Welcome to the Nutrition section of Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life. In today’s chapter, I’m giving you 40 meals for busy athletes (or the average health nerd or fat loss enthusiast), along with how to fuel your body with the thousands of calories necessary for endurance and extreme exercise – without destroying your body.
I’m going to give you a comprehensive and simple list of the most easy-to-prepare, quick and nutrient-dense meals…
…and share a secret with you: aside from occasional nice sit-down dinners, my personal diet is extremely quick and non-complex because I simply don’t have much time to cook – and I’m going to give you the exact quick and non-complex meals I base 99% of my diet around.
Then, in the sections that come after today’s chapter, you’re going to discover:
-How Many Calories, Carbs, Proteins And Fats Should You Be Eating?
-3 Steps To Hitting The Reboot Button on Your Gut – A Detox Plan For Active People
-The Real Truth About Workout Fuel – How To Say Goodbye to Engineered Frankenfoods and Eat For Exercise With Real Nutrition
-A Healthy Race Day Nutrition Plan
-The 21 Best Kitchen Tools, Grocery Shopping Guides, Cookbooks, Websites and Local Resources To Fuel Your Endurance Lifestyle
-The Confusing World of Supplements: How To Nourish Your Body With A Customized Nutrition Supplement Protocol Specific To Your Unique Needs
-What About Me? Diet-Tweaking Tips for Vegans, Aging Athletes, Males, Females and Low Carbers.
Sound good? Let’s jump right in!
I look at the diets of many endurance athletes, marathoners, cyclists, swimmers, runners and triathletes. Many eat enough (although some do not – a problem we’ll talk about in a bit), but in order to dump that amount of fuel into the body, there are several inflammatory, joint-aching, gut-disrupting, blood-sugar-spiking foods that consistently appear as traditional staples.
These staples include:
-Frequent coffeeshop stops to stock up with caffeine, sport drinks, and a variety of baked goods that include cookies, bagels, biscotti, scones, cinnamon rolls and anything labeled “Whole Wheat”, “Whole Grain”, “Fat-Free”, “Healthy”, “Energy”, especially items with a “Stamp of Health Approval” from said coffeeshop…
-Cereal, including cereal that features athletes on the cover or appears at first glance to be loaded with meusli, whole grains, and added vitamins and minerals, which are usually covering up ingredients like genetically modified corn and soy, or lots and lots of wheat…
-Bagels, including whole wheat, cinnamon-raisin, and those with a guilt-free smathering of lite cream cheese or fat-free cream cheese…
-Muffins, chewy and dense sources of carbohydrate-based energy ( created with all the ingredients of birthday cake)…
-Granola, conveniently coated in vegetable oil and syrup or sugar, and often washed down with a couple cups of milk or strawberry-banana yogurt..
-Bread, in all types, shapes and sizes, including whole wheat, whole grain and fiber-enriched…
-Energy bars, energy chunks and packaged sports supplements being purveyed as organic or holistic or clean-burning energy sources…
-Cookies, sometimes the healthy energy kind, sometimes the traditional variety, often consumed at office parties or meetings…
-Deli-meat, a dense and convenient source of 98% fat-free protein….
-Lots of eggs as the fallback source of morning breakfast protein or a quick post-workout snack…
-Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ve witness athletes slathering peanut butter on just about everything, really…
-Pasta, ravioli, fettuccini and spaghetti, in all forms, shapes and sizes, including whole wheat…
-After a long day of training, some type of sweetened dairy product, usually in the form of ice cream, milkshake or frozen yogurt…
-Energy drink, energy water, energy beverages and anything in liquid bottled form that is any color other than actual water…
-Lots of energy gels, sports drinks and bars – for every training session, since you have to “practice” with them to get your gut ready for the race…
As a matter of fact, just this morning I was reading the nutrition feature off the front page of Ironman.com (“Master Your Morning with a Better Breakfast“), and the meal sitting right at the top was the “Crunchy, Fruity Nut Butter Sandwich”, which consists of:
-1 Tbsp natural nut butter
-1 Tbsp jam/jelly (100 percent real fruit)
-2 Tbsp chopped walnuts (or nut of your choice)
-fruit of your choice (sliced strawberries, pears, banana, apple)
-1 Tbsp ground flax seeds
-Optional: minced ginger, cinnamon or nutmeg
1. Spread nut butter on one side of bread (or ½ wrap, 1 side pita) and sprinkle with chopped nuts.
2. Spread jam on the other slice (or side of wrap/pita) and sprinkle with flax or chia seeds.
3. Place thinly sliced fruit on either side of bread (season with spices if you’d like) and close.
4. Wrap in tinfoil and enjoy with 8 ounces milk or ½ cup yogurt.
Sure, this is one fast and cheap way to get calories down the hatch – and healthier than, say, an Egg McMuffin, but when you’re truly trying to be healthy on the outside and healthy on the inside, there is a much smarter way to do things.
Why Nutrient Density Is More Important Than Calorie Density
Now don’t get me wrong. You definitely need to eat and most endurance athletes need to eat more than they think. Consuming a low calorie diet simply results in lower consumption of all the tiny micronutrients you need for health, performance, and recovery – malnourishment, basicayll. Humans actually do quite well when consuming a high number of calories.
How high? According to one study that analyzed 4 popular (1), most diets require on average 27,575 calories per day to simply supply all the essential micronutrients you need (which is why you should pay close attention when we get to the supplementation chapter of this book unless you plan on eating nearly 30,000 calories per day!).
And a recent study in the journal of Metabolism also threw around some pretty scary terms.
The study was titled “Neuroendocrine Alterations In The Exercising Human: Implications For Energy Homeostasis”, and it highlighted the fact that we humans have complex mechanisms to defend against the adverse effects of negative energy balance (e.g. not eating enough calories) (2). Contrary to the sedentary or relatively less physically active population, too few calories often tends to be more of a problem than too many calories when training for endurance events or well above-average or extreme levels of physical activity into our life.
