Eat Right For Your Life

Six of the best carbohydrate foods to improve your training and performance

Not all carbohydrate foods are equal.  For athletes, it’s not just about eating mounds of rice and pasta.  The quality of your carbs counts.  Smart carb choices can help athletes to feel great and perform at their best.  You can get more nutritional value from your fuel foods with selective choices.  It could be as simple as wild or brown rice sometimes instead of white all the time, or choosing a wholemeal pasta.  Or a wholegrain mix such as the one pictured above. 

Here are 6 of my favourite carbohydrate foods for athletes, to boost nutrition, health and performance.

Sweet potato

Sweet potato is a terrific carbohydrate source for training and energy levels.  Sweet potato has a lower glycemic index than white potato (remembering white potato is still good for you too!).  Sweet potato contains more carbohydrate than white potato, but lower in carbohydrate than rice, pasta, and many other grains (for example, the carbohydrate content of white potato is ~12g/100g cooked, sweet potato ~15g/100g cooked, brown rice ~30g/100g cooked). More benefits - fibre, vitamins such as Vitamins A (beta-carotene) and C, and taste!

Barley

Not a fancy expensive ancient grain, and when you think of barley you may be reminiscing about your grandmother’s lamb and barley soup!  But barley is now back in vogue and for good reason.  Barley is a low GI wholegrain, packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre.  Barley, like oats, contains beta-glucan, a soluble type of fibre applauded for its heart health benefits. 

Super versatile, barley goes well in soups, casseroles, breakfast dishes, cold in salads and great in risottos – there is a great Barley Risotto recipe in my book Eat Right for Your Life.

Sourdough rye bread

If you love to eat bread, make it sourdough.  Research is showing that sourdough bread, although it still contains gluten, can be more easily digested than regular wheat-based breads.  Try to select fresh baked sourdough from a local bakery and experiment with the different varieties to see what works for you – rye or spelt are terrific options for nutrition and low GI energy pre-training.

Bananas

A banana is the perfect portable pre-training snack – just enough carbs to fill that space in your tummy and give you an energy boost for the session ahead.  On their own, or part of a recovery smoothie or fruit/yoghurt/granola mix, bananas are a winner.

Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn is a sneaky source of nutritious carbohydrate, also packed with nutrients and fibre, and a similar carbohydrate content to white potato at ~13g/100g cooked.  Great in salads, soups, main meals or a cob of corn as a snack.

Oats

One of the cheapest and best carb options around are oats.  A small amount goes a long way and can keep your engine running for hours.  Rich in fibre and nutrients, and with a surprising protein content, you can find more detailed info in one of my more popular blog posts Oats vs quinoa for health, energy and performance.

Sorry if I’ve missed your favourite, there are plenty of great carbohydrate-rich foods out there!  Performance isn’t just about carbs though - plan your meals and snacks to meet your day-to-day, training and performance nutrition needs.

For more performance nutrition info, check out my blog page.  You can also leave your details at http://www.lisamiddleton.com.au/thoughts-index/ if you would like me to send you freeperformance nutrition updates and recipes, plus you can fllow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise salad is one of my favourites, light but protein-rich and great for an easy dinner on a hot night or a portable and filling lunch.  The dressing works well for other salads too.  This recipe is from my book Eat Right For Your Life.

Nicoise Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

500g/1 lb baby new potatoes, quartered

200g/7 oz green beans, topped and tailed

1 medium red (Spanish) onion, sliced thinly

150g/5 oz mixed lettuce leaves

250g/9 oz cherry tomatoes

400g/14 oz canned tuna in oil, drained, flaked

4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into quarters

½ cup/90g seeded black olives

3 anchovy fillets in oil, drained and cut in half lengthways

 Dressing

Combine ¼ cup/60ml of lemon juice with one crushed clove of garlic and 2tsp of Dijon mustard (add 60ml olive oil also if desired).

Method

  1. Steam potatoes and beans until just tender, drain and allow to cool.
  2. Combine onion, lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes in a large bowl. Top with potatoes, beans, flaked tuna, eggs, olives and anchovies. Serve with dressing on the side.

 

For more recipes like this, sign up to my free newsletter here. 

 

Lamb salad with chickpea, spinach and mint cous-cous

Image by  Bec Doyle Photography  from the book  Eat Right for Your Life , Wilkinson Publishing.

Image by Bec Doyle Photography from the book Eat Right for Your Life, Wilkinson Publishing.

