Why should you know about some whole food options?
I am the first to admit I like my gels. I use the word ‘like’ loosely here. The reasons I do use them–they are about a 100 calories per packet and contain a good balance of simple carbohydrates, calcium, sodium, and potassium. I like to take magnesium as well, so will bring additional magnesium supplements. They go down easy and get to your blood stream and muscles quickly.
However, gels don’t feel very real. They are a sticky, packaged mess designed in a lab. I am not entirely above this, but if you are interested in a more whole food approach, that is better for you and will create less waste, there are plenty of options. In my opinion, I like to use both as fuel, as I cannot imagine consuming only gels for a long run.
Things to remember when fueling your runs with whole foods:
- choose low fiber and low protein
- high simple carbohydrates
- consider how you will carry it
- remember to eat before (carbs) and after (protein) your run. Before for energy, after for recovery of your muscles.
- everyone’s gut tolerates different things. Try out new foods before a race.
What are some whole food options?
You carb-load a few days or the night before by eating foods like a banana, oatmeal, rice, or pasta before your run so you have glycogen stores ready for the use. That’s good, because it will help you for the first portion of your run, but eventually you will use up those glycogen stores and your body will start trying to use your fat stores. This isn’t ideal because it is harder for your body to do this. During your run, you will need to start replacing your glycogen stores with some form of simple carbohydrate or you will eventually hit the metaphorical wall–basically, you will run out of energy. You need something that is quick and easy, not only to reach for, but also get to your blood stream and muscles as quickly as possible too.
Some popular high carbohydrate foods among runners:
- bananas. I am yet to transport a banana without squishing it all over the place, so will eat one before my run and hope the race directors have them along the way, which they almost always do. I have known people to stick them in their hydration packs and just not be fussed about the squish.
- watermelon (and salt if you are feeling it)
- sliced apple
- dried fruit (my favorites are dried mango and dates, but most will do)
- homemade bars
- homemade energy balls (oats, honey, peanut butter, chocolate chips)
- potatoes and salt
- mashed sweet potatoes (put into a reusable squeeze pack)
- those squeeze packs meant for babies. Yeah, those are a hit with runners. They are better than the gels in the sense of ‘realness,’ but still create more waste than the previous options.
I try to eat something small about every 45 minutes, but often will go up to an hour and half even between needing something. It is best to listen to your body and know the signals telling you that you need to eat. This can be more natural for some people than others. It took me a lot of practice to figure out when my body was telling me to eat. I ran out of energy on some of my races a few times, but now I know that when I start to slow down, feel exhausted, or even dizzy, I need to eat about 100 calories. Within five minutes, I am back at it and feeling great. The wall averted.
Good post run foods high in protein:
- homemade protein bars
- boiled eggs
- chia seeds
- peanut butter
- really, any kind of nuts and seeds
- homemade hamburger (my favorite, but I rarely get it)
*coconut water is great for a natural electrolyte replacement
Other articles that you might find useful related to this topic:
What are your natural, whole foods that you choose?