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Sitting Still, STILL, Sitting Still……

In the book It Is Hard to Be Five  there is a part in the story where this five year old boy is using every bit of effort and might he has to sit still in morning circle. Sitting still. Still. Sitting still. SIT STILL. He is struggling quietly in his mind to stay sitting still because that is what his job requires. We teach children that there is a time for movement and a time to sit still.

As I sit here with a sore back from sitting, writing, reading, watching, learning, and computing I know  we sit too much. Our work and society has us chained to the act of sitting.  Movement is wrong or something you do when you get punished, like when the teachers gives my son “laps” for fighting. Sitting however, is the real punishment, especially for kids!

I certainly feel like I am being punished or trapped when I am cramming to get work done as efficiently as possible so I can get back outside and moving.

I respect stillness and a time for it but, we have flipped to far on the scale as society that rewards sitting over movement. We have to consciously schedule time to move instead of moving naturally like we are built to do.  We are told to get up and take breaks in our desk-job sittingness…..problem is these movements are just a reminder of a sad state of sittingness. They aren’t fun or productive.

Days where I must work on a computer, I try to incentivise myself with the hope moving outside shortly! I have  also been doing everything in my power to think creatively about accomplishing my work without sitting. Technology is so that we can move and work at the same time if we get creative. I can record thoughts to write about later while I am running or walking the dog. I can give “moving workshops” or coaching sessions like I will be doing at Outwild in September.  I can talk calls while I am cleaning, walking, or pulling weeds. These are of course, the advantages of the new movement in the work force to “work from anywhere (WA)”!

I wake up every day thinking about how I can incorporate as much movement into my day as possible. I am not opposed to rest. Rest will happen because we must sleep but, unless  I re-think how I function each day it is quite possible there could be no movement at all!

Can I do a walking meeting instead of a sitting meeting? Can I run to an appointment? Can I bike the kids to school? Can I literally “run” and errand. The answer is most often yes! I will rest when I must finally sit down and jam out emails and blog posts.

Tara Dell Tells Tuesday Vol. 2

I have just returned from a two-thousand four hundred and twenty-four-mile road trip to my homeland of Montana and back. It wouldn’t be summer if my family and I didn’t spend some of it in Montana.

Last winter my nine-year-old son, Noah, asks me, “How many times have we been to Montana?”

My answer, “Lots. Why do you ask?”

Noah says, “I can not believe we have been to Montana so many times and NEVER been to Yellowstone National Park”

Then I say, ” Looks like you are the right age for a trip to Yellowstone!”

We went to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, Great Falls, and Bozeman. We camped at four different glorious sights and saw miles of explorable public lands. We managed to eat out only four times over three weeks! We kept on car pantry and cool stocked with the following:

  • Milk
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Cold-cuts
  • Pickles
  • Bananas
  • Berries
  • Apples
  • Rice cakes
  • Tortillas
  • Rice
  • Bean
  • Carrots
  • Kettle chips
  • Beef jerky
  • Sunflower seed butter
  • Jelly
  • Popcorn
  • Almonds
  • Pretzels
  • Pistachios

I managed to eat gluten-free for the entire trip. Well, at least before my race! I have been trying to figure out for over a year now why I get this pressure across the bridge of my nose. Turns out is something called turbinates that everyone has. The swell when irritated by dust, dirt, temperature changes, pollen, and altitude. If I am sensitive to gluten, there is a slim chance that could also contribute to inflammation. So I gave it go and afterward treated myself to a fully glutenized, hoppy as ever, IPA!

PUBLIC LANDS:

This road trip did open my eyes to how much I depend on access to public lands to connect myself to nature, people and the planet. Health and humanity are quite dependent on access to public lands that will only be around if we work to keep them public.

www.protrectourpubliclands.org
and protect our connection to nature

COOL VIDEO

I am always inspired by guests of the Adventureprenur Playbook podcast by Jeremy Jensen. Thanks to Jeremy for delving deep into people’s stories and to Patagonia for telling stories that matter!

