Tuesday 24 April 2018

Derval O'Rourke's fit food

Derval O'Rourke. Photo: Jemma Watts
Derval O'Rourke. Photo: Jemma Watts
Bean salad

With only two weeks to go, the finish line is well and truly in sight. I'm starting to get excited about my trip around the Phoenix Park and seeing everyone enjoying the benefits of all their hard work.

This week I wanted to chat about protein. Protein is a buzz word in food circles at the moment, with protein versions of almost every product available and protein being marketed as the solution to health and wellness.

Protein is one of the three macronutrients required by our body, together with carbohydrates and fat. It is important we are eating a balanced diet with adequate amounts of all three so that our body can function at its best and can support all the activities we do each day.

When I was training as a professional athlete my protein requirements were greater than they are now. I have definitely decreased my protein consumption since retiring from professional sport. Instead, I try to include a quality protein source with every meal and snack, as this helps meet my requirements while helping to keep my blood sugar level and hence energy, mood and concentration levels stable. I don't try to heavily load my diet with excess protein.

My approach is simple:

1) I only use protein bars or supplements if I'm training hard or I get stuck and don't have access to 'real' food. Otherwise I don't need these.

2) I love meat but I eat protein from a variety of foods like fish, eggs, beans and lentils. Mix up your protein sources.

3) We are all different, we all have different likes or dislikes and needs. Listen to your body and find what works for you. If you are struggling to get it right then seek help from a professional who can tailor a plan to your needs.

I would advocate getting your protein from real foods first. Ideally, if your workout is strenuous, you should refuel with a protein-rich snack. For the days you cannot get home to make a meal, it can be a good idea to have some homemade protein bars and treats stashed away in the gym bag to enjoy as a post-training recovery snack. Instead of focusing on supplements, focus on getting the basics right. Put your energy into things like getting enough sleep, eating enough to meet your needs, hydrating and rehydrating adequately, training hard, improving your sporting skills and allowing for proper recovery.

This week's recipe is a great one to try. Beans are an excellent source of protein and soluble fibre. They are economical too. I always keep a few tins of beans in my kitchen cupboards. They're one of my top health hacks as I rarely have time to soak and cook dried beans: good-quality tinned ones suit me just fine.

This salad makes a filling and healthy lunch - and the Tabasco and chilli give it a nice spicy kick. It keeps really well, even with the dressing on, so it's an ideal mid-week salad and workday lunch the following day.

Bean Salad

Bean salad

Prep time: 15 mins

Serves: 2


For the salad

400g tin of mixed beans, drained and rinsed

80g tin of sweetcorn, drained and rinsed

3 scallions, finely sliced

1 red pepper, finely chopped

a handful of coriander leaves

For the dressing

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp agave syrup

1 tsp red wine vinegar

juice of 1 lime

a few drops of Tabasco sauce

¼ tsp chilli flakes

salt and pepper


Place the beans, sweetcorn, scallions and red pepper in a large serving bowl and mix well. Place all of the ingredients for the dressing in a jar with a lid and shake to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad. Scatter over the coriander leaves and serve.

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