Ever so subtly, the weather is cooling down, which means we are entering marathon, half-marathon, 10k, and 5k season. This is very exciting. Whether you're a seasoned member of the 50 States Marathon Club, or doing your first 5k, staying energized is an essential part of hitting a new PR (personal record). What many people use to stay energized while running are sticky packets of goo. Sure, this gooey substance will give you energy, but it will also pump your body with not-so-awesome chemicals. Plus, if you ask any runner, they will tell you that swallowing energy gel is the worst part of their run. Runners tolerate the gel, but there are better choices. Here are a few things to look for when considering energy gel alternatives that will keep you energized while running.
Proper Runner's Fuel Should Be Rich in Carbohydrates & Low in Protein, Fiber, and Fat
Be sure that the food is easy to transport. Spaghetti might be good for providing running energy, but that doesn’t mean you can eat it half way through your race. During a long run, you want your carb intake to be between 30-60 grams per hour.
To aid your search, here are few examples of energizers that work and are, by many accounts, better than gels:
- Fig cookies – 41 grams carbs, 199 calories
- 1 oz Hard pretzel – 22 grams, 107 calories
- 1 peeled and sliced apple – 20 grams carbs, 76 calories, 2 grams fiber (test before using in a race, fiber might have you spending more time in the bushes than on the trail)
- Banana – 30 grams carbs, 122 calories (try freezing the night before your race so it doesn’t become too mushy)
- 1 oz low-fat bagel chips – 18 grams carbs, 129 calories
As long as your energizer hits the criteria of easy to transport and the proper balance of macronutrients, you should be just fine. If we're hard-pressed to name a go-to product, it would be Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews (39 grams carbs, 160 calories). There are different flavors to choose from, including Pomegranate Passion Fruit and Cherry Cola, which sound infinitely better than the weird taste of goop. Every ingredient in the energy chews is gluten free, organic, and chalk-full of natural energizers and vitamins.
Running is hard enough as it is, don’t make it worse by forcing yourself to swallow something disgusting. Give these energy gel alternatives a try, and let us know how your performance improves.