5 Reasons To Drink a2 Milk

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by a2 milk. All opinions are my own, and I only work with brands that I use and would recommend to others.

“I’m lactose intolerant.” That’s something I’ve been hearing more often from my athlete clients. As a constantly hungry long-distance runner, I’m always on the lookout for high protein foods that will curb hunger and repair muscles after a workout. My refueling beverage of choice is mother nature’s protein drink–milk. Each 8-ounce glass of milk contains 8 grams of convenient and healthy protein that’s perfect for post-workout recovery. I recommend milk to all of my athlete clients.

a2 milk is natural cow's milk that people with lactose intolerance can enjoy!

But when my clients state “I’m lactose intolerant”, I’m usually left making a list of less nutritious dairy alternatives. Well, that’s not the case anymore because of a2 milk!

Haven’t heard of a2 milk? You’re in luck. I’m breaking down what it is, 5 reasons you should drink it and where you can find it!

  1. People with lactose intolerance can drink a2 milk.

Cows have a mixture of a1 and a2 proteins that go into milk. Conventional milk contains both proteins, but a2 Milk comes from cows that ONLY produce the a2 protein. These cows are not genetically modified, but are naturally selected for their a2 genes. A simple DNA test shows which cows have the a2 protein and they are isolated to make a2 milk. Like some humans have brown eyes, while others have blue eyes, some cows have the a1 protein and some cows have a2.

Why is this important? Research has shown that the a2 protein does not cause the same inflammatory response that the a1 protein causes in those that  suffer from lactose intolerance. By drinking true a2 Milk from cows that naturally produce only the pure A2 protein, people with lactose intolerance can enjoy good old cow’s milk without any gastrointestinal discomfort.

2. Each glass has 8 grams of protein.

After a tough workout, many people think they need loads of protein from a shake when they just need a little extra protein from something like a glass of milk. Don’t like just plain milk? Chocolate milk has been proven to be a great recovery drink after an intense workout. After a long bout of endurance activity, like running or biking, it is necessary to repair muscle damage with protein and replace depleted carbohydrate stores. Chocolate milk has just the right combination of carbs (chocolate) and protein (milk) to ensure adequate recovery. It’s also a much cheaper and more natural alternative to expensive protein shakes. A2 milk has the same amount of protein as conventional milk and it’s a great, cheap and convenient sources of protein for athletes with lactose intolerance.

3. An 8-ounce glass of a2 milk has 9 essential vitamins and minerals.

One glass of a2 milk has the same amount of nutrients as all of these foods COMBINED:

  1. The protein of 1.5 medium eggs
  2. The riboflavin of ⅓ cup whole almonds
  3. The niacin of 20 cherry tomatoes
  4. The calcium of 10 cups of raw spinach
  5. The phosphorous of 1 cup of kidney beans
  6. The Vitamin B12 of 4 ounces of turkey
  7. The Vitamin D of ¾ ounce of salmon
  8. The vitamin A of ¾ cup of broccoli
  9. The potassium of 1 small banana

All of that in ONE small glass of a2 milk! You definitely can’t get that in dairy alternatives.

4. It helps build strong bones in kids and adults.

A2 milk has the same amount of calcium as traditional milk. Eating food sources of calcium is the best way to keep bones strong throughout your lifetime. If you’re not a big milk drinker, try adding milk to your oatmeal, smoothies and baked goods.

5. A2 milk is free of hormones and antibiotics and is made in the USA.

The a2 milk company works with sustainable family farmers to guarantee that their cows are not treated with growth hormones or rBST and that the milk is antibiotic free. The majority of a2 milk comes from pasture-raised cows that daily access to outdoor pastures, are never given added hormones, and are fed an all vegetarian, plant-based diet. A2 milk comes from dairy cows in the USA, and it’s widely available in the US. Find a2 milk in a store near you today!


9 Things You Must Do The Week Of Your Marathon

I almost can’t believe that I will be running the TCS NYC Marathon in 6 days. It seems surreal how far I’ve come in my training and how much I am able to talk about running/marathoning. Besides nutrition, it’s pretty much the only other topic on my mind. When I was in Boston at the annual Food & Nutrition Conference (FNCE), I was telling any RD that would listen about my marathon training. My friend and colleague, Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN, was super excited for me because she ran this awesome race in 2011. Tina is also a Dietitian blogger, and she has great recipes and running content on her blog—Gowin Nutrition.

