Exercise is about two things: effort and expending energy. If we want to get the most out of our workouts and our valuable time, then we need to fuel them both.
Where do we get the fuel? Carbohydrates. They are what keep us running. Now, I don’t mean going out and packing in 250 calories of refined sugar in the form of confectionery or sweet drinks. I mean good quality, mostly slow-release carbs. You can use oats or a bit of plant sugar from vegetables, fruit, or berries to give you a little kick. Sometimes it’s helpful to add some protein to begin repairing damaged tissue.
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I aim for a couple of hundred calories of good carbs and a touch of protein before each workout. I’ve developed these three recipes that use some well-publicized, superfood ingredients to end up with something yummy and not too heavy.
Beetroot Oat Cup
My favorite super ingredient is beetroot. It has had a bad reputation for a long time due to being boiled into submission rather than cooked. In my opinion, it should be adored, not only for its crazy color but also because it gives your workout a nitro-kick. I’ve kind of evoked a Fast and Furious thing there, but it is actually true. Beetroot contains dietary nitrate that reduces the oxygen cost of exercise, therefore increasing the time to fatigue.
This recipe combines oats and beets with ginger to add spice and to reduce muscle soreness. You can also add some apple, and, if you fancy, a few berries.
Prep time: Negligible
Cook time: Overnight
Ingredients (per serving):
- ½ cup oats
- ½ medium-sized beetroot
- ½ cup whole pure apple juice
- A fingertip-sized piece of ginger
- Raspberries (optional)
- Put the oats into a bowl, add the apple juice, and stir.
- Using the fine side of a grater, grate the beetroot and ginger into the bowl. Add a little pinch of salt for flavor, as I imagine you are going to sweat!
- Mix it all together and refrigerate overnight or through the day.
- Add the berries if you want, then pack it away 20 minutes before your workout.
Coconut Power Pancakes
These started life while experimenting with the two-ingredient pancake craze that went around a few months back. I tried a few cooking techniques, including soufflé, but I always ended up with a strange, sweet omelette thing. So I thought with the addition of one more ingredient and a couple of store cupboard items, you can have some people food.
Desiccated coconut adds some structure to the finished product. Coconut also adds dietary fiber and connective tissue-strengthening minerals like copper and selenium.
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Ingredients (per serving):
- 1 egg
- 1 medium-sized, very ripe banana
- 1 Tablespoon desiccated coconut
- A drop of vanilla extract
- A pinch of salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil or ghee for frying
- Berries (optional – blueberries seem appropriate)
- Put a large frying pan over a medium heat. Mash the banana with a fork and add the egg, a drop of vanilla extract, and a tiny pinch of salt.
- Mix by stirring vigorously with a spoon. Don’t whisk it, because if you incorporate too much air the end result will be tough, rather than a bit souffléd. Add the coconut and mix again.
- When the mixture is all blended, put the oil in the pan and drop the mixture into the pan to form three pancakes.
- Cook for about two minutes, until they are beginning to set. Then, if you want, drop three or four berries onto each pancake and flip.
- Cook for another two minutes and serve. Eat and go lift some heavy stuff for a bit.
Pea and Mint Soup
The source of carbohydrate in this recipes is peas, which are a good source of fiber and vegetable protein (remember we want that). They have a low glycemic index and are slow to release their energy. Peas are also quite low in calories, making this recipe a good option for a shorter intense work out like HIIT or, my favorite when I was ditching all my own excess weight, kettlebell Tabata sets.
It would be ideal to use your own homemade stock, which is a good source of the protein collagen and great for strengthening cartilage and connective tissue. Otherwise, you have to source a good, quaint, real stock, not just for this recipe but for all of your soups and sauces.
And finally, this recipe includes mint. Mint contains menthol, which reduces inflammation in the respiratory system. More air flow, more go-go!
Prep time: 30 minutes to 1 hour to thaw peas
Cook time: 10 minutes
Ingredients (per serving):
- 250g frozen peas, thawed
- ½ cup of chicken or ham stock
- 3 spring onions
- A handful of fresh mint (about 10g)
- 1 teaspoon light olive oil
- Thaw the peas by spreading them out on a tray with a kitchen towel. Leave them out for between half an hour and an hour, depending on room temperature. Frozen peas are so lovely and fresh, they need very little cooking.
- Put a pan on medium heat with the oil, thinly slice the white part of the onions then put in the pan to sweat gently for two minutes.
- Tip in the stock and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, thinly slice the mint.
- When the stock comes to the boil add the mint and ¾ of the peas then take straight off the heat.
- Blend using a stick blender, you then have the option of passing it all through a sieve to make a lovely smooth soup. Garnish with the leftover whole peas and sliced green onion tops. Eat, wash up, and swing some steel.
Photos courtesy of Tim Harrison.