August 30, 2013

Mindful Eating for Strength & Endurance. ~ Jenna Penielle Lyons

I like to think of myself as a machine.

Lately, I’ve been geeking out obsessively on ways to eat locally, sustainably, nutritionally and efficiently.

I think of my body as a machine. And as someone who enjoys running, skiing and biking long distances, it’s important to eat efficiently. As an athlete, the energy you put into your body is just as important as the energy you expend–and certain foods help you exercise and train more effectively.

I decided to share what I have learned and chronicle the things I generally eat in a day when I am training to be my best, fastest and strongest self. These foods have gotten me through marathons, ultramarathons, bike races, long days of skiing or climbing, lifting workouts and multiple sessions of yoga in a day.

Keep in mind that everyone’s dietary restrictions are different…what works for me may not work for you!

While I am not a registered dietician, I have achieved results by researching foods, experimenting with them, and talking to professional athletes. As a result of mindful eating and a strong fitness regimen, my yoga practice has improved, I have become a faster runner, and I can ski all day without getting exhausted. I feel better, I look healthier and I love the foods I eat and cook with creative recipes and substitutions!

These are the things I eat and do when I am training for an endurance event or when I am just trying to achieve a higher level of fitness for my job as a firefighter on a Hotshot crew. Enjoy!

6:00 a.m.

Pre-Workout and the Caffeination Process

I will be completely honest here. At six o’clock in the morning, I usually do not immediately jump out of bed and put on my running shoes. I usually do not feel like getting after it right when I wake up. And I usually do not immediately jump onto my yoga mat and start flowing like a waterfall.

I do make a pot of coffee, turn on NPR, and read the newspaper. Then I will go for a slow walk to wake myself up. I do meditate. This process usually takes me about an hour. Or two hours. It all depends on how I am feeling. I think that on the inside, I am an old man wearing coke bottle glasses, penny loafers, slacks and a flannel.

If I am teaching 6 a.m. spinning or going to an early morning yoga class, I will eat a piece of toast with butter and honey on it, have a small cup of coffee and have a Hammer gel or some Stinger chews. My tummy usually isn’t ready to handle breakfast right away.


The Power of the Egg

At some point during this time, I will fry two eggs and put a generous amount of pepper and some Sriracha hot sauce on them. Fortunately, I have the lovely Judith to provide me with organic eggs:

I am a huge fan of growing food, buying local food, and finding ways to reduce the impact of my diet on the rest of the world. Chickens are a great way to create a lot of healthy protein in a small area. Even if you live in an urban area, you can still have chickens by using these guidelines for Urban Chicken Farming.

Other Breakfast Items I Love (depending on the type of activity I will be doing!)

1. English muffin with almond butter for any day 

Another yummy breakfast item I am fond of making is a piece of toast or wheat English muffin with almond butter, a pinch of bee pollen, and a smidgen of honey on top. I will usually eat this if my workout will be a longer run or bike ride. It combines complex carbohydrates with protein, and it isn’t too heavy.

2. Sweet potato hash for long days 

Sometimes I will make Sweet Potato Hash with if I find myself calorie-deficient or I need more food for the day.

3. Greek yogurt (plain) for recovery or easy day 

If it is a recovery day and I am just planning on doing yoga and an easy run (or nothing at all), I will eat a small bowl of plain Greek yogurt (Chobani is my favorite) with strawberries, bee pollen, ground flax and a bit of agave nectar in it. It is better to sweeten with berries and agave or honey than to buy overly-sweetened or flavored yogurt with sugary fruit at the bottom.

4. Oatmeal for skiing or for Race Day! 

If it is wintertime and I am heading out for a long day of backcountry skiing, I will make a huge bowl of Irish oats, and load it up with peaches or blueberries, flax seeds, peanut butter or almond butter, walnuts and Smart Balance. This breakfast fuels me throughout the day and isn’t greasy, gross, or too heavy so as to encourage barfing as soon as I start hiking.

9:00 a.m.

Cardio Workout and Breakfast Smoothie

At this point, I will generally go for a run or jump on the bike, and what I eat afterward is dependent on how many miles I ran, how hard I ran, or how my muscles feel. But, this green smoothie is generally what I will eat after a workout regardless of what I did that day:

Jenna’s Kickass Lean Green Fighting Machine Smoothie

  • 2 cups spinach
  • 1 big handful kale
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 banana
  • 1 big piece of raw ginger
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 2 tbsp. maca root powder (Be careful with this! It will make you horny and excited!)
  • 1 scoop unflavored Heed
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup Chobani plain Greek yogurt

Blend until smooth. This makes a lot of smoothie, but I usually will drink a glass for breakfast and then drink it throughout the day if I am craving a snack. Sometimes, I will make variations of this. For instance, I will take out the blueberries and kale and add a generous portion of cacao powder (NOT cocoa powder! They are different things!) to make a creamy, chocolatey treat.

Chocolate milk is also a great recovery option, but I am lactose intolerant, so it generally doesn’t work for me. Nobody likes sharting in their spandex!

12:00 p.m.

Yoga and Lunch 

I am not a lunch person. I never have been, and I never will be. And I don’t like sandwiches! For my lunches, I will generally eat tuna fish (no bread) or I try to make a big quinoa salad for the week to save time. My favorite has radishes, beets, carrots, sweet potato, cauliflower, broccoli, chipotle chile, and miso in it… all yummy roots and veggies that will make your skin, eyes, hair, and nails look and feel great (there are many other benefits too). Quinoa is also a superfood that boasts complete proteins that will fuel your workouts. It is an excellent option for vegans and vegetarians!