When I got back to NYC, I asked Tina for her input on a post about marathon training and weight gain. She provided such great information, and then she went a step further and offered to write a guest post about final preparation tips for the week of the marathon. I obviously jumped at the chance to learn from someone who has been through it, and I’m super pumped to share these 9 tips with you. I can assure you that I will be following each of these tips!

Pin these tips for later!!

marathon prep check list

By Tina Gowin Carlucci, RD

Hey marathoners! If you’re running the TCS NYC Marathon on November 6th, happy race week! If you’ve followed your training plans (ahem!) then you should be tapering mileage to rest your legs and build up energy stores. Take this time to look back at how far your training has taken you. Did you ever think you’d use the word “only” to describe running anything under 16 miles? Ha! I didn’t either. It’s amazing what you can train your body (and mind) to do. Have trust in your training and get pumped because this weekend is going to be awesome!

I remember running New York in 2011 as if it were yesterday. With that experience, plus having cheered on multiple friends on the big day, I’ve compiled a list of race week strategies and tips for a seamless marathon day. I’ll be cheering you on from afar (from Italy, to be exact!) and living vicariously through your Instagram pics 😉 You’re gonna rock this!

  1. Rest your legs. Thinking of taking a walking tour of the city? Going out and dancing on Friday night? Popping into a kickboxing class? These are all BAD ideas. As tempting as it may be to explore the city or go out with your friends, hold off. There’s no need to lay on the couch all day or have your roommate wait on you hand and foot, but try to stay off your feet and save unnecessary tasks for another day. Your training plan will still have some runs in store for you – the mileage may feel light, but that’s on purpose!
  2. Carb load. This does not mean downing fettuccini alfredo minutes before the race– a la Michael Scott. However, it does mean adding a little extra fruit to your oatmeal, having a whole grain roll with your salad, and scooping extra brown rice onto your dinner plate. Try also incorporating extra snacks, like an apple with peanut butter, cheese and crackers or yogurt and fruit. Basically, add a little more whole grain cereal, fruit, beans, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, potato, and other carbohydrates to your meals for the WHOLE week. Don’t wait until the day before the race to fuel up. Cutting back on mileage (tapering) while increasing your carbohydrate intake helps to build up glycogen stores in your muscles and liver, so you can tap into those reserves come race day.
  3. Organize your cheerleaders. When I’m not racing, I’m cheering! And I’m sure your friends and family want to cheer you on, too. Let them know your approximate pace and make sure they download the tracking app. Have them tell you where they plan to be and which corner/side of the street. Knowing their location will give you something to look forward to, especially for the last half of the race.
  4. Put your name on your shirt. This week, you should figure out exactly what you’re going to wear for race day. Lay out your clothes with your bib already attached. Use electrical tape, puffy paint, or permanent marker to write your name on your shirt – nice and big! The energy on race day is incredible and spectators love to call out your name. Trust me, it offers a huge mental boost and there will be a point when it’ll make all the difference to hear “yeahhhhhh Natalie, you can do it!”
  5. Pack your pre-race (disposable) bag. Waiting at the start can get a bit chilly, so layer up with clothes you’ve been meaning to donate. There are donation bins near the starting line so be sure to strip them off and toss them in. Seriously, don’t be one of the fools who tosses a sweatshirt on the race course for others to trip on – not cool. You’ll also want to pack water, juice, or a sports drink to sip on and your breakfast or snack if you’re planning on eating on the go. Just make sure it’s what you’ve been eating before your long runs and pay attention to the timing. Remember, nothing new on race day! And, take some toilet paper with you – there are 50,000 people running this race and the port-a-potties are bound to run out of toilet paper at some point.
  6. Pack your post-race bag. Whether you’re checking a bag or meeting up with a pal who will have it for you, think about how you feel after long runs and what helps you feel comfortable. No matter what, you’re going to be sore, but simple things like a change of clothes and comfy shoes can make a big difference. I want nothing more than to take my running shoes off post-race. Plus, pack a few of your favorite post-race snacks so you’re not scrambling to find it at a corner store.
  7. Go to bed at a decent hour. Chances are your mind will be racing the night before the marathon, and it’ll be difficult to get a great night’s sleep. Have a “wind down” game plan for the evening. Turn off the TV. Put away the laptop. Charge your phone. Set your alarm (and don’t forget about daylight savings!). Take a hot shower. Read a book. Turn off the lights. Rest your eyes. Do what you need to do to relax and get some rest.
  8. HAVE FUN! Whether it’s your first or your 17th marathon, the NYC Marathon is an experience you’ll never forget. Take it all in and remember how hard you worked to get there. Put a smile on your face and trust your training. You’ve got this!
  9. Recover smart. Obviously, the dietitian in me had to throw this in. After you’ve run 26.2 miles, you’ve done a number on your muscles and they need the right nutrients to heal and repair. Aim to eat within 30-45 minutes of crossing the finish line. Even if it’s something small to start with, like a chocolate milk, Greek yogurt, or banana with peanut butter. Whatever you do, make sure there is some protein (think dairy, chicken, fish, nuts, beans, tofu) and some carbohydrate (like fruit, yogurt, milk, cereal, bread, pretzels). And I’m not going to be a total downer and tell you not to treat yourself. Go ahead! Cheers your accomplishment with a beer or an ice cream cone, have fries with your burger, and enjoy every bite of that mac and cheese. But, make sure you’re not overdoing the junk. You’ve pushed your body…not just on race day, but for weeks and weeks of training. Eating well is important no matter what, but post-race, you’ll want all the antioxidants you can get to keep your immune system strong, a good dose of protein to help muscles heal, and carbs for energy. So, focus on getting plenty of veggies and fruit, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats. Your body will thank you!

