Professional cyclist Julie Leth (Hitec Products) is currently sidelined following a horrific crash at the Winston Salem Cycling Classic in North Carolina in early June. She hit a dip in the road whilst descending and was thrown from her bike, suffering fractures to the elbow, jaw and vertebrae.
Among the treatments for her various injuries, Leth had her jaw wired shut. Unable to open her mouth or chew, Leth was left with an extremely limited diet.
“I ate everything through a straw,” Leth said. “It all had to be liquids, since the only way I’d be able to eat–if you could even call that eating. If it was liquid enough to pass through the gaps between my teeth, it was fair game.”
“I had a lot of soup, smoothies, protein shakes and fruit puree,” she explained. “Also, I ate a fair amount of Danish ‘Koldskål’, which is a traditional Danish summer meal. Directly translated it’s means ‘cold bowl’, and it’s buttermilk mixed with eggs, lemon, vanilla and a bit of sugar.”
It was difficult for Leth to consume all the calories her body needed to require – so she got creative.
“My body needed the energy to heal quicker,” Leth explained. “It was pretty much impossible not to be calorie deficit but I did my best. I added whipped cream to my fruit puree, and I blended things that really should not be blended, like spaghetti bolognese. I found that I was able to get mashed potatoes through the straw, so I ate that, too.”
“I was really struggled at the end,” she admitted. “I loved food, but this made eating so unpleasant.”
Leth recently had the wires removed, a major improvement over her previous condition but restrictions remain.
“I’m not allowed to chew,” she said. “I must only eat soft foods. Pretty much everything I eat needs to be mashed. Cutting things into really small pieces also helps.”
Leth loves porridge. It’s her standby morning meal – broken jaw notwithstanding – and she was thrilled that with the wires removed she could resume her daily porridge habit. Her #pimpmyporridge tweets have garnered her a bit of a loyal following amongst porridge lovers in the pro peloton.
“I think the first tweet was: ‘Every morning is a game of #pimpmyporridge for me,’ ” Leth explained. “I love how I can have the same base every day, but I still get to be creative and ‘pimp’ with different toppings and fillings. This way I don’t get tired of porridge.”
“It’s good fuel for riding,” Leth noted. “The oats are low in saturated fat, high in fibre and a great source of slow-releasing carbohydrates.”
“I can have my porridge again now – as long I only pimp with stuff that I don’t have to chew,” she added. “Bananas and finely cut berries work just fine.”
Leth’s basic porridge recipe is below – and so are her tips for porridge pimping.
Five weeks post accident, Leth is still very much on the mend. She lacks a return to racing date at the moment but maintains a sunny attitude about her prognosis.
“It will probably be another three or four weeks until I’m out of the corset,” Leth said, referencing the brace used to treat her broken vertebrae. “After that, I will have a fair amount of rehabilitation to do. Truth be told, I have no idea what the timeline is for me being back on the road. I working hard with my physic to make sure that I have the best possible starting point when I get out of the corset.”
“Obviously it’s not fun being injured,” she added. “I’m trying to stay positive and remind myself that I was lucky. It could have been worse. For a few seconds, I wasn’t sure if I was ever going to walk again. If you look at it that way, two months off the bike seems like nothing. I’m happy that I will hopefully get out of this without any permanent injury, and I’m sure the experience will only make me stronger.”