Some folks wear their heart on their sleeve. Amanda Nolz, BEEF Daily Editor, drapes hers across her torso.

If you were among the spectators lining the 13-mile route of the Brookings (SD) half-marathon May 15, you’d have seen Nolz zip by in her Team ZIP jersey. ZIP stands for zinc, iron and protein – the all-important nutritional punch that beef delivers to the human body.

Nolz is among a cadre of amateur athletes who are Team ZIP members, a program loosely begun two years ago by a group of running and cycling enthusiasts at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. The group has since grown to more than 200 amateur athletes passionate about beef and eager to show the world that beef is an important part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Their distinctive jersey depicts steaks sizzling on a grill with Team ZIP emblazoned across the top. Learn more at http://powerofprotein.blogspot.com/.

It was Nolz’s third race under the Team ZIP banner and she plans to do other half marathons this summer and fall.

Running seems to be in the Nolz genes; sister Courtney, a high-school senior, ran in the same Brookings race, and younger sister Kaley is a multi-event competitor in her junior-high track program.

“I enjoy the racing to test myself and I get a lot of feedback when I run,” Nolz says. “Along the route, folks recognize the jersey, and yell, ‘Go Team Zip’ or ‘Go BEEF.’ It really charges you up and it feels good to do something for the industry as well as myself. As a producer, it’s a way to show folks that I live the lifestyle and believe that beef is part of that healthy lifestyle.”

Those aren’t just talking points. Nolz says her meal on the eve of a race is always steak, focusing on the 29 lean cuts of beef. “I notice a drop-off in my energy level if I eat chicken rather than beef before a race. You hear a lot about top athletes eating pasta before a race but a growing number are opting for steak as part of their prerace routine.”

She says that as runners cross the finish line of the Brookings race, an announcer reads a dedication statement prepared by the runner. “Some runners dedicate their run to their moms, a cure for cancer or some other worthy cause. In my race, the announcer said: ‘Amanda Nolz of Team ZIP would like to remind you that there are 29 ways to enjoy beef with 29 lean beef cuts.’ It was so cool. Of course, I’m partial to lean Limousin beef,” she says with a laugh, alluding to the family seedstock operation.