Secrets of the Marathon Chefs

The Secret: Fast Food

Time-pressed Nate Appleman (PB 3:51), reveals how to fuel up when seconds count

Appleman  started running four years ago for his newborn son. "I was pushing 18st," says Appleman, winner of the 2009 James Beard Foundation's rising star chef of the year award. "I didn't want to be the fat dad who couldn't play with his son in the park."

Predictably, it was hard. "I'd run half a mile and be ready to drop," he says. "But each week I'd tack on an extra block." As he lost weight he began to rethink his eating. "I used to skip meals because I was so busy, then get really hungry and reach for sugary foods."

As a runner, he started thinking of food as fuel rather than something to simply satisfy hunger. "I wanted to make sure what I ate delivered energy and good nutrition. That meant turning to whole foods."

Appleman lost six stone and ran his first marathon. The key has been planning. "It can be tough to find healthy options on the go," says Appleman. Nutritionist Ruth Carpenter, author of Healthy Eating Every Day (Human Kinetics, £23), agrees: "When you plan ahead, you're not forced to make a spontaneous, less-healthy decision when you're hungry." Here are Appleman's planning strategies - and how to make them work for you.

Pack your bags

"I never leave home without something nutritious in my bag," says Appleman. Having healthy options such as nuts, dried fruit or a banana with you makes it easier to avoid that morning meeting tray of pains au chocolat, and means you always have quality pre- or post-run fuel for unscheduled sessions.

Stock up

"When work is hectic and you're training hard, life can get pretty crazy," says Appleman. Stock your kitchen with quality easy-prep basics such as  pasta, rice, beans, fresh and frozen veg, tinned tomatoes, herbs and spices, so you can throw together delicious, healthy  meals at the drop of a hat.

Double up

It takes about the same time to make a double batch of a recipe such as bolognese sauce as it does a single batch. So make two and freeze one. Then 'cooking' a healthy dinner is as easy as hitting the defrost button.

Try his chickpea spread for bruschetta or blitz up a super speedy breakfast smoothie.

Picture credit: All images Gorman & Gorman

The Secret: Family Food

Mother of two Pam Anderson (PB 4:31) on how running and fuelling is a family affair

Anderson started exercising a few years ago on a family holiday in Rome. "We wanted to eat the greatest food in the world without worrying about calories," says Anderson, author of Cook Without a Book (£21.99, Rodale Press). She noticed her waistbands were a little looser when she got home. "I was pushing 14st, so I had plenty to lose," she says.

Encouraged by the visible results, she started running and within a year, she'd lost three and a half stone and completed her first marathon.Anderson's weight loss and passion for running were fully supported by her family. "When you decide to make a big change like losing weight or taking up running, you have to do it for yourself," says Anderson. "But it helps to have people around cheering you on." She'll end this year running her 10th 26.2-miler with her daughter, who'll be running her first. Here's how the Andersons make healthy eating a family priority.

Make cooking a family affair

"Getting your kids involved in shopping for meals and deciding upon what to eat teaches them about healthy eating habits," says Anderson.

Gather around the table

Dinner should be a social occasion, but getting everyone to the table at the same time can be a challenge. The key is flexibility, says Anderson. "We have dinner early some nights and late others to accommodate everyone's schedules."

Serve nutritious foods first

When kids are hungry, they'll pretty much eat  anything. "So put the healthiest foods in front of them first," says Anderson.

Focus on healthy-eating habits

Concentrating on weight can lead to self-esteem issues, says nutritionist Linda Bacon. "So focus on behaviour - eating well and being active will bring healthy weight."

It's a message Anderson has taken to heart: "My body perfectly represents who I am - someone who loves to eat and drink, but who also takes care of herself. I run because I love to run and because I love to eat. I've found a way to have it all."

Try Anderson's one-pot penne with Turkey meatballs or her super-fast twice-baked potatoes with creamy mushroom sauce.

