I don't believe in 'rewarding' myself with unhealthy food after my workouts. Remeber my motto: IF YOU EAT WELL MOST OF THE TIME YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT THE REST OF THE TIME.
And when I say the rest of the time, I'm not talking about every night after dinner or every weekend. Let's be a little more realistic and understand that eating a bakery desert, bowl of ice cream, side of french fries, chicken wings + beer (Karel's fav) or handful of chips once or twice a month (or even once every 3 months) will not hurt your performance and/or weight loss journey. And believe me, if you think it can't be done (replacing your favorite post-workout sweets/treats with healthier options), I have several emails from my athletes (who I have helped with nutrition) who either don't crave their favorite sugary/fatty foods any more because they enjoy healthier options or know how to control cravings through a more filling and nutrient-dense diet.
So, what about me.
Ok-there was one or two times after my longest IM workouts where I craved foods that I would never eat and I figured, will one or two times a year really affect my workouts/health? Unlikely. Just like in an IM or long-distance race, your body is going to experience a lot and at some point during the race, you are going to have that "oh-no" moment. But we all know if you stick to your nutrition plan and listen to your body, you're going to know what to do when that nutrition-related problem arises. Same with training, you are far better off weighing the costs/benefits of acting in the moment than just eating everything and anything in sight.
After my longest bike + run (111 mile ride + 45 min run) I called Karel (who was coming home from a race) and told him to stop by the store and buy me a box of Cheez-it's. Yes-Cheez-it's.
When he got home, I had a handful of them and I was happy. As for finishing the rest of the box, it took us a good 2 months to finish them because well, they aren't part of our daily diet. Let's just say that I had to be really creative to find ways to use Cheez-it's in my creations. Although I wouldn't do it every day, eating a salad topped with Cheez-it's is actually quite satisfying. However, I haven't had a Cheez-it since July.
As for other rewarding treats, it's mostly what my body craves and I'm really good at understanding my body. I use to crave ice cream after after long IM workout but the last time we bought ice cream, was a good 3-4 months ago. Even when I buy it, I just don't crave it anymore and even with a summer of IM training, I think I would enjoy yogurt w/ my homemade granola a lot more than ice cream.
I will never forget this pic from the Boston Marathon.
This was the only time I had a doughnut in the last 9 years (I think it could be more than that but it's likely that a doughnut or two was consumed during my freshman year of college). Boston was my second marathon and as a somewhat newbie to endurance sports, let's just say that doughnut holes + cheesy pizza tasted great at the moment but left me walking down stairs backwards for a good 5-7 days.
I really try hard to focus on what my body needs after a workout and not necessarily what I want. Sure, there are Ironman training workouts were I crave certain foods, but when the workout is over and I finish my smoothie or glass of milk, I focus on the best foods possible to re-fuel and recover.
I made lots of yummy foods this weekend. Certainly there are days when I would rather lay around w/ Campy and watching TV, than cook, but when it comes to feeding myself after long or hard weekend workouts, I prioritize a healthy, portioned controlled and balanced meal immediately after a workout and focus on healthy small meals and snacks throughout the rest of the day.
I think many of us would love a stack of pancakes after a long bike ride but after a 150-250 recovery whey protein drink/smoothie, I find it very inefficient to fill your belly with 600-1000 calories of primarily carbs, sugar and fat.
Rather than eating a large carbohydrate meal immediately after a workout, try to keep your meals balanced and portioned controlled. Instead of eating one big meal after the workout and not having an appetite to eat for the rest of the day and then eating a quick and unhealthy dinner and sweets for desert, aim for a healthy carb+protein breakfast after the workout and several snacks and mini meals throughout the day. Although carbs are important to restore glycogen, that protein+carb breakfast + recovery drink (immediately post workout) will help with glycogen resynthesis and will prevent overeating at your upcoming meal. Unless you enjoy a whey protein + fruit smoothie, your post workout meal is where you can focus on adding in a variety of nutrients through wholesome and healthy foods, and 50-80 calories of a sweet treat if you crave it :)
As far as what to eat the rest of the day, focus on heart-healthy foods, even if you crave sweets, salt or fat. Salads, fruits and veggies will give you necessary vitamins, minerals and electrolytes that keep your immune system healthy as you improve with your training routine. Healthy carbs such as whole grains, whole wheat, rice, potatoes, grains and pasta are encouraged but be sure to combine carbs w/ protein and healthy fat so that you don't eat more food than you need. There's nothing wrong with a treat here and there, such as ice cream, crackers/chips, bakery deserts or candy but if your "occasional" treat is consumed more than once or twice a month, you may find it hard to rely on willpower and discipline when you come into contact with your favorite treat after every long or hard workout.
Here's my weekend creations:
Strawberry and peach pancakes
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp oats
Small handful of raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts
1 tbsp flax seed
1/8 cup skim milk
1 tsp baking soda
Strawberries and peaches (sliced)
Toppings: drizzle of honey, natural PB and banana slices
Side: 2 egg whites w/ 1/8 cup ski milk
Apricot and apple granola
1/2 tbsp natural peanut butter
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp smart balance butter
1/8 cup each of raisins, sunflower seeds, chopped peanuts
2 tsp flax seed
1 tbsp whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1 tbsp honey
6 apricot halves (canned)
1/4 cup apple (sliced)
(cooked at 375 degrees for 20 minutes)
Baked peach, strawberry and apple crumble
4 strawberries (sliced)
1 apple (sliced)
1 peach (sliced)
1/4 cup oats
1 tsp honey
1/2 tbsp smart balance butter
cinnamon, all spice
1 tbsp flax seed
raisins, sunflower seeds, peanuts
(baked at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes)
Fruit salad w/ granola and low-fat yogurt
Brick Swiss cheese (shredded)
French Bread Pizza
2 toasted, thin slices of French Bread
2 x 1/2 tbsp greek yogurt or 2 x 1 tsp light sour cream (for bread)
Baked veggies/protein - jalepenos, garlic, tomatoes, chickpeas, tofu, veggie burger, corn, onion (cooked at 400 degrees for 20-30 min) drizzled with olive oil