Category Archives: Nutrition

Jersey Pocket bars review

Nutrition is one of the few areas of endurance sports products that seems to have genuine innovation in it at the moment. Not only that but innovation from small British companies who are delivering some excellent products and who are able to compete with the bigger brands. I’ve never really enjoyed¬†the traditional gels/bars/drinks from Powerbar etc; not something I stomach easily and it didn’t sit well with my approach to eating in general where I try to eat fresh food that is organic/free range. Feels odd to be eating that way during the week and then stuffing sugary gels into my body whenever I run or ride.

That’s where companies like Jersey Pocket come in with products that use quality ingredients with little processing and no preservatives or refined sugars. If I was a Fitspo Instagrammer I’d be tagging all my photos of these bars with #cleaneating or #realfood but that’s just a stupid way of saying eating properly. But whatever you call it these bars are excellent, not all to my taste as you will see but I cannot fault the quality.

Continue reading Jersey Pocket bars review

Review: Chia Charge flapjacks

Note this isn’t a sponsored post, I just wanted to share a great product with you.

The greatest flapjack I have ever eaten was during the Scotland coast to coast last year, we’d just finished the first bike leg of around 60 miles involving some serious hill climbing and the gels I had with me just weren’t doing it for me. Then at an aid station we came across these little squares of sugary heaven. At that moment in time it was the greatest food on earth, a perfect combination of sugar and carbs that melted in the mouth.

Everyone craves something different food wise when they take on an endurance challenge like this or an ultra, but I learned from that race that I need real food and something that isn’t pure sugar. However it also needs to be relatively simple flavour wise otherwise you spend the next few hours tasting it again. Continue reading Review: Chia Charge flapjacks

Eating green

I was expecting a lot of things from following a training plan for this marathon; leaner and fitter for sure, confident maybe, but what I was expecting was for it to challenge me to reconsider my diet. I’ve always been generally a healthy eater, I don’t eat junk food or fast food, takeaway is once a month at most and we prepare all our own food using fresh ingredients.

However I do have a sweet tooth, if there is no cake or chocolate in the house then I’m fine. But if there is some then I find myself taking ‘just a little bit’ until it’s all gone in less than 24 hours. I also know that when hungry and looking for a snack I will inevitably grab for bread or carbs. There are few things I won’t eat but in those moments peanut butter on bread or houmous and cheese biscuits is likely to win. The quick carb fix is oh so satisfying.

As I’ve gone through this 16 weeks of marathon training though I’ve found myself craving green vegetables and brown rice and grilled fish. I could probably eat my own body weight in purple sprouting broccoli and I’ve been making salads for lunch with boiled eggs, ham and cheese on top and interestingly have almost zero interest in sugary foods. Clearly no bad thing but unexpected nonetheless.

Maybe it’s a seasonal thing with all those amazing fresh vegetables that come with spring and are part of our weekly veg box? Or is this just the logical result of spending so much time focused on getting your body ready for such a challenge? It naturally starts craving for the nutrients needed to repair the muscles from your training?

Banana smoothie
Banana smoothie – the perfect recovery drink?

Clean eating is always a good thing and is the reason we have a weekly veg box delivered and don’t mind spending money on good quality food which we can cook into feats. But now I’ve started thinking about taking it one step further. If I became a vegetarian or vegan even would I feel different physically? Would it help me be a better runner? I’ve always wondered about the impact of dairy on us, we eat organic dairy which I think is essential, but could no dairy be even better? Plenty of theories on that one if not real scientific evidence to prove it.

What’s added to this is I’ve just read Eat and Run by Scott Jurek where he describes the journey of becoming an ultra runner and the focus that put on his diet which ultimately resulted in him becoming a vegan. It’s a fascinating read if you ignore some of the arrogance of his opinions and gives one perspective on what an athletes diet should be. He also includes recipes in the chapters, some of which are aimed to be eaten during the race and sound like interesting alternatives to the normal gels and bars.

I’m quite tempted to try being a vegan for a month and see how it feels. If nothing else it’s likely to expand my cooking and diet with lots of new dishes which we can continue to make even if I do start eating dairy again. Anyone else been through this experience as a result of training for a race? Are any of you already following specific diets to help with your running?

Review – Chia energy gel

 

High 5 gels

With the plan to run beyond marathon distance this year I thought it would make sense to give some serious thought to race nutrition. So far in my racing I’ve gone with the standard gel approach and in general I’d say it’s been successful. I’ve found which brands I like the taste of and don’t affect my stomach so know I can rely on that strategy. Although I did learn at the Scotland coast to coast that my body needed more than just gels when going for such a long time.

