When it comes to optimizing performance in endurance sports so many factors come into play. As I have expressed in some of my other posts nutrition can play a huge role. Eating the appropriate number of carbs, proteins and fats in addition to choosing the right sources is always an important concern, however, the timing of such intake is just as important if not more. Running can cause muscle damage even on a slow easy day so replenishing with carbs and protein right away is necessary. The sooner you eat the better! Getting the protein in right away will allow the muscles to start repairing themselves, suppress the release of the stress hormone cortisol (high cortisol levels in combination with low testosterone can be a key indicator of over-training), and get the metabolism moving. Waiting to eat leaves your muscles and your body in a starvation like state. Just like how we would save our food if we didn’t know when we would eat again, waiting to long to eat convinces the body to hold on to that food for safe keeping, and a smaller portion is shuttled to the muscle for repair. To make matters worse, endurance exercise can contribute immune suppression and inflammation within the body. The temporary immunosuppression puts an athlete at higher risk for infection or illness. Exercise, especially hard workouts or long runs will create inflammation within the body. Excessive inflammation leads to increased injury risk and longer recovery times.
So, here is the exciting part…the amazing benefits of elderberry! I was fortunate to be introduced by a friend and former teammate to Norms Farms, a local NC farm specializing in all things Elderberry. Elderberries contain powerful antioxidants and have anti-viral properties making them known for their ability to fight disease and infection. The antioxidants also have the ability to fight free radicals which the body produces more of after hard exercise. By reducing the number of free radicals in the body, they can help reduce post-exercise muscle damage and soreness (http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carl-thompson/elderberry-health-benefits-exercise_b_8171086.html). Elderberry’s specific antioxidant source comes from the presence of anthocyanins, a compound also found in mortmorcency tart cherries. In the realm of competitive endurance athletes, tart cherries have become increasing popular because of there anti inflammatory properties due to the presence of anthocyanins. To make elderberries even more desirable, they are rich in magnesium and promote respiratory health (to read more on this click the link above!) Elderberry may just be the new superfood for endurance athletes!
All that being said, my friend Lauren and I wanted to find creative ways to use elderberry in recipes that athletes would want. We wanted something that could be made on a lazy Sunday and used as a healthy grab and go for post-workout. Something that would have adequate protein and carbs, was low in sugar(compared to many bars out there), and easy to make. So what was our final product?! These raw elderberry protein bars!
These bars maintain roughly a 3:1 carbs to protein ratio(9:27), 220 calories, 13g sugar (all from natural sources), and of course a healthy dose of elderberry extract. We made this a raw bar to maintain the maximal benefit of all of the ingredients. The ingredient brands listed on our recipe made be substituted but we suggest the ones we chose. The granola we used was Purely Elizabeth’s Dark Chocolate Sea Salt granola because contains probiotics and promotes good gut health. It also is sweetened solely by coconut sugar, a natural low glycemic sweetener, and contains chia seeds. We chose BiPro unflavored protein because it contains minimal ingredients and is high quality protein that mixes in unnoticed. The tart cherries we chose were from Country Spoon (ordered of Amazon). These are mortmorcency cherries and contain no added sugar. We highly suggest the use of the coconut peanut butter because it is a natural peanut butter that uses coconut oil. The use of the coconut oil helps to keep it solid at room temperature unlike many natural peanut butters that separate.
For me, understanding why things work the way they do is necessary for making smart choices about consuming them. Every ingredient has a purpose and a value so why not use the best ones possible to maximize the benefits of what we eat!? Hope you enjoy this recipe and look out for more to come. I’m thinking something with UCAN cocao delite and elderberry extract may be coming soon!
Elderberry Protein Bars
*gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, raw, high-protein*
1/4 cup Pure Maple Syrup
1/2 cup Elderberry Extract
1/4 cup Oat Flour
2 scoops BiPro Unflavored Protein (44g)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Probiotic Granola (if not using this brand I suggest adding a tbsp of chia seeds for a the added nutritional benefit)
1. Line an 8×8″ pan with wax paper and set aside
2. Combine Peanut butter and maple syrup in a saucepan over low heat. Mix until combined and then remove from heat. Let the mixture cool a bit and then add the elderberry extract and mix well. Make sure to remove the mixture from the heat and allow it to begin cooling as heat can kill some of the beneficial properties of the elderberry extract.
3. In a separate bowl combine the protein powder, oat flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the peanut butter mixture to this and mix until well combined.
4. Next, fold in the granola and cherries. Once everything is combined press the mixture into the 8×8 pan making sure it is spread evenly. Place a sheet of wax paper over top and refrigerate overnight.
5. Enjoy as a snack or post workout!