Anne Guzman on Sports Nutrition, Mindset and Performance

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Anne Guzman is a former pro cyclist, sports nutritionist, mother and lifelong learner. She lives in Ontario, Canada and applies her curious mind and background as an athlete to study all sides of performance nutrition, mindset and health.

Anne was one of the first nutrition experts to join Prokit, building Collections of podcasts, articles and videos like the Performance Hub, Research and Review Papers on Sports Nutrition & Exercise, and Women in Sport.

We asked Anne to share some of what she’s learned over the years, breaking down everything from pre-race nutrition and mental fitness to matching personal context to the foods you eat.

Beyond her practical tips, Anne’s journey through life, parenting and career provide a window into many of the questions we all face in defining our path. As she says, “I feel like I’m just starting every day. If doors open, I’m going to walk through and take a look.”

Journey to Cycling

Prokit: How were you introduced to cycling? 

Anne Guzman: After university, where I was competing on the varsity wrestling team, I got into the gym business as a personal trainer. After a few years toying with bodybuilding, it became clear I didn’t have the genetics to put on that kind of muscle mass. Eventually I fell hard into spinning classes at a studio near my house in a bike shop called Gears. After endless classes, the owner Kevin Wallace asked me “why don’t you try racing?”

I was 27 years old, but when I got my first road bike, I wasted zero time. I fell in love with cycling, hired a coach, who happened to coach the national team (why start small?)  and the adventure began. Denise had a cycling group she coached and I was fortunate as it had several pro and elite riders who were gracious with their time and so welcoming. I was way behind on those rides, but those athletes were the most supportive group, always coming back to push me back on. I kept showing up. That’s what you do. I consider myself very lucky to have fallen into that circumstance to learn quickly. I trained with this group for years and still keep in touch with many of them today. That was in 2005 ish?

What has your sport meant to you? 

The first word that comes to mind is community. Cycling became my world. We all know it’s a very time consuming sport. I couldn’t wait to finish work and ride or wake up and ride. I met so many awesome people, and it became another family.

What I didn’t consciously see then, but clearly do now, is that sport is a way for me to feel alive, clear my mind, generate ideas and be outside, which is where I feel my best physically and mentally. Cycling has brought me to my current career in sports nutrition, and it’s put me in a niche of mostly endurance athletes. My ability to relate to my client’s sport, understanding what it means to be out there for 2,3,5 hours in the heat, cold or wet, the mental toughness it takes and how hard it can be to push nutrition down your throat when you are tired; I have that ability, because of cycling. 

Were you an athlete as a kid? Was there a clear indication of what was to come? 

I always loved sports. I’ve always tried hard. My family was athletic. My dad coached soccer and we all played from a pretty young age. I have two older sisters. Basketball was my best sport and the one I loved, although I played volleyball, did high jump, jiu jitsu and even badminton. My dad was the president of Etobicoke Track and Field Club and also coached running, so I would accompany him to a lot practices with my sister who was an elite runner. It wasn’t until university that I seriously committed “all in,” training full time, when I found my first love, freestyle wrestling. 

Life moments or turning points that led you to your sport or profession? 

In University, the captain of the men’s team was asking some students if they were interested in trying wrestling. A bunch of us tried out and from there I stuck to the mat for the next 4 years. I was instantly hooked. Wrestling is a raw sport, nothing fancy, no one watching; just you and the mat and the hard work. It was the toughest sport I’d ever competed in. Every muscle in my body was screaming. I’ll never forget waking up after the first practice and my neck was so sore, my forearms, I could barely grip something, my entire body hurt – and I was sold.

With cycling, it was a bit similar. Once I experienced being out on the road, (which I was terrible at after coming from a sport that was so short and intense), I just wanted to get better. Every ride wiped me out at first. But I’d get up again. I guess I have turning points when I enjoy something that is going to take a lot of work and growth and I’m hungry to improve.  I seem to be attracted to pushing myself to improve. I love the process.

Long-term goals you’re working towards in life or as an athlete or expert? 

It’s amazing how goals change when you become a mother. Time is more limited as we don’t have much family around, so it’s safe to say my competition days are behind me. I’m admittedly a bit more focused on being functional and strong overall, so that I can be active when I’m in my 80’s. I’m loving hiking, lifting weights and do get shorter rides in where I can of course.

