I like to talk about this because we are so used to consuming the above mentioned products that its almost as if its a given that you make a combination of those things a priority when training. When talking racing fuel, sometimes people don't even ask "if" you use a gel, they ask which gel you like. We've become programmed to think that we have to consume these things for performance, training gains, recovery, and extra energy, that we forget that this is a 'market' that is fairly new. Did they have these things when Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile in 1954? When Emil Zatopek won 3 golds in the 1952 Olympics? Was Jackie Joyner Kersee sponsored by Gatorade and Powerbar in the 80's ? No, no, and no. So why do we need these things now? Answer: We don't. Companies need us to need them. Sure, they want us to improve and they think their product will do that. But do we have to use theirs or can we use what is already out there as real food.
Why do I make my own stuff when its so much easier to just buy it? Gels are only around a buck, same with bars, drinks can range in price, but if you are a classic Gatorade type of person you can buy their huge can of powder for about $7 - $8 which makes like a billion gallons (its also supposedly better than the pre-bottled). I make my own because: 1) some things you can make end up equal to, or hands down better at fueling you than pre-packaged; 2) because I know what's in it and I don't think our bodies need the preservatives, flavor enhancers, sweetners, and other unpronouncable words that they put in them; 3) many pre-packaged sports food stuffs cause gastric distress (so might home made drinks/gels, but at least the ingredient list is small and you can narrow down what is causing the problem). Here is a list of some ingredients in the pre-package stuff:
- sugar, glucose syrup, gelatin, tartaric acid, malic acid, glycerin, sorbitol, carnauba wax...and more stuff. What is this list for? Gummie Bears? No. Its from Power Bar Energy Gel Blasts
- sucrose, dextrose, citric acid, yellow #5. Just four of the ingredients in Gatorade (powder)
- high fructose corn syrup is the main energy source in PowerAde
Ok, enough about what I don't consume. What DID I take in while training and racing this season? Most of the time for training it just water and real food--pretty simple. I eat fruit pretty much throughout the day so that is great pre-training energy. After workouts, I usually have a regular meal or a fruit smoothie with hemp protein (no, its not a drug). )I hope you don't eat whey protein... Its NOT GOOD in any whey, shape or form.)
Here's what I had the morning of and during the Chisago Half:
Breakfast: huge bowl of old fashioned (non-instant) oatmeal with a ton of cinnamon, and about a tablespoon of brown sugar (yes, sugar), about 16 oz of OJ, one banana, water.
1 hour before race I drank an 11 oz can (can shaped drink box) of coconut water--VitaCoco brand. This ended up only a half hour before so that is probably why I had to pee so much (see PART 1). What is coconut water? That's what it is--water from a coconut. Not coconut juice, milk, or cream. Just straight coconut water. No preservatives, no added amino's, salts, etc. Coconut water is LOADED with potassium, has 40 mg of sodium per 11 oz and is 60 calories per 11 oz serving.
After I got out of the water and was in the first 1/2 mile of the bike section, I took down another banana. Why? Its a 100 calorie source of energy, electrolytes, and contrary to popular belief, bananas are easily digestable and rarely causes GI problems. They give you an immediate sense of fullness, but that subsides fairly soon. I wanted the 'I just ate something' feeling for the beginning of the bike to keep me from going out too hard.
While drinking on the bike, my aero bottle was filled with Pina Colada Sports Drink which is a mix of coconut water, pineapple juice, lemon juice, water, and sea salt. I made this using a 32 oz bottle of coconut water which was too much for the aero bottle so I diluted the rest of it with more water in a standard water bottle. When the aero bottle was empty I poured the diluted mix from my bottle into the aero. I wanted the diluted mix so I could wash down my home-made energy gel. Brace yourself for this...
The energy gel is very basic, but very sweet and has stuff in it that you may never have heard of and don't see in other gels. It's a little too sweet, but it only takes a couple seconds to swallow, washdown with water, done (until next squirt). What is it??? Dates, Agave Nectar, lemon/lime zest, lemon juice, dulse, sea salt. This gel has a great balance of quick energy (dates) and slower burning energy (agave)--plus natural B vitamins and other minerals and sodium (dulse), and more sodium from the sea salt. There are over 10 vitamins and minerals in dulse. Dulse is a sea vegetable that when dried can be ground into granuals/powder and added to drinks and gels, sprinked on food as a seasoning, etc. Whole leaves of dulse are good in salads and add a sea-salty taste. The recipe I use is from Brendan Brazier and can be found HERE. I make the gel and put it in a gel flask, not baggies as shown at the link provided.
Next I tried eating some Mango Coconut Bars (found HERE because I don't have permission to reproduce the recipe). I got thru about a quarter of the bar, but it was too mushy. I used white rice instead of quinoa as the grain and the rice made the bars too mushy. I didn't want to use the quinoa because that is loaded with protein so I thought I would go with rice for a quicker fuel. Probably a good thing that I wasn't able to eat it as I don't think I needed it anyway.
I finished the diluted mix from the aero bottle, then filled it with a bottle of White Grape Sports Drink. This is my own recipe: 8 to 10 oz 100% white grape juice, 10 to 16 oz water, 1/8 cup lemon juice, a couple dashes of salt. I put a range of ounces because you can make it as strong as you wish based on your calorie needs, what your stomach can handle while moving, etc. I usually go with twice as much water as juice (1 part juice to 2 parts water). You can juice pretty much any juice for your own sports drink, but you want to add lemon juice to it. The lemon reduces the sweetness of the juice as things taste sweeter the more you are sweating, but you need the calories so the lemon juice helps you to consume a stronger mix without the too sweet of a taste. The lemon does NOT feel bad in your stomach as some may believe. Some people think lemon juice or other citrus fruits are "acidy" but your body actual converts this 'acid' to alkaline form and digests it easily. Lemon juice actually REDUCES and neutralizes an upset stomache.
After I was well into my White Grape concoction, it was nearing the end of the ride. I had one more bottle on my bike in the rear double cage off the back of my saddle. However, this bottle ejected going up onto the bike path in the last quarter mile. Oh well. I wore a fuel belt for the run and had 3 little 6-7 oz bottles of 50/50 white grape to water mixed in those. My idea was to drink those, then wash it down with a blast of plain water. Carrying a bottle of water while running was a pain. I've done it, but at this point it was too bothersome. I got thru one bottle of the juice mix then tossed the water bottle. When I got to mile 6 they had a table set up where I stopped, poured out a little juice mix from each bottle and added water. Perfect.
So that's what I used. You may look at the recipes and think its complicated, time consuming, a pain in the a$$, but it actually doesn't take that much time to mix and make your own training and racing fuels. Also, when out of town you can always find juice at a grocery store to make a quick and healthy sports drink, but they won't always have your particular gel, sports drink, etc.... As for the cost, I think its a little cheaper in the long run, but the coconut water and agave are a little spendy when you compair them to sports drinks and gel packs. However, a half gallon of juice can range from $2 to 4 and goes a long way for making sports drinks when compaired to pre-bottled Gatorade and Powerade.