I hope this helps you get ready for the exciting week ahead. The energy is almost palpable…can you feel it?!

Thanks so much to Tina for sharing these wonderful tips. If you haven’t checked out her blog before, I encourage you to visit her page—Gowin Nutrition—right now for more great tips and articles like this!


Can Marathon Training Cause You To Gain Weight?

With the TCS NYC Marathon less than a month away (November 6th), I’m in the final weeks of training for my first marathon! That exclamation point doesn’t do justice for my intense feeling of accomplishment. Even though I feel like I’m able to conquer the world, there are some aspect of marathon training that just suck. I’m physically exhausted, my legs are tired and sore, I’m hungry ALL the time and my pants are a bit tighter. Yup, that’s right. Running 30-40 miles each week has caused me to GAIN a few pounds. It almost seems like an oxymoron. Exercising more = weight gain?!? It’s been true for me, and I’ll tell you why.

info on marathon training and weight gain

I love food, but food has not been my friend during my training. My favorite type of meal is full of big, bold spicy flavors with aromatic veggies, like onions and garlic, and fiber filled ingredients, like brussels sprouts, cauliflower and beans. Unfortunately, I can’t eat any of those things right now because they bother my stomach while I’m running. Instead, my diet consists of bread, grains, dairy and the occasional fruit and vegetable. My boring daily diet is cereal for breakfast, an apple and cheese sandwich for lunch, crackers, grapes, cheese sticks for snack and some veggies and rice for dinner. That may sound like a somewhat healthy diet, but my downfall is the days that I run more than the normal 5-6 miles. On those days, I end up feeling ravenous and I eat anything in sight.

I think I’ve figured out what causes me to make these unhealthy choices, but before I get to that, I asked some Dietitian friends who have run marathons if they experienced weight gain too. Here is what they had to say.

Did you gain weight during marathon training?

“I gained a few pounds during my marathon and half-marathon training. I was never hungry immediately after a long run, so I didn’t have a big recovery meal. But hours later (since I ran in the morning) I would be absolutely famished and would overeat.”–Alissa Rumsey MS, RD, CSCS, Owner of Alissa Rumsey Nutrition and Wellness Consulting

“Yep! I certainly tend to weigh more during marathon training – not much more, but usually 2-3 pounds more than usual. Marathon training tends to ramp up my appetite and if I end up ravenous (usually 3 hours after a long run) I may scarf down more than I should. Plus, I’m not 100% sure (because I never had my body fat percentage checked), but I believe I put on a little bit of muscle mass when marathon training – my legs look more toned and my pants actually fit better when I’m training for a marathon. Not to mention, for my last two marathons and ultra-marathon, I was weight training with a personal trainer twice a week in addition to putting in the miles, so muscle gain is certainly a possibility.”–Tina Gowin Carlucci, RDN of Gowin Nutrition

“When I trained for my first half marathon, I noticed that I was always justifying food like “I earned it” or “can’t wait to indulge” after a long run. Especially because it was SO out of the norm for me as a non-runner who had a hard time even cranking out a full 1-2 miles without walking. When I started running 7+ in one day I thought I was really killing it.”–Katie Proctor, MBA, RDN of Elevate with Katie.

