I have mentioned more often than not that the Dubai summers are very very hot. This year is no exception. However, it seems that after 8 years that I have been living in this place, I seem to get used to it. To an extent that I even go running outside, 4 to 5 times a week, up to 90 minutes.
This is not just for fun, you might have suspected that. The Dubai race season is having a reasonable summer break. So I thought it would be nice to get my fitness level analyzed. Through an analysis of my breath while running on the treadmill at various paces I learned about my fat and carbs metabolism while exercising, very useful information especially for long distance runners. When running, your body draws the energy needed from quickly available carbs in the muscles, but also from stored fats which are more difficult to break down and convert to energy. Logically, when you run fast with heavy breathing, your body will resource energy from more easily available sources - the carbs. However, when you go for slow easy run, a higher percentage of the energy will be taken from your fat resources. People who want to loose weight are often told to run slow (or just walk fast). By running slow, you might use less energy altogether than in a tough workout, but you are tapping the fat resources that you want to get rid off instead of just using up the carbs stored in your muscles that will be replaced with your next meal.
For long distance runners it is of huge advantage to run on a high fat metabolism to make the stored carbs last as long as possible. The reason is that there is only a limited amount of carbs stored in the muscles, something around 1700 calories, whereas the fat resources are almost unlimited. When running distances like a marathon, an average person might have used up the carbs reserves somewhere around the 30k mark. From then on, running will be getting a lot more difficult and you will slow down drastically.
In the preliminary questionnaire I was asked what my goals were: I want to run faster. Any distance, especially the 10k, but I also feel I can do a marathon faster if I do it right.
In order to achieve that, I need to run slow in order to boost my fat metabolism. The recommendations were to run at least 3 times a week for 75 to 90 minutes at no more than 70% of my maximum heart rate, in order to increase my fat metabolism. By running so slow my body will be trained to use more energy from fat resources. In the long run, I will be able to run longer AND faster, as the proportions of used up carbs and fats will have changed. It's pretty scientific, but it makes sense to me. In the end of the day, it's all down to biochemical processes in our bodies.
I have been very disciplined with these long slow runs over the past 2-3 weeks. Because they are so slow, they don't leave my leg muscles as tired. More often than not, I am ready to go for another training the very next day. However, I can feel the increased energy consumption, which leaves me still hungry after meals that used to be sufficient. I get hungry between meal times. So snacks and desserts are needed.
I have been making these chocolate cherry cookies a few times over the past few weeks, and kept the cookie jar right next to my computer. I love the combination of tart cherries and chocolate. To me, nothing is more satisfying and filling than nuts. Therefore, the cookie jar often emptied quicker than I thought. In the process, I could refine the recipe, now ready to be shared with you: Another guilt-free cookie, grain free without added fats, full of nuts and antioxidants from the cocoa and a lovely tart sidekick from dried cherries.
CHOCOLATE CHERRY COOKIES
1 1/4 cups almond meal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons apple sauce
4 tablespoons honey (or agave or maple syrup for a vegan version)
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, finely chopped
1/4 cup dried cherries, finely chopped
Preheat oven to 160C/350F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine almond meal, baking soda and cocoa powder in a bowl. Mix well.
In another bowl, combine apple sauce and honey. Combine wet and dry ingredients. Stir in finely chopped walnuts and dried cherries.
Roll balls of the size of a walnut and place them on the lined baking sheet, leaving 2-3 inches space between each one. Repeat until all batter is used up. Using your finger tips, flatten each ball into a disk. Bake for 20 minutes, or until bottoms are golden brown.
If you want them extra crispy, turn the cookies over and leave them in the switched-off warm oven for another 10 minutes.