Fueled By Falafel
So you might not think there is a connection to cycling with this one….but by the time I’m done with my story on falafel, I will get to the part where it has aided in making me a stronger and healthier cyclist.
I’m not quite a full out vegetarian just yet….but I’m getting there. I said no to red meat back in 1998 and haven’t missed it since. It all started back when I lived in St. Kitts the first time. Red meat was not so readily accessible and if it was, the price tag was a little more than I could afford on my tiny little beach job wage. I ate a lot of beans and rice during that time, and splurged on chicken whenever I could.
A few years after giving up red meat, I came across a food known as falafel (a chickpea based patty). I right away fell in love with it and started making falafel pitas a part of my weekly meal plan. At that time, I was using falafel mix to create the patty’s and then popping them into a pita with cucumbers and a variety of sauces. There is a lot of different companies putting out falafel mix on the market, but I would go with whatever was available at that time. It was at this time in my life that I became a passionate road cyclist.
Jumping ahead a few years we were now living in Austin, and my love of falafel stayed strong….growing from something I ate once a week to being on the menu at least a couple times per week. I still used the dried falafel mix in a box method, but I switched from pitas to wraps. By this time I also realized that the absolute best falafel box mix was Casbah. No matter where I was living, I would search this brand out no matter how hard it was to find. I had now been cycling seriously for about 3 years….getting stronger and faster each year.
We moved back to Canada in 2007 and falafel came right along with me. Still eating it about 3 times a week, and loving every minute of it. I started to realize that I was eating more and more vegetarian meals and less and less fish and chicken. There were still improvements in my cycling, but not quite as severe as a few years prior.
That brings us to today. Falafel and vegetarian meals now make up about 95% of my intake and at the age of 40 I feel better than I ever have in my life. The biggest switch I made in my falafel eating is that I now make my own. The box type variety is fine, but when you’re eating it as often as I do, the enriched flour and dried ingredients don’t provide the goodness a body needs. I took some recipes I had found and created my own mixture that smells great, tastes great, and provides incredible nutrition (see below for recipe).
Okay, so what does all this falafel talk have to do with cycling? Well, one of the most important ingredients in becoming a better cyclist is becoming a better you. It’s not for everyone, but I have drastically seen and felt immense benefits and improvements to the way my body looks and behaves over the course of these past 12 years, and I know it is because of my diet. It’s been a slow progression and I’m still not totally a vegetarian….I might not ever be a full vegetarian….but I like what being 95% of the way there has done for me and what it has done for my athletic performance. For me, that means being better on the bike. I’m fueled by falafel and loving it.
Falafel is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Chickpeas are also low in fat, cholesterol, and salt. The key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, Vitamin C, zinc, thiamine, pantothenic acid, Vitamin B, and folate.
Darryl’s Homemade Falafel Recipe (I don’t measure so I’m guessing a little on the amounts)
- 2 cups chickpeas (soaked and boiled) or 1 Can (19 oz) chickpeas
- 1/2 chopped red onion
- 1/8 cup chopped garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley
- A couple pieces of Kombu (optional)
- A little over 1/4 cup organic flour
- A little under 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tsp baking powder
Blend it all up in a food processor or blender. To cook, place mounds of mixture on a frying pan (I go with no oil on the pan) and cook sort of like a pancake, flipping over once cooked on the first side. Put the patty’s into a pita, wrap or just by themselved…and add fresh vegetables (Spinach, cucumbers, whatever). Pour on one of your favorite sauces and you’re good to go. Try experimenting with the sauce options and see what you like.