Pinole: Power Fuel or Hype?

51s889ttrnLLast summer I decided to judge for myself whether Born to Run was worthy of its superlative-laden reviews.   While I can’t say it was “life changing,” the storytelling was indeed compelling.  I was so intrigued after finishing, I found myself scouring the internet for more information on the Tarahumara people, as well as the curious cast of characters.

I was also left craving to learn more about the Tarahumaran “super foods,” namely chia and pinole.  After running across several seemingly easy recipes by the “No Meat Athlete” Matt Frazier, I set out to Whole Foods in a quest to find chia seeds and masa harina, a core ingredient of pinole.

Alas, months had passed and the masa harina remained unopened in my cupboard.  Today, I decided to finally give Frazier’s pinole recipe a try before heading out on a long run.  For me, ensuring I’m properly fueled before a long run can be a struggle.  With my compact frame, when I ignore my body’s basic fuel needs I quickly devolve into an almost comical crazed carnivore- convinced he will die unless nourishment is found immediately.

I was impressed with the simplicity of Frazier’s pinole recipe.  After measuring a half-cup of  masa harina into a pan over medium heat, I stirred for about five minutes.  There is a fine line between toasting and slightly burning, as I learned the hard way.  Next, I poured the toasted corn flour into a bowl, and added cinnamon, honey and a bit of water.  After stirring, I sat down with a cup of coffee to test.  By taste, I added a bit more honey.  It was actually quite palatable, though next time I will add a bit more water than the recipe calls for; the consistency was a bit drier than I’d generally prefer.

The pinole was much denser than I expected.  I questioned whether this experiment was the wisest decision, as it seemed to sit rather heavy in my stomach.  Though after letting it settle for about an hour and a half, I laced-up to see whether my doubts were warranted,.  With the temperature nearing 50 degrees, I hoped that my pinole trial wouldn’t get in the way of enjoying what was a rare winter reprieve.

Remarkably, I had a great run!  During my 9-mile jaunt along the East River I performed a mental inventory, and realized my body really shouldn’t feel so energized.  I hadn’t had a particularly substantive dinner the night before, I had gone out for a few drinks, stayed up later than originally planned, and this morning I had only consumed a cup of coffee and half a bowl of pinole.  Despite all, I didn’t feel an inkling of hunger.  I was impressed, to say the least.

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Spring was in the air during a rare warm February #run.

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Of course, the result of one experiment should not be mistaken for a conclusion.  For me, the jury is still out as to whether pinole is a suitable power fuel.  But in light of today’s successful trial, suffice it to say I will certainly be be exploring this fueling strategy further.


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