These days there is a variety of products on the market that promise to replace nutrients lost to perspiration and improve athletic performance during strenuous outdoors activities. Most of these products come in small, easily consumable packages. Some are organic, gluten free, and vegan while others feature highly engineered compounds that are easily absorbed into the body during athletic activity. With just a little research, it’s easy to find great tasting, healthy and tummy-friendly fuel for outdoor sports. This guide will help you learn how to choose the best fuel for your needs.
Remember! It’s important to note that some foods and drinks might not sit well for all people. NEVER eat an untested food on race day! Always try out gels, chews, or other foods (A lot of runners love PB&J) during vigorous training days to find out how the stomach will react.
Outdoor athletes such as rock climbers, runners, cyclists, and mountaineers push hard for hours with little time to sit down for a proper meal. For these types of sports, a variety of bars, gels, and sport drinks are available that provide calories, nutrients, and hydration in small packages. Most outdoor events or pursuits are cardiovascular in nature meaning you’ll need to fuel up before, during, and after.
Training: During workouts, calories can be consumed at a rate of about 100 to 200 calories per hour. Any more and the body will not be able to keep up and might revolt with stomach cramps and vomiting. With most gel packs, this boils down to about two packs per hour. Be sure to take them with plenty of water. Test what works best for you during training. Some people swear by one pack every half other, others will take three or four for an entire marathon.
Post: Post event, a two to one (2:1), up to a four to one (4:1) carbohydrate to protein ratio fuel source should be consumed within 30 minutes post exercise. The carb to protein ratio is measured in grams. Higher protein foods are best-consumed post activity to restore muscles with amino acids.
Liquid: Sweat secretes important minerals such as magnesium, sodium, potassium, manganese and phosphorus. If sweating for long periods of time, consume sports drinks, powders or tablets that infuse water with minerals to avoid muscle cramping and dehydration. Keep in mind that sports like swimming or skiing in cold weather also result in perspiration.
Products like Salt Stick provide complete essential minerals and are best taken with lots of pure water. These products work wonders in preventing cramps. Without them, the body’s electrolyte balance can easily become imbalanced during marathon-length events leading to cramps, nausea and exhaustion.
Solids: Solid snacks provide fuel for glycogen synthesis but take time to break down in the stomach. Solid or semi-solid snacks are available in the form of bars, gels, chews, or jellybeans. Typically, gels, chews, or beans are most appropriate for runners and cyclists who need a quick boost. Bars are beneficial for climbers, hikers, and paddlers who can take a break to digest food before moving the body again. This does not mean that runners or bikers cannot eat solids, but it depends on how food reacts with each person’s stomach.
Ingredients: The energy food industry now features clean foods that incorporate organic and health-needed ingredients.
Vegan: Vegan foods are available in just about any form. These feature elements free from animal products and don’t include milk or bee products (honey) or artificial chemicals.
Gluten-free: Gluten free stomachs are happy with pea or brown rice powder bar in replace of wheat or flour. Many products may be labeled organic, which does incorporate organic ingredients, but may not use enough organic ingredients to be officially certified as organic. Look for the circular USDA Organic label to find certified organic foods, especially with the energy bars.
Packability: Bars, gels, energy tablets and powder packets are light and small, which store well in various events and outdoor pursuits. To avoid melting in heated environments or foods touching sweaty bodies, purchase products that do not utilize a chocolate coating to enjoy without a mess.