A Day in Training (and Food)

I’ve been MIA because, honestly, I haven’t really cooked anything the past few days that hasn’t already appeared here. So, I’m going to change directions for today because some have asked how I fuel for distance training (and I’m totally kidding–no one’s asked that, but I wanted to write about it, so there you go).

Fueling for endurance sports can be intimidating if you bother to read any number of articles. Since I don’t have a degree in nutrition and can’t even begin to figure out the ratio of carbs to protein to fat to…everything that’s going to sustain me during my training, I’m just going to write about my everyday nutrition. (Yeah, nutrition. I’m not on a diet. Seriously, I will slap the next person who says, “Oh Mindy? She’s on a diet.” No, I’m not. I’m not sure how you even diet when you’re doing endurance sports. I just eat right. That’s it. End of discussion.) Again, this is what works for me during a typical weekday. I’m not an elite athlete. I have a desk job. This is just what I know won’t make me heave in the middle of a tempo track workout. What’s going to be okay on my stomach if I’m slugging out 7 miles in 90-degree weather.

You’ll see below that I’m basically a 33-year-old baby with feeding times. I am constantly eating. Anyone who walks by my office? Guarantee that you’ll find me eating and/or chugging water. But, aside from a daily bagel, nothing in here is processed or refined.

5:35 a.m. (or earlier depending on what time our cat sticks her paw in my nose, on my face, or in my ear, her way of saying, “OhmygodI’mgoingtodieifyoudon’tfeedmenowit’sbeenlike11hourssinceyou’vefedmeFEEDME,” which then triggers the beagles to go all schizo and start running around the bed because “Ohmygodwe’veNEVERbeenfedFEEDMEPETMEFEEDME”): Up to, obviously, feed the pets. If I have a shorter run of 30-35 minutes, I may get up even earlier to do that run, especially during the summer.

7:45 a.m.: After checking email, etc. at work, fill up my water bottle so I can start getting my first few cups of the day. I try to have two bottles finished off by the time I leave for lunch. (No, I do not drink coffee. I’m not sure how anyone does. Neither do I drink any sodas or energy drinks, ever.) Start on my first “breakfast” of the day, which is now a fruit smoothie (recipe below, you’re welcome, it’s fantastic).

8:30 a.m.: Eat first serving of whole fruit (depends on what’s in season at the market, but usually an apple is in here somewhere).

9:30 or 10 a.m.: Second serving of whole fruit.

12:45 p.m.: Lunch at home, which is usually a salad with veggies and 2-3 oz. of protein (usually fish for shorter runs and chicken for longer runs). More water.

1:30 or 2 p.m.: Another serving of whole fruit.

2:15 p.m.: A tablespoon of crack. Not the illegal kind. The peanut butter kind. Athletes in this area know this stuff. It’s gold in a jar. It’s made by the 91- or 92-year-old mom of a local farmers market vendor. We go through a jar of this stuff each week, maybe more because sometimes you find the jar of PB in one hand, a spoon in the other, and you just let nature take its course. Ten minutes later, you realize you’ve eaten half of the jar. This is literally the only PB we eat now. We are total PB snobs.

2:30 p.m.: This is my favorite time of day: BAGEL TIME! I go through a lot of bagels, but it’s usually the only bread product I eat during the day, unless I’m really starting to fuel for an upcoming race. I opt for either a whole wheat bagel or a cinnamon raisin bagel. Also? I’m now determined to start learning how to make my own bagels. For now, I buy them at a local store that sources them from a local bagel company. It’s also right around this time I’m making sure I’ve gone through another bottle of water and am starting into my last (fourth) bottle at work.

5 p.m.: Head out for my workout. This really depends on the day/week my coach has scheduled for me. Right now, it varies from 20+ miles a week to 35+ miles a week, so it really fluctuates. It could be a cross-training day, too, which is a lighter load, or some core/ab workouts. As far as nutrition goes during my weekday runs, I just bring along a sports bottle filled with water to stay hydrated. For me, runs that are less than 60/65 minutes don’t really require anything more than that.