Check out Life of Pie

POST YOU MAY HAVE MISSED Fueling Summer Running

Tara Dell Tells Tuesday Vol. 3

Kids are back in school and it is definitely feeling and smelling like fall. Every time there is a shift in day-to-day we are all a little on edge in my house and can use whatever help we can get to continue prioritizing eating well. One day I was working at my basecamp with zero food in the place. I went down to the general store and the best I could do was Annie’s frozen meal for $8.00! This is NOT the first time consideration of my own nutrition needs has been lacking when I am busying myself with everyone elses. So I enlisted the help of this awesome service! Daily Harvest!

No, they aren’t paying me to tell you this! When something is this helpful I am compelled to share it. Now, before I start getting comments about how there is too much packaging or the cost is too high, here me out! If you are eating lunch out of a commercial grab-n-go cooler somewhere or a restaurant, you are spending way more on lower quality ingredients.

For $150 I have a freezer stocked with healthy last-minute individual options for me and my family: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We don’t need to reach for them every day but, when we need them, I am relieved they are there! I am still a little uneasy about the packaging. So, Daily Harvest, anything you can do about more sustainable packaging for delivery?

Individualized nutrition gets even more specific with access to genetic testing! When working with sponsored athlete teams like TEAM CLIF or The North Face I provide Nutrigenomix tests. This test looks at the athlete-specific responses to nutrients. For an example, an athlete might have a genetic predisposition for low iron storage, which makes them more of a candidate for iron deficiency and to focus on more absorbable food sources of iron or possibly supplements. Or they may have the “fat gene” which means their body needs a greater calorie deficit than average to lose one point! Here is a hilarious video from Andrew East and Shawn Johnson East, an NFL player and Olympic gymnast I worked with giving shout out to the test and Andrew trying to empathize with Shawn about her body changes in pregnancy.

In other news from my business Summit Nutrition Strategy, I am now consulting with the Sugar Bowl Ski Team and Academy. Their program is world-class and these student-athletes are nothing less than amazing! With that, I will be sharing tons of winter sports nutrition tips in the coming months that I also share with these pros! Until then here are here is the areas if nutrition discipline for improved athletic activity!

Milk: The Irreplaceable Superfood

Truth be told, I don’t like the term superfood but after doing a deep dive on the nutrients naturally occurring in milk, I felt the term was well-deserved. I did this deep dive on behalf of my client, Clover Sonoma Dairy. Trust me when I say that if the facts did not support milk as a source of naturally occurring nutrients with only three ingredients, I would not be writing this article.

Dairy has been getting a bad wrap with the increasing popularity of plant-based alternatives, but dairy (more specifically milk) is a highly overlooked superfood that is not easily substituted. This distinction, superfood, is often reserved exclusively for brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are certainly deserving, but after my in-depth analysis of the nutrients in milk, I believe dairy to be extremely underrated.

I am actually embarrassed to have not given milk more credit, although I have long been a supporter of milk as an optimally-formulated-by-nature recovery drink due to its beautifully proportioned carbohydrate and protein profile. In an airport with limited time, I grab a milk box to get me through a flight with limited hunger pains. But honestly, there is so much more to milk than any label will ever show you. The prominent placement of dairy in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is totally vindicated after all. Milk’s unique nutrient profile and productive calories outperform the nutritional profiles of the many so-called dairy alternatives on the market today. There is currently no single food replacement for dairy in the diet, so removing it should not be done without true cause. Nor should non-dairy beverages be referred to as dairy “alternatives”.

Milk is one of the most nutritionally complete single foods a person can put into their body. For those who are allergic or choose not to eat animal products, replacing the nutrients contributed to the diet through milk is not impossible, but it does require rethinking the quality of the food eaten. Nutritional surveys of Americans show that when dairy disappears from the diet many of its nutrients are not recovered.

