Pre-Race Pinole & Chia Waffles

Hello again!  This is Christine, and this week I have a batch of vegan waffles to satisfy your sweet tooth!  But these aren’t just any waffles: They’re based on the diet of the Tarahumara, a Mexican tribe of superathlete ultramarathoners.

pinole chia waffle close up photo 300x225Ok, I’ll admit it, long after Matt’s post on Tarahumara pinole and chia, I’m only half way through Christopher McDougall’s Born to Run. But I am already chomping at the bit to give pinole and chia a whirl.  While I’m sure some of the claims are exaggerated, these foods seem like the magic cure for any ailment!

Will Run For Waffles

Heading out for a 48-hour trail run?  Legend has it that a satchel of pinole on the hip is all the Tarahumara require.  Need to bound up this cliff like a mountain goat?  Have a sip of chia gel. Run yourself ragged? Drink a cup of corn gruel.

Of course, a lot of things take on mythical proportions out in the depths of the Sierra Madres.  Can pinole and chia work their magic in my world—not just for an afternoon run, but to fuel the 9-5 grind too?

I developed this recipe for waffles to give pinole and chia a chance in my modern world.  And by “modern,” I mean that anything with the word gruel in it is unacceptable.

Beyond the allure of tribal running hunks, secret villages, and mystery gruels and gels, it all comes down to foods crazy-dense with nutrients and foods lacking in junk.  That is, unless you consider blindingly-strong corn-beer to be junk.

Vegan Pinole-Chia Waffles

  • 3/4 cup medium to finely ground cornmeal or pinole
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1/4 cup oats, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup hemp milk
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

If starting with cornmeal instead of pinole, toast it lightly in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until it is lightly browned and fragrant.  If you are using real pinole, grind in a coffee grinder to make a fine flour.

Preheat waffle iron.

Stir together the cornmeal, chia, ground oats, salt and baking powder.   In a separate bowl, mix together the applesauce, hemp milk, coconut oil, maple syrup, and vanilla.  (The coconut oil needs to be at warm temperature or warmer to mix, so you may need to microwave it to get it to a liquid state.)

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry to combine into a smooth batter.  Spray the waffle iron with baking spray even if it is nonstick, and pour batter into hot iron.  Follow the directions of your waffle iron, or wait until the iron stops steaming.

Carefully remove waffles from iron, respray with cooking spray, and repeat.  This was enough batter to fill my waffle iron 2 and a half times, making 5 small waffles.

To enjoy immediately, top with maple syrup and the fruits of your choice.  Alternatively, slice into bars, freeze and take on your next run.

pinole chia waffle photo 1024x768These pinole-chia waffles were surprisingly delicious!  I was nervous they would be too gritty, but the pinole provides an amazing crunchiness that transform them from “pastry” to “hearty breakfast.”  While I can’t promise that these will propel you up the side of a mountain, I will tell you that Matt is planning on making them for his 50 miler!

I  originally set out to develop a waffle recipe because Caleb and Rita left comments describing vegan waffle tragedies, but now I am on a total pinole and chia kick!  I want to put a Tarahumara spin on everything— any requests for what to try next?  I’d love a good challenge!

See you next Friday!

xoxo,
Christine

About the Author: Christine Frazier writes vegan recipes through lots of research, trial, and error … now she is applying the same theory to her other passion, writing stories. Follow along as she deconstructs bestsellers and learns how to write a novel.

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Spicy Cacao-Banana Raw Energy Bars

What do you know, another Monday.

But this Monday is special, for lots of reasons, not the least of which are that I’m on spring break and my second-ever 50K is on Saturday.  It’s also the start of the last full week of my first year of blogging, seeing as I started this blog on March 23rd of last year.

christine running photo 300x288See, told you it was special.  Even more exciting, and less me-centric, is the news that my sister, Christine, ran her first 5K yesterday!  Here she is about a quarter-mile from the finish line, on her way to breaking 30 minutes with a time of 29:46.

