Food As Fuel


I am very pleased to have Kelli Jennings officially as one of our Loving the Bike Teammates.  She guest posted a great article back a few months ago (Daily Nutrition vs Training Nutrition), and now she will be a more regular contributor to this blog.  Kelli will also be the one mainly responsible for our weekly Nutrition Tip that comes out each week.  Kelli is a Registered Dietician with great knowledge in the area of sports nutrition and we are so excited to have her sharing her wisdom here on the site.

Before you dive into any big new diet or an eating plan, take a step back and figure out what nutrition baggage, if any, you have coming into it.  I’ll start by saying that most people have some nutrition baggage.  They have ideas, habits, traditions, and even emotions about food that have developed over time and have become hard-wired in them.  It’s very important that you start here, because the best sports nutrition, fat-loss, metabolism-optimizing, or wellness “program” in the world won’t help over the long-term unless you renew your thoughts about food.  Until you can see it as fuel for your body.  So, start by unpacking your bags!


Food Choices:

Here’s a simple question: In the last month, how many times did you intentionally or accidentally put dirt in your car’s gas tank?  Once?  Twice?…

Maybe you were at home and realized that you needed gas, but you didn’t have any and didn’t want to make another trip out to the station– and look, there was a bunch of dirt there in the driveway.  Or, maybe, gas has gotten too expensive, so you thought you’d just try dirt for awhile to save some money.  Maybe, you had a really stressful day, and putting dirt in your car seems to make you feel better.


RIDICULOUS, right?  Well, although it sounds ridiculous, I often hear the same excuses from clients explaining why they’ve put “dirt” in their bodies instead of healthy foods (fuel).  There are many factors that influence your and my food choices; factors such as convenience, cost, availability, and advertising are legitimate influences.  But, are they the factors you want influencing your food choices?  Influencing your family’s food choices?  Probably not.  Take some time to change your outlook on food, if needed, so that you’ll see it simply as FUEL FOR YOUR BODY.

You may be thinking, but what about my favorite dessert?  Or, what about my birthday, am I only supposed to eat “fuel” on my birthday?  Of course not, It is absolutely not to say that you will never celebrate with food or enjoy a meal that is not high fiber and super healthy – you will…and this is okay.   In fact, it’s great to have balance.  But the majority of the day in day out eating needs to be fuel for your body in an amount that will fuel your training and daily activities.

One of my primary goals for all my clients is to help them view food as fuel.  To help you think, “There are certain foods with nutrients that fuel my body, that improve my metabolism, that cause it to run well, that prevent diseases and bodily damage, and I’m going to make sure I include those foods and nutrients in my meal planning every day.  I need fuel before you hit empty.  I need more fuel when I am doing activity (during the day) and less when I am not active (during the evening after training).”  When they begin to think of food as fuel, and eat what their body needs to run properly, it becomes easy.

One of the best advantages of this philosophy is that it will help you see food from a positive standpoint instead of a chronic negative, minimizing, and dieting standpoint.  And, if you’ve got children, teaching them this philosophy with food (seeing nutritious food as fuel and something that helps you run your best) can help them avoid teenage dieting and disordered eating, and junk food addictions.  Just like you wouldn’t accidentally put dirt in your car’s gas tank, don’t “accidentally” eat junk!  Instead, be mindful of what you’re putting in your body.  You demand a lot of it, so give it the right fuel!

So, think of food as fuel for your body, just like gas is fuel for your car.  Healthy eating becomes easy.  And while you may choose to indulge in different foods here and there, the day in day out eating should fuel your training and daily activities.

Kelli is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. She is a graduate of the University of Northern Colorado and did her residency at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC.  For more information or to contact Kelli, please visit

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8 Responses to “ Food As Fuel ”

  1. Clive Chapman on October 24, 2010 at 1:39 am

    Anything to do with food is of interest to me as you know if you’ve read my blog and the ongoing battles I have with food.

    I’m looking forward to reading more of your expertise Kelli!

    • KelliLovesHerBikes on October 24, 2010 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Clive, thanks for the comment! I am very much looking forward to providing nutrition information and interacting with Loving the Bike readers. With most food battles, getting rid of baggage, determining what you want to “drive” your food intake (reasons you choose what you choose), and seeing food as fuel go a long way – of course, easier said than done! But, with each step you get closer. As an athlete, the next (advanced) step is separating daily nutrition from training nutrition so that you fuel your body with healthy, whole foods day in and day out, AND give your body the right fuel for training when you need it (depending on your personal goals as an athlete). Nutrition is interesting in that the principles are so simple, yet the daily execution of healthy eating can become complex with emotional eating, stress, schedules, family, etc. I wish you the best with your journey – stay positive and give yourself a clean slate each day!

  2. Darryl on October 22, 2010 at 3:28 pm

    Great post, Kelli. I’m so happy to have you as a regular contributor now, and I know all the Loving the Bike readers are totally going to benefit. Welcome.


    • KelliLovesHerBikes on October 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm

      Thanks Darryl – I am thrilled to be a part of the team! I’ll be loving my (road) bike even more now that mtn bike season’s about done. Time to bust out the arm/leg warmers and full finger gloves here in Golden…

  3. Bryan on October 22, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Great example of dirt and fuel. Although I’ve cleaned up my diet quite a bit, I have a lot more that can be done. I’ve been doing some reading into the Paleo diet and am considering trying it to see how it goes.

    • KelliLovesHerBikes on October 22, 2010 at 3:20 pm

      Hi Bryan, Thanks for the comment. The simplicity of the dirt/fuel analogy hits home to me as well. It can be particularly helpful to an athlete who really sees the immediate effects of having no fuel (whoops, forgot to eat before a big ride and bonked), or the wrong fuel (pizza right before the ride can = stomach cramps). Great job with cleaning up your diet so far! A diet like Paleo can make it even more “clean.” However you decide to eat, choose whole, natural foods as much as possible for daily nutrition fuel.

  4. Dr. Ben on October 22, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Great tho’t to start “renewing” our thoughts about food. Love the vivid and very practical analogies…I think the image of putting dirt in the gas tank will come back to all of us the next time we reach for something after reading this post! 🙂

    • KelliLovesHerBikes on October 22, 2010 at 3:33 pm

      Thanks Dr. Ben. It can be a really good exercise to stop and think why we choose to eat what we eat. Many times, it comes down to habit, convenience, and even other people’s desires (family, roommates, etc). This can have a good influence or a bad one. Instead, it’s good practice to think of what will fuel us first.


    May 2024
    M T W T F S S


Sugar Alternatives for Energy and Hydration

Question: I am using the homebrew sugar formulations (sometimes added to green tea).  I am also trying to wean myself off 1/2 dose adrenalean “lip tonic delivery system” (biorhythm brand- caffeine, hoodia g, synephrine, yohimbe) capsule for energy.

My question is other than juice, can you suggest modifications in lieu of table sugar for energy and hydration.


Both raw/organic honey or agave can work great in the homebrew (substitute in the same quantities for the sugar, or to taste), but you do have to shake well in order to make sure they don’t settle out.  Have you tried either of these?  Also, make sure to use at least the minimum amount of salt recommended in the homebrew as the temps rise, you need the sodium replacement if you’re sweating.

Sports Drink Homebrew

Please send us your questions for our Expert Sports Nutritionist, Kelli Jennings to “Ask the Sports Nutritionist“. Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for healthy eating, wellness, & sports nutrition. For more information go to

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