Sports Nutrition Without Compromise: Marathon Edition With Nikki Boyd, Director Of Nutrition,

Sports Nutrition Without Compromise: Marathon Edition With Nikki Boyd, Director Of Nutrition,


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Running a marathon is not easy; it takes weeks of training and the right diet to get the right results. That is why sports nutrition should be taken seriously because the wrong diet will slow you down on race day. Join Corinna Bellizzi as she talks to nutritionist Nikki Boyd about having proper nutrition as a marathon runner. Nikki is the Director of Nutrition at In this episode, discover Nikki's journey into nutrition and body image while battling hypothyroidism. Find out the science of how your body works so you can get the most out of your energy. Plus, learn even more nutritional tips to achieve your peak performance come race day.


Key Takeaways:

  • Food is not the enemy
  • Proper nutrition and fuel for your runs are what you need in a marathon
  • You need to train your gut and stay within your pace in a run
  • You need to balance your diet with carbohydrates and proteins
  • The Keto diet is not the best for marathon training


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Sports Nutrition Without Compromise: Marathon Edition With Nikki Boyd, Director Of Nutrition,

Understanding The Importance Of Carb-loading For Distance Training

I'm joined by Nikki Boyd to talk about the world of sports nutrition and everything that you need to support your health as you were going through massive training ventures. I've trained for and run successful marathons myself. I've competed in mountain biking for more than 30 years. I've had some ways that I was always trying to get the best out of my performance. Nikki is no stranger to that as well. She has been a nutritionist for eight years now but has a long history as a dancer as well. She has had her own battles with health and food for years, and even was diagnosed with hypothyroidism back in 2016. This is a condition I've also contended with. We'll have a ton to talk about. She serves as the Director of Nutrition at The 12. Nikki, welcome to the show.

What a kind intro. I am so humbled. Thank you so much. I'm glad to be here.

I want to first start off by talking about your history as a dancer. This will lay into a lot of what we’re going to discuss here, your relationship to food, how you ultimately figured out what was going to work best to help your body sing and perform its best, and then also, what we're going to do in this space of training for marathons and getting the right nutrition to support that journey every step of the way.

It has been quite a journey. I was dancing since I was three but I didn't get into that body image issue until I was probably 14 or 15. Things start to change physically. You start to mature and hit puberty. At that time, I was into ballet. I was training with the Pennsylvania Ballet. I would say then I started noticing this stigma about food being the enemy. You would see girls as young as 14 and 15 with hardly anything on their plate. Let's keep in mind that at that age, you're training for 6 to 8 hours a day. When you're that young, you can get away with a lot. What's difficult is that mindset that food isn't needed as fuel continued with me up until well past college.

College was a big point because that was when the time I started dancing professionally. I danced for the Lakers. It’s an amazing experience, but there was a lot on body image and looking back rightfully so. You were in front of everybody. Our director had expectations placed on her that she had to get down to us. What was interesting there was it brought back a lot of this fear of food for me because we were weighed. I can understand that because everybody gets in shape for this audition. You look amazing during this audition, but seasons don't start until a couple of months later. A lot of the girls were starting to look different. This limiting belief that food wasn't necessarily a source of fuel started heavily when I was in college.

I went from being mindful of not eating a lot to trying to work off every calorie I put in my body. That's exhausting, just for the record. Long story short, I got married and went through fertility treatments where I realized that these years of this lack of nutrients were affecting my cycle. It was hard for me to get pregnant. It ended up not being in the cards for my husband and me to have kids. It was back in that moment in 2013 when I realized we need to address this because not only is it affecting my hormonal health, it was affecting my marriage and my moods. That was when the shift started. Once we started getting into running and training, a lot of walls come down and a lot of truth comes out. That's where it all began.

I want to talk a bit about this experience of moving from your experience and being a nutritionist over the last eight years to now personally training for your first marathon. I went through this myself. I had what I thought was the perfect supplement regime. I felt like I had the best nutrition and then I started training for marathons. When I hit about the 8 or 10-mile mark, I bonked heavily. I would love to know your perspective and how you've adapted your nutrition to your training. Where are you in your training? When was your first race day? Let's get into the whole story.

This is perfect timing. I ran a marathon in February 2022. That was my first one. I have to say that the training cycle has been different from this training cycle. I preface that because when you're trying to run a marathon for the first time, honestly, you are like, "Can I get through 26.2 miles? Can I run that far?" It was different from the first cycle. I knew I needed to fuel more. If I didn't start fueling during my runs, which was challenging, then it hits me like a train of bricks.

The term bonk, for those of you that don't know, it's like you're running for one second and then you feel fine. It's literally like that. All of a sudden, the energy is gone. You want to stop. There's no motivation. It's hard to come back from that. That is a sure sign that you have not fueled properly. You are completely depleted of your glycogen. Coming back from that is hard to do.

