Red Velvet Beet “Cupcakes”

My post yesterday was all about the benefits of beets for athletes, and the general population as well. After picking up two bunches of beets at the farmer’s market, I had some to spare. So, I roasted some, and boiled some. A friend sent me a red velvet cupcake recipe, that had beets as an addition. We wanted to make them even healthier, so today I created a new and improved cupcake. The name I was thinking of were really long, but it gets the point across:

Recovery Red Velvet Dark Chocolate Chunk Beet Protein Cupcakes…It’s a lot to say, but that pretty much sums it up. No wheat flour (not that I’m opposed to it), the addition of whey protein (or non dairy proteins), the reduction in fat and sugar. The best cupcakes are loaded with fat and sugar, and too many extra calories. So, I made these healthier, although for my usual recipes, this one is still a bit heavy on the calories.

Because of the added protein, these would make a great after workout treat, or after dinner treat if craving chocolate. In addition to the 8g of protein per cupcake, each one provides 75% of your daily Vit. K, 27% of your daily manganese and 20% of your daily Vit. A requirement. Pretty food for one “healthy” cupcake.

The beets I used today were boiled for 20min, then pureed. You could also use roasted beets, I’m sure they would be delicious. I chose to use fresh ground oat flour that my friend Betsy ground for me and I think it was the perfect addition to the cupcake-extra fiber too! Give these a try, I think you’ll like them. Oh, and I’m sure they would be even more decadent with the cream cheese frosting. And if you’re dairy free, coconut cream can be whipped into a frosting, that would be my next choice. Enjoy!


Recovery Red Velvet Dark Chocolate Chunk Beet Protein Cupcakes, (12) Gluten Free, Dairy Free Option

  • 2 beets, peeled, chopped and pureed-they measured one cup pre-puree,and about 1/2 c of puree
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup agave
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup of ground oat flour
  • 1 cup of chocolate protein powder ( I used whey)
  • 3 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup stevia
  • 1/2 of a 3oz 85% dark chocolate bar chopped/vegan dark chocolate-measured about 1/3 cup chopped
  1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees, and line a muffin tin
  2. Boil beet for about 20min under they are soft enough to blend.
  3. In a blender add 3/4 cup almond milk, beets and coconut oil. Puree until smooth
  4. Add the vanilla, apple cider vinegar, agave and eggs and gently blend.
  5. In a large bowl mix oat flour, chocolate protein powder, cocoa, baking powder, salt and stevia. Stir to combine.
  6. Add the beet puree to the oat flour mixture and stir gently to combine.
  7. Gently stir in chopped dark chocolate
  8. Bake for 20-25min until the cupcake is done. My oven took 20min. Cool and enjoy.

Each cupcake as written:

  • 200kcal
  • 8g protein
  • 9g of fat
  • 26g of carb-8g of added sugar from the agave
  • 2g of fiber
  • 75% of daily Vit.K
  • 27% of daily manganese
  • 20% of daily Vit.A


Beets, A Natural Performance Enhancer

For athletes, as well as for the average person, beets are a super food. Why is this you ask? Multiple reasons, lets talk about why. Beets contain high amounts of inorganic nitrate. Nitrate gets converted to nitrite, and finally to nitric oxide.

During exercise, nitric oxide is important for:

  • Mitochondrial respiration
  • Regulation of blood flow
  • Muscle excitation-contraction coupling
  • Glucose homeostasis
  • Immune function
  • And many more functions in the body

In  more lay-mans terms, during exercise nitrates, converted to nitric oxide help with:

  1. Efficiency/Economy=Greater time to exhaustion and reduced energy costs
  2. Increased Critical Power=Improved performance
  3. Improvement seen at high altitudes


If an athlete has a high efficiency or economy, they are often a higher performer. If you can sustain a given effort for a prolonged period, you can outlast the competition. Nitrates, have been shown to assist with this. In a 2007 study by Larson et al., cyclists were given .1mmol/kg/day of nitrate in the form of beet root juice.  After 3 days of supplementation, they had a reduced oxygen uptake (meaning they were using less oxygen), and a 3-5% reduction in workload over the same intensity. In another study with beet root juice, athletes showed a 16% improvement in their time to exhaustion. Just imagine if you could go longer by 16% over your competitors. In a 2012 study from Cermak et al, they showed that 6 days of beet root juice supplementation improved a 10km cycle TT performance by 2%.

