Harvest of Champions

The Whole Plan

Mar 1, 2003
Outside Magazine

CAN CHEWING THROUGH a few energy bars really be that bad? No. During a competition or outing, they're excellent fuel, but you don't want to start mainlining them. Here's something you probably didn't expect to hear, though: Three or four servings of whole-foods fruits and vegetables each day aren't enough. The USDA has long recommended that active males eat nine (that's right, nine) servings of fruits and veggies daily to ward off, among other things, heart disease and even cancer. At present, only 2 percent of U.S. males meet this recommendation, according to a 2001 study commissioned by the Delaware-based Produce for Better Health Foundation.

Produce for Better Health recommends five daily doses of different-colored fruits and vegetables. The key here is variety. The human body benefits most from food synergy, which occurs only when different foods are eaten in combination.

Triathlon legend and exercise physiologist Dave Scott, a whole-foods advocate since 1979—when the refined food he was snarfing in preparation for the 1980 Ironman (try an eight-and-a-half-pound ice cream sundae) brought him to his knees—concurs: "Every day, there are more compounds identified in fruits and vegetables and grains. We don't really know how they work synergistically, but we know they do."

The beauty of whole foods is how easy it is to swallow those nine daily servings (see "Power Foods," for recipes to help). A banana sliced over oatmeal and a glass of orange juice: That's two. Celery sticks and peanut butter for a midmorning snack, followed by tomato on your sandwich and a side salad at lunch, make five. At this rate you'll hit double digits by the time you polish off a slice of apple pie after dinner (it counts, but no ice cream).

And what of Adam Hodges Myerson, our bike-racing whole-foods convert? He now eats oatmeal topped with raisins, peanut butter, and soy milk before his morning rides. For recovery, he mixes his own smoothies with soy milk, frozen blueberries, bananas, and strawberries. The result? Last season he didn't suffer a single sick day and ended up winning three elite-level road races. In December he was offered his first professional cycling contract. Says Myerson, "I can't wait for the season to start. I am so hungry for it."

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