I’m working on supporting, teaching and spending time with the coolest little human being I know, my daughter Maple. As far as my career, I never box myself in. Right now I’m working with athletes with their sports nutrition and am lucky to be a part of their team and process. It’s challenging and every athlete is so different physically and psychologically. 

I just started my Masters in Health Sciences/Kinesiology with a goal of doing research on bone health and cycling (thesis not determined). I’m looking to use all of my skills and creativity and am open to learning more, and experimenting with new challenges should they come up for me or when I create them. I consider myself a “learner” and will be reading and listening to podcasts until my last breath! In a sense I feel like I’m just starting every day. If doors open, I’m going to walk through and take a look.

Nutrition: An Athlete’s Relationship with Food

What’s your philosophy towards food and sports nutrition?

You have to fuel the work and focus on overall health and longevity, while maintaining a healthy relationship with food. Easier said than done, I know.

Each part of the season has different demands, especially depending on the sport and athlete. Pro athletes have long seasons often Feb until Sept, while recreational athletes have different shorter seasons, in general. It really depends on the athlete. 

At the elite level, the off season can be a great time to ease off a bit on the structure one may have, while planning nutrition and training strategies; periodization; for the next season.. 

Sometimes changing up the type of diet is refreshing if you’ve been tied to a fairly high carbohydrate diet due to endless stage races or demanding training and racing schedules. Putting on a few pounds in the off season is welcome and normal. For the type of athletes I tend to work with, mostly endurance and cycling, running or triathlon, most are eating higher carbohydrate diets in season depending on the block and training. Intakes eb and flow with their training schedules. The nutrition needs are different depending on the level of the sport and the intensity and duration of training daily and weekly. CONTEXT is everything. I think that gets missed a lot on social media as people don’t really understand just how much work elite athletes are doing and how intense it can be.

Some athletes are already vegetarian/vegan and we work with that. Making sure athletes meet protein needs is important and we work together to create ways to make this possible. I pay close attention to energy deficits in athletes. I’m quite focused on helping athletes meet energy needs, by this I mean replacing the calories they burn, both for recovery, performance and health, including bone health, hormones and mental health. 

Everything is so specific to each athlete, so as far as fasting goes, again, it’s context specific. I support time restricted eating if it suits the context. By this I mean finishing eating at 8pm and going 12 hours overnight fasting. Having said that if an athlete finishes training at 8pm, I say eat and recover. I work with each athlete and their specific lifestyle, sport and nutrition likes dislikes. The most successful athletes I work with are the ones willing to put in the work to master their nutrition. It’s not a mistake they are successful. They pay attention, have a plan and they practice and execute it, just like with training.

I am not in the business of following fads or trends. My goal is to help athletes choose mostly wholesome and nutritious foods for daily nutrition and then dial in their performance nutrition around and during training. I help guide them with ideas for getting in fresh or frozen produce regularly and together we come up with ideas for simple staple meals that they can replicate on the road. Since I work mostly with competitive road cyclists, triathletes and runners, I don’t have athletes on keto diets. These athletes need glycogen stores to compete at the top level. A more recreational cyclists can get away with a lot lower carbohydrates but when you’re training 15+ hours a week, that’s just not going to work in a sport that finishes with a sprint after 3-5 hours of intense racing. There’s a time and place for everything, again, context is key.

Pre, during and post race food; tweaks you make for length/type; specific rules you follow

Three-four hours pre race, a pretty normal meal with 20-30g of easy to digest protein, and could be as much as 150g of carbohydrates or as little as 80g with some healthy fats. As the race time gets nearer, I would decrease the fat and protein a bit and with 1 hour to go I would be mostly focused on easy to digest carbohydrates and hydration; the things that are going to impact my performance. The exception to this process would be events that fall into the “ultra” category, where there won’t be high intensity.  Everything can change in this circumstance, depending on what the athlete prefers and you’re going to be eating more fat and protein as it’s such a long day. Trial and error would be needed here.

How do you manage nutrition while traveling?