“I totally gained weight while training for my first marathon. It was a combination of being hungry all the time, and that sense of entitlement you get when you run 3 hours and then see some donuts.”–Abby Langer, RD of Abby Langer Nutrition

“I’ve run two marathons; I gained weight during one (mostly muscle mass from weight training) and maintained my weight for the other one. For both marathons my calorie intake increased progressively as the runs got longer.” –Jessica Levings, MS, RDN, Owner, Balanced Pantry.

“I neither gained nor lost weight when training for my marathons (I’ve run six), even though each time I was hoping to lose about 5-10 lbs in the process. I did notice that during training my legs seemed a bit stronger and my jeans fit a little nicer, but the number on the scale didn’t budge at all, even as the mileage was stacking up.” –Elana Natker, MS, RD of Enlighten Nutrition

As you can see, gaining a few pounds during marathon training is actually pretty normal for most people. It’s even difficult for Dietitians to regulate how much they eat when they are feeling ravenous. With all of that being said, here are 5 tips to avoid the dreaded marathon training weight gain.

  1. Eat for recovery:

What you eat after a run is just as important as what you eat before. Without proper recovery, it’s very likely that you will feel super hungry later in the day or even the next day. “To overcome this, I would have a smoothie immediately after a long run. That way I could get in calories, carbs, and protein, but without feeling that I had to eat a huge recovery meal. This helped to keep my hunger hormones in check later in the day,” says Rumsey. My favorite post-run recovery meal is a chocolate and banana smoothie, made with milk, yogurt, banana and cocoa powder and two blueberry pancakes. Then, I tend to eat another meal about 3 hours later.

2. Stay hydrated & fuel during the run.

It’s so important to stay hydrated while running, if not just for performance, but also for fueling and weight maintenance. “Dehydration can mask as hunger when really all you need is some water,” says Rumsey. “If I didn’t drink enough during or after my run, I ended up being really hungry later in the day,” she adds.

During a long run, it’s necessary to replace lost carbohydrate stores. Our body stores up carbs for fuel, but that store only lasts about one hour. After that, you need to replace lost carbohydrates by drinking sports drinks or using sports products, like gus or gels. “I think the reason for the weight maintenance was that I would take in several hundred calories during running (3-4, 100-calorie GU pouches),” says Natker. Because of this, she probably didn’t end up as hungry at the end of her runs or stop at mile 15 to order Seamless!

3. Eat balanced meals (not just carbs)

While carbs are extremely important for fueling, it’s necessary to also eat protein and fat to keep you feeling full. My diet is probably missing out on protein, which causes me to feel  really hungry during my runs and stop at mile 15 and order this for dinner:

veggie burger and fries

Or think this is an appropriate recovery beverage:

pumpkin beer

While I do believe it’s necessary to indulge after a long run, it’s important to think about where those calories come from. “Although I don’t usually advocate calorie counting for the first time marathoner, I think it helps keep them stay accountable. I have my athletes aim for 40-45% carbs, 30% protein and 25% fat (of course that may vary and an individual basis).  Overall this just helps them get more protein in without going to low on carbs and fat,” says Kelli Shalal, MPH, RD of Hungry Hobby.

“I aim to keep my meals balanced and increase portion sizes by just a couple of spoonfuls at each meal. And when I want a treat, I eat one (not two or three or four). I enjoy every bite by eating it slowly and thoughtfully,” says Carlucci.

4. Consider the amount of calories you burn

It’s pretty awesome to see that you burn 1,800 calories after an 18 mile run, but that’s just one day. Yes, feel free to eat the fries on that day because you deserve them, but don’t eat them again the next day. And, “don’t forget to consider overall activity during the day. Yes, you’re putting in more mileage when training for a marathon, but are you also taking a 3 hour nap and binge-watching Big Bang Theory the rest of the day?” says Carlucci. Great point!

