1. Tailwind Nutrition
In 2015, I made the conscious decision to switch over to primarily fluid calories to fuel my training and races and have not once regretted that decision. Fluid calories can be beneficial in that they're easier for your body to digest, especially at higher heart rate levels and/or in the heat of the summer when the shunting of blood away from the GI tract impairs digestion. Fluid calories can also go a long ways in simplifying a nutrition plan as they provide calories, fluid and electrolytes in every sip, versus trying to balance multiple products.
Tailwind Endurance Fuel is pretty popular in the ultra-running community, and this year I personally learned why! It's designed for the endurance athlete in mind combining "complete fuel, hydration, and electrolytes in a tasty drink that won’t turn your stomach into a brick." Specifically, Tailwind is designed to provide directly what the gut is able to most effectively absorb while offering an electrolyte profile that more closely matches sweat losses. They have a variety of palatable, mild flavors to choose from that won't turn your stomach sour with time, including a caffeinated formula (raspberry buzz) and unflavored option (naked).
How I Use It: Tailwind Endurance Fuel provides a complete formula of everything I need in one solution, thus simplifying my fueling plan!! I prefer mixing a concentrated bottle (3-6 servings per 24oz bottle) as my primary fuel source for training and then washing it down with plain water.
2. BASE Performance Salts
I first learned of BASE Performance Salts during Beach 2 Battleship in 2014 where I picked up a tiny tube of the salts on the run course, which I promptly forgot about until summer 2015. Prior to heading out for a 70 mile long ride in the hot summer heat (80-90F), I knew I would need plenty of electrolytes and packed the BASE salts in my bento box as my back up plan. Despite losing (and replenishing) a significant amount of fluid on that ride, I had zero cramping issues whatsoever! From that point forward, I kept my BASE Performance Salt tube in my bento box and used it regularly in addition to my Tailwind to ensure all of my electrolyte needs were being met. An additional, I stuck a tube of the BASE Salts in my husbands pack for his recent 100k ultra-marathon. Not only did he have his best race there in 9 years, he reported no cramping and that "licking the salt off my finger gave me something to do when I was bored." There you have it!
How I Use It: Small and easy to carry, Base Performance Salts are even easier to implement. While I am VERY skilled at dropping my electrolyte tabs (not cool!), this tiny tube is easy to grip, pop the lid off, lick some salt and carry on with business as usual. Better yet, the salt absorbs quickly sublingually and straight into the blood stream, bypassing the stomach completely (watch video here) and minimizing risk of GI issues. While I still get the majority of my electrolytes through my sports drink, I love carrying my tube of BASE Salts to around to tweak my electrolyte intake on the fly based on specific conditions and how my body is feeling.
3. Shaklee Life Shake Mix & Sport Energy Chews
A primary goal I had for the 2015 season is to find a reliable and safe supplement to incorporate into my daily fueling and recovery regime. Thanks to the recommendation of fellow dietitian Crystal Witte, I've become a regular user of Shaklee products, especially their Shaklee Life Shake Mix and Pure Energy Chews. Supplement safety is a top goal of mine, and Shaklee is a reputable company that vigorously tests their products above and beyond FDA standards to ensure what you're receiving is safe and matches the ingredients listed on the label.
The Shaklee Life Shake Mix offers a quality source of non-GMO, plant-based protein along with pre- and probiotics, leucine to help preserve lean muscle (especially important for athletes!) and omega-3's (ALA) to support immune and brain health. It's not only the best, most well-rounded product I've found thus far, it's also contains no artificial flavors, sweeteners (which is huge for me!) or preservatives and tastes GREAT.
The Shaklee Energy Chews have become a go-to resource in terms of attaining an energy boost when I need it most (and let's face it, ALL endurance athletes do at some point!) It is formulated from a scientific blend of caffeine from natural green tea extract, L-tyrosine, L-theanine, B vitamins, and vitamin D. Each chew provides 60mg caffeine, as compared to about 95-100mg caffeine per cup of coffee.
How I Use It: I have been utilizing the Shaklee Life Shake Mix in either at breakfast or post-workout and I simply mix in 1-2 scoops into my smoothies. I have also found it to be a delicious addition to my banana ice cream for healthy evening dessert! As for the Energy Chews, I aim to chew 1-2 as needed for a pre-workout or mid-workout energy boost (especially prior to early morning swims or in the middle of those forever long rides!)
4. Honey Stinger Waffles
While I DO rely on mostly fluid nutrition to meet my fueling needs, I also aim to carry a few solid food options to munch on as desired for my longer training sessions. Enter Honey Stinger Waffles! While I realize Honey Stinger Waffles are nothing new, I just want to give them a shout out for formulating a tasty yet easy to chew-digest solid fueling option. Of the different solid fuels I've experimented with, Honey Stinger Waffles have been by far the most reliable in terms of overall palatability. By offering a solid mix of carbohydrate and fat, I find that they provide longer lasting energy than many of the carbohydrate-only gels (and taste much better).
How I Use It: I carry Honey Stinger Waffles in my Bento box on the bike for some tasty solid food to keep my stomach happy during longer training sessions!
5. HUMA Gel
With the switch over to primarily utilizing fluid calories, my use of gels has dropped down to a minimum. Over time, I've found that the gels, even if only using a few, just don't sit well with my stomach. Last fall I picked up a few samples of HUMA gel and was immediately pleased with how light and tasty they were. Based on real food ingredients such as chia seeds, fruit puree, brown rice syrup, sea salt, filtered water and coconut water, these gels have a very palatable texture (i.e. they go down easy!), and are light on the stomach while also providing upwards of 400mg + omega-3 fatty acids per serving. I recently introduced the hubby to Huma Gel and he hasn't stopped asking for them since, which means, I better get restocked stat.
How I Use It: While I still aim to keep my gel usage to a minimum, I like to keep a few on hand for longer workouts as a back-up plan. Most days I just roll with my cravings when it comes to fueling, so I simply work them in as needed.
Mamma Chia Squeeze Vitality Snack - a great "real food" snack either pre-workout or on the bike. These delicious snack packs provide 1200 mg omega-3's per serving, are light on the stomach and delicious too.
Run Gum - Formulated by track athlete Nick Symmonds and Coach Sam Lapray, Run Gum offers a quicker route of getting much needed caffeine when athletes needed most as it is administered via sublingual absorption and bypasses the stomach completely. Run Gum is refreshing, versatile and now offered in three flavors: fruit, mint and cinnamon.
Clif Organic Fuel Pouches - another great "real food" snack for those craving something more solid but easy to digest in workouts or beforehand. My favorite flavor is the banana mango coconut with banana beet ginger being a close contender.
Clif Shot Bloks - another go-to solid calorie source, mainly for my runs. Again, this is more of a personal preference, but I have found Shot Bloks to be easier in terms of spreading out my calories and carbohydrates each hour for more consistent energy levels.
There you have my thoughts and reviews on 9 products I've enjoyed using in the past year. While I have a few products that I aim to play around with in the coming months (i.e. Generation UCAN, Powerbar Performance Wafer Energy Bar), you can bet the products listed above will stay well-stocked in my repertoire over the coming season.
Disclaimer: While I have promoted some specific brands, all thoughts and opinions are my own and no reimbursement was received in writing this post. I am however a happy ambassador of BASE Performance for the 2016 season :)
P.S. Major shout out to my favorite running stores where I purchase the majority of my fueling needs:
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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