7 p.m.: Back home and usually sitting down for dinner around this time. Because I eat more fruits than anything prior to my workout, and I get my biggest carb boost 2.5 hours prior with my bagel, dinner is really about catching up on the whole vegetables I need, maybe some grains, and 2-3 more ounces of protein, which helps rebuild muscle after exercise. And that’s usually how dinner breaks down: 2 or 3 servings of some combo of veggies/grains with a few ounces of meat.

Saturdays are typically my longer run days and require a little change-up in my nutrition plan. On those days, I usually start off with a bagel and a glass of water. I then carry plenty of liquids with me on my run since I’m out longer than 60 minutes. After my run, I head straight to our farmers market and hit up one of my favorite new booths that specializes in raw foods. The folks there know me now and know I’m going for one of their smoothies, which typically comprises a tea (of the green variety from what I can tell), blueberries, bananas, and greens. Yes, greens. Whatever, it tastes great, and it is by far the best recovery drink I’ve had. It’s usually at the same booth that I pick up a post-run snack since I’m usually recovered enough to know I’m hungry. If I have a particularly long run (like the 2 hours and 15 minutes I did last week, hello 14.5 miles which are WAY different than 13.1 miles), I may plan to meet my husband at a local restaurant for some brunch, which is usually an egg wrap loaded with vegetables and some potatoes.

So, there you go. And as a reward for sitting patiently through my food ramblings, I now present a great smoothie recipe.

Blues and Bananas Smoothie

Note: If you prefer to use fresh fruit, just add a few cubes of ice during the blending process.

1 frozen banana (peeled, obviously)

3/4 c. frozen blueberries

3/4 c. milk (I prefer raw, but whatever you have on hand)

1/2 c. plain yogurt (again, I use raw from a local vendor, but Greek yogurt is comparable here)

1/2 Tbsp. honey

1/4 tsp. salt

Put everything in your blender or food processor, pulse a few times, then blend until smooth and creamy. I make this the night before so it’s ready to go in the morning.

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Simple Tuna Steak

Some days simple is best. Actually, almost all days simple is best, especially when it comes to food. And especially when I get home after a long run and want dinner done in 30 minutes because, yeah, I’m hungry. Girl’s gotta eat!

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to buy my fresh fish out of the back of a truck. (You’re probably better off clicking the link for that explanation if you don’t know what I’m talking about. Go ahead. I’ll wait.) I was able to get some tuna steaks, and there’s a reason they call them “steaks.” They are meaty. As such, I like to treat them like a piece of red meat, literally. That means just olive oil, salt, and pepper. That’s it. Just grill over medium-high heat until desired doneness. (I think these can technically stand to be a bit pink , maybe a medium rare or medium, but I usually cook them all the way through, which took about 12 minutes per side.)

To “gussy” this up a bit, I topped the tuna with a cilantro-lime butter I picked up from one of my favorite vendors at our market: Beyond Homemade.

Not only does she make some flavorful butters, but she’s also my sole source for freshly ground flour. We’re incredibly lucky in this area to have someone willing to grind wheat berries by hand so more wholesome flour is available (basically not stripped of all its good, nutritious stuff, which is what happens to processed flour). She’s also my go-to for a treat after especially long training runs as she not only uses her flour in her baked goods, she also avoids processed and refined sugars, ingredients which I’ve come to avoid. Anyway, more about the flour later as I’m going to try my (somewhat more confident) hand at making bread at home this weekend. For now, the cilantro-lime butter was the perfect pop for a no-fuss tuna steak. See? You don’t need a litany of ingredients to make something special.

Don’t have access to a great vendor who makes flavored butter? Just chop up some fresh cilantro, zest a lime, and smash the two into your favorite butter. (And hopefully it’s not the margarine kind; real, honest-to-goodness butter is going to work so much better here.)

The sides for this were leftover lemon-herb quinoa salad and roasted tomatoes (just slice fresh tomatoes about 1/2-inch thick, place in a glass baking dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and roast for about an hour in a 400-degree oven). Easy. Simple. Healthy.

