Welcome to Donna, your site for professional sports nutrition coaching. Donna is a registered dietitian and competitive athlete who "walks her talk". Her philosophy of nutrition coaching embraces a holistic approach, with emphasis on natural foods as the foundation for a healthy diet.

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Archive for the ‘Race Day Nutrition’ Category
Fluids, Electrolytes and Optimal Race Performance


Dehydration, electrolyte imbalance, muscle cramps and heat stroke are four good reasons why every athlete should understand the basics of fluid physiology.   Quite simply, what you don’t know can be deadly.  Let’s take a look some facts and myths about balancing fluids and minerals correctly and racing “responsibly” for the conditions.

Fluid Balance Basics

Q: I have heard that drinking as much water as possible the day before a race is a good way to make sure your body is fully hydrated for racing.  Is this true? Read More

Natural Foods to Feed Your Gut

          Kimchi, miso, tempeh, kefir, sauerkraut.  Sauerkraut? Let’s be honest, if you’re from the Midwest, there isn’t a big chance that the post-marathon race food will stray much from beer, brauts, and maybe more beer. 

Before we throw out our favorite traditional fat-laden, high sodium favorites, let’s take a closer look at why our grandparents managed to live into their 90’s.  Well, at least, mine did, and they didn’t worry too much about eating summer sausage or hotdogs.  But they did  have a root cellar stocked with home canning.  Fermented foods such as pickles, beets, green beans, sauerkraut and corn were an essential part of their every day menu. 

A lot of today’s athletes might not realize that home canning is chock full of healthy probiotic bacteria.   Fermented foods provide gut-friendly bacteria that the gastrointestinal (GI tract) needs to balance the not-so-healthy bacteria.

Next time you finish a race and the food tent offers brauts or hotdogs, demand that natural sauerkraut be served – not the commercially pasteurized or homogenized as these processes will destroy the health promoting microorganisms.

If you are not into home canning, try products available from local farmer cooperatives, such as Hawthorne Valley Farms, or just make some in your own kitchen.

Cycle faster to the finish with a scientific nutrition plan

Hey, we all have a VO2 max limit, and sometimes even the most dedicated training plan doesn’t seem to improve it.  If you’ve been stuck just behind your best buddy in the pack, then it’s time to think about making a change.

Most athletes, tend to follow a sort of vague “drink/eat when I feel the need” plan during a race.  Recent research  conducted with trained cyclists proved that a scientifically planned nutrition strategy can improve a 40 km time trial ride by as much as 8 minutes when compared with a loosely planned, self-chosen nutrition strategy. Researchers took eighteen endurance-trained cyclists (16 male; 2 female) 
and tested them at intervals of 2 weeks, once following a self-selected nutrition plan, and once following a science based nutrition plan.  The science-based plan consisted of about 1000 mL·h(-1) fluid, in portions of just over a cup, every 15 min.  The hydration drink contained 500 mg sodium/liter, 60 g glucose/hour, 30 g fructose/hour, and 5 mg caffeine/kg body weight.  The test protocol involved a 2.5-h endurance exercise on a bicycle ergometer at 70% maximal oxygen uptake, followed by a 5 minutes of rest. Then  a time trial of 64.37 km (40 miles) was completed. The amount of  sport drink taken in was recorded every 15 minutes. When using the scientifically designed nutrition plan, the athletes completed the time trial faster (128 vs. 136 min; p ≤ 0.001) and with a significantly higher power output (212 vs. 184 W; p ≤ 0.001). The intake of fluid, energy (carbohydrate-, mono-, and disaccharide), and sodium was significantly higher in the pre-determined plan compared with self-selected nutrition support during the endurance exercise.  Moral of the story?  If you want to win, fuel with science and get results.

Rocket to the FINISH LINE! 24-Hour High Glycemic Index Load

Barely time to text much less plan a 7-day carboload?  Your body does not tweet or text, but it is capable of loading up energy stores of glycogen in just 24 hours.  But, you have to do it by Mother Nature’s carbo-loading rules.  Here goes:

