I’m the first to admit that I have a sweet tooth (my husband just came back from Costco, and my candy SHELF in the pantry has been replenished), but these homemade protein bars have been a great alternative to eating candy bars when I’m hungry. Below is my go-to protein bar recipe. There’s room to add or change some of the details according to your preferences. If you don’t take anything else away from this post, here’s my contribution–please consider never rolling another protein ball again. Save yourself a ton of time and just press the “batter” into a pan, cut squares, and refrigerate. 🙂
I double the recipe and most of the time my husband and I go through both batches in a week. If you don’t eat a double protein bar platter in a week like me (ha!), you can freeze what you don’t eat and save yourself the time of making weekly batches.
First, mix these ingredients:
- 3 c oats
- 1 c flaxseed
- 1 1/2 c almond butter, peanut butter, or any other nut butter (below I have hazelnut butter and peanut butter)
- 1/4 c coconut oil
- 2/3 c honey
- ~1/4 c chia seeds (optional)
- 6-8 scoops of protein powder (this ends up being about 1 1/2 c of protein powder. Below I mixed vanilla whey and chocolate creatine)
Save these ingredients for later:
- 12-16 pitted dates
- ~1/2 cup dried tart cherry
- ~1/4 c cocoa nibs (optional)
- Can also add coconut flakes or any other healthy goodies
After mixing the ingredients, divide the contents (because a double batch does not fit in the processor) and put in the food processor. Blend and then add 6-8 pitted dates and about 1/4 c of the tart cherries. The dates and cherries help hold the bars together. You can substitute with something else, but make sure that its consistency is on the sticky side.
Once blended, press into a pan. I like to use a ziplock bag on my hand instead of using a spoon. I also started pressing bars into the pan instead of rolling into balls because it saves a ton of time and stores nicely.
Next add cocoa nibs (of course this is optional). I like to blend mine to chop them into smaller pieces.
Once you have the first half of the batch pressed into the bottom of the pan, you can go ahead and cut the squares or wait until later. Add wax paper on top. Blend the other half of protein bar mix and press on top of the wax paper. Add the second portion of cocoa nibs on top and cut into squares. You now have two layers of protein bars in one pan, thus saving time and space.
If you cut the bars into 6×10 portions for each batch, each bar is ~50 calories and 3 g of protein. Refrigerate or freeze the bars and enjoy!
(If you want to see pretty pictures of food (and tasty recipes), I suggest you check out Katie’s blog.)
Do you have a favorite special ingredient for your protein bites?
My relationship with sleep has changed a lot in the last year since Cadence was born. You see, my baby doesn’t really sleep a whole lot, at least not in long stretches at a time. I’m getting ready to run my first 100 mile race, and one mantra that I remind myself when I start to freak out about that distance is You can do hard things. Out of all of my experiences in life, the two hardest things that come to my mind with that mantra are 1. natural childbirth (which really wasn’t that hard; more mental than anything) and 2. functioning for a whole year on very little sleep while training for races ranging from the Boston marathon at 6 months postpartum, to my upcoming 100 mile race at 1 year postpartum.
I can do hard things because I can wake up with a baby all night long, still wake up for my training run in the morning, and then go to work all day only to return back home to the responsibilities of wife and mom. I can do hard things.
My husband and I met with our pediatrician before Cadence was born, and he told us that babies can sense when their parents are stressed and it can affect the baby. I tend to be an A type, need-a-plan kind of girl, so being stress-free does not exactly come naturally to me. This piece of advice really made an impression on me though, and I decided early on that if we had a bad night with little sleep, that was OK. And it has been. For a whole year.
From the beginning, we had the normal newborn, every two hour feedings, plus a few other wake up times for good measure. Cadence started to get more on a three hour routine around three months old, and then I started back to work and she caught every single bug at daycare. My lowest point (I can do hard things) was around March (6 months old) when Cadence was waking up more than 10 times a night (my rule is to stop counting at double digits). I was nearing the end of my training for Boston, and my body was hurting in every way. Miraculously, just in time for Boston, Cadence improved to about 2-3 wakings a night, and we’ve pretty much been in that state since then. Some nights are better and some nights are worse.
