Although I'm cleansing this month to get myself back on track after my holiday gluttony, I'm also using this experience to learn more about fueling myself before, during, and after my workouts. As I mentioned at the beginning of this month, I WILL run my first half-marathon this year (the St. Jude Half is in December). So I'm trying to learn more about boosting my workouts through proper nutrition.
Before the cleanse, I ran at least three days a week, often for four to six miles at a time. But I wasn't really fueling myself properly. I typically quickly downed a sugary energy bar, like Clif Bars or something else that was more dessert than energy snack. Sometimes, I'd have a smoothie, which was a better choice. But more often than not, I'd grab a bar because it was faster.
Well, as part of my Thrive Forward cleanse, I've been reading Brenden Brazier's Thrive book series, all of which have great recipes for pre-, during, and post-workout snacks. According to Brenden, it's best to eat simple carbs before a short to moderate workout, like my usual runs and weight training. That's because simple carbs digest quickly, leaving your body with more fuel faster. But simple carbs DO NOT mean refined carbs like white rice or white flour. It means fruit! And a little fat helps too.
That's why I've been snacking on Brenden's Direct Fuel Bites before my shorter runs and weight training. They're simply made from dates, coconut oil, and lemon. They're really tasty, like candy! But good for you. One is enough for a shorter workout, but I popped two before Saturday's six miler:
I have decided, though, that I'd rather make one of Brenden's "performance pancake" recipes before next Saturday's long run. I think those would last longer, energy-wise. He developed his pancakes for longer training sessions. But these bites are great for shorter workouts.
On the days that I've been running short distances (less than 4 miles) or weight training, I don't need a "during exercise" snack. But on my 5- to 6-mile runs, I've been running out of energy around the 45-minute mark, even after eating two Direct Fuel Bites. So I made some of Brenden's homemade energy gel. This is Cacao Gel:
Just ignore my Hammer gel flask (I got it for free at the running store). Brenden's recipe calls for carob, but raw cacao was all I had. Anyway, the makeup is similar to what's in the Direct Fuel Bite (dates, lemon, agave, cacao). Simple carbs. Fast energy. I had a gel this morning about mid-way through an hour run, and it really gave me more power. Using the bites and gels, I don't feel as weighed down as I did before eating energy bars. My body isn't having to work so hard on digestion while I'm running.
After a long workout, it's best to replenish electrolytes. I tried Brenden's homemade Lemon-Lime Recovery Drink on day one. It has dulse flakes for electrolytes. And while it was good, I think it will be a pain to keep making these all the time when I can just keep coconut water handy. This Blue Monkey Coconut Water is sugar-free and it doesn't taste like feet (unlike some brands that I won't name).
Finally, about 45 minutes after a workout, a smoothie is ideal. After a long run, the blood is busy doing stuff like clearing lactic acid and other metabolic waste, so liquid meals are easier to digest. So far, I've been loving these Neopolitan Vega Smoothies (Natural flavored Vega One, frozen strawberries, frozen banana, almond milk, and vanilla extract):
Smoothies don't fill me up for long though, so I've been having a hefty morning snack around 10 a.m. Anyway, as for what I ate today, most of it was stuff you've seen in past posts (carrots and pepper hemp pesto, Thai Lemon cashews, and Black Bean Chili Pizza). I did have a new salad, but I was so eager to eat it that I forgot to take a picture. But don't worry. I'm making another one tomorrow, and I promise to share then.