Forget GUs, gels, and other processed fuel options! Whole, real foods are your best bet for keeping up your stamina during a tough endurance workout or long distance event. These whole food selections are easy to consume during your workout, provide great nutrition, and are all natural!
Before I started training for and running marathons, I never really considered fueling during a workout. Heck, I hardly even drank anything during a run or regular sweat sesh. Not good, I know. Luckily, my ways have changed.
During long distance events and training, intra-workout (during the workout) nutrition is key for performing optimally and NECESSARY to keep your body going. We only have so many glycogen stores to get us a through a tough event (about 60 minutes worth of intense exercise). Beyond that threshold we need a burst of fuel to reenergize our bodies.
The body is capable of so much, but only if you treat it right, fuel at the right time, and choose the right foods to fuel with. That’s right, I said FOOD. Not GUs and gels, people! Sure, those work for some, but I’ve found that whole, real foods with simply ingredients (or not ingredients at all!) are best for keeping me energized, fueled, and performing at my best.
Today I’m sharing some more insights into my marathon training with a whole post dedicated to the whole food options I reach for to fuel my long runs. I tried GUs and gels at one point for comparison, but the stomach-aches and trouble digesting them steered me right back towards my original real food options. All of the foods I’ll mention provide the glucose and carbohydrates to keep you going during a run or other endurance form of exercise. I’m confident you’ll love these suggestions and develop a new edge yo your training by reaching for them over the processed fuel.
Lower in fiber but higher in sugar and carbs than other fruits makes bananas perfect for fueling on the run! They’re soft and easy to get to down, too. They taste great during a run and will give you that little extra hit of sugar you need to keep going.
Any fruit you can imagine has been made into an easy-to-hold (and to eat!) squeeze pack! Whether you venture to the snack aisle or even the baby food aisle, you’ll find your favorite fruit in puree form. These are so easy to suck down on a run and are less sticky (and more tasty!) than gels. They’re exactly what you think….100% fruit. Nothing more needed.
Raw Fruit & Nut Bars
My go-tos include Larabars (especially the mini ones), KIND Pressed bars, and Thunderbird bars. Again, you want to look for something that has no added sugar and is higher in carbs than a traditional snack bar.
Steamed Sweet Potato
Sweet potatoes pack your daily dose of Vitamin A and contain important antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. This combined with starchy carbs, make them an ideal fuel for endurance athletes. Steam them, mash them, and place them in a plastic baggy for easing eating on the run!
Honey has been found to be as, or even more, effective at improving energy levels during endurance exercise as gels and GUs. It’s simple carbohydrates and optimal balance of glucose and fructose make it fast digesting and rapidly absorbable into your system. It also contains vitamins and minerals that you won’t get with GUSs and gels. You can even make your own natural ‘gel’ packs by pouring honey into a ziplock bag!
My favorite of all the whole food options I’ve tried. Not only are medjool dates easy to carry and nutrient dense (so you don’t need to bring a ton with you), but they taste so amazing. They’re naturally sweet, yummy to eat, and easy to digest. They have a high concentration of sugar and carbs like other fruits, but what makes medjool dates even more optimal is the 16 vitamins and minerals they contain including vitamin A & C, iron, potassium, and magnesium. Any extra nutrition you can get during an endurance event will help you keep going AND recover faster afterwards.
Out of all the options, I’ve had the most success with medjool dates and squeeze packs. Those are go-tos for intra-run fuel, but it definitely takes some experimenting to find out what works for you.
I hope this post will give you somethings to think about next time you’re planning you next training session. I personally have never felt better or more energized than when I reach for whole, real foods during a workout.
Do you prefer whole foods or supplements to fuel your workouts?
What’s your go-to intra-workout energizer?
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