5. Choose nutrient dense foods

I find this tip to be the most difficult. After an 18 mile run, I don’t want to eat yogurt or bananas. I want french fries and pizza, and I feel entitled to eat that after a REALLY long run. The problem and what causes weight gain is eating those foods the next day because you still feel like you are “recovering”. Trust me, your body doesn’t need an extra 1,000 calories on a rest day.

“For my clients, I always stress that the extra calories consumed during marathon training should come from healthful sources such as whole grains, fruit/vegetables, and dairy (even full-fat). Extra calories shouldn’t mean empty calories!” says Jessica Levings, MS, RDN of Balanced Pantry.

The bottom line: Weight gain isn’t synonymous with marathon training. There are definitely ways to avoid it, but also keep in mind that gaining an extra 2-3 pounds is somewhat normal. Don’t feel discouraged if your jeans are a little tighter because you are accomplishing a humongous feat!




5 Things I’ve Learned During My First Month Of Marathon Training

One month ago I wrote a post about how-to begin marathon training. To be completely honest, I was terrified to start this intense running journey. The most I’ve ever run is 13 miles, and my brain kept doubting my ability to push past that. “What if I can’t do this?” I thought to myself. Luckily, I’ve learned a few  things during my firth month of training that have shifted my perspective.

lessons of marathon training

  1. The treadmill isn’t THAT terrible. Running in the heat of August is miserable, especially in the concrete jungle of NYC.  The treadmill in the air conditioned gym (with the built in fan and television) has actually been a nice relief from running in the 90+ degree weather. Plus, I like that I can set a pace and force my body to stick to it, especially when I want to push myself to run faster on my short runs. Although I don’t love running in place, I’ve realized that the treadmill has many benefits.
  2. Mileage is key. One of the toughest things for me to wrap my head around is having to do a long run every week that will only get longer the next week. But I’ve found that repeatedly running a long distance each week really does train your body and mind to be able to tolerate more mileage. After doing this for several weeks, 3 miles seems like nothing and 6 miles seems “normal”. It’s still tough to bang out double digit miles on one day, but I always feel a sense of accomplishment after I get it done. I also feel a little better about having to take on 26.2 miles in November.
  3. I love bread. I used to eat salads for lunch every day, but those salads have recently been replaced by sandwiches. The amount of fiber in the vegetables and beans and the vinegar in the salad dressing did not sit well in my stomach while running. As I’ve said many times, you need to teach your stomach to tolerate certain foods during a run and my stomach tolerates bread very well.  (For more on that, read this blog post). Sandwiches have become my go-to lunch, including this Grilled Strawberry & Goat Cheese Sandwich. 
  4. It’s best to splurge on good gear. I’m definitely a discount shopper. I don’t like to spend a ton of money on clothes, and I’m not the type to buy $200 running sneakers that will need to be replaced in 6 months. But I also want prevent injury as I increase my mileage, so I recently went to JackRabbit (a running store) and bought sneakers. They put me on a treadmill and used an iPad to record how my foot hit the treadmill.  It turns out that I over pronate and I need a stabilizing shoe with an insole. I bought the New Balance 860v6 and they feel great on my feet. I also splurged on $15 wicking socks (the most I’ve ever spent on socks) that won’t rub and give me blisters. These fancy running socks lived up to their price on a recent 10 mile run–no blisters and barely any moisture. Spending the money on good footwear has definitely been worth it!
  5. Mind over matter is real. The first time I had to run more than 5 miles on a treadmill, I thought it was impossible and I would just get bored and give up.  But two weeks ago, I planned to run 12 miles and the humidity would just not let up. I told myself that the treadmill was a much better option than the humidity and I prepared myself for a night at the gym. I plugged the headphones into the TV and watched two episodes of Shark Tank while I banged out 12 miles on the treadmill! Afterwards, I realized that being able to do something that once seemed impossible was just mental. I told myself I could get it done and then I did. Of course running is definitely physical, but I find I can overcome the biggest obstacles with a shift in my thinking.

