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The Best Chili Recipe for Athletes

There's a right way to make this one-pot wonder—using smart, healthy ingredients and your imagination.
The Best Chili Recipe for Athletes
James Ransom

Chili is one of those great one-pot wonders that taste as great the day you make it as it does as tomorrow’s leftovers. With the right ingredients, your favorite fatty bean-pot can also be a lean, tasty powerhouse perfect for an athlete.

“It’s great for a quick recovery meal, because it’s packed with protein from beef, fiber from beans, and carbs from rice,” says Allen Lim, Ph.D., sports scientist and co-author of The Feed Zone Cookbook: Fast and Flavorful Food for Athletes, who’s served as a trainer and nutritionist for elite Tour de France cyclists.

But there’s a science to maxing out chili’s benefits. Below, Lim shows how to take it to another level with just a few tricks: using a slightly higher-fat cut of beef; going whole hog on anti-inflammatory red chili pepper; adding heart-friendly dark chocolate (heard of mole? Trust us, it’s great); and serving it over rice to create a complete protein.

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(Makes: 4 Servings)

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1½ lbs grass-fed ground beef
1 can whole crushed tomatoes
1 can beans (pinto, black, or kidney beans, or mix all three)
2 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off the cob
2 tbsp ancho (or any red) chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
½ bar (about .75 oz) dark chocolate (at least 65% cacao)
2 limes
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 cups cooked white rice
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

1) Place a large saucepan or pot over medium heat and add olive oil. When oil is shimmering, add onions and caramelize (about 30 minutes). Add garlic toward the end.
2) Add beef and cook until lightly browned, about 5 minutes.
3) Add tomatoes, beans, corn, chili powder, and cumin. Mix well and cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
4) Add chocolate and mix, then squeeze in lime juice to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste.
5) Serve over rice and garnish with cilantro.

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Dark chocolate can decrease risk of heart disease and improve blood pressure.

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Chilies have anticancer properties. “Plus, spicy foods are a good pick-me-up when experiencing an energy deficit,” Lim explains.

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“Lean meat doesn’t satiate you, so you end up eating more,” Lim says. “I’d rather go for grass-fed at 80% lean than grain-fed at 90%.”

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They’re packed with protein and vitamins. “And their high fiber content makes you feel fuller on fewer calories,” says Lim.

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