Just a few of these responses to negative energy balance – most of which you’ve already learned about in previous chapters – include disruption of our appetite regulating hormones, decreases in crucial hormones like thyroid, testosterone and growth hormone, estrogen deficiencies, amplified cortisol levels and other effects that can cause cardiovascular problems, low bone density, loss of reproductive function and drive, muscle wasting, metabolic damage and a host of other factors that aren’t too attractive for anyone.
So what’s an active person to do? The fact is, there are many books and articles that have attempted to address this problematic issue by warning us to “make sure that we eat enough“. That’s right: simply eat more. Quit fasting and complaining about your low energy and eat more. Interestingly, this concept becomes all the more important when you are female – and every calorie-restricting, intermittent fasting (IF’ing) chic definitely needs to read this article at Stumptuous.com.
It comes down to this concept: by simply sending a signal to your body that caloric energy is not a precious commodity, you can stave off much hormonal and metabolic down regulation.
As simple as it seems, this is sound advice. But the problem is that many of the calorie-dense foods we tend to see encouraged as “calorie dense” items have inherent health drawbacks (many of which you’ll learn more about in the gut-fixing chapter of this book, and which are also featured in my Holistic Fueling For Endurance Athletes manual). For example:
-Peanuts and legumes – although a dense source of calories, peanuts, peanut butter, and legumes such as lentils (especially when unsoaked or cooked incompletely) are high in lectins, which can cause immune (allergic) reations, gastrointestinal distress, and, ironically, nutritional deficiencies.
-Nuts and nut butters – while most almond, cashew, walnut and other nut based trail mixes or nut butters tend to be much healthier than the average peanut butter, they are also very high in heated oils (which produce cell-damaging free radicals) and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids – which can tend to dump inflammation on an already stressed athlete’s body when overused to the extent most people implement such sources (by the handful and heaping spoonful).
-Grains – you’ve probably already seen your fair share of articles or books that caution against the potential inflammatory and gut-disrupting effect of gluten, but unfortunately, cereals, granolas, designer breads, and other “healthy whole grains” are still considered staples in most endurance athlete diets – and most of us are not going out of our way to properly soak, ferment or sprout these grains to make them digestible.
-Dried Fruits, Trail Mixes, Bars and Powders – both of these are touted as high-calorie, dense sources of energy, but upon inspection of the nutrition facts or ingredients on most such mixes, you’ll find oodles of added vegetable oils, sugars, preservatives, and chemicals – making these snacks more likely to give you a gut bomb or extra inflammation than they are to provide lasting energy. And while there are a growing variety of healthier bars, powders and mixes on the market, and more nutrition companies making wise decisions to pay attention to healthy, holistic ingredients, the fact is that many triathletes are still stuffing their bodies with fake, engineered foods from the grocery store bargain bin.
Perhaps you’re chuckling at the limitations listed above. After all, with this kind of nutrition Nazi-ism, what’s left to eat?
You’re about to find out. But first, you need to be familiar with the two missing keys in most fueling advice:
1) Nutrient Density: Think of nutrient density as a ratio of actual nutrient content (vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids) to the total energy content (calories). Just because a food is energy-dense does not mean it is nutrient-dense. For example, the notion that grains and legumes are amongst the healthiest foods comes from an analysis of them in their raw and inedible state. Once you look at their cooked values, they are amongst the worst from a nutrient density standpoint.
2) Digestibility: The digestibility of a food refers to any propensity to resist digestion or cause nutrient malabsorption due to content such as lectins, phytic acids, saponins, or other digestive irritants or inhibitors. For example, popular athletic fueling foods these days such as quinoa, amaranth, millet, nuts and seeds are all relatively nutrient dense, but unless you’re willing to rinse, soak and sprout them, their lack of digestibility tends to cancel out the actual nutrient density.
So now we know two things:
1) That neuroendocrine alterations can be caused by low calorie intake combined with high levels of exercise, and;
2) That to combat this message of low energy we must choose foods that satisfy the three criteria of being calorie-dense, nutrient-dense and digestible.
So what are my favorite calorie-dense, nutrient-dense and digestible foods that you can begin to implement into your training diet? In no particular order, here are enough foods to keep your body satisfied all week long (and don’t worry, those 40 easy meals are coming soon).
1. Eggs, with the yolk.
Eggs are easy to blend, cook and scramble with other foods, and are high in fat-soluble vitamins, choline, folate, selenium, lecithin, iodine, and omega-3 fatty acids (3). Get your eggs from a grass-fed, pastured, organic source and don’t skip the yolk. For full benefit, an egg needs to be eaten with all the components – and not dumped from a cardboard egg-white carton. After a long swim, I love to mow down a few eggs with avocado, turmeric, sea salt and fish, then serve in a nori seaweed wrap.
2. Sea vegetables.
Seaweed, nori, kelp, dulse, algae, spirulina, chlorella and other ocean flora is incredibly high in minerals, iodine, magnesium, manganese, iron, and trace minerals (4). You can buy kelp or dulse flakes to sprinkle on food, add dried kombu to soups and stews, add a side of seaweed salad when you’re at the sushi restaurant, and use nori wraps as an alternative to bread or grain-based wraps. Another dense source of sea vegetables are EnergyBits – chewable chlorella and spirulina based tablets which are good to have around the house for nighttime cravings, or to toss in a ziplock bag for a workout. Pop ’em like popcorn.
3. Organ meats.
I know they’re called “offal” but they’re really not all that awful. On most nutrient-density charts, organ meats and oils blow any other food out of the water, and if you find it palatable, liver is a fantastic source of fat soluble vitamins and nearly every nutrient on the face of the planet (7). Make sure you get it from a reputable source, and then after a hard day’s training session, fry it up with butyric-acid rich butter and quercetin-packed red onions and you’ll feel like a million bucks the next day.
4. Bone broth.
Every week in the Greenfield house, we brew up a big vat of bone broth that lasts all week long – typically by using a whole chicken (although you can also use beef, pork or other bones). Once you’ve learned how to make it once, bone broth is easy to make over and over again, and is a fantastic source of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and fatty acids (5). When consumed along with the marrow that seeps into the broth, it can also heal your digestive system, fix joint pain, and enhance sleep. If you don’t have time to make bone broth, you can get some of the benefits by purchasing and using gelatin regularly (use an organic, clean source such as Great Lakes or Bernard Jensen) or ordering bone broth from a website like Kettle and Fire.
