What to Eat When Racing XTERRA Europe

Alexandra Borrelly Lebrun is a pharmacist and has studied sports nutrition and natural medicine. She works alongside her husband, a former professional XTERRA athlete & 2005 XTERRA World Champ, Nico Lebrun, at Organicoach, where they create optimized nutrition plans for athletes of all levels. 

Alexandra takes care of Organicoach athletes and coaches by helping them choose the best food from nature. The Organicoach philosophy is, “Think Green and Stay Fit,” with organic food, natural medicine, and zero chemicals. 

Recently we asked her our biggest questions about how to eat when traveling and the best pre- and post-race foods. We are thrilled chocolate is on the list!

Q. What is the Mediterranean Diet?

A. The Mediterranean diet is based on the traditional foods that people used to eat in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea before 1960. The diet is rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, olive oil, fish, eggs, and some red meat.

Q. What are the advantages of a Mediterranean diet?

A. This diet is based on heavy consumption of vegetables and fruit, olive oil, whole grains, and fish. Dairy, red meat, and wine can be added in small amounts. The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases. Moreover, it was realized that the Mediterranean populations were particularly active. Thanks to the sun, they are often outdoors and regularly practice physical or sporting activities. So for me, it is obvious that if you want to move well, you need a body that can be healthy and efficient, and a Mediterranean diet is perfect for meeting those goals.


Q. Can the fats in a Mediterranean diet help prevent “bonking” in an endurance event?

A. Healthy fats, like almonds and olive oil from first cold pressing can be a good source of energy if you are doing a low-intensity endurance event. Healthy fats conserve the sugar reserves we have in the muscles. When those are depleted, we “bonk.” Healthy fats also protect our intestinal barrier and aid in the anti-inflammatory response.


Q. What is a good pre-race breakfast?

A. It all depends on when you are eating. If you have a minimum of 3 hours, you can eat eggs with good quality whole grain or gluten-free bread, a banana, and some almonds. If you have less than 3 hours: it is better to avoid eggs and almonds because proteins and fats take longer to digest.The important thing is not to change your habits much on the day of the race. Just like a workout, you must practice your diet and try what works for you.


Q.  What is a good post-workout meal, ideal for recovery?

A. You want to eat a varied mixture of vegetables to recharge minerals, whole grains or dried vegetables to recharge the body’s sugars, and fish or eggs to rebuild the muscles. You must also hydrate well! Some great recovery meals include: tortilla (made with potatoes, not flour) in Spain with a big salad, a pizza with goat cheese or sheep cheese, antipasti and good ham in Italy, or a Greek salad in Greece with bread and hummus. It’s important to have fun and enjoy the good local dishes.


Q. How can an athlete follow a Mediterranean diet while traveling?

A. The most important thing to remember while traveling is to eat lots of fruit and vegetables! It is better to stay simple and to follow the local specialties, especially in the Mediterranean countries.This means simple meals, simply prepared, without rich sauces. Only use good quality olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Eat enough whole grains to satisfy your hunger and small portions of meat.

Greek salad, hummus, antipasti, couscous and pizzas after the race are rich and satisfying meals. The important thing is to have a large part of the vegetables and fruit in the day. You have to eat everything but simple meals, little cooked, no sauces, only good quality olive oil, lemon juice and salt. Enough whole grains and not too much protein.


Q. How can athletes get enough vegetables and protein when traveling?

A. In the Mediterranean countries, it’s easy to find good vegetables and good fruits that have matured with the sun! There are many small farmers who sell their produce in local markets and that is always the freshest was to go. On the protein side, organic eggs, small fish (such as sardines in Portugal), dried low-fat meats, rabbit, or even some goat and sheep cheese are all pretty healthy. Vegetable protein like chickpeas, hummus, and couscous are also great choices.


Q. What types of Mediterranean snacks do you recommend?

A. I love snacking! Some of my favorites are: hummus, raw vegetables, fruit, nuts, figs, and dried fruit. And in small quantities, chocolate (70% cocoa) is OK. Because you can’t visit Europe and not have some chocolate!


Q. Can you give a sample of what Nico eats in a day when he is training?

A.  Breakfast: eggs, 3 fresh fruits in salad with grated coconut, spelt bread, and almonds

Noon: very large salad with seasonal vegetables and small fish (sardines, mackerel or herring) 

Evening: Raw vegetables or soup in winter, brown rice or lentils