A typical weekend’s training for me involves two back-to-back sessions out on the river, which is roughly a half hour journey away from where I live. The coaches normally leave up to an hour and a half between these two sessions, and obviously having completed one session and with another yet to come, it’s important to fuel up well in this gap. A lot of people run to the local Sainsbury’s and buy all sorts of crap, but I’ve already made my feelings about supermarket sandwiches as training food clear in a previous post. Personally I try to always take home-made food with me. I have been known to occasionally survive on malt loaf when incredibly pushed for time, but it’s really a last resort. So I thought I’d write briefly about what I’m taking to training today.
I learned how to cook quinoa quite recently. I thought I didn’t like it because I kept making it mushy and porridgey. I discovered the error of my ways courtesy of a friend who helped me realise that rather than cook the stuff in an excess of water and drain it, as you might do for pasta or some types of rice, you have to measure out a specific amount of water per unit of dry quinoa, and cook it like a rice pilau, so that when it’s done all of the water has been absorbed and you have nice, distinct quinoa grains with no sludginess. The ratio of quinoa to water should be 1:2 by volume.
Having actually worked out how to cook quinoa properly, I now absolutely love it. I did once read an article that made me feel bad about buying quinoa because of how recent Western demand for it as a health food is driving up international prices for the crop and causing problems in regions where it is a staple foodstuff, but I try to rationalise this with the fact that it seems almost impossible to buy anything from anywhere without some knock-on negative effect. So I think I’m going to keep eating it.
Quinoa is a good carbohydrate source and particularly interesting from a post-training perspective since it is a complete protein source, meaning that it contains all essential amino acids. Most such complete proteins in our diet are meat or dairy-based, and this sets quinoa apart from most plant-derived foods. Another notable example of a complete protein plant would be soy beans, which is one of the reasons tofu is so beloved of vegetarians. I’ve often considered vegetarianism myself, especially considering the cost and ethical considerations surrounding meat, but I just haven’t had the courage to make the jump yet, and am not sufficiently confident in the rest of my diet to think I’d be able to get sufficient nutrition to keep up with training.
The salad I’m making here is based on quinoa, and also brown rice – another favourite of mine, which perhaps I’ll talk more about another time. It also features avocado, which will crop up a lot in my recipes as it is my favourite thing ever. At some point I will probably write an ode to avocados… The whole thing is topped off with a bit of feta cheese. I don’t normally put cheese in my food but sometimes make an exception with feta, just to add a bit of bite to salads and things.
Quinoa, avocado and feta salad
Serves 1 hungry athlete or 2 normal people
100g brown rice
1/2 an avocado, cut into small cubes
Handful of rocket leaves
2 Sprigs of basil, leaves only, torn.
Small handful of flaked almonds
40g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1-2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Pinch of sea salt
- Cook the quinoa and rice (separately) and allow to cool.
- Mix all the ingredients together in a tupperware box and take with you to training.
Along with this salad, I’m also taking along some of Biju Thomas’s blueberry, chocolate and coconut rice cakes from the Feed Zone Portables cook book. They are amazing. Perhaps I’ll do a review of the book at some point. Also stay tuned for some thoughts on Chris Froome and the current state of pro cycling!