The Truth About Alternatives

A look into the nutritional contributions provided by one cup of milk is quite impressive. With a simple and short ingredient list, milk provides high-quality protein identified to support healthy muscles and maintain lean body mass. Milk also provides several important vitamins and minerals that are not present in non-dairy alternatives like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium, B12, riboflavin, zinc, and magnesium. According to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, “When dairy  foods are removed from healthy eating patterns, calcium, magnesium, iron, vitamin A and riboflavin drop below 100% of dietary goals, and vitamin D, potassium and choline drop even lower.” 

Non-dairy milk is often referred to as an “alternative” to milk. When breaking down the nutrition profile of non-dairy milks on the market, it is easy to see that there is no single food or drink that replaces the gap created when not drinking milk. Take protein, for example, milk derived from soy and pea come closest to meeting the protein amount in milk with almond, rice, and cashew falling well below them. The quality of the protein in soy and pea is not however, equal to that of milk. Milk proteins, whey and casein, have been extensively studied for their role in building, repairing, and maintaining a lean body and healthy muscles. Milk proteins are characterized as high quality and complete proteins, because they contain all the essential amino acids the body must have but can not produce on its own. Whey protein is digested quickly by the body and contains the amino acid leucine, which helps begin the muscle recovery process when consumed after exercise. Casein is a slower digesting protein, which means muscle repair will continue in the hours after exercise when protein is available to the body. The advantage of a slower digesting protein is that after whey’s work is done, casein can pick up where whey left off. Soy is also a complete protein, but it contains a lower level of some of those essential amino acids, characterizing it as second best to milk protein. When it comes to recovery from sports, whey is the protein of choice because it is digested quickly and available to the body right away. 

Milk is often reduced to its individual components when the magic of milk is that it is a whole food with nutrients that work synergistically together to support health. For example, calcium absorption is enhanced by the presence of lactose. On average, dairy calcium is 25% more absorbable than fortified calcium in soy milk. The synergistic effects of milk nutrients can also be seen when looking at the impact of milk on fat absorption. Calcium, phosphorus, and the milk fat globule membrane interfere with fat absorption which lowers the number of calories from fat that enters the body. 

I have often referred to non-dairy milk alternatives as “calcium alternatives”, because they can serve as a source of calcium for those who have a true milk allergy or chose not to eat animal products. However, they clearly do not replace all the nutrients found in milk. Additionally, fortified nutrients tend to be heavy, and rather than being suspended in the liquid, stick to the bottom of the container. Shaking before drinking can improve this; but even then, studies have found fortified nutrients add to the cost of a product and usually don’t get fully dissolved. More importantly, non-dairy milk alternatives are not standardized or regulated and can not be counted on to provide calcium and vitamin D–leaving it to the buyer to ensure their non-dairy milk alternative is providing the nutrients they need.

A Nutritious and Ambitious Milk Profile

There are plenty of people in the world who can not or chose not to eat or drink dairy foods. Does that mean they are destined to be short on the nutrients found in milk (noted below)? Not necessarily, but it does require more work to ensure they are eating a variety of foods needed to make up the difference.

Nutrients in milk: 

  • CALCIUM: Builds and maintains strong bones and teeth. 
  • VITAMIN D: Carries messages between the brain and every body part, and the immune system needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect from osteoporosis.
  • PROTEIN: Builds and repairs muscle tissue. 
  • VITAMIN B3 (NIACIN): Utilized in energy metabolism in the body to improve cholesterol levels and lower cardiovascular risks.
  • VITAMIN A: Keeps skin and eyes healthy and promotes growth. 
  • VITAMIN B12 (COBALAMIN): Supports normal blood functions and keeps the nervous system healthy. 
  • VITAMIN B2 (RIBOFLAVIN): Helps your body use carbohydrates, fats, and protein for fuel. 
  • PHOSPHORUS: Builds and maintains strong bones and teeth, and supports tissue growth.
  • CHOLINE: Supports brain and nervous system functions, and helps the body transport fat for metabolism and early brain development.
  • POTASSIUM: Supports proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.
  • MAGNESIUM: Regulates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA.

