Clockwise from Top: Natalie Coughlin, Carlin Isles, Zack Test

We all have so many important goals and dreams we strive to achieve. Whether it’s to get in better shape, ace a test, land your dream job or even, win a gold medal – these goals ignite and inspire us to reach new heights.

It’s no secret that World Champion swimmer Natalie Coughlin and U.S. rugby players Zack Test and Carlin Isles have committed to attaining their goals and achieving great things. These star athletes, along with sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass, are sharing their secrets to success to incorporate into your daily life.

As a twenty-time World Championship medalist and 12-time Olympic medalist, Coughlin is an advocate for the importance of living an active and healthy lifestyle.

“Your body needs fuel, which makes your food choices particularly important, especially when training. Maintaining proper nutrition and snacking habits is extremely important to perform at your best,” said Coughlin. “To ensure that I’m energized throughout my day, I always keep almonds in my gym bag to help tide me over to the next meal and to give me energy for my training.”

Although Test and Isles are constantly on-the-go jumping from team practice to individual workouts, they always make time for smart snacking. “One of our favorite crave-able snacks is a handful of almonds, because it helps hold off hunger and gives us the power to get through intense matches, practice sessions and workouts,” said Isles.

Our greatest aspirations can often be accomplished by making small, everyday lifestyle changes, our star athletes and fitness expert recommend simple tips, and workout regimens that can be used to reach your highest potential.


Day two out at the USA Sevens Rugby Tournament and the USA Men’s Sevens team plays twice today. Check out what Zack Test and Carlin Isles are snacking on to fuel up.

Posted by California Almonds on Saturday, March 5, 2016



From Natalie Coughlin:

  • Be Prepared: I always have my “emergency pack” of snacks in my bag to quell hunger while traveling or to tide me over to the next meal. This always includes herbal teas, salted dark chocolate and almonds in a baggie in my purse. 
  • Grab a Smoothie: Smoothies can be a great source of easily digestible nutrition when you’re short on time. I have a post-workout smoothie after every practice to help me recover for the next training session and stabilize my blood sugar.
  • Plan in Advance: Salads can be a pain to make, but you can set aside 10-15 minutes on Sunday to make Mason jar salads for the entire week. At the bottom of each quart Mason jar place 1-2 tablespoons of dressing, then layer in your hard veggies (carrots/celery/etc.) followed by your lettuces and greens and finally your toppings (such as chopped almonds). Tightly pack the jars and keep them in your fridge for a smart snack or light meal. Just remove from the fridge, shake, then pour everything in a large bowl. 

From Carlin Isles:

  • Snack Smart: I love to eat small snacks, like almonds, throughout the day to make sure I am always performing at my peak level.
  • Switch it up: A handful of almonds (about one ounce) provides 6 grams of power-packed proteini – I like to keep it fresh and be creative about the different ways I can incorporate almonds into my diet. Examples include sprinkling sliced almonds onto your morning oatmeal or spreading almond butter on toast.
  • Push Yourself: Exercise and a healthy diet not only keep me fit, but they also help me to achieve my goals in life.  Using this discipline, I’m trying to push myself to new limits every day, and I know that what I put into my body will play a big role in allowing me to reach my goals.

Cynthia SassFrom Cynthia Sass:

  • Veggies + Almonds: If you want to eat, live, and fuel like a champion you have to eat your veggies! But pairing veggies with healthy fat is a key strategy for boosting the absorption of the important fat-soluble vitamins and antioxidants veggies provide. Two easy combos: scoop up a dollop of almond butter with raw veggies, or sprinkle sliced almonds onto salads, sautéed, oven roasted, or steamed veggies. 
  • Stay Hydrated: Living like a champion means staying hydrated. Water helps transport nutrients and oxygen throughout your body, convert food into usable fuel, regulate body temperature, lubricate joints, and replenish fluid lost in sweat. As a general rule of thumb aim for at least two cups of fluid two hours before exercise, one to two cups 15 minutes before exercise and one half cup to one cup every 15 minutes during exercise. If you sweat heavily, you’re in high heat and/or humidity, or your workouts last over an hour, be sure to replace electrolytes as well as fluid.  
  • Recover Properly: Workouts put wear and tear on your body, and it’s the healing from that wear and tear, through proper nutrition, that makes you stronger. That’s why post-exercise is prime time for delivering the right raw materials. For a go-to recovery meal make a simple grain bowl. Sauté veggies in low sodium vegetable broth, seasoned with garlic and herbs. Serve over a scoop of whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice, along with a lean protein, topped off with sliced or chopped almonds. Easy breezy.



For the person looking to hit their own personal fitness goals, find Zack’s go-to full-body workout below, including links to moves for further instruction. As a reminder from Zack, keeping easy fuel on hand at all times is key: “I always have a big baggie of almonds on hand when I work out and travel, so I can grab a handful when I am feeling hungry and need a quick, smart snack.”


Start with a light five minute warm-up consisting of jogging in place and dynamic stretches to warm the muscles. Integrate some core work (like planks).


