by Tara Postnikoff
Fall is a transitional season. For runners, it is typically the start of the second race season of the year, especially for long distance runners. If fall is your race season, you may need to increase your caloric intake to match your training schedule. That said, our bodies are programmed to put on a bit of extra weight at this time of year to prepare for the colder months ahead, so be careful not to overdo it.
As temperatures cool off, we can start to enjoy foods such as seasonal root vegetables and dried legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. Vegetables such as yams, beets, carrots, corn on the cob, pumpkin and squash offer a fantastic source of complex carbohydrates that won’t weigh you down. These are excellent when roasted on the barbecue with a little olive oil and sea salt. Root vegetables are rich in many vitamins, minerals and unique phytonutrients that help keep the immune system strong.
Dried legumes are amazing sources of protein and complex carbohydrates rolled into one food. They contain fibre and B vitamins, both of which are needed to stay healthy and strong. Examples of legumes include: adzuki beans, black beans, kidney beans, lentils, lima beans or pinto beans. Try these in cold or warm salads or as the base for vegetarian burgers. Use a rice cooker or slow cooker to make large batches, to ease the preparation and cooking time of legumes.
Adding healthy fats to your diet will help keep you feeling warm, full and satisfied. Try adding coconut oil when roasting vegetables, or top soups with sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds (which are rich in zinc, a key nutrient for the immune system). Don’t forget about nuts, which are rich in magnesium, to help with muscle aches and recovery.
Hearty veggies such as Brussels sprouts and cauliflower are plentiful this time of year. While not a favourite with kids, Brussels sprouts are superstars due to their protein, fibre, vitamin A, iron and calcium content. Cauliflower can be roasted, baked or boiled and is high in potassium as well as vitamins C and K.
Herbs and spices are rich in antioxidants, have immune boosting properties and can add loads of flavour to your fall foods. Cayenne has a warming and stimulating effect, whereas cinnamon is noted for balancing blood sugar and being a digestive aid. Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties and can help alleviate gastrointestinal distress and nausea.
If you are eating the right foods, your body will keep you in tune with its caloric needs, especially if you are training for longer distances such as a half or full marathon. However, this does not mean you should eat everything and anything you want! Nutrition is the component of the training program that people often overlook, and it can have a significant impact on your athletic performance. It’s critical to eat the right types of foods, at the right times, in the right amounts.
FALL FOR VEGETABLES: COOKING INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE OVEN OR GRILL
Oven: Cut into florets; toss with olive oil or coconut oil; add sea salt and pepper. Cook at 400°F on bottom rack for about 45 minutes. Stir halfway through cooking time.
BBQ: Toss cauliflower pieces lightly in olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Roast on grill using a BBQ tray, or add a splash of lemon juice and wrap in tin foil. Cook for about 20 minutes at medium heat. Rotate package or stir occasionally.
Brussels Sprouts or Carrots:
Oven: Toss with olive oil or coconut oil; fennel seeds are a nice add-on. Cook at 400°F for 50 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
BBQ: Roast on grill using a BBQ tray, or add a splash of lemon juice and wrap in tin foil. Cook for about 20 minutes at medium heat. Rotate package or stir occasionally.
Oven: Chop or slice beets and poke with a fork. Rub with olive oil, cover with tin foil and place in oven-safe pan or dish. Cook at 400°F on bottom rack for about 60 minutes, stirring occasionally.
BBQ: Slice beets thinly and brush with balsamic vinegar and olive oil and sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cook in a BBQ roasting pan or wrap in tin foil and cook on grill for 30 minutes.
Squash or Pumpkin:
Oven: Halved with insides scooped out (reserve seeds if you like —see instructions for cooking seeds below). Rub oil on cut sides; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place cut-side down in pan with 1″of water. Cook at 350°F for 50-60 minutes.
BBQ: Roast on grill using a BBQ tray for 30-45 minutes at medium-high heat, or add a splash of lemon juice, wrap in tin foil and cook for about
20 minutes.Rotate package or stir once or twice.
Oven: Save the squash or pumpkin seeds—you can choose to rinse them or not (seeds will be crispier if not rinsed). Rub with oil, season and cook on lower-middle rack at 200°F for 60 minutes. Stir occasionally and monitor for desired crispness.
Yams (Sweet Potatoes):
Oven: Slice into wedges with skin on. Toss in oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at 400°F on a baking sheet lined with tin foil for 30-40 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking time.
BBQ: Rinse well and place on BBQ whole for 30-40 minutes, turning once or twice. Scoop out contents for serving.
Corn on the cob:
BBQ: Remove husk and silk and apply a small amount of butter or olive oil and sea salt. Wrap in tin foil. Grill at medium heat for 20 minutes, turning at least once.
Tara Postnikoff is a Registered Nutritional Consultant, certified Personal Trainer and triathlon/running coach in Toronto. She is an avid distance runner and triathlete, and a regular guest speaker for Running Room training programs. To learn more, visit her website at www.heal-nutrition.com.