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Posts from the ‘food’ Category

Sweet Potato Gratin

Sweet Potatoes are one of my favorite foods and there is no better time to eat them than Thanksgiving. I want to share a recipe that I came across that I  plan to try out soon (hopefully before Christmas).  Maybe I’ll find another way to consume my favorite potato other than as fries.

The Stone Soup:

Most people associate gratins with loads of cheese. As some French friends of mine pointed out recently, traditional French potato gratin is just made with potatoes and cream.

When I first mentioned this to my Irishman, he wasn’t very keen to try it. It’s definitely one of those more unusual dishes that tastes much much better than you can imagine. The salty peanut butter does a great job of contrasting the rich sweet potato.

Click here for the recipe.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


Running Update: Ran 10 miles this morning and it was cold and windy. I ran along the hilly part of the marathon course and it actually wasn’t too bad. However, I didn’t feel like I found my stride until about mile 7 and I was a little light headed because I had not eaten since 6 pm the night before. Run stats are here. And how do you like the pic of my delicious breakfast?

Sweet Potatoes

Today is Friday and that means a 20 mile long run tomorrow.  For the past two weeks I have been thinking about what I am going to eat afterwards… a delicious turkey burger ( or MAYBE an actual burger – I’m not sure if I can make that leap), sweet potato fries, and an IPA to replenish fluids 🙂 I can’t wait! However tonight I had to make sure to eat the right stuff to get me through tomorrow.  One of my favorite pre long run dinners is salmon with sweet potatoes.  I really do love the sweet potato.  I know it is highly recommended to eat them before a long run because of their nutritional benefits.  Well I wanted to know exactly what are all of their nutritional benefits so I decided to look into this tonight after dinner…

Zoe Glass:

Your body burns glycogen from carbohydrates to fuel your workouts — if you do not eat sufficient carbs your body starts burning muscle tissue as fuel, notes the “BTEC First Sport Student Book.” This causes you to lose strength and fitness. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of complex carbs. According to the USDA, a medium sweet potato has 24 g of carbohydrate, including 4 g of fiber.

In addition to complex carbs, they are also extremely high in vitamin A which has antioxidant properties, potassium, and vitamin E. Sweet potatoes are actually one of the top three food sources of potassium. Add that to tart cherry juice and you should be set. Also, because sweet potatoes are a complex carb, they are great at regulating blood sugar. I found this recipe for a sweet potato recovery smoothie and it looks amazing! If I still had any sweet potatoes left, I would make it when I got home tomorrow morning.

Clearly sweet potato fries are not the healthiest form of this food, but I am super excited to eat them tomorrow.  The perfect pre-run, post-run, and any other type of run food. Yummy!

Happy Trails and Happy Running,


I won’t eat all of this tomorrow but it sure does look delicious! Add a turkey burger to that and an IPA, and I’ll be one happy runner.
Photo Source: Sanjay Acharya, Wikimedia Commons

Cherry Juice

I’ve been reading about the benefits of beet juice on athletic performance for a long time.  In fact, I bought three bottles to drink the week before my last 5K.  Yes, I got a PR but the taste was just a little too much for me.  This morning I read an article about the benefits of tart cherry juice.  For some reason that just seems a little more appetizing than beet juice.

Gretchen Reynolds:

“In studies by Dr. McHugh and colleagues, tart cherry juice reduced muscle pain and weakness after bouts of intense strength training as well as after a marathon. In a similar experiment by other researchers, racers in the annual Hood to Coast 196-mile relay race in Oregon reported significantly less pain after the race if they drank tart cherry juice in the week beforehand.

The juice has notable anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities, Dr. McHugh says, although the particular components of the juice that are most active in that context are still being teased out. When he asked food scientist colleagues to analyze tart cherry juice, he said, “I was given a list of 30-plus compounds” that were likely to contribute to the drink’s benefits.”

Interesting.  I think in addition to my compression socks, tart cherry juice just might be incorporated into my post workout routine.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



Photo Source: Cary Bass, Wikimedia Commons

Anit-Inflammatory Foods

The weekend is a time when most people do their long runs, hard workouts, and race.  And if you’re anything like me, you reward yourself for a job well done.  I know for me personally, after a long hard 20 miler, I often times reward myself with delicious not so healthy foods that probably aren’t doing much to help my recovery.  And now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure Kara Goucher doesn’t go straight for a soft pretzel followed by a trip to the Cupcake Shoppe after her Saturday long runs.  Yikes, even just typing that makes me want to start apologizing to my body.  Foods can play such an important role in our recovery and getting us back out the door ready to tackle the next run.  So if soft pretzels aren’t then answer, then what is?

Today’s Question:  What are some good anti-inflammatory foods that runners should eat after a hard workout or race?

You would be hard pressed to find a runner who doesn’t know where the advil is in their house.  Often times if we are injured or need to recover after a hard workout, we rest, ice, compress, elevate, and take a few NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs).  However, are we really paying attention to what we are putting in our bodies and using food as a way to treat our inflammation?  Many parts of the runner’s body can become inflamed – the IT band, the muscles, the tendons, the knees, you name it.  But in addition to RICE, food can play a very important role in getting us out the door, healthy, and ready for the next run.

