COACH FORUM: Food and Cooking Advice for the Busy Athlete

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  • Jefflipschultz

    Chef Mel,

    Talk to us about anti-oxidants in food (for recovery?).  Do we need it?  And if so, what are some simple foods/ideas that are recommended throughout a training week (not necessarily right after a workout).

    CDJ

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  • Jefflipschultz

    Also, we all have been told for years that processed food is bad, bad, bad.  But there must be a spectrum on this.  Are there some processed foods that are OK in a pinch (or maybe combined with something else that makes it acceptable).

    CDJ

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  • David Lo

    Hi Mel, thanks for hosting this forum. I have three questions.
    1) I have a sweet tooth and find it really really hard to completely cut out snacks like ice cream and chocolate from my diet, what would be your advise on this? Do you think I can keep some in my diet but eat it at a specific time to minimise its impact to my overall nutrition? (please help make me feel less guilt......)
    2) Do you have any recipe book recmmendations for simple to make but fresh and delicious meals?
    3. How can I know I am eating the right portion in each meal?
    Thank you!

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  • Melinda Burdo

    Hello Team! I’ve been pulled away unexpectedly and will reply to your inquiries tomorrow. Thanks for your patience and keep the questions coming please! Mel

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  • Eric Hollinshead

    I was wondering about meal prep for the week. I have tried it before and it comes in handy during the week, but it takes too much time getting everything ready on Sunday. Do you have recommendations for certain items to prep ahead to make putting meals together easier during the week? Maybe a pot of shredded chicken. I have done a few sweet potatoes in the Instapot and that is handy for recovery meals.

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  • Michelle Stickler

    Can you recommend some quick to prepare, portable breakfast and lunch foods?  I'm typically doing a workout early in the morning then needing to hop right into the car to commute to work so I need food that can either be eaten in the car or easily packed to eat as soon as I get to work.  The quick to prepare is key since I'm typically packing at least 2 meals for each workday and don't want to spend the whole evening before prepping.  Thanks!

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Hi Jeff,

    Good question on the antioxidants. While antioxidants are critical in the overall health of any body, there is a time and place for them within an athlete's diet. We suggest mostly avoiding them with your Performance Based Recovery Meals and bringing them back into the fold with your Health Meals. Research has found that they can impede the recovery process if consumed right after exercise.  

    That said, it is quite important to enjoy a very colorful plate during your Health Meals. A rainbow of colors is critical for a full micronutrient load as well as making things more fun and tasty. Orange, Green, White, Blue, Purple.... all the different colors provide different micronutrients and antioxidants which are critical for a human body's overall well being.  

    A big colorful salad is always a good place to begin. Some of my favorites:

    A classic 70s Groovy Salad with spinach, spiral cut carrot and raw beet, pea pods, zucchini, and fresh sprouts. Toss with a lemon-tahini dressing. For a fitting protein, consider tempeh. Toss with olive oil, lemon zest and juice, paprika, sea salt and black pepper. Sear the tempeh in a hot non-stick skillet with a bit of olive oil. Turn out on top of the salad and enjoy while still hot.  

    For the upcoming Spring season, I love a Baby Salad: Select small, fresh vegetables from your grocer or farmer's market. A good mix would be baby romaine and butter lettuces, fresh tarragon, blanched asparagus, snap peas, radish, baby carrot. With the radish and carrot, look for a variety of colors. Toss with an excellent extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. This is exceptional with fresh crab but can of course be enjoyed with any protein. For vegetarians, this would be lovely with freshly cooked flageolet beans. 

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Jeff on Processed Foods: 

    In the ever increasing challenges of Time Starved Athletes, a good basic guidelines to follow: Does this food resemble something your grandmother would make? Does it look like it actually came from a chicken or a tomato or a stalk of wheat?

    A goldfish cracker may look like a fish but it is a perfect example of what to avoid: processed wheat, powdered 'cheese' and sugar are more than likely the main ingredients in these tasty little fish. And while a chicken nugget may clearly come from chicken, think of the source. And be realistic about the coating surrounding it. 

    Instead, think of prepared foods over processed. Most upper end grocery stores these days do a great job in preparing fresh foods for you to take home. The roasted chicken is a perfect example. 

