The past two weeks really spread me too thin. From public meetings to car issues, long runs and traveling, my ability to accomplish anything outside of work and running was just about impossible. The daily grind of waking up at 4:30, running, planning my meals, working, doing strength training, going to pt appointments, adding in doubles, running errands, making dinner, and trying to get to bed by 9 really took its toll on me. Needless to say I never made it to bed by 9. Weeks like the past 2 always frustrate me. I love to cook and bake and experiment in the kitchen but when time holds me back I am always too tired to make the effort.
Tuesday this week was like therapy for me. With a couple hours to myself and an idea for a new recipe, I felt completely in my element. I got my jar of the new Strawberry BiPro protein powder last week and I have been dying to test it out. I have been racking my brain with what kinds of recipes I could try and what flavor combinations would work best. My idea for this recipe stems from my need for a high protein, low sugar, healthy post-run option for busy mornings. Typically, I make myself a bowl of whole grain low sugar cereal and then mix some unsweetened cashew milk with a half scoop of vanilla BiPro to pour over top. This is great but also much more time consuming. I also wanted something that would allow me to include Generation UCAN in its raw state. I have made several muffins using UCAN but the baking process changes the superstarch and makes its super powers go away somewhat. When I say super powers I am talking about it’s ability to keep blood sugar steady and tap into fat stores for energy. UCAN used in combination with a protein source has a substantial impact on the recovery process. The protein begins to do its work immediately in rebuilding the broken down muscle and the added superstarch extends the recovery window so that you are able to continue to utilize the protein from your next meal as an aid in the recovery process. The superstarch’s ability to utilize fat for fuel keeps you energized and focused even after a long hard workout or run. I’ll admit the first time I tried UCAN’s protein enhanced version after a workout I was amazed at how much more awake I felt the rest of the day!
Now on to the other star in this show. The strawberry BiPro. When I opened the container I was amazed by just how good it smelled. Like literally strawberry cream savers. Anyway, this protein is gluten free, lactose free, and caffeine free. It is naturally flavored and sweetened with real strawberry pieces. 0g of sugar and 1 g of carbohydrate this stuff is for real. With only 6 ingredients it surpasses many different protein powders, shakes, and bars in that it doesn’t have a laundry list of added preservatives and foreign ingredients. I scoop contains 90 calories and 20g of protein which reaches the recommended grams of protein needed for adequate recovery after exercise. There are no artificial or natural dyes so the protein isn’t any abnormal shade of red. Mixing it with a cold glass of cashew milk is even delicious by itself!
So when I decided I wanted to create a protein bar I knew exactly what Ingredients I had to use, some type of UCAN and Strawberry BiPro. I knew the recipe had to be raw so I needed to figure out what I could mix with it to make it all hold together and with good texture. I decided my best option would be to use the plain UCAN superstarch and bring it all together with cashew butter. I love the combination of strawberries and chocolate so I had to find a way to get that in there. If I had a better way of covering the bar in chocolate to fully cover it I would have. Then I used just a bit of agave to sweetened the deal. The important piece of information here is the use of a sweetener that would not spike the blood sugar negating the benefits of UCAN. The chocolate I used was Lily’s Chocolate chips which is sweetened with stevia which satisfies this condition. Now a days its becoming easier to find cashew butter at the store but you can also make your own pretty easily without any added oils! This recipe is raw and very simple to make! Anyway see the recipe below and enjoy!
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Strawberry Protein Bars
- 3 scoops Strawberry BiPro Protein Powder
- 3 scoops Plain UCAN Superstarch
- 1/2 cup cashew butter (archer farms brand is good or make your own)
- 1/4 unsweetened cashew milk
- 2 tbsp. agave nectar
- ¼ tsp sea salt (optional if your cashew butter does not contain it)
- 1/4 cup Lily’s Stevia Sweetened Chocolate Chips
- Combine the BiPro Protein powder, UCAN superstarch, and salt if using. Cut in the cashew butter until it resembles a crumbly mixture.