Certainly, there are other food sources that provide the nutrients found in milk. Milk just happens to be a nutrient-dense option making obtaining nutrients more convenient for both kids and adults. While not an exact measurement because some individual foods contain more than one of the nutrients found in milk, the following table provides an example of foods that should be incorporated into a daily diet to regain nutrients lost by the removal of dairy foods.

NutrientOption 1Option 2Option 38 oz. glass of milk
Calcium1.5 cup spinach6 cups kale.5 cups tofu351 mg
Phosphorus4 ounces of pork¾ cup beans1 cup chickpeas288 mg
Potassium1 large tomato1 large banana¾ cup kidney beans470 mg
Riboflavin3.5 ounces of beef1.5 ounces Almonds2 large scrambled eggs.44 mg
B-121 egg1 ounce of Tuna¾ cup fortified cereal.96 mcg
Vitamin A¾ cup ricotta cheese 4 ounces of herring2.5 cups boiled broccoli162 mcg
Vitamin D5 Sardines1 ounce of salmon3 ounces of Tuna100 IU
Zinc1 oz of Almonds½ cup cooked kidney beans1 cup green peas.99 mg
Magnesium4 oz of chicken¼ cup spinach¼ cup black beans38 mg
Choline1 cup quinoa1.5 ounces of cod½ cup kidney beans40 mg
Approximate Total Calories1617 calories1120 calories
1346 Calories120-150 calories

Even still there are other foods that supply these nutrients. However, by looking at the complexity of the nutrients found in milk, it is easy to see how a nutrient gap is created (and never gets filled) when eliminating milk from a daily diet. Milk is a complex matrix of nutrients in one simple glass. Those same nutrients can be found in a variety of other food combinations, but the task of eating them can be more caloric and complex. When older children replace milk, they often choose sugar-sweetened beverages such as juice, sports drinks, or soda, which can lead to poor nutrition and eating habits and even obesity.

Searching for nutrition and health information related to dairy can lead to a lot of contradictory theories, opinions and scientific research. Unlike plant-based alternatives, milk has decades of research demonstrating its unique nutritional profile is beneficial in weight management, heart health, muscle health, and growth. A needed, growing awareness of added sugars in foods has drawn attention to the fact that milk is a source of sugar. That is a true statement: milk contains a naturally occurring sugar known as lactose. However, there is no added sugar in milk. Consumption of added sugars contributing to empty, non-productive calories should be the reason for reducing sugar intake. Milk, with no added sugar, high-quality protein and the multiple other nutrients it offers is a source of productive calories. Additionally, consuming milk with meals has been shown to reduce portions eaten at the following meal helping with appetite control. 

Correcting Misperceptions

Eating and drinking dairy is a personal choice. However, there are misperceptions that need to be corrected. For those with a dairy intolerance, complete avoidance is often not necessary. Lactose-free milk contains all the benefits of milk without the lactose. Sometimes just reducing the amount of dairy without completely cutting it out will relieve symptoms of lactose intolerance. Some people avoid dairy because of the belief that it causes systemic inflammation. The recent 2017 review of 52 clinical studies concluded that dairy actually lowered inflammatory markers. 

There is certainly no denying that milk is a nutrient-dense powerhouse. It supplies essential nutrients in a single convenient source that is hard to match without supplements or a serious revamp of the diet. The productiveness of this superfood is irreplaceable. It’s worth overlooking concerns around calories, sugar, or fat content. I have seen many food/beverage and diet trends come and go throughout the history of my career, but dairy continues to prove its weight in milk gold. Personally, I will be including more milk into my day. In fact, I am sipping an organic whole milk lavender latte right now.

