I am, however, a big fan of the Clif Shot Bloks, which Black Cherry being my flavor profile of preference:
The nice thing about the shot bloks is that I can spread them out over the course of an hour, without having to consume a large chunk of calories and energy at once, which tends to upset my stomach. This also aids in stabilizing my blood sugar levels. The downfall to the shot bloks is that they too become half-frozen and tough to chew in the winter. I avoid this by storing them down on my sports bra (a built in pocket :) where it's warm, but still it presents a challenge.
Yesterday I also picked up a single serving of Tailwind Nutrition to test out on my next long endeavor. In ironman training (and racing), I found that fluid calories worked really well for me. Normally I utilize Hammer Perpetuem, but I've heard really good things about this product and am anxious to give it a try. If you have any thoughts or feedback regarding your personal use of Tailwind, do let me know via the comments section!
To balance out my fuel sources, I try to mix in some "real foods" to meet my energy needs. Not only is this more cost effective, but I can control (and manipulate) what goes into my recipes, create them according to my flavor preference and know that it's fuel made from quality, unprocessed ingredients.
In fueling, there's this thing called "Flavor Fatigue" that results from consuming excessive amounts of sweet sports nutrition products over long periods of time. All of a sudden, those gels or that bottle of fluid calories is met with thoughts of disgust. Have you been there? Yea, it's no fun. I find that mixing some real fuel nutrition helps placate this flavor fatigue to allow me to fuel consistently and effectively. Another great reason to make my own energy fuel! In the recipe below, I combine dates, cashews and chocolate to formulate the primary flavor profile. These pair well with fuels similar to those mentioned above as the sugar is balanced out by a considerable amount of healthy fats, which I find keeps my blood sugar from spiking.
The hubby, who is also trying to cut back on his gel usage, carried these on a recent five hour trail run in sub-freezing temperatures and reported the following:
"They stay soft even when it's below freezing and are easy to carry. They're less messy than traditional gels making them easy to eat, plus they taste great!"
These are delicious and not meant to be limited to consumption during exercise or for athletes alone. But here's my one disclaimer: Like most energy-snack bars, these are calorically dense. Eat in moderation outside of the exercise setting :) Give them a try and let me know what you think!
2 cups pitted medjool dates
2 cups cashews
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 cup dried tart cherries
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup large flaked coconut (optional)
Preheat oven to 400F. Lay out cashews evenly on a lined baking sheet and bake for approximately 5 minutes. Watch carefully as you do NOT want them to burn! Allow your baked cashews to cool for about a minute, then add to a food processor along with the coconut oil. Process approximately 1 minute until cashews are completely broken down and begin to bind together (as if you're making cashew butter). Next, add the medjool dates and tart cherries. Process another 1 minute. Lastly, add the dark chocolate chips and coconut flakes (optional). Process until combined and ingredients begin to "clump" together.
Remove from the processor and spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Use your fingers to spread evenly and press down. If your bars have excess oil, use a paper towel to press. Refrigerate for approximately 30 minutes, then cut into 2x2" squares.
Storage: Keep in an air-tight container in the fridge up to 1 week, OR individually wrap in plastic wrap and store in the freezer.
Recipe Download: You can download a PDF of this recipe here.
Yields approximately 24 Bars (2"x2" each)
Per serving: 115 calories, 14g carbohydrate, 7g fat, 2g protein, 9g sugar
Be sure to also check out these other energy fuel recipes!
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and triathlete residing in southwest Virginia with her husband and dogs. Follow along as she shares favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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