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Eat like an athlete: Josh Amberger

Ever wondered what top-level athletes eat? Wonder no more. Josh is here to spill the beans. He's recorded himself cooking up some quick and easy food that tastes great and is full of nutritional goodness. Plus, we get all the details on what he eats at home and (spoiler alert) cheese, beer and dessert are all on the menu.

 

The ongoing pandemic means that we can’t really wine and dine our athletes as much as we’d like. So in an effort to make up for this a little, we thought we’d send Australian triathlete Josh Amberger a Go Pro camera and ask him to cook us a meal instead. His choice? Beans on toast. 

 

In his own words, it’s simple, nutritious and delicious. And, as Josh demonstrates, it won’t take you all day to cook it either. 

 

Watch his video above, then scroll down to get the full recipe and learn more about his approach to food. And just because Josh and his fiancée Ashleigh Gentle are both elite athletes, don’t think they’re eating lean protein and plain carbs all day. Far from it. 

      

Josh Amberger
With more than ten Ironman titles to his name, Josh knows his way around some of the world’s toughest races. Turns out, he knows his way around the kitchen too.
Read Josh's bio

 

Hey Josh, how would you sum up your approach to food? 

Our approach is pretty basic. We make sure that, first and foremost, we have energy availability. So this means eating lots of carbs – as we need to make sure that we have glycogen repletion after workouts and protein fast for recovery and refueling. We just eat a lot of food, not overeating but fueling. We make sure that we’re quite disciplined with the times that we eat at, more than what we eat. 

   

So, for instance, fueling before training is essential and after as well. Other than that, for meal times we generally don’t plan too far ahead. and sometimes we’ll be thinking ‘oh we need to go to the shops’ or whatever. I think we could do a bit more planning so we don’t get caught out without anything.

              

 

So you don’t spend a lot time planning meals?

No, diet isn’t really a huge part of my life. I think you can tell from my video that I like to hit the food groups – and I’ve got my favorites in those groups – but it’s not something that really restricts us. It’s something that we give attention to but it’s never restrictive. 

 

For me, eating is all about feeling good for training and for recovering afterwards. The better you recover the better your overall performance. Food can and should be a source of great of happiness. 

 

We try and live the good life.

         

 

What are some of your favorite foods? 

For breakfast, I usually have homemade musli or pancakes – just blend up some oats and throw in a banana. Toast is always high on the menu, and having toast with butter, peanut butter or jam is always a winner. 

    

I eat a lot of fruit and I’ll usually snack on that all day. Red papaya is a personal favorite at the moment. But also apricots, nectarines and citrus in winter. I really like fresh seasonal fruit. 

 

I like funky cheeses, blue cheeses too. Me and a friend like to just go to the deli and buy a bunch of French stuff and see what we like. 

    

For dinner, we like to slow cook stuff. So we’ll maybe cook pork fillet or beef brisket and then make burritos. This is great because you get the veggies, the meat intake and some good carbs too. It hits on all the food groups and get something tasty. We almost always have some kind of salad too. It could be leafy greens from the garden like kale or cos lettuce, or maybe a mixed salad with some dressing. 

     

Anything you don’t eat? 

Honestly, I like to eat most things. The only thing I don’t get excited about is celery. 

      

  

Do you track your calories? 

No. I don’t think I’ve ever done that. As an athlete of any level, I think you’ll develop a sense for whether you’re under-eating or overeating. 

 

If you’re going for a longer bike ride or run then, of course, you need to take some fuel with you; gels or bananas work well for me. You should always be topping up the system but you’ll learn pretty hard and fast if you’re not fueling enough either through bonking (reaching a point where you cannot continue exercising due to having no energy) or injury. 

 

It’s all about balance. I’ve got no interest in counting calories.

 

Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? 

This isn’t really something that could ever apply to sports in my opinion. I just think it’s probably not wise, as it’s just restricting calories. So it’s restricting you from doing what you want. For us that’s never really something we want to try. It runs counterintuitive to energy availability.

              

  

How about supplements, do you take any?  

My fiancee and I have a sponsor called Athletic Greens. It’s just a really nice, good tasting green powder with a whole bunch of ingredients that you make into a drink. That’s supplements for us and beyond that, we don’t really take any at all. Electrolytes is probably the only other thing. Maybe coffee as well – I’d call that a supplement. 

  

Do you cook a lot at home? 

Well, sort of. Breakfast and lunch I usually have to look after myself. Then my fiancée kind of gets cornered into doing dinner most of the time. But it’s definitely not her preference to be cooking every night. So I step up every now and then. But we’ve had the conversation that I need to cook more often more than once. Normally when I do cook, the mood is good. And it doesn’t have to be something super. We’re pretty basic eaters, so as long as it’s clean, it doesn't really matter what it tastes like.

           

  

Are you able to eat desserts? 

Yes. I’ve tried to go through phases before races where I try to cut out eating dessert but it doesn’t really work for me. Although sometimes I indulge too much and feel a bit sick. We’re used to eating healthily and we like to eat healthily.

     

We’re pro athletes but it’s a free life at the end of the day. If we were putting limits on ourselves in terms of our social lives and diets, it wouldn’t be very fun. 

    

Do you have cheat days? 

I don’t know what that is. I have cheat moments every day. Before I had dinner tonight (like an hour ago), I was having something we call milk bottle lollies – we have a lot of funky lollies here in Australia that nobody knows about. But they’re good! 

             

   

What about alcohol? 

I enjoy one or two beers most nights. I think it’s essential for me, to just keep me balanced. And I like the taste. 

    

If I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t drink it. Of course, I won’t have a beer straight after a workout. I’ll always time it so it has the least affect on my blood alcohol level. Sometimes, if I don’t feel like it, I won’t have one. But often near dinner time, I’ll be hanging around the fridge looking for a beer. 

   

During lockdown, I’ve started brewing my own kombucha. I think a lot of people have done that, I really like exploring things I know nothing about it. I’m pretty confident that mine is pretty good. 

 

How was making the video? 

It was fun. I like expressing myself in certain ways and I’ve never done that via a cooking video before. Plus, it seems like whenever you’ve posted food stuff at On people are interested in it and seem to attach a lot of meaning too. So it will be interesting to have that engagement with people. 

 

Plus, I’m happy to show everybody how easy it is to make something delicious in a short amount of time. When I cooked it I was in a bit of a rush to get a massage and I made it in time. So you really don’t need ages to cook something good and tasty. 

            

  

Josh’s Recipe 

- 1 can of butter beans 

- 1 can of whole-peeled tomatoes 

- 1 cluster of shimeji mushrooms (other mushrooms work too)

- 2 slices of toast (Josh used sourdough but the choice is yours, of course) 

- 1 teaspoon of paprika (or more, if you’re feeling spicy)

- 1 handful of basil leaves

- 1 sprinkle of salt  

- 1 dash of olive oil

 

Steps: 

1. Add your olive oil to the your pan and heat gently (medium heat should be fine)

2. Add your beans to the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes

3. Add your mushrooms and allow to cook for another 1-2 minutes before adding paprika 

4. Add half a tin of whole-peeled tomatoes and break up the tomatoes thoroughly 

5. Allow to cook on medium heat for a while (2-3 minutes or until the mixture is cooked through)

6. Toast bread and add butter (optional, of course)

7. Pour the mixture on to the toast and add as much basil and salt as you like 

8. Enjoy...

         

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