Exercise                               Reps/Time

Bench presses                          10

Squats                                       20

Deadlift                                      15

Rowing Machine                        30 sec.

Pull-ups                                      10

Bike                                            30 sec.

Lunges                                       10 each leg (20 total)

  • Repeat entire circuit five times.
  • No rest between exercises or circuits.
  • On bench presses, use a medium weight.
  • On deadlifts, select a weight that is approximately 50% of your one-rep max (1RM).
  • On rowing machine and bike, push for 7 out of 10 of energy exertion.                  

Cool Down

End with five minutes of different dynamic stretches than from your warm-up.


For peak performance from morning till night, proper nutrition is a must. Scroll below for some quick, energizing and nutritious recipes created by Coughlin, Test, Isles and Sass to crush your goals and conquer the day: 

Breakfast Options:

Carlin Isles’ Chocolate Almond Butter Shake

“When I’m looking for a quick breakfast shake I can make in the morning before practice, my go-to is this delicious and filling Almond Butter Shake.”

Cynthia Sass’s Superfoods Smoothie

“Workouts take time, which can leave fewer minutes in your day for meal prep. But to live and fuel like an Olympian you can’t compromise on optimal nutrition. Fortunately you can get a healthy balance of everything your body needs for exercise recovery in liquid form. Keep these ingredients on hand and you’ll be able to whip up a sip-able meal chock full of superfoods in minutes.”


Snack / pre or post-workout:

Carlin Isles’ Almond Trailblazer Mix

“I love to have a huge batch of this trail mix to make sure it’s in my gym bag and suitcase so I can snack on-the-go and never get too hungry, especially when we’re traveling around the world!”

Natalie Coughlin’s Almond Cherry Recovery Smoothie

“When I’ve had a really intense training day, I crave my Almond Cherry Recovery Smoothie, it’s delicious, filling and helps prevent muscle soreness post-workout!”

Carlin Isles’ Almond Butter & Jelly Sandwich

“If I come home from practice and am starving, I will make myself this Almond Butter & Jelly Sandwich; it crushes hunger and tides me over until my next meal.”

Zack Test’s BBQ Almond Trail Mix

Zack grabs for this BBQ Almond Trail Mix before traveling, whether to matches around the world or going on vacation, to stay fueled and energized on the road.


Lunch / Dinner:

Natalie Coughlin’s Kale Almond Pesto

“This pesto is a great way to add flavor and nutrition to your pasta, protein or sandwich!”

Cynthia Sass’s Black Bean Almond Ginger Satay

“A major trend in sports nutrition is eating more plant-based meals. But a meatless meal doesn’t have to mean munching on carrots and lettuce. This hearty dish is flavorful, colorful, aromatic, and provides a healthy balance of veggies, slow-burning carbohydrates, and plant-based proteins and healthy fat, which will leave you feeling satisfied without feeling sluggish.”


Smart Indulgences:

Cynthia Sass Pumpkin Spice Mini-Muffins

“Burning more calories means you can afford to treat yourself a bit, but to live and fuel like a champion, make your goodies with nutrient-rich ingredients and build in portion control tactics, so you won’t eat back all or more of the calories you burn. Three of these delectable minis will satisfy your sweet tooth, while providing plenty of the vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants an athlete’s body needs.”

Natalie Coughlin’s Coconut Almond Chia Pudding

“This pudding is a delicious yet nutritious way to satisfy your sweet tooth.”





About Natalie Coughlin

Natalie Coughlin is the most decorated female athlete of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and 2004 Athens Olympic Games. Natalie has won a medal in every single Olympic event that she has ever entered, for a total of eleven Olympic medals. In addition, she is the most decorated female swimmer in World Championships history, having received twenty medals. An avid believer in maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle, Natalie enjoys spending time in the kitchen preparing meals that compliment her lifestyle. Follow Natalie on Twitter here, Facebook here and Instagram here.

About Zack Test

Zack Test is also a member of the USA Rugby National Sevens Team, which he joined during the 2008 – 2009 IRB Sevens World Series. He has been a mainstay on the team and currently leads all players in tries scored and appearances. He also won the bronze medal with the Men’s Eagles Sevens at both the 2009 Maccabi Games and the 2011 Pan American Games. Follow Zack on Twitter here and Instagram here.

About Carlin Isles

Carlin Isles is a member of the USA Rugby National Sevens Team, which qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, and has been called the “fastest man in rugby.” Prior to joining the team, Carlin was a member of the Detroit Lions practice squad, before leaving to pursue a career in rugby. Follow Carlin on Twitter here, Facebook here and Instagram here.

About Cynthia Sass

Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CCSD is one of the first registered dietitians in the country to be Board Certified as a Specialist in Sports Dietetics by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She has served as a sports nutrition consultant to four professional teams, and counsels professional and competitive athletes in numerous sports through her private practice. Sass holds master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health, in addition to a personal trainer certification and formal culinary training. Her newest book, Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast, includes a chapter devoted to overcoming the top barriers to regular physical activity. Follow Sass on Twitter here, Facebook here and Instagram here.


i Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as almonds, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.