Friday, August 07, 2009

Quinoa...the super grain?

I heard about the virtues of Quinoa years ago while reading Runners World. But, as is often the case when I read Runners World, I find something I should try and two weeks later I've completely forgotten about it.

It took a random trip down an aisle at Costco to remind me that I needed to give Quinoa a shot.

I purchased a generously sized bag of this alleged 'super grain' and it proceeded to sit idly on my kitchen counter for nearly amonth.

Surprisingly, I didn't find the mere 'presence' of Quinoa in my kitchen improve my running in significant way!

I finally found an opportunity to open the bag and made some Quinoa for the first time as part of a chicken soup I made (the recipe is below).

I included roughly 2 cups of quinoa in the soup and over the course of a week managed to consume quinoa
virtually every day.

Quinoa is known for being one of the few (if only)'complete proteins' that doesn't come in 'meat' form. It has all the nine essential amino acids.

While I am not vegan or vegetarian, I know I don't consume nearly enough protein for someone who is as active as I am. What I experienced in a mere WEEK has turned me into a quinoa evangelist!

In short, I ran about 75 miles during the week in which I was consuming quinoa regularly. This is the most mileage I have run since I peaked for my last marathon in Dec.2008. I've logged mileage as high as 85 miles/week before and usually I feel destroyed by the end of the week.

But, I felt markedly different at the end of my week of quinoa. I found myself bouncing back and recovering quickly from all of my runs. This would climax with an 8 mile run on Sunday (following an 18 miler on Saturday) that I ran comfortably at my marathon pace from last year (about 6:15/mile).

You may be thinking this was simply the'placebo' effect and you may be right, but I doubt it. I changed NOTHING last week other than ingesting some quinoa on a regular basis.

Consider the following facts about quinoa:

-It is a 'complete' protein that contains all nine essential amino acids. Runners NEED more protein than those who are sedentary.

-It is well endowed with lysine which is essential for tissue growth/repair. Think of all the microtears in muscle fiber we incur as runners and what's needed to REPAIR this damage.

-It is a good source of magnesium, a mineral that relaxes blood vessels and
thusly, contributes to cardiovascular health.

-It is a good source of manganese and copper, these two minerals help
protect antioxidants (which we definitely need after a tough run).

-It has a nearly 4:1 (4.5, actually)carbohydrate to protein ration which has been proven to be 'optimal' for recovery from strenuous activity. So, you've got a GREAT source of carbs AND protein!

In short, you're looking at a serious POWER food that can be mixed with fruit/honey for breakfast or mixed with grilled salmon, chicken (or just about anything) for lunch or dinner.

My experience in just a short week has me believing that quinoa is indeed the real deal!

Matt's Chicken Quinoa Soup

-4-6 cups of chicken broth
-Chicken from one rotisserie chicken (from Andronico's, Whole Foods, Costco, etc.)
-2 carrots chopped
-2 red peppers chopped
-8 roasted/smashed garlic cloves
-1 can of corn
-salt, pepper, rosemary, thyme (season to taste)

Combine all of the aforementioned in a pot and simmer/boil gently for 20-30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare two cups of quinoa (roughly 15-20 minutes). When the quinoa is light/fluffy, combine it with the soup. DONE!


Anonymous said...

You can also bathe in Quinoa. I do it daily.


janet said...

I LOVE quinoa already and am training for NYC so will start eating it regularly

Rebecca Weissman said...

Thanks for reminding me about the quinoa on my shelf. I used to eat it all the time but then it got buried behind my rices during my recent rice kick. Thanks to you, it has re-secured its place in front. Have you tried all three colors? What are those little curly things that separate from each grain when you cook it?

Running On Juice said...

I have also read this about quinoa. I like the stuff but struggle for inspiring recipes. I will definitely give this chicken one a go Matt!