Increased Critical Power:

A lot of work on beets/nitrates in coming out of the University of Exeter in the UK. Several studies from 2010-today have shown that nitrates may increase power for a given Vo2max, which means that you can generate more power at the same output.  In a study by Kelly et al., they showed that there was a 1.4% increase in power over 800sec of running.  Using a hypothetical athlete that covers 5.6 m/s, they would run a 5000m in 14:40. Using the 1.4% increase, this would equate to 14:26 5000m time. In the track world, this increase is significant. A more recent study looked at trained females, but non elite female athletes. After supplementation, the athletes improved their 5km times from 23:08-20:37.

Altitude Training:

Athletes are often advised to live high and train low. Even in Portland, OR at the Nike house, the house is put “at altitude” using air thinning technology. This has been shown to cause an increase in red blood cells, allowing the body to carry more oxygen to working muscles. If you don’t have the luxury of living at altitude or at the Nike house, there have been several studies showing a potential benefit to taking nitrates. Nitrates seem to improve exercise tolerance in hypoxia (low oxygen).  In 2012, 15 athletes completed exercise tests at sea level, or at 5000m of altitude. They were given 6 days of beet root juice, or a control drink. After the 6 days, muscle oxygenation at 5000m was restored to normal oxygenation levels as if they were at sea level.  One caveat to this is, you don’t want to consume beet root juice chronically at altitude as it will hinder the acclimation you are looking for by training at high altitude. Use it just on occasion, to assist with high intense quality workouts.

Quick Summary:

  • In the past 12 studies on nitrates and exercise, all the studies showed a positive effect on time to exhaustion. The average time was 5% longer.
  • On time trial performance, 1/2  the studies showed a positive effect on performance, with the average at 1.2% improvement. Now this doesn’t seem like a lot, but in 2013, a meta-analysis was done of the studies. Here is a direct quote: “Across studies measuring time trial performance in trained cohorts, there was a 0.9% improvement following nitrate supplementation. To put this in context, the measured difference between first and fourth place for elite swimming performance has been calculated to be .6% (Trewin et al., 2004) and improvements as little as .3% have been noted to be valuable to track and field athletes (Hopkins, 2005).”
  • Nitrate supplementation has shown some initial positive benefits for altitude training, however using it too much can be detrimental to the gains made from acclimation. More research is needed on this topic.

So that leads me to what specific foods, how much, when to take it, interferences to the effects, negative side effects, etc.

Specific Foods:

I’ve definitely highlighted beet root juice, and indeed beets are a phenomenal food. Let me just emphasize other areas where beets shine quickly (they also fight inflammation, have anti cancer properties and contain high amounts of fiber, Vit. C, potassium and folate). That being said, they really aren’t the only food to consider. Other good choices are:

  1. Arugula
  2. Bok Choy
  3. Rhubarb
  4. Spinach
  5. Cabbage
  6. Carrots
  7. Even strawberries

As you can see, dark leaf greens and some tubers. The reason that beet root juice is the most common used food though is that it can be juiced very easily and the flavor can be easily hidden. Arugula and Rhubarb have about 3x the amounts of nitrates per fresh cup.

How Much:

The studies have shown that .1-.2mmol/kg have been the most effective. This translates to:

300-500ml of regular beet juice=10-16oz- this can be a lot of juice to take in, too much for most people (more below on why), and now you can buy beet root juice as a concentrate. You can also eat the leafy greens and tubers as whole food (steamed or raw). This would equate to several cups, also too much for most people to start with.