Judging by the sea of green around Christine, St. Patrick’s Day races are the one time it’s okay to be “that guy” who wears the race shirt to the actual race.  Still, being a No Meat Athlete is far cooler.  And a shout out to my friends at Charm City Run Bel Air who helped put on the race!

Thrive Fitness raw bar and grill

Okay, no grill.  Just bar.  But how could I resist?

This bar is another raw wonder from Brendan Brazier’s Thrive Fitness.  I recently polished off my batch of Carob Strawberry Chia Energy Bars, so this time I went with a different one, the magic ingredient that sucked me in being jalapeno pepper.  (When Erin and I first discovered Brendan’s recipe for a raw mango smoothie with jalapeno, we became more or less infatuated by it, essentially subsisting on mango-jalapeno smoothies alone for about a month.  I don’t rule out that this may have led to the conception of our baby.)

Again, the bars are loaded with superfoods and the right kinds of sugars for endurance training.  Dates, banana, salba (white chia), carob or cacao, macadamia nuts, and more.  The recipe calls for buckwheat, and this time I went ahead and sprouted it rather than using buckwheat flour.

Here’s some buckwheat before sprouting:

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And after, the starch having been converted to easy-digesting sugars and protein to amino acids:

sprouted buckwheat photo 1024x768

All the cool kids are sprouting now.  Are you?

Just like last time, my biggest complaint is that the bars aren’t firm enough to bring on a run; they’re soft and sticky when unfrozen.  (I’m guessing this is a common problem with raw bars.)  Not a huge deal though, since they’re good frozen and can be eaten that way before or after a workout.

Here’s the recipe, printed with Brendan’s permission.  Thanks, Brendan!

Spicy Carob Banana Energy Bars

(from Thrive Fitness)

  • 3/4 cup Medjool dates
  • 1/2 jalapeno pepper
  • 1 small banana
  • 1/2 cup sprouted buckwheat (or substitute cooked)
  • 1/4 cup raw carob powder (or substitute raw cacao nibs or roasted carob powder)
  • 1/4 cup salba
  • 1/4 cup macadamia nuts
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 2 tbsp unhulled sesame seeds

Process everything except sesame seeds in a food processor.  Once you have cut the bars, sprinkle them with the sesame seeds.

Just like last time, I put the mixture directly from the food processor into a pan lined with parchment paper, where I shaped it into a brick and then froze it before cutting.

jalapeno cacao banana energy bars photo 1024x768

These bars actually taste really good.  They’re sweet and have a little kick from the jalapeno, and they have a nice crunch from the macadamia nuts and the cacao nibs I used.  Give ‘em a try and let me know what you think!

Non-bloggers, you are dismissed.  Health bloggers, keep reading for…

A little cross-promotion

hbh logo square smallI haven’t mentioned it here in a while, but I’ve made a lot of changes to my other blog, Health Blog Helper.  I’ve put a lot of time recently into making the site look nice and adding lots valuable content to share all the info I’m constantly learning about how we can make our health blogs better.  Plus, I put together a new, free email course you can sign up for!  Please check it out if you haven’t been there in a while.

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Sweet-Tooth Friday: Superfood Energy Bars

Happy Sweet-Tooth Friday!  This is Christine and instead of my normal frilly-healthy-dessert post, today we are getting down and dirty with homemade vegan superfood energy bars.

An energy bar fit for fueling workouts

superfood bars photo 1 300x200There has been a lot of talk about natural running fuel here lately.  Matt’s series of posts on pre, during, and post workout nutrition got me thinking about the original homemade energy bar recipe I created in the early days of Sweet-Tooth Fridays.  For those bars, my goal was to get away from the crazy-processed and overly sugared “health” bars on the market and create something actually nutritious from whole, real food— not corn syrup and soy.

