Next up on our Pre/Post Workout Nutrition Series is Cornucopia’s very own, Drew Alexander. If you’ve been with us for a while you know that Drew took a big leap and biked across the U.S. a few months back. Now that he is settled in, we dug a little deeper into his outlook on exercise and diet – both in his normal life plus the adjustments he made for the trip.
If you’re unfamiliar with Drew, he is Cornucopia’s Store Manager and considers himself an “amateur endurance athlete” exercising for the sheer joy of doing so with a focus on self-improvement. His understanding of both the mental and physical effects of exercise came about in high school, gradually progressing as a way to ground his self-beliefs and challenge himself. He does not compete nor belong on a team, but rather uses personal growth to measure his success and fulfillment.
“My only opponent is myself.”
Other than long distance biking, Drew practices Yoga daily and runs during the winter months.
Asking your body to persist in performing extensive workouts requires extra care; this is where Drew utilizes his diet to provide the energy, recovery, and low inflammation levels he desires. Becoming vegetarian at 17, he then progressed to eliminate all animal products and today eats a paleo-ish vegan diet. As with our past athletes, Drew eats this way for performance purposes. Shorter recovery periods, minimal inflammation, plus high energy and speed are all benefits he personally experiences from eating this way. The bulk of his diet is from fruits and vegetables, alongside some legumes for protein, hemp/flax/chia seeds and their oils for essential fatty acids, dried fruit, nuts/nut butters, and a few vegan “treats” here and there.
“I am one of a minority that doesn’t enjoy eating before a workout, but I also fully understand how an empty tank can easily lead to poor performance.”
With this understanding, Drew usually opts for something that will be easily digested and provide quick energy immediately before his workout. One of his top choices is fresh or cold-pressed juices, such as The Doctor from Cornucopia – this has great energy-enhancing ingredients like beets, which increase nitric oxide production to aid in muscle movement and blood flow. Another great option is Lovegrace’s Super cider. When a fresh juice is not readily available, as he found often during his travels, dried fruit such as dates provided an alternative for quick energy: “Dates contain a high percentage of glycogen, the body’s main source of fuel for long-term energy, so they played a big part in my diet before, during, and after my rides.”
Drew also considers his last meal a pre-workout of sorts, especially when he was getting up to start biking right away the next day. Back-to-back days of extremely long workouts (sometimes up to 8 hours) require adequate fuel: “The biggest way I dealt with this was to make sure I carbo-loaded at dinner time with sweet potatoes, squash, and other root vegetables. I find starchy vegetables to digest easier and create less inflammation than grains and legumes, but I also ate rice, quinoa, beans, and lentils when necessary.”
“At home, I drink Vega’s Post Workout Recovery Accelerator after really tough workouts or if I have to get a quick turnaround, so I wound up drinking that basically every day immediately after my rides while on the road.”
Everything Drew has following his workout cohere with his main goal which are to “repair my muscles and rebuild myenergy levels without creating excess inflammation”. Other than the drink mix, his post-workout protocol is typically meals full of vegetables with a few health-boosting, inflammation-busting additions such as nuts, seeds, fermented vegetables or spices. He also left us with a reminder,
“sugar and gluten are the number one cause of inflammation in our diets; keep these to a minimum before, during, and after any athletic adventures.”
During his trip he got creative when desiring a meal immediately following a day of biking, as the convenience of a home or kitchen was a luxury he did not have every day. “If I was sans-kitchen (camping, motel, or ditch), I would often buy frozen vegetables before leaving in the morning and by the time I got to my destination, they would have defrosted and resembled steamed veggies…I could toss them with flax oil, hemp seeds, and some additional seasoning to make a complete meal. Another trick was to chop up raw veggies and toss them in a ziplock bag with sea salt and lemon juice to soften them up.” He also stressed the importance of including fermented foods to help prevent uric acid build-up, “I would try to mix in raw sauerkraut or kimchi, when available, to spice things up and help to curb the uric acid build-up in my muscles…which is the main source of the stiffness and burning associated with hard workouts.”
Drew’s Outlook on Healthy Living:
Cohering well with his reasoning for getting into exercise, Drew defines his personal version of healthy as, “having a physical body capable of performing at a level to which the heart desires and a mind that can think deeply and clearly, drive that body, and maintain mindfulness at all times.” To him, being truly healthy is about living in a way that allows you to be fully aware and connected to yourself – which is inclusive of your physical, mental and spiritual presences. Exercise and nutrition are vehicles for him to achieve this state, and perform optimally while there.
Getting to this point does not look the same for everyone though, and he encourages that people find what truly works best for them as an individual.
“Everyone’s body is different, everyone’s mind is different, and we all have to find the right balance in our diet and lifestyle that works to provide us with balance and sustained results.”
Regarding staying on track and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, Drew focuses on the strength of the mind and to never stop challenging yourself: “Self-control is the sign of a strong mind and developing the will power to adhere to self-imposed guidelines is the gateway to success in everything in life. But start small; every big accomplishment is just a lot of small accomplishments chained together.” Lastly, “When you find the right diet and exercise routine that works for you, don’t get complacent; always look to challenge yourself further and to refine things even more. But no matter what, be honest with yourself. Learn to tell the difference between your mind finding excuses for poor behavior and your body truly needing the reigns to relax.”
Keep up with Drew’s current activities and adventures on his Instagram, @theslateman.