Certain foods possess certain anti-inflammatory agents that can help to speed up the recovery process.  In researching the top anti-inflammatory foods, one that was constantly mentioned was turmeric.  This spice, which is commonly used in Indian cuisine, has been shown to be just as effective as some NSAID drugs.  Even Rich Roll, in a recent guest blog post for Tim Ferriss, reiterates the benefits of this spice. He also emphasizes that an athlete who consumes a diet high in anti-inflammatory foods, will be able to train harder and longer than others.  Stupid pretzel…

Other foods that are high in anti-inflammatory properties are:

  • Salmon: high in omega 3 and protein
  • Basil: the oil in basil inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase, which is the same enzyme NSAIDS inhibits
  • Broccoli: high amounts of the flavonoid quercetin which counters inflammation
  • Ginger Root: contains the anti-inflammatory compound phenol and studies have shown that ginger root can reduce exercise-induced muscle pain by 25%
  • Kelp: contains fucoidan, a type of complex carbohydrate that is anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor and anti-oxidative.
  • Sweet Potatoes: a good source of complex carbohydrates, beta-carotene, manganese, vitamin B6 and C as well as dietary fiber and these nutrients are powerful antioxidants that help to heal inflammation in the body
  • Green Tea: contains powerful anti-inflammatory flavonoids
  • Blueberries: contain phytonutrients that fight against inflammation
  • Tart Cherries: contain the antioxidant anythocyanins, which possesses anti-inflammatory properties

In addition to speeding recovery, anti-inflammatory foods have other benefits such as reduction in heart disease risk, keeping existing cardiac problems in check, reducing blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothing tender and stiff arthritic joints.  Ever since I’ve started running, there has always been someone there to remind me that when I’m older, I’m going to have arthritis.  I’m not planning on letting that happen, but I do think in order to be more proactive,  I need to be a little more conscious about the foods I’m eating after a hard workout.  Yes, the soft pretzel is delicious, but maybe I should go for sushi with green tea instead.

Dinner before Boston: Salmon with Sweet Potatoes

Delicious, but probably not so great after a hard workout

Happy Trails and Happy Running!

Honey Stingers

When I first started running, I did what everyone else told me to do.  If people said to drink gatorade, I drank gatorade.  If GU was the recommended energy gel, chocolate GU it was.  I never asked asked why and I never considered other options.  It was just what everyone told me to do.  Luckily, over the years I have experimented with my body and become a little more knowledgeable about my sports nutrition.  In my humble opinion, I have grown wiser and now no longer accept what everyone else says.

Recently in a Google+ hangout, we were discussing different types of energy gels and one of the runners recommended Honey Stingers.  A few weeks later, during our next hangout, another runner said she had started using them and they had worked quite well for her.  Mmmm… Honey Stingers.  This was a new thing for me so I immediately became curious.  This brings me to today’s question…

What are these Honey Stingers and what is so great about them?

Honey Stingers is a brand of sports nutrition that has been around since 2002.  They make several different products, including  protein bars, energy chews, gels, a waffle (yum!) , and energy bars.  For the purpose of this post, I’m going to focus on the the waffle, the chews, and the gel.

The Waffle

Honey Stinger waffles are a very tasty snack that was inspired by Mr. Lance Armstrong himself.  They are 100 % organic and are basically made of honey in between two thin waffles.  During a visit to my local REI store, I saw the waffles and had to try them.  Delicious! The company makes three different flavors: original, strawberry, and just recently, chocolate.  Each waffle is 160 calories and 21 grams of sugar, with the main ingredient being organic wheat flour.  The waffle comes individually wrapped and is easy to pack in your gym back.  I haven’t tried running with the waffle, but I’m imagining it would be broken to pieces after a few miles.  I think for me it’s a better pre-run snack.

The Chews

The Honey Stinger chews come in four different flavors: fruit smoothie pomegranate passion, cherry blossom, and orange blossom.  They are 95% organic and even contain 100% RDA of Vitamin C (which is great for the immune system).  The main ingredient in all of the chews is 100% organic tapioca syrup.  Honey Stinger chews are gluten free, dairy free, and use no genetically modified ingredients.  From my experience, I know a lot of athletes can be sensitive to wheat and gluten products, and based on what my Google+ friends had to say,  this product can really help with those issues.  There is something to be said about natural and simple.

The Gels

Although I have not tried all of the gels, I do think this is easily my favorite product, mainly for its simplicity.  In all five of the flavors (banana, gold, Ginsting, strawberry, and chocolate), honey is the main ingredient, followed by potassium citrate, water, and vitamins and minerals.  All of the gels contain a vitamin B complex, which can be extremely important during intense exercise (I’ll explain why in a minute).  The gels are 120 calories with 29 grams of sugar.

So why is honey a good choice for fueling during exercise?