I’m not complaining. Not one bit. It has been hard, but I can do hard things. It has also been one of the sweetest, most rewarding things in my life. I get to hold my tiny (growing) baby in the night when snuggles are the very sleepiest. I’m still breastfeeding, and I know that even if she is distracted to eat very much during the day, she’ll make up for nutrition with breast milk at night. I’m at work during the day, and my training takes up my early mornings and some evenings after work. Night time is our time.
Cadence won’t always need me in the night, so I am soaking up all of the baby snuggles while I can. I’m sure that the lack of sleep has limited my recovery after hard workouts, and I know that it has made my brain fuzzy many days at work, but I’m a mom first, and right now, my sweet little baby needs me. As I approach my race where I’ll be running (and pumping) through the night, thinking of Cadence will be my motivation to finish strong and fast so that I can get back to that little sleeping angel.
Any other moms still waking up with their babies at night and while trying to maintain a training schedule?
Success is a few simple disciplines, practiced every day; while failure is simply a few errors in judgment, repeated every day.
- Consistency: Without a doubt, consistency in my workouts has made me a stronger runner. I wake up early to run before work, and I make sure to complete all of the workouts that my coach prescribes. There are plenty of days that I wake up tired or get home from work and feel tired, but then I think of my goals and what I want to achieve, and I get my butt outside or downstairs to our gym. (Of course, if you are sick, skip the workout!)
- Sleeping in compression socks: There is debate over the full benefits of compression socks. Some proponents say that wearing them during a run improves running by increasing circulation and reducing vibrations to the leg muscles. Others say that during a run, there’s not really that much added benefit. One thing that is more widely accepted is that compression socks do help aid in recovery (when not running) by increasing circulation. I do like to wear compression socks when I run in the winter, but I’ve found that staying cool when it is hot outside is more important than running in compression socks in the summer. That doesn’t mean that I can’t speed recovery to my legs while I sleep.
- Drinking a lot of water: I started really being intentional with hydration when I was pregnant, and now that I am breastfeeding and working out like a crazy person, it is equally important. I drink a whole lot of water throughout the day, and I only occasionally drink caffeine or alcohol. In addition to water, there are a couple of drink mixes like this one that I like to add for flavor and a little added benefit. I also drink almond milk for the added calcium (still tbd on dairy, so I limit milk).
- Eating enough good foods: Fueling properly has become much more critical as I push my body in training AND in breastfeeding. My body is working as hard as it can, so I need to make sure that I give it the nutrition that it needs. I have transitioned to eating mostly organic foods, and I have cut out a lot of the refined grains that I used to eat. I used to try to eat a low-fat diet, but I now try to incorporate good fats into every meal. I also make an effort to get a lot of protein through good meats, protein shakes, and cheese.
- Rolling and stretching: I’m not the best at rolling and stretching, but I am definitely better than I have ever been. One thing that has helped tremendously is that I carry a lacrosse ball in my purse, so I can roll at any time that I feel a twinge or have spare time in the car. I also keep “The Stick” at my desk at work. I also do at least a light foam roll and stretch every night before bed. One more thing: I schedule semi-regular sports massages. They are expensive, so I have to ration them out, but they are so valuable when I’m putting a lot of stress on my body.
One of the most valuable gains that I am missing is SLEEP. The more intense my workouts get, the more I realize how much extra sleep I need. I am not even getting the minimum suggested amount of sleep when you subtract out the time that I wake up to feed/console Cadence in the night. She has never been a great sleeper, and teething isn’t helping us much. So, I’ll work on this. 🙂
What are your tricks outside of running for marginal gains?
The other day my mom asked me how much of my time is going toward training for my upcoming 100 mile race. For good reason, she warned me to make sure that I am not neglecting my family. My mom was totally right to check in with me and keep me accountable to the people who matter the most. My parents are getting ready to celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary this week, and they know a thing or two about a happy marriage.
I decided to run the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run shortly after Cadence was born, and my husband and I had a good talk about what all would be involved with my training. From day one, Jon has supported my efforts, but I know that it hasn’t come without some sacrifice. The biggest difference with this training cycle from other training cycles is not that I am training for a race about 4x as long as the marathon, but that we now have an adorable baby to love.