HAVE A PLAN. Otherwise you’re at the mercy of the airport and we all know that can be great or terrible! Travel with your go to bars and snacks that are allowed on planes. PB and J, nuts, fruit, water, depending when you are racing next, possibly electrolytes if it’s soon after you get off the plane. Bring a meal to the airport and if you can get past customs at least you can eat your own meal on the plane or before boarding. If you have allergies, be sure to inquire what the flight serves and if you wish to eat the alternative. Always have snacks. Going to Europe? Get used to eating staples before races since you can eat those here too; potatoes, rice, eggs, oatmeal, fruits and vegetables (may be limited upon arrival), chicken, fish, etc are likely available in most countries. Learn to cook with a microwave in a hotel. If you have some favourite portable foods you can pack, pack them to get you through the first few days there in case you can’t get right to the grocery (bring some oats, soy milk, raisins, protein powder in your suitcase or whatever you can to get you through that arrival hump). Also, keep in mind that in other countries things close on Sundays for example and mid day, depending where you are. It’s not like North America open 24 hours a day.

Myth busting – separating fads from what works?

Carbs are evil would be the obvious myth. Broccoli and apples are evil? I think that is a crazy generalization. Ultra processed carbohydrates should be minimized (except in the middle of a race, bring on the gels) but to demonize carbohydrates is not warranted. Let’s be clear though, I’m well aware that there are diseases that people will benefit from less carbohydrate, but I’m going to stick athletes for the purposes of this answer. No one is gaining weight from eating too much broccoli, unless it’s deep fried into a Mars bar.

Pro tips; what you wish you knew when starting? 

  1. It takes a long time to rise to the top. I started pretty late, but I didn’t give it long enough.
  2. The team around you is key; you need support and a good coach that you trust.
  3. How important mindset is. Thoughts become things. Your mind is so incredibly powerful.

Go-to breakfast, lunch, dinner; snacking (or things you avoid)?

  • Smoothies all the “whey.” Yes I just made that joke! A great way to get in a variety of colours of fruit, yogurt, a frozen banana, greens, creatine and fish oil or hemp hearts. 
  • Lunch: Leftovers, quinoa bowls with edamame, roasted vegetables, mango and hot sauce is a favourite, or eggs and anything. I love eggs and sourdough bread with kale.
  • Dinner: Often default to fish and broccoli with rice and quinoa on nights I’m tired (I have a toddler, forgive the simplicity), and if I’m feeling wild I will make some fajitas with grilled veggies, black beans, rice, mango, lime juice and onions. I’m a simple woman. If it takes 2 hours I’m likely not making it!
  • I just bought a freezer to work on meal prep for when school starts. Right now it’s slowly filling with chick-pea curry, chicken meatballs, shepherds pie and my 3 bean chicken recipe.

Favorite recipes, foods or ingredients and how you use them?

I love fresh mango in a lot of dishes, it just adds that spark of flavour to bowls and fajitas and even to rice. I’m a huge fajita fan. I’d say that’s my favourite go to with 3 colours of peppers, black beans, brown rice, onions, garlic, greek yogurt as sour cream and yes, mangos 🙂 and lime juice. 

  • Drinks of choice: Coffee – Americano all the way; mainly pre ride, otherwise decaf (I know I know). Water and lemonade on a super hot day. Mostly I’m a water person, bubbly or flat.
  • Alcohol? Alcohol, no longer has a place in my life. I just don’t recover like I used to from it and I’d rather be firing on all cylinders in the am.
  • Guilty pleasure: Pizza, crunchy, preferably made by me :). Any GOOD tart lemon dessert. Real lemon only. I’m not a big dessert lover, but this would top my list. Oh and no guilt here :).

Adjustments as you’ve gotten older, or had to make changes for other reasons? 

Life changes. I’ve been through a lot of changes including ending of important relationships and leaving competitive sport after over a decade of having that strong community. I’m still adjusting, and have not figured out how to manage not being a competitive athlete and I struggle with it seven years after my last race. I miss the community, and haven’t replaced it. On that level, I’m still trying to figure out where my next community is? 

Physically, I’m adjusting to not hammering like I used to and learning to enjoy just riding or hiking, after decades of going all in. I still need that hit of intensity for my mental health and I find the stairs up the escarpment do the trick.

My energy tends to be impacted by the type of people I’m around as well. I miss my teammates, I was so blessed to have incredible teammates and feed off of their energy. It’s been an adjustment to not be around those amazing women all the time.

I’m adjusting to motherhood more lately. I’m loving watching my daughter grow. 3 is a great age. During this time I’m trying hard to create who I want to become and create habits that will help me become just that, while accepting who I am today at the same time. I’m always adjusting is my answer, change is constant.

Training: Your Approach and Philosophy 

What do you do for the following?

