Talking Roller Derby, Nutrition and Eating Disorders with Sports Nutritionist Gina Nofzinger

Sports Nutritionist Gina Nofzinger is a survivor! This former Army wife is always up for the next challenge, be it roller derby, perfecting her deadlift form or becoming a certified sports nutritionist after breaking the grip of eating disorders on her life.  I hope this glimpse into the life of Mama Mia Gina leads to many more collaborations in the future because I love her positivity and common sense approach to life and health! 
Gina, tell me how you got your start in fitness. Was it because of roller derby?

Not quite. Soccer was my sport of choice growing up, and I played for about 20 years.  I also enjoyed my fair share of softball, volleyball, and tennis.

Actually, pause that and tell me how you got into roller derby! You’re the first person I’ve ever had contact with who was involved in the sport. Are you still active in roller derby?

Roller derby has been on my bucket list for about 10 years. I attempted to join a team in Dallas years ago, but the commute was going to be too challenging for practices and bouts. When I relocated to Fort Hood, they had just begun a team on post called Hell on Wheels!  I was able to join the team and played it for about 2 years, before the team dissolved. It was a great experience and allowed me to build relationships with women from all facets of life.  Roller derby is a great sport, because every age, shape, and size is welcome and there is a purpose for each.

You’re a tall woman at 5’11, were you a blocker or a pivot?

Ha ha! Well, my team preferred me to be the Jammer, but I played all three positions.  Blocker was my favorite because . . . well you get to smash into other ladies and use your body with great force!!  It’s a great way to release anger or frustrations (in a safe way, of course).   Speed has NEVER been my forte, but POWER is another story.

Nothing wrong with being strong. Do you have any injuries from roller derby or other sports that you have to train around now or make adjustments for in your normal training routine?

Yes!! With all the years in soccer, I rolled/sprained my ankles more times than I can recall. Then, I waited until I was ‘well-seasoned’ (38 years old ;)) to join roller derby and my body could tell the wear and tear.

That’s the biggest difference between Masters athletes and younger ones. I think we can do the same things, we just pay for it longer.

In August, 2016, I had four surgeries on my right ankle. The doctor did the typical scope, the Brostrom procedure, peroneal tendon repair, and then pieces of bone from a break (I didn’t know I brokeGina Nofzinger recovering from ankle surgery it) were imbedded into another tendon.  So he removed the pieces of bone and repaired the second tendon.  Needless to say, I am much better after proper recovery and physical therapy.  My ankle will most likely never be 100% again, but I try to take the time to do stretches and strengthening exercises.

Gina, your husband retired from the United States Army. Did you get into training at home because you no longer have ready access to on base fitness centers?

Not quite. Luckily, he is a retired disabled veteran, and we are still able to use facilities on post. But since most days are busy; having a gym conveniently located in the garage works best for me.  Plus, I can act a fool and be silly when the mood strikes.   HA!

You said, “When insomnia strikes, I lift.” It’s great that you take advantage of having a training facility conveniently located in the home but that can be a double-edged sword. Do you struggle with insomnia often and how do you strike a balance between taking advantage of the time since you can’t sleep anyway and making sure you get plenty of rest?

That is a great question, because getting adequate sleep is extremely important for healthy living and mentality!!   I wouldn’t say that I struggle with insomnia too much, however, my husband was working nights for about a year, and when he would wake up at three, I would usually get up with him.  Which means I would try to be in bed super early. And I’m embarrassed to say how early I usually go to bed, but it’s really really …. Really early.   Lol.  I told someone the other day that I have become so much of what my 4 year old self dis-liked; early bedtimes, and vitamins, and blah blah blah.    Haha!

Ha! I think I’ve seen that several times as a meme on social media. I’ve got to find that graphic and add it to the story.

But when I do have a difficult time sleeping, more times than not, I will lift. It’s a retreat for me in a way, a release.  It’s MY time, with MY things, doing what I want, in whatever way I want to do them.  Some may read that and it may sound very selfish, but having my own time doing what I enjoy, is 100% SELF CARE. And that’s important for every individual.

Sports nutritionist Gina Nofzinger says nutrition isn't what you think it isYou recently earned your certification as a sports nutritionist. So let’s look at one of your Instagram posts in that context.