To start, I would recommend including the foods listed above in your daily diet (just because they are so good for you anyway).  If  you’d like to try supplementation, try juicing beets, or a concentrate. I’d first try juicing one half of a beet with additional fruit and veggies like carrots and apples. Then, you can try up to one beet with additional fruit and veggies. If eaten raw, I’d also stat with a small amount, possibly a 1/4 cup.

Too much regular (read-not concentrated) beet juice can cause GI distress, and scratchy/irritated throat, start with a small amount.

When to Take It:

Most research shows that 2-3 hours before an athletic event is most beneficial. There have been several studies showing that taking in one dose of a beet root supplement can keep your plasma nitrate levels elevated for 12 hours. Also, taking a dose every day for 15 days does not have a cumulative effect, however it did not decrease plasma levels either, so the economy was retained.


Mouthwash-Nitrate converts to nitrite with saliva and the bacteria in the mouth. If you destroy the bacteria with mouthwash, the potential benefits may not be seen. So save the mouthwash till after exercise.

Negative Side Effects:

  • Can cause red or pink urine or stools-totally normal
  • Too much beet juice can cause GI distress-people use it to detox with
  • Sore throat, trouble swallowing like you have a cold

If these things happen to use, start with a small amount such as 1/2 of a small beet, then gradually add more. Or, start with a concentrated form of beet juice, although fresh/natural is generally cheaper and healthier.

Types of Sports:

This is still up for debate, but good results have been seen in shorter distance events 2-40min, plus team sports that require intermittent bursts of speed. Studied sports include cycling, running, rowing, kayaking and potentially sports like soccer.

More Positive:

Not really relating to athletes, but in 2008, a study was done that showed that beet root juice reduced systolic pressure by 10mmHg. That’s better than some medications.


Today I had an event where I was up at 4am and back by lunch time. So today I actually made it to our neighborhood farmers market. I normally miss it as it closes at 1pm. Today I picked up spinach, beets, apples, nectarines, snow peas and corn. Because I wanted to stock up, I bought a lot of spinach and beets. You’ll remember both of these are high in nitrates. Because Brett might revolt if we eat them at every meal, I decided to wash them, blanch them and freeze them. Well, half of them at least. On my cutting board above I have half of the spinach on the left, and half of the beet greens on the right.

So, if you buy more greens than you need, do just that. Boil them in water for 2 minutes, then immediately put into cold water for 2 min. Drain, dry, and I put into small freezer bags. This way I have frozen spinach and beet greens ready for a smoothie.

With the fresh other spinach, beets and  beet greens, we’ll be eating them this week. I’ll use the beet greens in my smoothies, the spinach in my salad and the beets I’m roasting for dinner.

Tonight I used 4 of the large beets, 1 cup of chopped carrots (nitrates) and 2 cups of chopped butternut squash that I needed to use. I’m roasting them at 375 degrees for 45min. To retain the nutrients better, steaming or juicing is a better way to go. I don’t own a juicer, so unfortunately I can’t do that just yet. And the other veggies taste good roasted, so I decided to do that. But let me know if you juice your own beets, how it comes out, and if you feel a positive effect on your performance. I’d love to know. Especially since I’m months away from being able to exercise to test on myself.










Roasted Tomato Soup (GF, V)

I’m a planner…. in all aspects of my life. I like to plan everything from a camping trip, to a party, to the weekly meals at home. And each week, I ask Brett, what he wants to have for dinner. And almost every time I get, grilled cheese and tomato soup. And almost every time I say, no, pick something else. It’s not that I don’t like grilled cheese and tomato soup, in fact I love it. The warm and delicious soup, paired with the crunchy and cheesy sandwich. I don’t care for the high amounts of sodium, and I prefer home-made. So, this week I decided to grant Brett’s wish, and make grilled cheese and tomato soup. This time though, I made the soup from scratch.