  • Strength: Deadlifts, hack squats, jumping drills, lateral lunges, stairs, chin ups (assisted), TRX rows, medicine ball shoulder press throws, side planks, weighted bridges, balance exercises. If I get in 2-3x a week that’s awesome. 2 is realistic and it’s never set in stone as far as days go.
  • Agility/mobility: Yoga for shoulders, hip and chest opening. Daily jumping in my kitchen as study breaks 🙂 for my bones and some agility type jumping within a figure 4 that I make from 2 broom sticks.
  • Injury prevention: Yoga and weight training. I have a lot of nagging injuries from many years of pushing the red line. It happens :).
  • Rest and recovery: Meditation 10-20 minutes each morning. Optimal protein intake daily, SLEEP. I’m a parent, sleep as much as I can and know the value. Hydration, eat produce often and creatine every damn day :).

Pro tip; what you wish you knew when starting?

How important the right coach, the right nutrition and the right mindset are to success. Also, that it takes a long time to become very good at your sport. Don’t think there will be an overnight success. Often when you see a rockstar athlete, there’s at least a decade of serious commitment to sport behind that success, if not more. It’s a disservice to just say “they’re just talented.” No, they worked very hard and may also have some talent. But they worked hard and you’ll have to as well.

Anything specific to female athletes?

I think all female athletes should be paying attention to cycles (there are apps like Clue for this!), as should their coaches. You can learn a lot about your energy levels, symptoms, predict them and also when you should ease off the intensity and hard weight workouts based on your menstruation and how it affects the body. This topic needs way more attention, it’s very important.

Adjustments as you’ve gotten older or dealt with setbacks or injuries? 

I remember how I dealt with past injuries and the patience required. Somehow, an injury is often an opportunity in disguise, to work on a weakness. It happens to almost every athlete, injuries are part of sports and as hard as it is to be injured, the longer you compete the more you realize it’s something you have to manage, some more than others unfortunately. 

I’ve had a lot of nagging hamstring and groin problems so I’ve had to stop doing cx for fun. Unfortunately a few concussions have been more recently life changing and I’m still adjusting to less intensity and managing neck issues from those. I hike more and try my best to do more weight bearing exercises for better bone health. I’m thinking about longevity more now.

Mind: Your Approach 

Strategy and importance in your life, work, sport?

The older I get, the more I’ve focused on my mind. Admittedly, looking back, I would have been a much better athlete had I had a better handle on my mindset and mental health as an athlete and human being. I meditate every day now and journal, and work on the messages I give myself throughout the day. I find I’m catching myself more when it comes to negative self talk. I say things to myself, even if I don’t believe them deep down yet. Someone has to believe in me, so I choose to.

How have your views evolved? 

I realize the importance of psychology or working on my mental fitness. I think deep down I always knew I had demons to fight as far as self esteem, and I’ve battled some depression. In the past I just didn’t know how to try to improve these aspects of my life. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel like I’m now doing something every day that brings more awareness to my mind. 

I didn’t know much about meditation even 3 years ago, so I’ve learned a lot in the past few years and believe in the power of being present and slowing down. I’ve become much more aware of what’s in my mind and how to manage it and try to learn from it. I don’t expect tomorrow to arrive, and that perspective helps me appreciate today. I wear a bracelet that says “THIS IS IT.” I want tomorrow to arrive and I have dreams, but I also don’t get too far ahead of myself. I don’t find it serves me well mentally.

Time each week or day you spend on mental? Routines that help you get through the day? 

I spend 15-30 minutes on meditation and writing in a journal first thing in the morning but I do miss days depending on what’s going on with my daughter. My day isn’t as good when I don’t meditate, it’s obvious.

Walking in nature daily when I can. I just need that silence to hear the wind on the trees and smell the trees in the air.

Other routines: I stop eating by 9 and don’t eat until 9 and I start 95% of my days with a smoothie.

Influences, role models or community you turn to and/or who have impacted your approach to who you are as an athlete?

My sister was an elite athlete, runner and rower. I looked up to her and she was likely an inspiration even if I wasn’t conscious of it at the time. I had a few local athletes who helped mentor me when I was starting out including Amy Moore, Sue Trimble, Denise Kelly, Anita Lagler, Mike Moore, Andrea Bacik and Malcom Eade and Pierre Perrin. They were that group I was fortunate to have around me all of the time in my early days. They all played different roles in my career and were super supportive, always. I’m forever grateful for all of these athletes and mentors. I had SO many incredible teammates, too many to name. Gears bike shop was a big supporter and I was so grateful for Kevin and Ira and Havey who was the mechanic at the time. Great people. I’m sure I missed a few too. 

