Something that I’ve been wanting to experiment with in my running has been the use of whole foods as a fuel source. That is, not relying on gels and sports drink on a long run. I’m a bit of a nut when it comes to making things from scratch, eliminating processing from factories and recognizing the ingredients on the label, and yet the one area I’ve never seen that trickle over to has been my running fuel.
In my studies to be a holistic nutritionist, and as my general awareness of food quality expands, I’ve learned that the amount of sugar and other “chemical” components of such fuel sources are not ideal for our bodies. Fructose (the common sweetening agent in commercial endurance fuels) puts stress on our liver, where it is digested as opposed to in the muscle; no bueno for long term optimal health as frequent digestion of fructose by the liver has been linked to Type II Diabetes as well as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Yes, fructose is the sugar derived from fruit, but in nature fructose is always combined with fibre (by eating the fruit you are also getting the fruit’s fibre content).
How many times have I taken one of those fuelling agents on a long run? My poor liver, too many to count…and I still have a pile of them in the fridge.
Typically, you don’t see a lot of runners consuming PB sandwiches or dates on runs in the half marathon, or even marathon, distance. This is something usually more in practice with the ultra marathon crowd, whose fuel sources range anywhere from boiled potatoes dipped in sea salt to broths to dates to seaweed stuffed with rice and miso paste (Scott Jurek, author of Eat and Run does the latter).
So, with gels out of the picture, what am I going to be consuming in their place? I’ve already begun stock piling my freezer with recipes that I’m going to be trying out on my long runs. And I’m really excited for this experiment, embracing this year of running as my year of learning anew what works for me.
Here is a short list of what I have in the freezer already, and an info graphic with options for alternatives to sports drink:
Raw Carrot Cake Bites – adapted from this recipe
Almond Protein Bars – these will more likely be a recovery item, but I can tell you already from the first batch that they will be regularly stocked in our freezer.
A recipe for Homemade Sports Drink
And if you want to get really experimental this little info graphic from FoodBabe.com should provide some other options
What do you use for fuel on your long runs? Are you from the I’ve-got-my-tried-and-true-and-that’s-not-gonna-change camp, or do you mix things up depending on your tastes that day?
Happy fuelling! See you out there.