Oysters and mussels are extremely nutrient dense, and just a few medium-sized oysters can supply over 1000% of your daily vitamin B12 needs, along with a huge dose of vitamin A, Vitamin E, copper, selenium, zinc and essential fatty acids (7). Mussels are a close second, and are rich in the entire B-vitamin complex, along with selenium, zinc, protein, magnesium, and manganese. As with any meat or seafood source, it’s important to choose a clean, fresh source of shellfish – but including a serving of shellfish just once a week can make a drastic improvement in your nutrient status. A bib is optional.
This fermented soybean derivative is actually quite easy to make if you grab a starter portion from your local Asian market, and then ferment along with soybeans that you can get from any grocery store. Although the “snotty” texture takes some getting used to, it has extremely high levels of one important bone and blood-building vitamin that most individuals – especially hard charging athletes – tend to be very deficient in: vitamin K2 (6). Natto can be eaten for breakfast with some scrambled eggs and avocado, or simply served on it’s own, topped with sea salt and a generous serving of extra virgin olive oil.
7. Any dark colored fruit, vegetable or starch.
This is perhaps the horse that has been kicked most to death in nutritional advice, but it really is true that you need to eat colorful foods and lots of them. The polyphenols and bioactive compounds found in plants are no higher than in fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, purple grapes, pomegranates and currants, vegetables such as purple cabbage, kale, organic tomatoes and dark orange carrots, and starches such as sweet potatoes, yams and taro (7). Any active person’s refrigerator or countertop should be chock full of the colorful compounds, and the fresher the better.
8. Fermented foods. Fermentation of a food increases that food’s nutrient bioavailability and digestibility, and renders many digestive irrating foods (such as dairy or soy) extremely digestible and nutrient dense (8). Cultures around the world have fermented a number of different products. In Asia, there is natto, kimchi, kefir; in the Middle East, pickles , yogurts, and torshi; in Europe use of sauerkraut and rakfisk, and Pacific islanders with poi and kanga pirau. In America, we eat all these and also include kombucha and dark chocolate. Include a variety of fermented foods in your diet to round things out, and your gut flora and immune system will thank you (you’ll learn more about that in the gut-fixing chapter).
As you can see, satisfying your crucial energy requirements in a healthy way goes far above and beyond slathering peanut butter on a slice of whole grain bread, downing a handful of dried fruit and trail mix, or unwrapping an energy bar or two. If you’re serious about the ultimate combination of health, performance and longevity, you should throw at least a few of the nutrient-dense, calorie-dense and digestible choices above into your daily fueling mix.
Finally, no discussion of nutrient density would be complete without pointing out the fact that human agriculture has led to a dramatic loss in the nutrient value of the plants we eat most commonly. In her book “Eating On The Wild Side“, Jo Robinson points out that the tiny molecular nutrients in antioxidant rich foods begin to disappear soon after harvesting. So when you are eating extremely nutrient dense vegetables that tend to be exposed to large amounts of sunlight, such as artichokes, arugula, asparagus, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, parsley, mushrooms and spinach, you should try to eat these foods as fresh as possible – and avoid storing them in the refrigerator or vegetable crisper for long periods of time.
40 Easy Meals For Busy Athletes
So let’s say you want to take the concept of nutrient density and digestibility that you just learned about, and tweak it into a meal plan that meets your needs – without spending your life in the kitchen figuring out how to cook liver?
Below, I have 40 meals that I’ve designed for you to fuel your body with nutrient rich foods that are simple to prepare, but that also provide the density and digestibility necessary to fuel an active lifestyle.
These meals are not designed to impress or to knock people’s socks off at dinner parties. There are also no pretty pictures or complex instructions that are going to make you feel artistic and smug in fancy, new-found cooking skills. But if you were going to go through an entire year and eat nothing but the meals outlined in this document, you would be completely set with everything you need for supporting your body with nutrient density. There’s absolutely no need to feel “guilty” about keeping things simple and eating same breakfast, lunch and dinner nearly every day (yes, I coach athletes who are perfectly content drinking 3-4 smoothies a day).
Finally, before throwing at you an entire laundry list of random meals, please know that in later chapters I’m going to help you create your own personal meal plan based on calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats – but for now, quit worrying and start chowing away!
1. Eggs With Avocado & Vegetables
This is a lower carbohydrate meal that is best consumed on mornings you are not exercising within 2-3 hours after breakfast (since high-protein and high-fat meals will take longer to digest and require more digestive energy to be shunted to your gut). Scramble, fry, poach or steam 2-3 eggs from organic, pastured hens*. Duck eggs are also OK, especially if you tend to find yourself allergic to or bothered by chicken eggs. Cook eggs on relatively low heat to avoid oxidation and protein damage, and use grass-fed butter, ghee, olive oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil or coconut oil. Not extra virgin olive oil. Here’s a handy smoke point chart to choose your oils wisely and you use the stuff that isn’t damaged by high heat:
|Avocado oil||Un-Refined, Virgin||375-400°F||190-204°C|
|Canola oil||Expeller Press||375-450°F
|Canola oil||High Oleic||475°F||246°C|
|Coconut oil||Extra Virgin (Unrefined)||350°F
|Flax seed oil||Unrefined||225°F||107°C|
|Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter)||485°F||252°C|
|Olive oil||Extra virgin||375°F||191°C|
|Olive oil||Extra light||468°F||242°C
|Olive oil, high quality (low acidity)||Extra virgin||405°F||207°C|
|Rice bran oil||490°F||254°C|
|Sunflower oil, high oleic||Unrefined||320°F||160°C|
|Tea seed oil||485°F||252°C|
On the side, or heated along with the eggs, include a large serving of dark leafy greens (bokchoy, spinach, kale, swiss chard, mustard greens, etc.), and for added healthy fats, a handful of olives or 1/2-1 sliced avocado. As an alternative to avocado, you can use pemmican (you’ll learn more about this tasty treat later) or bacon. Add sea salt and pepper to taste and serve with fresh sliced tomato. If desired, this meal can be eaten with 1-2 nori seaweed wraps – with eggs, greens and avocado or olives and pemmican or bacon rolled up inside the wrap.
