By Melissa Wagenberg Lasher
When it comes to cooking, runners-constantly pressed for time-often choose convenience over flavor: We pour a bowl of cereal, zap a frozen veggie burrito, or toss pasta with jarred sauce. But our mandate for fast food doesn’t have to mean losing out on taste. These four mouthwatering meals, made with nearly ready-to-use ingredients, will satisfy your calorie needs and your desire for delicious food-in less time than it takes to run a really fast 5-K.
Prerun Meal: Blueberry-Walnut Pancakes with Maple Yogurt
How To: Microwave ¾ cup frozen blueberries for one minute, rinse, and then drain them. Stir together four tablespoons plain yogurt and two tablespoons maple syrup. Prepare a part-whole-grain pancake batter according to the package directions. Gently stir in the blueberries. Cook pancakes. Drizzle with maple yogurt and sprinkle with two tablespoons chopped walnuts. Serves two.
How Come: The part-whole-grain mix makes sense, says sports nutritionist Colleen Cooke, M.S., R.D., because it provides both slow- and quick-release carbs; white-flour pancakes with syrup would cause a blood-sugar spike, while all whole grains would be hard to digest prerun. Fat and protein in the walnuts and yogurt also keep blood sugar steady. Eating antioxidant-rich blueberries with carbs and protein can “reduce the amount of muscle soreness that occurs after a high-mileage training run,” says Jackie Dikos, R.D., a nutritionist and competitive runner.
Prerun Snack: Coconut-Almond Bars
How To: Combine two cups rolled oats, one cup unsweetened coconut, and ½ cup each: dates (or raisins), raw almonds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and cashews. Mix 1 ½ cups tahini (or natural peanut butter) with one cup honey and one teaspoon vanilla. Microwave for one minute. Combine wet and dry ingredients. On a greased baking sheet, spread mixture into a one-inch-high rectangle. Cut into 12 bars. Or, if time allows, bake at 350° F for 15 minutes.
How Come: This recipe for energy bars, adapted from The Bakery in New Paltz, New York, has powered runners, bikers, and climbers for nearly 30 years. The dates and honey provide quick carbs, while the nuts are high in healthy fats, which help sustain energy levels. “People doing the fat-free thing often find they’re hungry all the time,” says Cooke. The oats keep cholesterol in check, and research shows “the fiber in oats may offset the risk of upper-respiratory infections, which are common in runners,” says Dikos.
Postrun Meal: Chicken Sausage Pasta
How To: In a pan, heat one tablespoon olive oil, two cups frozen broccoli florets, and one cup frozen sliced bell peppers. Cover and cook until vegetables are warm. Remove from pan. Slice two precooked chicken sausages into rounds. Cook in the pan with one tablespoon of oil until lightly browned. Cook two cups fresh rigatoni. Drain pasta and toss with vegetables and sausage. Top with fresh basil, four tablespoons crumbled feta, and freshly ground black pepper. Serves two.
How Come: This well-balanced one-dish meal provides protein for muscle recovery and ample carbs to restock glycogen stores. The chicken sausage and feta replenish sodium, and heaps of antioxidant-rich vegetables lessen muscle fatigue caused by the free radicals we produce when we run. Just don’t overcook your veggies. “A common way to destroy a vegetable is to boil it and then drain out all the water, which contains the nutrients,” says Dikos. This recipe’s quick sautee method keeps all the good stuff in.
Postrun Snack: Thai Beef Salad
How To: For the dressing, whisk together the juice of one lime, two teaspoons soy sauce, two teaspoons sesame oil, and a large pinch of red-pepper flakes. Combine two cups prewashed and precut romaine hearts, two cups preshredded cabbage, ½ cup mixed chopped herbs, and one thinly sliced scallion. Toss with the dressing. Top with eight ounces of precooked flank steak or deli roast beef and two tablespoons salted peanuts. Pair with whole-wheat pita chips. Serves two.
How Come: Beef is an excellent source of iron, which is essential for oxygen transport, and the body absorbs iron better from meat than plant sources. Avoid high amounts of saturated fat by choosing leaner cuts, such as sirloin, flank steak, and roast beef. Romaine lettuce, fresh herbs, and cabbage are good antioxidant sources. “Cabbage is a cancer fighter,” says Dikos. Studies show that sulforaphane, a chemical found in the oft-overlooked vegetable, protects against cancer by increasing production of the enzymes that help flush out carcinogens.
The key to preparing fast meals is to stock your kitchen with nearly ready-to-use foods, such as frozen produce, which is just as healthy as fresh.
A list of staples for making healthy, tasty dishes-fast.
Blueberries (or mixed berries, cherries, or peaches)
Broccoli florets, bell peppers
Prewashed and precut romaine hearts, preshredded cabbage,limes, scallions
Plain yogurt, feta cheese
Nuts and Seeds
Walnuts, peanuts, almonds,cashews, sunflower and sesame seeds
Dates, raisins, coconut
Basil, parsley, and mint
Fresh or dried pasta, part whole-grain pancake mix, oats, whole-wheat pita chips
Precooked chicken sausages, precooked flank steak or roast beef cold cuts
Seasonings and Condiments
Soy sauce, red-pepper flakes, tahini, natural peanut butter
Maple syrup, honey, vanilla
The Quickest Fix
Prerun snacks that are ready to eat now.
You’re going for a run in a half hour and your stomach is growling. What do you eat to tide you over without upsetting your stomach? Go for about 150 calories of low-fiber, low-fat foods that boost energy fast, says Cooke. Here are five of her favorites.
- Handful of low-fiber cereal
- A bagel with honey or jelly
- A few graham crackers with a teaspoon of honey
- Banana and a few nuts or teaspoon of peanut butter
- Cup of fat-free yogurt
What are your favorite pre and post workout foods? Leave your comments!