And the result was a hit, both in taste and nutrition.  We’ve made these bars again and again, and I’ve been known to tuck them into my workout bag for a pick-me-up snack.  But now Matt has risen the bar with his research so I decided to give my old recipe a makeover, meshing it with ideas from the 5 essentials of pre-workout nutrition and elements of Thrive’s Raw Chia energy bars.

What makes them super?

I decided to leave beans as the backbone ingredient in my new bars, this time opting for adzuki beans instead of white.  I also left the dates in as the main source of sweetness since I now know that they have a high-GI for immediate energy.  Then I added agave nectar as suggested since its low-GI provides for sustained energy later on.

I wanted to lay off the “starchy” forms of carbs in my new bars after learning that they require extra energy for digestion before their sugar can be used as energy for the body.  So I swapped the wheat flour, oats, and cereal with the less starchy pinole and puffed millet (yeah it’s the same puffed millet from my vegan ‘rice cripsy’ treats!)

To make up for the dry ingredients I removed, I also added hemp protein, which is listed in the “superfoods that go the extra mile” category.  Do you think I stopped there?  Nope!  I threw in flaxseed and chia seed, and even maca root to help the adrenal glands recover.  Don’t forget the salt for electrolytes!

superfood bars photo 2 1024x682

I was hoping to make bars that fit with the 3:1 carbs to protein ratio, but  couldn’t quite do it without adding significantly to the fat content.  The protein here comes mainly from nut butter, chopped almonds, hemp protein and beans, and is assisted by the flaxseed, chia, maca, and pinole.  My only other option was adding soy protein which I wasn’t willing to do, so I let my bars stay at a good 4.7:1 carbs to protein ratio (which does fall within the recovery food ratios anyway.)

Matt offered the option of using caffeine as a way of improving performance, but I’ve never run with caffeine before and was nervous about it.  I intentionally left a significant amount of water as the liquid part of this recipe so that it can be up to you whether to brew it as yerba mate, green tea, or even coffee if you want.  I made mine with water and they tasted great, so don’t think you’ll be missing out on flavor if you stick with water.

Finally, with a dash of cinnamon for antioxidants and a squeeze of lime as an acid neutralizer…voila!   New and improved superfood energy bars!

Homemade Vegan Superfood Bars

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups cooked adzuki beans
  • 1 cup (about 15) fresh medjool dates, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water (may substiute yerba mate, green tea, or coffee)
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup natural nut butter (I used cashew but almond, sunflower seed or peanut butter is fine)
  • 4 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 cup pinole, or stoneground cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup maca root powder
  • 1/2 cup hemp protein
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups puffed millet
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped raw almonds

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9×13 casserole dish with baking spray or 1 tbsp melted coconut oil.

Mix together the pinole, maca root powder, hemp protein, chia seeds, flaxseeds, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.

In a food processor, puree the beans, dates, and water.  Stir the agave nectar, cashew butter, applesauce and lime juice into the puree.  Combine the wet ingredients with the dry.  Fold in the puffed millet and almonds.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan; bake for 30-35 minutes or until firm.  Allow to cool, then cut into 24 bars.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Nutrition facts approximated for 1 bar/whole pan
Calories: 160/3849
Calories from fat: 112/2679
Fat: 8 g/201 g
Saturated fat: 0.7 g/18 g
Protein: 6 g/143 g
Sodium: 84 g/2008 g
Total carbs: 28 g/675 g
Sugar: 15 g/369 g
Fiber: 5 g/129 g

And yes, I drizzled these with a confectioner’s sugar icing that’s not accounted for in the nutrition facts–once again, decorating baked goods is a compulsion!

I’m packing these bars along for this weekend…I’m running my first race, the Shamrock 5k here in Baltimore!  I’ll be wearing my NMA shirt with pride.  Wish me luck and let me know how you like the new and improved bars!

See you next Sweet-Tooth Friday!
xoxo Christine

About the Author: Christine Frazier writes vegan recipes through lots of research, trial, and error … now she is applying the same theory to her other passion, writing stories. Follow along as she deconstructs bestsellers and learns how to write a novel.

