Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 69 - Allison Koch - PASSION TO SERVE

My husband, I’m very thankful for his kind of support and guidance, because I don’t think I would be still trying to make this work a year later. But there’s definitely days where I was like, what’s the point, especially in the beginning of trying to market my services in the midst of a pandemic, when people are not signing up for races?

“My husband, I’m very thankful for his kind of support and guidance, because I don’t think I would be still trying to make this work a year later. But there’s definitely days where I was like, what’s the point, especially in the beginning of trying to market my services in the midst of a pandemic, when people are not signing up for races?

Like, how does this work? But then really realizing, I think more in the springtime like, let’s pivot this. Like people are still training, people are still running, runnings not canceled, and nutrition goes hand in hand with that.

So, I think pivoting that a little bit and really focusing more on how can you be the best right now. I definitely went through I think a lot of things that entrepreneurs go through, imposter syndrome, like what am I even doing? And then lack of motivation, some weeks, but just really knowing like, I did this for a reason and my passion is helping others and I really need to like make it come to fruition.

And this isn’t forever and running will or races will return and when races do return people I feel like hopefully will be knocking down my door.”

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JESSE: Welcome to the Smart Athlete Podcast. I’m your host, Jesse Funk. My guest today is a Board Certified Sports Dietitian. She’s also running a coach. There are other things going on with her which we’ll get into. She has many, many credentials. So many that we just decided to make our intro very, very short. Welcome to the show, Alison Koch.

ALLISON: Thanks so much, Jesse. Thanks for having me.

JESSE: Yeah. Thanks for joining me and having the nice background. I always have the like messed up background behind me with all the bookshelves and stuff. I was messing with Skype earlier. It has the features like Zoom now where you can get the green screen and put something else behind me. I’m like, should I get rid of the bookshelves? I don’t know.

ALLISON: It’s more natural.

JESSE: Yeah. It’s a little more natural. But I always like it when people– you have like, just a nice– it’s this picturesque. You got a picture above you. Is that anything…?

ALLISON: Yeah. This is actually my living room because we get the best internet here. In my office, it’s similar to you with the bookshelves in the back. But I often get interrupted halfway with the internet connection. So, I figured to move downstairs. But yeah, that’s a picture of the Finger Lakes, which is where I kind of grew up and where my husband I got married.

JESSE: Okay. That’s pretty cool. Did you have that made?

ALLISON: No. Is it a wedding gift?

JESSE: Okay. Okay. It’s so like, this is– We’re off-topic already. But that’s how things go for me. I like artwork and I like artwork that’s like, meaningful and purposeful for people. It’s so easy to just like, go to IKEA or Target or wherever and be like, oh, that’s a pretty painting. Like just put that on the wall. But it’s always nice when there’s like stories and purpose behind stuff that’s on the wall.

ALLISON: Yeah. Nice.

JESSE: So, I think I saw on your Twitter, you’re working more from home now?


JESSE: So, how’s that going for you?

ALLISON: Yeah. So, yeah, it’s kind of a funny, not funny story. But last year, around November, I left a pretty comfortable full-time gig. And I had this side hustle, it’s a private practice working with endurance athletes; primarily runners, marathoners, half marathoners for their nutrition.

And I was doing that on the side and just really loved it. But it wasn’t– I didn’t have enough time to dedicate to it and the full-time job. So, I decided to leave the full-time job and go all-in on this private practice in November of 2019. And obviously, we all know what happened in 2020.

And most of my clients, I was meeting with them virtually before as well because I meet with people from all over the country. Most people are here in Chicago.

I’m an Illinois, Chicago-based dietitian. And just because I’m so involved in the running community here in Chicago, that’s where most of my clients come from. And I have always offered them the option like if we can meet in-person, I don’t have an office per se.

So, that was kind of fun in my business really started to grow January, February, and then we all know what happened. Races were all canceled and so I had a few clients that just kind of kept with me and stayed with me for the accountability piece. But yeah, so I’ve been working from home. I also had a part-time job at a local gym. And so, unfortunately, all the gyms closed and that’s when I– that was in-person.

So, now from that, I’ve been kind of just waiting to see if they decide to ask me to come back, but really focusing more on the private practicing with runners since that’s my specialty anyway.

JESSE: So, I’m kind of wondering, I mean, it’s easy to sum up now. And obviously, we’re still kind of in the thick of it. As far as I would sum up, I guess, but it’s a big deal in the first place to go all in on your own thing. You know, there’s a big jump that a lot of people don’t make.

And I can certainly sympathize with you, I did that myself. And it’s definitely scary to be like, I know, for sure I’m making this money doing this thing, but I’m gonna try. And then with the confluence of COVID making things even more complicated; how do you deal with that situation mentally, I guess? Is it smooth sailing? Or was it like nail-biting there for a while?

