This week’s guest is none other than expert nutritionist and author, Lauren Slayton. I remember meeting Lauren years ago when Flywheel was only a few years old; so this puts us back in 2011 probably. Lauren’s wit, intelligence, and down to earth nature always stuck with me and we’ve been in contact since.
When I recently started to teach more classes, I relied on Lauren’s guidance to help make sure I was getting enough of the right calories, at the right time. I love Lauren’s straightforward and realistic approach and am so excited to share some of her knowledge with you.
You can find Lauren @foodtrainers on Instagram. She keeps me up to date on nutrition best practices, new products, interesting articles, dinner inspiration and of course pictures of her beautiful family.
Here’s our convo!
1. I’d love to know how you got into nutrition. Can you tell me a little bit about the path that lead you here?
I was always someone who was diligent with my schoolwork (and later work) and also diligent about social plans and friends. When I was in college, I studied premed. Looking back, I never really wanted to be an MD. I was just a science-y person and that’s where I was corralled. I was at Tulane, which speaks for itself in terms of fun; I was still shockingly concerned about my work but with no shortage of fun. I took a 2-credit nutrition class. It was offered at the health center and gym to give you a sense of how nutrition was viewed in the 1990s. I went to this class and knew I wanted to learn more. But it wasn’t until I had a panic attack (hello universe) the night before taking my MCATS that I realized I definitely didn’t want to go to med school.
I graduated from Tulane and, despite my parents thinking I lost my marbles, enrolled in NYU’s master program in nutrition. When I graduated, I was so excited to work in the field I was a little bit of a job whore. I was working in obesity research and at 3 Equinox gyms. In research, my favorite part was interacting with the study participants (not the case with most research scientists). At Equinox, I was confused that my clients bragged about their amazing trainers and then snuck into my nutrition office. After a few years, I opened Foodtrainers. The concept being that nutrition didn’t have to be for sick people in a hospital or embarrassing (it was 2002, things were different). We “train” clients with food whether they are training for a marathon, having a baby, wanting more energy or looking to lose weight.
Our tagline is “you don’t have to change your lifestyle to fit our food plans, our food plan will fit your lifestyle.” Full circle; helping clients, via food, balance work and play, healthy and indulgent.
2. Fitness and nutrition obviously go hand in hand. As a trainer and instructor, I often get asked questions around what to eat and when pre/post workout. Can you give some pointers around this?
My first pointer is that unless someone is seriously training for an athletic event, or doing a crazy number of hours of fitness, they don’t need pre-workout and post-workout food specifically.
The question I get the most is “should I eat before I exercise?” Any my annoying answer is always “it depends.” If you are the athlete I just mentioned whose primary focus is performance, yes it’s better to have something in your system. If you are someone who is waking up and going to the gym for 45 minutes, I’d suggest exercising on an empty stomach. When you exercise in a fasted state you’ll use more of your body fat versus your breakfast for fuel.
One thing to keep in mind, exercise is what’s known as a hypoglycemic agent (see, still science-y). This means exercise lowers your blood sugar. Time without food further lowers your blood sugar. So, if you workout, shower, return emails, go to the office and then eat you may feel like your appetite is insatiable the rest of the day. As I tell clients, your inner cookie monster appears. So, try to eat ASAP post workout. This can be a meal or a snack. I’m a big fan of smoothies as you get protein, fluid and fiber all in one.
The other thing to consider is digestion. If you have the smoothie I just mentioned right before you go for a run, you may feel it sloshing around in your stomach for the duration of your workout.
I hate calorie counting but it’s helpful to think about 100 per hour. If you’re working out in less than an hour, keep it at 100 calories or less. If you’re working out in 2 hours you can do a little more (200 calories). If you have 3 hours until your workout, you can have a full meal.
3. Americans are obsessed with protein. How much do we actually need to consume and post workout, when is the best time to consume it?
The current guidelines for protein are .8 grams per kg of body weight but I have multiple issues with this, and many other nutrition parameters.
First, the only times, in my career, I’ve counted grams of protein has been in hospital calculating tube feeds and for clients doing Ironman triathlons. The average person doesn’t need to count grams of protein (and people who do often drive themselves and those around them crazy).
Second, the average person in the US doesn’t weigh themselves in kilos.