  1. Rafferty K et al. Calcium fortificants: Overview and strategies for improving calcium nutriture of the U.S. population. J Food Sci 2007;72(9):R152-8.
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0958694611002160
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26287637 
  4. https://ods.od.nih.gov/ 
  5. https://www.dairynutrition.ca/nutrients-in-milk-products/calcium/calcium-and-bioavailability 
  6. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/nutrients/index
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28404576 
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28140322 
  9. https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015-scientific-report/ 

Fueling Summer Running

Back in May, I started ramping up the running miles. The snow had (mostly) melted and it was time to get base miles in for summer running adventures. By the end of May a starting feeling run down, worn out, and just wasn’t recovering from even short runs. My first instinct was “panic”. “What is wrong with me? Chronic fatigue? Adrenal Insufficiency? Imbalanced hormones?” I had already spent the winter not running and focusing on replenishment of nutrients, muscles, and rest.

As I struggled through a twelve-mile Memorial Day run with my new running group, The Donner Party Mountain Runners, I felt like I had no energy and picking up my legs was more work than it should be. “Should I be on the gluten-free diet after all? Am I pre-menstrual, low on vitamin D? There is no way I am bonking! I eat plenty of carbohydrates daily and during my runs.” Or do I?

I am a fueling expert. I know what I need and how often. At least that is what I have been telling myself. I haven’t felt super great running for the last year and I thought it was overtraining but rest didn’t help much either. This year I am on prudent training plan to ensure I am not overtraining. The only thing that changed in the past year is that I began running almost all of my runs at higher altitudes. I thought back to my racing experiences at higher altitudes and what I knew about myself was that to feel good I needed to eat more carbohydrates than races I had done a sea level. Ah-ha!

After giving a talk on my nutrition framework for fueling endurance activity lasting longer than one hour, I began tracking carbohydrate intake more closely. Turns out my miles increased but my intake did not. Time to experiment. I bought a gallon of organic orange juice and chugged it after an easy morning run. The next day I drank a sports drink BEFORE heading out for my run and then ate an entire package of BLOKS. Low and behold, I ran well, had fun, was upbeat, and giddy the way I like to be when running. I continued to increase my fuel intake during long runs being consistent with 60-70 grams of carbohydrate per hour.

I recall sharing my tale with a fellow runner saying, ” I feel like I am bonking but I know am eating enough.” When she said, “Are you sure?” I got curious instead of insisting I knew everything because we all know the story of the cobbler whose children had no shoes.

My statement ” I feel like I am bonking” continued to ring in my ears. Why? Because that made perfect sense (that I was in fact bonking). I wasn’t feeling recovered. I was increasingly run-down and, with each run, I felt more and more tired right down to my muscles. AND this all started when I started increasing the running miles from casual to more regular. The answer was in eating more carbohydrate.

When I am running less, I eat fewer carbohydrates, hardly ever eating bread, pasta, rice or cereal. While those foods can be a good source of fiber they don’t really deliver a lot of nutrients. For carbohydrate food source I lean to fruit, sweet potatoes, oats, and quinoa. I have also been limiting/eliminating gluten as an experiment (more on that later). The problem here was that when I increased the muscle burn of carbohydrate energy, I was not increasing my intake.

With big fun mountain races on the books, I began to include more gluten-free carbs like chickpea pasta, rice, and gluten-free cereals. I also stopped being influenced by those around me who seem to get along with a lot less carbohydrate during their runs than I do. My body needs more. Before each run of any length now I drink at least sixteen ounces of a mixed-source carb sports drink and possible some grapefruit juice too. All of this has lead to more bounce in step, a great 26 km Broken arrow sky race and the ability to feel more ease and less struggled during my longer runs.