The first time around, a lot of it was a lot of trial and error. I did not nearly fuel as much going into my long runs as I should have. My second marathon of the season is the Long Beach Marathon, which is in October. It's a little different. This time, I'm shooting for a specific time. That means racing 26.2 miles, not just getting through 26.2. This is perfect timing. In July, I came back full force from an injury. In June, I had plantar fasciitis. I was out of running for three months. June was, “Let's see if she can still run.” In July, the speed training started to pick up.

In a marathon, if you don't start fueling during your runs, you will get bonked like a train of bricks.

Here's the thing about the body. If you're running at a lower intensity, you can get away with a lot. Meaning if you are running where your heart rate is a little bit lower, let’s say 10 miles per hour or 10-minute mile, your fuel storage will last longer. The faster you run, you are depleting so fast. What I realized was my nutrition that worked last training cycle is no longer working this cycle because I'm running faster. I'm noticing that 30 minutes into these runs, I'm done. That means I have to fuel. I have to do something.

The entire month of July between me and you was a big trial and error and a massive fail. I went from, "I don't think I need this many carbs. I didn't before," to realizing mid-run, “You do. You're performing the way you should.” I wasn't recovering the way I should. I was exhausted. The speed that I knew was there was not happening. There comes this point where you have to make a decision. Either I'm going to change the way I eat and let go of some preconceived notions or I'm just going to continue to perform subpar. That is not in my DNA.

I started doing a lot of research on endurance and competitive racing. I realized a couple of things. Number one, your body can hold a lot more glycogen than you think. I was maybe eating 180 grams of carbs a day. I'm well over 300 right now. On days before a long run, it's sometimes 350. That morning, I used to fuel with a bagel, which is 50 grams of carbs. I'm doing two now and fueling every 30 minutes. It is night and day, which is hard because we were in a society where we're like, "I don't want to eat so many carbs. Carbs are bad.” For a marathon and endurance training and for trying to hit a time, you need to avoid that bonk altogether. It means always making sure that your glycogen is completely filled before you feel like trash.

I understand and I empathize with you. I also think we should temper this a bit because if somebody thinks, “I'm going to start marathon training. I should eat a giant bowl of spaghetti before I start running,” that's not what we're talking about here. When I was training for my first marathon, I ran Honolulu, the thing I could not prepare for was the fact that it was blazing hot and humid. Cooling down was a major problem. I had done all of my training in Santa Cruz County, where on a hot day, you could find a cool place to run at the perfect temperature of 60 degrees almost every day of the year. Maybe a little cooler, but generally speaking, you’re able to find something where you could thermoregulate easily. I started to understand bonking when I was in my first set of marathon training, even preparing for the half marathon because we would do 10 and 12-mile runs.

What I noticed personally was that if I had one of those gooey things on board and at about mile 6, slurped it down whether or not I felt like I needed it, I would have a more successful run. The symptom for me that would always come first and the thing that triggered my knowledge that I needed to fuel that would come before I felt like I completely hitting a wall is my legs would start to feel heavier. The reason my legs would start to feel heavier is that my glycogen stores were depleting. Each stride was a little harder. It wasn't that I was breathing harder. It wasn't that I felt like I was less able to continue running.

The moment I started to realize that my legs were feeling a little bit heavy if I then supported myself with goo or a shot block or something like that, I was able to continue a little bit better. The other trick I started doing, which I tired of when I was running full-length marathons, was I would put an electrolyte-style mix in my water bottles. That was fine when I was running a shorter run. The moment I started doing the full 20-mile runs and things like that, I would get sick of the sweetness of it. I wanted pure water to wet my mouth and quench my thirst and keep going. I wonder if you're running into something similar, and you found you have your perfect mix of the supplementary things that you bring with you on your run to ensure that you can have success for one of these long training runs.

I feel like this show was meant to be at this time because everything that you said, ironically, I experienced. I ran a half marathon. You said a couple of things that are important. Heat. What's considered hot in the running world is not necessarily considered hot for everybody else. It was 75 degrees in Long Beach. That is a hot run with no shade with 75% humidity. What that means is you need to not only be on top of your fuel, but hydration is huge. Admittedly, let's be totally transparent, I was not hydrated.

It's funny, you said mile 6 because, in mile 6, I started cramping a little bit, which is abnormal. Cramps to me are a sign of dehydration. I don't know if any of you have ever raced a marathon or if you've raced any race. Just a heads up, there is water on the course, but they're in these cups. It's hard to grab the cup and get it into your mouth so I didn't hydrate at all. The reason why I said that is it has made me completely rethink my strategy for running this actual marathon. You said a couple of things that are important. When you're running any decent race, even if it is in fall or winter where it's 50s or 60s, which is considered pretty ideal for running, you are still sweating.

