Real food sports nutrition for trail runners

Tayte Pollmann’s Tuesday Trail Tips series of articles are supported by American Trail Running Association corporate member Nike Trail Running. After eating a nutritious breakfast, Tayte drove up the hill to Mt. Hood this past Sunday for the Gnar Gnar trail race. 

For me, the more real food I include in my diet the better. As compared to processed foods, real foods contain more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are essential for longevity in our sport. I’ve found that eating fruits, legumes, whole-grains, veggies, and my personal favorite food, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO), give me the energy I need to fuel workouts and recover quickly. Below are a few fun and easy ways to fuel your training with more real food and also a warning that you may discover many new ways to love olive oil!

Skip the Sugary Yogurt: The “Everything Yogurt”

One of my favorite breakfasts is to take plain Greek yogurt and mix in all different kinds of fresh fruits, homemade jam, granolas, cinnamon, freshly grated nutmeg or whatever else I can find in the cupboard. The diversity of fruits and granola gives me both quick and slow-releasing carbohydrates that keep my glycogen stores steady. The fat and protein from the yogurt keeps me full and helps me recover from a morning workout. This meal is also loaded with vitamins and minerals and you can have fun creating something new in your bowl each morning!

Why Just Lettuce? Introducing Mile-High Salads

I have a reputation amongst my friends of eating very extravagant salads. When I put together a salad, I always see room to include more ingredients in the bowl such as broccoli, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, lentils, chèvre, tofu or a piece of smoked salmon. Eventually, I have a mini mountain of greens in my bowl! It’s full of vitamins and long-lasting energy, and is always topped off with my favorite olive oil! I love olive oil for many reasons, including its ability to bring out flavors. High quality extra virgin olive oil is also one of the best sources of heart healthy fats.

Frittatas: The Perfect Home for all Yummy Veggies

The frittata is an Italian egg-based dish, similar to an omelet. Crack a few eggs in a skillet with some veggies, such as spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, and onions. Add some goat cheese or pesto and finish it in the oven and you’ve got a simple healthy meal. The eggs provide protein for muscle recovery and it’s a good way to eat lots of veggies. It’s also fun to change up each frittata by experimenting with new veggies or toppings. One constant for me, is olive oil on top. Another fun fact about olive oil is that it’s high antioxidant levels have been shown fight cancer causing free-radicals in the body!

Ice Cream with Olive Oil on Top

Yes, I believe ice cream is relevant to sports nutrition! Healthy eating habits for athletes should be sustainable, and the best way to make sustainable eating habits is to eat foods that make you happy. To paraphrase the great trail runner Matt Carpenter, “Ice cream heals injuries”, so if true, I should be eating ice cream while I recover from my recent injury. By the way, Carpenter is the current record holder of the Pikes Peak Marathon, a record he set in1993, and he is now the owner of the Colorado Custard Company in Manitou Springs, Colorado. I advocate for a little dessert as a way to balance the commitment to healthy eating and focused training I perform daily. Sea-salt caramel ice cream with olive oil on top is a personal favorite! It may sound like a strange combination, but the olive oil makes the texture more silky and also brings out the caramel flavor in a way that only the magic golden elixir of olive oil can do. Not only that, but for health benefits it’s also been shown that olive oil can decrease the inflammatory response after a hard workout.

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