Two New Energy Bar Recipes (with Tart Cherries!)

It’s been a full month that I’ve been drinking tart cherry concentrate, twice a day, and today I’ve got the promised third and final post in this series, including two new recipes and answers to some FAQ’s from my previous posts.

Once again, to be absolutely clear: this series was sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. It’s the first time I’ve done any sponsored blog content, and I really do appreciate any feedback you have about it.

Believe it or not, I was relieved to read in the comments of the second post that a lot of you tried the 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge and reported the same results I experienced with my shoulder — an otherwise inexplicable lessening (or even disappearance) of minor pain. I say “relieved” because I’m always so suspicious of supposed superfoods, thinking them usually to be little more than placebos, so it felt almost wrong to be reporting such overwhelmingly positive results in a sponsored series. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by this whole experience, and while my shoulder hasn’t fully healed (I still plan on seeing a doctor to figure it out), I sleep so much better now that shoulder pain doesn’t wake me up.

So here we go with the two recipes (FAQ’s follow)! The first, Momo Granola bars, are from chef Mo Ferris, who contributed the recipe, along with two others, to my book. In this version, I doubled the amount of cherries (the best part anyway) and made sure to use tart cherries instead of sweet.

The second recipe is derived from the Ultimate Energy Bar Formula, also in the No Meat Athlete book but on the blog as well.

One more note: You’d need to eat 100 tart cherries per day to equal the amount of tart cherry concentrate (just one ounce, twice a day) that has been studied and shown to reduce muscle soreness. You’re never going to get that amount with these recipes, but hey, the dried tart cherries taste good! And it doesn’t hurt to get a few more throughout the day.

Momo Granola Bars with Extra Cherries

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  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup raw almonds (Mo suggests roasted, salted, but raw worked well for me)
  • ¼ cup rough chopped pecans
  • ¾ cup flax seed (I pulsed mine in the blender to barely chop)
  • ¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tablespoons hemp seeds
  • 1 cup chopped dried tart cherries (Mo’s original recipe calls for half this amount)
  • ½ cup brown rice syrup
  • ⅓ cup peanut butter
  • 2 small pinches of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Chop almonds, pecans and dried cherries at least in half, but with most pieces being even smaller.

3. Place dried cherries into a large mixing bowl.

4. Spread oats, chopped nuts, flax seeds and hemp seeds onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Gently shake and stir the oat mixture after 5 minutes of cooking to avoid burning the top layer and allowing both sides of the nuts and oats to brown.

5. Remove oat mixture from the oven and add to the bowl with the dried cherries. Add salt.

6. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.

7. In a small saucepan, melt peanut butter over medium-low heat, stirring constantly. Once the peanut butter is melted and slightly thinner, remove from heat and pour over oat mixture. Mix thoroughly.

8. In a separate small saucepan add brown rice syrup. Over medium-high heat, bring to a boil. Bubbles will begin to form along the sides of the pan and gradually move in towards the center. When bubbles get big and meet in the middle, immediately remove from heat and pour over the oat mixture.

9. Thoroughly mix, coat all ingredients with brown rice syrup and peanut butter.

10. While it is still warm, pour the mixture out into the corner of a baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Using wax paper, firmly press and spread mixture into the shape of a rectangle that is ¼ inch thick (no gaps!). NOTE: the mixture will most likely not fill the entire sheet tray. Starting in a corner will give the rectangle 2 or 3 straight edges.

11. Bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes or just until the edges begin to brown.

12. Remove from oven and gently re-press the rectangle using the wax paper. Cool completely on the tray. Flip rectangle out onto a cutting board and cut into 3×5 inch bars.

13. Wrap bars individually in plastic wrap and store in a large ziplock bag.

Chocolate-Cherry Happy Bars

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  • 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed (about 1.5 cups)
  • ½ cup almond butter
  • ¼ cup maple syrup
  • ¼ cup mashed banana
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups of oats
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • ½ cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup shredded coconut
  • ½ cup dried tart cherries
  • 3 tablespoons tart cherry concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon water

In a food processor, combine black beans, almond butter, maple syrup, mashed banana, vanilla extract, and salt until smooth.

Add the oats, cocoa, and brown rice flour and pulse just to combine. Add the coconut and tart cherries and pulse again, just to combine. Add the tart cherry juice and water and pulse a few more times to mix. if it’s too runny, add an additional 1/4 cup of the brown rice flour.

Grease 13×9 pan with baking spray or rub with 1 tablespoon oil, then spread mixture into pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Tart Cherries FAQ’s

The first two posts in this series, especially the second, generated a lot of questions from readers about the specifics of tart cherries. I didn’t know most of the answers, so I passed the questions along to the Cherry Marketing Institute and have paraphrased their answers here.

Where can you buy tart cherry juice/concentrate? If I can’t find it in my grocery store, can I get it online?

