Super Food for Triathletes
Posted on January 17 2019
The Start of a Super New Year
The holiday season isn’t exactly known as a time of moderate behavior – and, honestly, could anything better suit a triathlete? We work hard, we play hard – and we definitely eat hard.
Which means we had a great time at all the feasts and parties and brunches that’ve taken place over the last few weeks … but it may also mean that a few of us are finding our favorite kits a little snugger than usual. Whatever, that’s why spandex stretches, right?
(I regret nothing, for the record, regardless of what the waistband of my jeans tries to tell you.)
The thing that’s great about having a month or so of letting loose with the food (and maybe even easing up on the exercise) is that, when it’s over, often we feel pretty darn motivated to get back to our regularly scheduled programming. As January picks up speed, so do our workouts – and it feels good!
Well, okay, scratch that. Real talk time: It feels actually feels kind of terrible. Paces that came easily in November now hurt like hell, and that pre-dawn alarm is so much more jarring than it used to be. But it’s terrible in a good way, because we know where it leads. To donuts! Wait, no. To athletic success and increased strength. (Maybe also some donuts.)
Plus, we’re a big ol’ pack of weirdos who seem to like that kind of pain, right? Otherwise we wouldn’t be triathletes. We’d be, I don’t know, professional knitters or champion dog snugglers or something.
(Note to self: Look into changing career path to “dog snuggling champion of the world.”)
I’ve heard a lot of my athlete friends talking about how this year is the year they’re gonna up their nutrition game by incorporating all kinds of superfoods. “It says ‘super’ right in the name,” they tell me as they pop a goji berry into their mouths and chase it with a swig of apple cider vinegar. “Clearly it will make me super fast.”
Now, I get it, and I appreciate this commitment. Food is a really important part of performance, and it’s true that abs are made in the kitchen. (Softer, cushier bellies are also made in the kitchen – you just have to add a few extra ingredients and have an inability to say no to ice cream.)
However, I’m also realistic, and I know that most people (myself included) are most likely to stick to eating foods they enjoy. And yes, sure, there are lots of super healthy foods that taste awesome. Maybe not quite as great as ice cream, but, you know, pretty tasty.
So, as a bit of a PSA to start the year, I thought I’d share a short list of superfoods you might want to check out … along with a short description of what they’re really like. Because surprises are great when they’re adorable puppies to snuggle or thoughtful presents or birthday parties – not when they’re a food you’re putting in your mouth.
Benefits: They have 40 times the antioxidants of blueberries, and are awesome source of iron, magnesium, and calcium. Plus, cacao is the unprocessed version of chocolate. Who doesn’t love chocolate?
What you should know: It really is just like chocolate … if chocolate was depressed and hadn’t managed to take a shower in a week.
How to use it: Take a tiny handful. Add to a giant handful of actual chocolate chips that don’t taste like sadness. Then add that to a chocolate milkshake. Make sure it’s really chocolate-y and good already. And don’t pay too much attention to the flavor of the bits you’re crunching down on.
Benefits: Loads of fiber (yay for regular bowel movements!), omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and more. Plus, because of the seed’s absorbent nature, it slows the conversion of carbs to sugar and stabilizes blood sugar – good stuff for endurance athletes.
What you should know: Yes, this is the same seed that came with your Chia Pet in 1985. (Ch-ch-ch-chia! You’re welcome for that earworm.) And if that isn’t enough of a science experiment for you, you should see what happens when you add a few seeds to liquid and leave it overnight. People call it pudding, but … guys. We’ve seen this movie. This is definitely how the Martians knock us all up.
How to use it: If you don’t want to engage in the alien fertility ritual known as chia seed pudding, toss ‘em on your salad, in a smoothie, or in anything else where you won’t notice a little extra crunch. They taste like nothing. Which, compared to some of these other options, is what Martha Stewart would call, “a good thing.”
Benefits: High in protein, carbs, iron, and pretty much everything else we try to get lots of on the reg. It’s versatile and tastes … neutral. It’s the Switzerland of superfoods. The beigest of plant-based protein sources.
What you should know: First, you’re only allowed to eat it if you can pronounce it correctly: KEEN-wah, said by opening your mouth super wide, squeezing your eyes, and elongating all the vowels by triple. Also, fun fact! It’s also been known to cause debilitating gastrointestinal distress, especially if you don’t wash the saponin that surrounds it off before cooking it (but, for some people, even when it is thoroughly washed).
How to use it: Uhh, wash it before cooking it, obviously, and make plans to eat it somewhere with an accessible bathroom, just in case. Otherwise, you can use it like you would rice or even oatmeal, adding it to salads, making burger patties with it, putting a big bowl in the fridge for future use and forgetting about it until it starts to look or smell weird and you have to take it directly to the outside trash (don’t even try dumping it in your kitchen trash for someone else to deal with, you monster).
Benefits: Antioxidant-rich and helpful at battling everything from cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure to – gasp – old age, beets and beetroot has been shown to improve athletic performance by increasing blood flow.
What you should know: People describe it as having an “earthy” flavor. And, you know what the earth is made of? DIRT. Go ahead and connect those dots. I’ll wait. Also? That bright red color doesn’t only make an appearance when you’re eating it, so don’t freak out and call your lawyer to see if your affairs are in order after you go to the bathroom and see … some interesting colors.
How to use them: There are people I know who legitimately seem to like the taste of dirt – but, then again, there are also people I know who truly enjoy the vocal stylings of Insane Clown Posse, so, you know. Different strokes for different folks. However, if you’re not one of them, try peeling and roasting them with coconut oil, add some beet juice or powder to an otherwise sweet and flavorful smoothie, or cram a bunch of actual dirt in your mouth before eating your beets so that they taste better in comparison.
Benefits: It offers more probiotics than yogurt, along with loads of protein and carbs, but not much in the way of fats. And all that good-for-you bacteria can help keep your stomach happy, even reducing flatulence … which will make everyone behind you in the pace line happy, too.
What you should know: It’s aliiiive! No, seriously. It is. That’s what makes the healthy bacteria so helpful – they’re legit live cultures (which sounds hella creepy but is also the case in yogurt, kombucha, and other fermented health foods). You might also wanna know that it is tangy. Like, pucker-face whoooo boy tangy.
How to use it: If you don’t want to chug it straight from the bottle like a frat boy (although, frankly, I don’t know what your hold up there is. Why you gotta be so fancy?) you can use it as a salad dressing, blend it into a smoothie, or – YOU GUYS HOLD ON. I just learned you can make ice cream with it. ICE CREAM!
I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure my superfood dreams just came true.
About the Author
Kristen is a busy (and very funny) woman. She's a writer, a certified triathlon coach, a pet lover and she runs Fit Bottomed Girls which is a site dedicated to empowering women to live a healthy lifestyle.