11 Simple Ways to Fuel Your Body With Real Food
There are tons of energy bars and drinks that are designed to help you perform better. They are easy to bring during bike rides, long runs, and hikes. But most of these products contain preservatives and artificial color and flavor. It is almost as easy to bring “real” food with you and it is definitely healthier.
Bananas are easy to carry in a bag or even in a cycling jersey. Most cyclists eat bananas during races because they race for up to six to seven hours on many consecutive days and get tired of eating bars and gels.
Bananas are a good source of carbohydrates and potassium and are easy to digest, especially during a long exercise at moderate intensity, such as a long ride. However, bananas contain fiber and may be harder to digest during a long run. If you want to bring bananas during a hike lasting many days it is recommended to make banana chips using a dehydrator.
2. Nuts and Seeds
When you exercise for a long period of time at a low intensity, you burn mostly fat. In addition, as you improve and become fitter, you are able to burn fat more easily. Therefore, nuts and seeds are a great source of energy during long trainings or excursions. You can either bring whole nuts and seeds in a bag or bring a nut-butter “gel” such as TrailButter or Pocketfuel.
3. Dried Fruits
As mentioned, dried bananas are a great snack, but you can also make or buy dried apples, kiwis, pears, and all sorts of other fruits. If you decide to buy dried fruits, make sure the product is not fried and that it doesn’t contain preservatives or added sugar.
"For a snack with more fat and protein, you can stuff the dates with peanut butter or almond butter."
If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can still easily make apples chips using an oven preheated at 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix a 1/2 tablespoon of sugar with a 1/2 tablespoon of cinnamon and cook for 45 minutes to one hour.
Dates are also great because they are super sweet and nutritive. For a snack with more fat and protein, you can stuff the dates with peanut butter or almond butter.
4. Baked Potato
After you’ve eaten gels, bars, and fruits for hours and hours, it’s great to have a savory snack such as a baked potato. Simply cook it in the oven or in the microwave, add salt, and wrap it in foil. Sweet potatoes are a great option because they are a good source of vitamin A and potassium. And don’t skip the salt, as it will replenish the electrolytes lost during the exercise.
5. Homemade Gel
You can also make your own gel and put it in a small squeeze bottle. Throw some dates, honey, or maple syrup with some chia seeds or nut butter and a pinch of salt in a blender and you are good to go.
If you prefer to consume calories by drinking, you should dry a datorade, which is a healthier, homemade version of a Gatorade. You only need dates, water, a pinch of salt, and spices such as cinnamon or cocoa powder. You can also add bananas.
7. Maple Syrup
Compared to high fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, and white sugar, organic maple syrup is much more natural and nutritious. It contains more riboflavin, thiamine, manganese, zinc, magnesium, calcium, iron, selenium and potassium.
You can either buy maple water and drink it or dilute maple syrup with water. Maple water is more expensive but it is more nutritious because it is not heated. You can also buy maple syrup gels from the company Untapped. It is a company from Vermont founded by professional cyclist Ted King.
8. Healthier Bars and Gels
If you absolutely want to bring bars and gels, there are many healthy options:
- Kronobars are vegan, gluten-free, and made without added sugars.
- If you really like meat, Epic bars are a great option. You have the choice of bison, turkey, beef, or lamb. They are paleo friendly, gluten-free, and low in sugar, and the animals sourced are grass-fed.
- If you are planning a long hike, you should try Larabars because they contain a lot of healthy fat. One bar contains 10 grams of fat, 4 grams of protein, and 24 grams of carbohydrates. Because it is high in fat, it will give you energy for a long period of time.
- If you are looking for a healthier gel, hüma is a great option. It is made from real fruits and chia seeds. Chia is a good source of fiber and modulates sugar absorption. Therefore, you will not have a sugar peak followed by a big drop in your energy level.
8. Rice Cakes
Before a cycling race, the cook (also known as soigneur) of the team prepares many small rice cakes wrapped in foil paper. Rice is great because it is easy to digest and a quick source of energy. Homemade cakes are nutritious and high in carbohydrates, and you can prepare a new type every day. That way you don’t get bored of eating the same bar, and you can even make them salty or sweet.
Here’s Allen Lim’s rice cake recipe. He is well known in the cycling world and has published the book The Feed Zone.
Apple Cinnamon Rice Cake
- 2 cups uncooked medium-grain sticky rice (ex. Calrose)
- 3-3.5 cups water
- 2 apples
- 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
- Brown sugar
- Sea salt
- Combine rice and water in a rice cooker or cook the rice on a pot.
- Peel, core and dice the apples.
- Mix the apples with cinnamon, brown sugar and salt.
- Combine the rice with the apples.
- Press the mixture into an 8-9 inch square pan to about 1 1/2 inch thickness.
- Cut to make 10 rice cakes.
- Wrap in foil paper.
Allen Lim demonstrates how to wrap your rice cakes before you take them on the road.
If you are looking for a salty food because you have been eating energy bars all day, pretzels are a good option. They contain a little bit of fat but much less than chips and contain a lot less saturated fat. They’re a good source of sodium and carbohydrates, and pretzels contain more protein than chips, too.
Homemade Energy Bar
Energy bars are easy to make at home and you can make a big batch and freeze most of it. Homemade energy bars often contain dates because they are a good source of carbohydrates and help keep the bar together. Nuts, seeds, and nut butter are also part of most homemade bars because of their fat and protein content.
You can easily tweak your recipe by adding new spices, dark chocolate, or different types of nuts and seeds. You can also alternate the type of sugar, for instance using stevia or coconut sugar, as well as change up the type of flour.
Nutty, Fruity, and Sexy Bar
- 95g chopped walnuts
- 2 ripe bananas
- 120ml vegetable oil
- 200g granulated sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 230g rolled oats
- 95g flour or gluten-free flour
- 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 90g dried cranberries
- Preheat the oven at 355°F.
- Toast the walnuts on the oven for 8 minutes or on a pan.
- Mix the bananas, the oil, the sugar and the vanilla in a bowl.
- Add the dried ingredients.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes in a 20cm x 20cm baking tray.
What are your favorite real-food snacks to fuel long workouts? Share in the comments below.
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