Motivation + goal setting; your approach?

I’m finished racing now, so I get motivated for business, school and life goals. I have long term visions, some of them are not clear which is difficult, so I tell myself that within the process I will find some new direction and clarity will arise. 

I started my Masters and don’t see a clear end goal, but know in the process I will find my way. I’m trusting that. I’m motivated by learning and expanding myself as a human being. I’m a creative person by nature and curious about everything.

I’m super motivated to provide the best life for my family. I want my daughter to have all the opportunities she can and what I’m doing now will hopefully both demonstrate hard work to her and help us support her moving forward.

Overcoming obstacles; post-race depression, unexpected setbacks – anything you’ve dealt with that could help other athletes? 

I had a lot of post race depression in my later racing years. The high of racing for me was so clear when I wasn’t racing, the lows were very real. It’s important to write this, because I think every story has potential to help one more person talk and talking about mental health is important. At the time I never did figure out how to manage everything mentally. It was much of my demise in the sport. Resilience I had plenty of. I can suffer through a lot of adversity. Depression is a different beast and it’s not about resilience. I think if you’ve lived with or through it, you can relate and if not, it’s difficult to truly understand.

Now, when I have setbacks in life, I feel like I’m much better equipped than I was when I was competing. Maturity is a real thing. Meditation would have served me well when I was racing. If I did it again, I would meditate and journal daily and have a sport psychologist.

When things are really not going well in sport or in life, I find it’s important to not let yourself catastrophize? Don’t suddenly start thinking of everything that’s going wrong. Focus on one thing at a time, stay present and breathe. You decide how much control to give your mind. I know, easier said than done, but with practice I can say, you will improve.

Anything you’re working on now? 

I just started writing again and started an email subscription to encourage me to stick with it. I love to write. Working on networking as much as possible to try to get involved with more people in the cycling, endurance and the sports nutrition community. I recently had a great time teaching some young 18-21 year old mountain bikers and cross racers about sports and daily nutrition up in Barrie with local coach Robert Holmgren. That reminded me that there are so many athletes who need to learn about sports nutrition.

I have some ideas about education platforms and of course started graduate school so will have my hands full for a while. I’m hoping to maybe hire and manage other sports nutritionist, do more public speaking and teaching and or eventually become part of a team with similar interests in sports performance. My passion hasn’t faded but I’m looking to PIVOT as David Epstein would say 🙂 and use my range. The future is mine to create.

Thoughts on maintaining the mental health of young athletes and kids?

Coming from a nutrition perspective, it’s so important to surround kids with the right messages about food being fuel for exercise and health and growing and bones, versus food being related to how we look. I think social media is really making this tough for kids as has the culture of some sports. It’s important for coaches to not praise being “super thin or lean,” rather focus on athlete health. Sometimes I think coaches are not speaking up when an athlete is clearly unhealthy and I hope to help to change this culture by educating coaches about young female athletes and their period as well as RED-s (relative energy deficiency syndrome and the Female Athlete Triad).  

For youth, I hope to see more programs like Rob’s where the kids are all training together. We have a few great programs here with Midweek cycling and St. Catharines club; having those in person communities are great for mental health vs. being on a trainer at home. If it’s all so serious already at 15…I just feel like kids will burn out and lose the joy. That’s just my opinion, as I’ve seen it so many times.

Resources: How you do what you do  

Things you can’t live without or that help you throughout your athletic life?

  • Apps: Cronometer nutrition app. Also Clue, the app that helps women track their periods. Garmin also has this feature.
  • Device or gadgets: My Garmin Vivoactive but I can live without it ;).
  • Books, podcasts, publications, authors: Rich Roll podcast, Dr. Chatterjee, Dr. Attia, Sigma Nutrition, Prokit!, Books: Mindset by Carol Dweck, Atomic Habits by James Cleary, Range by David Epstein, Endure by Alex Hutchison, the list is too long for books.
  • Racing gear: Still riding my beloved Cervelo R3 and love it. Louis Garneau shoes for the win and POC or Lazer helmets. Recent liking to Smith sunglasses and still own the old M style Oakley sunglasses! 

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