12 Tasty Alternatives to Energy Gels
Skip the gag-inducing goos and take one of these to-go products to keep going strong all run or ride long
Hitting the wall is as fun as it sounds, but some people find the typical mid-exercise refueling options to be messy, tasteless, or just plain gross. You don't need to choke down sugary goo to avoid bonking, though. There are plenty of other options-from real food to products designed for athletes-to give you the quick-digesting carbs you need. "The carbohydrates help replace your muscles' depleted glycogen stores, allowing you to go longer, harder, faster," says Corrine Dobbas, R.D.
Take one of these to-go pick-me-ups on your next long workout or race, and you'll power through those final miles you normally dread.
Jelly beans don't seem like rocket fuel, but Sport Beans pack a nutritional punch. In addition to sugar (of course) for energy, the candies contain some electrolytes to help you replace what you've lost sweating, and three "extreme" flavors have caffeine if you need an extra kick. The tiny bags tuck neatly into a pocket or sports bra.
Nutrition score per serving: 100 calories, 25g carbs, 80mg sodium, 40mg potassium
Honey Stinger Organic Waffles
Waffles may not seem very convenient to carry on a long run, but forget the sticky syrup: Honey Stinger waffles are optimized for athletic performance with honey for energy and additional carbs for endurance, all in one cute palm-sized treat. Plus the quick-dissolving formula makes them easy to chew and swallow, even when your mouth is dry.
Nutrition score per serving (Honey Waffle): 160 calories, 7g fat (3g saturated), 21g carbs, 1g fiber, 55mg sodium
University of California, Davis researchers had men run for 80 minutes and then complete a 5K time trial while fueling with water, water and carb-based chews, or water and raisins. The fruit performed just as well as the commercial product to give runners the pep they needed to keep on keepin' on, and without any digestive issues. A single-serving box is easy to take with you and lets you munch a few at a time.
Nutrition score per serving (1-ounce box): 90 calories, 22g carbs, 5mg sodium, 220mg potassium
Justin's Nut Butter
Justin's Nut Butter not only provides all the health benefits of nuts, the all-natural butters also come in eight delish flavors from chocolate hazelnut to maple almond to honey peanut. The fiber helps satiate you while the protein staves off muscle soreness and any added sugars provide an energy surge. Just be mindful of how your stomach reacts, Dobbas says, because the fat could cause troubles for some people.
Nutrition score per serving (Classic Almond Butter): 200 calories, 18g fat (2g saturated), 6g carbs, 7g protein
There are plenty of chews to choose from, but most of them only add flavoring to create that citrus or berry taste. Not Probar Bolt Organic Energy Chews, which contain a real fruit blend of apple, acai, blueberry, and pomegranate powders, plus B vitamins and yerba mate for 20 milligrams caffeine per serving.
Nutrition score per serving (5 chews): 90 calories, 24g carbs, 60mg sodium, 45mg potassium
Nature's candy is perfect to quickly refill your energy tank, says Anthony Stewart, executive chef for the Pritikin Longevity Center. "With fruit, you not only get convenience, you get loads of nutrition and naturally occurring sugar, and you don't go overboard on calories." Unfortunately a big juicy apple is a little inconvenient to chew mid-race. Enter GoGo Squeez portable 100-percent fruit, in more than a dozen fruity flavors. The little packs have a squirt top perfect for using on the fly, and they fit nicely in a pocket or pack. Plus, with nothing but fruit in them, you don't have to worry about additives upsetting your stomach.
Nutrition score per serving (Applesauce): 60 calories, 15g carbs, 1g fiber
Nuun All Day
Let the sauna fanatics bask in "sweating out" toxins- perspiring means you're losing not only water but also essential electrolytes, and both are necessary to regulate hydration. "Dehydration can cause decreased muscle strength and aerobic and anaerobic ability, and often leads to poor performance, headaches, and feeling sluggish," Dobbas says. Many products provide some sodium, but Nuun All Day tablets-they dissolve in your water and make it fizzy-go a step further and also contain potassium, magnesium, calcium, and a list of vitamins.
Nutrition score per serving: >8 calories, 360mg sodium, 100mg potassium
A favorite among triathletes, one packet of UR Driven powder mixed with water gives you the carbohydrates you need to keep running but also includes some protein to help stimulate muscle synthesis, plus branched-chain amino acids to add in muscle recovery so you can go hard without worrying (as much) about paying for it the next day. Mix it into your water bottle before you head for the starting line and take sips throughout the race to stay on an even keel.
Nutrition score per serving: 110 calories, <1g fat (<1g saturated), 22g carbs, 5g protein
Clif Shot Bloks
When you just need a little something to perk you up but don't want to worry about an opened gel gooping up your pocket, try Clif Shot Bloks. The chewable cubes are packaged in a stack so you can pop out one or two or however many you need at a time. Each has quick-digesting carbs and electrolytes, and some flavors add green tea extract for 25 or 50 milligrams caffeine per serving.
Nutrition score per serving (3 pieces): 100 calories, 24g carbs, 70mg sodium, 20mg potassium
"Nature's perfect food" not only is a high-quality sugar to give you gusto, honey also reportedly boosts immunity and fights seasonal allergies (if you buy the local stuff). If you're going on a shorter run, the tiny packets you get in restaurants will slip easily into your pocket; for longer runs, put a little squeeze bear in your hydration belt for an occasional shot.
Nutrition score per serving (1 packet): 43 calories, 11.5g carbs, 1mg sodium, 7mg potassium
Snap Infusion Supercandy
Competitive athlete Eric Stoll wanted a refueling option that had great nutritional content but "didn't taste like foot," so he created Snap Infusion Supercandy. The five varieties offer different flavors and textures (everything from fruit chews to chocolates) so you can find what you like best to get that quick hit of sugar plus antioxidants.
Nutrition score per serving (Gummy): 90 calories, 21g carbs, 25mg sodium, 65mg potassium
Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem
Digestive woes during races are so common that they even have their own (deceptively benign) name: "runner's stomach." Most experts say this happens because during hard races and on long runs your body focuses on getting your muscles the blood they need and consequently sends less blood to your GI system. If your stomach sometimes revolts, try easy-to-digest Hammer Nutrition Perpetuem, which contains a special mix of complex carbs, protein, and fat instead of straight sugar so your body doesn't tap into the protein in your muscles for energy.
Nutrition score per serving: 270 calories, 2.5g fat (0.5g saturated), 54g carbs, 7g protein, 220mg sodium, 120 mg potassium