ALLISON: Yeah, it was not smooth sailing. I’ll say that, for sure. I know– My husband, I’m very thankful for his kind of support and guidance, because I don’t think I would be still trying to make this work a year later. But there’s definitely days where I was like, what’s the point, especially in the beginning of trying to market my services in the midst of a pandemic, when people are not signing up for races?

Like, how does this work? But then really realizing, I think more in the springtime like, let’s pivot this. Like people are still training, people are still running, runnings not canceled, and nutrition goes hand in hand with that.

So, I think pivoting that a little bit and really focusing more on how can you be the best right now. I definitely went through I think a lot of things that entrepreneurs go through, imposter syndrome, like what am I even doing? And then lack of motivation, some weeks, but just really knowing like, I did this for a reason and my passion is helping others and I really need to like make it come to fruition.

And this isn’t forever and running will or races will return and when races do return people I feel like hopefully will be knocking down my door.

JESSE: Yeah. Well, there’s going to be a number of people, myself included, we’ve definitely had to start watching ourselves more, gained weight via COVID, staying at home, unusual routines, eating for comfort, all those kinds of things. So, there may be more of a wake-up call come next race season. Like I really need some help. So, hopefully, that’s beneficial for you.

What do you think about– As you’re describing, what’s going on, my initial thought is in some ways, I liken much of life to running, in that running is almost like a microcosm of these things that we go through, right? We’re like, you start and your like, let’s just say, a half marathon as a random example, I’m going to do this half marathon. Signed up, you’re excited, you’re ready to go, like you’re all in on this thing.

And then you start training, and then like, shit hits the fan, and things are not going the way you wanted them to go. But you persist. And there’s days you’re like, why am I making myself suffer? This doesn’t make any sense. And then hopefully, if you continue muddling through, you reach the start and finish line, and then all of it kind of comes to fruition. It’s a little easier and more compact in they’re running sense. But do you draw parallels like that from running to kind of what happens in your life?

ALLISON: Yeah, I mean, all the time. I think the marathon for me, it’s my favorite race to personally do but also like to equate to what goes through life. I mean, you’re constantly going through ups and downs in a marathon. But knowing that you’ve got that end goal in mind and it’s going to take you a while to get there. And some days you’re going to be training for it and thinking what the heck am I doing?

Why am I doing this? Especially if it’s those 20 milers or those workouts you just don’t want to get up for. But I think that ultimately like routine, like having a routine in your weekly training, schedule, planning, things like that, it just all equates back to life as well. I mean, I make a lot of parallels with the nutrition too, right? We do a lot of variety workouts, you should eat a variety of foods.

Like it’s kind of the same, but yeah. And I remember when I was– I had hired a business coach last November to try and really push me to get the business up and running. And even she was saying things like, trust the process, which my running coach always tells me. And I’m like, this is like the same thing.

JESSE: Yeah, it really does seem like a microcosm. And I felt like– I came to running from a very young age. And I always felt like just that experience of doing that it’s like, I encounter something new. I’m like, oh, it’s just like that or it’s just like that time or [??? 10:43] time coach said this. When did you start running?

ALLISON: Not early. I was an athlete all through high school and college. I actually played field hockey. Went to– [crosstalk]

JESSE: But you were running playing field hockey so it’s fair to say you…

ALLISON: No, I was the goalie, so not running too much. Yeah. I literally like just hated running. I have a fun story. Not fun at the time. But when I was in elementary school, you have the physical fitness test and we all go out and do the long run or whatever it was.

And I’m almost positive I came in last in class. And that always stuck with me and got more into running in high school, mostly just to stay fit for field hockey season. My dad was a marathoner so that was also something in the back of my head, like at some point, maybe I want to do that. But I really hated running in high school. But I got better at it.

And I ended up realizing I really enjoyed like longer runs like by myself just to think through things. And by the physical fitness test, my senior year, I remember I was like one of the top women to do the 12 minute run in that, and it was the same gym teacher, which was even better, because it was like, look at me now. But I didn’t really run after that, just mostly to stay in shape.

I didn’t get into racing. I did my first marathon in 2008 because our graduate school was– I went to graduate school at Tufts, which had a marathon team. And so you could do the Boston Marathon for charity. And I’m like, bucket list marathon. Also one of the best ones in the whole world, like might as well do it. I had an inkling I might really enjoy it, but I didn’t know for sure.

And then I crossed the finish line and I was like, when can I do this again. So, I really enjoyed it, but wasn’t real serious about running until I moved to Chicago and kind of– to meet people, signed up for some local running groups, and went to those. And then you know, never really did group speed workouts until my 30s. And that’s when I saw huge improvements in time.