For extra vitamin K/carbs, especially if this meal follows a morning workout, you can include a small side of “natto” (fermented soybeans available at any Asian market), and for extra probiotics, you can also include a side of KimChi (see how to make your own probiotics in this video).
That sounded like a ton of work, but you can whip this together in 10 minutes flat and eat it even faster.
*When I use words like “organic” and “pastured”, I mean it. If you’re serious about wanting to look, feel and perform better by limiting the amount of hormones, antibiotics, toxins, molds and inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids that you consume, and you can’t find or order clean versions of meat and clean versions of anything that originally came from an animal, you’re better off choosing a non-meat based meal. In Chapter 16 I’ll tell you more about why this matters and where you can go to find what you need locally or online.
2. Supergreens or Superberry
This meal is easily digested up to an hour before a workout, or can be used as a quick post-workout meal. My wife refers to it as “green slop”, but I absolutely love any of the meal replacement blends made by LivingFuel. Most athletes I advise do very, very well on this clean burning fuel.
Combine 2-3 large scoops of LivingFuelSupergreens or Superberry with 4-6 ounces full fat organic, BPA free coconut milk (unsweetened – we use Native Forest brand and order by the case off Amazon), 1-2 tablespoons almond butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a handful of coconut flakes (unsweetened), a tablespoon of chia seeds, or 1/2-1 packet of Cocochia Snack Mix. You can blend this, shake it in a mixer bottle, or simply stir it all together with a spoon. As an alternative to coconut milk, you can use organic yogurt or kefir if your stomach tolerates dairy.
3. Living Protein
This meal is OK up to an hour before a workout, or as a post-workout meal. Combine 2-3 large scoops of LivingFuel LivingProtein with 4-6 ounces full fat coconut milk (unsweetened), 1-2 tablespoons almond butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and a handful of coconut flakes (unsweetened), a tablespoon of chia seeds, or 1/2-1 packet of Cocochia Snack Mix. You can blend this, shake it in a mixer bottle, or simply stir it all together with a spoon. You’ll find the flavor of this mix beats the pants off eating the protein simply stirred or blended in water or juice.
4. High-Fat Coffee – AKA Bulletproof® Coffee
This meal is perfect as a “fasted” meal before a long, hard workout, and also on easier days in which you need much less protein and carbohydrate than usual. Full credit goes to the genius “BulletproofExec” Dave Asprey for this recipe. In a blender, magic bullet, or shaker cup, combine 8-12 ounces black coffee (Upgraded™ organic, mold-free) with 1-2 tablespoons Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil, 1-2 tablespoons organic KerryGold butter and (optional, but for added calories) with a touch of vanilla powder and Upgraded™ Chocolate Powder to taste. Then sit back and wait for fireworks of extreme focus to form in your brain.
5. Seeds & Nuts + Fruit
This is a good breakfast to eat if you are in a hurry, and is also OK up to an hour before a workout, or as a post-workout meal. Simply eat 1-2 large handfuls of a raw nut or seed (the best are almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts or pumpkin seeds – and keep them in the freezer so they don’t go rancid) along with a piece of fresh raw fruit, such as a pomegranate, grapefruit or apple.
If you give a rip about the health of your digestive system, is highly recommended that you soak your nuts and seeds. Here’s how: place your choice of nuts and seeds in a bowl with enough filtered water to cover them completely, and add a heaping tablespoon of salt to the the water. Soak time for different seeds and nuts can be found by clicking here.
6. Sweet Potatoes or Yams with Sea Salt & Honey
This is a higher carbohydrate meal that should only be eaten prior to a big training day, big workout, race or if you’re “cycling carbs” on a higher carb intake day. Bake or boil 1-2 sweet potatoes or yams and consume with sea salt and 1-2 tablespoons local raw honey or organic maple syrup. For added calories (especially prior to a 2+ hour training session or race), you can include a dollop of organic, grass-fed yogurt or kefir (if your gut tolerates dairy) and/or 1-2 tablespoons almond butter.
7. Breakfast Salad
Although a salad for breakfast may seem unconventional or rabbit-like, this is a perfect meal when you have a little more time to sit down for breakfast, and you’re not working out in the next 2-3 hours. Over a bed of spinach or kale, add 2-3 steamed or poached, pastured and organic eggs, 1-2 tablespoons olive, 1 sliced tomato, 1/2-1 sliced avocado, a dollop of organic, grass-fed yogurt or kefir (if your gut tolerates dairy) and sea salt and pepper to taste. Eat up, little bunny.
8. Waffles or Pancakes (takes a little more prep time, but worth it to know this recipe)
Similar to the sweet potato/yam recipe, this is another higher carbohydrate meal that should only be eaten prior to a big training day or race. This meal is not to be consumed if you are on a gut healing diet (you’ll learn about that later in this book), since even though the grains are soaked and sprouted, they may still aggravate a damaged gut.
Begin by sprouting and fermenting millet, quinoa, oats or buckwheat. Yes, this may seem like a hippie step but it’s 100% necessary if you care about your insides. To sprout and ferment your grains:
1.Wash them with water four or five time and leave to soak them in filtered water over night in a glass bowl with a plate on top;
2. In the morning wash and rinse your grains thoroughly and cover with filtered water again. This time add about 1 T of whey or the juice of 1/2 lemon to the water and cover again for 12 – 24 hours;
3. Rinse the grains and strain out the water. They are now ready to use.
For your recipe, take 3 cups of your sprouted, fermented grain, add 4 organic pastured eggs, 3 -4 tablespoons grass-fed butter or coconut oil, 2 teaspoons baking soda and 1 tablespoon vanilla. Blend all ingredients in the food processor for at least 5 minutes until nice and smooth. Use in your favorite waffle iron. This batter works for pancakes as well. Serve with grass-fed butter or almond butter, a dollop of organic, grass-fed yogurt or kefir (if your gut tolerates dairy) and a small amount of sliced bananas or berries of your choice.
