Registered Dietitian
Sports Nutrition Consultant

Susan is a registered dietitian and nutrition consultant in private practice specializing in sports nutrition and works in Toronto, where she does individual counseling. She counsels clients in the areas of weight loss/ weight gain, disease prevention and management (e.g. heart disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes), and sports nutrition. In the area of sports nutrition, she counsels recreational and high performance athletes.
Susan has a regular nutrition column called “Healthy Bites” that is featured in several (Mirror) local newspapers throughout Toronto. She is also the nutrition writer for the e-zine called TravelTerrific. Susan is particularly enthusiastic about helping athletes achieve their goals through proper nutrition. As an avid runner and Boston qualifier, she knows from professional education and personal experience that proper fueling during training and racing is essential for peak performance. 

Susan obtained her Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition from the University of Western Ontario and her Master of Health Science in Community Nutrition from the University of Toronto. She has also graduated from the Dietetic Internship program at The Toronto Hospital.

Susan is a member of The College of Dietitians of Ontario, Dietitians of Canada and The American Dietetic Association. She is also an active member of the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutritionists, Consulting Dietitians of Ontario and the Sports Nutrition Network.

Fueling your Body for Peak Performance: Now that you are training for your marathon or half marathon, you know how important it is to be healthy so that your training can go smoothly. Giving your body the right fuel will build your energy reserves for stressful workouts and allow you to have high quality training sessions. Choosing nutritious foods with optimal amounts of vitamins and minerals will also help in minimizing injury.

Fuel for Every Day: On a daily basis you should make sure to get the right balance of carbohydrate and protein. Your higher exercise levels demands more fuel in the form of carbohydrates. Protein is required to build and maintain muscle. Generally, you should aim for 60% to 65% calories from carbohydrates, 15% to 20% calories from protein and 15% to 25% calories from fat.

Fluid intake should be consistently high to match your losses through sweat. Improper hydration results in poor performance. Additional fluid should be consumed when the weather is hot and humid. You should drink amounts that produce light-coloured urine.

Before Run: It is very important to have some readily available fuel in your system before your run. 1 to 2 hours before your training session, have a small snack that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. The carbohydrates will give you the fuel to exert optimal effort during your run. Since fat tends to take longer to digest, you want to choose a food that is low in fat, so that it does not cause stomach problems during your run. Some pre-run food ideas are bagels, no-fat yogurt, fruit or a low-fat sports bar (e.g. Powerbar).

Ensuring that you are properly hydrated before your run is important for optimal performance. 2 cups of water can generally be tolerated at least 2 hours before a run and 1 cup can be tolerated right before a run. Experiment with pre-run foods and fluids to see what you tolerate best.

During Run: Whether you need fuel during your run depends on how long you are running and at what intensity. The longer and faster you run, the more fuel you are going to need. And your pre-run foods may not be enough to carry you through a high quality workout.

Generally, for runs of at least 1.5 to 2 hours, you will require extra fuel. Most people choose energy bars, gels or sports drinks. However, you may choose any food that is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. It is crucial to try different foods on your long runs to see which ones you tolerate best. During the “big event” is not the time to try a new food product.

Fluids are crucial during runs longer than 1 hour. Carry a bottle belt or plan several water stops along your route. Or take money with you on your run and plan to stop off at a convenience store for a drink. Water is an adequate fluid replacement. However, when your runs start getting very long and the weather starts getting hotter, sports drinks may help you rehydrate faster and maintain the sugar in your blood. If you decide to use sports drinks, try different brands and flavours to see what you tolerate. Try to drink a least 1 cup every 15 minutes.

Which Energy Bar is Best for You?
By Susan Finkelstein, MHSc, RD
The energy/sports bar market has made big strides since the 1980’s. You now can choose from an array of bars such as meal replacement, weight-loss, bars to build muscle, bars to increase endurance and bars specifically designed for women. And you don’t even have to go to a health food store to get them. Energy bars are so common now that you can find them at your local convenience store right next to the candy bars.

