On Monday, we talked about some natural, practical alternatives to traditional sports drinks. Today we have some similar alternatives to those energy bars that are so tempting for grab-and-go nutrition. If you look at the ingredient labels (aside from seeing lots of things we can’t pronounce), you’ll notice a lot of the times that the fat and calorie content is on par with the unhealthiest candybar on the shelf. Here are some simple ways to get the benefits of a high-energy snack while avoiding the junk.
Snack smart. Your snack doesn’t have to be shaped like a bar to provide solid, convenient energy. Think ahead and grab some easy, self-contained fruits like bananas or apples, which are pretty much as convenient as an energy bar anyway. Less handy but just as good are a container of diced pineapples or grapes. These foods can leave your feeling lighter on your feet than an energy bar would.
Bake your own. If you really like the idea of energy bars, you can save yourself some money and avoid a lot of extra additives by making them yourself. There are TONS of recipes out there, so you should be able to find something online that meets your tastes. Here’s one from practicalhacks.com, but there are plenty of different approaches to try. On the whole, they tend to be pretty easy to make.
Mix something up. If baking isn’t your thing and you just want to whip up something quickly, making your own high-energy trail mix is a great alternative. Choose your favorite items and mix them up in a bag. That’s all there is to it. Some solid ingredients to consider are nuts, cranberries, almonds, raisins, and even chocolate chips for a sweet bonus (darker is healthier).
Skip it. Unless you’re doing serious endurance work, chances are that you don’t really need a concentrated dose of energy before a workout (assuming you are eating properly otherwise). Keep in mind, depending on your training goals, that there are usually a lot of calories packed into high-energy snacks — that’s kind of the point. So unless you are training hard enough to work off the extra intake, you might want to consider focusing on mealtime as your main source of both calories and nutrition.
There’s definately a lot to learn about this issue. I love all of the points you’ve made.
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As I am just running 3-4 miles a few times a week I haven’t had to deal with fueling yet. However I start my 1/2 marathon training in July and will have to figure something out. Given all the additives and high calories I would like to work my plan for fueling with whole foods. But hae a question – is there an ideal set of carbs/calories/etc as running fuel? Or a ratio of these depending on your estimated calorie burn or miles?
Sorry it took me so long to get back with you. I think this is a great question that I feel needs to be followed up with a blog post of our own. Until I get one together I found a good post on livestrong.com you could check out. Here is the link: http://www.livestrong.com/article/153812-a-diet-for-female-runners/
Good luck with your training.