It’s quite possible you’ll find it in your local grocery store, but if not, ask the manager to source the product you are looking for. Montmorency tart cherries are available for national distribution, so sometimes it just takes consumer demand to put the product on the shelf. If you can’t get them locally, you can order online directly from most of the cherry processors.

What brand of cherries did you use for the challenge?

I didn’t know the brand during the challenge, and that was intentional (all the juice, concentrate, and cherries that they sent me for the experiment came free of labeling). The Cherry Marketing Institute didn’t want this to be about a particular brand, but about tart cherries in general. You can find a full list of processors here.

What about capsules or chewables? Are these as good as juice or concentrate?

You could have guessed this answer: whole foods are better. Our bodies don’t really know what to do with nutrients when they’re taken out of foods, and our scientific understanding of the complex interactions within foods and in our bodies doesn’t yet let us capture the essence of whole food in a pill. I’m not claiming that juice is a whole food, but it’s probably a lot closer than whatever goes into a pill. The science was done on tart cherry juice, so that’s what the cherry people recommend you use.

Are tart cherries something you might build up a tolerance to, and need to take more in the future to get the same anti-inflammatory effect?

This hasn’t been specifically tested. There’s no research to suggest that you would build up a tolerance and would need more. (Nor is there research to suggest that you wouldn’t, I think.)

What about melatonin in Montmorency cherries? Does anyone report drowsiness during the day?

Straight from the cherries people: “Tart cherries are one of the few natural sources of melatonin, which is responsible for the regulation of the body’s internal clock and sleep-wake cycle. Researchers believe it’s the combination of melatonin and the anthocyanins in tart cherries that might help you sleep better at night, but this effect should not impact drowsiness. The research examined sleep efficiency, meaning that participants sleep more soundly once they were asleep.”

Anecdotally, from me: I’ve slept better since drinking tart cherry concentrate, but I think that’s because my shoulder hurts so much less (it hurts much less in the daytime, too, so I don’t think it’s “I’m sleeping more deeply; therefore I don’t notice the shoulder pain at night”). I haven’t noticed any drowsiness during the day (and haven’t in several years since going vegetarian and then vegan — that, for me, has been one of the great benefits of eating this way).

Thanks again for your enthusiasm about and engagement with this series of posts.

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3 Reasons Why I’ll Teach My Kids to Run Marathons

I don’t write about it often, but I’m a father to two wonderful little kids — a four-year-old boy and one-year-old girl.

The obvious question (that people always ask) is whether my wife and I are raising them vegan, and the answer is a qualified yes:

Yes, but we don’t want to choose this lifestyle for them, or to make them resent their plant-based diet and their parents who forced it on them. So we involve our son (and will our daughter too, when she’s old enough) in the garden and in cooking, and we talk to them about why we eat this way. But when they’re old enough to want other foods — say, at a friend’s birthday party — that will be their choice. Outside the home, anyway.

People are less interested in whether we’re raising our kids to be runners, but that’s what I want to write about today. Because the answer is yes. At least, I’m going to try my darndest to steer them toward running marathons when they’re old enough. (Of course, if they just don’t like it, that’s cool too.)

Why running? Why long distances?

Not because “I like marathons, and therefore they should.” Physical fitness entirely aside, I’ve learned that running teaches a lot of important qualities that aren’t so easy to find in other activities these days (cue crotchety old man fist shake at the internet).

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7 Days of Camping, Running, and Raw Food at the Woodstock Fruit Festival

WFF 2013 9017 1024x320It was a few years ago when I first heard about the Woodstock Fruit Festival, a week-long event (back then) put on by ultrarunner and Fruitarian Michael Arnstein.

Camping, swimming, running, hiking, games, bonfires, demos and talks — the most notable of which, for me, have been Mike’s ultrarunning talks that I watched on YouTube. Part 1 and part 2 were instrumental in my preparation for my 100-miler last summer.

And of course, for seven full days, all the raw fruits and vegetables you could possibly want … but no cooked food.

That’s where I got stuck. I worried I wouldn’t fit in — that because I eat a lot of cooked food, I’d be the odd man out, and spend all week defending my choices, even as a vegan.

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Ray Cronise and the New ‘Food Triangle’

Podcast Radio2Ray Cronise, whom you’ll know from a previous podcast episode and from Tim Ferriss’ 4-Hour Body (where Ray is the cold-stress fat-loss guy), is back — our first repeat guest on NMA Radio.

Why have Ray on again? Because in continuing his history of disruption — first in the aerospace industry and now in the field of nutrition — Ray has just published an academic paper that he and his co-authors believe lays the foundation for a revolution in nutrition science.

The paper is titled The Metabolic Winter Hypothesis, and you should download it here before you listen to the podcast.