For a 24-hour glycogen load, start with a short, 15-20 minute, near maximum intensity workout,  designed to deplete glycogen stores.  This can be done 1-3 days prior to the race. High intensity is essential, otherwise go for the traditional longer workout to deplete stores, and follow with a traditional carbo-load regimen.  For the 24-hour, high GI approach simply use a “this for that” game plan- i.e., swapping whole grain, high fiber carbs for high GI carbs.  Avoid breakfast cereals based on oats, barley and bran. Sub cornflakes, rice chex, corn chex, puffed rice cereal. Use breads without whole grains, stone-ground flour, or sourdough.  White bread, rice crackers, or white bagels must be on the 24-hour load menu.  Consume potatoes without added butter or margarine, and no french fries. Enjoy canned fruit in heavy syrup  and cooked vegetables.  Avoid whole grains such as quinoa, wild rice, or pasta cooked al a dente.   Pasta cooked until very soft has a higher glycemic index. Drink high GI sport drinks such as Pure Sport Recovery or fruit drinks instead of 100% juice. Use high GI snacks between meals: Clif Bar Bloks, Jelly beans, hard candy, top toast with jelly or jam, snack on Clif bar Cookies ‘n Crème, or Powerbars.  REST after loading essential to maintain stores!  Just go to work and sit at your computer, or drive to your favorite race.  Naturally, you want to stay limber, so easy walking and stretching is A-OK.

5 No Fail Ways to BOOST POWER and SKI FASTER

DOWN WIND SPORTS – COUNTDOWN TO NOQUE! PRE-RACE CLINIC:  Join Jeff Stasser, Down Wind Sports expert wax clinician, and Donna Marlor Sports Nutrition for the first of 2 clinics to get your Noque training full speed ahead. Learn easy nutrition tips to: • Boost Energy • Build Stamina • Stay Healthy • Get Leaner!      

Try Jeff’s expert waxing tips at Monday nite DWS ski lessons before the race.     

Time: 6 pm, Thursday, Jan 5th, Cost: $10.00 Price includes nutrition tip sheets and raffle prizes.  FREE Clif Bar and PureSport hydration and recovery drink samples!

 Make this Noquemanon your best race ever!

Barefoot Running vs. Shoes – Which Burns More Calories?

 If you were to wear your favorite pair of running shoes and run for 6 minutes at 6 minutes per mile, and then repeat the same course the next day using “barefoot” shoes at the same pace, which would burn more calories?  When a group of 10 recreational runners, 5 males and 5 females were asked to run at a 70%VO2max pace, heart rate and rating of perceived exertion were higher wearing regular shoes.  While the difference between barefoot vs. shoes was only 2% on a treadmill, when tested on ground, to run the same pace VO2max was 5.7% higher with shoes.  What does this mean?  If you want to use less effort and win a race, go barefoot.  For the calorie burn, work harder and wear shoes.   Think about it: would you ride a mountain bike during a road race?

Longer Endurance on Less Sugar?

I admit it. I wear my heart rate monitor and check the calorie count for my workout as much as I follow heart rate.  Seeing the calorie burn keeps me motivated to keep cranking up hills and staying on pace.   Research has proven without question that carbohydrate feeds during endurance exercise improve time to exhaustion and decrease muscle breakdown.  But all that extra sugar can take away from overall calorie expenditure.  Over a 1 hour ride, 24 oz of a typical 6% carbohydrate sport drink will add 150 calories, and it is all sugar.  Recently researchers at the University of Texas tested a new formulation of sport drink in female athletes and found that a protein plus mixed-carb supplement could improve performance despite containing 50 percent less carbohydrate.  The protein plus carb blend was also 30 percent lower in calories, and important consideration for many athletes.   Better performance, less sugar, and more calorie burn.  That’s my kind of sport drink.

Nutrition and Bike Clinic on April 6th

 Donna Marlor Sports Nutrition will be at the Sports Rack in Marquette on April 6th at 6 pm – 7:30 pm.  Featured topics will be sport nutrition products and  ”Flat Fix” and easy road mechanics.  Great prizes and free Clif bar samples. Read More

24-H High GI Carbohydrate Loading


The basic technique for eating a one-day high GI load is simply a “this for that” approach – i.e., swapping whole grain, high fiber low GI carbs for high GI carbs.  Notice that many of these food choices will work for someone on a gluten free diet, which I have indicated with a GF symbol. [ Read More

Carbs are Critical on Race Day!

Elite racers always advice inexperienced competitors to have a well practiced race day routine.  Lay out clothes and equipment the night before, eat foods that are familiar, and know the course.  Race day nervousness can lead to disastrous consequences like lost car keys, or simply forgetting equipment.  Why? Because mental stress creates an energy pull on the most important muscle of your body: the brain.

The brain relies on a steady supply of glucose, derived from carbohydrates for fuel.  Research has shown that during acute mental stress the demand for energy by the brain increases by 12%. When male subjects in a laboratory setting were exposed to just a 10-minute-mental stress period, they required an additional 34 grams of carbohydrate to correct a glucose deficit in the brain.  Failure to take in additional carbohydrate resulted in prolonged symptoms related to low brain energy supply, such as mental confusion, depressed mood, and feeling tense and strained.

The brain’s priority on energy from glucose (carbohydrates) makes it essential for athletes to eat enough carbohydrate before and during a competitive event in order to have a focused, successful effort.