Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Athlete's Cookbook: Book Review

When I was asked to review The Athlete's Cookbook, I agreed, but kinda figured it would be pretty unexciting...I expected it would be a meal plan and recipe book similar to what is often included in the DVD fitness programs like P90x, etc.

In fact, it does something a little different and unique: it tailors meal plans depending on your specific fitness goals: endurance, fat loss or strength building.  I have to admit, the book arrived at the perfect time.

Now, as I've said before, I have always had an unusually large appetite, especially considering my diminutive size (something I get teased about a lot), but for the past 2 months, even the usual massive amount of food has been leaving me with a gnawing hunger.  Even I have been astounded by my appetite.  It's been so significant, that I was actually starting to worry maybe I had some sort of parasite.  It finally hit me though: its the weight lifting! 

In September I rejigged my fitness routine to include less cardio and more strength training.  It never dawned on me to rejig my diet to go with it.  I know when you lift you need protein, but I figured I was getting enough.  When I did figure out that it was my workouts fueling this crazy hunger, I added more fat thinking that was what was lacking (I've been going through the tahini like you wouldn't believe!).  But according to the book, this wasn't the right strategy...and since I'm still starving all the time, I believe it.  The guidelines in the book suggest that I need to redistribute my protein consumption so I am eating more early in the day, since I do my workouts first thing in the morning.  Aha!

The book starts with a section on Eating for Performance, but really, even if you are not an athlete...or even particularly active, you can benefit from following their advice.  I love that the recommendations are evidence based, and not just following the latest low-carb, Paleo, gluten-free trendy nonsense.

This first section give you Top 10s for each macro: carbs, proteins, and fats.  They also have a Top 10 fat burning foods list, which, in my opinion, is iffy.  I think the research evidence is thinner on this side of things.  Fortunately, its all good food you should eat anyways (except the lean meat, seafood and dairy if you are vegetarian or vegan).

The next section: Eating Protocols, deals with food timing, pre and post exercise nutrition and hydration.

The Goals of the Meal Plan includes goals and strategies for each type of training, as well as optimal meal timing, and how to structure you meals and snacks based on macros.  They also provide meal timing options for both training and non-training days.

The book also provides some meal plans, based on your goals, using the featured recipes.  There is a lot of variety and lots of yummy options.  Of course, if you don't like to cook, this will not be the book for you.  But, frankly, I strongly believe everyone should be cooking the majority of their meals from scratch, so if you aren't, that would be a good place to start if you want to improve your health.

The final part of the book is the recipes.  There are recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as snacks and desserts.  Most look nutritious and tasty, but I do have a few criticisms.  First, they don't specify to use whole grain pastas, etc., and in my experience folks won't take the initiative to do so unless a recipe calls for it.  No one, even an athlete needs the blood sugar spike and empty calories of refined carbs.  Also, they liberally use honey in the recipes as a sweetener.  While honey is less processed than white sugar, it has the same effect on your blood sugar, and is just as full of empty calories.  I would like to see them use stevia or another natural sweetener that does not affect blood sugar.

Finally, there is an appendix with cooking tips, volume and weight conversions.

Overall, this book may be very helpful for you if you want to know how to optimize your fitness and health goals.  I would, however, modify the ingredients in some of the recipes as noted above.

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