Energy gels and gummies are underwhelming at best. Sure, they’re packed with calories to get you through a long run or ride, but they’re also packed with chemicals and preservatives. Thankfully, gummies and gels aren’t your only options for race-day nutrition. If you’ve been paying attention to the diets of high-performance athletes lately, they advocate eating whole, nutrient-dense foods, like trading skim milk for whole milk.
While you shouldn’t replicate their diets exactly — professional cyclists have been known to eat 8,000 calories a day while training, four times the amount the average person should consume — you can certainly learn a few things from them about what foods to eat. With that in mind, consider these natural energy products that do the same job as gummies and gels, without a bunch of ingredients that you can’t pronounce.
Untapped Maple Syrup
Straight from New England’s Green Mountains
Untapped Maple Syrup comes in two forms. The first is a packet, much like Gu. But instead of a salty, thick substance, the packet holds 0.96 fluid ounces of organic Vermont maple syrup. Maple syrup is an all-natural energy source and each packet is loaded with 100 calories, 5mg of sodium, 80mg of potassium and 26g of sugar for instant energy. If going straight-up maple isn’t your jam, consider the waffle, which is similar to Honey Stinger’s waffles, but instead of using honey as the energy source, you get grade A Vermont maple syrup.
Justin’s Almond Butter
Better than JIF
Almonds have long been praised for being a good source of energy, rich fats and proteins, but your standard jar of almond butter is not exactly portable. Justin’s Almond Butter packets contain enough energy to keep you going for the long haul with burnable fats. Each 1.15 ounce packet has 18g of fat and 7g of protein, and it fits easily in the pocket of a pair of running shorts or a cycling jersey.
The fuel of professional cyclists
Rice cakes (no, not those dry, crispy pieces of cardboard you buy at Trader Joe’s) have been a staple of professional cyclists in the peloton because of their easily digestible energy — and they are incredibly easy to make at home in about 30 minutes. We’re fans of Team Sky’s recipe, which Rapha published in 2014. You can check the recipe out below.
Ingredients: 500g short-grain rice, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon, 2 teaspoons of coconut oil and 250g of cream cheese.
Cook the rice: Add the rice and 1 liter of water along with the sugar and cinnamon. Cook for about 20 minutes. Let the rice sit for 5 minutes after cooking.
Mix: Mix in the coconut oil, cream cheese and any other addition you might want (we added raisins to ours)
Pack away and let cool: Lay out a piece of plastic wrap and put the rice on it. Shape the mixture into a square and wrap it in the plastic wrap. After letting it cool, put it in the fridge overnight. Then chop up the brick into energy-bar-sized chunks.