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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!

Basic Framework for Fueling Activity

I love the simple nutrition framework of eating before, during, and after activity is one tool in the toolbox for optimizing the body for more fun in whatever athletic adventure awaits! Whether hiking, climbing, running, sking or anything in between considering what to eat before, during, and after can mean more energy to do the “thing” and better recovery to do the thing again!

Looking at the table you will see that there are ranges. These ranges help people to adapt what to eat based on moving time. Going out for a sixty-minute bike ride won’t require much eating during the activity because the body has enough stored on board. It does, however, require consideration of eating a meal about three to four hours before to ensure energy storage is topped off and recovery is primed. When returning from an hour of activity, a small snack will suffice.

Planning on being out there for more than one hour requires some carbohydrates during a ride to stay fueled and prime the pump for utilizing fat as fuel. My approach is to start at the low end of thirty grams and adjust as my body demands. Protein is not the most efficient fuel source during activity but, when the carbohydrate won’t go down anymore it can be used. Protein and fat eaten during activity can do a number on the stomach, too. I sometimes recommend a little protein in the form of jerky or nuts just to break up flavor and give the pallet something else to knaw on.

The biggest concerns people seem to have about fueling with simple sugars – the simplest and most quickly available carbohydrate sources – is that they 1) Will upset their stomach or 2) Sugar is “bad” for you.

If a person is dehydrated, sugar is going to be tough to tolerate. My rule of thumb with GI distress is, solve for dehydration then talk sugar. Following the approximate hydration guide above can help with hydration but, to really know how much to drink during different activities and temperatures, one would have to determine their individual sweat rate (topic for another day). Too much sugar at one time during activity can also mess up the stomach. It is a common mistake for people to miss out on fueling early in the activity and then trying to make up for it with three gels at once! Ouch. That will definitely not sit will on a stomach that it is already sacrificing blood flow so the muscles get more. Spread those gels, drink and chews out and start fueling early!

Now, too much sugar is a problem if you are sitting on your butt sucking down a movie-theater-sized soda but, when you are trying to fuel activity it is a different story. The sugar you consume will be burned within five to ten minutes to be used immediately by the working muscles. Use it sparingly and mix up the types of sugar to include a combo of fructose, glucose, and sucrose for the best energy outcome, or output rather.

What about eating fruit during activity? Isn’t that a carbohydrate? Fruit contains the fruit sugar, fructose. Fructose alone is tough for the stomach to tolerate but, in the presence of glucose, it seems to be a good combo energy source. Fruit, however, also contains fiber that the stomach must break down so eating whole pieces of fruit during activity could cause some digestive distress. Fruit puree blended with cane sugar or honey blended with cane sugar is good examples of a fructose with sucrose or glucose option.

So like carbohydrate during activity, I am going to dose out the rest of the information in my chart above over the next few weeks. Check back for more on beets, caffeine, creatine. protein, sweat rate, fructose, and recovery!

The Three Simple Fueling Strategies I Gave Jim Walmsley

I have advised, crewed, and witnessed all sorts of approaches to sustaining energy and staying hydrated in attempts to cross the Western States One-hundred mile race (from Squaw Valley to Auburn)  finish line. It is grueling enough just following the race aid-station-to-aid-station for the entire day, let alone running the entire thing. Yet, it is an event I look forward to spectating each year for so many reasons.

One of those reasons is watching these fellow runners’ stories play out over the course of the day. Not every runner’s story is obvious or known but, witnessing someone push through exhaustion, pain, and mental battles while testing their capabilities is a story of hope that serves both runners and spectators.

When of the most well-known stories in the last few years was that of Jim Walmsley. From his infamous wrong turn at a record-breaking pace to giving it his all the following year only to not be able to keep the fuel down, this champion was struggling. When his nutrition sponsor, CLIF, asked me to advise him on fueling strategies for his two-thousand eighteen race, I was excited to dig in and support his third attempt.


At the infamous Forest Hill aid station, I have witnessed lots of puking. This is mile sixty-two of the race. Runners have already endured grueling climbs, descents, and heat all for the privilege of running this race. If they haven’t managed to stay cool and well hydrated at this point, it is unlikely that they have been able to tolerate many calories. And, despite their efforts to put the calories down, they come back up or they simply take nothing. My personal and professional feeling is that if we can first solve for dehydration, we can get the gut back on track.