So, I almost dropped, I think my dream goal is to drop a full hour off my first marathon time. But I definitely had like a 35-minute improvement in time in just one cycle because of the group. So, there’s just so much power to like the team and the group that you work with. [crosstalk]

JESSE: Yeah. You really can’t replace having that team around you. And it’s nice. And it doesn’t matter how many people I talk to you, everybody seems to have kind of a similar experience. It’s like if you’re having a bad day, like somebody else is having a good day, and vice versa, and like you help kind of pull each other out of those situations. Where it’s like if you’re left to your own devices, that it’s easier to be like woe is me and let those negative thoughts creep in versus letting somebody else help pull you up.

ALLISON: Yeah, for sure. Yeah, or quit, or just be like I’m done. I miss that now, obviously, we’re not doing quite as many group runs. But I do like the challenge. And I think it’s just become something in the last 10 years I’ve just become really passionate about. And knowing that it came from also my family, my dad did it and he ran all through his adult years. And that kind of just was kind of knew it was in my blood to do more marathons.

JESSE: So, is everybody like picking your brain when they’re on long runs like Allison, why should we eat this week? Like, oh, I hate this, is it bad or is that off-limits?

ALLISON: So, yeah, sometimes. It depends. I think it depends on how long the run is, how many people I’m running with that know actually what I do for a living. Most of the people do because I run with the same team that coaches me, Dan Walters, and his team’s DW Running. And so I run with my teammates, and they all know because I’m the team dietitian. And I’ve done events and things for them. So, they know they can ask me questions. But I think our long run time is more sacred.

I mean, we talk about everything from what’s going on that week to, what were some other funny things we’ve talked– what are you going to go eat afterwards? I know that’s very popular. And I’m not always going to be like, go eat something healthy. Yeah. So, and that’s fun. It’s fun getting to know everybody’s different quirks.

JESSE: So, last year, I had a question I asked everybody at the end of every episode and I had one for last year, I have one for this year. This year, it’s different. I’ll save it for the end. But because you’re a dietitian, the question I was asking everybody last year is if you get to choose one recovery food for the rest of your life, what do you choose? [??? 15:39] still a pertinent question to ask you.

ALLISON: Yeah. One recovery food, what would you choose? I always really enjoy, like an iced latte or coffee, which isn’t a food. That’s a drink. Because usually, I haven’t had enough before the long run as I normally would. And then what do I really like after a long run? It always depends on my mood that day.

If I could eat anything, it would probably be my mom’s carrot cake, which isn’t exactly the most healthy choice post-run. But there’s some protein and some carbohydrates in there, and even some vegetables, right? You got some carrots. So, if I could always have that around, I’m sure that would be my go-to.

JESSE: The thing that I love about that question and you really kind of hit it is that when– So, it was a question I had when I started the podcast, and I went through 30 some odd guests with that question. And my intention is partly, well, I want to learn more about what other people are eating. And it’s a little bit of a selfish question, you know, and like, what am I missing out on?

Because I always feel like I can always do better with my nutrition game. And as it turns out like, I don’t know the exact number, but like 90% of the people I asked, have like a comfort food rather than this precise thing. It’s like no, it’s like what makes you feel good. That’s the thing I’m going for.

ALLISON: Yeah, I mean, realistically, what I recommend, and what I usually do is more like an RX bar or some kind of protein granola bar and the ice coffee I do, do for sure.

JESSE: Yeah. It’s just interesting to me if I frame it down to you only get one, it comes down to something that’s more comfort-based instead of like recovery-based.

ALLISON: For sure, for sure.

JESSE: So, I do want to ask you a little bit, obviously about kind of what you do work-wise. So, what among the athletes that you’re working with now; are there, like, a really common issues everybody struggles with? Is everybody really individualized? You know, any patterns that emerged that are common to runners versus saying like, general nutrition or general population?

ALLISON: Yeah. See, I think common things are just not timing our meals correctly around workouts or not allowing enough time, especially with the folks I work with that are morning runners who just roll out of bed, get out there and run, come back, and then maybe don’t make the time to have a decent breakfast, then they skimp all day. And then they wonder why they’re so hungry in the evening. And it’s just because they’ve been skipping out all day long. And that’s important to be fueling ourselves all throughout the day to really recover better.

A lot of questions lately on what are some good snacks. So, that comes up a lot. And how often should I be snacking, and I see that a lot with women. Sometimes it’s a little bit more about like, what’s going on? How should I eat during this time of the month? But it really just varies. I think the most common is just figuring out the fuelling around a workout.

What should I be doing before, during, and after a long run versus a heart interval workout versus an easy run? How much protein do I need? That’s very popular, everybody’s very into protein. Or I think a lot of the athletes I work with just don’t eat enough and that’s eye-opening in and of itself that they’re just, you know.

