Marginal gains are how many professionals train and those gains can be found in training, nutrition and equipment. With Strava QoM's just waiting to be owned and our desire to continually improve performance on the bike, we turn our attention to ways in which we can better ourselves.
What you put into your body has a significant effect on what you get out of your body - and no, we don't me that. We mean physical and mental performance. We've looked at the nutritional benefits of common household foods such as bananas, cherries and Manuka honey which when introduced into your daily diet, has some wonderful advantages.
We know that fresh fruit and vegetables are healthy, nutritious and should be a part of a well-balanced diet but how about those foods which are less common and still relatively unknown to us? For example, how many of you have heard about quark and better yet, who's tried it?
What is quark?
You'll find quark in the dairy aisle at the supermarket. It looks a lot like yoghurt, can be eaten like yoghurt and like yoghurt, it is made from milk. However, it's not yoghurt and that's because quark is developed with different strains of "good bacteria".
This subtle difference gives quark a much creamier and thicker texture than yoghurt, but it doesn't have the acidic taste like Greek yoghurt. Quark is also rich in protein and low in fat which makes it a tasty hybrid of the dairy snack world so why is it largely unheard of in the UK?
Quark is commonly found in German-speaking countries, Slavic countries, and northern Europe who correctly pronounce it as "kvarg". Quark is often likened to cottage cheese however, it contains no rennet or added salt.
How is quark made?
Quark is made by heating up soured milk until it curdles. Curdling is when the milk protein denatures and separates and at this point, good bacteria 'mesophilic Lactococcus' cultures are added.
Once the mixture becomes acidic, it's then strained through a cheese strainer leaving the firm and creamy texture that is quark. It's so easy that you can actually make quark at home.
Some brands opt for a more creamier texture and even add flavourings for variety which inevitably increases the low-fat count.
What are the nutritional benefits?
By introducing quark into your balanced diet, you can expect to gain some great performance boosting benefits.
If you're lactose intolerant or suffer from any gastrointestinal issues which prevent you from ingesting dairy or irritable foods, then quark may be the ideal solution. Because quark is not a cheese nor a yoghurt, the Food Intolerance Network believes the good bacteria blend which makes up quark is less aggressive on the digestion system.
Quark is low in fat and low in calories. For example, a 50-gram serving of quark cheese contains roughly 30 calories. When based on an average daily female calorie consumption of 2,000, a 50-gram portion accounts for 1.5 percent to 1.7 percent of the calories you may consume daily - Well, when you put it like that...
Quark is rich in protein where a 50-gram portion will provide roughly 6-grams of protein which is double the amount of Greek yoghurt on a gramme for gramme basis. Because you can eat quark as is or as part of a meal, this makes it the ideal post-ride snack as it's when our bodies need protein to help recover and repair exerted muscles.
In addition to protein, a low-fat count and plenty of good bacteria, quark is jam-packed full of minerals also. HFG expert and nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam says: "Quark, like other dairy products, contains vital nutrients such as protein, B vitamins, and calcium. But, unlike dairy products – such as yogurts, which are high in calories, fat and saturates – quark contains less than 1% fat and just 74 calories per 100g. It’s also high in protein and vitamin B6, and contains calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins B2 and B12."
Ways you can eat quark
Because it has a similar texture to yoghurt, you can eat quark in the same ways. Mixing quark with some fresh fruit makes for a delicious breakfast bite especially if you throw from granola in as well.
Quark works as a great alternative to sour cream and béchamel sauce, it can be eaten on toast and even mixed with honey.
As we mentioned earlier, it is possible to find flavoured quark in the shops but be aware that this will have a higher sugar and fat content than if you were to buy plain quark.
No matter how you eat it, quark is delicious and rich in protein making it one of our personal favourites and a great healthy snack for when you get in from a ride.
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