Commercial sports candies are nothing but pure sugar. If you prefer an “all natural” alternative, think about dates. Yes, those bite-sized brown fruits that appear in holiday date-nut breads are actually great fuel for during endurance exercise! During hikes, winter snowshoe treks, bike rides, and even long runs, snacking on dates provides a highly nutritious source of carbs for fuel, while providing your body with wholesome goodness. Dates are a very rich source of anti-oxidants and bioactive compounds that help fight inflammation. They also offer potassium, calcium, magnesium, and many other vitmains and minerals.
If you choose Medjool dates (a specific variety of dates), they have a creamy texture that is not too dry. The moistness can translate into“sticky fingers”; to avoid that inconvenience, simply shake some raw oatmeal (or blenderized oats, made into oat flour) into the baggie in which you carry the dates. Solves the problem!
In general, when choosing fruits, you want to think about eating a variety of colors. (You know, red apples, blue berries, orange oranges, etc.) Each color offers different bioactive compounds. Dates fulfill the “brown” color. Give ‘em a try! Diced dates are yummy on cereal, in salads, as a part of trail mix, and combined with peanut butter for pop-in-your-mouth bliss.
Disclosure: I recently attended a yummy dinner sponsored by Medjool Date growers. (www.medjooldates.com).They didn’t have to work hard to convince me these are great sports foods. I’d just made some date-nut bread earlier that day!
Now that the weather is cooler, many athletes are ramping up their training for Fall endurance events such as a marathon, century bike ride,or tennis tournament. If you feel confused about how to maintain energy during extended exercise, use this handy guide as a tool to figure out your target intake. Because each person’s body responds differently to food during exercise, experiment during training, observe the benefits (or costs), and tweak accordingly!
A pre-exercise meal (oatmeal) or snack (banana) will do the job to keep you adequately fueled during the workout
Exercise 1-2.5 hours
30 to 60 grams carb/hour
Consume 120 to 240 calories of carbs in the form of sports drinks, gummy candy, gels, dried pineapple, banana, and other commercial or standard foods
Exercise >2.5 hours
60 to 90 grams carb/hour
For long events like an 100 mile bike ride, Ironman triathlon, or trail run, target 240 to 360 calories per hour from a variety of carbohydrates, including fruit, chocolate bars, and cookies, as tolerated.
To avoid “flavor fatigue”, include not only sugary sweets (sports drinks, candies and gels) but also peanut butter and honey sandwiches, beef jerky, granola bars, chicken broth, cheese sticks, and other foods that offer savory and salty flavors. Be sure to experiment during training to figure out what you can tolerate!
Fuel wisely and have fun. There's no need to hit the wall!