Hello readers! Welcome to my first book review as requested by friend at Q Review Books (and also of Q Hates Running). Today the wonderful worlds of running and food collide with my review of Run Fast Eat Slow by friends Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky. In case you’re not a runner or don’t keep tabs on run-celebs, Shalane Flanagan is a world class marathoner and four time Olympian. She recently placed 6th in the marathon at the 2016 Rio Olympics and currently holds the second fastest marathon time for an American woman (2:21:14). Elyse is a chef, food writer and runner and has been friends with Shalane for 16 years. Their friendship began at UNC were they were teammates on the cross country team. The moved to Portland to work for Nike; Shalane as a professional runner and Elyse on the marketing team. As the reader dives into the first chapter, it becomes clear that their love of running has grown a friendship and partnership deeply rooted in similar values and goals. A someone who’s found a passion for running and loves her run-squad fiercely, I have to say I was almost jealous as I read how these two dear friends were able to make their dream a reality.
So what does Run Fast Eat Slow mean? The opening chapter answers this quickly and simply: “Run Fast” isn’t just about being speedy or even athletic, it’s about being able to perform at the fast pace of our lives. Similarly,”Eat Slow” does not mean only to chewer slower (although it helps!), it’s about taking the time to cook nourishing foods and enjoy eating with friends or family.
As the first chapter continued, I was delighted to learn their values surrounding food as fuel were similar to mine. Elsye & Shalane talk a bit about how disordered eating has become a serious issue, especially among female athletes. This brings me to one of my favorite aspects of this book: The authors speak about the intentional decision to NOT include calorie counts or even macro-nutrients (proteins/fats/carbs) along with their recipes. In a world where you roll up to Starbucks and see exactly how many calories are in your morning pick-me-up, this may seem absurd. BUT I GET IT. We live in a calorie obsessed world and it’s easy to want to fall in the “diet trap”, especially as an athlete. I’m not talking (just) about Atkins or whatever trendy diet that has everyone talking. After I became a more serious runner I found myself reading about this diet or that; Paleo, Keto, intermittent fasting and the people who swear by each method. Literally y’all – I know people that do not eat bananas at all because of their “high sugar content”, and others who eat 11 bananas for lunch the day before a race (I can’t make this shit up). All this information – it can mess with your head. I do track my macro-nutrients and will (probably) continue to do so. However since tracking macros does not revolve around the avoidance of one food group or another, and neither does this book, it seems like the perfect compliment to my food philosophy.
In fact, the only thing this book does push is the avoidance of processed foods. Instead, it heartily promotes using REAL foods for both optimum flavor and nourishment. Now who doesn’t love the sound of that? Cooking has become another passion of mine in recent years, and while I’m no Julia Child, I’ve learned that every single recipe is better with real ingredients. In college spaghetti night meant making my own seasoned meat to add to the jar of marinara (because I’m classy AF of course). Today you won’t dare catch me buying a pre-made sauce from a jar, I prefer to make mine from scratch (albeit using canned tomatoes). However last week I made my first ever sauce straight from tomatoes and OH. MY. GOD. I don’t know if I can ever go back ! (More on that later). Additives aside, when you eat processed foods, you’re also not getting the natural nutrients your body needs. My favorite note in the book was this:
In the United Sates, we spend less on food than other developed country, a mere 6.4 percent of our total spending, and we spend more than any other country on heath care. Spending at the grocery store or farmers’ market is an investment in your future.
I could not agree more!
The second chapter of the book digs into Shalane & Elyse’s pantry staples and why they use these items so frequently. I really loved this section! I was delighted to see that my pantry usually contains many of these items, but there was still a wealth of knowledge to gain. For instance, I don’t have any issues with digesting dairy, while I know many others that do, and I learned that goat cheese is easier to digest than cow’s milk (and I love goat cheese – lucky me)! I also learned that whole grains, when combined with beans, make a complete protein. Useful info out there for vegans, vegetarians and just anyone looking to decrease their animal protein intake. Better yet, it was exciting to see them talk about fats like butter and coconut oil and avocado fit into a runner’s pantry. It’s mentioned several times how fats not only help food taste good, but also help you absorb other nutrients. Still it’s important to remember not all fats are created equal! So – NO – 100g of french fries are NOT going to have the same effect as 100g of avocado. Instead the authors focus on indulgent nourishment, a theme that’s repeated throughout the book. When you use REAL foods, you get great tasting results and all the nutrition your body needs – whether you’re an Olympic athlete or a mom on the go.
