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Interview

Posted Jul 19 2011 6:20am


While in Napa for the Oakley Women Fitness retreat, I met some amazing women.

(Photo by Shawn Parkin)

More like 100 talented women, from magazine editors to Oakley employees. Then there were the 10 of us that were selected to be Oakley Women ambassadors.

We all have different lifestyles but share a similar passion for health and fitness. Above all, we all are individuals and each of us perform beautifully (in our own way) on a daily basis.

Recently, my friend Brittany asked if she could do an interview with me and I was delighted to answer her questions. Brittany is very interested in living a healthier life, with enjoyment and positive energy. She posts wonderful quotes on her FB page which always make me smile. With a background in Journalism and Creative Writing, Brittany , who is also a freelance writer and model, really made me think with her questions..but in a great way.

Thanks to Brittany for the interview!! We hope you enjoy it!

Story Saturday: Marni Sumbal, MS, RD
By Brittany Costa
Since entering into the Health and Wellness industry, I have been introduced to many amazing and strong people who constantly inspire me every day. Marni Sumbal, MS, RD is one of those people.

I met Marni through the Oakley Women Ambassadorship program. Not only is she also an Ambassador, but she is a Registered Dietitian and holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology. She is a Certified Sports Nutritionist (CISSN) and holds a certification by the American Dietetic Association in Adult Weight Management. But this is “just” her day job. Not only does she work in the field of health, but she also lives a wonderfully fit life in her personal time as well: Marni is a Level-1 USAT Coach and a four time Ironman finisher. She is currently training for the 2011 Ironman World Championship.


Why did you want to become a registered dietitian?

While in graduate school (2004-2006) I had developed a great passion for endurance sports, completing my first marathon in January of 2005, and finished my first Ironman in 2006. I quickly realized the significance of nutrition in terms of how I performed and recovered from workouts. Certified in Sports Nutrition from the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), I had a great understanding of how to fuel before, during and after workouts while in graduate school. I suppose with my Master degree in Exercise Physiology, I have always enjoyed the “scientific” approach to training. However, while training for my second Ironman, I wanted to know more about daily nutrition as well understanding how to improve the quality of the diet in order to increase longevity and reduce risk for disease. Also, as a passionate writer and speaker, I knew that in order to learn more and provide credible information to the public, I would need further education. After 3 long, stressful and challenging years, I can finally call myself a Registered Dietitian (no longer a nutritionist). RD's are protected by law to provide nutrition information in order to assess, diagnose and treat medical conditions. Dietitians must practice in accordance to the ADA (American Dietetic Association) Code of Ethics, abiding by a set of standards and laws that protect the public. There is nothing more gratifying for me than helping athletes and fitness enthusiasts reach personal body composition and performance goals all while improving the quality of life.


No matter what your diet is (vegan, gluten-free, omnivore, vegetarian) you still need to get necessary nutrients in your body no matter what the means, what are the top 5 most important vitamins / minerals the body needs?

I believe in a balanced diet, where no food is “off-limit”. There are too many fad diets out there and while some may encourage weight loss and improve health, we don’t always know the long-term effects of eliminating/reducing a food group (which is often the case). As a lacto-ovo vegetarian for the past 18 years (for animal reasons), I believe in placing emphasis on certain foods in the diet, all while developing a healthy relationship with food. With an understanding of your daily dietary needs, based on your exercise routine and lifestyle, as well as learning to appreciate wholesome meals prepared at home, nutrition doesn’t have to be as complicated as it is made out to be. But to answer your question, Wow... this is a tough one. If I had to narrow it down, I believe that the top 5 most important vitamins/minerals that the body needs are calcium + vitamin D, iron, B vitamins (all of them, especially those found in whole grains), vitamin A and quality protein (ok, the last one is a macronutrient but it deserves to be in the top 5).


What is the best way to get Vitamin D, Calcium and Iron if you’re a vegan?

An easy trick to help with the bio-availability of iron is to consume vitamin C (ex. citrus fruits) with dark leafy greens to help absorb some of the nonheme iron. Even though iron is best absorbed through animal protein (heme iron), research has shown that even vegetarians can meet iron levels without deficiencies. If you are a vegan, it may take a little more effort but it certainly can be done. I don’t recommend supplementing with iron without consulting with your physician. Although milk and yogurt are excellent sources of calcium, vegans can meet daily recommended intakes of calcium (~1000 mg/day) through dark leafy greens, tofu, calcium fortified drinks (ex. soy milk), tempeh and even blackstrap molasses (2 tbsp will meet almost half of your recommend intake!). There are a few foods that inhibit calcium absorption, such as wine, caffeinated tea/coffee and wheat bran so if you believe you consume adequate calcium-rich foods but lab values show a deficiency in calcium, check your diet for foods rich in tannins, phytates and oxalic acid which may interfere with calcium absorption. As with any diet restriction (ethical, dietary or preferential), it is encouraged to meet with a RD in order to recognize any deficiencies or excessive intakes in your current diet. I believe that there is no perfect diet or one-size fits all because as life changes, so does our diet.