What people don't realize is that you're not just sweating water. Even though you want water, you need to replace it with electrolytes. When we talk about electrolytes, sodium, potassium and calcium are the main ones. A lot of your electrolyte drinks will have a lot of sodium, but they won't balance it with potassium or calcium. That's when you can start cramping. I love Skratch Labs. It’s a perfect hybrid.

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When you're training, what I have found for me is I will run with a handheld water bottle. It's not ideal, but what I know is my tummy is sensitive. Getting the hydration in, even though you technically sometimes want water, if you guzzle water, it's going to sit in your gut and it may not necessarily replace those electrolytes that your body needs so that you can perform. That's what we're looking to do. My nutrition strategy is I take a gel. There are levels of great versus maybe not the best, but you ultimately need to find one that's going to work for you. That's trial and error, but it is nutrition. You want to take one every 30 to 45 minutes whether you feel like you need it or not.

What that also means is that you're probably going to have to take some time to train your gut. This is something that I didn't know was possible but it is. Meaning if you've never run and fueled while you're running, you can't expect all of a sudden to be taking in gels and water and not feel some stomach discomfort. That's why these marathon training cycles are 16 to 20 weeks. You could probably run the distance before then, but you've got to figure out what works for your system.

Personally, for me, I'm taking a water bottle. It does have an electrolyte drink in it. When that runs out, if I'm out running a long run, I'll refill it with regular water. Luckily, on the beach path where I'm at, there are water stations. If it were a race, I would then resort to using what's on the actual course, but fueling every 30 minutes. That doesn't necessarily mean guzzling down a gel. Your body starts getting into the mode of digesting, even if you have some of it in your mouth. A lot of times my husband makes fun of me. I'll have a gel in my hand and squeeze half of it into my mouth and let it sit there and eventually swallow it. If you take the time to do that, you're still getting your nutrition in. The likelihood of you feeling that fatigue drastically drops.

Another thing I want to talk about is race day.e I know you're coming up to that moment. I've run five half marathons and three full marathons, including the Boston Marathon. That one was probably the most nerve-wracking considering I had trained so hard for it. I also was recovering from a plantar fasciitis issue. It was mostly resolved, but I was taking an anti-inflammatory at the beginning of the race to make sure. Ultimately, there can be quite a few nerves that crop up. When you have that nervous belly and you're trying to fuel, it can create a bit of a disaster. Having had to stop at one pit stop for the use of a port-a-potty on the race at about the 26th mile when I was running the Boston Marathon it's not always the prettiest sight for that reason. I'm going to leave that to people's imagination.

If there are runners out there, all of you know exactly what that feels like.

Thankfully, it was just I had to pee. I had hydrated well throughout the race that I couldn't hold it anymore. There are issues where people get upset tummies to the point of having other kinds of issues come out. It's not always pretty. I even saw some issues with the race itself.

That is common, especially with a marathon like Boston. No one wants to stop. I'm right there with you without trying to be crude.

Everybody is trying to get their personal record. Let's put it that way. Let's talk about those jitters before, how they can affect your stomach, and what you might do to help ensure your success, then I'll share my story.

First of all, I didn't know that you ran the Boston Marathon. That's amazing. That is exciting. I'm running my first one in April 2023. I may be asking you about those Newton Hills and see how that goes on. There are two schools of thought when it comes to race day. I'll be honest with you, I get nervous the week before race day. God bless my husband, he can sense my anxiety. It's pretty intense. It's very much self-imposed but let's be honest, guys, sometimes you get nervous. There's not a whole lot you can do to calm yourself down. There are a couple of things that I've learned that have helped. I like to back it up to the week before race day. It’s depending on the length of your race.

Your body can hold a lot more glycogen than you think.

Let's say for this example, it's a marathon. There is a lot of validity to loading your carbohydrates about three days before, sometimes four, depending on what your weight is before the race. The reason why this is important is that sometimes those nerves are so bad that race day morning, nothing you eat is going to go through you, no matter what. What you don't want to do is wait until the day before the race to load all these carbs. You may not be topping off your reserves.

Something that I've learned is to take it back to the Sunday before that race. We could get into the science behind it but basically, you're eating about one and a half times as many carbohydrates as you normally would, depending on whatever that may be. It’s like Sunday, Monday and Tuesday or about three days before, then about Thursday, Friday and Saturday, you're doubling your carbohydrate intake. As an example, I'm going to use myself, which will be around 400 grams of carbs. Don't freak out because there are a lot of carbohydrate drinks out there that easily help you get some carbs in. If you have issues, you still have three days to allow the stomach to settle a little bit.