I have everyone do a three-day food blog where they write down everything they eat and drink for three days, and then we go over it together. And I just think that’s so eye-opening for them just to do as an assignment. But also when we go through it together just they realize like, I’ve been way under fueling.

I had a guy just this week who was just– he was barely making half of his calorie needs for the day. And it’s like, well, that’s why you’re bonking so early in the workout you just don’t fuel yourself enough. So, that’s kind of right now I think we’re just getting back to basics and focusing on getting those round meals in, getting fuel in before, during, and after.

JESSE: The protein thing is interesting because it’s something I am subject to as well, where I feel like I don’t ever have to worry about getting carbs in. Carbs are everywhere culturally speaking. So, it’s like, don’t like don’t worry about that aspect. So, mentally for me, if I’m like where’s my protein coming from for the day like the other parts will take care of themselves.

It’s also interesting, the kind of wide range of… because I’ve spoken to a number of dieticians over the, I’ll say years that were kind of– not quite yours for the show. And I kind of get a varying amount of answers for this is how much protein you need. Do you have a range or suggestion or anything like that? Because it is such a [??? 20:50] call it a hot topic, but I mean, it’s a pervasive idea that I have to eat enough protein or I’m not gonna recover.

ALLISON: I think it’s specific to the individual protein requirements are based on height, or based on your weight, right. So, everyone’s gonna vary a little bit. And as endurance athletes, in particular, you do need more protein than the average American, right.

The average American diet person doesn’t actually need as much, but endurance athletes, it makes sense, we’re working out more, so you’re going to need more protein to replace that muscle that’s been broken down during that workout. I think where we get in trouble is you save all your protein for that PM meal, right. So, you have some cereal, maybe you have a small sandwich for lunch. And then at dinner, you have this huge steak.

And I think I always explain it to the athletes, I work with that you’re constantly breaking down or building up muscle. And you want in that buildup stage to have proteins really helped you get those adaptations that you’re looking for from the training. And that process is taking place all day long. So, you work out in the morning and you have maybe a protein shake, and then nothing again till dinner.

Well, you missed out on that midpoint during the day when you could be having some protein to continue to help repair and recover your muscle. So, I think timing of protein is really important and spreading it out throughout the day, right. So, making sure you’re getting it not just at the PM meal, but all: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

So, it doesn’t just have to be a big steak at night, we want to make sure we’re having some eggs, maybe breakfast, and then a decent amount of lunch meat or whatever protein source you have at lunch. So, I think that’s something that people don’t realize as much and then even adding in a protein source to your snacks.

I think that’s one thing, like in the afternoon, you grab an apple, but that’s not a complete snack, you should have a little bit of protein with it, too. So, a good gauge, I think, for most people is to aim around 20 to 30 grams. That usually meets everyone’s protein needs per meal, and then half of that per snacks. So, 10 to 15 at snacks is a good estimate. I mean, that’s not going to be everyone’s needs, but–

JESSE: Right, right, right. Yeah, like you said, it is dependent on the individual. Like on the extreme end, we have Olympians who are going to be consuming much more than say like we right now, I’m just getting back into running after my kind of time off for the year. And I went out for 15 minutes this morning. I don’t really need to adjust much after a 15-minute run. So, clearly, you’re gonna take that into account. I do want to back up, I don’t want to lose this thought.

I thought it was interesting you said that so many people are under-fueling versus over-fueling just because [??? 23:43] think about culturally, we’re a pretty large culture now. So, you think it’d be the other way like eating too much instead of too little. Do you suspect that’s an issue of, I’ll call it a lack of prioritization? But people saying I don’t have enough time and feeling like they’re rushed for whatever it is; work or taking the kids to school or whatever that next thing is. Is it that that’s happening or is there something else at play?

ALLISON: I think it’s a combination of both. There’s definitely the person who’s just so busy that they’re not even thinking about it and it’s not something they’re consciously doing but then they realize that at nighttime like oh, my goodness, I haven’t really eaten anything all day and I definitely have those types of clients. And then you have maybe more of a disordered eating aspect around it where it’s you know, I need to earn my fuel.

I haven’t worked out today so I shouldn’t be eating as much. And that’s like a tricky, you know, from an endurance athlete standpoint then we really got to work on mindset more so than what’s actually on the plate and making sure you understand like yes, maybe you have a rest day but you still need to fuel so that you recover and repair all the work that you put in over the days prior.

And I definitely have had clients come to me for weight loss in particular. And so that too is one where we got to look specifically like, all right, yes, in order to lose weight, we may have to cut your calories a little bit. But I want to make sure we’re not putting you into like starvation mode where your stress levels are going to go up, and you’re going to turn into– it’s going to be so hard for you to lose weight.