    Some processed foods are fine. Canned tomatoes are usually only very ripe tomatoes with a bit of salt. Canned beans are another good option. Frozen vegetables are similar in that they are usually simply chopped and frozen. Look for organic and avoid vegetables that come in sauces. Canned tuna and salmon can be excellent options to add to your meals. Just make sure to check for excessive salt. 

    Here are some examples of how to quickly combine prepared or mildly processed foods with fresh food for a great meal:

    Prepared Whole Roasted Chicken (organic if possible) + prepared salad mix + pre-crumbled feta + pitted olives + tiny cherry tomatoes + cucumber + dressing of: olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, dry oregano, s&p. The only 'cooking' you need to do is chop the cucumber and whisk together the dressing. 

    Quick Beef Tenderloin Pasta: Heat a big pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add 1 chopped onion, 1 clove of garlic, s&p, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes. When softened, add 1 big can good quality diced tomatoes. Stir to combine and let simmer while you cook the pasta. Add fresh pasta to the boiling water and cook for just a few minutes. Scoop out the pasta and finish cooking in the tomato sauce. Add a bit of the pasta cooking water to the sauce to thin out if necessary. Plate up. Shower with parmesan. Top with delicious beef tenderloin (or pork loin) that you pick up at your fancy deli.  

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Hi David!

    SUGAR: The sweet tooth scenario can be challenging. Remember, life is here for us to enjoy. As Macklemore says, "The world is up for grabs". So while we fully appreciate your concern for overall health, wellness, and triathlon training awesomeness, your life is a big complex unit. And enjoying a bit of daily sweetness can be an appropriate and healthy path to take. But within reason. Everything in moderation, including excess. 

    Sometimes these daily treats can sneak up on you and create an elevated blood sugar issue that could potentially lead to prediabetes or other issues. It's important to do regular blood work for your overall health and if you know you may falter to the sweet side of life, this may be something to consider speaking with your doctor about. 

    That said, yes, I have a few suggestions for you.

    Quality over quantity: Teaching yourself to savor a few squares of a dark chocolate bar may take a bit of willpower. But high quality dark chocolate is a healthier option than say a Hershey bar. It has less additives and the impact on your body can actually be a help, not a hindrance. Consider healthier options. Maybe enjoying a late night orange with mint tea over a scoop of ice cream. And lower sugar/lower glycemic index foods can be good alternatives. Dark chocolate, good yogurt with berries, satsumas, lower sugar ice cream alternatives like coconut milk ice cream can be good options. But when looking at lower sugar options, make sure the product is not substituting with artificial ingredients. 

    Consider limiting your allotment. Everyone has a different way to regulate themselves based on their personality. For example: 2 squares of dark chocolate. 1 orange. 1 pomegranate. 1/2 cup yogurt with 1/4 cup berries. 1/4 cup great ice cream with raspberries.

    Late Night: Watch your intake of sugar late at night as this can easily disrupt your sleep. Find a sweetness routine that works for you that may have a cut off time 4 hours before bedtime.  

    COOKBOOKS: There are great ones out there but you need to find what fits your style of eating. Run Fast, Eat Slow is a classic option. I personally love the Ottolenghi cookbooks. While not made for athletes, they have fresh, beautiful recipes that are vegetable centric. 

    PORTIONS: This is a very personal question that may be best addressed with a consult with Kyla Channell. That said, remember the 80% rule. That means to eat slowly and stop when you feel 80% full. This allows your belly time to tell your brain how full it is. It really takes that long. And it's healthier to eat more slowly. 

    I hope all this helps! 

     

     

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Here is a link to an exceptional Meetings with Matt focused on nutrition.

    https://education.purplepatchfitness.com/hc/en-us/articles/360038915534-MwM-Nutrition-and-Fueling-Deep-Dive.

     A few of the big takeaways: Performance Meals and Health Meals. What each is, what they are comprised of in terms of rough percentages, and why it's important to have these two different meal types at different times of the day based on when you train. 

     

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Eric Hollinshead: Meal Prep 

    This is a great topic to bring up. While there are amazing Sunday Special Meal Preppers out there, it can quickly take over an otherwise relaxing Sunday. Something else to keep in mind: prepping too much ahead of time may be cutting out important nutrients. A cabbage cut on Sunday and enjoyed on Monday or Tuesday is one thing. But that same cut cabbage consumed on a Thursday or even Friday has much less nutrients. It's definitely better than no cabbage at all. But freshness is an important component when trying to maximize nutrients. 

