Things I Wish I Had Learned About Nutrition in Cross Country

image

At least three times a week I lace up my running shoes, turn on my Strava and my music and hit the open road. I run for fitness, for the alone time, and the elated feeling that results from flushed cheeks, labored breathing and shoes hitting the pavement as I get closer to the end goal. And when it’s over, that runner’s high remains for the rest of the day. A true dichotomy between love and hate, running has become one of my favorite ways to start my day.

This sort of exercise wasn’t always my favorite, however. I started running in junior high when my dad thought it would be a good idea to put me in cross country. As a dad should behave, he was just trying to get me involved in an activity somewhere. The adolescent school years can be quite unforgiving unless one has an activity they can be apart of and make lasting friends in the process.

It’s a shame, but cross country did nothing to encourage the runner within me. In fact it made me turn and run in the other direction (no pun intended). It took me a while to realize that I could run, not for speed or racing, but for my own personal enjoyment. I realized that running wasn’t something I needed to hate or fear, but I needed to approach it in my own way so that I really could enjoy it.

My chief complaint about cross country is the lack of education regarding nutrition. How you fuel before, during and after a run is just about as important as the run itself. But no one educated me on this. Nobody told me that eating pizza and fries was an unsuitable way of fueling up for a practice or that french toast sat in the stomach like a rock before a race. I didn’t know anything about nutrients, carbohydrates or simple sugars – I just ate what a typical junior highschooler ate. I know the adolescent body seems indestructible but even then I had a very sensitive stomach. I could have benefited from a little knowledge on the subject.

Now that I am training for a half-marathon, I’ve been paying very close attention to my race nutrition. A large part of my training involves trial and error – seeing what foods or methods work and which ones don’t. So come race day, things should go smoothly.

When it comes to endurance sports like running, the normal conventions of nutrition seem to get thrown out the window. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Anything otherwise healthy for you, is not good before a run. This includes high fiber foods and even healthy fats. Yet foods you would normally stay away from, like refined carbs such as processed white foods, are advantageous. I’ve found that a Larabar usually works for me pre-run.
  • If you’re going to be running for an hour or more, you need something to keep your muscles working. You need something that can be quickly absorbed and put to use as energy. Runner’s gels are always a go-to. But there are some other ways of getting energy you might not have heard of. I found an entire list with descriptions that is not limited to frozen grapes, dried fruit and even gummy bears and marshmallows. My dad likes to have Doritos and a Coke during an ironman. It makes no sense, but it does.

Certainly my pizza eating days of junior high are over, but it doesn’t stop at the obviously bad foods. The idea that healthy foods can actually stifle one’s running ability was a complete revelation to me.

What are your favorite ways to fuel up for an endurance activity? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Advertisements

Total Wellness | Feel Good Food For Your Body and the Planet

IMG_3881.JPG

I’m currently sitting at my desk with pen and paper. No screen in front of my face with pop up adds or tabs to switch through. No distractions; the way writing should be. I could tell you that I had some sort of enlightenment but that would be lying. My MacBook power cord has been sparking every time I plug it into the socket. So due to the apparent fire hazard and the fact that my computer is dead, I must take to this more backward method.

I haven’t done much blogging work lately I guess you could say. I’ve been off instagram, pretty much all forms of social media – it’s nice. I’ve been spending time with friends and family and doing a lot of planning for the wedding! Most of all, I’ve been focusing on exercising more, doing yoga, and transitioning to a more plant-based diet. The reason, although very compelling, is not to get in better shape for the wedding. I consider myself to be a pretty healthy person, so this would just be taking it to the next level – for my body and for the wellbeing of the planet.

I love to watch documentaries on Netflix; particularly those that have to do with the food we eat. And since I’ve seen Food Inc. about 10 times, I thought it was time to find something different. I found a couple that were good and you can find these on Netflix! Vegucation and Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. Vegucation follows three New Yorkers that decide to go Vegan and why going vegan is so important for our bodies and the planet. Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead follows a man named Joe Cross who nursed himself back to health from obesity and a debilitating autoimmune disease by juicing using only fruits and vegetables. Both are compelling and both have two common themes. They advocate for a plant based diet and they both show a lifestyle that goes totally against the grain (no pun intended) of where our food system is currently taking us.

I am absolutely floored when I hear of juicing or a plant based diet come under such scrutiny. Yet too often crazy diet fads and weight loss pills take center stage. No one is complaining about those. Okay maybe some people are, but these unnatural methods touting health benefits often comes up wanting.

Enough is enough. We’ve tried everything else, it’s time to get back to the basics. Fruits and vegetables is where it’s at – and that’s just the beginning to being on a healthy path for the rest of your life! Is meat, cheese, and dairy good for you? Sure! In moderation. The problem with that is for most people it’s the opposite. We eat more meat, cheese, and dairy and we eat fruits and vegetables in moderation. Fruits and vegetables are the real deal! Nutrition straight from the earth. You can’t get more wholistic than that!

