Avocados are a staple in Sandes’s diet. © Craig Kolesky / Red Bull Content Pool
Back home in his native South Africa, ultra runner Ryan Sandes is partial to a good braai (the South African version of a barbeque). While he generally eats whole foods most of the time, Sandes avoids getting strict or uptight about his diet. He takes a pragmatic approach.
“I believe it's important to enjoy life as well,” he says. “I don’t weigh x amount of protein, and x of carbs, I just try to eat a balanced diet with as many whole foods as possible. I try to listen to what my body is craving.”
Despite being from meat loving South Africa, Sandes and his wife Vanessa have drastically reduced their meat consumption to only once or twice a week. Instead, they focus on eating unprocessed, natural food.
“As an athlete it’s very easy to slip into taking lots of recovery shakes to try to get the goodness back into your body,” Sandes says. “But I don’t think you can replace eating good whole foods.”
Sandes ran the Great Himalayan Trail this year. © Dean Leslie / Red Bull Content Pool
In busy times
Forward planning is essential for athletes. And having a good meal plan is just as important as having a clear training plan.
Sandes often makes a big dish, with multiple portions, at the beginning of the week so he has something easy available if it’s a busy week. It’s helpful doing this, he says, because of the tendency to get a little lazy, especially later in the week.
“I often eat quite a lot of eggs, and avocados and salad, things that are easy to put together,” he says.
Sandes (and his dog) remains partial to a braai (barbecue). © Ryan Sandes
Go to meals
Sandes enjoys pizza so, when he needs an easy meal, he buys locally made pizza bases, smothers them vegetables and salad, and bakes them. Burgers, smoothies, rye bread with honey, muesli and plenty of boiled eggs are all part of his regular diet, too.
And his secret supplement is bone broth.
“These days in first world countries people eat the best cuts of meat, whereas way back in the hunter-gatherer days, if they hunted a buck they would eat the entire animal, including boiling all the bones and drinking the broth,” Sandes explains. “A lot of the good meat cuts don’t have all the essential fats, but bone broth has that. It’s not my favourite thing, but it’s great for recovery.”
The Sandes superfood grain salad recipe
1 cup of quinoa
1 cup of sorghum
Half a cup of millet
Half a cup of buckwheat
Boil all the grains separately as they all have varying cooking times.
Add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas and a can of drained and rinsed lentils.
Let the grains cool down and add some lemon juice and good quality olive oil.
The above amounts make quite a big bowl but you can keep it in the fridge and decant from it all week for lunch and dinner!
Chopped up avocado pear
Rocket and other lettuce leaves
Baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup of good quality cold extracted olive oil
1 teaspoon of honey
1 teaspoon of whole-grain or Dijon mustard
One clove of crushed fresh garlic
Salt & pepper to taste
Blend all the salad dressing ingredients and lightly drizzle onto your salad.
For more of an animal protein punch, add slices of grilled chicken, beef or tuna.
Optional extras: drained and rinsed can of corn, chopped up fresh basil, drained and rinsed butter or cannellini beans, cut up cucumber, half a hand-full of dried cranberries.