Here is what I ate before, during, and after Broken Arrow:

BEFORE:

5:00 am 1 cup of coffee with a tablespoon of Birota Foods creamer

5:15 am Sunbutter + banana + honey between rice cakes

5:30-6:30 am 32 ounces for sports

DURING:

One package for chews per hour + 8 ounces electrolyte sports drink for a total of 32 ounces of fluid per hour and 70 grams of carbohydrate

After:

One box chocolate milk + one sprite + spaghetti with meat sauce and salad.

It is important for me to remember that we are all individuals with individual responses to fueling in different conditions. For me, more carbs and more fluid are required to navigate longer runs at higher altitudes than I need at sea level.

Fatigue plaguing you during your workouts? Not feeling as though you are performing to the level of your current fitness? You could be underfueling either during your runs or your daily diet.

Up for adventure of all types? Stay at my “base camp for a big life”!

Ten miles west of Truckee, away from the crowds, and nestled in the small town of Soda Springs is a charming condo. Staying here is like playing “choose your own adventure.” Whether you want to stay for a weekend or a week, there are so many activities within a stones-throw of this cozy little place.

Details:

  • Current season price $110 per night + $60 Cleaning fee
  • Entire condo sleeps 6 guests
  • 2 bedrooms
  • 3 beds
  • 1.5 baths
  • Pets welcome
  • Kids of all ages welcome

Personalize your experience with a nutrition planning to fuel your adventures. Let me plan your meals and stock your inventory with healthy and energizing selections to keep you going! I am a sports nutritionist experienced in fueling activities for the long haul!

Whether you are nourishing up for a day in the backcountry, racing a triathlon, or enjoying the spectacular scenery, I am happy to create a custom adventure nutrition plan specific to your needs.

Our condo is in historic Soda Springs Station, originally a hotel along the first transcontinental railway. Cozy and charming, with vintage detail and a great view. It’s a slice of old-world Tahoe.

It’s your basecamp for outdoor adventure with skiing, biking, hiking, swimming and climbing all nearby. Lakes, creeks, peaks and forest on all sides.

Directly next to the Royal Gorge X-country ski trails and Soda Springs ski hill. Within 5 minutes of Sugar Bowl, DSR, Boreal and the PCT!

Reserve your personal base camp here and see more photos!

The Space

Our unit has 2 bedrooms and 1.5 baths (1,000 sq.ft.), that can sleep up to 6 people, with an open kitchen and social area.

Upstairs are two bedrooms, one with a king bed and one with a queen bed, and a full bath. Downstairs is a living room with a pull-out sofa bed, a kitchen, small dining area and a half bath.

Guest access

STAIRS: You’ll need to walk up two flights of stairs to access the unit. Our condo is NOT handicap accessible!
There is a washer and dryer inside the unit.
The TV is in the upstairs bedroom, not the common area. The TV has a DVD player and Chromecast connected, but no cable.
There is Wi-Fi.
Private tennis/pickleball court available for summer play.

Other things to note

CARETAKER: Friendly onsite caretaker available in case of need.

TRAIN NOISE: Our historic location is next to the railroad and trains will pass by about 15 times per day, at any hour. The trains are required to blow their horn when approaching the RR crossing. New double-paned windows keep the horn sound down, but it can be very loud. We think it adds to the charm!

STAIRS: You’ll need to walk up two flights of stairs to access the unit. Our condo is NOT handicap accessible!

If you are interested in nutrition planning to fuel your adventures, I can personally plan your meals and stock your inventory with healthy and energizing selections to keep you going! I am a sports nutritionist experienced in fueling activities for the long haul! Whether you are nourishing up for a day in the backcountry, racing a triathlon, or enjoying the spectacular scenery, I am happy to create a custom adventure nutrition plan specific to your needs.

CHECK-IN: It is self-check-in with a key lockbox.

Quote

But then they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars…” Jack Kerouac

Welcome!