A plant based diet isn’t what we typically think of as a diet. It’s a change of lifestyle. You are reorienting your tastebuds, expanding your palette, and changing your habits. Whether you decide to go all plant based (vegan) or mostly plant based, your body will thank you for it either way. For example, the purpose of a juice cleanse is not so you have to drink only liquids the rest of your life, it’s to give the body a boost and the motivation it really needs to get healthy and start craving the right kinds of foods.

I used to think going vegan was kind of unnecessary. Meat holds an essential building block to our health – protein. And as long as you eat locally sourced meat and not fast food it’s okay. There are a whole host of repercussions, some seen and some not seen, when we pick up that ground beef from the store. I don’t think I’m ready to go completely vegan, but I would like to gravitate toward a predominately plant based diet. It’s silly to think meat is my only source of protein when there are so many other alternatives out there.

I’m starting on a path to total wellness and I encourage you to do the same! If nothing else so you feel better and live a happy life! Have any of you tried going vegan or have done a juice cleanse? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Adele

A Recipe | Black Bean Burger with Cilantro and Cumin on a Toasted Brioche Bun

Growing up, my family didn’t do much cooking. My mom mostly made recipes handed down from my grandmother; tried and true classics like homemade pizza, chicken pot pie, lasagna, and apple crunch (don’t get me wrong, there is something to be said about the hand-me-down foolproof recipes – but more on that later!). All of these dishes air on the less healthy side of the food spectrum. When my dad started cleaning up his act, running marathons and doing Iron Mans (which are just really long triathlons), well needless to say, he cleaned up his diet too. Though I don’t like to admit it, my affinity for healthy eating is due in large part to him.

For this reason, I’m very fortunate to be drawn to healthy grains and proteins, fruits, and seasonal vegetables. There’s so much I love about the Christmas season, but why did we make it a time to pig out on cookies and cakes?! I love me some sweets as much as the next person, but this girl needs a break. So if you need me, you’ll find me south of the border (The U.S. border for those of you reading from afar).

I don’t really know why, but I have been craving a black bean burger lately. Maybe it’s because of all the sugary, seasonal eats. Or maybe I’m wanting to escape to a warmer climate where I can sip cocktails on the beach. Either way, I’ll follow my taste buds. There’s a local restaurant that serves up a killer black bean burger! I get it almost every time we go in. It is drizzled with some kind of sauce and topped with melted cheese. Add to that a simple side salad and a nice IPA to finish it off! This is my own recreation of that dish, a nostalgia of warm, summer days, and all things south of the border!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a9 preset

Black bean burgers are delicious, nutritious, and very easy to make. When I thought about how I wanted my burger to taste, I knew I wanted a classic black bean burger with a little bit of kick. I didn’t want it to overpower the burger, but to complement it in a pleasing way. Cumin is essential to a black bean burger. Just trust me on this one. Whatever else you throw in there, make sure cumin is in there too. Cumin has kind of an earthy taste that lends itself very well to the black beans. I think anything else would have been too spicy.

And then there’s the cilantro. Oh I love me some cilantro. Perfect in any Mexican dish like guacamole or a Mexican quinoa dish I make which I will share later! Too much cilantro and it’s overpowering but just right and it’s a wonderful kick to add to any dish. That’s the role cilantro plays in this black bean burger.

To complete this south of the border inspired burger, place on a toasted brioche bun (any type of bun will do but the brioche seemed like a heartier option) and melt some swiss cheese or cheese of your choice. I added a simple side salad with kale and thinly sliced radishes. Not pictured: Rockmill’s Witbier Ale brewed with spices. I don’t think it technically goes but it was a gift from a friend and anything from Rockmill is good any time of the year. Besides, we aren’t as picky as those winos ; ).

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Recipe |  Black Bean Burger with Cumin and Cilantro

Makes 2 burgers

Ingredients:

1 can black beans

1 egg

1/2 cup plain bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/2 tsp. cilantro

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Mash up the black beans with a fork or potato masher. You want most of the beans to be mashed with a few whole beans throughout. Add in the bread crumbs, egg, cumin, cilantro, and salt and pepper and stir to combine. Form into a patty (note: these patties do not expand like a hamburger, so make it the size you want it) and place on a skillet – I used my cast iron skillet with a little cooking spray. Cook on medium heat until both sides are browned. Place your cheese on top and cover to melt; 1-2 minutes. If you want to toast your bread, rub some butter on both the top and bottom of your bread and place in the warm cast iron skillet (making sure it doesn’t burn) to get a toasty brown color.

Serve with a simple salad and a cold beer! Enjoy!