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Race-Day Nutrition

No More Gels, Part II

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10 tasty, innovative snacks for fueling your long trail runs

From a purely elemental perspective, running is simple. Food should be, too. If the thought of cramming down another chemical-laden gel, sawdusty protein bar or over-sugared sports drink makes your stomach turn, then you’re in luck. Current trends are leaning toward more athlete-friendly, nutrient-dense natural foods.

After the positive response from last year’s “No More Gels” article, we compiled a follow-up list of runner-friendly, pre-packaged snacks that are easy to stash in your pack for a long day on the trails.

1. Saquito Energy Mix

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$25 for 15-serving pouch

www.saquitomix.com

Saquito is a blend of chia seed, hemp seed, shredded coconut, low-glycemic sweeteners and natural flavors like goji berries, raw cacao, cinnamon or vanilla bean. This “energy mix” comes in a resealable bag, perfect for scooping into recovery drinks or carrying along in a pack for energy on multi-day trips. It’s gluten-free, vegan, 100-percent organic and raw. We liked the satisfying saltiness and well-balanced flavor profile of the Vanilla Goji mix. Each two-tablespoon serving packs four grams of fiber, so some may find this best suited for post-run refueling.

Available online and at certain Whole Foods Markets.

2. Fuel 100 Electro-Bites

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$12.50 per 6-pack box

www.electro-bites.com

Salty-snack fiends, rejoice! These gluten- and soy-free tabs are made from potato starch, coconut oil and agave syrup. They contain 190 mg of sodium, 46 mg of magnesium and 55 mg of potassium—enough to let you ditch the high-fructose corn syrupy sports drink. Each 90-calorie pack is good fuel for during or after your run. They come in a variety of interesting flavors to cut your mid-run snack attack: Apple Cinnamon, Pumpkin Spice, Salty Vanilla, Salty Vinegar and Simply Salty.

Electro-bites are available online.

3. Bogg’s Trail Butter

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$5 per pouch, $8 per jar, $29 for 6-pouch box

www.trailbutter.com

Bogg’s was created by two outdoors-loving brothers who grew up exploring the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. They created Trail Butter to save space in their packs on long cycling trips. It’s a combination of all their favorite high-energy foods: a triple nut blend of almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts as the foundation, with dried fruit, seeds, nectar, honey and oils mixed together to make a portable, energy-dense trail snack.

Bogg’s Trail Butter is available in jars for the pantry, as well as hydration-pack-friendly, squeezable pouches with caps. It comes in three flavors: Ozark Original, Mountaineer Maple and Expedition Espresso.

Sold at outdoor stores, Whole Foods Markets and natural grocers all over the U.S.

4. Thinkfruit Dried Fruit Snacks

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$2 per pack, $24 per 12-pack box

www.paradisefruitco.com/thinkfruit

100-percent portable dried fruit with a touch of sweetness, these are a great pick-me-up before, during or after a run. And there’s a wide variety of choices—dried cinnamon apples, cherries, pineapples and peach slices, to name a few.

Snag some at your local grocery store.

5. Epic Bars

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$3 per bar or $34 for box of 12

www.epicbar.com

Like a portable burger, Epic Bars deliver a substantial serving of grass-fed protein mixed with savory nuts and tasty dried fruit. They’re an excellent source of nutrients that endurance athletes need; omega-3 fatty acids, iron and Vitamin B12 fuel your run and speed your recovery. Plus they’re Paleo, gluten- and grain-free.

Our favorite flavor was Bison Bacon Cranberry, a flavorful mix of grass-fed buffalo and uncured bacon. They’re surprisingly tender and easier to chew than standard beef jerky.

Find them online and at health-food stores.

6. Huma Chia Gels

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$11.25 for box of 5, $54 for box of 24

www.humagel.com

Though these call themselves “gels,” they are worlds apart from most other energy gels on the market. The primary ingredient in many gels is maltodextrin, a synthetically produced sugar. Since it’s easy to digest, it provides a quick blast of energy. However, that energy blast might later send you into a spiraling sugar crash.

The first ingredient in these gels is actual fruit—strawberries or apple puree—followed by natural sweeteners, ground chia seeds and a hint of sea salt. Each 100-calorie packet is a welcome boost of energy on a long run, with just a touch of nutritional fat to help your body absorb nutrients faster. According to Huma, the high-fiber chia seeds help control carbohydrate absorption so you don’t experience the dreaded sugar rush.

The consistency of the seeds may take a bit of getting used to.

Available at health-food stores, running stores, grocery stores and online.

7. Good Greens Bars

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$36 for box of 12, $45 for powder tub

www.goodgreens.com

These 90-percent-raw snack bars are a blend of green leafy vegetables (spirulina, barley grass, chlorella, spinach, broccoli-sprout powder, etc), berries, seeds, spices and probiotics. Each bar has 10 grams of protein, five grams of fiber and 100 percent of your daily value of vitamins A through K.

They’re tasty, if a little pricey, and maybe better eaten immediately after a run due to the high fiber content. You can also buy a tub of Z-52 powder to mix into smoothies. If you’re grain-sensitive, they are certified gluten-free.

Sold in grocery stores.

8. Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites

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$9 for pack of 6

www.settonfarms.com

Although one of these chews only has 100 calories (about as many as your average gel), they’re more nutritionally dense than the standard sugar shot. Along with a touch of agave and brown rice syrup for energy, they have additional dietary fat and protein to help you feel full longer. And with a hefty handful of pistachios in each bite and only 11 grams of sugar per serving, they won’t send you spiraling into a sugar crash. The pistachios make them slightly dry, though, so make sure you down them with water.

Pick them up at the grocery store or order online.

9. New York Superfoods Chia Charger Bites

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$8 per 10-ounce bag

www.foodforthedriven.com

Catherine and Jason Walsh are two athletes who were unhappy with eating tasteless energy bars before their workouts. Intrigued by the descriptions of chia seeds in the book Born to Run, they did some chia experiments in their kitchen and created a raw, gluten- and dairy-free chia energy bite, the Chia Charger.

The Xpresso flavor is a blend of peanut butter, organic cane juice, chia seeds, oats and organic, fair-trade coffee. Per bite, you get 120 calories, 7 grams of fat, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein, plus a little shot of caffeine. Chia Charger bites also come in a cranberry flavor with similar nutrition stats.

Buy them online or at certain health-food stores.

10. Peanut Butter Sandwich Bites

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$0.10 per serving

To renew your energy during a hard run, it’s important to replenish the three main nutrients your body uses for fuel: carbs, protein and fat. Throwing together a few peanut butter sandwich bites before your run is a terrific way to ensure you can replenish all three.

Tweak this “recipe” however you like. Experiment with whole-grain or gluten-free bread, add raisins or walnuts, or switch up the nut butter to create the ultimate sandwich.

INGREDIENTS

  • Bread (any kind)
  • Nut butter (any kind)
  • Jam or honey

DIRECTIONS

1. Combine all the ingredients to make a sandwich.
2. Use a knife to cut into sections.
3. Pack a handful in a baggie to take on your next run.
What’s your favorite homemade fuel? Feel free to share your recipes in the comments below!

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