We want our food to taste good. We want it to make us feel full and nourished and we want it to be easy to prepare. No-fuss.
But food can do so much more. I enjoy managing Joe's ongoing nutrition because I know just how powerful food can be when it comes to performance. It's not just about what he eats on the bike. It's what he eats on a day to day basis that really counts.
Think about it like this - food provides all sorts of nutrients and chemicals that are vital for energy production and cellular metabolism. It's like a bank balance. You eat nutrient dense foods, you store up all the good stuff just waiting for the time when you have to withdraw in huge amounts....like an endurance race. If you don't have it to withdraw you go in the red.
And we all know performance can't survive for long in the red.
I made this the other night. It's easy, tastes great and made in one pot. Fantastic. More importantly I'll outline 5 things this meal will do for performance.
Moroccan Red Lentil and Beef Casserole
2 tbsp olive oil
12 oz lean beef cubes
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp each paprika, turmeric, cumin
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 large sweet potato or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
4 oz red lentils
400g can chopped tomatoes
450ml vegetable stock
Heat the oil in large flameproof casserole, add beef and cook until browned all over
Add onion and garlic to pan and cook for 5 mins.
Add spices and tomato puree and cook for 1 min.
Add rest of ingredients. Season with salt and bring to boil.
Cover the casserole with lid and pop it in the oven at 170C, 150C Fan or 325F for 45 mins to 1 hour.
5 things this tasty meal will do for you
1. All the spices but especially tumeric and ginger are packed full of antioxidants. Antioxidants are your internal army of microscopic molecules that neutralise and stabilise free radicals. Free radicals are compounds created by normal cellular activity. We all make them and we all need to make sure that we can neutralise them because if left unchecked they contribute to cellular damage, disease and premature ageing.
Imagine all the cellular activity created by athletic training and endurance racing. Joe and all of you endurance folks need a healthy daily supply of antioxidants.
Turmeric and ginger also have powerful anti-inflammatory compounds. Frequent use can help with most inflammatory conditions and make no mistake high intensity training and racing create inflammation.
2. Garlic and onion contain a compound called allicin which is proven to have a positive impact on cardiovascular health. Frequent use at the right amounts can lower blood pressure and promote healthy cholesterol levels. It's also a powerful antioxidant.
3. Sweet potatoes (Joe's favourite), these orange fleshed potatoes are packed full of Beta-carotene, Vitamin C, Magnesium and Potassium, vitamins and minerals needed for muscle and nerve function (think electrolytes). Sweet potatoes have a low glycemic index meaning they are a slow burning carbohydrate. They will provide steady energy throughout the evening. Oh and they also have good antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds.
4. Beef contains oodles of B12 and the most absorbable type of iron (heme-iron). B12 and iron are needed to make red blood cells and of course iron combines with haemoglobin to transport oxygen from the lungs to muscles. Every athlete needs to maximise their oxygen transport capability! Of course beef also supplies complete protein, about 34 grams in 4 oz.
Use lean beef, 5% fat. It is readily available in Ireland.
5. Chopped tomatoes contain lycopene, another powerful antioxidant that is better absorbed from canned tomatoes verses fresh tomatoes. This particular antioxidant is thought to prevent certain cancers, especially prostate and stomach.
My point is this, your performance is fuelled by your food. Your capability is either limited or enhanced by your nutrient balance or your food choice.
Interested in going further? Check out The Endurance Workshop