So, it’s finding that balance, I think, of getting in enough but not overdoing it for those folks versus changing mindset for people who maybe are purposefully under fueling. And then for the people who are just not aware of it, it’s making them aware of it, right? And so they know like I gotta eat lunch so that I can actually get a good workout in after work today.

JESSE: Is it a matter of– So, is your job– I always, especially when it comes to food, I feel like you end up being part psychologist, as you mentioned. But are you– Is your job predominantly saying eat this not that? Or is it like helping people build routine?

ALLISON: Helping people on the routine side, yeah. Like my goal, I do provide meal plans, and some dietitians don’t, some do. My goal with the meal plan is to give them a guide. But I always make sure that they know like this is just one example of a way you could eat, I just want to help you like form better habits. And I think that’s– I call my sessions nutrition coaching. I think of it as coaching more than counseling, it’s really helping them develop better habits so that they can be better off on their own and make these things work for their own training.

I think my main goal is it used to be very focused on race days. So, getting the person to a race day and getting a big PR, but obviously, that’s changed a little bit now. And I feel like the way I work with clients has changed as well to be more holistic. And it’s not just focused on a race, but really how can we make better habits for life?

JESSE: Do you think that’ll continue into the future? You know, when we get back to racing, do you think you’ll continue to say, okay, maybe we should think about the whole person versus this one destination? Or do you think we’ll just shift back some?

ALLISON: I think it’ll be a little bit of both. I know, I’ll continue to be more focused on the whole person versus that race as a goal. Because most of the people I work with, it’s not going to be just one marathon. We know they’re runners, they’re in the community, they’re going to be doing this for a long time. So, it’s not just like how can we– of course, we’ll do a race day strategy for the specific race for their fueling plan.

But then we’ll also still focus on okay, if you get injured, what are some things you can do from a nutrition standpoint to help with that? Or how to meal prep for your busy week. And I think a lot of those you take and into other experiences and situations.

JESSE: Yeah. So, do you have any hard and fast rules? Like I would venture that you’re gonna say don’t skip breakfast since that seems to be a common problem. But is it like do you have any– Do you use those– It is so individualized that you’re like, this is your routine and this is what we do? Or if you know, somebody comes to you on one of the long runs and is like, what should I do? And you’re just like, this is the guideline, go with the guideline. Is there anything like that?

ALLISON: Yeah, I mean, it’s definitely personalized, where everyone’s so different, especially from… I mean, during long runs, everyone is so different with how much they can take in and what works for them and what products to use. So, I think it’s definitely individualized. I mean, there’s some common recommendations like, I live by the 80/20 rule 80% of the time eat healthy, balanced meals, 20% of the time, allow yourself to have those treats and things that you really crave and enjoy.

Because otherwise you’ll overdo it, or you’ll restrict too much. And then when you do allow yourself to have those treats, you overdo it. So, definitely encourage the 80/20 rule with a lot of clients that I work with.

That being said though, sometimes I do say it’s important, you know, once we do get back to racing, maybe race week, it’s not 80/20 anymore, it’s 90, 100% all in on the balanced meal. Follow your plan and then obviously go ahead and enjoy what you want after the race. You definitely deserve it. But most of the time that’s a big one that people like, well, I can have cake, I can have cookies.

Yeah, as long as it’s not all you’re eating, right? So, that’s like a big one that I talked about. It’s just kind of a generic spreading protein out throughout the day trying to get people to do more [??? 29:47] that, making sure they most often are getting fruits and vegetables in. I mean, kind of your standard nutrition advice.

I do recommend like following the Athletes Plate, which is a tool that the US Olympic Committee came up with for easy, moderate, and hard training days. So, it’s just a visual guide. And so I try to use those in my nutrition coaching or counseling or whatever you want to call it. But no hard and true, I guess, rules that I live by. More so just trying to find balance and what works for the clients I’m working with. I will say, the post-workout window, I’ve been really harping on the clients I work with on that because I do want them– we’re getting some fuel in as soon as possible post-workout to really get those training adaptations.

And I think oftentimes, and I see this, even when I’m on my own long runs, I see the other people around, they don’t eat, they wait, they wait, they wait. And then it’s like you just missed out on this window of like refueling. And so that I’ll harp on them a little bit more just to make sure they’re getting something in.

JESSE: That’s a tough one too, because it’s like, I think some people will not believe it at first, but it’s like we’ve had enough studies done and done and done and done. It’s like, yeah, it’s a thing. The exact timing I think it’s still up for debate. Is it a half-hour, is it an hour? Is it two hours? I mean, what is the exact window? I cannot remember her name right now. I had a guest on who actually is a primary author on one of those studies.