Two-thousand seventeen was a heavy snow year. With a fair amount of snow still in the high country, runners exerted more energy than non-snow years. This was also a year of redemption in the eyes of Jim Walmsley, he was coming back hard to get past the epic wrong-turn story of two-thousand sixteen. Yet, at mile sixty-two it was clear that he wasn’t keeping his calories down. His run that day was cut short one mile before the river crossing (mile seventy-two).

While at the river crossing, I saw many runners come through in various states of alertness and delirium but, what was clear to me was those who were able to eat and drink were the ones who were clearly winning on this course. Ian Sharman ate oatmeal and carried on. Magdalena Boulet ate a wafflette and climbed strongly out of the river. Another sucked down a non-alcoholic beer, threw it up instantly and slumped in a chair. I would not have advised that beer but, people get desperate.

The most basic approach to fueling any run over two hours long is to eat or drink small amounts of carbohydrates every twenty minutes. Carbohydrates should be of the simple-sugar variety (glucose, fructose, sucrose).  This is not the time to skimp on the sugar. If nutrition has been periodized well enough with times of less carbohydrate, it is possible that the body will perform just fine on twenty-five to thirty grams of carbohydrate per hour but, for those racing at high intensity, the reduced oxygen efficiency makes it not worth it and more carbohydrate becomes critical to top performance. The general rule of thumber is thirty to sixty grams of carbohydrates per hour and up to ninety grams per hour if the gut has trained for it.

After talking with Jim and assessing what he had done for past races I provided him a few simple suggestions that are beneficial for anyone racing more than two hours:

  1. Spread fuel out
  2. Spread hydration out
  3. Spread out caffeine intake

Spreading fuel out can be done in a variety of different ways. No two race days are the same. So having a menu of fueling options to adapt and work with his helpful. Because the heat and hydration is such a challenge at the Western States, getting two for one with most of the calories coming from the fluid at a steady rate of titration into the body from water bottles and hydration pack is a great approach. For example, if you have two five-hundred milliliter bottles, ensure you have thirty grams of carbohydrate-electrolyte in each bottle. Then if you are feeling low on energy consume one CLIF BLOK every twenty minutes.

Spread hydration out by drinking out of those bottles every ten to twenty minutes. Determine how much fluid is in a swig before race day by taking a swig and spitting it out into a measuring cup. Knowing how much fluid is needed it largely dependent on much sweat is lost. At States, sweat pours off possibly even more so than during any training day. My rule of thumb is to have a baseline intake of roughly thirty-two ounces of fluid per hour. Like all things, this will vary based on the individual.

Spread caffeine out: beginning, middle, and end consuming no more than one-hundred milligrams at a time. Caffeinated gels or chews should be reserved for those points in the race when the eyes might want to close and fatigue is setting in. While caffeine affects everyone differently, for some, it reduces the perception of fatigue and it actually takes very little to have that effect (twenty-five milligrams). This can be helpful in the early morning start, middle, and final push of the race.

While this sounds simple enough, it is something that has to planned and practice in training ahead of time. To spread out fuel and hydration over the course of one-hundred miles also means thinking about how you will carry it, where you can refuel, and making sure the right fuel and hydration is available to you when you need. Planning this out ahead of time might seem elementary and, well, it kind of is but that doesn’t make it any less critical. The difference between crossing the finish line and not crossing the finish line might light in the difference.

This Home


Last year I took a scary and risky leap in my career. I quit my day job and launched into working for myself under Summit Nutrition Strategy. Summit Nutrition Strategy is my consulting business where I work with outdoor businesses and organization to invigorate active lifestyles with turn-key nutrition programs that drive positive change in the food system and individuals health.

It has been a process so far in both discovering what works and where my unique skills as both a strategic marketer and dietitian nutritionist have the most impact. And like so many things, learning, growing, and adapting has been the welcomed process. I should say mostly welcomed because at times the process leads me to a black hole of self-doubt. Recovering from a head injury didn’t do much to move the process along this past year, but, it did force me to slow down some of my reckless enthusiasm and focus on what I could do.