But the one issue I have with gels is that they aren’t necessarily the purest things to eat and when you spend the rest of your time trying to eat as clean as possible it feels a bit odd to do the opposite in a race. Of course the big advantage of gels is they are convenient, they’re easy to carry and deliver a good hit of carbs for not much weight or volume.

Most other alternatives such as homemade energy bars are inevitably more bulky and if you have to carry them with you for 5 or 6 hours then that bulk and weight is going to have an impact. So I was quite intrigued listening to the Kinetic Revolution podcast a few weeks ago where they had an interview with the founder of 33 shake Warren Pole.

33 shake chia seed gelWarren is developing a range of energy products based on completely natural ingredients, His approach to the products is very similar to how I approach my eating in general which is to eat food that is fresh, not processed and as natural as possible. The company started by producing a shake that can be drunk like a smoothie but more recently a chia energy gel.

It all sound intriguing so I ordered a few to try out (note I spent my own money here, this isn’t a sponsored post although I wouldn’t say no to some free ones…). The gels are little pouches of chia seeds along with a couple of other minerals which you simply add water too and leave for 10 minutes. You can make up in advance and let them sit with the water (or fruit juice) added or in theory on a longer run/race you could take them dry so lighter and add water later.

I’ve been using them for the last couple of weeks on my long runs to see how they perform. I’ll be honest and say the texture is a little weird, there is definitely an element of chewing needed to take them and you do get the seeds stuck in your teeth a little. But so far they seem to be working well, there is zero stomach problems which is always important and so far I’ve felt strong and energetic while running.

33 shake chia seed gel ingredientsI prefer them made up with some apple juice rather than just water to add a bit more flavour and also like leaving them overnight before using so they get nice and soft. The square shape is probably a little harder to carry on a run but works fine given I use a pack on most of my runs. I can imagine they’d be harder to fit on a gel belt etc though.

Price wise they stack up reasonably well compared to most gel brands, slightly more expensive maybe but you would expect that given the quality and ingredients. But I don’t use gels unless doing more than 90 minutes anyway so it’s not as though I get through lots every week.

I think I’ll keep trialling them a bit longer along with some other products but they’re definitely on the short list.

Anyone else have recommendations for gel type products that are more natural?

Fuelling a run not fuelling the runs

The further you run the more important it becomes to get your nutrition correct; popping out for a 5 mile training run on an empty stomach probably isn’t going to cause you too many problems, but extend that to a couple of hours on the trails it’s a different story. It can make a huge difference to your performance and even if you even complete the run or race.

But it’s not only the how much to eat, it’s also the what to eat. You’ll always hear of runners doing long distances who had ‘stomach issues’ which is of course a nice way of saying they were puking or had the shits. Let’s face it running a long distance is hard enough without your body leaking more than just sweat.

High 5 marathon pack

Like most of you gels form the bulk of my race nutrition, those little sachets of sweet, sticky goo do a great job of giving us the carbs we need to run. Having tried a few I’ve now settled on the High 5 range, my body seems to digest them easily without making me feel sick and so far at least haven’t led to a visit from the gingerbread man. I like that they are a little runnier than some can be and also for me the fruit flavours are easier to deal with than things like mocha.

It probably also helped that I managed to get a marathon race pack of High 5 products for the bargain price of £10 from Wiggle for the Broadway marathon. Enough gels and drinks powder for the training runs before the race and the race itself.

However what I learnt at the Broadway marathon (and to be honest kind of knew anyway) is that gels aren’t enough for me. For whatever reason my body demands a bit more substance than that and I found myself at the 21 mile check point cramming in solids to try to stop my rumbling stomach. Maybe this was my body telling me I was not fit enough and rapidly exhausting my food stores? Or maybe it’s my grazing habits that mean my stomach is expecting it’s next food delivery?

Whatever it is (and excuse the pun) it’s definitely food for thought as I plan my next long race. Need to figure out what I can carry to eat during a race that is easy to transport and to eat. A quick scan of Pinterest for some inspiration soon revealed some tasty looking energy balls that you make yourself which could do the trick. Otherwise I may have to resort to my ever faithful peanut butter sandwiches which see me through long rides.

Any other suggestions for fuelling those longer runs and races? Any healthy, natural alternatives to using gels also?