Stewed vegetables with barley


Wouldn't it be nice if you always had a meal ready for you immediately after your workouts?

Think about it.
No more processed food because you are too hungry to cook.
No more fast food/take-out because you can't find time to cook.
No more incomplete meals because your food options are limitless.
No more snacking your way to a meal because you are too starving to wait for a meal.
No more sabotaging workouts from not eating the right foods at the right time to repair and recover. 

Sadly, athletes are busy and ironically, food is an afterthought. Well, not so much food being the afterthought (as athletes do eat) but food prep isn't always a priority. With every minute of the day planned and occupied, many athletes don't put meal prep on the hierarchy of "things to do" each day.
This often backfires as athletes will find themselves not meeting energy needs, not recovering well, eating too much convenience/processed food (quick and easy), struggling with aches and colds (immune system depression) and not feeling good inside.

Simply put - food is your fuel!

When you eat well, your body performs well.
When your body is starved for energy or key nutrients, it's easy to reach for pick-me-ups like energy drinks and/or caffeine. It's also common for athletes to overly use NSAIDs and sleep aids because the body is not recovering well from workouts. 

If you read the recent article on Gwen Jorgensen, you'll see that Patrick (her husband) makes sure that Gwen always refuels and fuels. 

"Food preparation is arguably Lemieux’s most important job. When they travel to races, Lemieux turns the couple’s hotel room into his own kitchen. He insists on packing his own knives, cutting board and rice cooker. He gathers food from a local grocery store and uses his rice cooker to prepare everything from meat to vegetables to quinoa.
During the season, Lemieux shops at a grocery store six days per week. 
After serving Jorgensen her morning oats, Lemieux transitions to preparing lunch, which usually consists of rice with meat and vegetables, followed by a piece of dark chocolate, a staple for Jorgensen after every meal. Lemieux looks at his watch often, knowing his wife will return home from her swim workout at 12:30 p.m.
“Lunch needs to be on the table immediately,” Lemieux said. “She is hungry.”
Jorgensen is grateful that lunch is served so soon after her morning swim. This allows her to relax and stay off of her feet for several hours until her next workout at 4:00 p.m.
Not all triathletes are as fortunate.
Many of Jorgensen’s rivals spend this critical recovery period between workouts shopping at the grocery store, cooking lunch and cleaning dishes."

I realize that not every athlete is this lucky but it is important to emphasize how critical nutrition is as it relates to how your body adapts to training stress.
Because you don't have to be an athlete to be healthy, I suggest to see meal prep in another light - it nourishes your body for disease prevention and healthy weight maintenance. 

Whether you see food as fuel or nourishment (or both, as I do), I encourage you to make an added effort to not let meals be an afterthought in your busy life.

Try this.....
Think about how you eat when you don't have a meal planned for after the workout.

Now, plan a meal for post workout.
No, not right now, but in your head. What would you eat after the workout? Maybe oatmeal, eggs and spinach or chicken, a baked potato and sauteed kale or homemade pancakes with eggs, yogurt and fruit.

Think about how you would eat differently if you had your meals planned ahead of time, before the meal. 
Instead of having a bowl of cereal, a packet of oatmeal with a protein bar or a rice cake plus avocado and a hardboiled egg for a meal, you could have something more substantial and filling.

But the only way to make this happen is by preparing your meals ahead of time.

Try to make this more of a habit. Tell yourself that you can't start a workout unless you have food options or a meal ready for after the workout (I suggest to have a meal ready as much as possible because we all know that food cravings change post workout - it's easy to eat what's craved versus what is most "healthy" and practical for post workout.)  

If you make time to train, you should make time to fuel and refuel with nourishing food options. 
If you complain that you just don't have time for meal prep or healthy eating, perhaps you need to rethink your priorities as you can't optimize your fitness and health with a poorly planned diet. 

Stewed Vegetables with Barley
1 cup barley (measured dry) - or your choice grain or potato
1 eggplant
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
Pasta sauce
Olive oil
Protein of your choice

1. Cook barley. Rinse, then cooked in 2.5 cups boiled water, on low heat, for 40-50 minutes. 
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. 
3. Chop peppers and eggplant (into chunks). 
4. Drizzle olive oil on bottom of large casserole dish until evenly coated (thin layer, a few tbsp). 
5. Toss peppers and eggplant in olive oil and spread over casserole dish.
6. Add pasta sauce (enough to cover the veggies). Toss to evenly coat. 
7. Cook for 30-40 minutes. Let veggies sit on oven (turned off) while barley continues to cook.
8. Cook protein of your choice (I made tempeh, Karel made chicken). 
9. Prepare your dish: 1/2 - 1.5 cups barley tossed with veggies (as much as you want), topped with 4 ounce protein.

This is an easy hassle free dish as you can let veggies and barley cook without having to stand around in the kitchen. You can ride your trainer or run on the treadmill for 30 minutes or fold laundry, pay bills or play with your kids. There's no reason that you can't find 60 minutes to prep and cook this dish in your day. Be sure to plan for leftovers. You can add dark leafy greens and a different protein to leftovers the next day to make it a whole new meal!