“Nutrition is not low fat. It’s not low calorie. It’s not being hungry and feeling deprived. It’s nourishing your body with real, whole foods so that you are consistently satisfied and energized to live life to the fullest.”

Unpack what that quote means to you both as someone recovering from an eating disorder and as a certified sports nutritionist.
  • EATING DISORDER BRAIN -if I read that when I was struggling with my ED, I would be shaking my head as I read it, in disbelief. When I didn’t have a healthy perspective, I believed the lesser calories consumed, a smaller size would be the result. BUT, with that comes other things; low energy, metabolism issues, difficulty sleeping, ‘skinny-fat’, or way to slender, etc. I would be in my head about calories or fat or sugar or whatever, constantly. I would say to myself often, ‘if I eat that, what will I need to do to work it off?’ When I was deep in my ED, I didn’t feel nourished, I didn’t feel satisfied and I definitely didn’t feel energized. My only target was eating as little as I could. I was so uneducated, and so mis-informed, as are SOOOOOOO many people!!  It’s a lonely road.
  • EATING DISORDER BRAIN ( RECOVERY ) – food is fuel! You can’t build your body without the proper nutrients.
  • CERT SPORTS NUTRITIONIST BRAIN – Oh gosh where do I start? Understanding the energy your body needs to just function is important!  Breathing, thinking, digesting food, sleeping, and things like that all use energy!! The body isn’t going to perform as best it can without FUEL. So all those things that use energy cannot function well without the nutrients needed.  #amiright ?      ha!
  • Flexible dieting enables people to eat what they want (moderately). The body can only process so many grams of fat, carbs and protein, and everyone’s numbers are different. If you consume more than your body needs (calorie surplus), then the excess calories are stored, which leads to weight gain.

Reading this quote as a nutritionist, I agree with it. Nutrition is nourishing your body with a plethora of foods that vary in color and aren’t processed. Eating the right kinds of foods, will leave you satisfied and energized. You will simply feel nourished, and that is good nutrition.

Studies show that the less sleep a person gets, the higher their craving for carbs and caffeine. As someone who suffers from insomnia and a nutritionist what’s your view of the proper way to manage carb intake and caffeine so we don’t interfere with our circadian rhythms and hinder both our health and ability to properly recover from training?

Sleep is sooooo important. People most likely feel the need to consume more caffeine and carbs for the quick boosts within their blood sugar. I personally don’t feel there is anything wrong with the intake of caffeine if it’s not huge doses and is consumed in a timely manner.  Unless an individual has health issues regarding caffeine, I feel it’s safe. If I were discussing this with a client, I would want to know their history with caffeine, and then I would inform them of nutrient timing, as well as smaller more frequent meals. They may decide they don’t want/need the caffeine and carbs any longer.  But adequate sleep is a definite role player.

Were you inspired to become a sports nutritionist because of your background with ED?

Yes, that was a reason behind it, but I also began taking classes for nursing and it was then, that realized how in love I was with learning about how the body processed things, the biomechanics of the body, the anatomy and such. It’s a fascinating topic for me, and I enjoy learning about it.

How do you plan to use your certification going forward?

I have a small group of clientele, and reeducating them about nutrition leaves me feeling a great joy. That’s how I will continue to use my cert.

You had another post that said, “The next time someone asks you what you weigh; tell them 100 and sexy!” Do you think that women both in and outside the fitness Your sports nutritionist says I weigh one hundred and sexyindustry still struggle with the idea of weighing too much even with the influence of fitness influencers like Kortney Olson and her GRRLLL Army fitness line?

I feel that people like Kortney Olson can make a positive impact on some.  And that is wonderful! Women, men, adolescents— PEOPLE will continue to struggle with body image issues, until they are informed and accepting of proper nutrition.  Too many people are not educated on the ins and outs of nutrition.

I ask because it seems that, largely due to the influence of Crossfit, increasing numbers of women are now actively seeking to grow the size of their hips, thighs and rear ends. This is a dramatic shift from the past when women aspired to be unnaturally thin, or were ashamed of their curves.