The Secret: Comfort Food

Art Smith (PB 4:22) on how to run on lighter, healthier high-grade fuel

"Running  saved my life," says Smith, who was Oprah Winfrey's personal chef for 10 years. Until four years ago, he overindulged in all his favourite comfort foods. And it showed. At 23st, he had type II diabetes and high blood pressure. "I knew I had to do something," he says. So he started walking, then run-walking, then eventually running.

"The recipe for healthy eating isn't that complicated," says Smith. "The less processed, the better." As the pounds slipped off, his blood pressure returned to normal and the diabetes vanished. In 2010, he ran his first marathon. "When I finished my second one even faster, I knew I could do anything," says Smith.

And while Smith's diet is much healthier, he hasn't given up his favourite comfort foods. "When people think healthy, they think of a salad. But that's not the only choice. It's easy to remake things like burgers, fried chicken and burritos into meals that don't go over the top on calories." Here's how Smith does it.

Start simple

"Recipes with just a few ingredients are the easiest to adapt," says Smith. Try simple soups - it's easy to reduce the high-fat dairy and salt, and boost healthy ingredients like vegetables or wholegrains.

Comfort fix: To make a guilt-free version of sweetcorn chowder, reduce the amount of cream in your usual recipe and add a dollop of cashew nut butter, which contains heart-healthy oils.

Pack in veg

Many runners don't eat enough fruit and veg. Smith, who loves vitamin-rich asparagus and broccoli, adds veggies to every meal.

Comfort fix:
Use broccoli and spinach as toppings for homemade pizzas.

Make meat a treat

Cutting back on the amount of meat in your comfort food favourites will reduce the amount of saturated fat in your diet.

Comfort fix: Instead of using sausage in your pasta sauce, add cannellini or haricot beans. In burgers, swap half the quantity of beef for lentils.

Try Smith's southern unfried chicken or his steel-cut oatmeal risotto.

The Secret: Sweet Treats

Pastry chef Gesine Bullock-Prado (PB 4:15) turns indulgence into endurance

After a day at her award-winning bakery, Gesine Bullock-Prado laces up her running shoes. "I run my ass off, literally," she says. But she runs for more than just weight management. Fifteen years ago her mother, a marathoner, was diagnosed with cancer. "One day while she was resting, I ran around the neighbourhood where she trained. It was a way of connecting with her."

She has since completed four marathons (and two cookbooks). "I'd be a runner no matter what I did for a living," she says. "But I couldn't be a baker without running."


Bullock-Prado now also runs to raise money for cancer research charities. "I want running to be more than just about being fit. What I cherish about running is being part of a community of people running for love and hope," she says. To nourish that community, she writes a food blog for runners (confectionsofamasterbaker.blogspot.com), including recipes that are irresistible and good for you.

"When you're training, you want your calories to deliver all the nutrition you need to power a run," she says. "While some desserts depend on butter, sugar and refined flour, others such as muffins, cookies and breads are perfect candidates for a healthy makeover." Here's how Bullock-Prado turns sweet nothings into runner-friendly rocket fuel.

Switch to wholegrain

Wholegrain flour delivers over triple the fibre of refined white flour and releases energy over a longer period. "Start by switching half the flour in a recipe," says Bullock-Prado. If you like the taste and texture, try switching more. "Wholewheat flour sops up more moisture, so play with the liquid ratios," she says.

Go bananas (or courgettes)

To retain moisture without adding calories, try replacing butter with mashed bananas, shredded courgette or black beans. "Bananas are great in dessert breads," says Bullock-Prado. "Black beans are the perfect healthy addition to brownies as both are dense, dark and chocolatey." You'll also get extra hits of vitamins and minerals, fibre and protein.

Replace sugar with agave

Agave nectar (Groovy Food Agave Nectar, £2.43 for 250ml, tesco.com) is sweeter than sugar, so you can use less of it. "It also has a lower glycaemic index," says Bullock-Prado.

Try Bullock-Prado's long-run cake or her whole foods manna bread.