Chapters 3-11 are broken up by meal category, accented with some pretty good food photography. The authors included a little history, or some pro tips with each recipe, so it was nice to have more than just straight recipes alone. Food chapters include:
- Thirst Quenchers
- Morning Fuel
- Snacks and Appetizers
- Nourishing Mains
- Sauces and Dressings
- Wholesome Treats
The final chapter rounds out the book with “Runner’s Remedies”. It seeks to cure what ails runners through nourishing recipes. Several common runner’s ailments are listed, along with a list of recipes from the previous pages that can help resolve these issues.
To be completely candid, I was a little dismayed when I thumbed through the chapters of recipes. Some things seemed just TOO easy or obvious. (roasted Brussels Sprouts? Come on). The “Sides” chapter seemed to be lacking as well. However I reminded myself of the intention of this book was to make approachable, delicious recipes. The recipes WERE very easy to make, and the ones I’ve tried so far did not take any longer than a usual meal to prepare. Yes of COURSE I have made some of this food, because I just couldn’t wait! Also while I’m not familiar with the criteria of a typical book review, I figured a cookbook review should of course include some recipes as well. While I aimed to make one thing from each category, I quickly realized that would take for-ev-er. So instead I bring you these:
For reasons unknown to me, these muffins made the biggest rounds on the internet and across social media (#runfasteatslow). Maybe it’s the universal love of breakfast food, or the portability of a muffin. Anyway they were on my list, and I made them over the weekend. Almond flour (or meal) and maple syrup replace the typical refined grains and sugar found in baked goods. The grated zuchinni and carrot add a healthy boost as well. For an extra does of sweetness, one can add dates, raisins or my personal choice – chocolate chips (because BALANCE).
I will say this – I figured, but had no idea how expensive almond flour was. For real. I mean almonds are an expensive nut anyway, but yea, I shelled out $9 for a 16oz bag. Ouch. Investment in the future thought right? These muffins did not take long to whip up, and the cinnamon and nutmeg made my kitchen smell heavenly. So much so that when I sampled my first muffin, I was shocked at how sweet is WASN’T. That’s not to say it was bad – far from it! However my palate was used to super sweet foods (I did have a PSL for breakfast). The next morning I had another muffin after a run, and found it was the perfect amount of sweet. A group of hungry runners all agreed!
Burst Cherry Tomato Linguine with Shrimp
When I saw this recipe (and the accompanying photo) I knew I had to make it first. One of the things I loved about the book is they did not shy away from pasta. This one was so ridiculously simple I was actually quite scared it was going to taste bland. Fresh cherry tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes and basil. A little salt & EVOO and that was literally it. “No way it could be THAT good” I thought, and I was so SO wrong. This makes me never want to buy a canned tomato sauce again. Make it. You won’t be disappointed.
Double Chocolate Teff Cookies
You know I can’t resist a good dessert recipe! Let me tell you – my chocolate craving is so real sometimes. I can’t just eat a date or a protein bar to ward it off. These cookies though – MAGICAL. It’s not like “oh hey this a good SUBSTITUTE for a chocolate cookie – they are just plain delicious! They use teff flour, which I’d never heard of before, but it’s a very fine, whole grain (and gluten free) flour. Expensive like the almond flour – yes. But several recipes throughout the book call for it and honestly, these cookies alone would keep me buying it. If you’d told me a vegan & gluten-free cookie could be so delicious, I’d call your bluff – and then clearly bey wrong.
There are some more recipes I can’t wait to try – like the High Altitude Bison Meatballs, and Teff Pumpkin Pancakes (making them this weekeend)! Others like the Fartlek Chili and Simple Marinara I’m interested to try, because I already have some standby favorites for those.Overall, I have really enjoyed this cookbook. Enough so that no, I did not include the actual recipes I made, because I encourage you to go out and buy this for yourself (spoiler: some of the more popular recipes like Superhero Muffins are available on several sites already). If you go out and buy it – comment below or send me snaps on social media (@slimt1213). Bon appetite!