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Fueling your workout with Real Food

For those of you who have been following my story, you know now that I have a unique take on fueling workouts. A huge part of my motivation on healthy eating has come from sport – and the observations I have taken on my own in triathlon on the over-nutrition fueling problem with fake sugars and added ingredients that make us athletes feel absolutely miserable.

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I think there’s a problem. A problem with the fact that we trust coaches, fellow athletes, and professional athletes to be our inspiration for fueling. Think about it – these people are human and trying to make money just like you and I. So, they are sponsored. They are sponsored by companies like Red Bull, Gatorade, Gu Energy. Companies that, when you hear those names are genuinely the “pillar” of nutrition in sport. When I hear the word Gatorade I think of some of the most famous athletes in the entire world. But, when you REALLY think about Gatorade, what’s in it? The second ingredient is Sugar, the third a fake sugar, and more artificial ingredients. No wonder this sugary beverage makes my stomach ache!! Now – I’m not saying that you CAN’T use these products and feel awesome. But, for some people – these fuels just don’t necessarily work well. Sometimes they work great when supplemented with whole foods – but what I am suggesting is to prioritize whole food over processed.

It was my first half ironman distance race after following the advice of my coach to “train my stomach.” It’s a concept that incapsulates everything wrong with over-nutrition in sport. Essentially, while you are training – you’re encouraged to take in as many different sports nutrition products as you can in order to prepare your gut for your race. The reason for this? While you’re racing, you may lose or drop your own nutrition. So – you have to be prepared to take in anything offered at the aid station so that a GI or digestive issue doesn’t stop your race. I attempted at this concept, but I failed – miserably. The more added sugars I took in during my training – the more gross I felt, so I just stuck with one of them.

During my race, the forbidden happened. I dropped my nutrition and was forced to take in aid station junk. I was vomiting the entirety of the run. I finished the race – feeling awful, for days. That is when I asked myself the question that all athletes should be asking themselves: “Why are we training our stomach?” “Why are we putting such awful ingredients into our bodies to do something so natural and good for us?” I was prioritizing a plant-based diet in every single aspect of my life, but I was disregarding it completely in sport. So, I decided to change.

“Why are we training our stomach?” “Why are we putting such awful ingredients into our bodies to do something so natural and good for us?” I was prioritizing a plant-based diet in every single aspect of my life, but I was disregarding it completely in sport. So, I decided to change.

It began with lots of dried fruit and nuts. Figs, Dates, Almonds, Cashews, Goji berries, bananas etc. The list goes on. Anything I had in my fridge – I would grab for a long ride. It was working great – except for the following issues:

  1. Portability. Figs and Dates got so sticky – and shoving a handful of almonds and goji berries in my mouth on a bike ride was far from easy. Bananas would brown in my kit, and sweet potatoes got so hot in the sun they were unbearable to eat.
  2. Too much Fiber. I actually started having GI tract issues when I was eating tons of these foods – Eating 25 figs in a day cause some movement in your intestines – and this is something that needs to be avoided when going out for long days.
  3. Not enough salt. When I was really grinding it out – I needed the sodium content. I wasn’t replacing electrolytes fast enough and I would find myself bonking.

The solution? I got creative in the kitchen. I needed to find something that was optimal for performance, made with whole foods, low in fiber, high in salt, no added sugars. I wanted to create something with the same nutrition facts label as a shot block – but without the added processed ingredients. So, here’s my fueling plan, you can also here more about how to create your own food for fueling for sport in my podcast linked here with No Meat Athlete where I discuss all of this in great detail linked here.

-Quick release / Fact acting fuels to replace gummy and gels: Use dried fruits, frozen fruits and rice flour in a food processor. Put them in mini muffin tins after sautéeing and food processing – and bake for a bit. Chill them. These can be made into bite size muffins, or bars depending on the mold you want.

-Use Citric Acid and Sea Salt for electrolytes.

-Use Agar or Pectin to make homeade gummies

-Longer / Slow release fuels to replace bars and granolas: A combination of dried fruits AND nuts, nut butter and oats. The combination of starch and fat will create a perfect calorie bomb that will leave you fueled for about 3 hours. Super easy to food process some oats, nut butter, some maple syrup and dried fruit / nuts, press them into a baking pan and chill overnight – you’ve got yourself a homeade bar!

-What to drink? A mix of citrus — lemon / lime, coconut water, beet juice and cherry juice. I use coconut water for the base every single time.

Real foods will fuel you longer and better. and I am so excited to be partnering with No Meat Athlete to bring a nutrition fuel product to life for you. If you want to be part of the creation – take this survey here: https://nomeatathlete.com/fuelsurvey

Listen to my podcast episode: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/using-whole-foods-to-fuel-your-workouts-and-races/id476196931?i=1000474558462