I have worked on wonderful projects to date and reconnected with former colleagues while also meeting tons of amazing new people doing good work that I enjoy supporting through my special skill set. Through the work I have done so far have discovered what and who lights me up. Humans are amazing. So many want to improve and do something better by putting good food and knowledge out into the world. Those are the people for me. As my favorite quote by Jack Kerouac says “……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…”

My work has to draw me in for more than money. While I have a family to support and money is needed, it isn’t what drives me to do my work. It is rather the people and impact that draws me from the trails, snow-filled peaks, and river walks to sit down and get’er done. My time outside informs my good work for certain but, at some point, I must sit and write. Writing also pulls me inward. Whether I am writing about my own projects our writing reports, articles, and insights to share with a new client, it is writing that I love.

It isn’t just writing for myself that lights me up, although that is how I sort things out. It is the opportunity to share insights, knowledge, and stories that resonate with others that keeps me wanting to write more.

So if you have visited this blog in the last year, you will notice a change BACK to what it was before I went into business for myself, a home for sharing insights, knowledge, and stories. It is nothing more than that. I have shifted my consulting business to its rightful own home at Summit Nutrition Strategy. Like everything, it is a work in progress. So, if you visit it today it will provide you with a general idea of how we might be able to write stories of business and athletism together.

Until then, welcome to the home of Tara Dell Tells where I will share stories about food, family, and my personal human-powered adventures.

Caroline Gleich: Everest Nutrition Plan

Right now, I sit here at my desk. Before I got here I fed the kids breakfast, took the dog out, fed the dog, made lunches and snacks for the kids, and got the kids off to school. Then I finally sat down at my desk to write when I read my sticky-note reminder taped to my screen. “Drink water!!!” Why do have I note to myself to drink water? Because in my daily juggle of priorities and meeting the needs of others, I need constant reminders to meet my own basic physiological needs.  Breath, eat, and drink.

At this very same moment, that is exactly what I hope Caroline Gleich, ski mountaineer, and activist is doing while on Everest expedition. Anticipation, excitement, and altitude can certainly be a distraction when it comes to remembering basic needs. It is my hope that the summit nutrition plan I put together of her is now serving as her “sticky note” reminder. She has begun her Everest expedition with fiance Rob Lea and the team from Alpenglow Expeditions.

You see, whatever our passion, be it mountain climbing the world’s tallest peaks or sitting down at our desks to write a novel, we juggle a lot just getting there. In a frenzy of nerves, excitement, hard work, and overwhelm it can be easy to overlook the basic physiological needs that sustain our ability to keep moving on towards the summit.

That is why I reached out to Caroline and created her personalized summit nutrition plan. After interviewing several mountaineers it had become clear to me that good food, water, and coffee was in abundance at base camps to support expeditions. Eating well is part of the experience and food for refueling and recovering is understood.  

Consuming fuel during the moving time, however, has its challenges and is not top always top of mind when climbers expend most the energy breathing and focusing that next step. Yet, if mountaineers knew what their fueling needs actually were ahead of time and what impact under-fueling the activity may be having on them (not enough calories to reach summit!), would they be more inclined to create a plan for what the will eat, when they will eat it, and how they will carry it when in route? While Caroline might not meet her two-hundred calories per hour goal we set, my theory is she will eat more than she did in her previous expeditions simply because she is more aware of the calorie demands.

In conversation with the crew at Alpenglow Expeditions, I learned that there are four camps and moving time between those camps is variable with conditions but, could be between four and eight hour days. Climbers also carry packs that range between fifteen and thirty pounds. These are factors I considered when determining the specific energy demands put on Caroline as she would begin her ascent each day.

Here is an estimation of Caroline’s calorie needs:


Hours of
Moving Time
No Pack15 Pound Pack (5% more calories)30 Pound Pack (22% more calories)
Rest Day2400 calories
4 Hours 4000 calories4200 calories4880 calories
6 Hours 5370 calories5700 calories6550 calories
8 Hours 5600 calories6000 calories7000 calories


Hours MovingCalorie Goal During Moving Time
800 calories (4 sleeves of BLOKS or 8  GELS
41200 calories (6 sleeves of BLOKS) Swap out a bar or nut butter packets for one sleeve of BLOKS for variety)
81600 calories (8 of BLOKS) Swap out a bar or nut butter packets for one sleeve of BLOKS

Much like ultra-runners, tour de France riders, and other multi-day athletic challenges, it is nearly impossible to meet the caloric energy demands put on the body. Caroline’s nutrition object for Everest is to minimize the calorie deficit by consuming meals at camp and approximately two-hundred calories per hour of climbing. It isn’t realistic to expect her to be able to consume enough to meet her needs. Like all things, it important to look at what can be done and go from there.

