Contributing Monkie Brendan Brazier
Published on April 28, 2010
Photographer: G Monkie (CC)
As you are probably aware, commercial versions of many sport nutrition products are not always the healthiest option. Commonly packed with artificial flavours, refined carbohydrates, denatured proteins and sometimes even harmful fats, I certainly don’t want to consume anything that doesn’t put overall health first.While some commercial options are not as bad as they once were, I like to know exactly what goes into mine and keep them completely natural.
I make my own.
Whole food energy bars, sport drinks, energy gels, energy pudding, post-workout recovery drink, whole food meal replacement smoothies and even performance pancakes are all part of my specific sport nutrition program.
Immediately before exercise
The body’s first choice for fuel during intense exercise is simple carbohydrates. However, once the body has burned all the simple carbohydrates available, it will then opt for available complex carbohydrates. It’s in the athlete’s best interest to ensure that the body is provided with enough simple carbohydrates to fuel activity so that complex carbohydrates are not relied upon. If the body has to resort to burning complex carbohydrates while exercising at a high intensity, it will have to use extra energy in order to convert the complex carbs into simple carbs. Additionally, if too much protein is eaten before intense exercise, it will likely cause muscle cramping due to the fact that it requires more fluid to be metabolized than carbohydrate or fat does.
Also, protein is not what you want your body burning for fuel. Protein is for rebuilding muscle post-activity, not fuelling it. When too much protein is consumed in place of carbohydrates immediately before exercise — and therefore burned as fuel — it burns “dirty,” meaning that toxins are created as a result of its combustion. The production and elimination of toxins is of course a stress on the body, and as such causes a stress response. Ultimately endurance will decline.
For a pre exercise snack, the most important factor is digestibility. If the food eaten shortly before a training session or race requires a large amount of energy to digest, it will leave the body with less, the last thing needed before exercise. Additionally, hard-to-breakdown food will require more blood be sent to the stomach to aid in the digestion process. Of course when blood is in the stomach, it can’t be in the extremities delivering oxygen and removing waste products, which is a requirement for optimal physical performance. It is also not uncommon for a “stitch” to occur in the diaphragm area if food has not been digested completely before a workout or race — especially an intense one — begins.
For high-intensity shorter training and racing, it is beneficial to fuel up on simple carbohydrates. The healthiest source of this is fruit. Dates are a good choice since they are rich in a simple carbohydrate called glucose. Glucose goes straight to the liver for immediate energy. The body does not have to convert it to a different form in order to utilize it, making glucose-rich-foods the ideal primary fuel before or during a high-intensity workout. However, it burns quickly, meaning that if glucose is the only carbohydrate source, it will have to be replenished about every 20 minutes after 1 hour of intense activity to keep the body adequately fuelled.
If I’m going to perform a mid-range to longer workout that lasts up to three hours but is still intense or compete in a race such as a marathon, I will have a nutritionally balanced raw bar. In addition to the dates, I include a small amount of alkaline protein, usually raw hemp, and an EFA source such as ground flax seeds or soaked almonds for prolonged, high net gain energy. In my new book, The Thrive Diet, I also include recipes for sport drinks, energy gels and recovery smoothies.
Try this recipe before your next run.
Apple Cinnamon Energy Bars
In a food processor, process all ingredients until desired texture is reached. If you prefer a uniformly smooth bar, process longer. If you would rather a bar with more crunch and texture, blend for less time. Generally, if I’m making them specifically to be eaten during physical activity, such as long training rides, I’ll blend the mixture until it is smooth, as this will reduce the amount of chewing required.
Remove mixture from processor and put on a clean surface. From there you can roll it into several balls or shape it into a bar.
These bars have a more traditional flavor than the others, yet the same health benefits as a nutrient-dense raw bar.
Makes approximately 12 x 50-gram bars.
For the Apple Cinnamon Energy Bars:
1 small apple, cored
1 cup fresh or soaked dried dates
1/2 cup soaked or cooked quinoa
1/4 cup almonds
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
1/4 cup hemp protein
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Sea salt to taste
Variation: To make even more nutrient-dense, the ground flaxseeds and he hemp protein can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio with Vega Whole Food Smoothie Infusion.