    Another route to consider: Write down your menu for the week. Start small and build as you get comfortable. A good starting point is 4 dinners for the first week. And know you will be making double amounts to take care of your lunches for the next day. After writing the menu, create your shopping list. Then you will have all the ingredients at home to make these easy and quick meals once you get home from work and training.  

    For example: 

    • Sunday dinner: Make a chicken posole stew. Who wouldn't like that? This will provide leftovers for many lunches. 
    • Monday dinner: Roast a side of salmon (simply in a hot oven with olive oil, s&p). Serve with a big Greek style salad that I explained in my note to Jeff. The leftover salmon can be used in a grain pilaf dish the next night for dinner. 
    • Tuesday dinner: Above stated Salmon pilaf dish. Add a side of brocollini. Done. 
    • Wednesday: Make sandwiches! Be easy on yourself. A great sandwich is a perfect dinner. Thick sliced turkey, good swiss, pickles galore, sliced apple, tons of arugula, spread the bread with hummus or babaganough from your fancy deli, stack it all up Dagwood style on fresh multi-seed bread. I like to have this with a little fresh fruit and dark chocolate for desert. 
    • Thursday bonus dinner for when you want to keep your streak but are dog tired: Nicoise Tuna Salad: Prepared mixed lettuces, good quality canned tuna, prepared hard cooked egg, good olives, cherry tomato, potato salad in olive oil from the fancy deli, green bean salad from the fancy deli, garlic aioli and a nice French vinaigrette from the condiment aisle. 

    Eric, does this make sense and provide help for you? The big 'prep' that you are doing on Sunday is thinking about a few key meals for the week. Then building your grocery list and shopping. Then, your easy dinners still need to be prepared but everything is at hand, and the meals you are preparing are easy and quick.

    And by the way, your shredded chicken and yams are always excellent choices for planning ahead! 

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Hi Michelle,

    First off, I completely understand the desire (and sometimes need) to eat in the car post training session. Please do so with caution. Not only can it be dangerous to others around you and your nice suit that now has coffee on it but food is meant to be enjoyed. I realize it's challenging to find the time. But when possible, allow yourself that time to sit in your car and enjoy your breakfast prior to hitting the roads. It's is more relaxing and safe. And you are able to eat more slowly and appreciate what you are eating. Mindful eating leads to a healthier life. I promise.  

    I have a little square soft chill box that I keep in my car and holds my breakfast and an ice pack while I'm swimming. Here are a few of my favorite post-swim breakfasts that I enjoy in the pool parking lot: 

    • Siggis nonfat orange-ginger yogurt with granola. I keep the granola in a baggie and simply pour it on top of the yogurt. Before bed I portion the yogurt, and put a spoon and napkin in the little cooler bag. In the morning I simply add the yogurt and granola to the chill bag. I also make myself a creamy coffee that stays warm in an insulated cup. 
    • Vegetable Frittata: This will last for a few days. Many people make this in muffin cups as they create a perfect little servings. I don't mind eating these cool or at room temperature. I like to make mine with 12 egg whites and 6 whole eggs. I add finely chopped cooked yam to the egg mixture along with just a bit of cooked broccoli. 
    • Simple almond butter-honey sandwich with multi-grain bread.
    • I also enjoy going to Starbucks post workout. A short flat white and Spinach Feta wrap really satiates me with everything I need in a Performance/Recovery Meal and has just a bit of antioxidants in the spinach to not cause issues with recovery. Ordering on their app makes for a quick pick up. 

    For easy meals to have at work, I simply prepare more of my dinner and have leftovers the next day. I actually enjoy dinners for a late breakfast or lunch. Soups and stews are great options here as they tend to reheat nicely.  I also have lots of snacks to enjoy throughout the day like nuts, dried apricots, fresh whole fruits, crudite with hummus, etc. Also, I'm thinking the other suggestions I had mentioned above would be perfect for your work needs as they can all be prepared the night before and enjoyed as lunch the following days. 

    I hope this helps Michelle! 

     

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  • Gregory Dreyfus

    Hi Mel,

    Do you have any recommendations on how long before harder workouts we should be eating? I did the max effort intervals yesterday only about 20-30 min after eating and was regretting that for the entire ride.