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The Least You Need to Know About Fueling Your Run

fuel tank 300x225After having a lot of fun researching exercise nutrition for the previous two posts in this series, those on pre-workout nutrition and recovery drinks, I figured the “during the run” post would be a breeze.  After all, everyone drinks (or eats) something during his or her run; only those who take fitness more seriously bother to think about the before and after.

To my surprise, this was the hardest of the bunch.  But that turns out to be good news: The guidelines for during-the-run fuel are few and simple, allowing you to tweak whatever works for your specific body to meet the requirements.

Please note that this list is the result of my own research, fusing bits of information from books like Chris Carmichael’s Food for Fitness, Thrive, Core Performance Endurance, and The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  With endurance running comes the risk of dehydration, bonking, and hyponatremia, which are not things to f  around with.  So don’t blindly follow my advice without doing some research of your own.

Without further delay, I present to you…

How to Eat and Drink During a Run

1.  Get off the commercial drinks and gels. Or at least, check them out to make sure they don’t contain artificial colors and sweeteners.  While some sports drinks are truly designed for athletes, many of the more popular ones must also cater to the masses of non-athletes who buy them as soda alternatives.  Much better to make your own natural sports drink and raw energy gel, both courtesy of pro vegan triathlete Brendan Brazier, in his book Thrive.

2.  Consume mostly liquid or easily-digesting food like gel. Solid food takes more energy and blood to digest than liquid, leaving you with less for hauling ass.  And it’s more likely to cause intestinal distress, which can ruin a race.  Except for the longest events, skip the solids.

3.  For all workouts, take in 4 to 6 ounces of water every 10 to 20 minutes. Your goal is to replace most of what you lose in weight, so if you want to get precise, you can figure out what you lose during a standard workout and drink the exact amount you need to replace it.  Or just chill out and just follow a rule of thumb like this one.

4.  Get 500 milligrams of sodium with every 16 ounces you drink. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, and that puts you at risk for hyponatremia if you hydrate without replacing them. For those of you making your own drinks and gels, 500 milligrams is a little less than the amount in a quarter teaspoon of salt.

5. For workouts and races lasting over an hour (and up to 4 or 5 hours), you need 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour. 30-60 grams is a commonly-cited figure, but it’s a big range.  More useful might be to divide your body weight in pounds by 4 to get a minimum hourly carbohydrate requirement, in grams.  Accomplish this with a sports drink or a combination of energy gel and water.  Some claim a little bit of protein, in a 4:1 carb-to-protein ratio, helps minimize muscle damage.

6.  For anything lasting much more than 5 hours, the nutrition focus shifts to fat, with a smaller amount of carbohydrate. For details, go find an ultrarunner who has run more than a single 50K!

Coincidentally (ok, not really all that coincidentally), Megan and I just published a joint post about this very topic on our True/Slant blog Running Shorts.  That post is about our own habits; doing this research has made me realize that I need to change mine!  (Especially with regard to shorter workouts.)

For more posts and recipes on natural sports nutrition, check out my Running Fuel page.

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The 7 Secrets of Post-Workout Recovery

Everyone loves the post-workout meal.  It serves as a reward, a celebration of having worked your ass off, and it’s a fantastic excuse to eat some of the sugars and simple carbs that we avoid most other times.

800px New chocolate milk 300x225

Mooove over, chocolate milk.

But many athletes are mistaken or unsure about what to eat after a workout. People are fond of believing that a glass of chocolate milk is the perfect post-workout meal.  As someone who subsisted on the stuff for weeks at a time as a kid, I was delighted the first time I heard this news.  But although it has a good carb-to-protein ratio, chocolate milk usually brings with it high-fructose corn syrup, and always the many downsides of dairy.