While training for a 100 mile race is more involved than marathon training, I have been surprised at how manageable it has been, even with a baby. My training plan is big on quality, not quantity, so it feels like I’m training all of the time, when in reality, I am just fatigued from my hard workouts. (I also talk about running all of the time, so to the people who love me, I am sure that it seems like running is all-consuming in my life. ;)) I am reading Jason Koop’s book Training Essentials for UltraRunning, and he says that one can properly train for an ultra with 6-9 hours of training a week. In that case, the hours need to be extremely well executed. I am definitely putting in more hours than the minimum Koop suggests is permissible, but it is still heartening to know that one can pursue big things without quitting his/her job and training all day long.
My training plan has runs scheduled almost every day and strength work about 3 times a week. On weekdays when I have a longer run, I try to get up and run before Cadence wakes up. If the run can be finished in an hour, I’ll often sleep a little later and bring her into the basement with me to play in her pack and play while I run on the treadmill. Most days, she is perfectly content to play while I run, and it is a fun treat for me to watch her. Other days, my husband waits for her to wake up and then brings her downstairs to join me. Ideally, I’d be running more outside and on trails, but in this stage of life, about half of my runs are on the treadmill and about half of my runs are outside on pavement. The drive time that it takes for me to regularly get to the trails is just too much extra time away from my family, and it becomes especially challenging with breastfeeding.
On the days that I do strength work, I try to wake up earlier to finish my run and complete about half of my strength training before work. Then, I’ll get home from work with Cadence and finish the rest of the strength routine. Strength work days are longer, and they do mean that we don’t eat dinner until later in the evening. The good thing is that Cadence is a great little workout buddy, and she crawls around the basement with me while I do my weights. We have “babyproofed” the basement as much as we can given that there are machines and weights everywhere, and it is really fun to watch her crawl around exploring. Every once in a while, she gets restless and I end up incorporating her into the routines. 🙂
My coach has suggested that I can do as much cross-training as I want, but not to let it interfere with my speedwork. The pre-baby Meridith would have been all over this, but I’ve found that balance requires that I limit the extras and just do the scheduled training as well as I can. I do some cross training, but it mostly involves “hiking” with Cadence in the jogger around my hilly neighborhood. I’ll have to increase cross training a little more as I approach peak training, but it’s been kind of refreshing to let the A-type perfectionist runner in me slack a little on the extras for now.
So all in all, training for a 100 mile race has not been a full time job, and I’ve found it incredibly rewarding. Jon patiently listens to me talk about training and racing, and he joins me on some of my workouts. I still have a lot of demands on me as a wife and a mother, but I’ve got a family who extends a lot of grace and support. At the end of the day, all of the responsibilities of house and home still apply even though there is a race on the calendar! I am definitely more focused as a mother runner, and I appreciate every mile. I also appreciate every moment that I get to play with Cadence and incorporate her into my training.
How do you balance training with family?
Walking was my first favorite workout, before running stole my heart. There is so much that a good walk can provide–time to clear your head, pray, have a good conversation with a friend, smell the roses, feel the breeze. Or read a book. That’s how I started my walking journey–on a treadmill reading book after book. I studied through college and grad school while walking on a treadmill, and I planned out my thesis mile after mile. Some of my favorite memories are hikes and walks around the neighborhood with my mom. Walking is good for the soul. It’s also really good for running.
I transitioned from being a serial walker to being an obsessed runner during my training for my first marathon in 2013. I had never run on a treadmill until near the end of my training when I realized that only running on the weekends wasn’t going to cut it anymore. Shortly after that, I was hooked on running, but I have maintained treadmill walking at an incline as a staple of my week.
Walking to increase strength and endurance
We all know that exclusively running has its set-backs, like injury. So adding walking to the regimen is a great way to increase endurance by providing time on your feet and strengthening your legs where they need it. It serves as a way to cross train without stressing the joints that sustain the greatest stresses during a run. When I’m not walking outside or hiking outside, I set my treadmill to an incline up to 15% and walk, walk, walk.
All of my ultra buddies know that running an ultra marathon involves hiking,especially on technical terrain, so having the ability to transition from running to walking is a very necessary skill to finish strong. My very first ultra marathon was the Sky to Summit 50k, and I had not trained for it (I was actually using that race to train for a marathon the next month), but I attribute my treadmill “hiking” for giving me the strength to climb the technical trails for over 7 hours to finish as second female.
Walking through an Injury
I recently had surgery, and the surgeon told me that I could walk as soon as I got home from surgery, encouraging me that walking helps promote blood flow, which also speeds up healing. For the first two weeks, I was limited to only walk or cycle, and this provided me with a great outlet to work out and promote the healing process.
