Competitive Edge

Doctor-Athletes Tell Us How They Fuel Their Workouts

“I’m a physician first and then, in my other time, I get to be an athlete.”

By Susan Burns May 28, 2021 Published in the May-June 2021 issue of Sarasota Magazine

Cardiovascular surgeon Jonathan Fong.

Cardiovascular surgeon Jonathan Fong.

Image: Barbara Banks

Dr. Jonathan Fong, swimmer

Five or six times a week, Dr. Jonathan Fong hits the pool at 5 a.m. and swims 4,000 to 6,000 yards, up to 3.4 miles, with Sarasota Sharks Masters, a U.S. Masters swim team. By 6:30 or 7 a.m., he’s at work as a cardiovascular surgeon. It’s a routine he’s had for more than 10 years, no matter the weather. He competes at local, state and a few national meets, but staying fit and practicing what he preaches—good heart health—are the main focus. “I train when I’m able to,” says Fong, 56. “I’m a physician first and then, in my other time, I get to be an athlete.”

Fong’s diet: “I don’t subscribe to a particular diet regimen. Because of my work, I don’t like heavy meats—I’ll eat chicken, pork and fish—and I don’t drink whole milk. I’ve moved to almond milk. As far as alcohol goes, occasionally, I might have a rum and Coke. Nothing to me is off limits, but I ascribe to everything in moderation.”

The night before a meet: “I might choose a pasta dish, but nothing heavy and no heavy creams. You need to maintain your energy level and metabolism. You need to know your own metabolism. Everyone is different.”

Dr. Adam Bright, long distance runner 

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Adam Bright, 55, has run 15 Boston Marathons, two Ironman triathlons, three 100-mile races and 36-hour nonstop off-road adventure races since he began running 20 years ago. Covid-19 meant all the big races were canceled last year and for at least part of 2021, so his training regimen has gone from running 50 miles a week to 34 miles a week. Bright started running to lose weight, but elite competitions keep him focused and motivated. “You can compete on the exact same course, on the exact same day, with the world’s best,” he says. “If you’re really good at tennis, you’re not going to get to center court at Wimbledon ever in your life. It’s cool.”

Bright’s diet: “I’m not a strict diet person and I’m an anti-supplement guy. I remain unconvinced that some special diet is going to make me run better. I think we get well-rounded nutrition with regular foods. There’s zero evidence that taking a bunch of supplements will help you. I avoid red meat, and I try to eat vegetarian now and then.”

Race day food: “My preferred food for long distance is little new potatoes boiled with salt. I carry them in a Ziploc bag. They don’t go bad quickly and they’re real food. It’s hard in the Ironman or long distance runs to eat sugary junk. You can do that in a marathon since that’s a shorter distance, but if you do that for six, 12 or 36 hours, your stomach revolts. If I’m doing a mountain bike, like two or three hours, Cliff Bars are pretty decent, but I also might have beef jerky or an apple.”

Dr. Sean Daley, triathlete

A lifelong athlete recruited as a college rower at Yale, anesthesiologist Dr. Sean Daley couldn’t give up sports when he entered medical school, so he searched for an activity that fit his busy schedule and allowed him to compete. Daley discovered endurance running and, eventually, triathlons. Now 44, with a wife and three children, he races five to six times a year, including three half Ironmans a year, plus Olympic and sprint triathlons, and has competed in the Marine Corps Marathon and Boston Marathon. During the week, he trains at 5 a.m.—using an indoor bike at home, swimming at a local gym and running. Weekends are for long-distance training.

Daley’s diet: “I follow a balanced diet, low in fat, more vegetables and fruits, lean proteins such as chicken and seafood. During work, I’m not picking up bags of chips or cookies that are sitting around. I’ll grab an apple or banana or bring a tin of vegetables and hummus. Food after dinner affects how I feel and sleep. I’ll have a beer with my friends or a glass of wine with my wife, but limiting that definitely improves performance and sleep.”

Before a race: “The night before dinner is important. I don’t do the whole carb load thing because carbs are quick to go. I eat a balance of fish and carbs. The hard part of endurance races is keeping the gastrointestinal system healthy, meaning you don’t put something in that’s going to make you feel bad or make you go to the bathroom. I use a lot of fluid-based replacement, balancing electrolytes and complex sugars. I have a sports drink that is specifically made for that, with a decent amount of calories.”

Dr. Kelly-Ann Shedd-Hartman (Dr. KASH), fitness enthusiast

Raised on a farm in a health and fitness conscious family, obstetrician Kelly-Ann Shedd-Hartman (known as Dr. KASH), was vegetarian from the day she was born and has always worked out. Four and a half years ago, she and her husband became vegan, following a strict plant-based diet.

Before the pandemic, Shedd-Hartman’s fitness routine included a combination of YMCA and home workouts, but last summer she purchased a Mirror, a device that streams live and on-demand fitness classes using a virtual instructor, so she could do her daily Pure Barre, yoga, Pilates and strength training safely from home.

Shedd-Hartman, 40, was also pregnant this year (her due date is this month) and kept working out throughout her pregnancy. Being vegan is the healthiest thing she can do for her baby, she says. “I’ve never seen anyone with a protein deficiency in the U.S. Unless you’re a big-time athlete, like a Tom Brady type, most people don’t need as much protein as they think they do,” she says.

Shedd-Hartman’s diet: “We don’t eat anything that comes from any animal. No dairy. No meat. We eat fruits, vegetables, minimally processed grains, seeds, nuts and beans. We get a lot of our protein stores from lentils, chia seeds, flax seeds and hemp seeds. Broccoli and spinach have quite a bit of protein. I also make sure to stay hydrated. The feeling of hunger is often thirst.”

A pick-me-up food: “I normally do almonds or Brazil nuts and pair it with a fruit, dried or fresh.”

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