The reason why you want to do this is that what if you do wake up on race day and you try to eat and you physically are nervous that you can't get something down in your system? That happened to me. You don't want that last meal to be your be-all end-all. You want to still have reserves in the tank in case that meal doesn't work. Pre-loading your carbs is huge, and then stick to bland foods. This is not the time to get sexy with spices. This is not the time to get creative. You need to stick with a system. If you have a sensitive stomach, 1 or 2 carbs or rice or whole grain pasta. This is one of those cases where starches are great.

If you have a sensitive stomach, you want to avoid something like sweet potatoes or vegetables because that's got more fiber in them. On race morning, do the best you can. If you can't get all those carbohydrates in, allow yourself to at least still bring some electrolytes and get up early. This is the biggest thing that I have learned. Get up about three hours before your race. You got to switch off your mind and go, "I need some serious time to digest." If my race is at 7:00, I am up at 4:00, sometimes 3:45 and get my breakfast in. This gives me a couple of hours if anything needs to exit my system before I get to the starting line. I hope that helps. Preload and get up early.

We've spent a bit of time talking about carbohydrates. Before we transition to other topics because of course, you can't survive on carbs. The reason we're talking about it so much is because your sugar store needs to go up drastically when you're training for distance athletics. I wanted to share with you a couple of tidbits about race day in Boston. My learnings from that will be applicable to everybody here.

First of all, they take care of your early arrival because they take you from the downtown area where it ends. That bus leaves at a specific time. You're being dropped off 26.2 miles away at the start line a couple of hours before the race starts. That part you don't have to worry about. You have to get up early. Secondarily, there are a couple of things that I was taught as I was first beginning my training with Team In Training. First, it was that as soon as you get to the start line, get in line for the bathroom. After you get done going to the bathroom, maybe wait a half hour and get back in line to that bathroom over and over again.

Many people will suffer from a little bit of nervous bladder, where it feels like you got to pee a little bit. It's best to do all of that evacuation as much as possible while you're continuing to hydrate at the start line. The other thing is to take small sips of water continually throughout your race as opposed to just when you're thirsty. That will support your success. I appreciate you wanting to run with a handheld bottle. For me, my hands sweat, and then I don't like it. I find that I would end up getting a stitch on one side or the other sometimes if I had the bottle in one hand for too long.

I went to the Nathan belts. I have one that has four small bottles. I would use it. I had my electrolyte bottle on one side. On the other side, I would have my clean water because I would tire again of having the electrolyte flavor in my mouth when I was running. This is probably something that seasoned runners who have done these kinds of races intrinsically understand and get. It's helpful for us to put it out there. It may look a little dorky but nobody cares when you're running 26.2.

It's funny you brought up the Nathan belt. I was thinking about that too. I know I need to carry something. Am I excited about a handheld? No, you hit the nail on the head. You're lopsided. Thank you for saying that because I knew I was forgetting to do something which was to look into the hydration belt. You brought up a good point. For those of you guys that don't know, there's a big difference between running a local marathon or a major marathon. Boston is a major. Boston is probably the biggest major. There are athletes from all over the world. That’s why you have to get there early. What you said makes so much sense about getting in line and going to the bathroom and having to wait and get there so early. I'm already getting anxiety thinking about it in a good way.

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It's very exciting. The other thing I will advise you is it starts out as a downhill marathon. The mistake many people make is they go too fast in the beginning and you beat your quads to hell. Because you're going too fast in the beginning and you're running downhill, you have to keep in mind that you have to be able to make it up that hill later. It's going back up. The hills are slow grades. If you've done a ton of hill training the way I have here in Santa Cruz County, it was a breeze. I was like, "What are people going on about? This is nothing. It's a baby hill. It didn't even go for that long. It's not that punishing."

You hit the nail on the head. I had four friends who ran Boston in 2022. All of them did the same thing. They went out super fast. They felt great. They didn't realize that their quads were being smashed running downhill. Mile 16 comes around, you start heading up Heartbreak Hill and they're like, “I'm done.” It wasn't that the hill was that bad. It's you're going too fast and starting too fast. I'm glad you said that.

It's the excitement of it. People always go faster in the beginning than they intend to. The thing that you're working to do in your training, if you can at all, one of the keys to success for those super long-distance runs is you want your first half and your second half to be almost the same time. If you run your marathon in four hours, in the first half, you should go that 13.1 in right about two hours and the second half should be right about two hours. If you find that you're going out too fast and your first half is way faster than your second half, you're burning out by that second half. A key to success is to pace yourself, especially in the beginning. Don't allow yourself to get sucked with the crowd that is going faster. You'll end up passing most of those people later on anyway.