Walking was also a great way for me to continue running through pregnancy because it gave my joints the break that they needed and it kept me in shape to continue running postpartum. Most of my weekday pregnancy runs ended up being half running, half walking by the end of the 39 weeks. I used incline to increase the intensity of the work out.
Walking as Recovery
If you are anything like me, you barely squeeze in your run before hopping in the shower and rushing off to the day. By allowing your body a proper cool down walk, you keep the blood flowing to the tissues that were just stressed while your heart rate returns to normal. I have found that I am less sore from a workout if I complement it with a good walk afterwards. (There is a lot of research corroborating the value of a warm up and cool down in reducing DOMS.) I walked a few miles after the Boston Marathon to sight-see the other finishers, and while I was stiff the day following the race, I was feeling much better than I expected!
Another good recovery walking option is to walk backwards. For as long as I can remember, my massage therapist, Rena, has told me that I need to be walking backwards to keep me off of her table. I’ve started to do this as a cool-down on the treadmill in the evenings more often, and it feels like a good stretch. (I’ve also tried to walk backwards around my neighborhood, but it makes me feel extremely silly, and I’ve had a few people yell out of their windows to check on me.) Walking backwards reduces the stresses on your joints, relieves lower back pressure, and increases hamstring flexibility. Walking backwards is also said to enhance cognitive control, which makes it a good recovery activity for individuals recovering from strokes. I only walk for a couple of minutes backwards, but I have read that 10-15 minutes is the sweet spot.
Other Obvious Advantages of Walking
I’ve listed a few reasons why walking is one of my staple activities, but for non-runners, it can be a life-saver. The low impact of walking makes it a great activity for individuals already in poor health, obese, diabetic, etc. It helps reduce the rates of chronic illnesses, and the activity releases endorphins, making both mind and body a better place to be.
So as ultra runners, we walk because walking is part of endurance sports. When it comes to the 18th hour of running my first 100 mile race, I’m going to be grateful for the hours that I slowed my treadmill, increased the incline, and settled into a good book.
Is walking a big part of your training regimen?
A lot of ultra runners joke that they signed up for an ultra race after having one too many drinks. I signed up for my first 100 mile race at 8 weeks postpartum. I guess 9 months of conservative running made me a little drunk on the idea of running my first 100.
I signed up for the Yeti 100 Mile Endurance Run in Virginia along the Creeper Trail because it is being hosted by my trail running friends, and I will have so much love and support from the Yeti community along the journey. The course is meant to be an “easy” first 100 along an old railroad bed, which is exactly how I want to run 100 miles, easily.
On June 4, a bunch of yetis completed a 33 mile training run of the course and I took over 100 pictures. Don’t worry, I selected my favorite 62 to post here. Haha. But seriously, I am using this post as a way to get to know the course and remember it a few months from now when I get ready to run 100 miles of this beautiful Creeper Trail in Virginia.
My husband and I arrived around 10 pm on Friday night, and we stayed at the Hampton Inn in Abingdon. Cadence was a good sport for the drive, but our 5 hour drive quickly became 6+ hours with all of the baby stops to nurse, get dinner, change diapers, etc.
We met the group at 8:45 am on Saturday at White Top Station. The Creeper Trail starts at White Top Station and ends in Abingdon, Virginia. One leg of the course is about 33 miles, so the 100 mile race will go from White Top to Abingdon, back to White Top, and end again in Abingdon.
Jason, the Race Director and king of the Yetis, gave instructions and tips at the start and along the run. He mostly just encourages as much fun and beer as possible, which is just another good reason to run 100 miles.
The trail is mostly crushed limestone, and not technical, so it is really easy to fly through the first downhill leg of the race. Jason cautioned us to take the first 33 miles slow and easy, even though we will be tempted to fly.
Near the top of White Top Station is a side trail where you can get a view of a Christmas tree farm. I stayed with a larger group of trail runners for the first few miles.
Within the first few miles we spotted a really pretty waterfall/rapids area and decided to dip our toes (except for Jason, who got all the way in the water).