9. Hot Power Cereal
This is another higher carbohydrate meal that should only be eaten prior to a big training day or race. Similar to the waffles/pancakes is not to be consumed if you are on a gut healing diet, since even though the quinoa is soaked and sprouted, it may still aggravate a damaged gut.
To sprout and ferment your quinoa:
1.Wash it with water four or five time and leave to soak in filtered water over night in a glass bowl with a plate on top;
2. In the morning wash and rinse thoroughly and cover with filtered water again. This time add about 1 T of whey or the juice of 1/2 lemon to the water and cover again for 12 – 24 hours;
3. Rinse the quinoa and strain out the water. It is now ready to use.
Cook a serving of quinoa for 20 minutes over medium heat on stovetop, and then remove from heat and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of almond butter, a pinch of sea salt, a tablespoon of chia seeds or Cocochia snack m, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon cinnamon. On a cold winter morning, this hot mess of goodness will rock your world.
10. High Fat Smoothie (& Ketogenic Kale Shake)
I often have this not just for breakfast, but multiple times during the day, especially on busy days. Hell, I sometimes have this meal for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
You’ll need a powerful blender for this one. Toss into the blender a handful of almonds, a handful of chia seeds, 3-5 raw brazil nuts, 1/2-1 avocado, a teaspoon cinnamon and 1-2 tablespoons cacao or carob powder with 1-2 heaping scoops grass-fed whey or vegan protein powder and 4-6oz full fat coconut milk. Then push blend and watch the magic happen.
As an alternative, you can use another Dave Asprey inspired meal: the “Ketogenic Kale Shake”, which includes 1-2 bunches of steamed kale, 2-4 tablespoons grass-fed butter, 1-2 tablespoons of MCT oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt (I highly recommend this Aztecan stuff), 2 tablespoons of high quality protein powder, 1-4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, full-fat coconut milk to desired texture, and a handful of your choice of herbs (i.e. cilantro, parsley, oregano, etc. – great for cleansing gut/liver too). Ideally, you should steam kale about 5 minutes to reduce oxalic acids, then blend with all ingredients. Here’s a video of me punishing the process of gracefully making a Ketogenic Kale Shake.
11. Green Smoothie
This recipe is far simpler (but less dense and fat-filled) than the Ketogenic Kale Shake. Blend 1/2-1 cup of spinach, 1-1.5 cups kale, 1/2-1 banana, a small handful almonds, 3-5 raw brazil nuts, and 1-2 tablespoons cacao or carob powder. Use water, almond milk, rice milk or (for added calories) coconut milk to get to desired texture.
12. Mid-Morning Snack Options
To maintain your metabolic, fat-burning efficiency, try to stick to beverages only in the mid-morning. No big ziplock bags of trial mix under your desk. Liquids are fast, convenient and lower calorie, and with the options below, you’ll still get some antioxidants and nutrient density in your brews.
-Herbal tea of choice, including white tea, yerba mate tea, or green tea.
-Zevia all-natural soda.
-Coconut kefir, without added sugars (Kevita is good brand).
–Zukay Kvass. Weird name. Tasty stuff.
-Sparkling or regular water with one GU Electrolyte Brew tablet, nuunuhydration tablet, or Hammer Endurolyte Fizz tablet (at http://www.HammerNutrition.com, use 15% discount code 80244).
13. Caesar Salad
This recipe will make 2 servings, so cut in half if it’s just for you – or be ready for soggy salad leftovers the next day. In a large mixing bowl, mix 2 egg yolks, ¼ cup olive oil, 1 tsp Thai fish sauce, 2 cloves garlic, juice of one lemon, and Dijon mustard. If your stomach tolerates dairy, add several pinches of Parmigiano Reggiano (that’s my fancy word for Parmesan cheese) or Pecorino Romano cheese. Add several pinches of sea salt and black pepper, and pour over your choice of a head of Romaine lettuce or several large handfuls mixed greens. Top with a 1-2 handfuls of chopped walnuts. Eat like a king.
14. Sardine Salad
Remember to brush your teeth after this one. Over a bed of mixed greens or spinach, add 1/2-1 sliced avocado, 1/2-1 can sardines (with oil), 1/2-1 sliced tomatoes or handful cherry tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon juice, and any other chopped vegetables of choice (for added crunch, use celery or carrots). Top with a handful of pumpkin seeds, and sea salt and black pepper to taste.
15. Grocery Store
If you’re eating lunch on the go, go into a grocery store and get an avocado, a can of sardines or packet of tuna or salmon or (if good breath is important) a few ounces of raw nuts, salt, pepper and if dairy is tolerated, a “hard” artisan cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, asiago, and gruyere (preferably from Europe, to ensure higher likelihood of A2 cattle and less growth hormone). Grab a plastic fork, a plastic knife and a plate from the deli and make yourself an avocado, nuts, fish and cheese plate! If this needs to be turned into a slightly higher carb pre-workout meal, include a piece of fresh, raw fruit.
16. Lunch Out
If you’re not careful, lunch out at a restaurant can be notoriously high carb, high grain and laden with vegetable oils and other nasty additives. So your best bets are a salad with no cheese and dressing on the side (typically a cobb salad with avocado is a good pick), or an easy-to-digest meat such as wild-caught salmon served over a bed of mixed greens. Try to avoid grain-fed or hormone-laden meats, and if you need additional carbs for a pre-workout scenario, you can include an order of mixed fruit on the side. Keep things simple: meat + vegetables + fruit. And don’t be afraid to order off-menu – meaning if you see that they have unhealthy chicken breast meals and unhealthy salads, you can just ask for a regular chicken breast served over a bed of mixed greens with a generous portion of olive oil. I have yet to have a restuarant server slap me in the face for this simple request.
17. Kale Wraps
Into a large piece of kale (or swiss chard, bokchoy, or butter lettuce), wrap 4-6 ounces of grass-fed beef, sardines, pastured chicken or wild fish, 1/2-1 avocado, 1-2 handfuls sliced olives and 2-3 tablespoons diced tomatoes. Add salt, pepper, turmeric and fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme or oregano to taste, and if desired, you can add either a dollop of organic yogurt (if your stomach tolerates dairy) or homemade healthy mayo.
