Community Philosphy Blog and Library

HOMEGROWN Power Food

Lauren is a full-time Farm Aid intern.  She is excited to contribute to the missions of Farm Aid and HOMEGROWN.org and to have an excuse to talk about food all the time! Outside of work she enjoys traveling, cooking, swimming, biking, and running barefoot.


Last year I joined my university’s triathlon team and started swimming, biking, or running six days a week. Working on three sports at once is definitely a challenge, but endurance races involve another type of training as well: eating. You can only race as hard as your body has fuel for, a lesson that I’ve sometimes had to learn the hard way.

athletePhoto courtesy of Lauren Constantino

It seems that since I started training with the team, my universe has largely been revolving around food. It takes a lot of trial and error to figure out what to eat before, during and after an endurance event to get adequate fuel without upsetting your stomach. A year into the sport, I’ve become well acquainted with soreness, muscle cramps,  and stomach troubles, and I can almost always tell when I’ve flunked nutrition-wise.

The options for eating during a triathlon are limited. I have yet to encounter anyone who has undertaken eating while swimming, biking leaves you with only one hand free, and there’s not much space to store snacks in a skin-tight tri onesie while you’re on the run. Enter the power food industry, making single serving packets of straight-up sugar goop for portability and easy digestion.

I won’t lie and say I haven’t consumed my fair share of energy gels and sports drinks, but I’m always on the lookout for more homegrown solutions to the nutrition dilemma. One easy recipe I’ve found is making homemade energy bars—great for a pre-run or mid-race snack. Bake a mixture of oats, peanut butter, honey and dried fruit and voilà! Good, nutritious energy at a much nicer price than the commercial brands. You can even cut them up into bite-size squares to keep in a bento box (a little zip compartment that attaches behind the handlebars of your bike) and munch during the ride.

Photo courtesy of Lauren Constantino

Energy gels present a little more of a challenge, but recently Caroline blogged about making honey sticks—a yummy treat any day, but also a great natural source of concentrated sugar. There are already single-serving honey packets on the power food market, so why not make your own? You can also flavor the honey by heating it and mixing in mint, citrus peel or chopped fruit  and then straining it. Sounds like a delicious mid-race pick-me-up that I plan to try very soon!

Coconut water is a great alternative to all of the artificial ingredients-laden sports drinks on the market. It naturally contains potassium to fend off those nasty muscle cramps and also packs electrolytes to help you stay hydrated. You can find it in all sorts of fun flavors, or you can add some juice to the plain variety for flavor and natural sugar (energy!).

In terms of recovery food, I would argue that there isn’t anything better than a smoothie. And I’m not talking about those pre-bottled protein shakes! Blend half a cup of vanilla Greek yogurt with a couple tablespoons of peanut butter, a banana, and some milk to thin it out. Pure heaven, and about 20 grams of protein! (Also great for when you’re too tired after a workout to chew.)

So is it a little more work to be a do-it-yourself athlete? Yes. Is it worth it? Totally. I want expand my arsenal of recipes to keep me fueled up and ready to swim, bike, or run at the drop of a hat. Let me know if you have any suggestions or can share tips or experiences for homegrown athletes!

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