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Training
October 13, 2014

Fall Fuel Favorites for Plant-Based Runners

Guest blog by Oiselle Flock runner, Sarah McCartan.

Sarah McCartan is a writer, runner and vegan foodie. She holds tightly to the mantra “you are what you eat” and shares her passion for a plant-based diet and dedication to an active lifestyle through her blog, Vegan on the Run.


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For many, fall is an eagerly awaited and even coveted season. With fall comes abundant advantages—layering up and sporting your favorite running tights or outerwear, bouncing out the door to run in the crisp morning air with some extra energy in your step, and fall harvest—or as I like to call it, the opportunity to fill up on seasonal produce.

For me, this fall means coming on board as part of the Oiselle Flock, training for my next half marathon, upping my speed training, getting back on my bike, stepping up my yoga game, sipping on soups, teas and mulled wine, and cooking up seasonal vegan delights, with optimal fueling in mind.

Here are a few of my fall food favorites I urge you to indulge upon this season—foods that are sure to help you boost your health, energy and athletic performance.

Of course, you don’t have to be a vegan to enjoy these deliciously nutritious plant-based selections. Both herbivores and omnivores are invited to this fall food party.

BEETS

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What if I told you beets might help you set a personal record this season? Beets have been receiving quite a bit of praise for acting as a magic elixir for athletes. Truth be told, while there’s not exactly any magic involved, sweet, red beet roots help you get your blood pumping and can even boost performance. Beets are known for naturally lowering blood pressure, and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals.

For faster flowing legs, regularly incorporate beets into your training regime. Enjoy sipping beet juice in advance of a workout, or after, during your recovery period. As an alternative to juicing or blending up beets in your smoothie, consider using them in your lunchtime salad. Beets bring a slightly sweet, tart taste to the table.

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Tip: Be sure to eat your beet greens too while you’re at it. Don’t simply cut them off and throw them out. Beet greens are packed with even more phytonutrients.

SQUASH

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Whether you’re in the mood to slice, stuff, or turn squash into soup or spaghetti this season, this versatile vegetable is ready to work its way into your next meal. Although personally I love yellow squash all the time, the fall season marks the peak for winter squash varieties. To take full advantage of these seasonal varieties that are packed with nutrients and sure to leave you glowing both inside and out, consider stuffing an acorn squash, turning butternut into a creamy, inviting pot of soup, or transforming spaghetti squash into just that—spaghetti.

Another way to get your squash fill is through all things pumpkin. That’s right, those orange bundles of joy you look forward to carving up year after year, are actually in the squash family. While fresh pumpkins are good for carving (or pie baking and seed roasting if you feel like saving the insides), boxed or canned pumpkin works wonders too. Fun fact: you can even add a scoop of pumpkin into your smoothie.

GREENS

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Spring isn’t the only time of the year you should spring for a salad. Fall is a prime time to power up with greens. To create a nutrient-dense fall salad, start by mixing up a bed of fall greens. I am a spinach fanatic at all times of the year. However, come fall, I especially appreciate incorporating other greens, such as arugula, into my routine. This particular peppery green is rich in iron and aids in hydration. A festive fall salad can be easily brought to life with the help of extra color and textures including carrots, and perhaps even beets and squash.

Salad aside, fall is also a prime time to take advantage of greens that are bountiful and in season such as broccoli, and Brussels sprouts. Personally, I am of the belief that every single day should include greens. But hey, that’s just me.

SWEET SPUDS

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Thinking of baking a potato to eat the night before a race as an alternative to pasta? Consider making it a sweet potato. Packed with vitamin A, sweet potatoes are not your average spud. Pair with a vegetable medley of choice or some leafy greens, and you’ve got yourself a well-balanced, energizing meal that will help regulate your blood sugar instead of spiking it. A simple sweet potato and greens plate is a favorite go-to of mine, when I’m craving a warm, inviting recovery meal following a long evening run. If you don’t have time to wait for your spud to bake, fret not. Slice and dice it to cook in a pan on the stove with some ginger and a dash of cinnamon. 

SPICE

If you ask me, the arrival of cooler air begs you to spice up your selected seasonal vegetables. Adding extra flavor to your meals with the help of the following spices can ward off the common cold, boost metabolism, fight off inflammation, prevent disease and keep you strong throughout training.

Turmeric: In addition to taking Curcumin supplements regularly to fight inflammation, I generously layer turmeric on my food every chance I get, including making it a key ingredient in my tofu scramble. I’ve even been using turmeric in my smoothies, like my Golden Rabbit Smoothie.

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Ginger: Ginger has been used for years as a medicinal treatment. Widely known for its role in aiding digestion, ginger adds a sweet flavor to your food. Along with helping set your tummy straight, ginger contains a high level of antioxidants and is anti-inflammatory. Consider munching down on a ginger-filled plate of tofu and vegetables after an endurance event, or stirring ginger in your warm cup of tea.

Curry: Since the weather has cooled off, I’ve been making curry bowls at least once a week. What do I mean by curry bowl? I mean a mixture of tofu and vegetables cooked on the stove, loaded with curry, paired with fresh greens, and layered over a bed of rice or quinoa. My vegetables of choice for curry bowls typically include tomatoes, squash, onions, peppers and mushrooms.

Fresh Peppers: If you’re looking for a fresh way to liven up any dish this fall, consider chopping up your favorite pepper and throwing some in with whatever it is you are cooking up. You can even cut up said peppers and blend them in with your hummus for a seasonal spin on this protein-rich snack.

Garlic: If there’s one spice I use almost every single meal, it’s garlic, which happens to be at its best during fall. Not only does garlic add flavor to your meal, it has a number of resounding health benefits. Use garlic to help keep your immune system strong during periods of rigorous training this season.

Before you take off...
Before you take off, remember, always aim to eat seasonal food that is grown close to home in an effort to get your hands on produce that is as fresh as possible. If it’s not growing in your own backyard, seek out a local market where you can purchase fresh, locally sourced produce on the regular, without breaking the bank.

For vegan recipes and running inspiration, follow along with Sarah at veganontherun.org.