that tough. I did the best I could, but only completed 4 of the 6 tempo miles. It’s tough when you are supposed to run 3 miles at 7:00-7:15 pace, 2 miles at 6:49 pace and 1 mile at 6:49 pace or faster and you know you can hit all those paces, but running into the crazy headwind you get a 7:09 as your fastest… My husband was helping me pace the workout (all my paces are easy for him because he is super speedy) and together we decided the time on my feet was much more important than hitting the paces. We decided to just finish the run as a regular long run rather than tempo more into the crazy wind. I was super frustrated on Saturday, but now reflecting back on the day I am proud I got my long run done! It would have been easy to turn around, head home, and throw in the towel.

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-Sunday April 15th: REST DAY.

WEEKLY TOTAL:  29.7 miles

Tonight’s question: Are you racing this month? If not, want to last minute join me at the Illinois half marathon? They also have a 5k, 10k, full marathon, and marathon relay! So there’s a race for everyone!🤗 Use the code “2018bibravebonus” code for $10.00 off your entry if you want to join me!😉

Your path is not linear

Your path is not linear and it is NOT meant to be!

I’m not sure about all of you, but I wholeheartedly believe everything happens for a reason. And sometimes that reason happens right away and other times it could be a very long time before it makes sense. No one knows what is best for you, BUT YOU! Not everyone will approve of your choices or your path, but you are not here to please them, you are here to be TRUE TO YOURSELF. 🙂

So, where am I going with this?! Well, I have a story to tell about my own path and it is certainly not linear!

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My senior year of college (nearly 4 years ago 😱) and most of college for that matter, I remember feeling really anxious about what I wanted to do as my career. I knew that whatever I was going to do I wanted to use science to help people. As a freshmen in college, I chose biology as my major and thought it would help me reach my a goal of becoming a neurologist. I had that goal since I was 12 when my grandmother died of brain cancer. I quickly learned that medical school was not for me. I would not have taken kindly to the high pressure situation of brain surgery or any surgery for that matter. My love of science persisted, though. I played around with other ideas including a physician assistant, physical therapist, and science teacher.

Then, junior year of college I moved off campus to a house with a kitchen and that changed everything for me. I was now responsible for ensuring that I had nutritious meals and snacks to fuel my workouts as a college runner. Some students become really  unmotivated to cook once they move off campus and live off take-out and ramen, but not me!  I have been passionate about eating healthy as long as I can remember. I used to annoy my dad in high school with my requests at the grocery store for things like natural peanut butter, wheat germ, Clif Bars, and giant canisters of oatmeal. I loved eating healthy food and found out I loved making it even more in college! I really enjoyed cooking new dishes in my off campus kitchen and making healthy snacks for after cross country practice as a welcome study break.

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(My junior year snack staples: no bake peanut butter energy bites and peanut butter granola)

Then, my senior year of college we moved to an apartment closer to campus and I decided to go vegetarian. I can share my full vegetarian story at a later date if there is interest. I welcomed the new cooking challenge and had a lot of fun making food and snacks. I made smoothies and homemade energy/protein bites almost every day. I even tried tofu for the first time my senior year. I loved it! It was also nice because one of my good friends/teammates, who is also vegetarian, lived next door to me. Some nights we cooked dinner together after practice. My favorite dishes we made together were black bean burgers and black bean tofu tacos (which should not surprise any of you :P)!

 

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(Homemade black bean burgers with my teammate)

I even got my now-husband hooked on black bean burgers then before he went vegetarian! 🙂 Despite my crazy busy schedule, I spent my spare moments cooking or reading about health, fitness, and nutrition. I was becoming really passionate about vegetarianism and nutrition! But I was also becoming really stressed out because it was my senior year and I was still not sure what I was going to do with my life.

