What?! What is a subject like ‘bee larvae’ doing on a running blog???
I will come to that. : )
Today’s post explores the role of food in my life.
From the rational perspective: food is fuel. The right food at the right time in the right proportions provides all the nutrients I need to support my body through the terrors I put it through during my running and training.
As a distance runner I have read many books, runners’ mag articles and blogs about eating right. The right meal the night before a race. A suitable breakfast before the race. Fuelling during a long run. What to eat straight afterwards. And just generally what foods assist in providing the energy and support for my training.
Muscles need carbs for fuel. The experts suggest that about 60-70% of the diet should be carb-based. Complex carbs though, sadly not those yummo cake-lovin’, choc-meltin’ types. So the plate should have whole grains, brown rice, fresh fruit and veg and the like. Not enough carbs in the diet = fatigue.
Muscle repair comes from portion, and distance runners are supposed to eat as much protein as body builders. Seriously! That should be approx 10-15% of the diet. One of the key points to note here is the right amount. I often see massive steaks on diners’ plates in restaurants and cringe. We are only supposed to have 1gm protein for every kilogram of body weight. A useful web page that lists protein contents of different foods can be found at the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s website.
The remaining proportion of the diet should be fats. Why is that? According to the Marathon Training Guide, “Long distance runners train to build carbohydrate-economic muscles. This means that more fats are burned for energy before depleting the muscles of their carbohydrate storage.” Nooooo, when we are talking fats here, these are still not the yummo cake-lovin’ types. We are talking unsaturated fats such as avocado, peanut butter (yippee!!) and nuts in general, fish and oils.
From the non-rational perspective, food is pleasure. Food is the way we connect with others. It helps facilitate a sense of community at times. It is the rewards for the labour of growing, preparing and sharing. It it the treat or indulgence we have in our lives. It is how we sometimes help ourselves to feel good after a crap day.
Who among us has not had a craving for something delicious? An ice cream or frozen yoghurt on a hot summer’s day. A steaming mug of hot chocolate when it is becoming frosty outside. A hearty minestrone with some crusty bread to share with friends and family. A salted caramel macaron that you would drive miles to buy.
Often it is our body telling us it needs something specific (craving hot chips or vegemite? perhaps your diet is a little low in salt?), and other times I think it is our emotional selves reconnecting with a feeling that we have experienced in the past, and that the specific food was associated with the experience. For me, fish and chips are a summer’s seaside meal in the car with my family. I can almost hear the waves rolling up the beach when I eat them today – just need close my eyes. A true childhood memory. And spring pea soup will always be the rich conversation of friends in foreign countries, as the best pea soup I ever made was for some friends for dinner when I was living in Belgium. I recall the colour of the deep green soup in the low, white bowls next to the dark purple napkins on the table – a richness of colour as well as taste.
Hang on! What about the BEE LARVAE???!!
Let me tell you a little story about bees and the Varroa mite. We don’t have this destructive little mite in Australia to date, so we are lucky. I was educated about the Varroa mite and the value of bee larvae by a guest lecturer for one of my Master of Sustainable Practice seminars recently, Mr Josh Evans from the Nordic Food Lab (which is associated with NOMA).
The Varroa mite is responsible for decimating many bee populations. The mite infests the hive, seeking the easy prey of the bee larvae for their food. In particular they head the drone bee larvae, and congregate almost entirely there. This is because the drone bee larvae stays in larval stage for about twice as long as the worker bees, so it is a more prolonged food source for the mite. Lazy? Smart? Efficient? All of the above.
If a hive is known to have been infested by the Varroa mite, the apirist can remove the affected drone bee larvae and that can often save the rest of the hive. The drone bee population that has been removed from the hive that is affected by the mite is dead, and instead of just throwing them away, the Nordic Food Lab have been exploring their value as a food source.
It turns out that bee larvae is incredibly high in protein (the runner’s muscle repair kit), and, as the larvae had only been nourished by the purest of honey, is also incredibly and beautifully sweet. I was fortunate enough to taste some and can say that it was spectacular.
So what does this little story and bee larvae as a whole got to do with the role of food in my life?
A few things:
- our diets should be as diverse as possible. We know monoculture is not great for sustainable farming, so it probably isn’t great for eating either! For me the message was to ensure I take my protein through a variety of sources and not just the traditional and familiar ones.
- there is high nutrient value in what we often consider waste products. I already make my own stock from vegetable peelings, fish bones, the water I poached chicken breasts in etc to make sure I extract every last nutritional ounce. But I could probably be a little more adventurous and imaginative with the ‘waste’ or left overs.
- food is fun! I don’t want to get so caught up in the science of the right proteins, correct fats types etc that I lose connect with the enjoyment of food. It was actually quite a fun and almost daring experience to try bee larvae.
Being surprised and delighted in life doesn’t happen often enough. Allow that to happen through food too : )