Tomatoes are very beneficial for your health:

  • They contain the four major carotenoids (colorful plant pigments): alpha carotene, beta carotene, lutein and lycopene which are antioxidants with numerous health benefits
  • They contain Vit. A, Vit. C and Vit. E. And studies have shown that they can reduce the risk of cancer, specifically prostate and pancreatic cancer.
  • Lycopene has also been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, blood clots and stroke
  • Lutein has also been linked to a reduced risk for heart disease, but has also been shown to be beneficial to vision. It doesn’t appear to prevent cataracts, however lutein can slow macular degeneration.
  • High in potassium

My other goal was to add more protein and fiber to the soup, and in a way that was hidden so Brett wouldn’t know it. So, I added 2 cups of cooked white/cannellini beans. When I blended the soup, they disappeared and created a creamy texture without adding any dairy or cream. The other goal was to create a new dairy free recipe for one of my athletes who has to eat dairy free for medical reasons. So, if you need to eat dairy free, if you’d like to sneak in more fiber and protein from beans, but don’t want your family to know, this is a good soup for you.  Plus it’s just delicious too.

Feel free to roast your own tomatoes, and cook your own beans. In the interest of time, I used canned tomatoes and canned beans. Roasting the tomatoes helped to bring out a better flavor as well. Here is the recipe:

tomato soup

Roasted Tomato Soup-Serves 4-6 (gluten free, vegan)

  • 42oz of diced, low sodium tomatoes, drained-I used 1x 28 oz and 1x 14 oz can
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of carrots, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 4 cups of low sodium vegetable/chicken broth
  • 1 14.5oz can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup of fresh chopped basil
  • Pepper to taste

*If you’d like a thicker soup, you can add tomato paste to the soup at the end-1/4c should do it*

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees. On a foil lined baking sheet, with the sides of the foil folded up, roast the drained tomatoes for 20min.
  2. When the tomatoes go in, start a soup pan on the stove. Over medium heat pour in 1 tbsp olive oil. Saute garlic and onion for 3 min. Add carrots and celery and cook an additional 15min, or until veggies start to soften.
  3. Add the broth, beans and roasted tomatoes. Stir. Cook an additional 20-30min until vegetables are softened.
  4. Using an immersion blender or normal blender, blend the soup until creamy. If using a normal blender, this must be done in batches, and be careful as hot soup can cause quite a mess in the blender.
  5. After blending, add basil and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve with grilled cheese if desired

Nutrition for a serving if using 4 servings:

Kcal- 276kcal
Carbs- 47g


Pumpkin Protein Pancake

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I’ve always loved breakfast foods from eggs, to pancakes to oatmeal. And I often like breakfast for dinner, especially if you need a quick meal, aren’t sure what to cook, or are on a budget. Eggs and oatmeal are some of the cheapest foods out there. So tonight was breakfast for dinner. Pumpkins mean fall, and fall is my favorite time of year. Plus, today the Baltimore Orioles are playing to clinch the American League East, and we’re an orange and purple town (Ravens). Since we are the only row home without the orange or purple (Green and Yellow, Duck’s all the way), the pumpkin is my homage to the Orioles. As I type this, we are leading 4 to 2 over the Toronto Jays.

Nutritionally, pumpkins are high in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber, potassium and are low in calories. Plus delicious and the emergence of pumpkins means it’s fall. So it’s a celebration to cook with pumpkin. Pumpkins aren’t hard to cook on their own, however if you are time crunched you can buy canned pumpkin, but don’t buy the pumpkin pie in the can. If you do have time, bake your own as you can definitely tell the difference. For my pumpkin pancakes, I did use canned. This recipe is very similar to another that I make often, which uses banana as the fruit source instead of pumpkin. If you’re eating this for breakfast or dinner post workout, you might want to add more carbohydrates as this pancake only provides 15g.

Pumpkin Protein Pancake

Pumpkin Protein Pancake

Protein Pumpkin Pancake, Serves 1:

  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin
  • 2 tbsp vanilla whey protein (or protein of your choice)
  • Pumpkin pie spices-I just sprinkled some in. If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, good choices are cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves
  1. Heat a non stick skillet over medium heat, while you mix the pancake mixture
  2. In a bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add the pumpkin and whisk until smooth
  3. Add protein and spices and whisk again
  4. Add pancake mixture to the pan and wait till you see bubbles form. This take my stove 2-3 minutes. Gently loosen the edges of the pancake. When it feels firm enough to flip, gently flip. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes. My pancake took 6 minutes to cook, but depending on your stove, it could take fewer or more time.
  5. Enjoy by itself, crushed pineapple, or syrup. If you’re an athlete, having additional fruit or even syrup post hard workout could be beneficial.