At this point in the day (usually a couple hours after lunch), I will do some flow yoga and stretching. If you don’t have time to go to a class and you don’t have your own practice, there are some awesome yoga podcasts that you can play in your own home or at work! My favorite is a podcast by Sean and Karen Conley. The classes range from 30-90 minutes, and you will get a great toning workout regardless of which class you choose to do.

2:00 p.m.

Snack Time!

I usually try to keep snacking under control, but for my snacks, I will usually eat the following things:

1. Watermelon

2. Apple with almond butter

3. Mango with a cup of rice

4. LUNA bar

5. A cup of miso soup

6. Carrots with tzaziki dip

7. Pear with goat cheese in the middle

8. Jicama wrapped in deli meat of choice (I like ham) with Thai peanut sauce

9. Homemade guacamole (avocado + salsa) with romaine hearts

10. More green smoothie!

Strength Training and Recovery Smoothie

At this point in the day, I usually do some situps, pullups and pushups, or I go for a hike with the dog. The Crossfit Tabata Exercise is one of my favorites (sets of 20 seconds of pushups, 20 seconds of pull-ups, 20 seconds situps, 20 seconds of squats, and you repeat this three times with ten seconds of rest in between them) . I am normally not a huge Crossfit fan, but this workout has helped me get the most out of my time doing reps of pushups, situps, and pullups. The squats will help you get strong legs, and you’ll feel completely disastered after this workout! If I do a workout like this or a workout in which I lift lots of weight or damage my muscles in any other way, I will make this smoothie:


  • 1 cup ice
  • 2 cups coconut water (I like the ZICO kind the best!)
  • 2 scoops Hammer Recoverite (the chocolate flavor is the best!)
  • 1 banana

Blend. That’s it! Delicious and effective for muscle recovery.

Eating While Skiing

If I am backcountry skiing, I bring Nutella and graham crackers, bacon, peanut/almond butter and jelly, a cinnamon roll, tamari almonds and a beer with me for my snacks (need calories in the cold!). These things aren’t necessarily healthy, but they help me get quick energy and stay warm when I am skinning up mountains all day.

4:00 p.m.


At this point in the day, I chug water. A big glass of it. I will often put Nuun or a scoop of unflavored Hammer Perpetuum in it to get some electrolyte recovery. Hydration is a constant process, so make sure you are drinking water throughout the day. Eat foods like cucumbers and watermelons; they contain a lot of water and are great diuretics as well.

6:00 p.m.


I generally crave these things for dinner, and these are all healthy options for athletes (or anyone!) to eat for dinner:

I eat a baby kale salad with tomatoes, cucumber and any other veggies I want every night. I usually put balsamic vinegar on it (plain, not even vinaigrette). It is a delicious way to get lots of vitamins and minerals.

1. Grilled zucchini (any seasoning!) with grilled chicken (usually some sort of teriyaki marinade)

2. Homemade pizza with spinach, kalamata olives, and fresh tomatoes

3. Spaghetti squash with marinara

4. Steak with sweet potato fries and tomato, basil, and cucumber salad

5. Grilled peaches with plum sauce and salmon!

6. Halibut (grilled) fish tacos with fresh pico de gallo and black beans in corn tortillas with corn on the cob

7. Sauteed mushrooms and pork chops with fresh apples on top

8. Quinoa cooked in coconut milk with black beans (I stole this from my boyfriend!).

9. Ground lamb cooked in coconut oil and seasoned with turmeric, cumin, garlic and coriander. YUM! (Another stolen recipe from my boyfriend).

10. Any type of Thai curry with lots of veggies in it

I usually drink a glass of water and a glass of red wine with my dinner.

After dinner, I usually stretch out and relax until bed.

8:00 p.m.

Sweet Tooth Satisfaction

How to Cheat Yourself

Sometimes, a cup of decaffeinated chai tea with some almond milk in it is good enough to satisfy my cravings for sweet things. I also love boiling raw ginger root for hours and adding honey to it to make a sweet-spicy tea around bedtime. Sometimes I will just eat a square of dark chocolate after dinner, and this usually suffices.

How to Give in to Temptation in a More Intelligent Way

If I am craving some sort of dessert, I usually want baked goods. Or ice cream. And being allergic to dairy makes frozen yogurt a healthy option. I don’t deny myself of sweet things… I just find smarter ways of eating them that will actually benefit me the next day.


If I am baking, I try to substitute as many of the fattening or sugary items as possible. For example, I will use Greek yogurt instead of butter or agave or pureed apples instead of sugar. I try to bake using as little white flour as possible. I will try to bake with gluten-free items if I can (coconut flour, etc.). And I usually blend up vegetables and put them in my baked goods.

Here are some of my favorite “guiltless” baked goods that involve veggies or other good things:

1. Fudgy Vegan Beet Cupcakes

2. Healthy(er) Carrot Cake

3. Skinny Zucchini Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

4. Vegan Gluten Free Black Bean Brownies

5. Oatmeal Flax Chocolate Chip Cookies

6. Ginger and Sea Salt Cookies

9:30 p.m.


I always drink a huge glass of water before bed, and stretching out or meditating helps me sleep better throughout the night.

Good luck on your fitness and healthy eating journey! I will be there with you along the way! The goal is to cleanse, fuel, and enjoy the body you are in by fueling it with appropriate (and delicious) foods and exercising to the best of your ability.

I am a firm believer in the fact that in fueling our bodies with good foods, we can increase our levels of fitness and mindfulness. And it never hurts to feel better!

Now go eat some kale.

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Ed: Sara Crolick


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