That's good advice for everybody. I had a conversation with my coach. I’m being honest here. I went out way too fast on the half. I think that's on mile 6. My marathon in February, my first one, the first half was my best half marathon and then mile 20 hits. It was those last 6 miles where I was like, "Oh my gosh." We literally had this discussion. His exact words were, "You cannot go out too fast. I don't care if you feel like you could run 1 million miles. You need to stay within your pace." It is hard because everybody is running past you. Sometimes if you're competitive, you're competing with the guys that are running past you. That is some of the best advice and some of the hardest to take too because, in your mind, you're like, “I want to get it over with. Let's go.”

I considered Boston my victory lap. The other best advice I got from my personal trainers in training for that marathon was, “Look at this as your victory lap.” You got to Boston. Where are you going to go next? Are you looking to be one of these elite runners that can compete at 2 hours and 15 minutes in running a full marathon? That's never going to be me.

It's never going to be me either. When is enough acceptably enough for you?

Granted, Boston was my personal record. By a lot, I had trained hard for it. I was pleased with my results, but it wasn't just the carbohydrates that helped me get there. I also want to clarify a couple of things. I may take this question and put it at the front of our interview for this reason. You've talked a lot about carbohydrates and increasing your carbohydrates from let's say 180 grams a day to 300 or even 400, which sounds insane to anybody who knows how much that is.

Let's talk for a moment about how many carbohydrates are in a standard American diet. If you are eating your French fries and your burgers, what are these people consuming? Help put it in perspective of where you might've been before if you're a standard American diet eater, if you're the healthy eater you were before you started this, and if you're training for a marathon. Let's give these three perspectives.

If you are an average American, let's say that you're not necessarily nutrition-focused, you'd be surprised at how much you're consuming. If you eat French fries, if you eat pancakes, even if you eat a bag of Skittles, something that is not necessarily the lesser clean carbohydrates, you're probably getting upwards of 400, 500 grams of carbs. You don't realize it because a lot of it isn't necessarily nutrient-dense.

Start preloading your carbohydrates about three to four days before race day.

A great example would be pretzels. Let's take something that you can mindlessly eat. You can eat a bag of pretzels and that's 200 grams of carbs, but you don't feel full. It's not nutrient-dense. 400 grams of carbs sounds like a lot, but if you're not paying attention to it, it's easy to very much get there. if not above there, especially if you're eating out fast food. You mentioned French fries, even sweet potato fries, the healthy version, you're still getting a lot of carbohydrates whether you know it or not. You're getting excess fat with it. It's not necessarily nutrient-dense, which doesn't give you the same amount of energy.

When it comes to somebody trying to healthily get 400 grams of carbs, and that's just an example, it may not necessarily be that much for you, it's difficult, especially trying to get nutrient-dense carbohydrates in. It's almost impossible to sit down over the course of 4 or 5 meals throughout the day and eat enough carbs. That's like two cups of rice twice a day, maybe some bagels, and some graham crackers. That's a lot.

You also got to remember, you got to get protein in there. Your muscles can't recover with that. That's where a lot of mindful carbohydrate eating would come in. For my dinner, for example, I'm going to have X amount of carbohydrates. Tonight, I know I'll have 90 grams of carbs in the form of rice because I got to get up and train the next morning. You work backwards. That's where carbohydrate drinks come in like a Carbolin or something that is an electrolyte drink that may have 20 or 40 grams of carbs. You're able to get it in a more clean manner but it's more focused. I forget what the third one that you said was. There were three types so remind me.

I was saying if you were doing a standard American diet. You're pre-training like when you were healthy eating for your standard physical fitness and then the marathon training.

Pre-training is like pre-marathon training. Marathon training is over. We're done. For me, obviously, the carbohydrates drop down quite a bit. That's where we can get specific based on your output. For the average individual that is healthy or working out, probably about 30% to 35% of your diet is going to be carbohydrates. For myself, I'm 115 pounds, that could be like 135, 140.

That's fairly easy to get in. If you eat a starch carb for breakfast, maybe a little bit of starch in the form of a sweet potato. Three times a day, you're getting starches in, but you're able to get in that 35% balance roughly. It could be 30% or 35%. When you're going into training mode, roughly 80% of your diet is carbohydrates, maybe 75%, and 20% is going to be protein. We can't forget about that. That's super important. You're not relying as much on that fat because you're so carbohydrate heavy.

That makes perfect sense. You and I offline and in earlier conversations have talked about our problems with the keto diet. This makes sense to cover now because this is almost like the anti-keto diet. There are several reasons that keto doesn't work for most people over the long term. What you will find if you are on the super keto diet is that if you're on it for a long time, you plateau because your body needs carbohydrates for your muscles to function. Without getting the correct balance of carbohydrates, your body starts to hold on just like it would in any extreme diet. You most definitely cannot train for a marathon on keto successfully.