What’s the deal with soy? Can you eat too much?

Too much of anything is rarely a good thing…except for snuggling with my dog! However, when it comes to soy, research is still inconclusive. Opponents of soy believe that the phytoestrogens (chemicals in plants) as well as isoflavones may increase the risk / progression of cancer in both men and women, affect testosterone levels in males and interfere with the action of estrogen in the body. However, those same isoflavones are also thought to have a positive impact on the body and may help with cancer prevention, reduce hot flashes, decrease risk for heart disease, protect against prostate cancer and improve bone health. So while the debate continues, soy milk is a great alternative for individuals who may have dietary restraints to cow’s milk (ex. vegan, lactose intolerant) because of the beneficial calcium and protein. While only 3 glasses a day of soy milk will help to meet calcium recommendations, soy is also heavily used in processed food (especially in vegetarian-friendly products). My recommendation is to emphasize a plant-based, wholesome and balance diet, emphasizing all types of foods (fats, protein and carbs) with little to no ingredients.

What is your favorite “cheat” food?

I don’t believe in cheating as cheating is often related to horrible instances in life (ex. cheating on your husband, cheating in a race, cheating on an exam). In my quest to develop a healthy relationship with food, I take pride in the foods that I put in my body on a daily basis and I welcome occasional opportunities to try foods that aren’t in my every-day diet. However, I am a BIG fan of peanut butter and it goes by rather quickly in my home. Also, my favorite occasional treats include carrot cake and banana bread (of course, two rich and yummy desserts with a vegetable and fruit in their name!).

What is your favorite “healthy” food?

Even for me who loves “healthy” food, it is easy to overuse the word “healthy”. Therefore, I often like to tell myself that the foods in my diet improve my health and help me feel energized and strong. I have many staple-foods in my diet so my fave’s (always on my grocery list) include eggs, ALL fruits and veggies (love them all!), garlic, dark chocolate, yogurt, milk, whole grains, nuts/nut butter and olive oil.


You’re a triathlete and vegetarian, during training what do your workouts consist of and how does your diet reflect this?

I believe that my diet supports my health first, then my training. Therefore, I prioritize a balanced diet in order to improve my longevity of life and reduce my risk for disease. Because I do not get paid to train (wouldn’t that be nice!), I enjoy triathlons as part of my healthy and active lifestyle. I love setting goals and reaping the rewards of consistent training. As a competitive Ironman triathlete, I train around 10-18 hours a week, depending on the time of the year. I use the winter season to focus on my strength and power, as I exercise for health benefits and focus on a diet that supports my current daily lifestyle. I absolutely love cooking so I use the winter to come up with healthy creations that I know will fuel my workouts during the peak of the season. When my training intensity and volume increases, I prioritize my pre and post training nutrition so that I can properly fuel before workouts and recover quickly (and gain strength) after workouts. I don’t believe in eating larger meals but rather to eat more periodically throughout the day (especially after long/intense training sessions). I focus on slow digesting carbohydrates with a little protein and fat before workouts, such as toast or wasa crackers with peanut butter for lighter workouts (around an hour to 90 minutes) or oatmeal with nuts and berries for longer workouts (90+ min). Depending on the calories in my pre-meal training snack, I typically drink coffee first and eat within 45-90 minutes of the start of my workout (which starts at either 5am or 7am, depending on the day). Post workout is always protein, typically whey protein (in a smoothie with fruit and yogurt or milk) after longer workouts or a quick glass of milk (or yogurt if on the go), usually with a handful of dry cereal or granola. I always follow my recovery protein snack with a yummy carbohydrate-rich, balanced meal.

What is your next big goal?

I have been known to dream big! My life revolves around goal setting and I love the journey of working towards a goal. I am in the process of creating my own business (Trimarni coaching and nutrition). I recently accepted a PRN position as a clinical dietitian in a local hospital. My ultimate goal is to be a writer and to write cookbooks as well as books on nutrition for both the general population and for athletes. I love public speaking so I hope to be able to speak on a more national level. I just love helping people; I find it very rewarding and fulfilling. Right now I am training for my second Ironman World Championships which will be in Kona, Hawaii in October. I hope to have a great race, especially since this will be the first time (in a LONG time) that I will be training for an Ironman without having to make time to study for school!
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