Kylee Van Horn combines passions for running, nutrition
Kylee Van Horn is a natural-born runner. After all when your dad is an Olympic Trials Marathon qualifier, it’s in your genes, blood and lactic acid.
“I acquired my love for running from him,” says Van Horn, who ran at the University of Richmond and used her final year of eligibility at Metro State University. “It was something that I naturally excelled at, and I started really running in middle school.”
Her husband, Sean, introduced her to trail running. “I have never gone back to roads.”
Among her career highlights:
· 10:44 2-mile time, which secured her a college scholarship.
· 2:49 marathon in 2011.
· Top-five finish at Moab Trail Marathon in 2019 (one of my only trail races thus far due to struggling with a few foot injuries).
Van Horn’s journey to the field of nutrition and her coaching and consulting business, FlyNutrition, developed over time.
At Metro State, she received a B.S. degree in nutrition after getting her bachelor’s at Richmond as a pre-veterinary major. “Running and endurance led me to nutrition,” she says. “I decided I wanted to be involved in a career that allowed me to give back to the running world, which led me to nutrition.”
In addition to FlyNutrition, Van Horn writes a regular nutrition column for Trail Runner Magazine. At the start of the new year, with runners and others focused on pursuing healthy lifestyles, pondering diet changes and other resolutions, I reached out to Van Horn to address some key topics related to these nutrition goals. Of course, these topics have a longer shelf life than New Year’s resolutions that typically last a few weeks.
Dig in, stay healthy and make good choices that work for you.
Question: Athletes have a range of diets — how do you balance an athlete's preferred diet to what your research and experience say when you make a recommendation?
Answer: I think that as a sports registered dietician it is important to be aware and up to date on all of the different diets out there. I consider myself to be very balanced in my approach to nutrition. I never prescribe one diet to everyone. I will offer suggestions based on what research says, but I will absolutely work with the person and what they want to do. I think an important thing to keep in mind is that if someone feels as though they are being forced into a diet or shamed into something, it develops a feeling of distrust. I want every athlete I work with to feel supported and confident with their decisions that we make together.
Question: Overall, what is your guiding principle for athletes (and does it differ from a runner in his/her 20s to say a masters athlete in his/her 50s)?
Answer: Yes, it differs. I never have a one size fits all approach for any athlete I work with, however, I do try to take a balanced approach to nutrition. I think there is a lot of emphasis on restriction and off limits foods in the endurance sports world. I try to start with ensuring that the appropriate fueling habits are there before getting into the details that are unique for every athlete.
Question: Your FlyNutrition website mentions that you "use current evidence based medical nutrition therapy practices that integrate Eastern and Western nutrition principles to guide my recommendations." Tell me more about that, on the surface there would seem to be discrepancies between typical Eastern and Western diets. What do you emphasize from each and how do you balance the two?
Answer: My approach is a whole-person approach. In traditional dietetics, we are taught prescription diets, which I didn't find really took an individual approach to the person. While I don't advocate taking a handful of supplements to meet your nutrition needs, I am well aware of which supplements have some good research behind them and could be useful in a particular situation if an athlete has already tried changing their diet or habits. I also like to have an emphasis on biofeedback markers like energy levels, stress, sleep etc. I truly believe that nutrition is so much more than the food. There is an emotional and behavioral component as well.
Question: There has been an increase in plant-based eating, whether it is people going full vegan, becoming a vegetarian or pescatarian, etc. (Full disclosure: In the past couple of years, I've gone through those stages and am now about 98 percent plant-based.) First what are some healthy ways that athletes on plant-based diets get the appropriate levels of protein?
Answer: The top piece of advice that I give my athletes that want to transition to plant-based diets is to keep in mind that you will most likely need to increase the volume of food you are eating to get appropriate nutrition in, as well as making sure you are intentional with your food choices. Protein wise, for the general population not running or training a lot, it's not really all that difficult to meet protein needs. Endurance athletes do need about twice the general population's protein intake. I usually like for my plant-based athletes to just gain an awareness of what their protein needs are, then dividing that up throughout their day and figuring out about how much they need to aim for at meals and snacks. In general, just being aware of some of the best protein sources for plant-based athletes and the amount of protein in those sources is a good place to start. Lentils, beans, tofu, tempeh, and TVP (textured vegetable protein) are really great sources. In addition to these, utilizing convenient sources of protein like nuts and seeds can be added to dishes to increase the protein content in a relatively easy manner. I get a lot of questions about protein powders, which can be fine to use for a convenient source of protein, but I discourage relying on powders and bars throughout the day. Instead, think about your go-to meals and ways to easily up the protein content. For example, tofu is great in smoothies, but many people never think of doing this. Sprinkle extra seeds on your salad or add a few more beans.
