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As athletes, improving performance in sport involves determining which foods work best for us. And as we gain a better understanding, we avoid the pitfalls of selecting foods that cause gastric issues. By taking a more active role in our food preparation, we can hone in and practice using foods that allow us to perform better and more comfortably and possibly save ourselves from dependence on a retailer or availability of processed sport foods.
Face it, training and racing can be an egocentric activity. We leave our loved ones behind for early morning training, increase our carbon footprint by driving in our cars to training facilities or races, and litter the environment by leaving our shiny wrappers on the roadside. By working with real food, we can mitigate some of the “all about me” aspect of being a competitive athlete. When we create our own meals and food for the go, we curtail the waste and costs associated with artificial foods. Who wants to use their hard earned money on packaging, marketing, transport, expired products, and other outside expenses associated with having the convenience of processed sport food?
We waste less when we use locally produced food ingredients in our own meals. You may not fix the hole in the ozone or global climate change by yourself, but every little bit helps. Using relatively small adjustments in our routine, we can improve the quality of our nutrition, help local businesses, and move ever so slightly away from consumption without consciousness. If you wanted to become involved to a higher degree in sustainability, then the next steps in producing truly real food would entail shopping at local farmers markets, home gardening, organic gardening practices. You can even participate in local CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture) or hunt and gather if it is not against your ethical or moral fabric.
But do highly competitive athletes use real food? The answer is yes. Case in point is World Champion cyclist Thor Hushovd, who stands over six feet tall, and weighs 182. His build is much larger than the iconic pro road racer, and his caloric demand during a stage of the Tour de France can tear through 6,000 calories.
According to an article in Esquire magazine, Thor’s favorite food to eat on the bike is a ham and cheese sandwich. Off the bike he eats a gluten-modified diet comprised of a tasty variety of foods featuring curry dishes, vegetables, quality sources of protein and some traditional spaghetti. His breakfast features oatmeal, eggs, ham, rice, and cereal. When he’s on the bike in competition he does eat commercial sport foods, but real food is included in his feedbag as well. His diet focuses less on wheat and other foods containing gluten to avoid the inflammatory effects associated with high gluten diets.
Ultra endurance runners rely on getting their calories from sources other than gels and sport drinks. Aid stations and special needs bags may contain potatoes, sandwiches, and fruit, in addition to sources of sodium in pretzels, chips or broth. In most long distance training or events, there comes a point when you crave comfort foods rather than squeezing another gel pack. This is where you begin to return to the roots of consuming real food.
– Excerpted from Real Food Basics: Endurance Planet’s Recipes for your Long Workouts, by Elizabeth Ruiz. Available for purchase at EndurancePlanet.com/bookstore.
Photo by humbert15, licensed through the Creative Commons
Carrot Cake Bar
1/3 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup raisins
1/3 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup dried pineapple
3 pitted dates
2 medium carrots shredded
1/3 cup hazelnuts, filberts, or walnuts
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
Blend oats in food processor or blender until it is powdery. Add dates, and blend. Next add the carrots, pineapple and raisins, blending with each ingredient. Add spices, blending and combining all the ingredients. If the mixture is too wet, add more oats. If the mixture is too dry, add a touch of honey until the dough can be formed without crumbling apart. Divide the dough into 2” x 1” pieces, cover with plastic wrap and let sit to cure and harden up in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 hours.
See next page for two more energy bar recipes: Protein bars and No-bake bars
2 cups raw or slightly roasted almonds
1/2 cup ground flax seeds, chia seeds, or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup raisins, currants, dried dates
1/2 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup unsalted peanut or almond butter
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 Tb. honey
4 ounces dark chocolate* optional
Prepare the almonds, flax seeds, dried fruit, and coconut by processing them in the food processor until they are coarsely ground. Add almond butter, salt and mix. In a small saucepan, melt coconut oil over low heat until it becomes liquid. Stir in honey and vanilla extract. Combine the melted coconut oil with the nuts and fruit, working with a few pulses in the food processor until it forms a coarse paste. Spoon the mixture into the 8 x 8 inch baking dish, letting it chill for 1 hour in the refrigerator. Using a small saucepan melt the chocolate over low heat, stirring frequently so that the chocolate does not burn. When melted, spread over the bars and return the baking dish to the refrigerator for an additional 30 minutes, or until the chocolate hardens. Cut into bars, then wrap individual bars in freezer paper, or wax paper. Store in cool, dry area, or freeze. Yields about 12-16 bars.
1 cup almond, cashew, or peanut butter
1 cup honey
3 cups rolled, or old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup protein powder (optional)
In a medium-sized saucepan warm the nut butter and honey over low to medium heat until it mixes and is creamy in texture. Make sure your pan is large enough to fit the oats. Mix in oats and optional protein powder. Turn off the heat, mixing until the ingredients are combined. Press into a 8” x 8”, or 9” x 9” glass baking dish. Let cool before cutting into 16 bars.