Category Archives: Nutrition

Rice Balls

Trail runners often ask me what they should eat when they have upset stomachs caused by too much sun (heat exhaustion) or too much sugar (nausea, vomiting or diarrhea). The answer is rice balls (onigiri).

I eat rice balls when I need a quick pick-me-up, and I also eat them when I can’t eat anything else. They are portable so you can take them in your pack, or store them in your aid station drop bag. American ultrarunning legend Scott Jurek (in his book Eat & Run) says white rice is:

  • Great for cooling your body
  • Packed with carbohydrates
  • Soft and easy to digest
  • A great source for electrolytes and salt

Rice balls can be made in any size or shape, and can be eaten plain or with seaweed for added flavor.

Rice Balls

1 cup Japanese rice (we use Kokuho Rose)
1 1/4 cups water
Nori seasweed (we use Costco’s Kirkland Roasted Seasoned Seaweed)

Cook the rice in water using a rice cooker, or on the stovetop (bring to a boil over high heat, cover pan and simmer for 25 minutes). Remove from heat to cool slightly.

Rice can be formed into any shape you want … three common shapes (rectangles, triangles, round balls) are in the photo below.

  1. Fill a small bowl with water and wet both hands.
    – If you are using a plastic container (i.e, rectangle or triangle) to shape the rice, wet the sides of the container (water helps to prevent the rice from sticking to your hands or the container).
  2. Salt your hands.
    – If you are using a plastic container, salt the the bottom of the container.
  3. Use your hands to form the rice into a bite-sized ball.
    – If you are using a plastic container, press the rice into the container. Salt the top of the rice and then flip over the container to release the rice.  If necessary, cut the rice to the desired size.
  4.  If desired, wrap the nori sheets around the rice. If two pieces of nori overlap, use water to seal the two edges together.
  5. Store the rice balls in a container or ziploc bag.
  6. Enjoy!

Trail Treats

It’s trail running season again (Yeah!!) and in order to sustain hours of fun exploring familiar and unfamiliar terrain, I need to pack some portable energy.  Although I could purchase energy bars, I prefer homemade treats so I ask my wife to make Eat More Bars!  I love these bars because they are delicious and can be customized to include whatever you want.  So here is the recipe … hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Eat More Bars

1 cup corn syrup
½ cup peanut butter
2 cups chocolate chips

Heat in a pot to bubbling (full bubble). Remove from heat and mix in remaining ingredients.

1 cup crushed peanuts, almonds or walnuts
½ cup shelled sunflower seeds
½ cup rice krispies (gluten free or regular)
½ cup dried cranberries (optional)

Spread on cookie sheet lined with parchment (or wax) paper. When cool, cut to desired size (I like small bite-sized pieces). Store in fridge.
Tip: Rather than using a knife to cut the bars, use a pizza cutter for easier and quicker cutting.

My Favorite Snack

Both road and trail runners often ask me what I like to eat as a snack before, during or after a run.  The answer … the marvelous mini muffins my wife makes.  I love these muffins because they give me a good boost of energy while being small, portable and delicious.  So here is the recipe … hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

Easy Gluten Free Oatmeal Muffins

2 ¼ cups gluten free rolled oats (or regular rolled oats)
½ cup chocolate chips (or unsweetened coconut flakes)
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup dried cranberries
2 Tbsp. maple syrup (or coconut palm sugar)
4 Tbsp. melted butter (or melted coconut oil)
2 ripe bananas, mashed
3 eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 350°.  Grease wells of 24-cup mini muffin tin (or 12-cup standard muffin tin).

Mix oats, chocolate chips, salt, cinnamon, and dried cranberries in large bowl.  Add maple syrup, butter, mashed bananas and eggs, mixing to combine after each addition.  The batter should be thick but soft. Divide evenly among muffin wells and smooth tops with a spoon or spatula.

Bake until muffin edges are brown and muffin centers feel firm when gently pressed, about 20 – 25 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool in pan 10 minutes before transferring to wire rack to cool completely.  Store at room temperature up to 3 days or in fridge/freezer for longer storage.

Getting your Protein

Now that you are into endurance training, consider your recovery from workouts. You need between 0.55 and 0.65 grams of protein per pound of body weight [1]. A 160 pound runner needs 88g to 104g of protein per day. Optimally you want 20g of protein immediately after a workout, mixed with carbohydrates in a 4:1 ratio (80g to 120g carbs) [2]. Most people cannot convert more than 30g at a time, and the excess may be converted to fat stores [1].

A variety of protein sources is a healthy choice, so mix it up. Note that chocolate milk has a 4:1 carb/protein ratio in a handy container. For a solution that does not need to be kept cool, bring a bottle with pre-measured protein powder that just needs water added. Here are some other options:

  • 1 egg = 6g protein
  • 6oz salmon = 34g
  • 1 cup quinoa = 8g
  • 1 cup lentils = 18g
  • 1oz almonds = 6g
  • half cup cottage cheese = 14g
  • 1 cup milk = 8g
  • 1 cup cooked oatmeal = 6g


  1. Matthew Kadey M.S., R.D. on a article “The Skinny on Protein”
  2. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, from the same article.

And some additional reading:


Looking for a good and quick pre-run snack?

For those who have read “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, you know the Tarahumara runners eat chia seeds (ancient superfood) for fuel and energy on their ultra runs (50 – 100 miles).  Chia seeds are high in protein, fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, calcium, iron, manganese and phosphorous. When soaked in water, they form a thick, gel like mass. It is believed when Chia seeds are eaten, the gel-forming reaction occurs in the stomach, forming a barrier between carbohydrates and digestive enzymes, thus slowing the conversion of carbohydrates to sugar. The result is a super slow release of energy. The other result of this gel-forming reaction is the retention of water which means water loss is minimized and electrolyte balance is maintained for longer.  The Tarahumara combine chia seeds, water and lemon or lime to form a thick drink they consume before their runs. On half and full-day trail runs, I eat the dry seeds and chase it with water.

I have experimented with chia seeds during my training and I find they are quick and easy to eat before a run.  My favorite pre-run snack is to eat 3 or 4 spoons of Chocolate Chia Pudding which combines the benefits of chia with cocoa powder (caffeine), brown sugar (quick energy) and soy milk (calcium). Enjoy!

Chocolate Chia Pudding

  • 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar, packed
  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup soy milk (original or chocolate … for a real chocolaty experience)

Mix cocoa powder and brown sugar together until smooth.  Stir in chia seeds and soy milk.  Let mixture rest and then stir again.  Repeat a few times for 20 minutes.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 hours to overnight.


  • If you want some extra caffeine, add 1 tsp. instant coffee powder to the pudding.
  • If you want some extra energy, drizzle 2 tsp. honey over pudding.