And then we were off again! I ran with Kristen and Sean (bottom of the three pictures below) after about two hours of running, and I stayed with them until we reached Damascus. It turns out that Kristen is a pretty badass mother runner! She has a 16 year old, a 4 year old, and twin 2 year olds! Sean is pretty badass himself, having run Western States and Leadville, among other tough races. What a fun marriage they have!
There is an aid station at mile 6.3 (which is also 60.5 and 73.1), which is around this area.
Then we came into the Taylor’s Valley region. Jason warned us that as beautiful as this area is, at night it can be creepy because there is a dog that barks.
Having much fun! I had such a great time running both with groups and with individuals. So much to talk about on a run!
Apparently you can get a killer fried bologna sandwich at the Creeper Trail Cafe. This is about 10 miles from White Top. Kristen and I decided to pass on the opportunity.
The first half of the trail felt much more shaded by dense trees.
Before reaching Damascus, the trail runs along the highway. It’s not as aesthetic, but it does serve as a good way to break up the scenery. Somewhere between Taylor’s Valley and Damascus, I tripped on a rock and supermanned across the trail. This is probably the worst fall I’ve had running, and the dirt is still embedded in my hands five days later. (But no permanent damage and I’m ok!) There is a fresh water spring piped out of the side of the mountain along this road. I used it to clean my wounds, but it is also great to refill water packs.
Yay! Damascus! This is about at the halfway point. There are a few little shops and some small restaurants. There is an aid station here at mile 17.4 (which is also 49.4 and 84.2).
When we got to Damascus, I said goodbye to Kristen and Sean and found a bathroom with a bench to pump at the Sundog Outfitters store. They were incredibly accommodating to me, and I had no problems pumping and dumping with the hand pump that I carried in my pack.
I picked up a flatbread sandwich at Subway and walked and ate until I met up with some of the yetis who had stopped for lunch. I walked with them for a few minutes (long enough to catch Jason chasing lunch with a shot of fireball).
Then Sam and I decided to head off and run our way to the end. I had met Sam in the early miles of our run, but lost her when she sped up to the front. Lucky for me, she took a break in Damascus to find tacos, and I was able to catch up with her.
Sam and I ran together from Damascus to Abingdon, and I am so thankful to have met my new friend! She knows so much about running and so many other interesting things in life. She’s also a really strong runner, and it was great to be paced by her.
The second half of the course has a lot more farmland, and there are bigger stretches of exposed trail where the sun can get pretty hot.
We came into Alvarado at around mile 25. It was starting to get pretty toasty here.
This trestle crossing alone makes the whole race worth it! There are 141 trestle crossings in the race, making scenery big reward for the hard work.
Sam and I tried a timer on the camera, but I was a bit off. This river is so beautiful! I am thankful that I had my friend to share it with!
Crossing through lots of farmland. Beautiful but hot! The elevation starts to go slightly uphill around mile 27. There are no tough hills along this course. Just gradual down, and gradual up.
I ran out of water about 6 miles from our finish. I was trying to be brave and act like it was no big deal, but I was hurting. Between the heat and my boobs diverting all of the liquid in my body to produce breast milk, I was thirsty!
Luckily, we came across an extremely charming cabin with an equally charming older woman who generously filled my hydration bladder with fresh, cold well water. Mmm mmm!
So then I ran with water sloshing in my belly for the rest of the course. There are lots of bikers and some horse back riders along the trail, and everyone is so nice. Different sections have different concentrations of people. The last aid station is at the Watauga Trestle which is at mile 29.4 (which is also 37.4 and 96.2).
And then we reached the end of our ~33 mile training run along the Creeper Trail!
We’ll be seeing this view twice on the day(s) of the race! 30 hour cut-off!
Here is another one of my new friends, Jenny, who finished just after Sam and I completed the course. We all sat around and talked about running after finishing, and this lady has quite an impressive resume! Not to mention that she is just as sweet as she is beautiful!
And here are the real railroad tracks that led us to a cool drink!
So that’s it! I am so thankful that I was able to join the yetis for this great training run! I feel so much more prepared for the race now that I have experienced the course. I know I have some work to do as I focus on training, and I can’t wait!
This is the elevation profile. We’ll run down, up, and back down. Look out quads!
See you friends on September 30, 2016!
Has anyone else run a 100 mile race?
What did your training look like? This is going to be an interesting training season for me, as I balance having a baby, work, and training. Thankfully, my husband is super supportive of me.