She’s an ultra runner, and I think the window they had come up with was almost an hour and a half. And like I said I said I’ve seen it 30 minutes, I’ve seen it 60 minutes [??? 31:42] so I’m not saying hers is gospel. But I mentioned it because I think that’s the longest I’ve had personally come in contact with at that point. And I thought it was interesting that they’d shown some kind of advocacy, even at that point, but then the drop off. So, it’s just an interesting side [??? 32:06].

ALLISON: Yeah. You gotta get a lot of people passed…they don’t feel good, they don’t really want to eat or I have to get a shower in. And it’s like, no, this is important. You will feel better, I promise.

JESSE: Well I wonder sometimes too is it a matter of like, why don’t you feel good? You know, did you go too hard? I know personally, if I don’t want to eat it’s usually because I’m dehydrated and I only want water. You know, and that’s not a– I know that because I get that way pretty bad in races especially like hot races.

So, I [??? 32:45] feel that otherwise, but you know, it seems like maybe I’m just sheltered, live in a bubble, that’s possible. But it seems like some of those things could be mitigated. Like, make sure you’ve been drinking plenty of water, so you’re hydrated. Or if it’s a long run, take water with you, or do you lose, all that kind of like, just plan more, right?

ALLISON: Yeah. I mean, dehydration is definitely a big contributor to not feeling great after a run. But I also say it’s not uncommon after a heart interval workout or a long run to not have much of an appetite. Blood has not been flowing to your gut, it’s going into your muscles, so your stomach’s been ignored for a while. So, I think a lot of times, it’s finding something that sits well.

And a lot of people joke about the chocolate milk thing. But chocolate milk is great post-workout, because it’s easy to drink, easy to get down. It’s got the carbs and the protein that you need.

Obviously, you can get it from other sources, but that’s why they always say chocolate milk and why so many athletes can tolerate it pretty well. You know, there’s a number of like protein waters on the market, which I’ve found, especially after a particularly hot hard workout. They’re just like a clear water that has protein. I think it’s a whey-based protein in it. And it goes down really easy, especially if you don’t have much of an appetite.

So, I think there’s getting something in, a small snack within that 30, 60-minute window, whatever is doable. With women, I always encourage a little bit quicker just because they need it sooner. But then getting a full meal in within two hours. So, if you can have something right away, but then really trying to get in an actual meal is going to be even better.

JESSE: Do you break that up where, you know, so earlier you mentioned kind of your general protein guidelines. So, we’re talking three meals and say two snacks during the day. Is that a good, rough guesstimate?


JESSE: Are you breaking calories up evenly throughout the day? So, we’re you know, I’ll call it a third, third, third, obviously, it’s not that because you’re breaking it into those snacks too. Is it completely even or are you loading one way or the other?

ALLISON: Even. I try to get people to go with the event approach, even if they’re having a little bit more earlier in the day would be even better. And a lot of people have to get over that fear of eating or eating more earlier in the day that they think, oh, if I do that then I’ll overeat at dinner and I’ll end up taking in too many calories. And that’s not true. I think a lot of times people are surprised to find out if you have a bigger breakfast, you have a more substantial lunch, two decent snacks, by the time you hit dinner, you’re not all that hungry, and you don’t overdo it.

That was something personally, I remember in college, I wouldn’t eat much throughout the day. And then I would like go to town on like a box of cereal, just sit and eat a whole box of dry cereal being like what’s wrong with me. And now I realize like I was probably way too low in calories throughout the day, and too low in energy. And so I was making up for it once I hit the evening hours.

So, a lot of the clients who come to me with I have a sweet tooth, I can’t stop eating at night; that’s where we realize you haven’t been having enough throughout the day. And let’s try to change those habits. And it’s not easy. I mean, if someone’s used to not having breakfast, we got to start small, right? Let’s just get a granola bar in.

JESSE: Right, something at all, just to– That’s what I suggest and you probably since you do run coaching as well, you probably run into this where it’s like, people want this like all or nothing mentality sometimes. Where it’s like, well, if I don’t have time to have a full English breakfast, then why have anything at all? You know, it’s like, well, just the same thing with running. Like, if I can’t get out for my hour run, why run at all? It’s like, okay, well, do you have time to go out for a mile? A mile is better than nothing. In part, because at least for me, you’re reinforcing the habit. Right?

ALLISON: Right. Right.

JESSE: It’s just the act of doing it repetitively, and it becomes your routine, rather than if you miss it, then you’re not moving yourself towards whatever goal or you know, idealized lifestyle you wanted.

ALLISON: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, for sure.

JESSE: So, I feel like I had to jump back. I had another thought but I lost it. Oh. Do you run into– this is something that I have a hard time squaring because I’m one of the more active people in my household, and I’ll say household anywhere from when I was young till now. So, then I’ve had family members that are overweight, but then I’m trying to like fuel for performance. So, I don’t know how common this situation is. But I’ll say like, mixed dietary agenda households. Do you run into that often? How do you navigate that situation?