To make mayo, simply blend 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper while slowly adding 1 cup of olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or avocado oil (you’ll see it thicken as you add oil). If this is a pre-workout meal or higher volume day, you can also add sliced yam, sweet potato or white rice inside wrap. If you don’t have time for this, just avoid vegetable oil based mayo and buy the olive oil mayo at the grocery store.
18. Chicken Cashew Wrap
In a big mixing bowl, toss one diced chicken breast, add a tablespoon of healthy mayo (see above), 1/2-1 avocado, 1/2-1 diced tomato or several grape tomatoes, a handful of cashews and sea salt and pepper to taste. Top with fresh arugula and wrap it all in romaine or butter lettuce cups. Let me reiterate – making your own mayo is easy. Watch, I’ll do it on one sentences this time: blend 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper while slowly adding 1 cup of olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or avocado oil (you’ll see the mayo thicken as you add oil).
If this is a pre-workout meal or higher volume day, you can also add some carbs like sliced yam, sweet potato or white rice inside wrap.
19. Hors D’ Ouevres
I am not embarrassed to admit that both myself and my children have this type of meal for lunch all the time. This is also a quick meal that can be eaten while working (not recommended because stress and eating don’t mix well, but sometimes you just gotta do it). On a plate, arrange several rice crackers or flax seed crackers, 1/2-1 sliced avocado, 1/2-1 sliced tomato, 1-2 handfuls olives, and if your stomach tolerates dairy, 3-4 slices of a “hard” artisan cheese, such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, asiago, and gruyere (preferably from Europe, to ensure higher likelihood of A2 cattle and less growth hormone).
For added protein and calories, you can also include a can of sardines or packet of tuna or salmon. Just scoop ingredients onto a cracker and eat. It’s optional to pretend you’re at a fancy French restaurant or cocktail party.
20. Nori Rolls
OK, “Nori Rolls” is a really fancy title for my slightly barbaric habit of simply taking a nori (the seaweed based roll you use to make sushi) and simply use it as a “portal” to deliver as many vegetables and as much olive as possible into my gaping maw. The procedure simply involves putting 2-4 nori wraps on a plate, filling a bowl with vegetables, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt and shoveling as many contents of said bowl into nori wrap, then eating quickly as olive oil dribbles down your face (don’t worry, it’s a skin moisturizer too).
21. Fast Avocado Soup
Mmm…another green, goopy blender mess that tasted delicious. To make it, you simply blend and puree 1-2 ripe avocados (pitted, peeled and chopped) 1-2 cups coconut milk, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. You can top this soup with chopped cherry tomatoes, sliced scallions, chopped mint, or a dollop of yogurt or sprinkling of hard cheese. For added calories, you can add shrimp, chicken, beef or fish after making soup.Chill for 1-6 hours, and before serving, stir in 2 tablespoons lime or lemon juice and add toppings. For extra calories or carbs, you can serve with 1 baked or boiled sweet potato or yam.
Miss your sandwiches with this whole “avoid bread” concept? Good news: you can have a sandwich, but you just need to be careful to avoid modern grains and gut-irritating wheat. So why not just make your own bread, Betty Crocker style? It’s easier than you think.
Pre-heat your oven to 375. While oven is heating, mix in a mixing bowl: 1/4 cup melted coconut oil, 1/8 cup almond flour, 1/4 cup protein powder, 5 pastured eggs, a teaspoon of sea salt and a teaspoon of baking powder.
Spread this mixture thin on a greased baking sheet (brushing with olive oil is fine) and bake for 15 minutes.
You can fill your sandwich with avocado, tomato, healthy meat of choice, an artisanal hard cheese such as parmesan, asiago or gruyere, heathy mayo, salt and pepper to taste. To make mayo, simply blend 1 whole egg, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, salt and pepper while slowly adding 1 cup of olive oil, macadamia nut oil, or avocado oil (you’ll see it thicken as you add oil). Due to the added carbohydrate content, sandwiches should be consumed on higher volume workout days only.
Quick Afternoon Snack Options
In a pinch or for a fast pre-workout option, you can toss in a gluten-free, natural energy bar with as few ingredients as possible. Because I’m tempted to eat several at a time, I rarely do bars, but when I do, my preferred brand is the Cocochia Bar, which includes Organic Chia Seeds, Organic Raw Almond Butter, Organic Agave Syrup, Non-GMO Rice Protein, Organic Cocoa and Organic Chocolate Liquor. Other good brands are Hammer Recovery Bar or Hammer Vegan Recovery Bar (use 15% discount code 80244 at http://www.HammerNutrition.com), LaraBar, Nogii Bar, Quest Bar, Zing Bar or HeathWarrior Bar. On higher calorie/higher volume days, or for something like a long bike ride, the calorie-packed BonkBreaker bar brand is also a good option.
24. Algae & AA’s
This strange snack is especially good for a lower calorie day or lower carbohydrate day as a pre-workout boost and good for fasted workouts too. It combines two of the most nutrient dense foods on the source of the planet: algae and amino acids. To pull this meal off, you simply swallow or chew 25-50 EnergyBits and 5-10 Master Amino Pattern (MAP) capsules. OK, yes, I admit that this sounds super funky and more like an astronaut meal than real food but try and it and I guarantee you’ll feel amazing, even with the miniscule number of actual calories you’ll be consuming. You can use 10% discount code “BEN” at https://www.EnergyBits.com and get NatureAminos at by clicking here.
25. Chia Slurry
Set 3-4 tablespoon of chia seeds in a small bowl of water and place in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours (the longer they’re soaking the more chia goodness will get absorbed from them). Add lemon juice and stevia to taste, and voila! Eat like jello.
26. Pemmican or Jerky
Suck down a 1/2-1 “tube” of organic, pastured pemmican from US Wellness Meats, a fantastic source of this grass-fed, hormone-free, traditional Native American beef and tallow source that gets frozen and sent straight to your front door. Alternatively, you make your own beef jerky, following my wife Jessa’a delicious beef jerky recipe in this video OR eat 200-300 calories of all-natural jerky from US Wellness Meats. I did a podcast interview with the owner of USWellnessMeats and the stuff is the real deal when it comes to “safe” meat.
