There’s nothing like getting part way through that long run, when you’re dreaming of all the yummy things you’re going to eat when you’re finished, when the neighbourhood breakfast smells are wafting around you and you stop, reach into your hydration pack for that little silver foil of oohey, gooey, sticky package of gel! Yuck!
If you’re like me and you’ve have tried so many different gels yet none seems to make the cut. I have yet to find a gel that doesn’t have a weird texture, tastes like some artificial “fruit”, and/ or makes me gag as I choke my way through it trying to pry the goo from the roof of my mouth.
I typically stick to gummies and chews that I tolerate, but since I try to eat mostly whole, unprocessed food in my day to day life, I’ve been trying to move away from the processed gels that seem to be the most common option for fuelling during endurance adventures. I know that not everyone feels this way about these convenient little energy boosts, and I hats off to all of you that easily get down that gel in one gulp...But I. Just. Can’t. Do. It!
So what to do instead???
As a holistic nutritionist this was one of the biggest questions and experiments that I’ve been undertaking as I trained my way through my last few marathons. I tried everything from baby food, gummy bears, whole nuts, dates, home-made gels and other natural fuelling products, with the goal of finding a fuel that:
• Meets my nutritional requirements
• Tastes good
• Is not loaded with ingredients I don’t know and can’t pronounce • Is as close to a whole food as possible
• Is packaged as environmentally friendly as possible
There are different suggestions of intake requirements during exercise, however it is generally suggested that we consume between 100- 200 calories every 20-30 minutes, with about a 6-7% carbohydrate solution for longer, endurance-type workouts so that we avoid low blood glucose and avoid depleting our muscle glycogen stores that keep us performing for longer periods of time.1 It is also super important to be well fuelled before exercise and to replenish after, but I’ll save those topics for another time.
Now everyone is different and things can become more challenging to digest and keep down depending on the conditions, distance, electrolytes balance and hydration, however in an effort to put some real food options out there, here are my top 10 basic whole-food ingredients to make your own long run fuels and snacks. Except for Sea Salt, these are primarily carbohydrate rich foods that range between 115-260 calories with between 25-75g of carbs for 100g.
Dates (5 are about 100g)
Yams (1 small)
Potato (1 medium)
Banana (1 small)
• Chia Seeds
• Nuts & Seeds (whole or in “butter” form) • Avocado (1 half)
• Rice (to make rice balls)
• Sea Salt
• Maple Syrup (highest in kcal and carb)
1 Benardot, Dan. Advanced Sports Nutrition. Human Kinetics. 2012; p 161-162.
I’ve included a couple of recipes for you below.
Note that some of these foods even come in their own biodegradable packaging, however I would recommend they are combined to ensure you are getting enough electrolytes and macronutrients that you need. If this is new to you and you’re looking at incorporating more whole foods into your fuelling plan and minimize your waste, I would recommend you invest in some bees wax wraps, refillable hydration packages, silicone reusable zip-lock baggies.
I recognize that we don’t always have that much time to dedicate to preparing our snacks for each run. Life gets in the way and you should try different things so that you know what works for you. Three products that I recommend and typically have on hand when I don’t have time or forget to plan, are the following:
Endurance Tap - While sustainable packaging just doesn’t exist just yet, they help offset the impact of their packaging, by joining 1% for the Planet, committing to donate 1% of their revenue to environmental causes.
Trail Butter - Lots of flavours and convenient (although not sustainable) packages of all- natural energy food alternatives that provide balanced, slow-burning energy made of whole-food ingredients.
Honey Stingers - The best tasting gels that I’ve been able to find and made primarily of natural, organic ingredients.
Matcha Energy Balls
1 cup Almonds
1.5 tbsp Green Tea Powder (matcha) 1.5 tbsp Coconut Oil
1 cup Pitted Dates (pre-soaked)
1/4 cup Unsweetened Coconut Flakes 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Add the almonds, hazelnuts, green tea powder, coconut oil, dates, coconut flakes and sea
salt to a food processor and blend until well mixed and sticky.
Transfer to a medium-size mixing bowl. Form into even balls with your hands, roughly 1-
inch in diameter. Dust with more green tea powder if desired. Store in the fridge or freezer
until ready to enjoy.
Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to seven days or in the freezer for three months.
One serving is equal to one energy ball. Replace with more almonds instead.
Sweet Potato Pancakes for Fuelling
2 Sweet Potato (small) 3 Eggs (whisked)
1 tbsp Coconut Oil 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
2 tbsp Maple Syrup 1/4 tsp Sea Salt
Peel sweet potato and dice into small cubes. Fill a saucepan with 2 inches of water and
bring to a boil. Drop the sweet potato in and steam for 7 minutes or until tender when pierced with a fork. Drain off the liquid and transfer the steamed sweet potato to a bowl and mash with a fork.
Measure out about 1/2 cup of mashed sweet potato per serving and add it to a bowl. Add in the eggs, maple syrup, cinnamon and sea salt and mix well.
Melt coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, pour pancakes in the skillet, no more than 1/8-1/4 cup of batter at a time. Cook each side about 3-5 minutes or until browned.
Let cool before wrapping or storing. Enjoy!
One final note and perhaps you’ve heard this before...Don’t try anything new on race day. Use your training plan to try out different foods so that you can dial it in on race day.
For more tips on nutrition for runners, please give me a follow @groundedrootznutrition or visit my website at www.groundedrootz.com
Written by: Zarah Hofer - RLAG Team