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May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, August 2000 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Gourmet chefs dish a radical new diet for athletes: real food

"I'M TRYING TO START a minirevolution for athletes like me that are tired of burrito-and-bagel diets," says 30-year-old Jason McHugh, a classically trained chef with—quelle surprise—the lean build of a marathoner. That's because he is one. At the Cooking School of the Rockies in Boulder, Colorado, he has introduced students to more than 30 recipes that meet the demanding nutritional needs of an athlete in training while providing a more palatable alternative to replacing meals with sports drinks, gels, or—dare we say it?—microwaveable cheese pockets.

While McHugh and like-minded chefs may blanch at having to crunch numbers to meet strict standards ("Nutrition is at the bottom of the list in culinary school," admits McHugh), they nevertheless adhere to some well-proven guidelines. "I focus on using fresh, seasonal vegetables and include at least one good source of carbohydrate and protein," he says. "If I stick to that, I'm pretty confident that the dish is just as beneficial as any prepackaged meal."

We persuaded McHugh and a few other chefs to dish on some of their favorite energy-boosting recipes. —CLAIRE WALTER

This carbo-loaded entree can be prepared in advance and kept on hand for a quick and easy meal all week long.

one 16-oz. can tomato sauce
2 red bell peppers, cored and
1 red onion, peeled and
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 russet or baking potatoes,
peeled and sliced (add salt and pepper to taste)
1/4 lb. spinach, cleaned
1/2 lb. skim or low-fat ricotta cheese
1/4 lb. shredded lowfat mozzarella
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 325°. Simmer sauce, peppers, and onion for 20 minutes while assembling the remaining ingredients. Brush an ovenproof roasting pan with olive oil and place one layer of potatoes in the bottom. Ladle on enough of the sauce to cover the potato slices and top with spinach, basil, and cheeses. Add another layer each of potato slices, sauce, and cheeses. Continue in this manner until all the ingredients are used up. Cover tightly with foil and bake for up to an hour. Test by piercing the lasagna with a paring knife. It should easily go through to the bottom.
675 calories, 60 grams protein, 43 grams carbohydrate, 32 grams fat.
(nutritional data for entire recipes)

"I hate the taste of most sports drinks," says McHugh. "To me they just taste like plastic water." His solution? Brew up your own electrolyte-replacing thirst quencher:

10 oz. pineapple juice
2 tbsp. smooth peanut butter
1 banana, sliced
Use a blender to mix, and serve on ice.
390 calories, 11 grams protein, 44 grams carbohydrate, 16 grams fat.


16 oz. prepared caffeine-free lemon tea
1 tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
2 oz. orange juice
Stir and serve cold.
75 calories, trace protein, 15 grams carbohydrate, 0 fat.

"I think simple, fresh food is best," says Dan Berman, a triathlete and owner-chef of Mixx Restaurant in Santa Rosa, California. "And the swordfish doesn't take long to prepare."

two 6- to 7-oz. swordfish
olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
4 oz. rice-wine vinegar
4 oz. white wine
6 tbsp. honey
6–8 oz. red miso-soyo
The glaze: Combine chicken stock, vinegar, wine, and honey in a saucepan. Cook over medium heat until reduced by one-half. Whisk in miso, return to boil, and set aside.
The swordfish: Brush fish lightly with olive oil. Season sparingly with salt and pepper. Grill swordfish about one minute per side, and then one minute per side again, rotating so the grill marks form a crisscross pattern. On the last turn, brush on miso glaze. Remove from grill and keep warm, adding a little more glaze if desired. Serve with rice and fresh steamed veggies.
250 calories, 33 grams protein, 0 grams carbohydrate, 14 grams fat.
800 calories, 4 grams protein, 140 grams carbohydrate, 17 grams fat.

Karen Pfeifer, 38, who operates New Orleans's Bella Luna Restaurant with chef-husband Horst, had completed three marathons when she decided to start training for triathlons. "I trained for six months, and [Horst] cooked everything for me. I'm not a big pasta person. I craved meats." He complied; she competed.

four 6-oz. pieces of
boneless loin of lamb, fat trimmed off
6 tsp. fresh rosemary and
thyme, chopped
8 tbsp. shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup merlot
4 tsp. butter
salt and pepper
Season lamb with salt and pepper and roll in rosemary and thyme. Melt butter over medium-high heat in a heavy sauté pan. Add lamb pieces and sear on each side. Remove lamb from pan and add shallots and garlic, stirring to keep them from burning. When shallots are transparent, stir in wine and reduce by half. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Put lamb back into sauté pan and cook over medium-low heat for one and a half to two minutes, turning once. Slice and serve with sauce.
700 calories, 45 grams protein, 1 gram carbohydrate, 17 grams fat.

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