There are a raft of sports gels, bars, drinks and chews on the market. While many of the products offer quick energy and nutrition when you’re on the go, some products are laden with calories, fats, sugars, and other additives that rival the common candy bar.
The good news is, there are plenty of whole-food fueling alternatives that can rev up your workout without filling you out. Whole grains, fruits, and veggies may not come with flashy packaging or bold promises, but they can provide pre-run energy, assist in carb-loading for your next long-distance race, and offer a mid-run boost when you need it. Plus they provide essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that will bolster your all-around health. What’s more you won’t have to worry about cholesterol, trans fats, food colorings, preservatives, sodium, dangerous additives, or whether they’re cutting in to your calorie-cutting efforts.
Sweet potatoes are a good source of vitamin A, which boosts eyesight, and vitamin C, to boost immunity, plus potassium, iron, and manganese, which aid muscle function. One small potato that weighs about 3 ½ ounces has 24 grams of carbs to energize you for your next run. Cook your potatoes, microwave and mash them, or cut them into smaller fry-like sticks that you can put in a Ziploc bag and carry with you on your run.
There’s a reason why most race finish lines are packed with bananas. Bananas provide potassium to help prevent muscle cramps. And one medium banana has 27 grams of carbs and 1.3 grams of protein, plus vitamin B6—which helps convert proteins and sugars into energy and helps build cells. Bananas also contain magnesium, which assists in muscle contractions and metabolism, endurance, and aerobic capacity. In fact in a study published in the May 2012 issue of the online journal PLoS One, researchers from Appalachian State University found that bananas boosted athletic performance just as well as sports drinks.