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.
I run at 6am 5 or 6 days a week all year around which means I spend at least 5 months of the year running in the dark and cold, it also means that 2 of my most essential bits of kit are a head torch and a pair of gloves. If you can see where you are going and keep your hands warm then you’re half way to enjoying a run no matter what the weather.
I’ve always used Petzl head torches and have a Tikka that has served me well for a few years now although I realised doing the Sleepwalker night race in November that there are some much brighter head torches out there and I shall be treating myself to an upgrade before the dark mornings begin again in the autumn.
Gloves are a much simpler bit of kit of course but they do need to fulfill 3 very important criteria and I’ve been putting the eGlove Sport running gloves to the test over the past few weeks to see how they fared when judged against them.
1 – Keep your hands warm – obvious I know but also the raison detre of a running glove. But unless you run in particularly mountainous conditions you also don’t want gloves that make your hands too warm. Having to choose between hot throbbing hands and bare numb ones is not good so the gloves need to be relatively thin and of course good at wicking the moisture away. The eGlove’s have performed well in this beautiful spring weather we’ve been experiencing, it’s made for some glorious sun rises but not so glorious temperatures. Keeping my hands warm in temperatures close to or below zero but not too hot.
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→
My quest to find the right race nutrition continues, I really like the chia gels but wanted to see what was available in a more traditional gel form. A quick Google and I came across MuleBar who position themselves as the natural gels with no synthetic or artificial ingredients. Which all sounds very nice doesn’t it? So I of course ordered a taster pack to get a nice selection of flavours to try out.
Eating something natural and not full of weird additives fits with my approach to eating and in principle these looked like a good solution as ultimately they are a gel in the form we all know. As an added bonus the ingredients are organic and fair-trade where possible which is another tick for me and finally they’re based just over the hills from me in Wiltshire.
The box I ordered had 6 gels and 4 energy bars of different flavours which I’ve been taking out with me on my long runs for the last few weeks. You can really tell that these are made with ‘real’ ingredients as the gels taste like really concentrated fruit juice which when I had the first one was great but after a couple on a 2.5 hour long run actually started to get a bit much. Really rich and also sweet even if not in the normal sugary way.
Flavours are good though, the Lemon Zinger would get my vote I think. The cherry was quite rich and intense and a bit much to take while running. Certainly the one that felt the least nice in my stomach!
Also a word of warning, if you go out on a cold morning like I did the gels go pretty thick, so thick in fact that you almost needed to chew them and it was hard getting them out of the tubes. On subsequent runs that were warmer there was no issue but something that’s worth keeping in mind depending on when you might use them.
The bars are also tasty, I really like the summer pudding one that has berries in it. Really easy to eat and nice to take a bite out of every so often on a long run to keep something more solid in your stomach with the gels. Personally for my running on a 2-3 hour long run I don’t need more than half a bar so would be tempted to cut one up before carrying it with me for those distances.
On the subject of quantity of consumption I was reading the marketing material that came with the pack and MuleBar recommend you eat 1 gel and 1 bar in the hour before a race, then 1-2 bars and 1-2 gels per hour during the race. Which is quite a staggering amount of energy to take on. Not sure I could ever force myself to eat that and if I did I’d probably have to stop to eat it!
It reminds me of a quote from Bill Adcocks on the Marathon Talk podcast, Tom asked him what he used to eat during a marathon to which Bill replied “nothing, it’s a race not a picnic”. Worth remembering!
So conclusion? If I wanted to buy some gels these would probably be the ones I go for, I like the natural element to them and the philosophy behind the company. But I’m still leaning towards the chia gels or something similar, the sweetness of normal gels is too much for me and I do struggle with it when running.
If anyone has any suggestions for other products to try do let me know.
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.
Warren 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.
I 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?
Parenthood is the perfect training for ultra running