Quick Meals for Busy Triathletes

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OK, I lied.

I can cook.

I've whipped up some pretty tasty salmon fillets, steak sauces, stuffed noodles and pad thai in my time.

But there comes a time in the life of a busy multi-sport athlete, and especially the Ironman triathlete, when you must eat, it must be a complete meal, and it must be quick.

You see, your body can only support high volume training, proper performance, and immune system health for a limited period of time if all your quick meals consist of microwaved Lean Cuisines, gas station trail mix, and “all-organic” food bars. Instead, you have to make a habit of regularly eating healthy and wholesome foods without heavy amounts of preservatives, salts, sweeteners, and synthetic chemicals.

So on that point, I'm going to share with you my top ten meals that I rely on in a pinch. That is, when I've finished a long ride and have to be at work in 10 minutes, when I've gotten home from the gym and need to be asleep within an hour, or when I have just a few moments to make a dish to fuel a workout. Each meal includes a complete blend of protein and carbohydate for recovery and energy needs, and while it may be no filet mignon, it will fulfill the physiological needs of the busy multi-sport athlete. Since many triathletes must consume in excess of 5000 calories per day, here is the added bonus: these are relatively cheap eats.

In no particular order, here are the top 10 meals that I, Ben Greenfield, personally make and have committed to memory as my complete fall-back nutritional options. Hell, some of them don't even have a name, so I had to make up a title on the fly while writing this article.

  • Mediterranean Surprise. Use some whole wheat noodles or use orza style pasta or even rice. I pretty much grab whatever type of pasta is in the pantry for this one. Prepare the pasta. When it is finished, stir in a small handful of feta cheese, a tablespoon of olive oil, a handful of raisins, a handful of almonds, and parsley/salt/pepper to taste. As a tasty bonus, you can throw some capers and garlic in. You can make a bunch of this and eat it all week, and if after a workout, you can take your shower while the pasta cooks.
  • Turkey/Avocado Grilled Sandwich. Quick, fire up a pan drizzled with olive oil. Put the bread on the pan and put the turkey on the bread. While all that grills to a nice toasty texture, slice one avocado and have it ready to slap on the sandwich and pack away or eat immediately. I also include sliced tomatoes and alfalfa sprouts on this one.
  • Soup. I call it soup. My wife calls it heated up vegetables with water on top. Whatever. Put a handful of broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and spinach into a pot. For protein, also included cubed tofu (easy to find at grocery store produce section). Pour 1/2 cup water over the vegetables and tofu, and then heat for 8-10 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, a bit of chicken bullion if you desire, then eat with a spoon out of the pot.
  • Dinner Burrito. Just because everyone else calls it a breakfast burrito. Scramble 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons yogurt, 1 handfull spinach and 1 chopped tomato. Salt and pepper to taste, and then shovel onto a whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and consume.
  • Zucchini Pancakes. In a blender or food processor, blend 1 chopped zucchini, a handful of sliced red onion, a handful of whole wheat pancake mix, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and 1 handful parmesan cheese. Pour this mixture onto a grill and make pancakes with it (duh, pour it in a pan and grill 4-5 minutes/side). Season with ketchup. Organic ketchup.
  • Tapas. Lovely little appetizers all put together make a complete meal. I slice 1 tomato and drizzle with olive oil, sea salt, and parsley. I slice one pear or apple and sprinkle with gorgonzola cheese (or any cheese, really). I cover one handful of walnuts with honey and cinnamon. I eat.
  • Big Chef Salad. While 1-2 eggs are boiling, mix onto a bowl or plate two handfuls mixed greens, 2 sliced vegetables of choice, 1 handful raisins, 1 handful walnuts, and a small drizzling of olive oil and vinaigrette. Slice the egg and throw it on top, then salt and pepper to taste. If you need more carbs, crumble whole grain crackers for croutons.
  • Mexican Delight. It's like the Mediterranean Surprise, but a delight is somewhat different than a suprise. Use quick 10 minute brown rice. Just as it is finishing stir in black beans, salt, pepper, and any other creative items from the fridge such as olives or leftover salsa. If I'm not showering while the rice is cooking, I throw 1 chicken breast into a pan, and sprinkle with curry or turmeric (which I guess makes it an Indian Delight) and add that as well. Yum.
  • Power Oatmeal. My favorite, bar none. To one bowl of raw oats, I add 1 tablespoon almond butter, 1 tablespoon yogurt, 1 sliced banana, 1 egg and 1 sprinkling of cinnamon. Also 1 tablespoon whey protein powder if it's handy. Pour boiling water on top and microwave on high for 60 seconds. Warning: very calorically dense and should be consumed 2 hours prior to or immediatley after a workout.
  • Reese's Peanut Butter Cup. My signature dessert. Use a small half bowl of plain, fat-free yogurt. Add 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon dark chocolate pieces or cocoa mix. Close your eyes and imagine you just took it out of that little orange wrapper.

Disclaimer: your spouse and children may not share any affinity for these meals

Ben Greenfield is recognized as one of the top fitness, triathlon, nutrition and metabolism experts in the nation. In 2008, he was voted as the Personal Trainer of the Year by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA), an internationally recognized and respected certifying agency for fitness professionals. Ben hosts the highly popular fitness, nutrition and wellness website at http://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com, which features a free blog, wellness podcast, and fitness product reviews from Ben. Pacific Elite Fitness (http://www.pacificfit.net) is an online portal where Ben coaches a wide range of triathletes and assists people from all over the world with personal training for nutrition, fat loss, muscle toning, and general fitness. Ben also oversees the physiology and biomechanics laboratory at Champions Sports Medicine (http://www.champsportsmed.com) which offers metabolic-based weight loss, bicycle fitting, running gait analysis, swim stroke analysis, VO2 max testing, blood lactate testing, resting metabolic rate analysis, and other cutting-edge procedures for weight loss and human performance. Ben holds bacheler's and master's degrees in exercise physiology and biomechanics, and is a certified personal trainer, strength and conditioning coach, sports nutritionist, and bike fitter.

Website: http://www.pacificfit.net

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