The Athlete’s Plate: COOKbook Review!

Athletes Plate***I was recently looking for this review, but couldn’t find it on my blog.  Here’s what I said about this book 4 years ago!  Originally, the article appeared in the Capital Bicycle Newsletter (Sept 2010?)

Sink Your Teeth Into This Book: The Athlete’ s Plate (Adam Kelinson/Velo Press 2009)

By Dr. Andy Rosser, Downtown Olympia

One of my hobbies is reading nutrition books and trying to make sense of the confusion that exists around the topic of diet.  Secretly, I’ve even harbored the fantasy that I would some day write a book that covered the topic of whole food cooking for the athlete.  Well, maybe I’ll choose a different topic now.  I recently bought Adam Kelinson’s new book, The Athlete’s Plate (Velo Press, 2009), and it covers all that I would have wanted to write, and much more.  The book is about 1/3 lifestyle and dietary background, and the rest of the book is loaded with a number of recipes based on Kelinson’s principles.

Without delay, the author builds the foundation for healthful eating which is made up of several principles including, buying local meats and produce, and buying organic foods when possible.  That guidance is coupled with eating what is in season and avoiding certain ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and many of the chemicals that make up a typical athlete’s foods and snacks.  Within the first chapter, his recommendations lay waste to many of society’s current dietary practices.

The second chapter describes the framework of a whole foods diet.  Within this approach, the avoidance of pesticide residue in our foods, the impacts of genetically modified organisms, the reasons for choosing organic foods, and eating native foods within their season are the highlights.  I was particularly attracted to his discussion of the “superstition” pattern of eating that athletes develop.  This is where a person’s diet is whittled down to a slim number of foods eaten and prepared the same way, almost every day.  Eventually, the repetition fails to address nutritional needs and leads to physical breakdown and fatigue.  I know many who would argue, as well, that this is one of the ways to develop allergies to particular foods due to the body’s constant exposure.

One of my favorite topics that Kelinson addresses is that he encourages people to follow their instincts when it comes to eating.  If your diet isn’t polluted with processed foods, your taste and cravings can be your guide to healthful eating that meets your needs.  The opposite of this is micromanaging your foods.  His discussion reminded my of my reaction to reading a story about Lance Armstrong’s weighing of every ounce of food that he ate.  Honestly, I can’t comprehend it as a sustainable practice.  Creating sustainability is the name of the game in The Athlete’s Plate.

For those of you who have read some of my other articles, you know how interested I am in the topic of post exercise recovery.  The author treats this topic with the kind of reverence it deserves.  In addition to using gels and prepacked “just add water” drinks, he steers people who desire something more substantial in the direction of whole foods that can be easily digested and put to use in re-fueling the body after hard efforts.

So, now to the business of the recipes!  If your cooking is in a rut and you tend to cook with the same spices, I think this book offers some fun and interesting preparations.  I’ve tried several of the dishes out of the cookbook and all have been with delicious results.  Some of my first adventures have been to try the soba noodles with grilled asian meatballs (p. 166) , and the chicken with mint, peas, and mushrooms (p. 208.)  I’ve been impressed with how simple the recipes are and how few ingredients make up each dish.  I think it’s one of the ways that he tries to make an athlete’s life a little easier.  Just think, it’s easy to shop for, and then easy to put together.  I have had to tone down some of the asian marinades in terms of salt to make it palatable to our household.  There is also a definite “tamari-ness” to many of the dishes, and many of the asian recipes use similar marinades, so the taste can be a bit repetitive.  Then again, I think I’ve used more fresh ginger in the past few weeks than I have in my whole life.  Usually, the ginger is one of those fixtures in the refrigerator that gets replaced after it shrivels away in the drawer, but not so with this book!  I’m excited to try some of the more adventurous sounding recipes, including the grilled sea scallops with watermelon and arugula (p, 194).

For its approach to building healthy habits around food, I love The Athlete’s Plate.  For offering interesting and simple recipes, I also love this book.  I hope that it introduces you to a new perspective to your relationship with food and helps you become a healthier cyclist.  See you on the road!

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