In search of a better way to refuel, I pored over several of my favorite sports-nutrition tomes: Chris Carmichael’s Food for Fitness, Thrive, Core Performance Endurance, and The Paleo Diet for Athletes.  (I don’t follow the meat-happy Paleo diet anymore, obviously, but I still like it for its section on workout nutrition.)  Interestingly, I found several recurrent ideas shared by these authors and athletes who are otherwise divergent in their approaches to the optimal diet for athletes.

I’ve compiled those ideas, plus a few that are less universal, but obviously important, into this list to help you decide what to eat after a workout, and when to eat it.

1.  Respect the fuel window. In the 15-60 minutes immediately following a workout, your muscles are primed to receive fuel to start the repair process.  Eat (or drink) your recovery meal right away, within the first half hour after the workout is complete.

2.  Make it easy to digest. Your muscles need blood to deliver nutrients to them.  The more of that blood that’s tied up in digesting a hot dog — sorry, any solid food — the less that gets to your muscles.  Ideally, you should get your immediate post-workout fix in liquid form.  Here’s the first strike against chocolate milk: Dairy is notoriously hard to digest.

3. Consume .75 grams of carbohydrate per pound of bodyweight, and include protein in a 4:1 or 5:1 carb-to-protein ratio. I’m not usually one for specific numbers around my food, but these were so common that I had to list them.  Your carbohydrates should include high-glycemic index carbs, like glucose (dates are a good way to get it), and some slower-release, even fibrous, carbohydrates as well.  And don’t forget the fat — include about half as many grams of healthy fat as you do protein.  Flaxseed and hemp oils are my favorites.

4. Get out of the acid state with greens or other vegetables and fruits. Intense exercise creates an acidic environment in your body.  If you don’t neutralize the acid with what you eat, your body will use the calcium from your bones and nitrogen from your muscle tissue to neutralize it.  Greens, sprouted vegetables, and certain fruits like lemons and limes have a neutralizing effect on your body.  (Yes, I know it’s weird, but lemons and limes are considered alkaline, not acidic, in the body.)  Strike 2 for chocolate milk, as animal protein is acid-forming.  So are heavily-processed protein powders; I use minimally-processed hemp protein powder in most of my smoothies.

5.  Drink 2 cups of water per pound of body weight lost during exercise. What else is there to say?  You need water, or you’ll die.

6.  Replace lost electrolytes. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes, the little conductors that transmit electrical impulses throughout your body.  So you need to replace them; some good sources of electrolytes are fruit, dulse flakes, a few pinches of sea salt, and Nuun tablets.

7.  Nourish your adrenal glands. Under the stress of an intense workout (or from caffeine if you included that in your pre-workout drink), your adrenal glands work hard to release hormones to help you perform.  To help them recover, add a teaspoon of ground maca, a Peruvian root that packs the added benefits of better sleep and increased libido.  Bonus!

Recovery doesn’t stop with your post-workout meal; you’ll want to eat again an hour or two later, this time focusing more on quality protein.  And there’s more you can do that doesn’t involve food — stretching, self-massage and foam rolling, rest, and even wearing compression socks.  See Megan’s Running Shorts post about workout recovery for details.

Here’s a recipe, from Thrive Fitness, for a recovery drink that satisfies all of the above criteria.  I use slightly less dulse because I’m not completely used to the taste of it.  Also, since this drink contains ground chia seeds, you’ll want to drink it immediately after you make it if you don’t want the chia to gel in the water.

Lemon Lime Recovery Drink

(from Thrive Fitness, reprinted with permission)

  • 4 large Medjool dates (remove pits)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tbsp hemp protein
  • 1 tbsp ground salba
  • 2 tbsp sprouted buckwheat (or substitute cooked)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Juice from 1/4 lime
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp ground dulse flakes
  • 1 tsp maca
  • 1 tsp greens powder (chlorella or spirulina)

Blend all the ingredients together in a blender.

Now get out there, so you can come back and recover!  Before you do, take a look at the first post in this series, on what to eat before a workout.  And look for the third and final post, on what to eat during the workout, soon.