It's ironic you bring this up. You can't, guys. Let's be honest. Your body is designed to run on carbohydrates. Both you and I know that when you have something like hypothyroidism, you got to be mindful of how much carbohydrates you can have. If you restrict carbohydrates, you're putting stress on your body. In my case, I have antibodies on my thyroid that can increase the anti-inflammatory response. We don't want that. This is about long-term health too, but there are those few individuals that claim they can do endurance training on a keto diet. I would argue maybe for one race, but long-term, that is a recipe for disaster.

Take away the energy aspect of it. You're putting your body through an immense amount of stress when you’re training. When you're running 26.2 miles, you're putting your body through an immense amount of stress. If you were trying to fuel that on carbohydrates or on fats, you're not allowing your glycogen to come back up. You're relying on your body being in ketosis, which ultimately means at some point you're going to have a hormonal imbalance.

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What that looks like and something I would also advise, I'm not sure if you ever did this, but before the training cycle, if you're serious about competing, obviously you were to get into Boston, get your blood work done. See where your blood work is at. See where your iron levels are at. Make sure that your cortisol and your inflammatory markers are okay. If those are fine and you're not supplementing with carbs, what's going to happen is your body is going to start taking some of your sex hormones, testosterone and progesterone, and converting it to cortisol. Cortisol goes up when you're exercising anyway, but if you're not fueling it with what it needs as an energy source carbs, you're adding fuel to the fire for a hormonal disaster.

Coming from experience, I'm sure you can agree that when your hormones are off, forget about performing well. Your quality of life goes down the hill. It's terrifying. For me, it was terrifying. The keto diet came about. It wasn't ever meant to be a weight loss diet. We discussed this before. It was meant for people that had Type 2 diabetes and arguably Alzheimer's where carbs were fueling the disease. We wanted to eliminate them so that we could slow the onset of Alzheimer's or get diabetes under control. It was never meant to be a long-standing weight loss diet. Maybe there's that 1 or 2 out there, but I’m a very hard no when it comes to endurance training and the keto diet.

This will be a resounding theme for the people here, but generally speaking, balance is key. Having a balanced diet that is set for what your individual needs are is going to be key to long-term success in everything you do when it comes to your health. Before we prepare to wrap up this show, let’s get into the supplement side of things. I have a couple of suggestions if you're not already implementing them that may support your training.

I’m always down for suggestions like anything at this point. What did you want to know supplement-wise?

I would love for you to walk us through your supplementary regime. You have your diet. We've talked a bit about that. Make sure you're getting the quality carbohydrates in your diet, but there's more to the story. What are you taking on the daily at this point as you're preparing to run that 26.2 in a few weeks?

I do want to say that I did get my blood work done. I got it done in July 2022 because I was noticing I was fatigued. I found out my iron is a little bit low. As you know, that can be an issue.

It's common in runners.

Let's also address that. The more vigorous you train, you're probably going to deplete your iron.

It’s because you break up your muscles.

If you feel like you could run a million miles, you need to stay within your pace.

Get your blood checked because I've been taking an iron supplement for years now even if it's a little bit low. Iron is a big one for me. I am doubling up on that five days a week. Here's the list. A solid multivitamin. There's no way even with all the food you're getting, you're getting every single vitamin and mineral through food just because so much of it is based on certain types of carbs. Take a great multi. As you and I are both fans of, I take a high dose of omega-3s. That is a non-negotiable. If I forget all my supplements, there are two that I take, iron and omega-3

I like to personally break my dose up. I'll take part of it in the morning and part of it before I go to bed so that there are some omegas in my system to help me repair. I take CoQ10. That's a common supplement. I wouldn't necessarily say it's mandatory, but it does help with heart health and especially heart recovery if you're doing a lot of endurance training. I take a B complex that's heavy on vitamin B12.

More on soluble vitamins, all of them.

I do vitamin and then liquid vitamin B12 drops as well. It’s because anything liquid is going to absorb much better. I take a turmeric supplement. It tastes utterly terrible. It's liquid. It's curcumin resveratrol, which is known to help with inflammation as well. I take a teaspoon of that. I also take two teaspoons of medical-grade collagen. This sounds like a lot but at some point, you get used to taking it. Collagen is for coming back from any injury like plantar fasciitis.

All the connective tissue.

Vitamin D, I take 10,000 IUIs a day. I don't remember if we talked about this, but fatigue can also be a sign of low vitamin D. I make sure I take that as well. Those are the pills. Those are the main things. Protein shake, 100%. At least one scoop of glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid that your body depletes rapidly. It can be mixed with any drink. What I have learned, and I know it's not necessarily a daily supplement, but at least 2 to 3 scoops of an electrolyte drink a day.