Looking for a salad to serve on Christmas day?  For this recipe the salad is served with lamb, but it goes just as nicely with roast turkey or a BBQ!  It can be made ahead of time, but here is a quick tip - add the spinach and mint at the last minute!  Look closely at the picture above - your salad will look a lot greener than this as I tried to be clever and freeze the cous-cous mix for our photo shoot day and soon realized that spinach doesn't freeze so well and ends up a limp soggy mess.  So do a better job than me and you will have a fresh, vibrant and tasty salad! 

For more Christmas eating ideas, have a read of my blog post Christmas eating for athletes - tips to eat well through the festive season and leave your details on my Thoughts page for nutrition news and recipes sent directly to your email.

Or if you are looking for a last minute gift idea, I have copies of my book Eat Right for Your Life available at a special Christmas price of $10.  Contact me via the Get In Touch tab on my website to order copies. 

Lamb salad with chickpea, spinach and mint cous-cous

Serves 4 as a main

1 cup/185g dry couscous

300g/10.5 oz can of chickpeas, drained

100g/3.5 oz spinach leaves

2 tbsp chopped mint

¼ cup/42g dry roasted almonds, roughly chopped

¼ cup/30g cranberries

3 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp olive oil

Extra oil for cooking

600g/1.3 lb lamb filet or lean lamb steaks

Salt and cracked pepper

Low-fat Greek yoghurt

 

1. Cook the couscous according to packet instructions and allow to cool.

2. Stir through the chickpeas, spinach leaves, mint, almonds and cranberries. 

3. Combine the lemon juice and oil, drizzle over the salad and stir to combine. 

4. Sprinkle the lamb with salt and cracked pepper. Heat oil in a pan and cook lamb for 3-4 minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking. Rest for 5 minutes.

5. While the lamb is resting, place the salad onto warmed serving plates then slice the lamb and serve with the couscous salad and a dollop of Greek yoghurt.

Recover like a champion - what top Australian athletes eat after training and competition

Salmon Patties 01.jpg

Salmon Patties Image by Rebecca Doyle from Bec Doyle Photography (from the book Eat Right for Your Life)

 

Ever wondered what your favourite sportspeople eat after training or competition?  Elite athletes have specific nutrition and hydration goals post-exercise to ensure they recover for their next session or event.  An athlete's recovery meal will be tailored to meet the specific need of the sport, and the goals and preferences of the individual.

We have heard from Lisa Weightman, Olympic marathon runner, in a previous blog post and gained an insight into her approach to nutrition Marathon Running Nutrition - with Rio-bound Olympian Lisa Weightman.  Lisa mentioned that her favourite recovery meal is her mum's salmon patties, and she was generous enough to share the recipe with us (hope she checked with her mum!! Recipe further on).   These salmon patties contain all the components that are important for athlete recovery, and believe it or not, they are not even dairy-free or wheat-free or low-fat or 'free' anything else, they are just nourishing home-cooked food.  Plus they tick all the boxes for recovery, providing the key nutrients: 

Protein

Carbohydrate

Healthy fats

Vitamins/antioxidants

What do some of our top Australian athletes eat?

There are plenty of great options that can make the perfect recovery food.  It's great to understand the theory about the nutrients required post-exercise but the meal also needs to taste good if an athlete is going to choose it regularly as a recovery option. It was great for Lisa to share her favourite post-run meal with us, and this got me thinking about other athletes from different sports and what they personally choose for recovery.    So I asked them!  Here are the favourite recovery meals from some of Australia's best athletes, if you want to know more about the athlete simply click on their name:

 

Todd Blanchfield - Professional Athlete at Melbourne United Basketball Club and Emerging Boomers Australian team

Favourite recovery meal: Grilled chicken with rice

Todd has a great understanding of foods for recovery and makes sure his organized with food ready to go after training and games.  He is handy around a BBQ, which is a great way to cook meat, chicken and fish for a quick and easy meal after training.  Combine with vegetables or salad and some sweet potato, corn, rice or quinoa for re-fuelling.

 

Alexander Carew – Australian 400 metre runner

Favourite recovery meal: Burritos

Track athletes train hard and need to recover well.  'One of my favourite post-training meals is making burritos, a great one to add a variety of vegetables to the daily intake.

It's a great option because it's simple to prepare and easy to make lots. Sometimes it's hard to predict exactly how much you'll need after a day of training, so this meal you can always go back for seconds (and thirds) if that's what your body requires! And if you're not a bottomless pit, like I am, you may even have enough for lunch tomorrow! 

My favourite race day food is protein pancakes (1 egg, cup of oats, a little water and a scoop of Sustagen Sport). But that's normally pre-race.'

