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!
Over the summer I started using a new produce box company, Papa Spuds, where I can order seasonal fruits and veggies in addition to recipe kits, meats, cheeses, eggs, and more and have them delivered on a bi-weekly schedule directly to my house! I love buying my produce this way because it helps me to eat seasonal and I get the freshest of the fresh! Papa spuds operates on a credit system allowing me to the pick the items I want and will use and gives the opportunity to pick the grower. I can choose local or out of state, organic or conventional, and can see ratings on different suppliers. My favorite thing is the recipe kits. These recipe kits normally highlight a specific seasonal ingredient giving you all of the ingredients you need besides minor things like olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, and you get the point. The recipe is provided so your good to go! One of my most recent recipe kits was for Dijon Roasted Sweet Potatoes and they turned out great! I tossed them into a salad with chicken and other healthy ingredients to get this delicious dinner:
This was definitely as good as it looks and super filling! The teff in this is a new ingredient I have just started using for its amazing health benefits. A grain used as a staple in many Ethiopian dishes, teff is a very tiny grain that is so small that it can only be eaten in its whole form. Containing 123mg of calcium per cup, teff leads all grains in calcium content and has the same amount of calcium as 1/2 of a cup of cooked spinach. Additionally, it is high in resistant starch meaning that it is high in dietary fiber which can help control blood sugar and can be beneficial for weight management and colon health. Teff is also high in protein and it has been estimated that Ethiopians get about 2/3 of their dietary protein from it (Whole Grains Council). Teff cooks similarly to quinoa, absorbing the water as it cooks. It is prepared in a 3 to 1 ratio, liquid to teff.
Now on to my second new fall recipe, Cornbread Waffles with Kale Salad and Rotisserie Chicken. I love making waffles because of how easy they are to make. I also very much love cornbread so naturally I had to come up with a cornbread waffle! I wanted to make this waffle healthy so I could use it as a hearty whole grain carb to go with my dinner. I am often pressed for time at dinner because my stomach has no patience so I have found my ways of making uncomplicated meals that are quick, healthy, and nutritious. I always make it a point to include vegetables and greens in addition to a lean protein and whole grain carb source. I quickly threw together this cornbread waffle recipe by meshing a couple of recipes in Purely Elizabeth’s Eating Purely Cookbook. I am still perfecting this one but I will give you my recipe for you to tweak as you feel necessary! Then to finish out this meal I got a plain rotisserie chicken, removed the skins and pulled the all the meat off the bones for use in this dinner and meals throughout the week. Then I chopped some kale and tossed with some other yummy ingredients and a homemade vinaigrette to make this dish:
Aside Posted on
Yield: 7 waffles, 3-4 servings of salad, 6-7 servings of chicken
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup tapioca starch
- 1/2 cup sorghum flour
- 1/4 cup buckwheat
- 1.5 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. baking soda
- 1.5 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. black pepper
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 2 eggs
- 6 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 cup plain nonfat greek yogurt (buy one with only 6 or 7g of sugar!)
- 3/4 cup unsweetened cashew milk
- 3 cups chopped kale
- 2 ounces pumpkin goat cheese
- 1/3 cup raw cashew pieces or pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 cup dried cranberries (reduced sugar ones if you can)
- Optional addition: 1/2 an avocado
- White Balsamic Vinaigrette:
- 3 tbsp. white balsamic vinegar (the one i used was white balsamic shallot vinegar but any good quality one is fine)
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tsp. dijon mustard
- pinch of salt
- pinch of pepper
- 1/2 tsp. agave nectar
- Start you waffle iron up to get it heated. While it is heating combine all of the dry ingredients in a large bowl (cornmeal through coconut sugar). In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, olive oil, greek yogurt and cashew milk.
- Add wet to dry and stir until combined. When waffle iron is ready spoon about 1/2 cup of batter into the iron (depends on your size of waffle iron here, I have to waffle iron that makes 2 square waffles so I do about a half cup for each waffle.)
- While the waffles are cooking combine the vinaigrette ingredients together in a mason jar and shake.
- Put all of the salad ingredients together in a bowl and toss together with however much vinaigrette that you desire.
- Once waffles are ready place one waffle on your plate, top with kale salad and some warm rotisserie chicken and enjoy! (can add extra dressing on top or top with my favorite maple siracha dressing which is a 3 to 1 ratio of siracha to maple syrup)
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.