There comes a time in the life of a busy multi-sport athlete (and especially the longer, time-crunched, endurance athlete) 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 even "all-organic" food bars. You'll eventually crash. So you have to make a habit of regularly eating fast healthy meals and wholesome foods without heavy amounts of preservatives, salts, sweeteners, and synthetic chemicals, and you have to figure out how to do it without huge sacrifices of time and preparation.
On that note, 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 carbohydrate for recovery and energy needs, and while none of these fast healthy meals are as tasty as filet mignon, lobster ravioli, or a fully-loaded chopped vegetable salad, they will fulfill the physiological needs of the busy multi-sport athlete. And since many endurance athletes must consume in excess of 5000 calories per day, here is the added bonus: these are relatively cheap eats with ingredients that are budget-friendly.
In no particular order, here are the top 10 meals that I 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. And if you're wondering how you can ask me questions about these meals, see the snippet at the end of this article, along with a bonus Paleo meal.
10. Mediterranean Surprise: use some whole wheat noodles, quinoa noodles, orzo style pasta, rice or really, whatever. 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 extra virgin 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 you're making it right after a workout, you can take your shower while the pasta cooks.
9. Turkey/Avocado Grilled Sandwich. Quick, fire up a pan drizzled with olive oil or butter. 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.
8. 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 straight out of the pot. Or pour it in a bowl if you have time to kill.
7. Dinner Burrito. Just because everyone else calls it a breakfast burrito shall I deem this a dinner burrito. Scramble 2 eggs with 2 tablespoons yogurt or cottage cheese, 1 handful spinach and 1 chopped tomato. Salt and pepper to taste, and then shovel onto a whole wheat tortilla. Sprinkle with cheddar cheese and consume.
6. 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.
Editor's Note: This is just part one of Ben's story. Be sure to come back tomorrow for part 2.
Ben Greenfield has been coaching athletes for over a decade from the website http://www.pacificfit.net, and is author of the modern triathlon coaching manual, "How To Be A Triathlon Coach," at http://www.triathloncoachguide.com.