Supplement Strategy of Middle Age Female Endurance Athlete – Peek Inside my Medicine Cabinet

Friends and acquaintances on social media frequently ask me what supplements I use to support my active lifestyle. Partly, I’ve never really answered the question because it feels like opening up my medicine cabinet and inviting strangers rifle through at their leisure. And, also partly because I don’t want anyone to use MY cocktail of supplements as a cookie cutter solution for their needs. That just won’t work, we are all unique people with different needs. Peek Inside My Medicine Cabinet

However, that being said, I think that many of my supplements, considered individually, could help another female athlete (and in some cases, men) optimize wellness and performance . . . and so, I share! But please consult a medical professional if you thing you want to try one or more of these. Read on to learn about my major challenges as an elite master’s athlete (running, obstacle course racing, and CrossFit) and the supplement solutions I use on both a daily and as-needed basis. Continue reading

Jalapeno Feta Cornbread + Cast Iron Recipes

Um, YES PLEASE! Give me that Jalapeno Feta Cornbread — and find out why I don’t mind having a second slice!Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread SkilletMy Jalapeno Feta Cornbread will be the star of your next meal and makes the perfect paring for my Best-Ever, Super-Secret Beef Chili.  Bake up a batch of this old-fashioned quick bread in a cast iron skillet for the crunchiest crust, a country-style presentation and a surprising health benefit – extra iron in your diet!

Easy Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread makes the perfect pairing with soups, stews, and salads.  Also, did you know that cooking and baking in cast iron helps add additional iron to your diet? Another reason to make a batch for dinner tonight.,

You heard me right, cooking and baking in cast iron can fortify a recipe with iron transferred from the pan. Iron is an essential mineral that the body uses to deliver oxygen to the body via our red blood cell. On average 10 of American women are iron deficient with one recent study suggested that more than half (56%) of recreational joggers and competitive runners suffer from an iron deficiency that may negatively affect performance. Runners, cyclists, CrossFit athletes and other athletes typically need more iron in their diet than the average Joe because this essential mineral is lost via menstruation, pregnancy, sweat, GI distress, and even repetitive foot-strike (“footstrike hemolysis”). Also, some chronic medical conditions such as Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease can prevent the prober absorption of iron.

The more acidic a food (like tomato sauce), the more iron will be leached from the pan, but even baked goods like this cornbread can get an iron-boost from cast iron cookware. On average, one cup of cast-iron skillet food gains 6 to 8 milligrams of iron, helping you to meet daily allowance of this mineral (For women aged 19-50, the RDA is 18 milligrams per day).

However, don’t just count on cast-iron or iron supplements to get the optimal amount – getting iron from fresh foods is optimal. Beef, spinach, broccoli, beans, legumes, and dates are all high-iron choices, you can find out more on this earlier blog post I wrote about Anemia in Runners.

Here are some iron-rich recipes to serve up with this cornbread!

Molasses Steak Salad Dates Blue Cheese overheadSuper-Iron Boosting Molasses Steak, Spinach & Date Salad

Steak and Squash Harvest Stew comes together in the slow cooker for a hearty, healthy meal that is perfect for dinner on busy weeknights -- weekend meals too! Slow-Cooker Steak & Squash Harvest Stew

Best Ever Beef Chili

Best-Ever, Super-Secret Beef Chili.

Note, I originally developed this Jalapeno Feta Cornbread recipe for Litehouse Foods, using their deliciously tangy, creamy artisan feta cheese.

Truvia NectarAlso, let me just add — this cornbread is off the hook drizzled with honey — I like the new Truvia Nectar, a honey/stevia blend that has 50% fewer calories and carbs. Get a free sample! #sponsored #UseLikeHoney

 

 

What do you cook in cast iron? Cornbread fan? Do you make yours plain, or mix “extras” in? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer 

 

Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread Skillet
Easy Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread
Print Recipe
The crispy crust and homey presentation of this easy cornbread recipe is the perfect addition to your best chili, soup or stew recipe!
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread Skillet
Easy Skillet Jalapeno Cornbread
Print Recipe
The crispy crust and homey presentation of this easy cornbread recipe is the perfect addition to your best chili, soup or stew recipe!
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Servings Prep Time
8 servings 10 minutes
Cook Time
20 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to large bowl and mix together.
  2. In separate medium bowl, whisk together egg and buttermilk; stir into flour mixture until just combined. Stir in 3 ounces of the feta cheese, reserve remainder.
  3. Place butter in a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or a 2-quart baking dish and set in oven for a couple minutes to melt. Remove skillet and swirl butter around to coat bottom. Pour remaining butter in batter and stir to combine.
  4. Top cornbread with sliced jalapenos, seed side up and sprinkle batter with chives and remaining feta. Bake cornbread in center rack until golden brown on top and toothpick pulls clean from center, approximately 20 to 25 minutes. Cut into wedges and serve warm. If not serving right away, turn from pan to cool on wire rack.
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Molasses & Pepper Crusted Steaks + Iron-Boosting Salad

Molasses Marinated Flat Iron Leftover steak from the grilling makes the BEST next day salad. Tossing a few extra steaks on the grill is my little secret to putting together a quick meal when life just starts getting too crazy to cook. Since we are now officially “Back to School,” my recipe for Molasses & Pepper Crusted Steak and the next-day “Super Iron Boosting” Steak Salad with Dates, Pistachios and Peppers will most likely be in my weekly lunch and dinner rotation until soup season hits (which is still months away in Texas).

pinners conference pic 1I’ll be showing these two recipes (along with a couple others) in my “Empowered Meal Prepping – Protein for Fitness” class line-up for the Pinner’s Conference in the Dallas area on Sept 9th.  Sign up for my class; I’ll also have beef swag and lots of tasty samples!  Use the discount code FITFORK at online registration to save 10% on the very reasonable cost that allows you access to 100+ classes on food, fitness, crafts, home décor and more! Or, if you just want General Admission to shop and see the sights (no classes), you can get a free pass ($7 at door) using FREESHOPPINGRESISTER HERE

So, let’s start with the steak . . . since you need steak leftovers to make the salad! The beef cut I’ve used is the very tender and quite economical Flat Iron steak, but Top Sirloin, Tenderloin or Strip steaks would all work equally well.   The natural sugars from the molasses in this recipe caramelize along with the pepper to make a deliciously crispy crust on the outside of a mouthwatering and juicy center.  I like to pair this steak with Maple Pecan Raisin Butternut Quinoa Molasses and Pepper-Crusted Grilled Steak is a quick dinner to grill up and the leftovers can be used in salads, tacos, breakfast hashes and more.

Make sure to save some steak so you can use the leftovers to make my “Super Iron Boosting” Steak Salad with Dates, Pistachios and Peppers.  Almost everything about this salad is iron-boosting from the red meat and molasses, to the dates, pistachios (highest iron nut), and spinach.  All of us, especially athletes, need iron, a mineral that helps red blood cells get oxygen to the muscles, thusly improving energy, athletic performance and mental functioning.

uper Iron Boosting Steak Spinach Salad with Dates, Pistachios and Peppers is a quick and easy meal-solution made with leftover beef. Nearly every ingredients is an abundant source of iron, making it perfect for athletes or those with anemia.

Molasses Steak Salad with Dates Blue Cheese toesThe salad isn’t a “recipe” per se, just pile fresh baby spinach on a plate and add 3 ounces of leftover steak cut in bite-sized pieces. Top that with other veggies you love, like yellow pepper strips, and a couple tablespoons each of sliced dates, blue cheese and pistachios. I’ve served with my favorite store-purchased Organic Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing from Litehouse Foods.

How to Layer a Jar Salad

Above are some useful tips for prepping your salad in a jar, if taking to school or work.

Brazilian Beef and Plantain Breakfast BowlAnother recipe in my class, and so delicious with these steak leftovers is a Brazilian Beef & Plantain Breakfast Bowl (with Coconut and Honey).