So far, there's not a single thing that I would necessarily remove from that list, especially as you're training for a marathon.

I'm always open.

I'll give you one more big tip because I improved my mile speed by one minute with one thing. One minute is big. It was overnight, which was surprising. I was like, “I wonder what this will do for me.” That was D-ribose. It doesn't have to be any specific brand. I'm not hocking anything. Powder, you could put it in your electrolyte drink, whatever. I drank it before I ran not during the run. D-ribose is sugar the way your muscles use it. Granted, I took it before an 8-mile uphill run, the whole run was uphill, and it was on the way back that I improved my run. It was 4 miles uphill. I thought I was going fast. I was like, “I seem to be getting here quicker than normal,” and then 4 miles back at a slight downgrade. On that downhill on the way back, mile 8 was my fastest of the entire run.

NWC 23 | Sports Nutrition


That seemed to stay with me as long as I took my D-ribose. What I will say to anybody who is interested in reducing your caffeine in the morning, I'm not an advocate for that. I love my coffee. I'm not giving it up, but D-ribose can help you get over that hump because it is such this incredible energy tool. If you sit there and you were to consume a cup of coffee that you threw some D-ribose in to sweeten it up, you will find that it's like you want to climb the walls. You can't sit still.

That is genius. I'm thinking back to when we lived in Texas, I had D-ribose, but I never thought to put it in my coffee, which I'm like you. It's sacrilege. You don't give coffee up. That's against the law in my book, but I am so thankful that you brought that up.

Anybody could benefit from it. I honestly don't think that anybody is allergic to D-ribose. It's something that your body uses. Most of it is synthesized from corn. It's hard to find a non-GMO source, but they are out there. You can get it in powder form. It's sweet. You can use it in place of a sweetener. It won't be stored as fat. Your body literally has to use it as energy because it's how your muscles use sugars. It's a healthy way to supplement your energy routine, especially as it relates to sports nutrition. I never found that it made me bonk or anything like that either. It's good to have on hand.

The other thing I will mention is that I fell in love with taking electrolyte pills on my runs because I was tired of getting the electrolyte beverage. I wanted clean water when I was running those long runs. The company that also makes Hammer Gel made these little pills at the time that were the perfect balance of potassium, sodium, and calcium carbonate or calcium is one of the salts anyway. I would take those about midway on my run. It helps to make sure I had enough. I wasn't worried about getting too much because, at that point when I was doing 40-plus miles a week, my sweat stopped being as salty. I knew I was always going up against this issue of running out of enough of those electrolytes.

That's a great way to take note of whether your body needs it or not. Also, why I liked that is you might drop your water bottle by accident. What happens then if you have something like that? You're reminding me. I do have electrolyte pills but I wrote down Hammer. That's something great because you can put that in your sports bra. You can fit that anywhere. That's genius. Somebody like me would drop my water bottle and be like, "I'm not going back to get that," and then you're screwed.

If you're trying to get your personal record and you've been highly competitive, I totally get it. I will mention too that Orlo sponsors this show. We have an omega-3 from algae that’s totally carbon negative. It’s able to sequester carbon and provide this amazing omega to you. It's in the polar lipid form. Polar lipids are better absorbed into your system than any other kind of fat. They cross the blood-brain barrier. If you have an issue with your bile or anything like that, you're going to absorb them.

Many people have digestive distress when they take omegas from fish. They find themselves running to the bathroom. That doesn't happen with this product. For anyone reading, if you want to try out Orlo Nutrition's omegas, you can use the coupon code NWC10 at checkout and get an extra 10% off your order. I'm going to send some to Nikki so that she can try them for her marathoning venture. I'm sure you're going to love them, Nikki.

I am so thankful that you're doing that. I love this. Thank you so much. That does happen, by the way, what she said.

My husband is one of them. I worked for a fish oil company for nine years. We never produced a product that he could take without running to the bathroom.

If you restrict carbohydrates, you're actually putting stress on your body.

The things that people should talk about but we don’t. Why that's important is you're not getting the benefits of the actual omega. As we talked about before, in my opinion, it’s a super supplement. It is a non-negotiable to me. Thank you so much. I'm excited.

I also forgot to mention earlier my race day breakfast.

Tell me.

My race day breakfast was always oatmeal. I know it's simple, but the reality is it was something I could get down quickly. Even if I had a little bit of that nervous tummy, it's stayed with me longer. It was something I tested on multiple morning runs. One of the things I did to prepare myself for the long-distance runs is I said, “I know I'm going to be getting up pre-dawn. I know I'm going to be running in April in Boston.” When I ran that marathon, it was 41 degrees at the starting line, which was a little cold. You're still for most of it. People are trying to stay warm. I had all these layers that I ended up getting rid of along the run.

