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food for thought

Competitive chess can be extremely grueling, not only mentally, but physically as well. The amount of energy required to maintain concentration for hours on end, to handle the emotional ups and downs and the concomitant adrenaline surges and exhaustion, is amazing. There are tales of World Championship combatants losing tens of pounds during their one to two month battles over the board.

To a lesser extent, I have noticed I can consume more in a weekend of chess, with little or no exercise, than in my typical days programming computers and working out, with no resulting weight change. So, although a practitioner of CRON (Calorie Restriction with Optimal Nutrition), I often allow myself a few hundred additional calories a day while playing in a tournament. Of course, we’re still talking high-quality nutrition here. The extras come in the form of snacks for each game to keep the brain fueled and a celebratory (or consolatory, as the case may be) beer for the evening.

I pack all my food for such events in order to avoid the junk in restaurants and to allow for the odd and sometimes rushed meal windows in between games. Here is what it looked like this weekend as I prepared for the NH Open Chess Championship.

chessfood (130k image)

This provides for a breakfast of homemade soy yogurt (the little container) with dry cereal (not shown), blueberries and strawberries, and lunches and dinners of chili. The bags, one for each day, contain raw broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collards, and romaine lettuce for dunking in the chili (eaten cold at lunch and heated up at my friend’s in the evening). The beers (here Harpoon Oatmeal Stout) are one for me and one for my friend, who so kindly let’s me crash at his place, to end each day. Then there’s a banana (or apple) and homemade seitan jerky for each game (2 per day). I usually include a little dark chocolate as well, but left it out this time for no particular reason.

7 Responses to “food for thought”

  1. t. says:

    Erin, I am honestly really intrigued by your chess tournaments. I have met professional yo-yoers (and I am NOT referring to weight issues, but to the toy), overly colourful tattoo artists, trained gamblers but nobody who is playing chess tournaments!
    You must tell us more!

    Also, your meals to me looks like not too much food! I wonder how little you eat on normal days! (asking because I am trying to loose some pounds packed due to severe inactivity!)

  2. Erin says:

    Actually, without the dark chocolate which I usually bring along to tourneys, this quantity of food is not too far off from my typical daily intake. (I also forgot to mention the 4 oz of pomegranate juice I had at breakfast.) However, I rarely eat the same meal for lunch and dinner. In place of the rather hearty chili, I’d have, for example, a tempeh stir-fry with lots more veggies.

    Rest assured, I seldom feel hunger. These meals are very filling with lots of fiber and no wasted calories (i.e., the nutrient to calorie ratio is high, ala Fuhrman [Eat To Live]).

    For more information on calorie restriction, which is not a weight loss diet, but rather a life extension program, do check out the Calorie Restriction Society.

  3. Erin says:

    Regarding chess, my proudest accomplishments include two consecutive years as the NH Amateur Champion and winner of the NH State title in 2004. (If you go back to the main zenpawn site, you can replay these games, some with light annotations.) I’ve been in a slump since and find I enjoy the aesthetics of the game more than the competition. The catch-22 is in order to appreciate the beauty of the game or, even better, to make a contribution thereof, one must study and play seriously, at least on occasion. If you have any interest in playing in tournaments yourself or watching the greats in battle, you should check out the United States Chess Federation (USCF).

  4. I Love My Pit Bull says:

    I followed over to your journal from the Vegan Cookoff – and I had no idea you were a CRON’er. I practice a little CRON myself, though I’m too much of a grumpy hungry person to do it as much as I should :-)

  5. (sorry for the really late reply: i actually read both your commens a loooong time ago but never got around replying)

    Thanks a lot for the info both on CRON and on your chessing!
    I may start Eat to Live soon and cannot wait: I heard too many great things about it lately! I had a look at CRON as well and it seems prety interesting: I will have to try it out to know if it works for me.

  6. Lee says:

    Can you provide me a recipe for seitan jerky? Sounds like it would be a satisfying snack!

  7. Erin says:

    I make it differently every time with nary a measurement in terms of spices. The base of the seitan is 120 grams of wheat gluten mixed with 6 ounces of water. Before adding in the water and kneading the dough, I just dump in a bunch of spices and/or herbs, depending on my mood. Mixtures with chipotle, garlic, and onion are perhaps the most common in my kitchen. I split it into four balls, let them rest a half hour, then boil a half hour. Now it’s cooked and can be either fried or made into more of a jerky by laying out slices on a baking sheet and baking in the oven. Experiment with temperatures and times for varying textures. If you want it crispy, then 425 F for 25 minutes, turning midway, definitely does the trick. For the tournament in this post, I just brought the seitan as it was after boiling and slicing, and it was ultra chewy. There are lots of good recipes for making seitan that tastes like chicken, ham, pepperoni, etc.. Often the flavoring is in the broth. It is a fascinating, low-carb, high-protein food that is a staple of my diet. Hope this helps and inspires. Enjoy!

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