Hi, I am Tara DelloIacono Thies, the food, beverage, and outdoor industry’s most trusted performance nutrition advisor for product development, nutrition marketing, nutrition programs, and athlete coaching! For the past twenty years, I have worked with companies to create foods based on the nutrition principles for fueling active lifestyles. After leaving Clif Bar & Company, I launched Summit Nutrition Strategy, a consulting business prioritized around fueling all kinds of adventures outside! Today I work independently with food and outdoor companies creating educational nutrition content, nutritious foods, and stoke for being active outdoors!

Welcome to my site where I explore the challenges of prioritizing well-being in today’s nine-to-five-sedentary society. I am CEO of Summit Nutrition Strategy, a mother, runner, adventureprenur, dietitian nutritionist (RDN),  and advocate for healthy eating as the wingman in living an active lifestyle outdoors.

Nutrition is my profession and currency to living a wildly active lifestyle. While I will share nutrition know-how in my writing and courses, I will also write about my own experiences in living an active lifestyle in hopes that it inspires others to push past their comfort zones and, see what they are capable of when they prioritize an active lifestyle outdoors.   

This is me outside saying “YES!” to running with “the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved” and who never let the opportunity to trail run at 2am with a blinking Viking helmet pass them by.

I have been an athlete since I began figure skating at age four, running at age ten, and skiing at age fourteen. Begining these activities in my youth did not lead to a professional athletic career. They did, however, lead me to a career nutrition that has now spanned twenty-plus years. I do treat my own athletic pursuits professionally because of the physical and emotional value derived from them. I prioritize outdoor athletic adventures into my every day by planning them just as I plan for work and family. These daily experiences combined with my nutrition knowledge inform and inspire unique insights, recommendations, and applications of nutrition in my work with outdoor companies like The North Face, Clif Bar and Company, and Sugar Bowl Ski Academy. I do this work through my consulting business, Summit Nutrition Strategy.

Most importantly, I am a mama and a wife in the business of modeling a healthy, active lifestyle for my two young boys. Originally from Montana, I could no longer leave outdoor fun with my family to weekends. I uprooted the family from the San Francisco Bay Area and left my eighteen-year post as lead nutrition strategist for Clif Bar & Company. Now from my home in Truckee, California, I strive to make outdoor adventure routine for our family. Of all the challenges I encounter as a business owner and endurance junkie, being Mama provides the most challenges, adventures, and rewards.

Tara Dell Tells Tuesday Vol 1

Aaaah, mealtime. That sacred time each day where we stop what we are doing (maybe even enjoying)to pull out food, make a mess, prepare food that at least one person complains about only to eat it in two seconds, and have to clean up the mess. That is what mealtime is to me anyway. I try to keep in clean but, more than anything (and my youngest child would agree) I would rather just eat something around the activities I want to do instead of the other way around. Turns out I am a product of our modern-day where the anchors of o days have shifted from mealtime to our activities!
You can read about this shift at Hartman Research Group


The past two spring breaks we have loaded up the family (including the dog) for a camping road trip down 395 East. We bypassed the turn-off for the Ancient Bristle Cone Pine Forest the first year because we were making haste to Disneyland ( a true family adventure). The second-year we made the turn prepared, or so we thought, to camp near the Bristle Cone only to be thwarted by snow! Trees truly speak to us and this short film is a mesmerizingly wonderful look into the heart of these trees that existed long before humans. Treeline by Patagonia (it also makes me look forward to snow. Ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone who is deep in summer right now)

Athlete story: Rob Lea, just made history with a Mount Everest Summit (Climb for Equality) and swim across the English Channel in the same year. But that is not all folks, he was also stung in the face by a jellyfish. This is all part of his world project to Summit Everest, Swim the Channel, and Cycle across America (and oh, also got married in between)! Go Rob!

Post you may have missed Why is pickle juice popular at aid stations for endurance events?