27. Cobb Salad
Cobb salad is a good choice as a low carbohydrate meal, which can come in handy for non-afternoon or non-evening workout days. For this salad, use 2-3 chopped, hardboiled, pastured eggs, 1/2-1 avocado, 2-3 strips cooked and crumbled organic, pastured bacon, 1 small tomato, 1 scallion (green onion), 1/2 tablespoons diced almonds or chopped walnuts, 1/2 red onion, and romaine or butter leaf lettuce. For additional meat, choose 4-6oz grass-fed beef, free-range chicken or shrimp. Break the lettuce apart and add all ingredients. Dress with olive oil, lemon juice and sea salt/black pepper to taste. I also order Cobb salad at restaurants quite frequently.
28. Scrambled Eggs
Just the other night, I was joking with a group of friends about how often it is when my wife is gone for dinner that I go back to my old stand-by – any variation of scrambled eggs. Simply scramble 2-3 organic pastured chicken or duck eggs in coconut oil or grass-fed butter, while steaming 4-5 chopped vegetables of choice on the side (such as spinach, kale, carrots, mushrooms and tomatoes). Serve vegetables and 1/2-1 sliced avocado over scrambled eggs, sea salt and pepper to taste, and (optional) eat by wrapping everything in nori seaweed wrap and using the nori like a scoop. You can also wrap in kale, bok choy, swiss chard or butter lettuce. For added calories, tossed in some crumbled cashews. Salsa is also a good companion for this meal.
29. Poached Salmon
This recipe uses 1lb of salmon, so will be enough for 2-3 meals – and leftovers can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. You’ll need:
-White wine, 1 cup
-White wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon
-Bay leaf, 1
-Garlic, 1 clove sliced
-Dill, 2 sprigs or a half teaspoon dried
-Salmon filet, 1 lb.
-Grass-Fed Butter, 3 tablespoons
-Lemon, 1/2 juiced
Salt and pepper the salmon and put it in the skillet with a few pads of butter. Add the wine, vinegar, bay leaf, garlic and dill. Bring the wine to a simmer, then cover and let it continue to cook for about 6 to 8 minutes until the salmon flakes easily with a fork.
While the salmon is cooking, melt the rest of the butter in a saucepan and add the lemon juice. When the salmon is ready, serve with the butter sauce poured over it. If you want more carbs, serve over cooked white rice and mixed greens or a salad of choice, along with a sweet potato or yam, or sweet potato fries (here’s a sweet potato fry video recipe from me – and because of the heat instability of extra virgin olive oil, I recommend you use olive oil or coconut oil for your fries, not extra virgin olive oil).
Choose a grass-fed cut of beef, bison, elk, venison or buffalo. Make a seasoning powder of 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 tablespoons paprika, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon oregano, 1 tablespoon cayenne (optional and avoid if on gut-healing protocol), 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon white pepper and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Season meat liberally and place remainder of powder in ziplock bag or other airtight container to use in future recipes.
Sautee meat on cast-iron skillet in ghee or butter, or grill (preferably on lower heat). Serve with roasted, steamed or sautéed vegetables, and for additional carbohydrates in this is a post-workout meal or on a high volume day, serve with a baked sweet potato, yam or sweet potato fries.
31. Liver Pate
You can spread pate on anything and this is one quick dish that just might actually impress your friends if they A) like liver; or B) don’t know what pate is but know it sounds fancy. The recipe uses 1/2lb of liver, so will be enough for 2-3 meals – and leftovers can be refrigerated for 2-3 days. I get my liver locally or order it from US Wellness Meats. Slice the liver into 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick pieces and soak for 1-2 hours in milk (preferably organic, grass-fed milk). If you don’t have milk or don’t link milk, lemon juice is fine. Brown the liver slices in butter or ghee, cooking 3-4 minutes per side on low heat. At the same time, boil 1 egg. After liver is browned or while liver is browning, cook 1 diced onion for 5-10 minutes on same sautee pan.
Other ingredients are an onion and boiled egg; 4 tablespoons butter plus a similar amount of coconut oil; and cilantro (or you can use KimChi in place of the cilantro, for a spicier flavor). Put everything – the cooked liver, cooked onion, cooking fluids from the pot, and boiled egg, along with 2 tablespoons coconut oil, and a handful of fresh chopped cilantro – into a blender and purée.
Serve your pate with rice crackers, flax seed crackers, or wrapped in bok choy, swiss chard, nori or butter lettuce. Alternatively, serve with 1 baked sweet potato or yam, over a bed of mixed greens.
32. Easy Chicken Dinner
It’s easy. It’s chicken. It’s dinner. Just reduce number of ingredients to adjust for the number of people eating. For 3-4 people or servings, you’ll need:
-3-4 chicken thighs or breasts
-5-6 heads of broccoli, chopped into florets
-4-5 tablespoons regular olive oil
-2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place broccoli florets and chicken pieces into a 9×13 baking dish. Pour olive oil and balsamic vinegar over chicken and broccoli. Then season with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Mix around to help coat the broccoli and chicken. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. If post-workout or higher volume day, serve with sweet potato, yam, white rice, or if on lower volume day or not-post workout, serve with steamed carrots, cauliflower, parsnips or beets in salt and olive oil.
33. Eating Out: Sushi
Eat at one of my favorite inventions of all history: a sushi restaurant. Avoid soy, edemame and fancy rolls with fried ingredients, and instead eat your fill of sashimi and seaweed salad if you’re going low carb, and add sushi rolls if it’s a post-workout outing or you’re not worried about carbs. In most cases, you’ll only really need to include nigiri or sushi roll – both sources of starchy, white rice – if it’s a high volume day or if post workout.
34. Eating Out: Meat + Veggies
Choose a meat and vegetable based dish at a restaurant, and remember these restaurant best practices:
-Always substitute roasted vegetables for any bread or mashed potatoes, and turn down or avoid bread/chips if brought to the table.