And finally, and most importantly, these guidelines are for preventing deficiency. Have you heard of Kwashiorkor? You probably haven’t because very few people are protein deficient.
So we instead need to think about protein quantites to optimize how we feel, to fuel our workouts, keep us energized and lower our appetite.
If you insist on grams, I think you can go up to 1g per pound but I prefer percentages. It’s less tedious and easier to say 25-30% protein, which you can eyeball on a plate.
As far as timing, it’s good to have some protein in the morning as it leads better portion control later in the day. I’m also a big fan of protein at lunch. Americans tend to have the longest gap between lunch and dinner. Protein helps keep you alert. Protein at lunch can keep you functioning and not slumping in the afternoon. Where we don’t need as much protein and when it is less important is dinner! Dinner is not a time we need to be alert so a small protein portion is fine.
4. What do you think about electrolyte tablets for water? Are there any you love?
You know I love Pure Encapsulations. Their electrolyte energy sticks are popular with our clients.
You love your NUUN, which is fine too. If clients are just looking for a non-racy energy boost, I like matcha. tea pigs make little sticks you can shake in a water bottle. And finally, a little pinch of salt in coconut water is a great sports drink if you’re stuck. Coconut water is loaded with potassium and the pinch of salt gives you sodium.
5. I loved that when we last spoke, you said that you didn’t really like the term “diet” because these labels by their nature automatically exclude something entirely. What is your best advice for someone looking to improve what they eat, in terms of a mixture of fats, proteins, carbs, etc.
If you’re looking to cut out candy, I’m not going to argue. However, longterm you need all your macronutrients in some form. Even if your “carbs” are veggies. So there’s that.
For baseline nutrition rules:
1. Keep your eating (from your first bite to your last) to 12 hours max.
2. Have 2 cups of veggies 2x a day or more. I have clients asking me about ashwaganda, yet I see they’re short on veggies.
3. Increase what we call “fab” fats. Increase good fats such as avocado, chia seeds, olive oil and nuts, especially if you’re a sugar craver. These fats do similar things to your brain as sugar. 1 TBS minimum of good fats per meal.
3. And a great, eye-opening, but not super sexy thing- track your food HONESTLY for a week.
4. Once you have the basics, come see me and we can tweak based on your goals.
6. You’re a working mom with two gorgeous boys. I find the balance to be an on ongoing challenge. In your experience, what’s the best advice you have been given or can give to moms out there?
I opened Foodtrainers 5 months pregnant with my older son. I was in my 20s and didn’t realize how dumb of an idea this was. I went back to work after 2 weeks. I lived close by and I’d go in for a couple of hours. I was petrified to lose clients. I guess I never aspired to balance.
I once heard something like “if you’re with your kids, your work is suffering. If you’re at work, you can miss things with your kids” I’m lucky enough to have a mish-mosh. If I’m at work, my phone is on my desk, my children (or school) calls, I pick up. And I’ll do emails from the soccer game sidelines. I think many parents worry too much about doing this whole thing perfectly. Your kids are watching and life is not perfect. If they see you’re going to work, hopefully liking what you do and rushing to school for their performance, game or presentation- they know they’re important to you.
So, I guess I don’t have great advice on balance, I can tell you it gets easier. I have teenagers and they don’t want me showing up for much (but I still do and sometimes hug them to really embarrass them).
Lauren Slayton, MS RD is the founder of Foodtrainers and the author of the book The Little Book of Thin. She received her undergraduate degree from Tulane University where she graduated cum laude with honors in Sociology. It was here, amidst party central, that she first realized the challenge of balancing work and play, healthy and indulgent. She completed her Masters degree in Clinical Nutrition at New York University. Prior to opening Foodtrainers, Lauren worked at St Luke’s-Roosevelt obesity research unit and developed a nutrition program for the Equinox fitness clubs. These positions provided Lauren both clinical and counseling experience and in the fall of 2001 Lauren opened Foodtrainers.
Lauren conducts frequent nutrition lectures on topics ranging from “Trimming your Travel” to “Dude Foods”. She been featured in: Allure, In Style, Cooking Light, Harper’s Bazaar, Self, Whole Living, O, The New York Post, The Daily Show, Eyewitness News, The Early Show, Fox News, Good Morning America and The Today Show.
Lauren lives in New York City with her husband Marc, sons Myles and Weston, Boston terrier Bronco and her beloved Vitamix.