To sustain her energy during the days of climbing I recommended approximately two hundred calories per hour from mixed macronutrients:

Knowing what is needed to sustain energy is only half the challenge. The other half of the fueling challenge, especially at very high altitude, is juggling the three basic physiological priorities for sustaining movement:

  • Oxygen
  • Fuel
  • Fluid

In an Everest climb, oxygen masks are worn above the twenty-three thousand feet. These means to eat and drink the oxygen mask needs to be removed. It isn’t uncommon to take the oxygen mask off for several minutes at a time but, it is one more barrier to surpass when making the decision to drink and eat. It is altogether too easy for the climber to skip fueling opting for less hassle, more breath, and continued moving forward. In the long climb, however, the benefits of eating small and often may outweigh any fuss over the oxygen mask.

In addition to eating and drinking with an oxygen mask, there are other challenges too:

  • Decreased appetite (decreased desire to eat)
  • Increased resting metabolic rate (increased calorie need)
  • Calories difficult to carry and cumbersome to acquire while on the move

To help her juggling shifting nutrient and oxygen priorities I offered these suggestions:

Caroline’s Everest Fueling Considerations:

  1. Estimate what you will be comfortably able to consume based on your previous experiences.
  2. Try sucking on the energy chews or biting them in half and tucking them between your gum to help keep the brain alert and energy metabolism stimulated.
  1. If  moving time ends up being longer than the eight-hour scenario, your daily calorie demand could be as high as 10,000 calories
  2. Eat well at camp to keep your muscle energy (glycogen) topped off while also feeling comfortable.
  3. Eating a variety of foods at the camp meals and snacks will help meet the energy demands of your day.
  4. Subtract your 200 calories per hour of climbing from the daily total to see your ballpark camp caloric need.
  5. Drink fluids containing carbohydrate at camp. Starting your days hydrated is preferred over starting behind on fluids because you didn’t drink enough at camp.
  6. If 200 calories per hour becomes impossible, consuming even one BLOK per hour is better than nothing. While the body can use some stored fat for fuel, it can not do that without a stoke of the fire (so to speak) from ingested carbohydrates.  
  7. If possible, carry calories in your fluid (versus relying on just plain water) is an efficient way to get both calories and hydration at the same time. Carrying stick packs and mixing it with melted snow along the climb might be a consideration.
  8. While carbohydrates remains the body’s preferred fuel source as well as the most oxygen efficient fuel source, you will want to also mix in some fuel from fat as well. Nut butter packs can come in really handy here and energy bars that won’t freeze.

This expedition is about more than just getting to the top of Mount Everest. It is also The Climb for Equality. Did you know only 11% of summiteers over 8000m are women? The Climb for Equality advocates for more women in leadership roles and more woman on mountain adventures. As women, juggling priorities is new not knew to us. In fact, it is what motherhood trains us to do. Hilary Nelson, ski mountaineer and mother of two boys, confessed what I have also experienced,  adventuring in the mountains is easier than parenting and motherhood.

That fact is actually what sent me literally running to mountain ridge lines I previously thought were unattainable for me. We juggle a lot as parents and twelve years in parenting, I still need the same reminders Everest climbers need to make sure I have what it takes to sustain myself through the journey. Slow down, eat, breath, and drink.

Go, Caroline! Follow her summit here

Debunking the Diet

A few years ago I had the distinct pleasure of living my childhood fantasy. As a kid, I dreamt about being on a film set, having the director holler “CUUT” and then have the take-counter (you know, the one with the chalkboard and black and white arm that makes the clicking noise) click before me. To film a series of short clips took about twenty hours.

Not only did I get the scene-counter experience, I also got to debunk some of the DUMBEST dieting myths I had ever heard under the brilliant direction of a Funny or Die director. I also got to work with a far more practiced and completely supportive , Erin Gibson, brillant author of Feminasty and is the cohost of pod-cast Throwing Shade.

All of it was and experience for the books! My mantra before delivering any kind of nutrition decree has since been “Friendly teacher me”. That was what the director kept telling me. Stick to the script (that I wrote), don’t improv, and “friendly teacher me”! Good direction. Wish I remembered her name.