- Add in the cashew milk and agave and combine. Once incorporate kneed it all together with your hands.
- Once together form the dough into a rectangle. The dough may be sticky so if needed use some extra superstarch on the exterior of your rectangle and place it on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Cut the rectangle into 6 equal bars and space out on the baking sheet. Melt the chocolate and then spread on the bars. To do the bottom, place the bars in the freezer for about 15 mintues then coat the bottom of the bar,
5. Store the bars in the fridge and enjoy after long runs or hard workouts!
For a printable recipe click here: Strawberry Protein Bar
To put it nicely, this has been one heck of a long week. The type of week that invokes the temptation to gorge yourself on chocolate. If it had not been for leftovers I wouldn’t have thought twice about ordering pizza every night. Problem being, I am in base training and this is not the time for letting my nutrition slide.
In the base training phase you are slowly building your mileage back up after a well-deserved break. In running, just like building, you need to have a strong foundation or “base”. Slowly increasing your mileage each week with runs at low to moderate intensity with no high intensity workouts is necessary for injury prevention and sustainability. This phase also involves regaining your fitness and dropping the extra weight and fat you should gain during a training break. Gaining a few extra pounds and extra fat is good for prepping your body for a new training cycle. As you increase your mileage your metabolism lags behind so in essence you are able to operate at a slight caloric deficit without getting hangry and feeling drained. During this phase I try to watch what I eat while indulging when my body needs it. Indulgence in moderation is the key to maintaining a healthy diet.
This leads me into the creation of my most recent recipe…Elderberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse.
When cravings strike and I want something sweet I like to find options that are both delicious and beneficial to my health. This recipe definitely fits that standard. And yes I know, avocado is for guacamole and tacos, believe me I thought the same thing…until I tried this. The avocado makes this recipe super creamy and honestly, it’s hard to believe there is no heavy cream! Avocados are super nutrient dense with heart healthy monosaturated fatty acids. These healthy fats help the body better absorb vitamins and minerals. The fiber in avocados helps to maintain a healthy immune system and contributes to a healthy gut.
The other 2 stars in this show are of course the Norms Farms Elderberry Wellness Syrup and Generation UCAN chocolate protein powder. If you missed my last post, Elderberry has amazing benefits to athletes! (click this link for more info: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/carl-thompson/elderberry-health-benefits-exercise_b_8171086.html ). The elderberry syrup promotes recovery and a healthy immune system so in combination with the avocado, this recipe will keep you strong and healthy. I would also like to add that the elderberry flavor complements the chocolate flavor amazingly well! The UCAN protein powder contains a complex carbohydrate called superstarch. This superstarch metabolizes slowly keeping energy levels and blood sugar stable while increasing the bodies ability to burn fat for energy. This protein version contains whey protein so if you wish to make this vegan you can use the plain Cocoa Delite UCAN superstarch that does not contain added protein.
This recipe is raw, gluten-free, lactose-free, soy-free, and sweetened with low-glycemic index agave. In light of the upcoming 4th of July holiday, this recipe would make for a great dessert for your planned festiviites! Top with raspberries and blueberries to make it nice and festive!
Elderberry Chocolate Avocado Mousse
- 2 avocados
- 5 scoops UCAN chocolate protein
- 4 scoops cocoa elite cocoa powder or 4 tbsp cocoa powder
- ½ cup unsweetened almond milk
- 3 tsp agave syrup
- 3 tbsp elderberry wellness syrup
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Granola (optional topping)
- Dark Chocolate Chips (optional topping)
- Place all ingredients (except the 2 optional toppings) into a high speed blender or food processor and process until all ingredients are well combined and smooth.
- Place in serving dishes and top with whatever desired toppings you choose! I suggest extra dark chocolate and Purely Elizabeth Chocolate Sea Salt Probiotic Granola
elderberry chocolate mousse (click to print!)