For athletes, sports bars offer versatility, as they are portable, do not have to be refrigerated and are handier than bagels, yogurt or other high-energy foods. But which bar is right for you? The following article goes over the different types of energy bars and when they are best used.

High-Carbohydrate bars
High-carbohydrate bars usually contain over 70% of their calories from carbohydrates. They have a moderate amount of protein and are low in fat, which makes them easier to digest. Most high-carbohydrate bars are also fortified with vitamins and minerals, which is important if you are not eating as healthy as you would like.

High-carbohydrate bars are a great pre-, during and post workout snack. 1 to 2 hours before a workout have 1 bar with 2 cups of water. It is important to experiment with how much time your body needs to digest the bar before your workout session to avoid stomach upset. During a workout or race of more than 1.5 hours, have small bites of a high-carbohydrate bar along with lots of fluid. After a workout, having a high-carbohydrate bar can make a great snack that will replenish glycogen stores.

High-Protein Bars
High protein bars usually contain anywhere from 15g to 35g of protein. This is considerable since the average person needs anywhere from 60g to 100g of protein per day. The fat content in these bars are usually higher to give the bars added flavour. Some high protein bars are also low in carbohydrates. These bars will only have a few grams of carbohydrates. Other high-protein bars, which are not low in carbohydrates, contain a more moderate amount of carbohydrates- at least 30 g. High-protein bars are also fortified with vitamins and minerals and some contain amino acids and creatine. All of this is fine, but not necessarily essential.

High-protein bars may be helpful for those who find it hard to get enough protein like vegetarians and high-mileage runners. For the rest of us, getting enough protein can easily be met by eating fish, soy, meat, poultry, beans, eggs and dairy products. I do not recommend the high protein/low carbohydrate bars as a pre- or during workout fuel as they are harder to digest and do not give you the necessary carbohydrates for energy. After a workout, a high-protein bar along with other foods such as a bagel or yogurt, can be a suitable snack.

Women-Only Bars
A new category of bars have come out into the market, designed specifically for women. These bars are usually smaller, for smaller appetites and have more nutrients that women typically lack, such as iron, folic acid and calcium. Women-only bars are also often made with heart healthy soy protein.

Women-only bars can make a handy snack when you are on the run or there are no healthy foods at home. Since they are smaller than average bars, women may want to have a piece of fruit or yogurt along with the bar, if they are having them in place of a meal.

Meal Replacement Bars These bars are marketed to those trying to lose weight. Rather than having a meal, dieters have a meal replacement bar for breakfast and lunch and then have a healthy dinner. These bars have a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrate as well as vitamins and minerals. For those that have difficulty with portion control, a meal replacement bar may help. But for the rest of us, food is better. Whole food has a wealth of nutrients that no bar can replace.

Protein (g)
Carbohydrates (g)
Fat (g)
Clif Bar
Gatorade Energy Bar
PowerBar Performance
Vector Energy Bar
Amino Vital
Atkins Advantage
EAS Myoplex Plus**
Lean Body
PowerBar Protein Plus**
Women Only
EAS Results
PowerBar Pria
Meal Replacement
Slim-Fast Meal On-The-Go

*Bar sizes vary. See label.

**These bars are high in protein as well as high in carbohydrates.

After Run: Recovery Foods

After your run, you want to replenish your stores of carbohydrate and regain fluid balance. Within 15 to 30 minutes of finishing a long run, eat something high in carbohydrate like fruit, bread, pasta, cereal or an energy bar. Throughout the rest of the day, make sure to have a high carbohydrate snack every 2 hours. “Topping off” your carbohydrate reserves will enable you to be ready for another week of high- quality workouts. Recovery fluids such as water, juice or sports drinks should also be taken throughout the day to replace fluid and electrolytes lost through sweat.

If you would like to make an appointment with Susan, please email her at