The title says “food”, and so this article is going to talk about just that: food. Real food. Alongside the trend of growing popularity in running events over the last couple of decades, a booming sports food and supplement industry has stolen the attention of athletes and active people alike. We’ve been tricked into thinking that nature has it all wrong and the fruit, vegetables and livestock it produces are not fuel enough for an active lifestyle. Instead we need “specially formulated” powders, potions and concoctions that come in a range of colours – from nuclear waste green to electric blue to fluorescent pink – if we’re going to have any chance of crossing the finish line.
Is it so farfetched to trust that fresh, natural, organic produce is more than enough to fuel us through our athletic endeavours? Of course not! The human body loves this stuff! What’s more, it’ll carry you through your weekdays at work, those cold and dark winters and ultimately a long and healthy lifetime better than any artificial alternative will.
With that said, in support of real, wholesome food, here is a short and simple list of my “must have” foods. You can do so much with these foods and, in particular, they provide fantastic pre-training fuel and/or post-training replenishment.
Eat them raw. Activate them by soaking then drying. Dice and toss them through your salad, porridge or atop your smoothie bowl. Blend them into your smoothie. Use them whilst baking for flavour and/or a gluten-free alternative to flour. Make almond milk with just water and salt. There’s really endless uses for this versatile source of healthy fats and protein.
When in season, these are always in the kitchen at my house! I use avocado whenever I can. With my eggs and bacon for breakfast; on my salad for lunch; as a side with dinner. Avocado makes a great fat-booster for smoothies and adds a delicious, creamy thickness.
Butter & coconut oil
Organic, grass-fed butter and extra-virgin cold pressed coconut oil are grouped into one category here because they’re quite interchangeable but if you can have both, you should! Cooking with these clean sources of saturated fat is perfect for making the micronutrients of your vegetables more bioavailable.
Another very versatile source of fat, protein and fibre. There are many hearty, tasty porridge recipes using chia seeds – just google it! Chia goes great as a pudding soaked in coconut water or even better with coconut milk. Give it a try!
Definitely free-range but preferably organic, eggs are one of the most complete foods you’ll find. Packed with quality fats, muscle-friendly protein and heaps of healthy micronutrients, eggs do a great job of being the centre of a meal or a simple side. Fry them in butter with a little salt and pepper, or boil them to keep in the fridge as an easy takeaway snack. I like to drop a raw egg in my smoothie after a hard training session to bump up the protein and nutrient content.
Kumara (sweet potato)
If you’re going to eat carbs, you can’t go past kumara. There’s so much you can do with this satiating, prebiotic root vegetable. Simple roasties or chips are delectable with some salt and aioli. Boiled and mashed with butter, salt and cinnamon is fun and easy. If you want to get a little more involved, you can whip up rostis to have your eggs on. Fuel those higher intensity sessions with a bit of sweet potato from time to time.
This probiotic gem is a quick way to make sure you’re doing some daily good for the friendly bacteria in your gut. Sauerkraut is exponentially cheaper to make than to buy, and I’d recommend looking up recipes because it is as easy to make as it is affordable. A spoonful on the side of your cooked breakfast or your salad at lunch is all it takes to fuel those good bacteria.
Of course, there are plenty of other real foods that could go on this list. Let us know in the comments below what you like to eat regularly!
Article by Tim Leeming. Exercise Nutritionist.