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!
This may make me a bit basic but I am one of those people that goes out and buys everything pumpkin as soon as fall hits. I may or may not have bought about 8 boxes of Purely Elizabeth Pumpkin Fig cereal when they went on sale…and I might have gone crazy when I found gluten free pumpkin puffins at target… Anyways, I have gotten in the habit of making muffins to eat pre-run in the morning. I give myself about 30 min from wake up to the time I run and I am very serious about eating before running. Eating before running helps your body metabolize food better post run and also gives you the energy to get up and go. I have gotten myself used to eating something 30 minutes before running but I try to keep this on the lighter side and I typically get my fuller breakfast post run. If 30 minutes is too close for you I recommend waking up a bit earlier so that you can at least get something in before working out. It makes a big difference! I have an issue with my blood sugar dropping on runs if I have not fueled properly which ultimately prompted me to come up with a good pre-run option made of sustaining whole grains, a little protein, and minimized fat (fat tends to be harder on the stomach and is not as quickly converted to usable energy). I was relying on a Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Muffin but wanted something new. When I ran out of those last week, my initial thought was of course that I need to make something pumpkin! I would have done just that if I hadn’t had the wonderful idea of making homemade flatbreads for dinner with butternut squash puree as the sauce. When I was making the puree that night I ended up having much more than I needed for the flatbreads which got me to thinking. Why don’t I mix it up a bit and use this puree in a muffin?? So I saved the leftovers and came up with this recipe:
- ½ cup Bi Pro Unflavored Protein Powder
- ½ cup Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Oatmeal
- ½ cup almond meal
- ½ cup brown rice flour
- ½ cup tapioca starch
- ½ tsp. baking soda
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¾ tsp. cinnamon
- ½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 cup butternut squash puree
- 4 dates (soaked in 1 cup warm water with ¼ tsp. lemon juice and a pinch of salt for at least 30min.)
- ½ cup date water
- 2 tbsp. maple syrup
- 6 tbsp. Lilys dark chocolate chips
Butternut Squash Puree
- 3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp. maple syrup
- To make butternut squash puree preheat oven to 400 and combine butternut squash and garlic in a bowl. Add 1 tbsp. olive oil and salt and toss to evenly distribute. Spread out on cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minute or until squash is fork tender. Place squash in blender with maple syrup, ¼ cup water (if needed), and 1 tbsp. olive oil if necessary. Blend until smooth.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and grease 2 cupcake tins with coconut oil.
- In a large bowl combine the Bi Pro, oatmeal, almond meal, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pumpkin pie spice.
- In a blender or food processor blend the dates and date water for 15 seconds. Then add the eggs, vanilla, butternut squash puree, and the maple syrup. Pulse the ingredients until just combined.
- Now add wet to dry and mix until combined. Once ingredients are combined fold in the chocolate chips.
- Using an ice cream scoop, scoop a little less than a full scoop and place in cupcake tin. Should make about 15 muffins so fill the rest of the tins half full with water.
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- Store in the fridge or freezer.
Now you will see in the picture above that I put a little topping on the muffins. This topping is my Pumpkin Cashew Butter, I had to make something pumpkin! This recipe was inspired by Purely Elizabeth’s pumpkin peanut butter recipe featured in the October Magazine. This stuff is addicting so beware!
Pumpkin Peanut Butter:
- 1 cup raw cashews
- 1 cup pumpkin
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
- Preheat oven to 350 and spread raw cashew out on baking sheet. Place in preheated oven and watch carefully. Once cashews have started to brown and are fragrant remove from oven and our into food processor or high speed blender. Process or blend cashews until finely ground.
- Add remaining ingredients to blender or food processor and blend until all ingredients have become thoroughly combined. If necessary you may need to add a bit of water. Stop and scrape down sides as necessary.
- Store in a glass jar and keep refrigerated.