Mid-run fueling is a necessary part of long distance running, but often times it can be difficult to navigate. Finding the right fueling plan can really help you to get through a tough race or long run. However, fueling at the wrong times or using a product that your body does not agree with can be detrimental to your run. If you are someone who does not like gels (due to the taste, consistency, or how your stomach responds to them) here are some ways to fuel your runs without using gels.
Why You May Want to Fuel Your Runs Without Using Gels
Does anyone really “like” gels? I mean, I’ve used them for years and some are better than others, but they simply serve the purpose of giving me some mid-run energy. I’ve always liked that they go down pretty easy (without chewing) and are easy to carry. I’ve been lucky that most gels don’t give me any stomach trouble, but I know that’s not the case for everyone.
A few weeks ago I read the book Roar by Stacy Sims. She talks about the drawbacks to taking gels in great detail. Basically they can lead to dehydration and bloating, without necessarily giving you the fuel you need. In the book she talks about avoiding foods that have fructose as one of the main ingredients. (It is not rapidly absorbed by the GI tract and can cause the intestines to pull in water, leaving you with stomach problems.)
Ways to Fuel Your Runs Without Using Gels
Recently I’ve been looking into other mid-run fueling ideas other than gels. Some of these I’ve tried, others I’m considering trying. Just remember, always make sure to test out a new mid-run fuel BEFORE your race! The last thing you want is to learn that it bothers your stomach on race day.
Raisins (or other dried fruit)
I remember the very first time I took fuel on a run. It was before I even knew about gels or how to properly fuel. I tried eating raisins on an 11 mile run and it went well. I must have read about it in Runner’s World or something. While dried fruit does have a little fructose, it’s wrapped in fiber which helps it to be released more slowly that pure fructose. It’s also pretty easy to carry and eat while running which makes dried fruit a great option for fueling your run without using gels.
Honey Stinger Waffles
I love eating Honey Stinger Waffles pre-run, and they also work before a race or as a way to fuel on the run! When I use these during a run I open the package and break the waffle into small pieces and put them in a ziplock bag for my run.
Mashed up baby food
A few years ago I started using Powerbar Performance Energy Blends, which were basically packets of baby food for adults. They no longer make them (from what I can find) but you could make your own (the same way you would make baby food) or use an applesauce pouch. If you are making your own you could buy a reusable pouch to carry it in.
A banana cut into bite-sized pieces
I could see this one getting really messy, but bananas always sit really well in my stomach if I eat them before a workout. If you were to use a banana to fuel your runs I think it would work best by breaking it up before the run and carrying it in a baggie.
Gummy bears are another way to fuel your runs without using gels but make sure you can chew them while you are running! I remember taking Swedish Fish at a race once and feeling like they were so much work to chew.
Homemade Energy Bars or LARA Bar
I think it would be great to make your own energy bar to fuel your run. This way you can include the ingredients you like and leave out anything you don’t want. LARA Bars are a good option too, since they don’t have many ingredients. Cashew Cookie only contains cashews and dates. I’ve taken LARA Bars during a run before and it worked well.
A PB and J sandwich cut into bite sized pieces
This would probably be good for a really long run, especially since you could eat a little bit each time you need fuel. I also think it would mentally make you feel like you are getting more energy. Again, this one may be a little messy.
Final Thoughts on How to Fuel Your Run Without Using Gels
Gels and other pre-packaged energy products are definitely the most convenient source of fuel, but these other options may work better for some runners. Also, you may end up saving some money by using foods you already have in the house. Try some different options to see what works best for you!
What is your favorite way to fuel your runs?
Would you try any of these other ways to fuel your runs without using gels?
Now it’s time for the Runners’ Roundup! Link up your running and fitness posts below! Join myself, Coach Debbie Runs, Confessions of a Mother Runner, and Runs with Pugs to post your favorite running tips, experiences, race and training recaps, workouts, gear, and coaching ideas.