 

Simon Clarke - Professional Cyclist, Cannondale Pro Cycling

Favourite recovery meal: Tuna and rice

Road cyclists burn a lot of energy, and recovery nutrition is especially critical for heavy training phases and multi-stage events.  Many professional teams have their own private chefs, but meals don't necessarily need to be complicated.  With timing being important for recovery, quick and easy works well, or try to prepare ahead of time.

'My favourite post stage race (ie. Tour de France) recovery meal is a protein shake made with half rice milk and half water, then a bowl of rice with a tin of tuna and a little bit of balsamic glaze for taste'.

 

Glenn Manton – Speaker, Author and Athlete (various sports, from AFL to bobsled!)

Favourite recovery meal – Banana smoothie

'I can't begin to describe how much I enjoy eating (not drinking) my banana smoothie post training. It weighs more than most of the weights I lift!'

'Clean, fresh, organic and healthy' is how Glenn describes his vegetarian-style approach to nutrition, he loves to eat tasty and fresh food.  Glenn's smoothie is no ordinary banana smoothie - it's a giant!  Glenn is aware of including some protein and carbohydrate and likes to mix it up.  His standard ingredients include a non-dairy milk base like almond milk or rice milk, bananas, granola, nut butter, mesquite powder and a vegetarian protein powder. 

If you want to learn more about Glenn's approach to fitness, nutrition and overall health and well-being, check out his, and other athlete, programs at Better Body 12 weeks.

 

Leigh Montagna – Professional Athlete at St Kilda Football Club, Director of Football - Boost Sport

Favourite recovery meal - Pizza (healthy-style) 

'Good mix of fats, carbs and protein, and easy to get down as a snack straight after a game.  I try to go for the higher protein toppings like chicken.  My motto is "if you deserved it, treat yourself"....not every week but more likely after a win!  

'My next proper meal post-game is never the same. I might go out for dinner or have something in the fridge, anything from burritos, to a chicken dish or a pasta.  It just depends what I feel like. I really sharpen up and eat healthy the rest of the week in the lead up to the next game.'  

 

Jessica Morrison - Athlete at Mercantile Rowing Club and VIS Rowing (previously AIS Swimming)

Favourite recovery meal: Smoothie (oats, FC milk, yoghurt, honey & chia seeds) & scrambled eggs on toast. 

Typically rowers burn a lot of energy in morning training so recovery nutrition needs are high.

'My smoothie takes two seconds to make, I enjoy it while I am making eggs. It's instantly satisfying & eggs provide good sustenance & I like something warm with a bit of protein after training. Sometimes I'll make the smoothie with chocolate milk & would normally have all of this after a morning row.

I eat to train, not train to eat!'

 

Madi Robinson - Athlete at Melbourne Vixens Netball Club and Australian Diamonds Team member

Favourite recovery meal: Varies!

Madi is super passionate about good nutrition and knows the benefits that eating well can bring for health and performance (check out Madi's great website by clicking on her name).

'Straight after a game I have a protein shake and two rick cakes with peanut butter and banana.  I then have my main meal within 2 hours of the game for home games and this can be:

Chicken burger with salad

OR

Fish or chicken with veggies (beans, broccoli, sweet potato) cob of corn

OR

Sweet potato - with chicken, beans, spinach & salad

To rehydrate, I have an SOS rehydrate sachet after matches to help replenish my fluid losses.  I sweat a lot and change dresses at half time so its important I not only get the right food into my body but also fluid as well to recover'.

 

Jessica Rothwell – Australian Race Walker and Accredited Practising Dietitian

Favourite recovery meal – Oats with yoghurt, fruit and toppings

Jess is a hard-working athlete, and knows a bit about nutrition being a dietitian herself.  Note the use of herbs and spices in her recovery meal.....

‘My favourite breakfast after a morning training session is milky soaked salted oats, heaped with natural yoghurt, blueberries, cinnamon & sprinkled with nuts & seeds.

I like to alternate the blueberries with grated apple or banana & use nutmeg, cocoa, vanilla bean or mint depending on the fruit! For additional energy I will add in tahini, honey or more nuts!

I enjoy this because its nutrient dense, providing nearly all 5 food groups, delicious & versatile! The dairy is helpful for maintaining my lean muscle mass, bone health, refueling & very hydrating.  

Bircher muesli is also convenient to transport in a portable container if you’re on the go & making a big batch is an effective way of saving time!’

 

Prue Rothwell – Cyclist with National Road Series team Bikebug – NextGen Racing

Recovery meal - Colourful vegetable/rice/protein bowl

Prue is passionate about wholefood nutrition, cycling and farmers' markets, a great combination for optimal recovery for an athlete.