Response to: A Case For The Apple Fritter

After eighteen years of overseeing the nutrition integrity and efficacy of the Clif Bar and Company sports performance foods made to keep runners and other athletes moving, Brendan Leonard’s account of his careful consideration of an apple fritter as fuel during his marathon intrigued me.

First of all, I believe good donuts to be one of the most fun foods on the planet. I kind of consider myself a careful connoisseur of good donuts. I am not one to get excited about meals and food in general. It is all sort of just nourishment to keep me doing what I love at this point. Donuts, however, get me excited. Not just any donut though. Grocery-store, air-puffed, raised, and glazed are not worth the dough. Donuts made at a bakery with some intention on tasting good are a whole other story.

Despite the legacy of “donut killer” I left behind at CLIF, it was never my intention to remove donuts from the breakfast menus for the weekly (formerly known as “Bagels and Donuts” meetings). I SAID order fewer donuts less often to avoid the break room pile up of picked at donuts that sat there all day. Visitors would walk by and say ” I thought you were a health food company?” No one would actually eat the donuts during the meeting because they were “pretending to not eat donuts” and then they would proceed to slice a piece off of a donut every time they walked by the table. Gross!

Donuts done right are so bad that they are so good. Freshly fried, filled, and frosted, they are also incredibly fun. I spent a semester in college making donuts in the wee hours of the morning with a crew who had this job down to a science. Maple bars were three fingers wide. Glazed old-fashioneds needed one fluid movement of the glazer to ensure even coverage. And frying, it was done quickly. Just long enough to crisp the outside and softly cook the inside. Donuts are made good when done so from scratch and with pride.

I have countless memories of buying donuts from various shops but none are more memorable the post-bar-closing experience at Bob’s Donuts in San Francisco. Donuts are memorable but, let’s get to the question at hand. Are they a good endurance fuel for a marathoning?

As a performance nutritionist and a creative athletic, I am well-versed in the scientific evidence in favor of easily digested, mixed-source carbohydrates eaten in a slow drip fashion. It works. Sports nutritionists usually preach the following:

  1. Don’t try something new on race day
  2. Fuel on simple carbohydrates for immediate energy
  3. Skip protein and fat during high intensity running
  4. Hydrate every fifteen minutes

The thing is this advice is merely a framework and what happens during the race is often circumstantial do to an individuals body and what is going on specific to this race. When I crewed Scott Jurek on his Appalachian Trail quest, he ate every vegan food brought to him on the trail. Pizza. California rolls. Pad Thai. Digestion? No problem. It is also a matter of having a well-trained gut which, he has.

Let’s not forget about pallet fatigue. This is when you just can’t get anything past the entry point of digestion, your mouth. It just says no more. When running Wasatch Back Ragnar Relay race palate fatigue hit me hard. I could not stomach even the thought of more chews or gels. I knew I had another leg to run and needed to eat. Sitting on the street curb next to the van I nursed a piece of plain white bread but, it wasn’t going down. My teammate, in jest, suggested the two-day-old powdered cake donut in the pastry box under the seat in the stinky van. Why not? I needed fuel to keep up and nothing else was going in. I proceeded to nibble and eventually eat the best tasting, dry, carb-packed donut with pure delight.

All the textbook sports nutrition recommendations in the world aren’t going to make the fuel go down when an individual’s palate says NO. What is a runner to do? Problem solve by trying out other things on course.

In the case of Brendan, the apple fritter was definitely and individual call. I don’t know many runners who would give that a try but, that is what called him and, it worked! It packed more energy than gels or chews and it got the job done. Splitting it in half with a fellow runner as Brendan suggests definitely lowers the risk of the fritter turning into a full stomach gut bomb and increasing tolerance. Now, carrying an apple fritter, chewing and swallowing, that could take some practice.

I can give athletes all the scientifically proven recommendations in the world but, ultimately it comes down to the individual and what works for them. Individuals sports nutrition is anything but textbook. So, if an apple fritter it is, go with it! There is no doubt, it tastes better than gels!