For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.

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5 Keys to the Pre-Workout Meal Everyone Should Know

300px Orange juice 1 edit1

Image via Wikipedia

What to eat before you work out has long been an area of uncertainty for runners and athletes.  Should we just eat the same stuff we consume during a workout or race?  What about a simple protein drink or meal-replacement shake?  Far too often, the result of my confusion has been a few swigs of Gatorade, a simple banana, or worse—nothing.

Gatorade doesn’t cut it

A few bad bonks have pretty much eliminated the chance of my starting a workout on an empty stomach, and I’m happy to say I hardly ever drink commercial sports drinks from 7-Eleven anymore.  Having done a lot of reading on the topic of pre-workout nutrition, I present the five nutritional pillars I use to build the perfect pre-workout drink.  (Note: “drink” implies the use of water.  I didn’t list it as one of the keys, but for performance and safety’s sake, make sure you include water in your pre-workout meal.)

The 5 essentials of pre-workout nutrition

1. Consume carbohydrates and protein in a 3-to-1 ratio, and include healthy fat (but just a little).

There are few arguments about this point.  The 3:1 ratio is almost universally advocated for optimal absorption of nutrients.  For a big workout, or if you have some time to let your stomach settle, 30 grams of carbs and 10 grams of protein is great.  Otherwise, halve the amounts.  Mark Verstegen, of Athletes Performance Institute, recommends a scoop of protein powder in a half-glass of Gatorade or watered-down orange juice.

As for the fat, a teaspoon or so of healthy oil, such as flaxseed or Udo’s blend, is all you need to help deliver nutrients where they need to go.  Coconut oil is even better for workouts, as the liver treats it similarly to glucose, a carbohydrate.

2. Include quick-working, high-glycemic carbs for energy now, sustained release (but not starchy!) carbs for energy later.

I first learned about this one from Brendan Brazier’s and Vega Sport.  In many of his recipes for pre-workout drinks, Brendan uses dates (glucose) as the high-GI, instant-energy sugar, and agave nectar (fructose) for slower energy release.

Why no starchy bagels or bread?  To convert starch into usable sugar requires your body to work, and during a workout you’d like to use your available energy for movement, not digestion.  If you’re going to consume something starchy, a sprouted version is best.

3. If you’ll sweat during the workout, you need lots of electrolytes.

Lack of electrolytes can do more than just bring on a nasty bonk; in fact, it’s downright dangerous.  Hyponatremia is the condition of having too much water and not enough sodium (an electrolyte) in your system, and it has proved fatal for endurance athletes who load up on water but don’t replace lost electrolytes.

Lots of salt is lost through sweat, and you should take in electrolytes during your workout.  Coconut water contains electrolytes; so do most sports drinks and gels, so most of us get them during workouts.  But you can get a head start on electrolyte replacement simply by adding salt or dulse powder to your pre-workout drink.

4. Consider caffeinating for improved performance.

Caffeine has been shown to significantly improve performance in endurance events and workouts.  Whether you want to use it is your own decision, but it’s certainly not something you should rely on for every workout—doing so will result in increased adrenal fatigue and slower recovery afterward.

To add caffeine to your pre-workout smoothie, you can replace the water component or your pre-workout drink with brewed yerba mate or tea, or even add ground mate leaves directly to your smoothie.  Alternatively, you can drink a cup of coffee as many runners do, but that can be rougher on both your intestines and your adrenal glands.

5. Add optional superfoods to go the extra mile.

While the above guidelines should be enough to give your workout a swift kick in the ass, you can always make your pre-workout drinks even better with the addition of a few superfoods.  Chia seeds are a popular one these days, and your body will absorb them in either whole or ground form (be prepared for them to gel though).  Maca powder is another one, great for helping the adrenal glands recover from the stress of a workout.  Acai, goji, chlorella, greens powder, ground flaxseed, hemp… the list goes on.