 

 

 

 

 

What is your favorite cut of steak to grill? Do you like your salads savory, sweet or both? Do you go back and make recipes from pins you’ve saved? Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer 

Molasses & Pepper Crusted Steak
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Molasses & Pepper Crusted Steak
Print Recipe
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Servings Prep Time
4 servings 15 minutes
Cook Time Passive Time
15 minutes 30 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Whisk together molasses, vinegar, oil, pepper, garlic, ginger, thyme, and red pepper flakes, and pour into plastic zip-top bag containing steaks. Seal tightly and flip a few times to evenly distribute marinade.
  2. Set in refrigerator to marinate for 30 minutes to 2 hours, flipping bag occasionally.
  3. Preheat gas or charcoal grill to 400 F degrees. Remove meat and discard marinade. Season with salt and more pepper to taste.
  4. Place steaks on oiled grates and grill for approximately 7 to 9 minutes on one side, or until moisture starts to pool on the top and beef releases easily from grates with tongs. Flip once, grilling on the other side for 6 to 8 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 135 F degrees with instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of steak
  5. Transfer plates to platter and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing against the grain.
  6. *Double recipe if you’d like to have leftovers to make steak salad and beef breakfast bowl.
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10 Reasons to Give Thanks for Sweet Potatoes and 9 Recipes

10 Reasons to be Thankful for Sweet PotatoesPerhaps the official vegetable of the holiday season, sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to a healthy diet any day of the year.   It’s easy to eat well with sweet potatoes — they are packed with essential vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients that are naturally designed to help your body attain peak performance.  If you don’t like sweet potatoes, keep an open mind (and mouth) and look beyond your grandmother’s icky-sticky, marshmallow sweet potato casserole — there are so many delicious ways to enhance the taste of this sweet, mildly earthy tuber. In a list I originally compiled for Core Power, here are my top 10 reasons to be thankful for the humble sweet potato — my favorite reason may be #5 – a healthy source of complex carbohydrates. Unless logistically impossible, I always include sweet potato with my night-before-a-big-race meal. Also, don’t forget to read down to discover my collection of Family Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes:

  1. Inexpensive Eats: The cheap price tag on sweet potatoes (less than $1/lb.) chops the “it costs too much to eat healthy” argument to the core.
  2. Year-Round Availability: While peak season for sweet potatoes is in the fall, this produce department staple is easy to load-up on year round thanks to a long shelf life and global economy.
  3. Stockpile Friendly: Don’t rush out and buy a lifetime supply, but do fill your cart when you see a sale — sweet potatoes stay good in the pantry for a season or two. Freshness can be maintained for up to six months when stored in a pantry, cabinet, unheated garage or other dark, cool space ideally in the 50 F degree range.
  4. Versatile Veggie: Sweet potatoes are awesome baked and eaten plain or can be cooked with much for creativity. Try them mashed, grilled in planks, oven-roasted in wedges, or add chunks to salads, stews and sandwich wraps. Sweet potato puree also adds lots of interest to smoothies, soups and baked goods. See my round-up of personal sweet potato recipes below!
  5. Healthy Complex Carbohydrates: Natural sugars in sweet potatoes are the “good” kind of carbs that are slowly released into the blood stream, providing sustained and balanced energy to fuel your body and brain. No blood sugar spikes and subsequent sugar crashes with this tasty tuber!
  6. Amazing Antioxidants: Orange-fleshed sweet potatoes are a super source of beta-carotene (from vitamin A) that can help protect eyes and damage from the sun, among other things. Purple-fleshed sweet potatoes feature powerful anthocyanins which have important antioxidant anti-inflammatory properties.
  7. Vitamin Rich: Sweet potatoes are packed with vitamins, high in vitamin A, vitamin B5, B6, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin. In fact, this veggie offers 100 percent of the daily value for Vitamin A, a powerhouse shown to be beneficial for anti-aging, eyesight and cancer prevention.
  8. Quercetin Factor: Quercetin, a dietary flavonoid, is abundant in sweet potatoes. Studies have shown that quercetin can help lower LDL cholesterol, reduce inflammation and serves as a natural antihistamine to fight seasonal allergies. Additionally, studies on athletes have shown that this phytochemical bolsters health during the 3 to 72 hour window of impaired immunity following heavy training and also may help increase endurance.
  9. Potassium: Potassium is a mineral that helps your body balance fluids and minerals, maintain a health blood pressure, and keep your neuro-muscular system function normally. A medium, baked sweet potato offers about 450 mg of potassium (about12 percent of your daily value) — even more than the famous banana!
  10. Iron: Grown under the soil, sweet potatoes are a great source for iron, a mineral needed for oxygen delivery throughout the blood system. A surprising number of athletes are low in this important mineral (foot strike can actually be a contributor to deficiency) and an iron boost can help restore energy, resistance to stress and optimal immune functioning.

