As an athlete one of the most critical ways we can support our bodies is by providing fuel during long workouts. Often new athletes will do a long run or ride, drink plenty of water and then be baffled at why they are tired, out of energy or even dizzy. Simply fueling the body during the effort can provide the energy it needs to power you forward without slowing you down. Teaching clients to do this with whole foods often leads to "ah ha" moments.
You don’t need to fuel during an hour of gentle yoga or a 30 min run, eating well before and after are perfect here. Before hand enjoy a wheat tortilla with peanut butter, a scrambled egg with avocado, a Juice Plus complete shake, something with protein and carbs. Fueling during exercise comes into play with a workout over an hour with an intense workout.
Finding a fueling system that works for you takes trial, error and time. That’s why it should be part of your workouts and certainly part of your event training process. When looking for fuel, we want easily digested carbohydrates that will absorb quickly and give you a nearly immediate boost.
The fuel market is full of gels, gus, bars, chews, you name it. Flip it over, read the ingredients and see if you know what you’re eating. I do this with everything I eat already so there’s no sense in throwing that practice out the window with training. Athletes trained with whole foods long before this gu market exploded and there’s a great way to find balance here.
Whole food fuel options:
Honey sticks – you can often buy these at farmers markets if you have a local bee keeper. My local grocery store, Raleys, started carrying them in a box recently for a decent price a few years ago. Just bite off the end and squeeze out a little honey as you go. If you have trouble opening them on the run, you can cut a slice in the end before you leave, just carry them in a zip lock.
Raisins – my all-time favorite fuel. It’s so easy to eat a small raisin on the run, you don’t have to have water at the same time so you can feasibly eat them between water stations if you don’t carry your own. And cranberries, figs, blueberries or your favorite dried fruit can mix up your flavors.
Fig bars – Find a fig bar without high fructose corn syrup, cut it into small bite size pieces. Yum! Natures Bakery makes one that is available at Target, Costco and on Amazon.
PB & J – If I had to choose one food to eat for the rest of my life, it would probably be peanut butter. So it’s no surprise that making a peanut butter sandwich, cutting it into small pieces is one of my go-to fuels. Potato bread is higher in protein, potassium and sugar than wheat. Protein is go power, potassium is one of the electrolytes you need during exercise and sugar is a quickly digested carbohydrate.
Nut butter pouches – Peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter and honey peanut butter are some of the single serve pouches widely available. Justins has several varieties. These are a water required fuel option, you’ll be literally tongue tied trying to eat even a little bit of these without water. But they are a quick grab and add variety.
Stingers – on one particular run, I discovered I’d dropped my fuel zip lock and changed my route to pass the local running store. They had these honey stingers which met my need to have something on the go, while still being mostly whole food ingredients. My nod to living in the real world and not being psycho with my whole food quest.
Zip lock bags are perfect with fuel. An open honey stick is not your friend at mile 8 oozing out of a pants pocket. The snack size small enough to fit in a pocket, or easy to store in my race belt (fanny pack who are we kidding). I have also found these reusable bags if that’s your thing.
Buy a few options or raid your pantry for some foods you have already. Start by eating a small something every 30 min. then play with that. Is 20 min better, 45? If you are training for an event, find out how often there are water stations available and try matching that interval during your training. Again, training for an event has to include practicing fuel options. Over time you’ll discover you really can fuel with whole foods.
Do what you would tell your kids to do. Wear clean underwear and eat good food.
Keep Moving Mama
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