Question: Same question for vitamin b12 and iron.
Answer: B12 is a little bit tougher for the plant-based crowd. If you are vegetarian, eggs and dairy products are a great source. One of the only sources for vegans that is biologically appropriate is nutritional yeast, which many people aren't eating enough of or eating consistently every day. I typically recommend a B12 supplement for plant-based athletes because you won't risk a deficiency that way.
Iron in the plant-based crowd can be done, but again it must be done intentionally. Plant-based sources of iron are absorbed at a much lower rate than animal based sources. Focusing on iron dense plant foods is critical to ensuring you are getting enough. Luckily, many of those sources are higher in protein---pumpkin seeds, spinach, beans, chickpeas. So again, adding more of these things to salads and dishes will help.
Question: Along similar lines, what warning signs do you look for in plant-based athletes that indicates they may not be getting proper nutrients in one form or another?
Answer: Energy levels when training as well as ability to recover from workouts can be good indicators. Things like brittle hair and nails as well as feeling cold often can indicate an iron or B12 deficiency. In regards to protein, being in a relative protein deficiency can increase risk of injury and illness.
Question: Anything else that we didn't address that you want to mention?
Answer: I work with so many endurance athletes who have struggled with restrictive diets and body images issues. I want the message in the endurance community to change. We should be building up all body types and not preaching that one diet is the answer to everyone's problems. Mental health is so important and is something that many in the endurance community struggle with. Be kind to yourself and try to not take things to extremes!
Question: Would you like to share a recipe for one of your favorite post-workout recovery meals?
Answer: I love bowl options post run :). Easy to get in balance and can prep large amount ahead of time if you don't feel like cooking as much. The recipe below for balsamic roasted tempeh bowls serves six and takes about an hour to prepare. Leftovers keep well in the fridge for up to four days.
Balsamic Roasted Tempeh Bowls
1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil 1/4 cup Balsamic Vinegar 3 Garlic (cloves, minced) Sea Salt and Black Pepper (to taste) 1 tbsp Italian Seasoning
1 1/8 lbs Tempeh 1 cup Red Onion (medium, sliced) 6 Carrots (medium, peeled and chopped) 4 cups Mushrooms (quartered) 3 Zucchini (sliced) 1 1/2 cups Quinoa (dry) 2 1/2 cups Water
Preheat oven to 350 F (177 C).
Combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, sea salt, black pepper and Italian seasoning in a bowl and mix. well. Place the tempeh, red onion, carrot, mushrooms and zucchini together in a large bowl and toss with the balsamic dressing to coat.
Transfer the veggies and tempeh to a large baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes, stirring halfway.
While the veggies and tempeh roast, make the quinoa. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan, add the quinoa, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and fluff with a fork.
To serve, divide the quinoa between bowls and top with roasted veggies and tempeh. Garnish with additional balsamic. vinegar if you'd like, and enjoy!
Calories 474 Fat 21g Saturated 4g Carbs 49g Fiber 7g Sugar 9g Protein 27g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 69mg Vitamin A 10393IU Vitamin C 25mg Calcium 172mg Iron 5mg Vitamin D 4IU Vitamin B12 0.1μg
Name: Kylee Van Horn
Hometown: Carbondale, Colo.
Number of years running: 25 years, whoa. Ha ha.
How many miles a week do you typically run: 50 now, up to 90 in college.
Point of pride: My 2:49 marathon in 2011. Never giving up post foot surgery in 2017 and getting back into mountain running.
Favorite race distance: Half marathon/marathon.
Favorite pre-race or training food/drink: A dark beer with something simple like a chicken, veggie and rice bowl.
Favorite piece of gear: Black Diamond Z Poles or my Solomon S-Lab Pack.
Favorite or inspirational song to run to: Eye of the Tiger.
Favorite or inspirational mantra/phrase: If not now, when? or Relentless forward progress.
Where can other runners connect or follow you:
• Instagram: @flynutrition3
• Facebook: @Flynutrition
• Website: http://www.flynutrition.org