My now-husband and I talked about both of us pursuing Master of Education degrees to become science teachers. I really liked that idea at the time. So, in late fall we went to take the subject area exam (biology for me and chemistry for him) to gain admission to a program. I really thought I had it all figured out! But over winter break I could not shake the thoughts of “are you sure you want to teach?” and “wouldn’t it be awesome to work with food/nutrition/health instead?” And on Christmas day my senior year I remember searching for ideas of how to make a job out of nutrition and wellness. I had an epiphany! I could become a registered dietitian!  And to share my love of black beans with all 😉

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(Black beans, corn, brown, rice, and salsa. A staple meal to this day. :P)

But then panic ensued…So many of the programs I looked into were past the deadline or within a few weeks of the deadline. If I wanted a Master’s degree in nutrition I needed the GRE and it takes weeks to report the GRE score to schools. So if I wanted to pursue nutrition that year, I had to pick a second bachelor’s degree program instead of a master’s program. Plus, some programs included the internships and some did not. It was an overwhelming amount of information.😱

I also learned I was two pre-requisites shy for all programs and scrambled to figure out ways to take the classes, which were not offered at my college. I somehow finished the application, got letters of recommendation, and figured out how to take the pre-reqs before the fall in time for the deadline. In April of my senior year, I found out I got into a program! We also found out my now-husband got into a Master of Education program. We graduated college and moved in July 2014. Fun fact: I actually made this blog in June right before we moved. Life was good! 🙂

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(Undergraduate graduation in spring 2014 with my now-husband)

I finished up my last pre-requisite class and then began the nutrition program in late summer. My now-husband started his classes too. Things were going well for the most part. But, then the doubt started creeping in…”why didn’t you stick with teaching?”, “it’s dumb to get a second bachelor’s degree”, “you should have taken a gap year after undergrad to figure out a better plan”, etc. I went from feeling sure and confident to doubting everything I was doing. I told my now husband how I was feeling and he said that maybe I should teach instead. He reminded me that I’m a decent public speaker, passionate about science, and he thought I’d be good at it. Plus, I already had all the pre-requisite classes taken care of because it’s what I was going to do originally. I agreed with him and applied. I got in the same program as him.

I finished out a semester of nutrition courses and then began my teaching journey in January 2015. I still kept this blog as a place to write about food and running, but stopping posting as frequently. By July 2015 I stopped posting here altogether. I tried to put my heart and soul into teaching, but I continued to read about nutrition in my spare time. I missed the nutrition program I switched out of, but kept it to myself. I even read The China Study during my commute to and from teaching observations. I did a good job in graduate school and student teaching. I won an award for most promising science educator. I liked teaching enough! I just knew all along I liked nutrition more. My now-husband and I graduated in June 2016 and we both tried to find teaching jobs.

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(Master’s graduation in June 2016)

My now husband got a teaching job right away! I did not land one, so I started subbing. Subbing was not a steady enough paycheck, so I was lucky when my old boss (from my job in graduate school) asked me back to work.  In that time frame, I also got engaged. Things were crazy with working full time at the firm and wedding planning, but I still could not shake that feeling of doubt. Doubt about why I went into teaching, especially because I struggled to get a job, and doubt about where I was headed. I knew that I still had a passion for nutrition.

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(Our wedding in July 2017)

A few months after my wedding, I secretly started researching how I could go back to school for registered dietitian programs, but I did not know if it was feasible. Around that time I also started this blog back up again. I was feeling stuck in so many ways in my life. 😦 I figured the ship for becoming a dietitian had sailed, but I also was not sure I wanted to teach or stick at the firm. Soon enough, I got a new science related job in late 2017. Then, an opportunity to temporarily teach for just under four months presented itself to me. After asking many different people for advice, I took the temporary  teaching job, even though I had just started a new job two months prior. I told myself I needed to give teaching a shot because it is what I studied. I secretly decided that if it’s not for me then I would find a way to make my passions a career. Because at the end of the day you are the best version of yourself if you work a job that you are passionate about. You do your best work this way too! 🙂

Overall, it was a tough temporary teaching job, but I think I did a decent job! Less than a month into the teaching job, I started working on applications to registered dietitian programs that include the internship component, but did not finish them. Around two months in, I talked to my mom and my husband about wanting to go back to my original path and they were both wildly supportive. I decided to finish the applications and play the waiting game. I wanted to go to a school that would not completely uproot my husband’s life if possible.