Prue meal.jpg

'After a milk based recovery drink/yoghurt, when I’m ready for something more substantial I generally throw together something that is quick and colourful… a bowl of rice, 2x boiled eggs, cottage cheese, grated carrot, kohlrabi, beetroot, purple cabbage, leafy greens and chilli sauce…..plus some tuna or kangaroo if I want to add some meat!'

 

So many choices.....

As you can see, there is not one perfect recovery meal, a range of different foods can combine to create the right balance.  If you are keen to learn more about recovery and the best recovery foods you can have a look at one of my other blog posts Eat your way to muscle recovery - 5 of the best post-training meals. If you train early in the morning, pre-breakfast, then you may want to read about some of the more breakfast-specific recovery options at Best post-run breakfasts for recovery vs weight loss.

Or you can try Lisa Weightman's mum's recipe below!

Salmon Patties

Makes about 10 patties

Ingredients:

1 x 415g/14 oz can of salmon, drained and mashed with a fork

1/4 tsp salt

Cracked pepper

2 tbsp chopped parsley

½ medium onion, chopped

2 cups/400g cooked rice

White Sauce

55g/2 oz butter

1/3 cup/50g self-raising flour

1 cup/250ml low-fat milk

Coating

Cornflake crumbs

2 eggs, whisked

Olive oil for cooking

Method:

  1. Make the white sauce by melting the butter over a low heat in a small saucepan and adding the flour. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes.
  2. Remove the pan from from heat and gradually add the milk while stirring continuously to avoid lumps. Return the pan to the  heat and stir continuously until thick.
  3. In a large bowl place the white sauce, salmon, salt and pepper to taste, onion, parsley and rice, mix together. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
  4. Roll the mixture into patties and coat with egg then roll in Corn Flake crumbs.
  5. Cook the patties in a non-stick pan with a little olive oil and serve with steamed vegetables.

 

 

 

 

Best 10 foods if you love going to the gym

Back cover of my new bookazine, photo courtesy of Bec Doyle Photography

With my new book 'Eat Right For Your Life' being released earlier this week, I thought it was timely to share with you a snippet of what it's all about.  If you love going to the gym and enjoying the health and fitness benefits that regular exercise provides, then this postis particularly relevant for you.  Not that the book is all about sports nutrition - it covers a range of lifestyle stages, but of course I had to include reference to nutrition for active people.

It's amazing how much time and effort goes into producing a small book, from research, to writing content to developing recipes, to photography.  It was a pleasure to work with my good friend and talented photographer on the images (a busy weekend at my place last September cooking, styling and snapping).  The book looks at different life stages and lifestyles and provides nutrition tips and a list of some of the 'best' and 'beware' foods for each, followed by recipes based on the needs of each particular group. 

I thought I would share part of the introduction and the ten 'best' foods from the 'Gym Junkie' chapter, which focuses on nutrition for individuals who go to the gym regularly with the goal of building fitness, strength and improved body composition (I dont' love the word 'junkie' but it does get the idea across as to who that chapter may appeal to):

.....'In order to help build muscle you need adequate protein.  This doesn’t necessarily mean spending your weekly pay packet on fancy supplements, but you will definitely need to eat protein-rich foods regularly, and extra kilojoules to support muscle gains.

Protein is made up of individual amino acids, and it is likely that you will be able to achieve adequate amino acid intake from a carefully planned and timed dietary intake.  Protein supplements may be useful in a number of situations and they are formulated to meet the specific amino acid needs of training.  Perhaps the main benefit of supplements is the convenience factor, considering most high-quality protein sources require an esky to transport. 

Sure, protein is important, but you also need to make sure you have some nutritious, low-GI carbohydrates to keep you energised, as well as including some healthy fats.  Vitamins and minerals are critical for energy levels and recovery from training, so don’t neglect your daily fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and wholegrains.

10 best foods

Milk

It’s in everybody’s fridge, but few of us realise the amazing potential of milk.  Milk is a naturally high biological value protein supplement, containing all of the essential amino acids the muscles need to repair and grow.  One 300ml glass of milk contains about 10g of high quality protein.  In a smoothie, milkshake or just on its own, milk is great for pre- and post-exercise or as an extra source of protein, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals.  Milk also contains more electrolytes than many sports drinks, making it a terrific option as a rehydrating fluid. 

Turkey

Chicken has long been a favourite food for body builders because of its high protein content but it is not the only poultry option to help build muscle.  Remove the skin and turkey is a super-lean way to meet your amino acid needs.  Versatile and quick to cook, turkey makes the perfect sandwich filler or post-gym meal. 

