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.
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.
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?
Parenthood is the perfect training for ultra running