So true. When I look at a woman who has been in the CrossFit world for a long time, I see strength and health. I see a body that is athletic and still feminine.  And even though I don’t do ‘CrossFit’, that is my personal target.  To look and feel healthy, upright, rooted, nourished, energized, and strong!

One core value that Garage Gym Life has is promoting positive body image through our clothing both for men and women. Everything we sell is designed to promote the fact that the person wearing it is an overcomer. That’s why you don’t see apparel saying, “Addicted to tacos” or “Must have coffee” in our line. We have no problem with either of those foods but we want to promote the idea that the person in our clothing is strong enough to overcome not helpless to deal with cravings. Does that make sense?

Yes, this makes sense and is very admirable!

You posted a healthier alternative for when cravings strike. I believe it consisted of coffee, milk, protein powder and chocolate syrup. What’s the exact recipe and macro breakdown?

Is this regarding the chocolate Fairlife milk, and Hershey’s syrup?

Yup! That’s the post!

This is 240 grams of fat free Fairlife milk, 11 grams of protein powder, and 14 grams of Hershey’s syrup. YUM!   The macro breakdown is 0F/18C/21P.

I think it’s important that sports nutritionists or any wellness professional give actionable tips like that to help with compliance. What’s another favorite recipe of yours to battle cravings that may hinder you from reaching your goals?

While a chocolate protein shake will usually fill me up if I’m feeling a bit hungry, sometimes I want/need something solid. So, low fat string cheese is always great.  0% Fage greek yogurt with a packet of Truvia and some granola is also a fave.

Dan John and Josh Hillis co-wrote “Fat Loss Happens on Monday” and one thing they emphasize is focusing on the many small positives whenever you hit a setback during a fat loss cycle. What other useful advice do you have for someone trying to get into better shape?

You hear it all the time, but honestly— just don’t give up!  Consistency is a challenge for the majority of us, but if you end up stopping, then you gotta start over.  I’ve done it many times in my life, and now a motto of mine is something that I stole from a therapist in treatment, she would say at the end of every session: “Keep coming back’!!!”

Wes Jenkins has written about the power of dedicating a full year to improving body composition rather than trying to get everything done in six or even twelve weeks. As a sports nutritionist what do you think about the power of habit and the concept of taking one year to change your life?

AGREE TO THE MAX!!!   YES!  But, some people have better success with baby steps.  So a year is awesome, but some may need segments to get them to complete the entire year.   By that time, hopefully it will be a habit for them.

For me personally, it’s shaking out to three months of fat-loss and mobility work primarily, followed by three months of hypertrophy and mobility work, followed by three months of strength building and another three month fat-loss phase. If you’re interested, we can get you in on some of the planning.

I fully support the periodization protocols! All that I have read about it has proven to benefit the athlete if done properly. It makes sense to break up your training into cycles (macro, meso, micro) and build upon the previous cycle. Periodization training was discussed a lot in my schooling, in fact, an entire chapter was on that topic!

Let’s finish up by talking about your home gym. Do you primarily have barbells, kettlebells, machine weights or a combination?

I have a few dumbbells, two barbells, some bumper plates, a squat rack, bench and hyper extension. I just sold my leg press and elliptical. Which was supposed to clear up room in the garage but then my hubby got a kayak, and well— Ha ha!

How do you prioritize what equipment you’re going to buy?

I ask myself this, “What piece of equipment can I utilize the most without having to purchase more”? You need a whole lot to get in a good work out.

I know you mentioned needing a better heater, what else is on your wish list for the gym?

A 20-25lb kettlebell is on my Christmas list!!

How can people follow your training or contact you if they want help in taking control of their eating and beginning a better relationship with food?

I love talking nutrition!!   After I assist someone with nutrition or training, I feel that I leave with more joy and contentment then they do!  It does wonders for me because there is so much mis-information and bro-science out there.  Anyone can DM me @gina_nofzinger on IG, and I am happy to help them if I can.

About the author

John Greaves III is a writer based in North Georgia with nearly two decades of experience in training at home. A former amateur kickboxing champion, John now competes recreationally in powerlifting. He takes a physical culture approach to training; believing that strength and health need not be mutually exclusive. In addition to his nonfiction work, John has written two fiction books, A Different Kind of Giant and A Little Lesson in Manners that are available on