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A Climber's Guide to Spaghetti

Get a full serving of veggies, grains, and meat in this healthy dish

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This article originally appeared in the March 2015 issue of our print edition. 


Climbing hard can burn more than 500 calories per hour, so it’s no wonder you crave bacon cheeseburgers, burritos, and entire pizzas after a long day. But, with climbing again tomorrow in mind, it’s far better to target a meal that can replenish the energy burned from crushing route after route without leaving you feeling bloated or weighed down. Enter this light but filling feast of turkey meatballs and fettuccine. One helping of this healthy meal provides a full serving of vegetables, grains, and meat, while offering just the right balance of fuel and recovery components. The pasta provides the required carbohydrates to refill your muscles’ glycogen stores, which, along with protein from the meat, will help them recover and be ready for action faster. Whole-wheat pasta delivers the fiber your body needs for efficient digestion, and turkey is an excellent lean option for maximum protein with less fat. Last but not least, there’s little more satisfying than chowing down on a steaming bowl of pasta! Keep this as a perfect recovery meal at the end of a session, or take it to the crag for an ideal lunch.


• 2 lbs. 99% lean ground turkey breast

• 1/3 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs

• 3 cloves garlic, minced

• 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes

• 2 eggs

• ½ teaspoon + 1 pinch salt

• ¼ teaspoon black pepper

• 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped

• 4 cups tomato-basil pasta sauce 

• Cooking spray

• 1 lb. whole-wheat fettuccine


Combine ground turkey, breadcrumbs, eggs, garlic, onion flakes, basil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Roll meat mixture into 40 two-inch balls and place a single layer in the skillet. (They usually have to be cooked in two batches.) Brown over medium heat, using tongs or a wooden spoon to turn the meatballs so the outsides cook evenly. Transfer meatballs to a large saucepan and pour in the tomato-basil sauce. Cover and simmer over a low flame for 40 minutes. While the meatballs are cooking, fill a large saucepan with water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then add fettuccine. Cook 12 to 14 minutes or as directed on the package. Pour into a colander to drain. Add about ¾ cup cooked fettuccine to each plate and top with a few meatballs and sauce.

Nutrition Facts (per serving 1 plate)
Energy: 400 cal • Fat: 5g • Protein: 38g • Carbs: 55g • Fiber: 8g

*Republished with permission of VeloPress from the Racing Weight Cookbook. Try more recipes at

A Pasta-less, Gluten-free Alternative

Whether you’re sensitive to gluten or just tired of pasta, an excellent option is to use a spaghetti squash instead of fettuccine noodles. It will reduce calories and carbs by more than 80%, and it will also give you a second serving of veggies for the day, as well as still provide much-needed fiber. Spaghetti squash looks like an oblong cantaloupe on the outside, but after it’s cooked, the fibrous, strand-like innards look almost exactly like spaghetti pasta. It’s quite easy to prepare, either in the oven or in the microwave, and you can do it while the meatballs simmer.


Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scrape out all the seeds. Fill a microwave-safe dish with about one inch of water. Place both halves flat-side down in the water. Microwave on high for about 12 minutes—the outer flesh should be tender when you poke it with a fork. Pull it out and let it cool for at least 10 minutes, or until it’s at a temperature that’s safe to handle. Use a fork to scrape down the length of the squash, pulling out the long strands.


Cut the squash and scrape the seeds same as above. Roast in a 400° oven for about 45 minutes, until the outer flesh is tender. It might take slightly longer or shorter, depending on the size of your squash. Let it cool and then scrape lengthwise with a fork to pull out the strands.

Whole-Wheat Fettuccine

Nutrition Facts (per serving, 1 cup)
Energy: 174 cal • Fat: 1g • Carbs: 37g

 Spaghetti Squash

Nutrition Facts (per serving, 1 cup)
Energy: 31 cal • Fat: 0.6g • Carbs: 7g

Not-So-Crummy Breadcrumbs

Turn stale bread into homemade breadcrumbs

Purchasing whole-wheat breadcrumbs is acceptable if you’re crunched for time (we like the 4C brand), but better yet, you can make your own crumbs from scratch. This will offer more customization for your meal, and it’s a great way to put stale bread to use instead of tossing it in the compost bin.


1. Use about half a loaf of old bread that’s firm and dry, but not rock-hard.2. Cut into small cubes. Leave the crust on for extra crunch.3. Use a food processor or blender on pulse mode until the bread is finely and evenly ground.4. Bake on a cookie sheet for 10 minutes at 375°.5. Season to taste.