Nutrition per Pancake:

  • 285 calories
  • 29g of protein
  • 15g of carbs
  • 12g of fat
  • 4g of fiber


Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Muffins

Protein muffins take 2. From blueberry banana to a chocolately peanut butter banana muffin. Yumm. I had 2 inspirations for these protein muffins. Well, 3 actually.

1. One of my athletes asked for a chocolate protein muffin

2. Back in Oregon when we owned and ran our endurance training studio, I created a chocolate recovery muffin that was we named recovery cakes. I wanted to make another recovery cake, but using different ingredients. Both are yummy, I might say.

3. Over the weekend I worked the Rock in Roll marathon in Virginia Beach. One of my favorite cafes is there- Bad Ass Coffee and they make delicious smoothies, salads, wraps and of course coffee. Since I don’t drink coffee, I can’t comment on that. But the rest of the food is awesome. I had their Banana Nut Blast smoothie, which is banana, peanut butter, oatmeal, almond milk, honey and chocolate whey which was yummy. So, I re-created that, in a muffin form.

The ingredients in the smoothie, and the ingredients in the muffins provide many important nutrients for athletes.

  • Oats-healthy carbs, fiber, manganese, molybdemum, zinc and protein
  • Whey protein-protein obviously 🙂 plus the amino acid leucine, which is the greatest trigger of muscle protein synthesis-other non dairy proteins are good too, but will have potentially have less of the amino acids and protein
  • Peanut Butter-healthy fat, plus protein
  • Eggs (not in the smoothie)-100% bio available protein, plus selenium, the B Vitamins, healthy fat
  • Banana-healthy carbs, fiber, potassium, and the B Vitamins
  • Unsweetened almond milk-healhy fats, Vit. E
  • 60-85% dark chocolate (not in the smoothie)- I love 85% dark chocolate and this is what I eat/bake with-high in antioxidants, plus contains fiber, iron, magnesium, copper and manganese

In addition to these protein muffins, feel free to try to re-create the smoothie as well. I think I’m going to, but I’ll leave out the honey.


Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Muffins (makes 12):

  • 1/2 cup of oat flour or process oats into flour
  • 3/4 cup chocolate whey protein/non dairy protein-soy, Vega
  • 1/4 cup of cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup of natural peanut butter
  • 1/8 cup of honey
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk or skim milk
  • Optional-1/4 cup dark chocolate chips, or a dark chocolate bar chopped-I used 85% dark chocolate
  1. Preheat oven to 375, and line 12 muffin cups with liners
  2. Mash the banana in a small glass bowl. Add the peanut butter, honey and vanilla extract. Heat in the microwave for 30-45 seconds to make soft and blend together. Stir, and let cool(move on to the dry ingredients while you wait). When cool, add the milk and the egg. Gently stir to combine.
  3. Combine the oat flour, protein, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  4. Add the peanut butter/banana mixture to the dry ingredients and gently stir to combine. Do not over stir
  5. If using, stir in the optional 1/4 cup of dark chocolate
  6. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean

Nutrition Info 1 Muffin:

  • 90 calories
  • 6g of protein
  • 9g of carbs
  • 3g of fat
  • 1.5g of fiber
  • This is a ratio of 40/30/30-carbs, fat, protein

If using the optional dark chocolate: add 10 calories and 1 gram of fat. So, all together, you’re getting a higher protein snack with only 100 calories and 4g of fat. Not bad. For a quick breakfast, or post workout snack, you can grab 2 of these muffins, and you’re only at 200 calories, 8g of healthy fat, 12g of protein, 18g of carbs, and 3g of fiber.

These muffins can be dairy free if using a plant based protein source and gluten free if using gluten free oats.