For a great ideal pre-workout drink recipe that makes use of all of these concepts, head on over to my Thrive Fitness review, where I included such a recipe at the end of the post.  The book, incidentally, is a fantastic resource for delving deeper into the ideas of workout-specific nutrition.

You can get almost any of the ingredients mentioned above at web health store iHerb.com, where you can use my coupon code RAZ652 at checkout to get five dollars off your first purchase.  (Disclosure: I earn a small commission on orders that use my code.)

Look for Part II of this series, focusing on the recovery meal, in the days ahead.

What do you think; how many of these keys does your pre-workout smoothie use?  What do you eat/drink before a workout?  Feel free to leave a link to your pre-workout meal in the comments.

For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.

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Chia energy bars

Chia seeds are all over the health blogosphere these days, so much so that I was beginning to think they were a fad superfood.  But then Brendan Brazier included them in Thrive Fitness, and with all the research he does for his books and career, I tend to trust ol’ B-squared when it comes to nutrition.

The problem, for me, is that chia gels in liquid.  I’ve tried it in chia fresca, or iskiate, and then in some Thrive Fitness sports drinks.  And it’s fine; I can tolerate it, but I just don’t really enjoy drinking those little globs of chia snot.  So I was really excited to find that Thrive Fitness includes some energy bar recipes with chia, and Erin and I tried one out yesterday while we were snowed in.  (You’ll see that the recipe calls for salba, which is white chia, the heirloom variety of chia seed that Brendan recommends.)

As I was gathering the ingredients, I couldn’t resist taking a photo; it’s not often so much nutrition gathers in one place.  It’s kind of like a nerdy All-Star game:

chia energy bar ingredients photo 1024x768

Starting from the bottom and going clockwise, that’s white chia, sunflower seeds, raw cacao (substituted for carob powder), dates, toasted buckwheat flour (substituted for soaked or sprouted buckwheat, so mine isn’t quite raw), ground flaxseed, and hemp protein powder in the middle. (By the way, you can get all of this stuff at iHerb.com and get five dollars off your first purchase if you use my coupon code, RAZ652.)

Here’s the recipe.

Carob Strawberry Chia Energy Bar

(from Thrive Fitness, reprinted with permission)

  • 1 cup fresh dates (or substitute soaked dried dates)
  • 1/4 cup raw carob powder (or substitute roasted carob powder)
  • 1/4 cup hemp protein
  • 1/4 cup salba (white chia seeds)
  • 1/4 cup strawberries
  • 1/4 cup ground flaxseed
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup sprouted buckwheat (or substitute cooked) (optional)
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries

Process everything except buckwheat and frozen strawberries in a food processor.  After processing, work in buckwheat and frozen strawberries with your hands, then shape and cut.

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Brendan gives the warning that the moisture of your dates and berries will vary, so you might need to add more of the dry ingredients or the wet ingredients to get the right texture.  We doubled the amount of ground flaxseed to make the mixture easier to work with, and as I wrote above, I toasted some buckwheat flour since I didn’t have whole buckwheat to sprout or cook.

The best part about these bars: They’re completely raw and vegan, and they’re loaded with nutrients and omega-3’s.  The worst part: They need to be frozen if you don’t want them to be mushy, so they’re not really suitable for bringing on runs.  Once you’ve taken the mixture out of the food processor, you can just put them in a pan lined with parchment paper and freeze it, then cut into bars later.

The flavor is okay—since the point is the nutrition, I don’t really care about the taste as long as it’s minimally palatable.  You could probably improve it by adding some agave nectar or cutting back on the hemp protein, but then you’re either adding sugar or losing protein.

Enjoy the snotless chia!  Let me know if you come up with any flavor improvements, or a way to give them a firmer texture, unfrozen.

For more posts (and recipes) on natural sports nutrition, check out the Running Fuel page.

