With the overload of sports-drinks, -bars, -gels and what not, it’s easy to forget that there are actually old fashioned ways to fuel yourself before, during and after a race. I see people take off for a 10k run with a belt filled with gels and energy bars. Some even take their gels along for a training run. And I can’t help wondering why. More than a necessity, sports nutrition became a business. A multi-billion dollar one.
Sure, bars & gels are great. They are a compact boost of energy. And if you’re entering a self-sufficient endurance run, they’re definitely a great option. Especially the bars which, to my own surprise, appear to have a higher energy vs. weight ratio than gels. The only reason to go for gels would be a personal preference or the fact that they’re easier to digest maybe. Personally, this discovery meant the end of gels for me.
What about bananas? Handed out during every marathon you’ll ever attend, you’d think they do at least some good, right? And with good reason: bananas not only contain a lot of fibres, like energy bars and drinks do. they also contain anti-oxidants and their natural sugar makes them healthier too. So go bananas! Or berries for that matter: fewer fibers, but high on sugar and anti-oxidants.
Of course, when you’re on a self-sufficient run, they’re not that easy to take along without turning them into mash (which makes me think one could totally mash bananas and put them in a squeezable container… hmm, food for thoughts). So bars then? Well, yes and no. Yes, they are a compact, light and energy-rich option. And I’m sure it’s all well balanced and has plenty of anti-oxidants and what not. But then again, so do raisins. And although I’m personally not a big fan of raisins, they are definitely a good alternative to any energy bar.
Another alternative is to just go nuts. Nuts contain A LOT of calories. Of course, those are captured in fat rather than sugar, but hey, fat burns too. It just takes some more energy get the fire going, so combine with some sugars and you should be good to go! Additionally, both seeds & nuts contain a lot of other healthy stuff, amongst which the magic word of the last 10 years: anti-oxidants.
Less natural maybe, but equally energy packed: the little filled waffles. Meli has a variety with honey which I just love, but they come in all sizes & flavours: cane sugar, vanilla,… Probably not as healthy as the stuff above, but if it comes to energy, they’ll do the job just fine.
How about drinks? Well, if we’re talking electrolytes and anti-oxidants here, juices are a really good alternative. Anything based on berries will usually contain tons of those, but apparently coconut water is amazing as well (only discovered this when looking up some stuff to write this actually. I must have been living under a rock). Maple water seems to be quite popular as well. Old fashioned orange juice is an option too, although it messes up my digestion so personally, I’m not a big fan. Adding some water to it might do the trick here. Apple juice however, especially the cloudy variety. And of course, as most runners will already know.
So fuck sports nutrition then? Well, no. I’ll be the first one to admit that I like the bars. They’re handy to consume, nicely dosed and have a high energy vs. weight ratio and they are well balanced so you get pretty much everything you need. On top of that, a lot of them are covered with chocolate. And not only am I a huge sucker for chocolate, it also makes them easy to eat, even after 10 hours of running. Just make sure you keep the wrappers on you until you run into a trash bin!