Greek yoghurt

If you are serious about your health and fitness, yoghurt will be a staple on your weekly shopping list.  Sure, yoghurt is rich in protein and is a convenient pre- or post-gym snack, but it will also help to keep your insides healthy.  Yoghurt contains ‘good’ bacteria, important for optimal digestive health.  Aim for at least 1 cup of good quality yoghurt every day.  Natural or Greek yoghurt is lower in sugar and additives than fruit yoghurts, and make sure you read the label because some Greek yoghurts are higher in protein.  

Bok choy

If you are working on your muscles, the focus is often on protein rather than the importance of variety for optimising fitness and performance.  Green vegetables are a perfect example, rather than just cooking up chicken and rice, add in some Asian greens such as bok choy, pak choy, wom bok (Chinese cabbage), choy sum (Chinese silverbeet) and gai lan (Chinese broccoli).  These delicious vegetables are brimming with nutrients including calcium, iron and folate. Why not try including one new green vegetable every week. (To find out whether kale is king, visit my previous Thoughts article  Green Leaf Goodness: Kale vs Spinach vs Rocket, and the winner is.....)

Oats

Low in fat, high in fibre and low glycemic index, a delicious bowl of porridge will keep you going all morning, the perfect start to a busy day.  Make with milk and add some extra yoghurt or chopped nuts/seeds for extra protein.  If you are not a porridge fan, oats are just as nutritious in natural muesli or made into homemade Bircher muesli (such as the one pictured at the start of this post, recipe featured in 'Eat Right For Your Life').

Eggs

Eggs have fallen in and out of favour over the years, but current research shows that eggs can be enjoyed regularly, even if you do have high cholesterol.  For an active person, eggs are one of the highest biological value proteins you will find.  The egg white is practically pure protein, but don’t neglect the yolk!  Egg yolks are rich in minerals and important fat-soluble vitamins, which are often lacking in active people who keep to a low-fat way of eating.  If your cholesterol is on the edge you may need to be careful beyond six yolks per week, although you may be able to enjoy more.  Eggs are a tasty and nutritious option if you are active.

Rice milk

You may not have tried rice milk, but it is one of the best fluids to mix with your protein powder after the gym.  Why?  The carbohydrate in rice milk has a high glycemic index, which can aid in in recovery and promote absorption of the amino acids from protein powder post-exercise.  Rice milk does not contain much protein itself, but mixed with a protein supplement it provides an effective stimulant for muscle synthesis.

Herbs (including garlic and chilli)

If you are serious about improving your health, you should be eating herbs. Herbs add flavour to foods and contain negligible kilojoules when used in a mixed dish, but pack a concentrated nutrient punch.

Many fresh herbs have been found to contain vitamin, mineral and antioxidant concentrations many times that of standard vegetables, and using a range of herbs will provide a variety of health (and taste!) benefits.  Common herbs that you can be grown at home include basil (great in salads and with tomato based sauces), parsley (use with omelettes and fish), coriander (terrific in Asian style dishes, especially with chicken and seafood), rosemary (lean lamb and potatoes) and mint (both sweet and savoury dishes). 

Kangaroo

One of the leanest meats around, and packed with iron and zinc, kangaroo will help you meet your protein needs and keep you energised. It is also an economical option if you are watching your budget.  If you haven’t tried it, have a go but be careful not to overcook or the meat will become tough (marinate prior if possible).   Beef is a great choice too for quality protein and minerals.

Oranges

It is widely accepted that oranges and other citrus fruits are good for our immune system due to their Vitamin C content (one orange contains double the recommended daily intake).  But this isn’t the only benefit of eating oranges.  Oranges contain antioxidants (including vitamin C) that can help the body recover from exercise.  Vitamin C also helps the body to absorb iron.  If that’s not convincing enough, oranges are often recommended for people with rheumatoid arthritis due to their anti-inflammatory effect.  The anti-inflammatory potential of oranges may be due to flavonoid antioxidants, vitamin C itself or something else entirely, but this effect may potentially play a role in reducing the risk of a range of chronic diseases that are related to inflammation.

You can learn more about the best and beware foods for different life stages and lifestyles in 'Eat Right For Your Life', available now at bookstores, newsagents and various online retailers.

P.S. If you are a keen gym-goer, it may be useful to consult with an accredited sports dietitian to discuss your food and supplement requirements in more detail, and work with an exercise physiologist or appropriately qualified personal trainer to develop a training program for best results.