    Thanks,

    Greg

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Hello Greg,

    Regarding your hard workouts and when to eat prior to those sessions: 

    It's quite personal. In general, it's a safer bet to have a longer amount of time between eating and beginning the hard set. That can be 2-3 hours for some people. If you are pushing that to close to 3+ hours, you may want to consider a very little snack 30 minutes or so before you begin to carry you through that workout. 

    If you know you have a very hard session coming up, consider not having a big meal 3 hours before but possibly having a number of smaller meals/snacks throughout the day leading up to that session. That could be an easier scenario for your stomach to deal with instead of hitting your gut with a heavy meal that it has to work hard to digest. And then 3 hours later hitting your system with a hard workout. That's a lot for your overall body and gut to deal with. 

    It is a personal journey and similar to experimenting with what foods will work for race scenarios. The good news is you've already done experiment #1 and know the outcome and how to move forward: More time between that meal and the hard workout! 

    I hope this helps Greg, Mel 

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  • JUSTIN PEDERSEN

    Hello,

    I often times go straight from the gym to work (which begins immediately with a team production meeting, followed by whatever fires of the day need to be resolved - moving the meeting isn't really an option as it is called by the Director of Manufacturing and I am somewhat of a pee-on!).  With my training sessions getting longer, the time between gym and work gets shorter and shorter.  Often times, it can be 1-2 hours post workout that I find myself eating a post-workout meal (which as well is probably lacking sustenance).  What advice do you have for effective post-workout meals on the go?

    Thanks in advance!

    Justin

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  • Gregory Dreyfus

    Hi Justin,

    Just saw this and wanted to say PICKY BARS! They’re delicious, designed for athletes, and perfect for holding you over until the next full meal. We also have a discount code for the bars which is 25% off a regular order or 10% extra off a picky club order, which is already discounted 10%-30% depending on the size of your order.

    I do pretty much all of my weekday workouts after work, and then wait for my wife to get home from work before we start cooking dinner. It is also 1-2 hours for me, and I pretty much always eat a picky bar after my workout and it’s just enough to hold me over and help with any cravings without being too much to ruin my dinner. I’m sure Mel will have some other ideas for you, but I hope this helps!

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  • JUSTIN PEDERSEN

    Hi Greg,

    Excellent!  Thank you!  Could you direct me to where to find that discount code?  Looking at their sampler box right now!

    Thanks,

    Justin

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  • Gregory Dreyfus

    Hi Justin,

    All of our discounts are on this page. There's also a file in the Facebook group if you're a member there.

    https://education.purplepatchfitness.com/hc/en-us/articles/360019776033-Purple-Patch-Athlete-Discounts

    For reference, PURPLEPATCHSHOP25 gets 25% off anything you buy (not club) and PURPLEPATCHCLUB10 gets 10% extra off your club membership.

    Thanks,

    Greg

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  • Purple Patch Fitness

    Justin on Post Workout Fueling prior to work:

    This is a challenge for almost everyone.

    • Please see my notes to Michelle above for 'drive time breakfasts'. A few other options: Treat yourself to a healthy drive through 1-2 times a week. I do this exact thing as I mentioned above with Starbucks Spinach Feta Wrap and a short coconut milk flat white. 
    • SNACK FOOD AT WORK: Even if you do have a solid breakfast after your gym session, you will get hungry. So, set yourself up for success with Justin's Little Work Kitchen: I'm not sure what your work situation is but I'm guessing you have a group fridge to store your lunch in. I suggest having a second bag that you bring in on Monday and use for your weekly snacks. Cheese, sliced turkey, hummus, hard cooked egg, crudite (cut up raw vegetables), apples, oranges, etc. Also have a similar 'pantry' box that you keep in your locker/desk etc with dry goods. For example, a box of Picky Bars, nuts, dried fruit, little pita circles, etc. All this will allow you to have a number of solid snacks throughout the day. 

    It is so hard to work on an empty belly. It sounds like you may have a job where you are on your feet all day. As you know, that makes it even that much more crucial for you to fuel yourself not only after your morning training sessions, but throughout your work day. And don't forget to drink, drink, drink. 

    I hope this helps! Mel 

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  • Dr Mark

    Hi Mel,

    Could you provide your insight into the potential benefits of fasted / 'carb fasted' workouts (e.g. - easier / Z2 morning workout with only 'butter coffee' and MCT oil) in promoting fat metabolism for the endurance athlete?  Following these workouts I believe the idea is to replenish carbs with quality protein (within 30 minutes).

    Thanks!

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