I was able to get it in quickly just like I was on all my other early morning runs. It didn't cause my stomach to be upset at all. I put it like this, oatmeal seems to stick to the sides of the bowl, the same way it seems to stick to your ribs. It keeps with you a little bit longer than some of the other nutrient sources that I would go with.

If you research some of the elite runners now like Sara Hall and Keira D’Amato, it’s nothing crazy. It's oatmeal or toast and peanut butter, whatever works. It's always something super simple. That goes to show that you don't have to have this crazy breakfast for ultimate performance. Just something that your body can absorb.

I would never eat eggs. I never ate protein on the morning of a run. If I tried to do protein, even any protein the morning before a long run, it would tend to ruin my gut about halfway through.

That's a good point too. The other thing is when you eat food, it's not necessarily going to affect you right away. This is why it's so important to try during your training. Look at how you feel halfway through, maybe 45 minutes to an hour. Chances are if something's not agreeing with you like high protein, you're going to notice it. That's when you go, “It’s not a good idea.”

This is going to be different if you're talking about another athlete. We'll have to come back and talk about those other things. This is Nutrition Without Compromise Marathon Edition.

NWC 23 | Sports Nutrition


You bring up a good point. If you're doing something that's more weightlifting, the conversation completely changes. I have to give you kudos because I can't guarantee that I would have stopped to pee. I have to be honest with you. It's amazing that you did, and that you got your personal best in Boston. For those of you that don't know, it's probably one of the most difficult and technical courses out there. Corinna, come January 2023, we'll be picking your brain for all of those tips.

The one I will leave everyone with, don't drink the BU water, Boston University. Literally, they put out these things that look like a water stop, but it's not a water stop, it's beer. You'll also see kegs and people who are running and they'll do keg stands. They'll stop and do a keg stand and then keep running. It is a madhouse. It is like running in Disneyland for adults. When you're going through Wellesley College, there are girls giving away free kisses. I don't know if that still exists because of COVID. It’s pretty intense.

My husband's always like, “Are you always going to want to go back to Boston?” I go, "It's going to depend because it's an event." It might be one of those things like, "Check, I'm good." From what I've heard, those things are still there. I remember hearing about the beer keg stands, which is baffling to me. Some people run this for the sake of their victory lap. They don't care. They want to enjoy it. We'll see how many times I’ll go back to do this. I like the local race where you can get up, don't have to get bused in, and have eleven waves of people for you.

We can even have an offline conversation about the most annoying marathons that I've run, half marathons. There are some that are a lot of fun and interesting, and then others that are punishing. A lot of it has to do with if they become boring to run. There are all sorts of reasons that a run can become boring, but I have my particular tales. I want to thank you so much for taking this time with us. This has been an interesting conversation. Before we wrap, I would like to ask one final question. What does nutrition without compromise mean to you?

It means being able to use nutrition in a way that is fueling your body and benefiting our environment as well. You don't necessarily have to eat foods that haven't been sustainably produced that aren't good for you that are fad diets. You can eat real whole foods that have a high nutrient quality that allow you to live a long life and do all of the things that you love.

I know folks are going to want to find out more about you and what you do with The 12. Where would you prefer they go to engage with you?

I check Instagram, but between me and you, it's not my specialty. My handle is @NikkiBoydNutritionist. That's probably the best way, even email. Old school, Those are the best ways to get ahold of me. Thank you so much for joining us, Nikki. People can visit our website and click on that icon to send you an email if they want to. They can also always reach out to me here at and I will be in touch with you. I'm going to be sure that I tag Nikki for a recipe or two of her favorite carb-loading recipes so that you can also join in that adventure with her. Thank you for joining us on this journey. Nikki, hats off to you.

Thank you so much. I’m thankful for you having me on the show.

Thank you. Everyone else, you can go ahead and follow us at and @OrloNutrition on all social platforms. I hope you'll join me as I say my parting words. Here's to your health.


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About Nikki Boyd

Although I have been a nutritionist for close to 8 years now, I have had my own personal battle with health and food for years. Being a dancer, my definition of healthy was skewed and remained so long after I stopped dancing professionally. This lead to hormonal issues, fertility issues, and what I call a tipping point in 2016. I found out I had hypothyroidism....but the road to this discovery was rocky. Although thyroid disease can run in families I can't help but wonder if there is a direct link to the restrictive diet I adhered to for so many years. My passion now is working with individuals to become healthy from the inside out. That starts with a focus on longevity and what the body can DO instead of what it looks like.


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