Honey is a naturally occurring substance.  It contains unrefined sugars that are easily and evenly absorbed by the body.  Studies have shown that honey is a great carbohydrate option based on its low glycemic index, positive metabolic response, and effective energy production.  Because of the low glycemic index, your body will not experience a sudden burst of energy followed by a crash.  If you are going to be running for a significant amount of time, this is probably a good thing.  Perhaps one of the greatest things about Honey Stinger gels is the amount of B vitamins.  I didn’t realize this until today, but B vitamins are essential for athletes.  A study out of the University of Oregon has shown that athletes with low amounts of vitamin B perform worse than those who have higher amounts of the vitamin.  In addition, vitamin B helps with recovery by repairing damaged muscles and reducing swelling.  And perhaps the most interesting thing I read about B vitamins is that they are known as the “happy vitamin.”  Who knew? I know when I’m 20 miles into a race and have 6 more to go, I could certainly use a “happy vitamin.”  I’m thinking Honey Stinger gels might be the way to go.

Before I started researching Honey Stingers, I had been using 2nd Surge during my long runs.  It had worked well for me and with 100 mg of caffeine, I always felt that sudden burst of energy.  However, I’m interested in trying a more natural approach.  Something about happy vitamins and natural honey just seem a little more appealing.  Although I have not tried all of the Honey Stinger products, I can say that the waffles and the gel are quite delicious and had no negative effects on my stomach.  Perhaps I will try the chews next.

Wow, I’ve finally hit a milestone… five out of 365 posts!  And I already feel much more knowledgeable than I did a week ago.  I should be a running genius next year around this time.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,



The Paleo Diet for Athletes

A few weeks ago, I posted about my first attempt at a Paleo Diet recipe.  Since then I’ve been doing quite a bit more research on the paleo diet, listening to some great podcasts (The Paleo Solution), and reading testimonials from other athletes who follow the Paleo Diet.  If I had to sum up everything I’ve read and heard so far, I’d say it’s the best thing since sliced bread (which paleo says is a no-no), and we should all jump on the bad wagon 10 minutes ago.  However, to actually follow the diet is another story completely, because it is hard (especially if you like wine, chocolate, and any type of bread products).  I recently read the book the Paleo Diet for Athletes, which is a slight variation from the original Paleo Diet. As an athlete and long distance runner, I’d like to share with you what I know.  In reading the book, I found there was certainly no shortage of scientific claims to back the diet and I’ve come across even more testimonials, from your average person to your Olympian athlete.  I’m beginning to think it just might be worth the 30 day challenge…

The Paleo Diet mimics the types of foods people ate prior to the Agricultural Revolution, and it focuses on fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and seafood.  It discourages the consumption of dairy and grains, as well as any refined sugars, saturated and trans fats, and processed foods (The Paleo Answer). If the caveman didn’t eat it, then you shouldn’t either.  The Paleo Diet for Athletes is different in that it breaks your day into 5 stages, all surrounding your workout.  Depending on what stage you are in, there is a little more flexibility with what you should and should not eat.  The five stages are the following:

1) Eating Before Exercise
2) Eating During Exercise
3) Eating Immediately after Exercise
4) Eating for Extended Recovery
5) Eating for Long Term Recovery

Stage I is that time period 1-2 hours before exercise.  During this time you should eat low to moderate glycemic index foods (not bagels with jelly but think nuts, seeds, berries and whole wheat pasta).  Stage II focuses on what you are consuming during long periods of exercise, typically longer than one hour.  During this stage, a sports drink works great, but be sure to focus on consuming enough calories per hour (generally around 200-400 depending on the athlete).  Stage III is perhaps the most critical.  This is what you eat in those 30 minutes immediately following exercise, and this is the food that will help your body start to rebuild itself.  Start refueling with foods that have a 4-5:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio.  A good option here would be a fruit smoothie with protein powder.  Stage IV will vary, depending on the duration of the exercise.  If you exercised for 2 hours, then Stage IV would be the 2 hours following the completion of your workout.  The great thing about Stage IV is this is the time to replace those carbohydrate levels with delicious pasta, bagels, and sweet potatoes, which is a huge difference between the Paleo Diet for Athletes and the Paleo Diet.  Finally, Stage V is when you return to a typical paleo diet focusing on lean meats, fruits, and vegetables.

Here are some great guidelines to follow if you are interested in starting the Paleo Diet.  And did you know Amanda Beard, Olympic gold medalist, follows this diet?  Clearly there are many diets out there and we all want to be the best athlete we can, so what can be wrong with a diet that promotes such clean eating? Lean meats, fruits, and veggies with bagels and pasta after I’ve worked for it…. now if I could just put down those pretzels and hummus.  Well I think for Boston and dreams of a 3:20 marathon, I’ll give it a try.

Happy Trails and Happy Running,

P.S. – If you are interested in learning more about the Paleo Diet, I’d be happy to give you some more info and point you in the right direction. We can go down the Paleolithic road together!

On a Boston note, my first day went very well.  Just and easy run to start out the week. You can check out the stats here.