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Tarahumara Pinole and Chia

In case you’re one of the six remaining runners on the planet who have yet to read Born to Run, allow me to explain.  The Tarahumara are “the running people” on which most of the book is based, a Mexican tribe of superathletes who run 50 or 100 miles at a time for pure enjoyment, seemingly without effort.

borntorun 203x300The Tarahumara diet is described in some small detail in the book, with repeated mention of two staples — pinole and chia seeds.  The author relates a few stories that ascribe almost magical, endurance-enhancing qualities to these simple foods.

Below are two basic recipes I experimented with.  

Pinole recipe

Pinole seems to describe any of a variety of forms of parched or roasted corn, ground into a flour and combined with water and some spices or sugar.  It can be made into a drink, an oatmeal-like paste, or baked to form a more-portable “cake.”  Here’s a recipe I made using regular cornmeal; you can change the proportions and spices to suit your taste.  If you don’t want to toast your own corn, you can get pinole at Amazon.com.  (Note: Masa harina is probably more authentic than cornmeal, since that corn has been treated with lime, the way the Tarahumara maize is.)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cornmeal, ground as fine as possible
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp brown sugar, honey, or agave nectar
  • chia seeds (optional)

Toast the cornmeal in a skillet over medium heat, stirring often, until it turns light brown, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a bowl, mix in cinnamon, and sweetener or other spices, and desired amount of water (see below).

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You can add a lot of water to make a drink of it, but I found this kind of weird because the corn didn’t dissolve.  If you add just a few tablespoons of water instead and mix, you get an oatmeal-like consistency that can be eaten with a spoon, or even out of the palm of your hand on a run:

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Alternatively, you can bake the paste at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 10-15 minutes until it has the texture of a brownie.  This more portable form is better for carrying on a long run, and a good alternative to sugary energy gels.

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Pinole, in the form of energy bars, waffles, and more

mediumThis tasted ok (not great), but I found it pretty inconvenient to actually bring along on a run. It was hard to keep the biscuit from crumbling, and really, who is going to make a paste in the palm of their hand on a run?

To make pinole more convenient (and the type of thing you could actually bring on a run without making a mess), I worked with a baker to come up with 15 new pinole and chia recipes, so that we could get pinole in the form of energy bars, waffles, muffins, hand pies, and other running food. The recipes turned out really well, and all of them tasted way better than these initial experiments with plain pinole did.

Click here to learn more about the project, Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia.

Chia fresca (iskiate) recipe

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Chia seeds (yep, the same ones used in Chia Pets) have enjoyed a surge in popularity recently among health-foodies.   There are many purported benefits of chia seeds, and legends abound about chia seeds reviving struggling athletes or warriors, with small amounts sustaining men for long periods of time.

As for buying chia seeds, I usually get these, but sometimes I’ll get white chia.  White chia seeds, also called salba, are an heirloom variety, so they’re the closest thing you’ll get to what the runners and warriors in the all chia legends were eating.

Chia seeds have the interesting property that when they’re left in water for a few minutes, the water begins to gel.  Supposedly this is helpful in digestion.  Here’s a a recipe for chia fresca (also called iskiate), a popular drink made with chia seeds, water, and lemon or lime.

Ingredients:

  • about 10 oz of water
  • 1 Tbsp dry chia seeds
  • a few teaspoons lemon or lime juice
  • honey or agave nectar, to taste (optional)

Stir the chia seeds into the water; let them sit for about five minutes.  Stir again, and let sit for as long as you like.  The more it sits, the more gel-like the seeds and water become.  Add citrus juice and sweetener to taste.

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I found chia fresca to be a refreshing drink for the morning, and I swear I felt an energy boost from it.  (But the placebo effect can be strong with me, so try for yourself.) But I really don’t like the gel consistency in the drink. I now choose to get my chia in smoothies, like the strawberry-iskiate smoothie from Fuel Your Run with Pinole and Chia.

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Note: Links to Amazon.com are affiliate links.

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