Pop quiz, hot shot. You have to prepare a meal. What do you do? I’d be willing to bet your first response was “something-something-beef”. Burgers, meatloaf, steak, or meatza, we all lean on the animal we know and love and for good reason. Meat is delicious. It’s easy to prepare, a complete protein, great for recovery, and simultaneously combines the sweet taste of heaven and the excitement of a party in your mouth.
So what’s wrong with loving meat more than the other animal protein sources on our “Eat With Abandon” list? Nothing. It’s great to have favorites- favorite team, favorite movie, favorite child -but with great nutrition comes great responsibility. There must be balance. Our good friend and performance expert, Dr. Tom Incledon of Human Health Specialists, encourages Power Athletes to eat the colors of the rainbow which includes diverse animal proteins. However more often than not, we see diets laden with beef and lacking in other hugely viable protein and fat sources. Remember that if it has a face, a mother, and a soul, it’s fair game. Let’s talk about a species that more than meets this criteria but is regularly neglected.
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If you haven’t caught on, let me reel you in (I am so sorry). Fish is one of the most underutilized recovery foods in our diet. Fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, and herring, contain excellent amino acid profiles and are rich with omega-3’s, one of our best defenses to inflammation. But, with it’s distinct flavor and laborious reputation, you may be asking yourself, “Is the fish oil worth the squeeze?”.
Studies have shown that eating 12oz of fatty fish per week (that’s two 6oz servings) can reduce your risk of dying, DYING, of heart disease by one third. Other findings conclude that consuming omega-3’s improves brain function and reduce depression. As athletes, we are all probably most interested in it’s ability to improve recovery. In autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis where inflammation is rampant within the joints, fatty fish have been proven to blunt and even prevent our body’s inflammatory response. Similar results can be observed in moderate cases where inflammation has occurred due to exercise.
How and why are omega-3 fatty acids so effective at reducing inflammation? Basically, the body’s ability to recover, fight disease, and prevent disease can increase from ensuring a healthy ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 acids. While the Western diet is largely 1:15, with extreme examples reaching 1:40, current research tells us that a homeostasis or even a greater ratio of omega-3’s to omega-6’s is ideal. Avoiding foods high in polyunsaturated fat like vegetable oils while maintaining or even increasing omega-3’s will swing the ratio to your advantage. You can achieve this by eating a diet rich in good fats and also supplementing with fish oil.
The dietitians at Theralogix break it down this way:
Specifically, omega-3s inhibit cyclo-oxygenase (COX) and 5-lipoxygenase pathways for metabolism of arachidonic acid (AA), an omega-6 fat. The AA pathway constitutes one of the main mechanisms for pain and inflammation. By inhibiting these pathways, omega-3s lead to the production of less inflammatory compounds, which may reduce muscle soreness and pain after intense workouts.Taking a high-quality omega-3 fish oil supplement, in addition to eating a healthful diet, will help to balance your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 intake, and should result in better recovery from your toughest workouts.
Eating fish is definitely not a trap.
“Teach a man to fish” or in this case, how to cook fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime. No matter the preparation (fresh, canned, jarred) salmon, trout, herring, and sardines are great options when sourced locally or wild caught. Although tuna is also rich in omega-3’s, you’ll want to stay away from the inexpensive canned variation to get the full benefit of the fatty acids. When cooking any of the suggested varieties of fatty fish, be sure to not to overcook – you can lose up to 50% of the omega-3’s. Sounds like a great excuse to get after some sushi.
Time to get your feet wet. Here are a few of my favorite recipes to get you better acquainted with preparing fish.
Bourbon Glazed Salmon
A recipe that calls for alcohol is bound to pique the interest of any landlubber. Keep the glaze for up to a week and use on brussels sprouts.
- 1 pound fresh salmon
- 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 tablespoon black pepper
- 3/4 cup bourbon
- 2/3 cup brown sugar
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
- Salt and pepper the salmon on both sides. Broil 5-6 minutes on both sides on a baking sheet.
- Combine all other ingredients in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Simmer for 8-10 minutes until thick. Remove from heat.
- Brush cooked salmon with bourbon glaze and consume.
Ahi Tuna Poke
If you haven’t had poke, you haven’t lived. I tried this for the first time when I was in Oahu for a CFFB Seminar. This recipe takes me back every time.
- 2lbs fresh ahi tuna, cubed (sushi grade)
- 1/2 cup GF soy sauce OR coconut aminos (GF and soy free)
- 3/4 cup chopped green onions
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
- 1 tbsp crushed red pepper
- Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl (glass or ceramic works best) and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Eat it. Eat it over sushi rice. Eat it on thinly sliced cabbage. Eat it with corn tortillas. Or eat it plain.
Karolin’s Cured Salmon
My nearest and dearest Swede introduced me to this recipe almost 5 years ago. I pretended not to know how to make it for the duration of our friendship. Then I moved and got desperate.
- Fresh wild caught salmon filet (How big? ABAP)
- 2 tbsp fine sea salt per 2.2 lbs salmon
- 3 tbsp sugar per 2.2 lbs
- 2 tbsp freshly ground white peppercorns
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill (or enough to cover the top of filet)
- 2 bricks (yes, like construction bricks)
- Pat the filet dry. Combine dry ingredients (salt, sugar, pepper) in a bowl. Lay a large piece of plastic wrap on a baking sheet. Pat the entire filet with the dry mixture, additionally putting a small layer on the sheet where the fish will lay skin side down.
- Apply remaining mixture to the top of the filet liberally. Cover the entire top of filet with the chopped dill.
- Encase the salmon by taking the excess edges of the plastic wrap and wrapping the filet like a gift. A delicious, delicious, gift. Place another flat object (baking sheet) on top and weigh it down with the bricks.
- Refrigerate for 24 hours. The salmon will cure with the salt and should slice easily off the skin. Slice thinly and enjoy in eggs, on salad, or on it’s own.
Try one or all of these out and post your thoughts or modifications to the comments!
A strength and conditioning coach since 2009, Cali has worked with numerous athletes spanning from rugby players to cross country skiers. Almost immediately after finding CrossFit in 2010, she was introduced to a program that better suited her athletic goals. With her existing background in powerlifting and football, she became a natural devotee to CFFB/PowerAthlete and testament to it's effectiveness. In 2012, she left D.C. and headed for the state named after her to be a part of the CrossFit Football Seminar Staff and a Jedi of Power Athlete HQ. Cali currently resides in Seattle where she works full time in law enforcement.
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