Leftover: Steak and Quinoa

What’s that? You have some cooked quinoa sitting in the fridge or some dry hanging out in the pantry, and you don’t know what to do with it? It’s your lucky day! Not only is there a previous recipe for a quinoa salad on this site, but I tried out a new one last night that’s equally refreshing. This one involved peas, basil, lemon, a great dressing that could pull double duty over greens; basically, everything that screams “summer.”

The recipe came from one of my bookmarked cooking sites, Food 52. I followed the recipe, only excluding the hemp seed and using 3 cups of cooked quinoa, so I won’t include the recipe below. It’s a simple side to pull together (even after a long-ish run and not getting home until 6:30, I was able to stir this up in about 30 minutes using cooked quinoa I already had on hand) and is incredibly flavorful. I admit, I was skeptical about the dressing at first, but it ended up pairing well with the quinoa, basil, and peas. The next time around I may include some lemon zest (just because I’m a sucker for citrus pops of flavor) and maybe some red pepper to provide some contrasting crunch. Other than that, this was the perfect complement to some mock tender steak that was begging to be used.

Another great summer side? Sauteed onion, squash, and zucchini. If you’ve ever grown squash or live in the South and leave your car unlocked only to come back and find squash in the front seat, you know how easily this vegetable can multiply. People become crazed after the excitement of the first squash of the season dissipates, and you start getting emails at work begging you to please, please take some squash home. There’s too much. Then you run into those same people in the hall, and they become like drug pushers, only the drugs are squash. We chose not to plant any squash in our garden this year, instead trying out some cantaloupe and preserving our sanity. Hopefully. This has turned out to be a wise decision since my parents are growing some monstrosities and are desperate to give away as much as they can because there are only so many ways you can fix squash and zucchini before you become incredibly tired of it. Luckily, I’m not bored with it yet, and sauteing squash with onions is still my favorite way to consume such a pervasive veggie. Just heat some olive oil in a saute pan (or a wok), throw in sliced onions and squash, season with salt and pepper, and cook for about 20 minutes (or until fork-tender).

Refreshing Quinoa Salad

Independence Day in America means cookouts, which means lots of meat. Right now it also means humidity and highs nearing 100 in this small area of the world. And honestly, I can’t do it. My stomach cannot look at meat in 100-degree weather and think, “Yum.” No, my stomach wants something light and crisp. Which is why I chose a quinoa salad (adapted from a wild rice salad recipe from Breathe) to bring to a family cookout this year.

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) is one of those touted super grains, supposedly having the highest protein content of any grain (P.S. It’s gluten-free). It’s also super versatile. And I say that like I know all about its versatility when really this is the first time I’ve cooked it. And I’m kicking myself that I haven’t been utilizing this grain more in our meals. Really, it’s super simple, flavorful, and can easily be cooked in larger batches so you have plenty leftover to use throughout the coming days. It has the kind of nutty flavor that would marry well with either a savory or sweet dish. I opted for savory.

I went with a quick soak to remove the bitter saponins that coat the grain. (Some information here if you’re a big food nerd like me.) It’s only five minutes of your time, so I’d just go for the soak. To cook the quinoa, just follow the instructions provided here (which also breaks down the benefits of soaking or not soaking the grain).

Quinoa Salad Loaded with Vegetables (adapted from Breathe)

2 c. quinoa, cooked

1 c. red cabbage, shredded

1 c. carrot, shredded

1/4 c. red onion, diced

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

3 c. assortment of veggies (I used red bell pepper and cucumber, but feel free to use whatever you have on hand. You could use tomato or another soft-textured vegetable, but I think veggies with some crunch really shine here and perfectly complement the fluffiness of the quinoa when it’s cooked.)

2 Tbsp. soy sauce

Juice of one lemon

Salt and pepper, to taste

Stir the quinoa and veggies together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and lemon. Pour over the quinoa mixture, stir, and season with salt and pepper.

Totally random, but the cross section of cabbage amazes me.