At the Table with Elyse: The Nourished Athlete

January 11, 2017

At the Table with Elyse: The Nourished Athlete

Now that we have Elyse Kopecky on board, we’re starting a new (semi) regular series called “At the Table with Elyse.” As a trained chef, nutrition coach, and athlete she’ll be sharing all sorts of useful nuggets from the kitchen to the trails, and anything else you might chat about with a friend over dinner.

Take it away, Elyse!

Howdy, Picky Peeps!

Last week Lauren announced our collaboration and shared the story of how our paths have stayed intertwined over the years. When my husband and I first moved to Bend we didn’t know anyone, and Jesse and Lauren welcomed us to town with dinner at their home. After dinner I handed Jesse a jar of my homemade granola and his face lit up. (I’m not sure he even let Lauren have a taste!)

These joyful reactions to realizing how good healthy food can taste is what inspired me to quit a successful marketing career to pursue my culinary passion. Health food has a reputation in our country as being bland and boring, but it need not be. Nutritious food can be both indulgent and nourishing at the same time!

In fact the so-called “health” foods in our country sometimes cause more harm than good for many endurance athletes. An alarming amount of runners, especially young women, are undernourished1 due to not having enough good fats and nutrient dense foods in their diet. I know this all too well.

In high school and college I ran competitively and suffered from athletic amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation). This led to low bone density, a continuous struggle with stress fractures, and doctors telling me I would have trouble getting pregnant someday. My dedication to eating “healthy” resulted in not having enough fuel for my body to operate optimally!

It wasn’t until I moved abroad to Switzerland and my diet drastically changed that I realized just how undernourished I was. I switched from eating low fat yogurt to whole milk yogurt, from bland white meat chicken breasts to whole roasted chicken, from processed spreads to real butter, and from frozen veggie burgers to full fat grass fed ground beef. This indulgent diet that we label in our country as “unhealthy” actually made me stronger, happier and healthier than ever before. It was a life changing experience that inspired me to learn more, leading me to the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC to study culinary nutrition.

After graduating, I knew I wanted to share my important “indulgent nourishment” message with athletes everywhere. I teamed up with long time friend and college teammate, Shalane Flanagan, to write Run Fast Eat Slow,which (to our delight) has made a big splash in both the running community and active people’s kitchens nationwide. Runners are finally realizing that food isn’t just fuel, but should be enjoyed!

Elyse’s Top Tips for Nourished Eating:

  1. Stop counting calories. Instead eat mindfully and get back in touch with listening to your body’s hunger signals.

  2. Don’t fear fat. A balanced diet rich in good fats is essential for bone health, hormone health, heart heath, brain health, and a healthy metabolism.

  3. Lace up your apron. Outside of running more miles, the single greatest thing an athlete can do to improve their performance (and their long-term health and happiness) is to learn to cook.

Cheers to a busy, but rewarding 2017!

Elyse Kopecky
Chef, Nutrition Coach, New York Times Bestselling Author, and Picky Bars Lead of Product Development