It’s six pages long, and not difficult reading … but even if you don’t have time to read it all right now, at least take a look at the Food Triangle — a simple visual representation of Ray and his co-authors’ new approach to nutrition.

Among lots of implications for addressing the obesity epidemic, the food triangle explains how two diets so seemingly opposite as plant-based and Paleo have achieved such success at the same time.

If you’re ready to think differently about the way you eat, download the paper and give this episode a focused listen.

Here’s what we talk about:

  • The primary cause of obesity and chronic illness in our society
  • The impact of over-nourishment and the danger of nutrition in excess
  • Restricting calories to create longevity
  • Rethinking how we organize food
  • Why the plant-based diet isn’t the only way to lose weight … but can be one of the best
  • Why protein is not included in Ray’s new food triangle

Click the button below to listen now:

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The Surprising Results of My Tart Cherry Juice Challenge

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with tart cherries as a workout recovery aid, as part of 7-Day Tart Cherry Juice Challenge and series of posts sponsored by the Cherry Marketing Institute. Well, the results are in.

When I wrote “surprising” in the title, I meant it. But not for the reason you might expect (which, come to think of it, is what surprise means).

In case you missed the introductory post, here’s how my experiment set up:

  1. Run every day for a week, including several hard running workouts.
  2. Drink one tablespoon of tart cherry concentrate twice a day — once in the morning and once immediately post-run. (This is half the amount I wrote in the first post, where a reader pointed out my mistake and I corrected it before I began the challenge.)

It’s important to note that this running was supposed to represent a challenging week. While I’ve been running a fair amount this summer, my typical week prior to this experiment has been pretty relaxed … about four runs, 30 to 40 minutes each, and all at easy pace.

The point of my experiment, of course, was to put myself through a training week that would normally create a lot of soreness and fatigue. In this way, I’d be able to tell whether or not the tart cherries lived up to claim that they aid in recovery.

Everything went to plan, with one exception: I traded a planned long run on the last day for a second interval workout. This had nothing to do with how my body felt, and everything to do with a renewed interest in speedwork (and a renewed boredom with slow runs) that my return to interval training brought on.

So did the cherries help?

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When Did We Start Settling for Boring?

For the past four years, every single one of my runs has been the boring kind.

Who knows how many thousands of miles I’ve endured … and I just realized this.

How did this happen?

Like this: back when I was training to qualify for Boston, I discovered Core Performance Endurance. The program called for two kinds of workouts — intervals and hills — with easy days surrounding each.

To a fairly new runner like myself, the workouts were hard. Sometimes really hard.

But tough as those workout days were, they were better than the easy days. Because on easy days, you had to keep your heart rate below 70 percent of max, and that meant walking up hills. And it meant slowing down when the heart monitor beeped at you every time you started to get a little runner’s high and speed up … say, when a good song came on.

It was mind-numbing. Even worse, as you advanced through the program the length of time you had to endure this interminable boredom increased. From 30 to 40 to 50 minutes.

But the program worked. I qualified for Boston a year later, and I started running ultras for a change of pace.

And slowly, without my noticing, all of my runs became the boring runs.

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Can Tart Cherries Make You a Better Runner? A 7-Day Challenge to Find Out

If you’re a runner, you know there’s no shortage of new supplements and other products that claim to promote faster recovery for us. And mostly, as runners, we’ve learned to ignore them.

Usually, we just don’t believe it. Speed of recovery is hard to measure, subjectively, and even when the objective evidence is there, the miracle product du jour isn’t often something most of us would want to put in our bodies.

But tart cherry juice may just be an exception: (a) it’s natural; and (b) it seems like it might actually promote recovery. There’s a decent amount of science to say so, and the fact that it’s stuck around a while — I think I first heard of it in 2010 — certainly bodes well.

But what’s most intriguing to me about tart cherries is that they’re not just for recovery: they also have anti-inflammatory properties and have been demonstrated to reduce muscle pain during an event. Which makes them extremely well-suited for ultrarunning, where pain more than anything else eventually becomes the limiting factor … if they deliver.

Next week, that’s what I’ll be testing.

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On the Subject of World Domination (and a Super Summer Sale)

NMA cover finalOkay, so by domination I mean making a tiny, tiny dent in the universe (for now, that is … muhahaha). But let me have my fun.

Last Friday, the German version of No Meat Athlete was published. My extensive knowledge of German tells me the title should surely be Nein Meat Athlete, but alas, that is completely wrong. And only one-third German.

This is a big deal — apparently Germany is a hotbed for veganism in Europe, the last such place I would have imagined. The stereotype of sausage, bratwurst, hamburgers, weiners and schnitzel is just that, a stereotype. Part of the heritage, maybe, but not the modern everyday. (I’ve never been to Germany; this is just what I’m told.)

So it’s awesome to be a part of that movement. Even more awesome to know that there’s the potential, these days, to start something silly on your laptop that ends up across the sea.

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