THE GOOD NEWS: I recently found out I got into a nutrition program! I’m so excited for my new journey and I cannot wait to become an RD! 🙂

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I learned so much about myself and my long term goals during this journey.  I am almost 26 years old, so I can say I took me a long time to figure it out. I did not do everything in a logical manner. If I could do everything over again I would have taken a gap year after undergrad to research nutrition programs more, complete pre-requisites, and apply to the most logical program. BUT I can’t go back in time, I can only move on. I would not trade these twists and turns in my journey for anything! My path was not linear and it taught me important lessons.

There is relief in the destination, but also so much beauty in the journey. And if you have reached your destination it is time to start a new journey 😉

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So please, join me on my new path to becoming a registered dietitian! There’s bound to be bumps in the road, but ultimately I am excited to become what I’m meant to be! I’m also excited to continue to share my my love of plant based food, running, fitness, recipes, and eventually my nutrition expertise here!

Have you changed careers before or want to? If so, what was your experience? If not, what is holding back?

Top 5 reasons to run the Cinco de Miler on 5/5/18

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to Cinco de Miler as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

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As is tradition this year, this will be my first time running Cinco de Miler and I’m super pumped! Even though I have lived in Chicago for nearly 4 years, I have not run many races because of injury and running burnout. I’m happy to be back to running healthy!💪🏻 Cinco de Miler is a 5 mile race that starts and finishes at Montrose Harbor at 8:30 am sharp on May 5, 2018. Event though it’s a week after my half marathon and my legs are going to be tired, I’m excited to run Cinco de Miler because it is such a fun race. YOU SHOULD RUN CINCO DE MILER TOO!!!😉 Need more convincing?! Check out the top 5 reasons why you should run Cinco de Miler below. And by the time you reach the bottom I can (almost) guarantee you will want to sign up! There will even be a discount waiting for you at the bottom. So, what are you waiting for?! 😜

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Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Run Cinco de Miler:

1. The race is a unique race distance. How many other 5 mile races do you know of in and around the Chicagoland area? Plus the course is USATF certified, so you know that the 5 mile course is in fact 5 miles and not 4.98. 😜 A unique race distance= a likely PR! And we all want to earn that elusive PR, am I right?! 😉

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2. To cater to the competitive, seasoned runner there is chip timing, elite coral assignments for those that qualify, and cash prizes for those in the elite corral. So, if you want to run with some of Chicago’s best and earn a PR and/or bragging rights, there is a spot for you at Cinco de Miler!

The cash prizes are as follows for the top 3 overall men and women in the Elite Corral:

1st Place = $400
2nd Place = $250
3rd Place = $100

Additionally, if you break the existing event record will receive an additional $100!

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3. Speaking of PRs…even if you don’t earn one, you can still get this super sweet finishing medal just for crossing the finish line! And the medal even doubles as bottle opener so you can easily open post-race beers!  😜🍻

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4. Not a competitive runner? No worries, there is plenty of fun at the post race fiesta! There will be a mechanical bull, human fooseball, mariachi bands, and live Lucha Libre matches, Not to mention there will be plenty of beer breakfast tacos, Horchata, and Mexican sweets!🍻🌮

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5. Last, but not least you will get this sweet technical tee for running, plus other awesome swag in your race goodie bag! You will get the goodie bag and tee at packet pick-up.

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So, what are you waiting for?! Sign up today! 🙂

Have you run Cinco de Miler before?! If so, what’s your favorite part of the race? If not, are you joining me at the race this year?! Sign up by using the code “BRCinco” for some extra swag on race weekend – a pair of super awesome sunglasses!