You can’t rev your engine and keep the proverbial pedal to the metal in a race without some quality fuel in the tank. Okay, that’s a lot of metaphor to chew on in one sentence. So, in straight forward English let me say, that for optimal performance, you need quality carbs before and during your marathon, obstacle course race, triathlon, ultra or other endurance sport.
Far too many times, I’ve gone without much fuel on the course, I’ve attempted the alternative approach of “fat-loading,” or in a pre-bonk induced panic I’ve eaten whatever product was being handed out on the course. I’ve found that my best chance for success is to toe the start line with a strong sports nutrition plan in hand, and this includes one of my many homemade race fuels. Today I’m sharing my recipe for Mocha Honey Protein Sticks. Read on to get the instructions:
Disclaimer: I am not a control freak, bwahahaha. However, control over ingredients is the main reason I prefer to make my own sports fuel over consuming the seemingly endless array of sports gels, chews, beans, tablets, shots and drinks on the market. Another perk is that I’m not spending my hard-earned money on expensive sports nutrition products that may or may not have the macro nutrients my body needs to do successfully complete the task at the level I’ve trained for.
Before I get onto the recipe, let remind you that not only is the PLAN on when and how much you’re going to eat essential, you need to execute it. In 25 years of competitive running, my biggest self-induced problem in a race as I’m flirting with glucose depletion is NOT eating, even if I have fuel on hand. It’s like my mind can only focus on one thing, and that is making my moving forward, rather than triaging the situation and stopping to take in much needed calories. Working on this!
As you may guess, the foundation ingredient in this recipe for Mocha Honey Protein Sticks is honey. Honey is a natural source of straight-forward glucose and fructose that can keep the body primed for peak performance. The natural sugar carbs in honey feed your brain to keep it happy and prevent, or at least delay, it from getting message from your central nervous system that you’ve been running waaaaaay too long.
For exercise that last more than two hours, a bit of protein should be included in your fuel at an approximate 4:1 carb to protein ratio. I’ve used soy protein powder in this homemade energy gel for its specific amino acid profile, which many experts cite is the best for long-distance events. Also, included in this easy DIY race fuel recipe, a bit black strap molasses and salt to pump up the electrolytes potassium and sodium – plus a shot of espresso for caffeine a proven (and legal) ergoenic aid – aka, performance enhancer.
Preparing the Mocha Honey Race Fuel simply requires whisk together honey, molasses, espresso, protein powder and salt. Even easier, I like to use an empty honey or squirt bottle to shake everything up. This fuel can be poured right into a small race flask or, as I show here, made into “sticks” cleverly crafted from plastic drinking straws.
Getting the gel in the straws is a relatively easy process, it might take a time or two to get the hang of how long it takes to seal off the ends with a needle-nose plier in the candle flame. You can make the straws full-length, or cut to any size to fit a pocket. Not pictured, but I prefer to use “fat” straws when available because they hold more volume. To use the energy straws, simply tear off the top with your teeth (sorry mom) while out on the course. Slurp up the contents, which don’t gag or choke as some really thick gels do and then dispose of the leftover straw properly.
Nutrition Details: Each serving (1/5th of recipe) has 100 calories, 0.5g fat, 21g carbohydrates, 3.8g protein, 264mg sodium, 150mg potassium, and about 10mg caffeine.
NOTE: YOU DO NOT NEED TO PUT THE FUEL IN STICKS, A SMALL ENERGY GEL RACE FLASK WORKS JUST AS WELL. Get something like this on that holds up to 5 servings (which happens to be the amount of my recipe)!
If you like a little more substance, like a gummy or chew, check out my Watermelon, Beet & Chia Shot Blocks.
What type and brand of race fuel do you prefer? Have you ever tried to make your own? What race are you training for? Please share in the comments – XOXO, Jennifer