-Acceptable starches: rice, quinoa, amaranth, millet, sweet potato, yam, squash, carrot, beet or other non-gluten, non-GMO sources
-Acceptable proteins: anything from my Superhuman Food Pyramid, but ask your server to cover your bases from an organic standpoint (i.e. “Is the fish wild or farmed?”)
-Acceptable fats: coconut oil, grass-fed butter, olive oil, flax seed oil, avocado oil, macadamia nut oil, and any fat that is 100% natural, that is not a vegetable oil, that is not batter-fried, and that is not an oil with a low smoke point (e.g. extra virgin olive oil) that has had it’s pants cooked off. When it doubt, just leave creams, dressings and sauces “on the side”.
Dessert/Evening Snack Options (included by popular demand)
Notice I said dessert or evening snacks, and this one definitely falls into the latter category. Especially good for a lower calorie day or a day on which you’re not exercising any time in the later afternoon or evening. This is a fantastic way to quell your appetite in the evening. Eat 50-100 EnergyBits (pop them like popcorn). Use 10% discount code “BEN” at https://www.EnergyBits.com. You can learn more about why these are so good at quelling your evening appetite cravings in my article “Everything You Need To Know About How To Use A Slimy Green Plant to Slow Aging, Decrease Cravings and Recover Incredibly Faster“.
36. Coconut-Chocolate-Chia Blend
You don’t even need a blender for this one. In a small bowl, mix 25-50 EnergyBits (use 10% discount code “BEN” at https://www.EnergyBits.com), 2 teaspoons carob or cocoa powder, 4-6oz full fat coconut milk and 2-3 tablespoons chia seeds or a packet of Cocochia Snack Mix. Stir and chill in refrigerator for 15-20 minutes. For added crunch, throw on some unsweetened coconut flakes.
37. Sea Salt, Dark Chocolate and Almonds.
The title pretty much says it all. Sea salts are rich in adrenal supporting electrolytes, almond are chock full of healthy fats, and dark chocolate is…well, dark chocolate. I keep a few bars of 80%+ dark chocolate in the freezer, break up about a quarter bar, then toss it into a small bowl with a handful of raw almonds and 2-3 pinches of sea salt, preferably the mind-blowingly good Aztecan sea salt. I pop this like popcorn, often during a good flick. For added kick, include a pinch of cayenne pepper.
38. Protein Parfait
Yes, protein can spike evening insulin levels but in a post-workout scenario, this isn’t a big deal. Into 1-2 scoops of organic whey or vegan protein, add full-fat coconut milk to desired texture, along with 1-2 teaspoons almond butter, a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes, and a teaspoon of cinnamon. I typically stir, rather than blending, and eat with a spoon at approximately ice cream/custard texture. And yes, I’ll admit that I sometimes have this for breakfast too.
39. Healthy Avocado Chocolate Pudding
Blend together 1/2-1 sliced avocado, 1 teaspoons cinnamon, 1-2 scoops of organic whey or vegan protein, 4-6oz full fat coconut milk, 1-2 teaspoons almond butter, 1-2 teaspoons carob or cocoa powder, and a dash of natural vanilla extract or vanilla powder. Tell me this does not taste like glorious chocolate pudding and I will call you crazy.
40. Dipped Dark Chocolate
You know those dark chocolate bars I keep in the freezer? For a quick dessert or pre-workout snack, I’ll sometimes grab ½ a bar, and drizzle a tablespoon of raw almond or cashew butter over it, or (germ-phobes beware) simply dip the chocolate bar in the jar of raw nut butter. Careful with the calories on this one. It can get out of hand fast.
In chapter 16, I’m going to give you “The 21 Best Kitchen Tools, Grocery Shopping Guides, Cookbooks and Websites To Fuel Your Endurance Lifestyle”, but in the meantime, if you want some extra resources to accompany this meal, get some “acceptable” additional recipes, or get your creative cooking wheels spinning, here are a few of my favorites:
-Cookbook: Nourishing Traditions
-Grocery Shopping Guide: Rich Food Poor Food
-The “Science” of Proper Fueling: Perfect Health Diet Book
-My Superhuman Food Pyramid
-Any of my wife Jessa’s bonus meal plans inside Ben Greenfield Fitness Inner Circle
-The websites TummyRumblr, The Domestic Man, Nutty Kitchen, Francesca Eats, 10 Minute Meal and Chowstalker
Have your own handy-dandy resources you’d like to see added? Leave them in the comments section below this chapter!
Dont’ worry – like I mentioned, I’m won’t simply leave you hanging with a laundry list of recipes and zero plans for proper implementation (in the nutrition world, that creates about as much confusion as shouting fire in a crowded theatre).
Instead, the next chapter you’ll get will teach you exactly how to figure out how many calories, carbohydrates, proteins and fats you should be eating, and the final version of the book will include a meal plan that will include, among other helpful details, a plan for off-season, recovery weeks, base building, the last few hard weeks leading up to an event, and the week of your race and event.
And what about just “leftovers”? Simple – I eat them all the time, and simply choose any leftover from dinner the night before. Often leftovers are best wrapped in nori, bokchoy, butter lettuce or swiss chard. Avoid microwaving or excessive re-heating, and to avoid mold, fungus and toxins, try not to eat any leftovers that are more than 2-3 days old. For extra probiotics, you can also include a side of KimChi or sauerkraut (see this video on easy ways to make your own probiotics)
In the meantime, leave your questions, comments and feedback about easy meals for busy athletes below!
Links To Previous Chapters of “Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health & Life”
Part 1 – Introduction
-Preface: Are Endurance Sports Unhealthy?
Part 2 – Training
–Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 1
–Chapter 4: Underground Training Tactics For Enhancing Endurance – Part 2
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 1: Strength
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 3: Mobility
–Chapter 5: The 5 Essential Elements of An Endurance Training Program That Most Athletes Neglect – Part 4: Balance
Part 3 – Recovery
Part 3 – Nutrition
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3. Howe, Juliette C.; Williams, Juhi R.; Holden, Joanne M. (March 2004). USDA Database for the Choline Content of Common Foods. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). p. 10
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5. Monro, J.A.; Leon, R.; Puri, B.K. (2013). “The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets”. Medical Hypotheses 80 (4): 389–90.
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