Family Favorite Sweet Potato Recipes for Thanksgiving, Holidays and everyday weeknight dinners.

Cinnamon Chicken Cashew Sweet PotatoI also love this no-recipe “recipe” from the CookingLight.com blog, Simmer & Boil — Cinnamon Chicken and Cashews on Baked Sweet Potato. Just toss a half-teaspoon or of ground cinnamon with warmed shredded chicken, pile on top of a baked and fluffed sweet potato, sprinkle with cashews and dig in!  What an quick and easy solution for busy weeknight dinners during the holiday season!

 

What is the one Thanksgiving dish you can’t live without? Do you have any big plans for the holiday?  Please share in the comments below – XOXO, Jennifer

 

Nutritious Apricot + Almond Snack Ideas!

Frozen apricot almond milk smoothie

Smoothie-making season is in full swing at my house now that the weather is warm (pushing the 90s) and here to stay! My family thinks I’m crazy, but I love the hot weather and the way the sun feels on my skin – I just have to remember to wear my sunscreen and hydrate!

One of my favorite smoothies for May (when fresh apricots start coming into season), is my Apricot Almond Smoothie. While it’s made with fresh slices of apricot that have been flash frozen, dried apricots can be substituted. For best results, soak the dried apricots in water for about 30 minutes before blending to make them plumper and easier to incorporate. Almond Apricot Smoothie

Apricot Almond Smoothie Recipe 

Blend 1 cup almond milk. 2 tablespoons ground almonds, and ½ cup frozen apricot slices (about 3 – 4 whole apricots). Add ice as needed to achieve desired consistency. If fresh apricots are not available, substitute 8 dried apricot halves that have been soaked in water for at least 30 minutes.

While fresh apricot season is really short, it’s easy to enjoy dried apricot year-round. Due to their dehydrated nature, dried apricots are concentrated in vitamins, minerals and other healthy nutrients – especially iron, vitamins A and C, and dietary fiber.  Stick a zip-top bag of dried apricots in your purse or gym bag to stave off candy bar cravings – toss in some almonds and dark chocolate chips and you can whip up one of these sensible snacks! By the way, one of these apricot, almond and chocolate chip “bites” has just 20 calories! healthy apricot chocolate snacks

Check out CookingLight.com, they’ve got some great ideas on how to enjoy fresh apricots for the few short, glorious weeks they are in season.  I especially like the idea of grilling apricots to intensify the sweet-tart flavor and totally give a thumbs up to putting these caramelized, grate-marked apricots on a salad or alongside beef, shellfish or poultry.

I love this Cooking Light idea for grilled apricots on my salad!

I love this Cooking Light idea for grilled apricots on my salad!

Talking about healthy snacks — don’t forget to enter my giveaway for a month’s supply of Harvest Snaps  —- just click through to enter NOW!

harvest snaps border

 

Anemia in Runners & Healthy Iron Rich Recipes

iron rich recipes thefitfork

It’s normal to feel tired after a long run or strenuous session in the gym, isn’t that the point?! However, if you notice increased fatigue, unexplainable muscle soreness or begin having trouble finishing workouts that were once part of your normal routine, the culprit could actually be an iron deficiency. One recent study suggested that more than half (56%) of recreational joggers and competitive runners suffer from an iron deficiency that may negatively affect performance.

jennifer fisher austin runner zooma

Iron topped off (thanks Team Beef) and running strong at Zooma Texas.

As a quickie science refresher, iron is needed to replenish the constant turnover of red blood cells (at the rate of 1% a day) and to keep this troop of tiny oxygen-deliverers adequately stocked with hemoglobin. Without oxygen moving from your lungs to every part of your body via the red blood cells, organs and tissues are not able to perform as they should, let alone at the optimal capacity demanded by the rigorous training schedule of an athlete.

