MAKE YOUR OWN ENERGY BAR
Any serious athlete knows that nutrition is a critical part of fitness—you got to stoke the fires to keep the boiler boiling. Every day, it seems, there are new energy bars, gels, and drinks on the market to help athletes maximise workouts and improve performance. Some are better than others, but as a chef and a cyclist, I’m always wary of throwing down gobs of processed foods on the bike. So, I try to adhere to this philosophy: Liquids are for hydration, and foods should be whole foods—nothing processed, no junk.
So does this mean we have to scrap energy bars and gels completely? Well, no, but look for minimally processed products that aren’t overly sugar-laden. Or better, start making your own. Not only are they a hell of a lot more delicious than your average packaged bar, but they’re not very hard to make. I break down my workout foods into three zones: before, during, and after. Of course, there are plenty of complicated tests to figure out your metabolic rate and dial in exactly how many and what sort of calories you should be eating, but that’s too much science for me. I adhere to this basic approach.
While discussing his diet plan, New York’s star chef and athlete, Seamus Mullen gives out his secret recipe for a homemade energy bar.
Normally, I follow a pretty low- carb regimen, but before a workout I’ll add in more carbs with a good dose of healthy fat. Lately, I’ve been making savory Irish oats. I’ll crisp up some bacon to stir in as you would with a risotto, finishing with some good cheddar, a dollop of grass-fed butter, and some chia seeds. I’ll top this with a fried egg. And if I’m going really hard, I’ll add avocado.
DURING THE WORKOUT
Once I’m out on the bike, I keep myself well-hydrated and try to maintain a balance of sugar, carbs, fat, and protein, taking care to minimise my sugar consumption until the last 45 minutes. To ensure I don’t have too much glycemic yo-yoing, I’ll save anything with sugar (such as maple syrup, dried fruit, or dark chocolate) for the end, when I need a final boost. I like to make my own bars from natural performance food. I cut them in squares and wrap them in waxed paper, and I have a perfect meal on the go.
There is a lot of information out there on post-workout food, and, while I’m sure there’s some adequate science behind it, I try to schedule my workouts so that they end in time for a real meal, with a good balance of vegetables, fat, and protein. I think a lot of people have a tendency to overload on protein after workouts, rather than focusing on a balanced, healthy meal. Remember, most of us are not ultra- endurance athletes with five percent body fat! My favorite postworkout meal? A salad of dark leafy greens, lots of vegetables, some avocado, an egg or two, and some sardines. Good veg, good fat, good protein.