Monday, 14 May 2007

Food for Fuel

Yes - believe or not - I do eat for fuel too and not just to fuel my greediness….

Thankfully, to balance out my love for food, I also love long-distance running. The SMH Half-Marathon is a mere week away (20 May). It has an interesting route that goes through the historical Rocks area of Sydney as well as parts of the CBD area. On the down side (or literally, up side?), the route has a few killer hills that I am not looking forward to.

As I have been training for this race for the last 8 weeks, I noticed that I do think a bit differently about what I eat, especially before I do my long weekend runs (90-120 minutes), which is an essential part of every endurance training program.

There are many different opinions about how much carbohydrates one should consume per day while training and during the race itself. Then, there is also a lot of debate about whether or not “carbo-loading” is even necessary for a half-marathon. Carbo-loading typically entails an increased carbohydrate intake of up to 70% of an athlete’s total daily calories, coupled with reduced training for three days prior to the race.

I am not pedantic about such things because as long as I have been consistent with my training, I like to keep it simple. And after years of experimenting with different types and quality of foods, I know what works for my body. Basically, I just make sure that I drink plenty of fluids and generally eating a balanced meal. What I do differently is emphasise on consuming a variety of complex carbohydrates during the training period and cut down on foods that are harder to digest (e.g. red meat) about 2 days before the race.

Consumption of adequate amounts of complex carbohydrates is important as it is converted to stored glycogen in the muscles which will hopefully fuel my body efficiently. The key point would be not to increase calorie intact per se, but increase the proportion of carbohydrate intake. You don’t want to be carrying around extra weight for 21 or 42km, believe me.

My main sources of energy are from bread, pasta and fruits. When you are eating for fuel, it can get a bit boring and monotonous. So I do try to make an effort to make more interesting breads and also buy whole wheat, spelt or fresh pasta. Due to my penchant for desserts, I also chose to categorise them as an essential part of my diet ;-)

This muesli and date bread is a perfect breakfast bread or a high energy snack. It has a nice thick crust and chewy bite.

Muesli and Date Bread

1 ¼ cups of water, lukewarm

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp honey

1 2/3 cups unbleached white flour

1 cups wholemeal flour

¾ rye flour

1 ½ cups fruit & nut muesli, unsweetened and untoasted

3 tbsp skim milk power

1 ½ tsp salt

1 ½ tsp easy blend (rapid-rise) dried yeast

½ cup dried dates, chopped

(note: the amount of water may vary depending on the type of muesli used. Add another 1 tbs of water is the dough is too firm)


Pour water, oil and honey into the bread pan. Sprinkle over the flours, covering the water. Add the muesli and milk powder. Add salt in a corner or the pan.


Make a small indent in the centre of the flour, add the yeast. Set to the appropriate setting for the type of bread maker you have. I set mine to the “wholemeal cycle”, “medium colour” and “1.5lb size”.


During the second kneading phrase, my bread maker beebs very loudly & that is when I place the dates in the dough and let the bread maker do the rest of it's job.

Serve it with:

- Slightly toast it and serve it with butter

- Top it with cottage or cream cheese

- This bread freezes well. Slice it up before you wrap it firmly with cling wrap. This way, you can take out just a slice or two from the freezer rather than defrosting the whole loaf.


Set the bread maker to the “dough setting”. When shaping the dough, create a plump round. Using a sharp knife, make three cuts on the top about ½ inch deep to divide the bread into six sections. Bake in a 180 degrees C (fan-forced0 oven for 30-35 minutes.

Source: Adapted from The Complete Book of Bread and Bread machines by C. Ingram & J. Shapter.


Em said...

Looks yummy!
Funny. I made a banana bread this weekend (with walnut, dates and sultanas). I used spelt flour. Do you think it would work for this recipe as well?

Nora B. said...

Hi Em, the bread was good - rather dense (in a good way) and moist. I actually didn't have enough dates when I made this loaf. As for using spelt flour, I am not sure how much water would be needed because from my understanding, wholemeal, rye and spelt do vary slightly. You could experiment with the quantity of water I guess, I don't imagine that it would be too different. How did your banan bread turn out?

Janet said...

Hi Nora - that looks great. When I first saw the picture, I assumed it was a quick bread. So I was excited to see it is actually a yeast bread. Have you ever tried this without a breadmaker? I don't have one, so I would need to adapt it for hand kneeding...

Nora B. said...

Hi Janet, I haven't actually made this recipe without a breadmaker. If you are familiar with bread making, just follow the usual procedure, but don't add the dates till you knock the dough down and knead it for the second time. The good thing about doing this recipe by hand is that you would be able to judge if you need to add more water or not. The first time I made this, I didn't adjust the amount of water & left the breadmaker to do its job, and it turned out quite dry.

Shirley said...

It was good - thanks for giving me half the loaf! I've had it for breakfast the last two days. And good luck for the run, hope to see you at the finish line. I'll be wearing a bright pink top, you know I like the attention ha ha.

jenjen said...

Kudos to you for having the guts to go run a maarathon. i know I wouldn't survive or even be bothered to do it. I hope you do well. and your loaf sounds delisious by the ay.

Patricia Scarpin said...

Nora, what a beautiful loaf of bread - and the flavors sound so good, too!

Nora B. said...

Shirley - Glad that you liked the bread. Pink is a good colour for you! All the best - I know you'll run well on Sunday.

JenJen - Thanks for dropping by! I know all that running sounds crazy, but once i did my first marathon, I got hooked.

Patricia - Thanks! But I still have my mind on making the dulce de leche brioche rolls that you made last week. That will be my project for this Sat :-)

Eva said...

Nora, I'm very relieved that I don't have to run that far in order to eat this bread...;-) Wish you all the best for your half-marathon!