ALLISON: A little bit I think most of my clients are in like two-person households right now. So, not as much, their significant others are pretty supportive. Have had a few with kids and things and so they’re making multiple different meals. So, that definitely does come up. And it’s just trying to make sure that you can balance everything out with their needs and their likes, as well as yours, understanding why it’s so important to have carbs, have protein at every meal, have those fruits and vegetables.

I mean, I personally don’t have any issues. Usually, we’ve been pretty balanced in our household around what we eat. I think my husband’s very open to whatever I want to cook. So, that’s nice.

But yeah, so sometimes there is and it’s like, you don’t want to make four different things for everyone. So, trying to get everyone on board with what you’re doing. Or if you’re not the person doing the cooking, just asking for, you know. make some extra rice or whatever it is that you need for your own training and being aware of it. I often when I have clients travel or go visit family, encourage them to pick up some groceries, some things that they can have on hand that they know, not that are safe, but things that they know they can have for breakfast before long runs and things like that.

Actually, recently, when we went to visit our in-laws, I brought all my own breakfast items, just so I knew I had them and I wasn’t you know, making anyone feel inconvenienced.

JESSE: Yeah, yeah. Well, that comes back to preparation, right? You didn’t just say, well, whatever they have, well, hope it’s good. Like, no, I’m gonna take care of my own thing. So, how do you get that into people’s heads? Like, is it a matter of you can prescribe it, and then you just have to wait for them to do it? Or is there any like secret button you can push in like people’s brains to get them to start building these habits?

ALLISON: I think, so as a combination, I always talk about how we prepare, we plan for training, right? You wouldn’t follow, hopefully, you are not just following a mindless training plan. Most of the clients I work with have a run coach or following a specific training plan. So, I always make that kind of comparison, right? You have a plan for training, you know what you’re going to do Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, why wouldn’t you have this same thing for your nutrition, or at least a rough draft, right?

And so really teaching them how to meal plan, how to at least map out what are some things you know you can make for dinners, for lunches, for breakfast. And that doesn’t mean every single meal has to be planned out.

But you generally know what you’re going to do. It saves you time during the week, doing a little bit of prep and planning on Saturday or Sunday, or whatever day it is that you have some downtime, saves you time, saves you money. So, we go through both a meal planning and prep session. And then I’ll also focus on grocery shopping tips. Just like what are better for you options in the grocery store.

And I think hopefully all of that gives them the tools then to go in and do, you know, put that into practice, it’s not always the case. But really trying to drive home, the fact that you have a plan for your training, and nutrition should be part of that, right? It’s going to support you and get you to the goals that you want.

And a lot of people in order to meet those goals, just that’s the one thing that’s maybe missing. And so they have to put that into practice a little bit more. And I think what reiterates it and makes them actually do it is they start to see changes, right? They start to feel better, their runs are going better, their workouts are going better. And so then that’s more motivation to continue what they’re doing.

JESSE: It sounds like that natural positive feedback we get when, you know, we’re already doing– You already get that feedback when you go out for a run, you stay consistent with it, you start to get faster, or you start to lose weight or whatever it is that you see, you get that positive feedback. It’s just that same thing happening, right?

ALLISON: Yeah, yeah.

JESSE: Before we run out of time, I want to ask you about supplements. I saw you touched a little bit on it on your Twitter, but I didn’t dive too deep into your thoughts and opinions. I know it can be kind of a hot button issue for some people. Some people are super anti supplements, some people, the people that sell supplements are super pro supplements. Where do you land on the issue?

ALLISON: Yeah. I’ve always been of the mindset food first approach for nutrition. You can definitely get all the vitamins, minerals, nutrition that you need from the foods that you eat. That being said, as endurance athletes, when the mileage starts to creep up, sometimes it can be more difficult to get in all the nutrition that you need. And then there’s certain subsets of the population that maybe need more of certain things. So, in that point, I see where vitamin, mineral supplements could come in handy.

If you have a deficiency, you should for sure be fixing it. And likely, a supplement is going to help you with that. So, try and identify where we have deficiencies. But I’ll always say multivitamin is like an insurance policy. It shouldn’t be a replacement for food, but it’s an insurance policy that you’re getting everything that you need.

And I don’t see any harm in taking a multi or for a lot of people, Vitamin D is also something we need to get from a supplement, especially in the winter months. If you live above the Mason Dixon liner in the northern states like I do, we’re just not getting enough sun to create vitamin D. So, that might be another one that’s worth supplementing. Women of childbearing age, there’s certain supplements that they may need to add to their diet.

So, I definitely think there’s a role for them but I have always been of the food first approach on supplements when it comes to that. And then working with, you know, if you think you’re deficient in something or you have questions, working with the dietician.