I’ve also had a few smaller takeaways, such as:

  • Wear a hat and sunscreen when running in the summer
  • Take a Vitamin C supplement to keep colds at bay.
  • The human body is capable of sweating more than you know.  I often drink 2 or more bottles of water/sports drink on a long run and still don’t feel 100% hydrated. Try calculating your sweat rate to beat dehydration.
  • Marathon training is a second job. I plan running and eating into my daily schedule.
  • I’m stronger than I think.

Why You Get Side Stitches & How To Prevent Them

As many of you know, I’ve been running a ton lately because I’m training for the NYC Marathon. Many days, I’m trying to beat the heat or I want to get my run out of the way, so I hit the pavement or the gym in the morning. Since I started running in the morning, something annoying has been happening…I get a side stitch every time I run! It’s driving me insane! Just when I started feeling helpless, I remembered something…I’m a Dietitian with an education in Sports Nutrition and Exercise Physiology. I can hit the books to research the cause and cure of my side stitch.  And that’s exactly what I did.


What is a side stitch? As it turns out, a side stitch has a scientific name: exercise-related transient abdominal pain (ETAP). It’s often described as a cramping, aching, or pulling feeling at first, and then it progresses to a sharp or stabbing severe pain in the lower abdomen.

Who gets side stitches? Interestingly, side stitches occur most often among two types of athletes: runners and horse back riders.  The reason for this is that activities that involve repetitive torso movement cause side stitches more often than activities that don’t include torso movement (like cycling). Certain demographics also affect your chances of experiencing the dreaded stitch.

Age. Side stitches are much more likely to affect the young athlete. One study reported that 77% of active individuals under the age of 20 experienced ETAP, compared with only 40% of individuals over the age of 40. Not only does the prevalence of side stitches decrease with age, but the severity of the stitch decreases as well.

Gender. One study reported that females experience side stitches four times more often than males.

Fitness Level. Well conditioned individuals are less likely to report experiencing ETAP, as compared to people that are physically unfit.

What causes a side stitch? Unfortunately, the reason for abdominal pain is not entirely clear, but these are a few of the common theories.

Bad Posture. Studies have shown that people with poor posture are more susceptible to side stitches, and the worse the posture, the worse the stitch.

Eating  or drinking right before exercise. Consuming food or drink closely before exercise has consistently been reported to evoke ETAP.  The good news is that you can teach your body to tolerate fluid consumption with practice.

Irritation of the lining of the abdomen (aka the parietal peritoneum). This is the most widely accepted reason for the side stitch. Some scientists believe that the irritation occurs from friction between the lining of the abdomen and the abdominal wall. This friction happens when the stomach swells during exercise, due to an increase in the quantity or thickness of the lubricating fluids in the stomach.

Common myths about side stitches. Have you started to wonder why I keep calling it a “side stitch” rather than a cramp? Well, research has shown that the painful feeling in your side is actually not a muscular cramp. This is news to me!

How to prevent side stitches. Because scientists have not been able to figure out the primary cause of side stitches, it’s difficult to determine a way to prevent the stitch from occurring. However, some strategies seem to work for many people.

Avoid large volumes of food and drink before exercise. To prevent ETAP, large volumes of food and drink should be avoided at least 2 hours before exercise. During exercise, small but regular volumes of fluid may be better tolerated than large gulps of water or sports drink.

Improve posture. One study reported that improving posture reduced symptoms of ETAP in children. Two other studies have reported improvement in symptoms of ETAP through a treatment regimen that aimed to improve spinal alignment and function. A great way to improve posture is to strengthen your back and core muscles. Yoga and pilates are excellent types of exercises to target those muscles.

Unproven strategies. The most common techniques for getting rid of a side stitch are deep breathing, pushing on the affected area, stretching the affected site and bending over forward.  Research has not confirmed that these strategies work, and some believe that bending over and stretching the affected site would work against the problem and cause the stitch to continue.

My takeaway: I think my main problem has been, ironically (since I’m a Sports Dietitian), the timing of my meals. Sometimes I wake up at 7am, have coffee and toast and am running by 8:15am. I thought I could handle a small meal of simple carbs before a run, but it seems that my meal timing may be the cause of my stitch! I also always thought the stitch had to do with breathing, but there has been no research to confirm this thought. Lastly, I often skimp on my strength training exercises, but I will have to make sure I’m working my back and core at least twice per week.