Three DIY Energy-Food Recipes for Runners

Here are three of recipes for before, during, and after workouts, to add a fresh whole-food kick to your dietary habits.

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“Think marathon, not sprint.”

That’s Matthew Kadey’s advice to athletes for fueling the body with wholesome, “real” foods from the kitchen.

A registered dietitian, award-winning nutrition writer and author of the soon-to-be released Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure—a book of recipes for peak sports performance and everyday exercise—Kadey emphasizes bona fide fruits, veggies and proteins over so-called “nutritional” power bars and gels as part of a long-term view of nutrition.

“Smart dietary choices over time deliver active bodies a consistent supply of all the nutrients necessary,” he says.

Here are three of Kadey’s recipes, for before, during and after workouts, to add a fresh kick to your dietary habits.

The following recipes are republished from Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sports and Adventure by Matt Kadey, RD, with permission of VeloPress. The book comes out in May. See more recipes at

Before: Apple Sweet Potato Mash

Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo-friendly, Vegan or Vegetarian

High in complex carbohydrates, the sweet spud can provide some long-lasting energy for your impending exercise pursuit. But there’s no need to put your workout on hold while you roast or boil one up when this nifty microwave mash gets the job done quickly. Some add-ins, such as maple syrup, applesauce and crunchy pumpkin seeds, provide more motivation to work out.

Although digestion rates vary, you’ll likely perform better if you give yourself 30 minutes or more for digestion.

Servings: 1

Active Time: 10 minutes


  • 1 medium-sized sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1/3 cup plain applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon raisins
  • 1 tablespoon raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)


Place sweet-potato cubes and 1 tablespoon water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and poke a few holes in plastic to allow for venting. Microwave on high for 6 minutes, or until potato is fork-tender. The bowl will be very hot, so use oven mitts or a dish towel to remove from microwave.

Add applesauce, maple syrup, allspice and ground ginger (if using) to bowl and mash together. Top with raisins and pumpkin seeds.

Game Changers

  • Replace applesauce with pear sauce
  • Mash in cinnamon instead of allspice
  • Use dried cranberries instead of raisins
  • Swap out pumpkin seeds for sunflower seeds

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During: Millet Cherry Bars

Dairy-free, freezer-friendly, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian

Here’s more proof that you don’t need to dish out your hard-earned cash for energy bars designed in factories when making your own inspiring version is easy, even for the culinary challenged. Not just for the birds, millet is an inexpensive gluten-free grain that gives these bars great texture and nutritional firepower.

The flat side of a measuring cup is a perfect tool for pressing the bar mixture into a flat, even layer in the pan. Also, placing the uncut bars in the refrigerator for a couple of hours can make slicing them easier.

Servings: 9

Active Time: 20 minutes


  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • ½ cup raw millet
  • ¼ cup raw shelled sunflower seeds
  • ¼ cup raw shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup dried cherries
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Zest of 1 medium orange
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350°F. Spread pecans, millet, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in oven and heat, stirring a couple times, until golden and fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Line an 8 × 8-inch square baking pan with a piece of parchment paper large enough so there is a 1-inch overhang.

Reduce oven temperature to 200°F. Blend cherries, honey, orange zest, salt and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor into a paste. Transfer to a bowl and stir in toasted pecan mixture. Press firmly into prepared pan in an even layer and bake until just slightly sticky to the touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before using the parchment overhang to lift from pan. Cut into 9 bars. These can be kept chilled for 2 weeks or frozen for up to 2 months if wrapped tightly.

Game Changers

  • Replace pecans with almonds
  • Try raw quinoa as a replacement for millet
  • Swap out cherries for cranberries
  • Use brown rice syrup or agave syrup instead of honey
  • Add lemon zest instead of orange zest

RELATED: 4 Easy Snacks To Keep You Satisfied And Fueled

After: Beast Bars

Dairy-free, Gluten-free, Paleo-friendly

Time to unleash your inner Arrr! Jerky-energy bar hybrids are at the forefront of the energy-bar revolution. Consider this tender and protein-packed DIY version your tribute to the mammoth-hunting caveman of yesteryear. Each bar also supplies a shot of energy-boosting iron, particularly important for active women.

There are two important ingredients that keep these bars from tasting like leftover meatloaf. First, the cranberries offer up some of the sweetness that you would expect in a bar. And round steak, one of the leanest cuts available, is used to keep the fat levels low and help the mixture dry out in the oven. Too much fat will encourage the bars to go rancid more quickly. A longer cooking time at a low temp helps with the drying process.

Consider opting for grass-fed or organic beef. Studies suggest that steaks from grass-fed cattle are more nutrient dense than those from their grain-fed brethren, while organic beef is not administered hormones or antibiotics.

Servings: 9

Active Time: 20 minutes


  • 10 ounces round steak (eye, top or bottom cut)
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest
  • ½ teaspoon salt


Trim any excess fat from meat and cut into 1-inch cubes. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and freeze until edges are stiff but not frozen all the way through, about 20 minutes. This will help the meat grind more uniformly.

Preheat oven to 225°F. Place partially frozen meat and cranberries in a food processor and pulse until meat is coarsely ground. Pulse in remaining ingredients.

Line an 8 × 8-inch square baking pan with a piece of parchment paper large enough so there is a 1-inch overhang. Place meat mixture in pan and spread out into an even layer. Bake for 30 minutes, pour off any accumulated juices and then bake for another 50 minutes. Let cool completely in pan before lifting out with parchment overhang and cutting into 9 bars. Keep chilled for up to 1 week.

Game Changers

  • Try dried cherries instead of cranberries
  • Use liquid aminos or gluten-free soy sauce instead of regular soy sauce
  • Replace sesame seeds with hemp seeds
  • Swap out the orange zest for lemon zest.

You can find more information about the book at

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