So, why would a seemingly healthy person, especially an athlete, find themselves battling the malaise brought on by “tired” blood? Here are some obvious and not-so-obvious reasons for iron deficiency in long distance runners and other endurance athletes.

  • Diet: A diet that chronically avoids foods rich in iron may cause anemia, or at a minimum, lower than desired levels of iron. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, or iron-fortified foods are the best sources of iron found in food.
  • Vitamin Deficiency:  Vitamin B-12 and folate both play a role in red blood cell development and can cause anemia if levels are low. A diet without leafy greens, fruits and beans (for the folate) and animal products (for the b-12) can be to blame, as can autoimmune diseases and intestinal problems.
  • Disease and Drugs: Some people consume adequate iron through their diet, but have absorption issues due to diseases including Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease.  Certain drugs may also inhibit the absorption of iron. Consult with your doctor.
  • Pregnancy & Woman Issues: Anemia is fairly common during pregnancy; a woman needs to consume enough iron for herself and her unborn child to avoid becoming depleted. Additionally, heavy menstruation and uterine fibroids can also wear away stores.
  • Sweat: Because iron is a mineral that can be lost through sweat, athletes (especially in endurance events) can become depleted, especially those who perspire heavily and during the summer months.
  • GI Distress: The gastro-intestinal distress, or “runner trots” that affect many athletes during and after events can cause iron deficiency through lost blood. Many are not even aware of the blood loss, as it is eventually passed as waste.
  • Footstrike: Believe it or not, some research suggests that the repetitive and jarring impact of the foot to the ground during running can damage red blood cells in the foot. This “footstrike hemolysis” only reduces trace amounts of iron in the body at a single event, but can add up over time.

So what can be done to increase iron levels and fend off that feeling of fatigue? Depending on the severity, medical professionals would recommend taking supplements and increasing the consumption of iron-rich foods. If you suspect an iron deficiency, please visit with your doctor. In the meantime, be proactive by boosting the amount of iron in your diet with these foods:

foods high in iron

  • Red meat (beef, pork, liver)
  • Egg yolks
  • Dark, leafy greens (spinach, collards, kale)
  • Dried fruit (prunes, raisins, apricots)
  • Iron-enriched cereals and grains (read the labels)
  • Mollusks (oysters, clams, scallops)
  • Fish (tuna, cod, sardine)
  • Turkey or chicken giblets
  • Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
  • Artichokes

Tips:

Combine with vitamin C. Iron absorption is increased when paired with foods loaded in vitamin C. Toss papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, oranges, kiwi, pineapple and even cauliflower into your iron-rich recipes; they are all very high in vitamin C.

Pair with protein. Protein helps release the iron contained in beans, so serve them with beef, chicken, tofu, or fish (for example, beef chili with kidney beans).

Cook in cast iron! Research has shown that the iron content of food prepared in cast-iron was 2 to 12 times higher than foods cooked in other types of pots.  Acidic, high-moisture foods (like spaghetti sauce) have the highest levels of desirable leached iron.

Keep iron and calcium apart: As much as possible, try to eat iron rich foods at a different time than calcium rich foods — calcium can inhibit the absorption. So, for example, don’t eat a steak and wash it down with a glass of milk. If you take supplements, do the calcium in the morning and the iron at night, or vice versa. Thank you to Runnng Hutch at Matters of Course for reminding me of this tip.

Iron-Rich Recipe Ideas:

Crock Pot Sugar Snap & Orange Beef

Orange Sugar Snap Pea Beef – You’ll never tire (literally) of this beef slow-cooker dinner thanks to the spicy citrus sauce and orange slices.

Blue Cheese artichoke spinach eggs

Artichoke Spinach & Blue Cheese Baked Eggs – Artichoke, spinach and egg yolks makes this breakfast the best!

jennifer fisher - thefitfork.com - farmers market beef veggie salad

Farmer’s Market Beef & Brown Rice Salad – High-iron beef unlocks even more iron in chickpeas, plus vitamin C veggies – it’s a three-way winner!

Simply green smoothie

Simple Green Smoothie – The spinach and hemp seed smoothie will kick up iron consumption for vegans and vegetarians.

What is your favorite iron-rich food? Have you ever been diagnosed as anemic?