I think in the article one or two I’ve written also talked about vegan and vegetarian diets. And that would be another place where you know, making sure you’re getting iron, vitamin B12, any of the B vitamins actually. So, just I’m being extra conscious of it, but I think no harm in a multi.

JESSE: Right. Well, I like your– I don’t know if I’ve heard the phrase before but it makes sense that supplements are an insurance policy. Like you’re not, you know, you have an insurance policy on your house or your apartment, you’re not going to leave the door open and just hope nothing bad happens. Like you’re gonna take care of business and then if something outside of that happens then you’re covered. So, I think that frames the mentality really well, I like that.

ALLISON: No, like that doesn’t include some of the more performance [??? 45:00] I talked about a little bit on a couple blogs. But the main thing I think with those is making sure you’re being safe. So, things like the pre-workouts and other things that are out there on the market. So, oftentimes, if an athlete is looking to use one of those, I also want to look at where they’re at, in their training; if they’re a college athlete, if they’re professional, we want to make sure that they’re being safe, but also not violating any rules of training, right?

So, that it’s an NSF certified for sport, that they’re looking for that label on the packaging to make sure it’s safe. So, that’s another thing. It’s definitely part of the whole counseling experience with me, or coaching or whatever you want to call it, like go through supplements, and whatever you’re taking.

JESSE: So, that just makes– it’s a personal curiosity. And this isn’t necessarily your field but because you mentioned pre-workout stuff, and I’ve taken pre-workout stuff previously, but I didn’t really feel a whole lot of effect. So, it was a pretty short-lived routine. But I know a lot of people take caffeine to race, to train, all that kind of stuff. I similarly don’t feel a whole lot of effects of caffeine. Is that something you try to help advise people on; use it, stay away from it, use it this way, that way, whatever, anything like that?

ALLISON: Yeah, for caffeine, there’s definitely enough research to support the performance-enhancing benefits of it, you can go further and faster, it kind of gives you, I think a lot of the marathoners I work with, if they are open to it, maybe taking a gel with caffeine in the second half of the marathon or something like that. But like you said, you don’t have much effect from it because you maybe have a higher tolerance for caffeine. So, it really impacts people differently. So, it’s so important.

I think one of my key takeaways with all the clients I work with is I say practice makes PRs, which basically means you’re going to try these things in training, you’re not going to do it for the first time on race day. And you’re going to figure out what is going to sit well with you because there’s– Some of these supplements, you take them and I mean, the GI issues that could come up, it’s not worth it, you know, especially in an endurance– in a long run situation.

So, I think it’s identifying what works for you. Some people, caffeine will impact, some won’t. It’s just kind of the– we’re all built different. I know I personally can’t go on a long run without a cup of coffee. But that’s not quite the same.

JESSE: Right? [crosstalk] Well, there’s a little bit of mentality there. But there’s the caffeine obviously. Now, we had, it was suggested by my coach because we’re just trying to dial things– this is a few years ago. And I had gotten caffeine pills so that we could basically chop them up to have a more accurate like dosing amount. It was 25 milligrams is what we’d broken it down to.

But I think we tried 25 and even 50 and I didn’t have a demonstrable like RPE difference or time difference. And it’s like at that point you’re starting to get– you’re starting to really creep up in the amount that you’re taking. So, it was just interesting.

Maybe it’s like, I’ll call them reverse placebo effect with me in that I don’t really want to be taking caffeine. So, it could have been that too. You know, where it’s like, I’m not gonna run, I’m not gonna run harder because I really don’t want to be doing this. But that’s a whole other story. So, as our hour is kind of winding down here, I mentioned earlier I’m asking everybody a question this year. You’re the only person to get both questions in my interview. But I’m asking everybody this year, what do you think the purpose of sport is?

ALLISON: Oh. I mean, what is the purpose of sport? For me, I’ll think of just for running. I think, for me, it’s the community. That’s what I miss probably the most. And we, fortunately, I have a great local coach, and he coordinates some very socially distant small group type long runs. So, we’re still being able to get some of the community.

But I think the community, for me, is what I get the most out of sport. It’s just giving me that, gives me– When I have the community, then I have the drive to compete, the drive to do better. So, I think that’s probably my best answer.

JESSE: No, it’s good. Alison, if people want to see what you’re up to, see your news, get in touch with you, where can they do that?

ALLISON: Yeah, I’m at RrunningRDN on Instagram, Twitter, and then it’s is my website. And they can find my blog and all that fun stuff there.

JESSE: If you’re on YouTube, that’ll be on the screen. If you’re not then you just rewind and listen to Allison again. It’ll be there. Thanks for hanging out with me today, Allison.

ALLISON: Thank you. It’s been fun.

JESSE: Take care.

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